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Christianity, the Ultimate Unfalsifiable Hypothesis

When will Charlie Brown see that his trust is misplaced?Charlie Brown keeps trusting in Lucy, and she keeps pulling away the football at the last minute. And still Charlie Brown comes back for more. Doesn’t he ever learn? What would it take for him to see that his trust is misplaced?

This is how God belief works. Christians assure themselves that God exists, and maybe they have a special experience or feeling that reassures them that they’ve backed the right horse. But then there’s that tempting call to connect with the external world and provide evidence that the belief is firmly grounded. Like Lucy with the football, they’re often disappointed when the evidence doesn’t stand up.

Here’s a common example of Christian “evidence”: when you pray and get what you wanted, then God did it. When you don’t get what you wanted, God did that too.

If I point to puppies, sunsets, and other good things in life, the Christian might say it’s because God is a perfect designer. If I point to cancer, tsunamis, and other bad things, that’s because of the Fall. God can’t lose.

When something good happens, that’s God’s gentle and loving hand taking care of his special people. But when something bad happens, that’s God testing us or improving us.

There’s a snappy answer or rationalization for every situation. If God’s existence is always a given, then we’re going to bend the reality to fit that assumption. But no one approaches truth that way in any other sector of life. We don’t start with an assumption and then try to twist the facts to support it. It’s the other way around: we start with the facts and ask what the most reasonable explanation is.

To any Christian reading this, what would it take for you to see Christianity as false? What would it take for you to see that God doesn’t exist?

I’ve talked to lots of Christians who say that they do demand evidence, and that they would go where the evidence points. I have my doubts—I think that for many of them belief comes first and evidence is marshaled after the fact to support this presupposition— but let’s leave that for now.

I’ve also talked to Christians who admit that nothing would change their minds. That is, they can’t (or refuse to) imagine anything that could remove faith from their lives. Christianity is then the ultimate unfalsifiable hypothesis—“ultimate” because God is the most fantastic thing imaginable and “unfalsifiable” because for many believers, nothing will change their minds.

Mark Smith told of a discussion he had with Christian apologist William Lane Craig. He proposed this thought experiment: Craig goes back in time to see the dead body of Jesus put into his tomb. The stone is rolled up to cover the entrance. Now let’s imagine that on Sunday morning, nothing happens. No resurrection. Days go by, and nothing.

What does Craig think now? Does the skeptics’ explanation that the gospels were just the end point of 40 years of oral history within a gullible and pre-scientific culture begin to sound pretty good?

Nope.

[William Lane Craig] told me, face to face, that he would still believe in Jesus, he would still believe in the resurrection, and he would still remain a Christian. When asked, in light of his being a personal eyewitness to the fact that there was no resurrection, he replied that due to the witness of the “holy spirit” within him, he would assume a trick of some sort had been played on him while watching Jesus’ tomb.

Some people are beyond evidence. Christianity for them is like the T-1000 in Terminator 2, the liquid metal robot that takes a beating and then reshapes itself after an injury to continue its rampage.

Consider a much more wholesome attitude toward evidence. Artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky said, “As scientists, we like to make our theories as delicate and fragile as possible. We like to arrange things so that if the slightest thing goes wrong, everything will collapse at once!”

Scientists want their theories to collapse if they’re wrong. If they’re wrong, they want to know it. Imagine a world where all Christians were this eager to understand reality, where they followed the evidence where it led rather than making their worldview unfalsifiable.

You can’t rationally argue out
what wasn’t rationally argued in.
— credited to George Bernard Shaw

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About Bob Seidensticker
  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    This is how atheist disbelief in God works. Atheists assure themselves that God does not exist, and then they rationalize away every piece of evidence that points to the existence of something beyond the purely physical.

    See – it cuts two ways :-)

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Karl:

      Well, it would cut both ways, if it worked that way. But let’s imagine that one side is correct–the Christians are correct that God exists or the atheists are correct that there is no god. In that case, you’d expect that the side that was in harmony with the facts would have a fairly easy time going where the facts point. Assuming there was fairly unambiguous evidence (and reality wasn’t hidden somehow), the other side would have a hard time, and this would be apparent.

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        Who says it should be obvious to all who’s right and wrong?

        Or do you mean to make an argument by comparing which of the two points of view makes easy or hard going?

        • Kodie

          You discount fairly quickly that thinking it over, a person can take god and no god as two possibilities. You think you have arrived at an intelligent conclusion – most religious people, at least those who communicate well on these type of forums argue that they arrived at the conclusion of god through an intellectual journey, not a superficial one, and not an emotional one. I would even grant that an intellectual journey might arrive at a conclusion that there is a god of some kind, but not a specific god. The inability to discern from text what god is actually like, one supposes the author has found something specific to latch onto? But they are making it up too, because they want it to fit, they want it to prove their conclusion. Not because it’s true. Logic ends when superstitious belief in a specific or generally specific-ish deity begins. That’s a leap over a chasm to a magical fairy world that does not exist and cannot be proven. Why is there logic? Would you expect chaos without a god to order things? Is that what your big problem is for us? Right, you are making god in your own image. The universe has laws that we are confined from breaking, so that means there is a god and all the other cultural impositions people put on themselves?

          Furthermore, I will go “there”. I will say there is nothing wrong in the universe with murder. There is no objective reality or morality that says we can’t murder each other if we want to. That’s the big morality no-no, and I say it’s ok with the universe if we do that. On the other hand, we socially agree with ourselves that it’s a shitty thing to do, so don’t do it. I agree with most people and say let’s not murder each other, ok?

    • Kodie

      Atheists, well I do, think about proposals for god being real. Well it does sound ridiculous that the first thing you want to say is do a little chant at the air and when nothing happens that’s supposed to be meaningful. Where does the meaningfulness come from? Learning to deal with disappointment does not come from god. It doesn’t require a god. So what is next? A sacrifice. For me? A resurrection! What kind of idiot do you take me for. So far no information has come in that I find the least bit satisfying as an answer to the world’s problems. That is a diversion that has no real substance, and is physically impossible, no matter what kind of historical eyewitnesses you think you have. Sure, this convinces you and that also gives me an idea what kind of stories you believe in and how easily impressed you are with very little. If you consider that proof airtight, then I have several thousand other religions I’d like to sell you.

      Then you’re going to tell me I’m a dirty sinner and I need salvation? Who are you and why do you insult me? I was not worried and you have intentionally invited worry into my life to tell me I can get an invisible cure? Not a permanent cure, but one I will have to worry about every single day until I die whether or not I am actually saved. Or else I go to hell. Thanks, buddy. Where is this hell on a map. And now that you told me, I can’t say no one ever told me! You’ve infected me with a social disease and you think I should love being in your club now. No. Secondly, why would I take your word for it, you’re not dead, you don’t know. You’re sure but you have no idea. You were just following orders.

      I can reject it very easily with all the evidence you can offer. I understand how the brain works and I understand how logic works, and I also understand how eternally people have been making up superstitions. Even Christianity is so made up – every time one of you feels uncomfortable with some aspect of your church you can personally modify things so god will agree with you, and you say, nuh-uh, that you have come to understand god better. That’s called having thoughts in your head, you should try to piece them a little closer to reality and learn to recognize it. Every justification for god existing works perfectly fine without god, except for the little rituals and rules to follow, which might make you feel a lot better, but are really just powerfully common neuroses.

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        Kodie,
        Three things …
        1. Where did the universe come from?
        2. Where did logic come from?
        3. Why does anyone ask these questions?

        • Kodie

          We’ve been through it before. Magic is your answer. Not magic is my answer.

        • Kodie

          Further to say, it is amazing to me how often Christians when challenged will say “that’s just god’s will – that’s how he set it up,” but you won’t take “that’s what happened” as an answer. You’re too impressed with something shiny (and arrogant) so you insert a god creator or else it will explode your brain to think how it could otherwise happen.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          PLease elaborate. What “not magic” is your explanation?

        • Kodie

          I might have you mixed up with another poster, it was a couple months ago I thought we went ’round and ’round. An invisible sky dude = magic. The person I think was you had argued that the magical stuff like thinking and logic and poetry and stuff was too magical and that was supposed to be the big wowee clue for god. Does that sound familiar?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          Sometimes, Christian tap dancing comes to grief. To avoid problems like “can God make a rock so big he can’t lift it?” they’ll say that God can’t do the logically impossible (make a round square or a married bachelor, for example). But then, of course, that makes logic external to God, something that God is bound by. And presumably that resolves the Euthyphro Dilemma the same way: morals (like logic) are external to God, and God is simply the messenger when he says “Don’t kill,” etc.

        • Kodie

          Also why do you think that is a rebuttal to my post?

          Where does stuff come from? Why is there things? Yes, it was you. You are impressed with the idea that humans can wonder stuff, so that is adequate information to you leading to belief in god, and all the other details clean up if you force them to. It is insufficient and we talked about it already. I do have somewhere to go soon so I can’t play your game show, unfortunately.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          You think you don’t rationalize away evidence that points to the existence of something beyond the physical universe? Well, show me.

          So far, you haven’t got around to rationalizing, you’ve just avoided the questions.

        • Kodie

          I had somewhere to go afk today, and I said we already talked about this a few months ago. I’m not avoiding the questions so much as trying to avoid going around with you again like we already did. My answers haven’t changed. If you forgot what they were, tough.

        • Kodie

          First of all, what is this amazing evidence that we are dismissing out of hand? What evidence do you have that has never convinced us before that points to something beyond the purely physical? And how are we to measure this evidence?

          Here is where before we spoke, that you get into the abstract things! How can we know things that are not physical if there weren’t a “beyond” the physical itself?

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/09/dont-move-the-goalposts-2/

          I do not feel like repeating myself but I did a google search on the blog and the phrase I remembered, “would you rather go extinct?” So read that again.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          I do not feel like repeating myself but I did a google search on the blog and the phrase I remembered, “would you rather go extinct?” So read that again.

          I did read it. You called meaning “misdirection” and “baggage”. A question that potentially could cause you to consider the existence of something beyond the physical gets shafted.

          It was not my intention to prove that atheists stubbornly refuse to consider the evidence (but you’re doing a mighty fine job of it), but simply to demonstrate that Bob’s accusation that Christians do so is one that can just as easily be thrown back.

        • Kodie

          Ok, you know Karl. It sounds unbelievable. It sounds superstitious and ooky. I gave you in this thread a way that an atheist might reject it. None of it resembles reality and it all sounds like someone is playing a joke on someone, except you find out they take it dead seriously. Because they support their ideas with “historical” evidence that is conjecture or had a brilliant flash of insight and they don’t even know how brains work. Comprehending how our imaginations serve us evolutionarily rather than be surprised and awed by mystical patterns you detect is how I know you’re not right.

          I do not stubbornly refuse the “evidence,” since that is not evidence. A very strong logical leap taken by you or someone who thinks like you do is not a leap that should be taken and I’ve thought a lot about it. Obviously. You persist in wishful thinking, and you’re blaming everyone else for refusing to do it also. You need validation for your interesting thoughts on the subject, but I’ve explained to you in detail. I did not merely smack you down with “baggage” and “diversion”. So don’t ask me please what my explanations are. And don’t pretend you didn’t reject my explanations in favor of your own, like a religious person do. I don’t find your arguments compelling.

          You still get around Bob’s question. You turned it around on atheists, think you’re so clever. Since atheists are often asked what evidence would change our minds, you forgot to answer what would you need to change your own mind and no longer believe in god. What demonstration would convince you that there is no god?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Ok, you know Karl. It sounds unbelievable. It sounds superstitious and ooky. I gave you in this thread a way that an atheist might reject it. None of it resembles reality and it all sounds like someone is playing a joke on someone, except you find out they take it dead seriously.

          If you insist on thinking of intangible or abstract ideas as magic and trying to think of God as an invisible sky dude then of course it will sound like that. But please understand that these are your ideas, not mine or any religious person I know.

          Comprehending how our imaginations serve us evolutionarily rather than be surprised and awed by mystical patterns you detect is how I know you’re not right.

          Are you an brain expert? Or which brain expert are you quoting on this? Because you sound awfully certain about your conclusions. I’d like to see something (eg an article or study) to back it up.

          I did not merely smack you down with “baggage” and “diversion”.

          You’re right – there was also something about squirrels that I’m still not sure I get the point of.

          And don’t pretend you didn’t reject my explanations in favor of your own, like a religious person do.

          OK … so religious people reject your explanations in favour of their own, and you … ? I’m really struggling to see the point, beyond the fact you sense that our disagreement is intractable.

          You still get around Bob’s question.

          Bob didn’t ask a question. It was more an assertion that Christians don’t deal with contrary evidence as he thinks they should.

          What demonstration would convince you that there is no god?

          I think what Greg G wrote was very honest, and I guess that if I was to come to a belief that God didn’t exist then, like him, it would not be one thing, but a number of experiences and interactions. I can honestly say that at the moment I can’t see a path that would take me there, but I don’t deny that there may be one.

        • Kodie

          Are you an brain expert? Or which brain expert are you quoting on this? Because you sound awfully certain about your conclusions. I’d like to see something (eg an article or study) to back it up.

          You first bub. You said atheists reject the evidence because it doesn’t fit in a premise. That it doesn’t fit in with the measurements of reality and are the product of a vivid imagination that you put under the umbrella of “revelation” is true. You still haven’t said what this revelation is to you except that you are exceedingly impressed with intelligence and art that you think the cause is necessarily more mystical than evolution.

          Prove it, sir.

        • Kodie

          If you insist on thinking of intangible or abstract ideas as magic and trying to think of God as an invisible sky dude then of course it will sound like that. But please understand that these are your ideas, not mine or any religious person I know.

          Maybe not in so many words, but that’s exactly what you’re saying, that’s exactly what I hear in the subtext. Who created the universe, Karl? What happened back there? Why are you obsessed with it? Why do you think there is something else out there that has forces and powers we can’t learn from science and how does it reveal itself to you as a conscious thing that cares about your life?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          right end of the stick——————–the bit you’re holding

          I’m honoured that you think I have a vivid imagination. What that has to do with anything we’ve talked about I don’t know.

          I haven’t imagined that humans make art or arguments, or that science isn’t much help in telling us why.

          I haven’t imagined that you have written a dozen or more posts in this thread without answering my questions. You even insist that you will not. Yet you insist that I “prove it”.

        • Kodie

          This is how atheist disbelief in God works. Atheists assure themselves that God does not exist, and then they rationalize away every piece of evidence that points to the existence of something beyond the purely physical.

          See – it cuts two ways

          “Then they rationalize away every piece of evidence that points to the existence of something beyond the purely physical.”

          (1) Straw man atheist.
          (2) What evidence?
          (3) What else but ‘magical’ could you possibly mean by “beyond the purely physical”?

          You brought it up first without answering several posts that asked you what you meant by that, then start accusing people of not answering your questions. I insist you prove what evidence we’re out-of-hand rejecting due merely to preconceived notions of non-existence of a deity. Your assertion, your claim, you back it up.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,

          I insist you prove what evidence we’re out-of-hand rejecting due merely to preconceived notions of non-existence of a deity.

          If you are out-of-hand rejecting evidence, then you would not accept any proof I provided.

        • Kodie

          I think you misunderstood the instructions. I’m not asking to be convinced by what proof you have. I’m just asking what it is. You said in the first post that we were dismissing all the evidence that points to something beyond the purely physical and then backed off elaborating what you intended by that assertion, favoring instead to point questions at us, like “where’d the stuff come from then?” I know we’ve been through it before but other people have answered you. And other people have asked you, such as?

          Were you just saying that to be funny? Because I think you were serious. After all this time and going around again, you still think we just don’t see what you see. I see what you see, I just have rational earth-based explanations for all that awes you which I’ve already described to you in the post which I linked.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Funny? No. Ironic? Yes.

        • Kodie

          Is that your answer?

        • Pattrsn

          What do you mean by “come from”?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          :)

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Cute.

          Let me rephrase,
          “What is the cause/source/origin of the universe?”
          “What is the cause/source/origin of logic?”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          I don’t know. I could invent some sort of supernatural something-or-other to explain it, but of course that wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny.

          So: science doesn’t know and therefore I don’t.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,

          So: science doesn’t know and therefore I don’t.

          So science is the only way we can know things?

        • Kodie

          What other ways do you think there are to know things? Like, how would one know if there is a god?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          So science is the only way we can know things?

          A trick question, perhaps? We’re talking about the origin of the universe. Yes, science is the only way we can know about the origin of the universe.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          A trick question, perhaps? We’re talking about the origin of the universe. Yes, science is the only way we can know about the origin of the universe.

          And logic too.

          And science is going to have a hard time finding out the origin/source/etc of the universe unless science can find a way to take its tools outside of the universe.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          What other ways do you think there are to know things? Like, how would one know if there is a god?

          Revelation. You use this way to know things every day.

        • Kodie

          What is revelation? Either you saw something you didn’t know before, or you heard something you didn’t know before, or your brain thinks of things it didn’t think before, etc. You’re going to have to elaborate what you mean by this mystical word that doesn’t mean anything to me at all, and why that doesn’t qualify as science.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          What is revelation?

          When someone shows something to you, or tells you something.

          For example if someone tells you their name, you know their name by revelation, not by science.

        • Kodie

          You mean revelation is the brain process by which recognition occurs and memories are stored, etcetera?

          And animals don’t have this? They don’t know your name because of the language barrier, but a dog might know you as “feeds me” or “fun walkies” or “smells like cheese”. They know what your car sounds like and they know what the keys in your hand sound like. Literacy in particular helps me know your name or at least the name you go by (which is in effect what a name is) and recognize posts under your authorship that are not by Bob or Smrnda or Greg G, etc. Humans have language to communicate and symbols to carry that language in writing, and while dogs can’t read, their olfactory senses are many times more powerful. That is, you would be revealed to a dog through their intelligence, which happens to be a lot more about how you smell than what your parents named you. So how is this unique to humans and therefore god? Seems like we’re all still using science to know things.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          No. You seem to imagine I’m saying things that I’m not saying.

          If you meet someone at a party, and they say “Hi, I’m John”, then they have revealed their name to you. You know their name by revelation. Whether anyone smells like cheese or even has a dog is completely irrelevant.

        • Kodie

          Sounds like you want a special word to say the same thing I said.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          And science is going to have a hard time finding out the origin/source/etc of the universe unless science can find a way to take its tools outside of the universe.

          Science continues to surprise us, but let’s assume you’re correct. So what? That’s no justification for handwaving an answer without any evidence to back it up.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie said:

          What other ways do you think there are to know things? Like, how would one know if there is a god?

          and then Karl said:

          Revelation. You use this way to know things every day.

          And then you gave examples of “revelation” such as someone telling you something.

          OK, I get it. Now, let’s return to the question at hand. How will revelation help us with the questions you gave us: the cause/origin of the universe and logic? What is your non-science revelatory way to understand these things and why (again, without science) should we trust it?

          As we’ve seen, Wm. Craig is quite happy dropping science and trusting revelation instead. But that’s insanity.

        • Paul King

          You really think those point to God ?

          For the first, we don’t know if the universe came from anywhere. Even if we assume that it did proposing any sort of God as an explanation is going way beyond the evidence.

          For the second. Logic is a set of semantic rules, and if it comes from anywhere it comes from the humans who formalised them from natural language. Proposing God as an explanation for the universe is mildly irrational, proposing God as an explanation for logic is just plain nuts.

          And people ask these questions because they want to understand how things work. It’s a trait that has served out species well. And it seems obvious to me that given that intelligence is humans major evolutionary advantage – and one that comes at a considerable cost – it is rather necessary that we have instincts that would help us apply that intelligence.

          So here’s a question for you. If there was a good case for the existence of God, why do we see so many bad arguments instead ?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          If there was a good case for the existence of God, why do we see so many bad arguments instead ?

          And what does it say to us when Christian apologetics are awash in these poor arguments? Would the apologetics invented by clever believers in a nonexistent deity look any different than what we see within Christianity today?

    • Pattrsn

      “and then they rationalize away every piece of evidence that points to the existence of something beyond the purely physical.”

      Such as?

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        Pattrson.
        Try answering the questions I asked Kodie

        • Kodie

          You seem to think, Karl, that there is evidence of a different realm than reality, which you suggested in your post. Now it is your turn to answer Pattrson: “such as?”

          All I know you said was the fact that we can and do ask questions about where we come from indicates that we come from a god. I have not seen you have evidence. Poetry is not evidence.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Hey, not fair! Poetry’s on my list! With music, literature, art, dance, humour, philosophy, science, logic, mathematics, and theology.

        • Kodie

          I know it’s on your list. We already had this conversation. You’re impressed with intelligence that you find yourself mystified how we are different from other animals. It’s our survival niche, that also buys us a lot of idle time. Some of those things qualify as a language also.

        • avalon

          Hi Karl,
          Karl: “Try answering the questions I asked Kodie”

          avalon: Mind if I do?

          Karl: “What is the cause/source/origin of the universe?”
          avalon: The universe is space and time, two things that are ultimately connected; what Einstein called “space-time”. Time and space had a start. Asking what happened to “cause” the start of time is silly because without time there can be no cause and effect. You assume the start of time and space (the universe) happened within a a larger space-time universe just like our own. This assumption is unfounded and bears no evidence. Without space or time there is no ‘place’ where the big bang happened, nor is there a point on some larger timeline.

          Karl: “What is the cause/source/origin of logic?”
          avalon: Logic is a reflection of the laws of physics. The laws of physics aren’t some invisible framework that the universe fit into. They are observations of how things work in this universe.

          Hope that helps.
          avalon

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Thanks avalon. I think your explanation of the universe is better than your explanation of logic. I don’t think that logic can be reduced to physics.

  • Greg G

    If I may, I was once convinced that nothing could change my mind. And I was right that no thing could change it but it turned out that multiple things could and did.

    First it was reading in Isaiah that God created evil and when I asked about it, the answers were unsatisfying. I read a book on logic with the idea of proving God but it showed that I would need to begin with the premises to get to the conclusion instead of assuming the conclusion and picking premises to support it.

    I read books on evolution to see if I could find a quotemine that belied that the scientists really knew they were wrong like the creationist authors said but finding previous quotemines in context made me question the integrity of the creationists. Evolution made more sense than the creationists said it did. After that, when a pastor said things about evolution that he could have verified and didn’t, how could I trust him when he talked about things he couldn’t verify like heaven and angels.

    I went to seeca faith healer hoping to strengthen my faith by witnessing a miracle. He said that if a miracle happened, it was God. If not, you lacked faith. Nothing happened and it must have been all my fault.

    A weekly meeting had a session for testimony about how God was working in your life. A friend actually said he found his lost keys after praying.

    I still wanted to believe and make my faith strong again so I took a couple of weeks of leave to visit the church where I had found my faith. The sermon that Sunday was about taking the Lord’s name in vain. The preacher, a peoud graduate of Bob Jones University, said people swore because there was power in God’s name. I thought “bullshit”. Oh, there must be power in that word, too.

    That did it. I couldn’t take listening to fellow Christians trying to support their faith with nonsense anymore. I went from Christian to a (lower case) deist to an agnostic to an atheist over several years. The Fundamentalists did prove to me that all other religions were wrong so I wasn’t inclined to resort to them. They had a point about Salad Bar Christians but they were off about what other religions believed. Nevertheless, experiencing the subjective power of a religious mindset and stepping back inro an objective mode allows a person to understand the basic mindset of the proponents of any religion.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks for your testimony, Brother.

      • Greg Peterson

        I was going to give my “testimony” more completely, but my thunder, it has been stolen from me by this good post! I will simply add that there are those among us who swore up and down that nothing but nothing could convince us to reject Jesus, who are now atheists in good standing. (And oh how I love to hear that I was “never a Christian in the first place,” in that case–because I can then demonstrate without equivocation that the person saying that cannot be sure of a single Christian friend, so thoroughly had I “tricked” the people around me!)

        I used to say that I was going to get a tattoo of a cross over my heart and on the back of my right hand, so if the minions of the Antichrist should someday capture and torture me and confuse me about my faith, I could just look down and be reminded to whom I belong; that my cross tattoo would preempt the Mark of the Beast that these acolytes of evil planned to brand me with…and so on, ad insanum.

        But as with the previous description of gradual spring rainstorm of dripdripdrip doubt punctuated by the occasional lightning bolt of insight, skepticism is ultimately possible, and once it takes hold, disbelief is all but inevitable. Every piece of “evidence” for theism–forget about any specific religious tradition–appears like the rhetorical, sophist trickery it is. But the most important shackles to lose are the ones that say that without a religious faith, we have no source for morality and meaning. I think that lie alone is responsible for more people clinging to the absurd than anything else. Without Jesus, what will keep me from cheating on my wife, of killing my boss? What reason will I have to get up in the morning? If death is final, than how can anything I do matter? The startling fact that theism contributes less than nothing to objective morality and personal meaning is the final key turned in the last handcuff, so we can at once embrace an amazing, awesome, difficult, frustrating, exhilarating reality.

        Freedom is possible. Even WL Craig might one day discover this delicious truth.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Greg:

          A Christian-turned-atheist friend of mine got a tattoo of what a torn-off cross tattoo would look like (a cross-shaped hole in the skin). Pretty dramatic statement.

          You give good evidence for Martin Luther’s (and William Lane Craig’s) rejection of reason.

          The startling fact that theism contributes less than nothing to objective morality and personal meaning …

          Indeed, that morality and meaning are borrowed by theism, and it pretends to be doing us a big favor when it gives back to us what was always ours. It’s like Dorothy’s ruby slippers–something we’ve always had but perhaps not seen clearly.

          Even WL Craig might one day discover this delicious truth.

          At this late stage in his life, perhaps not, though education certainly pushes one in that direction.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          The time machine quote? I wouldn’t put much stock in that. He was caught in a “gotcha” moment. I don’t think he’d say that reflects his thinking.

          Based on the quotes I’ve read from his Reasonable Faith book (like the one at the bottom of this post), the time machine quote is precisely what he thinks.

        • JohnH

          I realize that I haven’t commented here in a while, DrewL is more patient and less likely to follow people down rabbit holes then me and the conversations here tend to be very circular and cyclical in nature making the rabbit holes increasingly less interesting. However, this I think I should make a comment on.

          “I used to say that I was going to get a tattoo of a cross over my heart and on the back of my right hand, so if the minions of the Antichrist should someday capture and torture me and confuse me about my faith,”

          See that right there is where I see a problem, There are exceedingly few cases where torture has ever worked at getting someone to deny their faith and in the majority of the cases where it did work the person later recanted their denial. So that one would think that the minions of the Antichrist or of Satan or whatever would resort to torture first is improbable, there are much more effective ways as getting someone to deny Christ (as you are an example of).

          Then that you thought that confessing ones faith was the primary point of Christianity tells me a whole lot about what type of Christian you were. As well as your descriptions of what Jesus is like in terms of morality. I am fairly certain that the fault is the part of Christianity that you belonged to, but am not completely positive, but it would appear that you were of a faith that thought that belief in Jesus was the point and that personal action and personal responsibility were less important. Perhaps a quick perusal of James talking about the devils also believing and trembling (and demons confessing to Jesus) would be enough to show that what you previously believed was mistaken about what Jesus and the Apostles actually taught.

          Christianity as actually found in scripture is about changing who you are inside to become a better person, the whole being born again. Changed to what? well, to a person that loves ones neighbor as themselves, that actually tries to do and does what one says they believe to be right and confesses to those they have wronged when they err, that realizes that even those without faith can “be a law unto themselves” and have the law written in their hearts but that also knows that everyone fails at doing what they know to be right.

          Since faith is a gift from God given by the Holy Spirit then evidence can not be the primary motivator for faith, though it can help confirm faith and, potentially, cause one to seek faith. Since faith means so much more then belief but action then it is entirely possible that by becoming atheist and seeking to do good for oneself and not for the social acclaim or expectations, not because one feels caught like a spider in the hands of an angry God, or any other external reason that one may be closer to true faith and being Christ-like then one ever was as a Christian. Of course there are a host of other possibilities as to being atheist that have nothing to do with becoming an actual better person but fanaticism is further from true devotion then disbelief is.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          Since faith is a gift from God given by the Holy Spirit then evidence can not be the primary motivator for faith, though it can help confirm faith and, potentially, cause one to seek faith.

          This is what someone who followed a nonexistent deity would say. That faith is required is red flag #1 that your belief is false.

        • JohnH

          “That faith is required is red flag #1 that your belief is false.”
          Since you have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow and make plans accordingly, even though you do not have proof that any number of disasters or occurrences will remove from you the ability to execute those plans or see the sun tomorrow, then this assertion is completely baseless.

        • Pattrsn

          “tells me a whole lot about what type of Christian you were.” The wrong kind?

          “Since faith is a gift from God given by the Holy Spirit then evidence can not be the primary motivator for faith”
          How does the holy spirit decide who to give faith to? Why did it skip me (and presumably all the other wrong kind of Christians)?

        • JohnH

          ” The wrong kind?”
          One that really likes a certain verse in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans while ignoring the rest of the book and pretty much the rest of the New Testament. I certainly think they are misguided in doing so.

          “How does the holy spirit decide who to give faith to”
          Faith is a gift of God developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. By focusing on the supremacy of belief over service, confessing of faith in Christ over loving ones neighbor (even when you disagree with them) then it can become more difficult to develop true faith but I am sure that there are those in nearly every sect of Christianity that actually have received the gift of faith.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          We are defining words differently.

          No one has proof of anything in the real world, so yeah, I don’t have proof.

          I have trust (belief firmly grounded on evidence) that the sun will rise tomorrow. If this is what you mean by “faith,” then I wonder if you could be a Christian only using “trust” with that definition.

          Again: that faith is required (where faith = “belief not firmly grounded in evidence or in the face of strong contradictory evidence”) is a red flag.

        • DrewL

          … then I wonder if you could be a Christian only using “trust” with that definition.

          Yes, you can. People do.

          Don’t agree? How about a citation, rather than just personal bias? (For those following along at home: my ninth request for Bob to substantiate his claim here with evidence…he’s not a big evidence guy it seems).

        • Bob Seidensticker

          (Oh, golly! Drewl’s going over my head, right to the audience!)

          Drewl, I think that the audience has seen the many links in my posts and know that I support my claims. And, in those cases where I’m wrong, I invite a correction.

        • DrewL

          Then the audience would be glad to provide me a link (or a link to the link) where Bob can show all religious people are required to subscribe to an evidence-denying belief system.

          I can wait…

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          provide me a link (or a link to the link) where Bob can show all religious people are required to subscribe to an evidence-denying belief system.

          You first! Provide the link that says that this is what I’m saying.

        • DrewL
        • Bob Seidensticker

          ?? And the quote you have in mind is … ?

          (I really can’t imagine the punch line is that powerful that it will support your dragging this out so long.)

        • DrewL

          In a December thread you spoke about “believers” and “scientists” as if there were really only two different categories, thereby implying “ALL religious people believe this way.”

          But let’s make this easy for you, since you are now playing a “I never said that” game.

          Perhaps we both agree that:

          Many (most?) people, out of sheer necessity, incorporate trust (belief firmly grounded in evidence) into what they believe to be true.

          Bob fits in this category.

          Some religious people fit into this category.

          Some religious people do not. (and instead “hold their beliefs aloof to evidence”).

          Accurate summation of what you’re (now) arguing?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          In a December thread you spoke about “believers” and “scientists” as if there were really only two different categories, thereby implying “ALL religious people believe this way.”

          It’s a shame you were confused. Ken Miller and Francis Collins are two biologists who are Christian, and they do a nice job in showing those Christians who need the reminding that you can be a Christian and accept science as well.

          But let’s make this easy for you, since you are now playing a “I never said that” game.

          Clever slipping in the fact that I’m playing a game–nice! You’re a shrewd one. Remind me never to get into any mental wrestling match with you.

          Perhaps we both agree that:

          This has all the hallmarks of another long and tedious drewl rabbit trail, where you pursue some pointless point, tossing out insults as you go. That’s always a fun romp, but if you could get to the punch line, that would be helpful.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,

          I have trust (belief firmly grounded on evidence) that the sun will rise tomorrow. If this is what you mean by “faith,” then I wonder if you could be a Christian only using “trust” with that definition.

          The problem is that only New Atheists define “trust” and “faith” the way you do. “Faith” and “trust” are synonyms with “faith” having Latin roots, and “trust” Germanic roots. To illustrate, the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish words for “faith” are related to our word “trust”. Believers from those countries and many others whose languages only have the one word get on just fine. You are simply trying to shoehorn definitions where they won’t fit.

        • DrewL

          …so Bob’s not telling us what he believes about faith, trust, and evidence. First it was a refusal to cite sources, now it’s just a refusal to state what he thinks.

          My guess is you realized you put yourself in a corner with your imaginary distinction between faith and trust, and now it’s a matter of diverting attention away from this issue. Well, it’s your circus, do what you want. It’ s just a shame in a discussion on holding beliefs aloof from evidence, you seem to be holding yours aloof from logic.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          The problem is that only New Atheists define “trust” and “faith” the way you do.

          I doubt it, but that’s not an interesting question. That’s what dictionaries can resolve for us.

          My points are (1) since you use “faith,” pick a definition, and stick with it. That request may puzzle you, but some Christians with whom I converse use “faith” to mean “belief firmly grounded in evidence” when they want to show how rational Christianity is but then reserve a second definition (more of a Wm. Craig definition) to give them a much fuzzier word to rope in concepts not well founded on evidence.

          You are simply trying to shoehorn definitions where they won’t fit.

          I go to the dictionary for my definitions. Sometimes I make mistakes.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,

          I go to the dictionary for my definitions. Sometimes I make mistakes.

          Please tell me, which dictionary has “faith” and “trust” as mutually exclusive?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Please tell me, which dictionary has “faith” and “trust” as mutually exclusive?

          You think this is some nutty notion that I just invented myself?

          From Dictionary.com, faith is “belief that is not based on proof” (definition 2) or “belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion” (#3) and trust is “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing” (#1).

          Picking different definitions, you can argue that faith and trust are identical.

          Do you have a better pair of words to make the distinction we’re talking about?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Do you have a better pair of words to make the distinction we’re talking about?

          Most people when they want to talk abut belief without evidence use “blind faith”. If you talk about “blind faith” vs regular “faith” then you will find people don’t attack your definitions. However you will find very little support that religious believers use “blind faith”.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          What I’m having a hard time with is the other side: that Christians always use trust–that is, belief firmly grounded in evidence and have no use for belief poorly supported by evidence or belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence.

          Wm. Craig’s quote used here recently makes clear that he doesn’t.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if you say that Craig doesn’t speak for you. But I assume you can see that many Christians, like Craig, have more than one definition of “faith.”

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,
          The time machine quote? I wouldn’t put much stock in that. He was caught in a “gotcha” moment. I don’t think he’d say that reflects his thinking.

  • DrewL

    [William Lane Craig] told me, face to face, that he would still believe in Jesus, he would still believe in the resurrection, and he would still remain a Christian. When asked, in light of his being a personal eyewitness to the fact that there was no resurrection, he replied that due to the witness of the “holy spirit” within him, he would assume a trick of some sort had been played on him while watching Jesus’ tomb.

    Hmmmm…reminds me of:

    As a terrified, half-aware imbecile, I might even scream for a priest at the close of business, though I hereby state while I’m still lucid that the entity thus humiliating itself would not in fact be ‘me.’

    Hitchens’ words before his death. In other words, if at the end, reality doesn’t align with my dogmatically-held belief system, I’ll stick with the belief system, thank you. The well-maybe-I’m-being-fooled possibility works well for everyone.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      drewl:

      Sorry–your razor-sharp intellect has attached, limpet-like, onto something interesting and left me standing back at the starting line, yet again.

      Hitchens was lucid, speaking about a future time near death when he might not be.

      WLC was lucid (well–as lucid as he can be), speaking about his views of the present.

      You’re seeing a parallel here? I’m missing it.

      • DrewL

        Parallel: both are stubborn men.

        Hitchens most likely defines “lucid” as “a state in which one perceives a materialist, naturalistic world void of the supernatural” so yes, he’s saying: if I perceive reality suggesting something contrary to my belief system at the end of life, I reject evidence to maintain my beliefs.

        What about you?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          Hitchens was acknowledging that cancer in its advanced stages can affect the brain and contrasting what he said while lucid with what he might say when not. WLC wasn’t talking about cancer or lucidity.

          No parallel.

        • Kodie

          Maybe the problem is that all these believers are not lucid.

  • DrewL

    …where they followed the evidence where it led rather than making their worldview unfalsifiable.

    Remember all those times where you admitted your own moral beliefs weren’t necessarily “provable” (or thereby falsifiable) in any scientific or measurable sense? Or remember when you admitted, in alignment with every philosopher of science in the last 70 years, that science itself is built upon nonfalsifiable (non-testable, non-verifiable) beliefs? Or remember when you recognized most of your very most basic beliefs you end up taking on “trust” of others?

    I can go find the threads if you need the reminder. But generally after you admit that, yes, in fact many things in the Bob worldview aren’t supported by scientific evidence (or are really all that falsifiable), you retreat to the position that somehow the way you hold your beliefs is stil fundamentally different from how religious people hold their beliefs. This is generally done by disregarding every thesaurus in existence and instead drawing a sharp distinction between “trust” (what smart people do) and “faith” (what stupid people do). If only Webster knew this easy distinction.

    At which point, I’ve asked you five times for a citation on why you think religious people approach their interpretation of reality any different than you do, and you decline to provide a source. So we’ll make it six times: please, show me how the six billion religious people in the world do anything differently than you in holding non-falsifiable beliefs that require trust in others, just as you do. I’m still waiting….

    • Bob Seidensticker

      drewl:

      Remember all those times where you admitted your own moral beliefs weren’t necessarily “provable” (or thereby falsifiable) in any scientific or measurable sense?

      My moral beliefs aren’t provably objectively true. Why that’s a problem you’ll have to explain to me.

      Or remember when you admitted, in alignment with every philosopher of science in the last 70 years, that science itself is built upon nonfalsifiable (non-testable, non-verifiable) beliefs?

      Nontestable? Beliefs? Once again you’ve lost me.

      Let’s say that 1 + 1 = 2 is a fundamental principle, not dependent on (or provable by using) any more-fundamental axioms. It’s pretty easy to test. And, of course, as soon as a counterexample is found (maybe it doesn’t apply to living things, for example), then the axiom is dropped.

      Testing works.

      Or remember when you recognized most of your very most basic beliefs you end up taking on “trust” of others?

      Again, not sure what you’re saying. I do trust some people and some institutions, for example.

      I can go find the threads if you need the reminder.

      Oh, golly–would you?? It’d be so cool to go through long discussions of what I’ve said in the past rather than simply asking me for a quick ‘n easy clarification right now.

      But generally after you admit that, yes, in fact many things in the Bob worldview aren’t supported by scientific evidence (or are really all that falsifiable)

      I’m trying to think of a belief that I have that’s unfalsifiable (or: that I wouldn’t give up). Help me out–I’m coming up empty.

      you retreat to the position that somehow the way you hold your beliefs is stil fundamentally different from how religious people hold their beliefs.

      Some religious people hold their beliefs aloof from evidence. Their “evidence” isn’t what brought them to their belief; rather, this is just their cover story. They believe for other reasons (example: they were raised into the belief) and now use their sophisticated adult brains to marshal available facts to put up a decent façade. And they’re pretty good at it.

      This very, very different from how I hope that I work. Being human, of course, I am fallible–both in ways of which I’m aware and ones in which I’m not.

      (Hey–you could clip this little bit and paste it into your Bob Scrapbook! It’s kinda confessional–cool! Maybe put my picture next to it!)

      This is generally done by disregarding every thesaurus in existence and instead drawing a sharp distinction between “trust” (what smart people do) and “faith” (what stupid people do). If only Webster knew this easy distinction.

      You’re way smarter than me, so if you have a better pair of words for evidence-based belief vs. belief not firmly based on evidence, I’m sure it’s much better than what I’ve been using.

      So we’ll make it six times

      I love this game! Ask me next time!

      • DrewL

        Some religious people hold their beliefs aloof from evidence. Their “evidence” isn’t what brought them to their belief; rather, this is just their cover story. They believe for other reasons (example: they were raised into the belief) and now use their sophisticated adult brains to marshal available facts to put up a decent façade. And they’re pretty good at it.

        Who are these people? I probably wouldn’t disagree: I know plenty of people who hold not just their religious beliefs aloof from evidence, but their political beliefs, their beliefs about race, their beliefs about meaning in the universe, their belief about the moon landing, their belief about upward mobility and the American dream, their belief about “religion poisoning everything,” their belief about journalists and neurologists being reliable sources for historical or philosophical knowledge, their beliefs about the soundness of logical positivism or scientism….I know people who hold all kinds of beliefs aloof from evidence.

        But I’m just asking you for a single citation to support why you think religious belief just innately requires absolute dismissal of all evidence/experience to the contrary. And it will have to be quite the source since it will need to cover 6 billion religious people and all the world religions.

        …if you have a better pair of words for evidence-based belief vs. belief not firmly based on evidence,

        Yeah, this dichotomy only exists in your head. People believe what “works” for them and seems sensible. You do, the Pope does, younger church-going Bob probably did at one time. Again, show me a citation that suggests differently.

        That is request number seven and request number eight for Bob to provide citations for something. He seems prefer professing something he seems to have no evidence for but his own prejudices and non-scientific, nonfactual personal biases. It’s really difficult to have a rational discussion when some people refuse to provide any evidence for their beliefs and aren’t open to changing them.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          But I’m just asking you for a single citation to support why you think religious belief just innately requires absolute dismissal of all evidence/experience to the contrary.

          I don’t think that.

          Yeah, this dichotomy only exists in your head.

          The dichotomy between belief firmly based on evidence and belief not firmly based on evidence?

          There–now it exists on the computer screen as well.

      • Mr. X

        “Why that’s a problem you’ll have to explain to me.”

        Well for one thing, it makes you look a bit hypocritical if you criticise theists for holding non-provably-objectively-true beliefs.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          X:

          Yes, theists have beliefs that aren’t proveably objectively true. No, that’s not a problem.

  • Greg G

    DrewL

    If the Hitchens quote was the best tit for tat you could find, you shouldn’t have bothered. Craig said he wouldn’t change his mind even with good evidence because he relies on bad evidence. Hitchens said he might change his mind if his mind changed for the worst without mentioning what he would do if presented evidence.

    You take Bob to task for believing something that has no scientific evidence. Believers think a person mist have 100% belief or 0% belief. It’s more rational to recognize our limited and faulty minds by accepting beliefs according to the strength of the evidence. If we have multiple lines of evidence for support, our acceptance of the position is greater than if we heard a fantastic rumor. Religious belief is just the opposite as it fully embraces the unlikely with no evidence.

    • DrewL

      Religious belief is just the opposite as it fully embraces the unlikely with no evidence

      Citation Needed. (And please don’t quote a bible verse–that’s called proof-texting)

      My hypothesis: this isn’t true of “religious belief” as a whole, this is true of the religious belief you rejected as a child and now have a personal vendetta against, driving you to spend your time posting blog comments about how irrational “religion” is. Perhaps you could be more precise.

      • Kodie

        I wasn’t raised religious. That’s just what all the religious people’s “answers” sound like they are trying very hard not to have to admit. ALL OF THEM. No good answers. No evidence.

  • smrnda

    Here’s a problem with Craig’s time machine quote. He’s talking about how he would act in a very very unlikely situation. Nobody has a time machine to take Craig back to the first century CE so his take on what he would do in the hypothetical ‘no resurrection’ scenario is about as valid as when Joe Six Pack says that *if* he was menaced by a man with a gun he would somehow save the day.

    I like that you point out that religious faith (Christianity is not alone here) is unfalsifiable rather than false. It’s like a lot of other unfalsifiable things; I think a person can speculate, but that’s about it, and I prefer to focus on things for which I can get more empirical evidence. There’s other potentially unfalsifiable things that I believe in – I don’t believe I’m in a computer simulation, but it’s more that I don’t look at this as a useful inquiry, and I can’t see any way to investigate. It’s speculation, and I don’t think it’s urgent to speculate on it.

    I’ve encountered people who alleged to have experienced miracles, or things like ‘speaking in tongues’ but the first always tends to be third-hand stories and my exposure to the second and look into the psychological literature puts it within other types of behavior which have naturalistic explanations, like when people see ghosts.

    People sometimes ask me ‘what if you experienced something you couldn’t explain?’ Well, I tell them, been there done that. I have had mental health problems and experienced hallucinations and delusions, and once I was properly medicated these things went away. (I was lucky there.) I don’t think believers are delusional much of the time, but I think that if you’re convinced something is real and you put yourself in the company of other believers, weak evidence can become strong. I run across intelligent people who believe in Tarot cards, ghosts, the whole chakra deal, all sorts of things – they typically grew up around someone who believed in them, much like people I know who are religious. (they can also be oddly biased against other weird beliefs)I knew a guy who eventually figured out how Tarot ‘worked’ by basically being vague enough in its readings that it could apply to anyone, but that was something he learned as he went from getting readings to giving them – he realized that he was, basically, faking it. I found that to be a pretty interesting story in terms of a person realizing something was fake, but also in realizing how it could seem persuasive

  • Greg G

    DrewL

    Citations: James, Dwayne, Mike from work, dozens of preachers, hundreds of internet conversations, hundreds of spam emails. Do I need to cite nearly every serious believer. Citing a Bible verse is not necessarily proof-texting if I’m quoting someone’s personal written opinion, so anything from Paul on faith would work.

    If you are including the religious beliefs of people who seldom think about their religion and don’t strive to have 100% belief, I agree. Those people tend to cling onto a belief as a security blanket to alleviate their fear of death.

    If these observations don’t apply to you specifically, I don’t care. If you think most serious believers are like that, present some evidence of that and I’ll change my mind. Everybody thinks their religion is mainstream.

    I post because I enjoy some interaction of ideas. It’s good to get different perspectives. I began on talk.origins in the mid 90′s. What began as curiosity of ancient culture ran into Roman history and then to the development of the Bible. Lately, I’ve become interested in the development of the Jesus myth.

    I went to church every Sunday as a kid because I didn’t know it was an option to stay home. I became a serious Christian after graduation from high school. I’m well past the anger of being misled but if I can help someone else see their delusion and leave it behind, it’s all the better. Maybe it’s a penance for witnessing door to door.

  • avalon

    Drewl: “But I’m just asking you for a single citation to support why you think religious belief just innately requires absolute dismissal of all evidence/experience to the contrary. And it will have to be quite the source since it will need to cover 6 billion religious people and all the world religions.”
    avalon:
    “We know that reason is the Devil’s harlot, and can do nothing but slander and harm all that God says and does…Therefore keep to revelation and do not try to understand” Martin Luther

    “We’ve already said that it’s the Holy Spirit who gives us the ultimate assurance of Christianity’s truth. Therefore, the ONLY role left for argument and evidence to play is a SUBSIDIARY role.” WLC

    “The fact is we can know the truth whether we have rational arguments or not.” WLC

    “There’s a third way of knowing, though, that needs no such justification: intuition. In fact, this way of knowing is so foundational that justification is impossible. That’s because knowledge by intuition is not gained by following a series of facts or a line of reasoning to a conclusion. Instead, we know intuitional truth simply by the process of introspection and immediate awareness.
    Intuitional truth doesn’t require a defense—a justification of the steps that brought one to this knowledge–because this kind of truth isn’t a result of reasoning by steps to a conclusion. It’s an obvious truth that no rational person who understands the nature of the issue would deny.
    Intuitional knowledge can’t be ‘proved’ because, on the level of intuition, no further analysis is possible. Analysis makes the complex simple, but if a thing is already simple, it cannot be broken down further. Once we understand the proposition in question, we just ‘see’ that the thing is true. It is self-evident after a little reflection.”
    Greg Koukl

    “In regard to scientific and philosophical systems of truth — the truth of the senses and of reason — this is hardly questioned nowadays….More questionable nowadays is the truth of faith derived from such a source, which is called by diverse names as: “intuition,” “inspiration,” “revelation,” “extra-sensory perception,” “mystic experience,” and so on. Does such a source, as distinct from discursive dialectics, or testimony of the organs of senses, exist?”
    Pitirim A. Sorokin

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Wow. That’s a rogue’s gallery of nutty stuff.

      One comment on Koukl’s “Once we understand the proposition in question, we just ‘see’ that the thing is true. It is self-evident after a little reflection.” I can easily imagine racists using this kind of argument against desegregation of schools or mixed-race marriage.

      But perhaps that doesn’t bother Koukl. He’s reflected on it, and he’s convinced.

      Reminds me of a Stephen Colbert quote I used last week:

      That’s where the truth lies, right down here in the gut.
      Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut
      than you have in your head?
      You can look it up.
      I know some of you are going to say,
      “I did look it up, and that’s not true.”
      That’s because you looked it up in a book.
      Next time, look it up in your gut.
      I did. My gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works.

    • DrewL

      I owe a response to this, sorry it’s taken so long.

      So I’ve never heard of Koukl, I take it he is one of the authors you read “religiously” but I’m not sure why you waste your time. Sorokin is a famous sociologist from Harvard, it is unclear if he’s speaking from any faith perspective of his own or simply assessing faith. If you want to take his quote as absolutely authoritative on what “faith” is, that’s fine, but I’ll provide some quotes from sociologists (as well as philosophers) citing the anti-intellectual and positively unscientific nature of the new atheist movement. Does that get us anywhere? It may just show us sociologists are likely to project upon populations and belief systems their own personal presumptions.

      WLC, who again, I don’t read, will never read, and have no idea why you waste time reading him (sidenote: anyone who goes on the debate circuit “debating” atheism/theism is a more devout adherent to the gods of capitalism, not any belief system, whether atheist or theist) is clearly coming down strongly on the fideist end of the spectrum. You can read about fideism on wikipedia–it’s a pretty decent article. Notably, the Catholic Church rejects it–that’s 1 billion of the world’s Christians who, according to their official doctrine, say nope. Pope John Paul saw reason and faith to be in unison. Go read Fides et Ratio.

      But the Luther quote is a good citation, thank you. Let me refer you to this scholarly book on the context of Luther.
      http://books.google.com/books?id=8ccAl9sUYycC&lpg=PP1&dq=martin%20luther%20lohse&pg=PA159#v=onepage&q=devil's&f=false

      Essentially Luther is ceding that “neutral” reasoning is not going to acquire full access to knowledge of God. This is a very interesting (and debated) point, but not directly what we’re talking about. And in fact, the Luther was ahead of his time here in challenging the neutral, reasoning-from-nowhere stance that Enlightenment thinkers (Descartes) tried to advance. “Neutral,” view-from-nowhere reasoning is now completely dismissed by everyone, really since Nietzsche. Only a pocket of really bad Christian apologists and (nearly all New Atheists) still believe this type of reasoning exists.

      Let’s review Bob’s “faith” claim: all religious people are required (!!!) to hold beliefs against evidence. Not sure who the “gatekeeper” of all religions is, but we’re ignoring that point. Whoever it is, that’s a big job.

      Well let’s see: Luther doesn’t really say anything about evidence, just the limitations and provisional nature of human reasoning. He’s not a big fan of the rationalism of his day, but that’s probably okay: almost no one today agrees with the type of thing he was protesting.

      Does this affirm that religious people must believe in things against all evidence and dismiss evidence to the contrary? Well I’m not seeing that connection…you’ll have to show me where Luther says that.

      But you’ve done more than Bob in providing sources, I have to give you that.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        drewl:

        Let’s review Bob’s “faith” claim: all religious people are required (!!!) to hold beliefs against evidence.

        Wow. What a nutty claim. Who made this (besides your imagination, I mean)?

        Well let’s see: Luther doesn’t really say anything about evidence, just the limitations and provisional nature of human reasoning.

        You mean like “Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore”? Yeah, I know what you mean. Crazy, huh?

        But you’ve done more than Bob in providing sources, I have to give you that.

        Yeah. Except for all the sources that I pepper my posts with, I never cite sources.

        • DrewL

          Wow. What a nutty claim. Who made this (besides your imagination, I mean)?

          I should have recognized right away that you were trying to retreat from the argument at this point.

          I take it you’re now ready to affirm religious people may approach knowledge with the same strategy of trust and openness to evidence that you personally employ. And I also take it, seeing your refusal to respond above, that you can’t bring yourself to admit you were wrong previously.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          I should have recognized right away that you were trying to retreat from the argument at this point.

          Uh … this is where you substantiate your claim. Not having done so, I conclude that you’re admitting that you have no evidence to back it up.

          And I also take it, seeing your refusal to respond above, that you can’t bring yourself to admit you were wrong previously.

          Too vague. Make a clear accusation and I’ll respond.

        • DrewL

          Okay, I’ll copy and paste it for you. Do you (now) believe the following:

          Many (most?) people, out of sheer necessity, incorporate trust (belief firmly grounded in evidence) into what they believe to be true.

          Bob fits in this category.

          Some religious people fit into this category.

          (But) Some religious people do not. (and instead “hold their beliefs aloof to evidence”).

          If so, we agree.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Drewl:

          Okay, I’ll copy and paste it for you.

          No–let me. You said:

          Let’s review Bob’s “faith” claim: all religious people are required (!!!) to hold beliefs against evidence.

          No, this is not Bob’s “faith” claim. You made a mistake. I don’t know if you misremembered or if you (as usual) tried to invent a straw man that would sound better when it crashed to the ground, but it was wrong.

          You could’ve responded, “Y’know what? I misspoke. That paraphrase, now that I calm down and think about this reasonably, really doesn’t capture what you’ve said before about your position.” But you didn’t. Nope, you doubled down and said,

          I should have recognized right away that you were trying to retreat from the argument at this point.

          You didn’t say, “I made a mistake”; you said, “You cowardly SOB … you’re denying what you plainly said! I can barely believe it!” (Paraphrased for added drama.)

          You’re tiresome to have an argument with. I’ll say it again, not because I think you’ll pay attention this time but to toss out some reason into the general environment in the hope that it’ll grow somewhere: I’d prefer an antagonist who actually found errors in my posts. Whining and struggling to find simple contradictions (“You say now that you hate cheese, but before, you said that you like brie, and brie is a cheese!! Gotcha!”) is a waste of everyone’s time.

        • DrewL

          I’ve never seen a guy so determined to avoid answering a question.

          Here’s what you said December 15th, 2012 at 11:34PM:

          As has been said, the believer has certainty without evidence, and the atheist has evidence without certainty (or something like that).

          We’ve got the atheist-believer binary, we’ve got a “the believer does X, the atheist does Y” generalization , and we’ve got your statement right here: “the believer has certainty without evidence.”

          I translated this into “all believers are required to hold faith beliefs against evidence,” based mostly on your post above, entitled “Christianity: the Ultimate Unfalsifiable Hypothesis” (seems to refer to all Christianity, right?) in which you dream of a world “where all Christians were this eager to understand reality, where they followed the evidence where it led…”

          I’m ready for you to clarify your beliefs at any time. I’ve asked you two times now. But again…

          Please, help me understand the great offense I’ve committed with my paraphrase of your statement. All it takes is a simple explanation.

          “the believer has certainty without evidence”
          –Bob’s exact statement, 12/15/2012

          “all religious believers are required to hold beliefs against evidence”
          –Drewl’s absolutely abhorrent paraphrase of Bob’s statement that made atheists everywhere cry out in deep anguish to a cold, empty universe.

          The floor is yours.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Drewl:

          I’ve never seen a guy so determined to avoid answering a question.

          And your hanging on my every word is creepy.

          We’ve got the atheist-believer binary, we’ve got a “the believer does X, the atheist does Y” generalization , and we’ve got your statement right here: “the believer has certainty without evidence.”

          And, in the context of my comment, I was talking about different kinds of “certainty.”

          I translated this into “all believers are required to hold faith beliefs against evidence,”

          And I’ve already made clear that this isn’t my view. Why isn’t once enough?

        • DrewL

          I’ve already made clear that this isn’t my view.

          I think we’ve heard your claims about what is NOT your view. But thanks for avoiding the question yet again.

          I’m going to recognize your inability to express your views here as a fear of where logic takes them. So let’s just conclude: since Bob doesn’t think all religious people MUST hold their beliefs against evidence, he has now recognized some religious people employ the same approach to knowledge that he does.

          This unfortunately means religion for many is no more anti-evidentialist, anti-reality, or anti-rational than your own beliefs are. That’s a fun little observation isn’t it? Kind of messes up a good chunk of your past posts on this topic. I won’t hold my breath for a revision.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Why state my view any more? You’ll just butcher it in your paraphrase and we’ll be back on the carousel. I’m not sure what that would be fun for me or anyone reading.

        • DrewL

          The victimization complex was a nice touch at first, but when you want to get back to the discussion, please, let me know.

  • smrnda

    Where did logic come from? Logic is a formal system, invented by people in order to be able to reason from axioms.

    Long story short, at first it appeared to be a pretty simple and pretty good way of examining truth claims about the universe. “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.”

    It didn’t take long for people to come up with statements that didn’t seem to work – the barber of Seville shaves every man who does not shave himself – so, if he shaves himself, that doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work the other way around either. So the formal systems got updates (Like Set Theory with the axiom of choice.)

    Like I said, it’s the quick version of the story.

    I really don’t understand the ‘no god would mean no logic’ thing. It seems like we’d have logic one way or the other, and that the existence of a sufficiently powerful god might create more logical dilemmas than it would solve.

    • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

      So you believe that logic is an invention, as opposed to a discovery … interesting.

      Would you likewise laws of physics as inventions as opposed to discoveries?

      • MNb

        As a teacher math and physics I say yes. Bertrand Russell already pointed this out more than 60 years ago. Laws of physics describe what we observe, more or less accurately.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Laws of physics describe what we observe, more or less accurately.

          So laws of physics are a human construct to describe, with varying degrees of accuracy, real relationships and order we see in the world around us.

          Two questions …

          1. Does this mean that there is real order, real relationships in the universe?
          2. How are the laws and axioms of logic any different?

          As a math and physics teacher, I wonder if you are also interested in the mathematical and physical properties of music? Can you tell me, is harmony an invented or discovered concept?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Just a small bit of housekeeping. Let’s keep in mind the distinction between logic and the laws of logic. Logic is what exists, and laws of logic are human constructs.

          Example: gravity vs. the law of gravity. The law of gravity didn’t exist until Newton created it. Of course, the relationship existed beforehand, and gravity existed beforehand.

          Another example: time vs. September. Humans invented September, and there wasn’t a September before we invented it. Or seven o’clock. Or the Gregorian calendar. But of course time exists independently of the aids that humans invent to help us understand time.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Just a small bit of housekeeping. Let’s keep in mind the distinction between logic and the laws of logic. Logic is what exists, and laws of logic are human constructs.

          Thanks Bob.
          Do you agree smrnda?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Christians seem to imagine that “God grounds logic” tells us something. It repackages the puzzle, not answers it.

      • Kodie

        Like I said above, they are perfectly happy with “that’s the way god set it up to work” but not happy with “that’s just how it works,” and must imagine chaos in all nature without someone building things according to a pattern. How that necessarily leads to other attributes of a god I do not know. It is like finding a cake in a room. Who put this cake here? God is testing to see if I will break my diet! That is what all the Christian testimonies sound like to me where people explain the incident that really convinced them. A book opened to a page, or a ladder didn’t fall on them or something.

        For all the respect given to logic as an overall scheme, there is very little given to logic on a case-by-case basis where it would actually come in handy.

  • MNb

    “Imagine a world where all Christians were this eager to understand reality”
    I can’t imagine that – they wouldn’t be christians anymore.

  • MNb

    @Karl U: “This is how atheist disbelief in God works.”
    Nope. I can tell you what kind of evidence I would accept that god exists: joint nightmares as a warning for upcoming natural disasters like the Japanese tsunami two years ago. That doesn’t violate free will nor any natural law (the usual theological objections). In fact it would show god using natural law to decrease evil in the world, especially if this happened on a statistical significant base.
    Now what’s your christian equivalent of disproving your belief? None? Thanks for confirming Bob S’ main point.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      MNb:

      I’m working on a post about what evidence atheists would need to become theists, so your suggestion is interesting.

      But couldn’t a super-advanced alien civilization be the cause of that rather than a deity? That is, wouldn’t technology, not magic, explain it just as well?

      • MNb

        I would worship those aliens as if they were gods, because I wouldn’t be able to understand how they could foresee the future. Moreover aliens being capable of influencing human minds like that – and only for the benefit of those humans – would be a good reason for worshipping as well. I would feel very much like Jesus’ apostles are supposed to feel in the Gospels.
        So I don’t think it would make any difference.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, but we agree that there is a difference between technology and magic (unless you’re saying that godlike magic is achievable by technology?).

    • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

      MNb,

      Now what’s your christian equivalent of disproving your belief? None? Thanks for confirming Bob S’ main point.

      When did we have this conversation? It seems to have slipped my mind.

  • smrnda

    Logic or scientific laws are our best attempts at systematically describing the behavior of the universe. They are ‘invented’ and then tested, and if they turn out to pass the test well enough, the provisional hypothesis is accepted as useful enough until a better one replaces it. In some cases, a theory like Netwon’s Laws can be improved upon, but that for many engineering applications, Newton’s Laws are good enough even though they are known to not hold in large (Relativity) or small (Quantum Mechanics) scale.

    I’m guessing the question is about whether or not there is some actual, real “totally correct” law out there, waiting to be discovered and that, if there is, where it comes from. Now, I’m a formalist mathematically and I’m a mathematician and software engineer and not a scientist, but I think we’ll see some improvements and refinements, but I can’t be sure that we’ll ever reach a state where we can say “Wow, all our current hypothesis have held for the past billion years (if we last that long) so wow, we must finally know everything.” We can’t say that since the scientific method requires that we remain open to new conclusions.

    On believing that logic is an invention rather than a discovery, this is pretty much the position of most working mathematicians that I know.

    On laws and properties – there’s a difference between laws that you set up, like the axioms of a formal system or the rules of a game, and emergent properties. If I build a bridge, I don’t make a rule that ‘ten ton trucks will cause this bridge to fail.’ (When writing a program, I can sometimes make rules that ‘more than so many requests per second will cause this program to shut down’ so that’s a little different.) It’s just that if I choose certain materials and build the bridge, it won’t hold up to a ten ton truck. No intelligence set up that rule, it’s just a consequence of the bridge being built out of some material.

  • Greg G

    Revelation is great if you don’t care about the validity of your information.

    The best way to get reliable information is systematic empirical observation using appropriate measurement instruments with methods to eliminate bias.

    The second best way is by empirical observation.

    A third way might be relying on instincts but they would be refined for an environment we left behind.

    The fourth way is known as just kidding yourself.

    As soon as someone demonstrates a better method than the first one, I’m adopting it.

    The brain has neurons that communicate over signal channels. The larger the diameter of the channel, the better the fidelity of the signal but the more energy they use and they displace neurons. Natural selection is excellent at optimizing the balance of fidelity vs resources. Smaller channels leave room for more neurons that can be used for error correction. The errors in the error correction would explain such things as creativity and some of the illusion of free will.

    • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

      Revelation is great if you don’t care about the validity of your information.

      Sure, the quality of information obtained by revelation depends on the trustworthiness of your source. But unless you’re a radical skeptic, it’ll still do you fine in most cases.

      And in many cases it is the only avenue available for certain information. Much of history, for example, is dependent on revelation (ie written records). Often the truth of the revealed information cannot be independently verified – we are forced to trust (or not) the account based on our judgment of the trustworthiness of the source.

      • Kodie

        History is a story, maybe it is closer or farther from what really happened, and depends a lot on human self-interest in telling a tale of victory or victimhood of an atrocity. It’s colorful, for sure.

        I would even say that is a religious belief, it’s in the category of such, since it can be mythical. What Christopher Columbus really did is not the same as what they teach in history class, and we in the US still celebrate every October with a bank holiday, and as well, Italian-Americans have used it as their national pride holiday. Similarly, the Irish have St. Patrick’s Day. Sort of revisionist – a particular day, Evacuation Day, was singled out of many significant dates during the Revolutionary War to give most people in Boston a day off on (coincidentally) St. Patrick’s Day.

        Does this matter? Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. What is lost when we celebrate Columbus? We forget about the victims of his invasion and pretend it never happened. Or is their story really the myth and we were right the first time? It matters that we learn about history somehow, but the myths conflict.

        Contrast this with historical Jesus. We say he might be a real guy, but he is not necessarily even that much. Did he resurrect? Certainly not. It matters to some people if that is true, since they think they have to follow rules and get to heaven (short version). They can be skeptical about it, but the more history tries to support the fact that the man existed, you still need to make a giant leap to the sacrifice of his death and the salvation expected due to his resurrection. In that way, it’s really not good enough. “What if it is true?” People blindly pick a god as a safer bet than no god, but one particular god. What if it is true? What was the first thing I said to you – it’s a social disease. Basing the rest of my life on a superstitious regard toward the magical events of 2000 years ago as historically rendered apparently convincingly enough for you or others like you, is not good enough. Comparatively, Columbus doesn’t really get in the way of my daily life.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Basing the rest of my life on a superstitious regard toward the magical events of 2000 years ago as historically rendered apparently convincingly enough for you or others like you, is not good enough.

          Wow. I honestly can’t remember anyone as devoted to building straw man arguments as you.

          It probably doesn’t matter to you that superstition and magic have nothing to do with my beliefs, or those of most Christians I know.

        • Kodie

          You have a superstitious regard for intelligence itself. You have revealed that to me.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          Where have I revealed a superstitious regard for intelligence?

          I have stated that there are examples of human endeavour that demonstrate that there is a distinction not merely of degree but of type between humans and animals. If you call that a superstitious regard for intelligence, you are not even misquoting me, you are inventing your own ideas about what I said.

          Let me put this clearly. The reason animals don’t do poetry, music, art, theology, etc is not because they’re not intelligent enough. There is a fundamental difference in the way we interact with the world that cannot be explained just by saying we’re more intelligent.

        • Kodie

          YOU draw a distinction between superstition and whatever illusion you call your “beliefs”. It’s evolution. Intelligence is our thing, just like flying is a bird thing. You have a superstitious regard for intelligence – that is what I gather from all of your posts on the subject. It causes wonder in you and causes you to leap to conclusions that are a product of your own imagination (or influenced by the imagination of someone more vivid than you). You can say but it’s not like holding onto a 4-leaf clover for luck or some junk like that. That’s a superficial understanding of what a superstition is. All religious people think there is something they can do to interact with a higher intelligence – whatever dance makes it rain, or prayer makes food on the table or whatever.

          Something theists also don’t seem to understand is that atheists understand what feelings of wonder and power around you that you are trying to categorize as something rather than nothing. We just don’t jump to that conclusion that this is evidence of a higher being that is telling us things and choosing us to be smarter than all the other animals and write love songs. The same intelligence we use for survival is the same one we use to think about all that stuff too. There are no barriers in what we can think about and that often arrives at a real solution to a real problem. Creatively thinking about something from another point of view helps us survive. It also makes for a lot of interesting stories and ways to communicate those stories.

          But you do have a superstitious regard for that intelligence. It is just that you don’t like that word being used on you because you think it’s “real”.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,

          YOU draw a distinction between superstition and whatever illusion you call your “beliefs. It’s evolution. Intelligence is our thing, just like flying is a bird thing. You have a superstitious regard for intelligence”

          I just said that I don’t attribute the difference between humans and animals to intelligence. You called it a superstition. Now you call it an illusion. Why?

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Karl:

        Using “revelation” to mean both what you read in a history book and what God tells people is pretty weird. I hope you’re not trying to lean on the reasonableness of the first to prop up the second.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          I haven’t used it to refer to what God tells people … yet :-)

  • Greg G

    I would add that it also explains revelation. It still would have to be tested by empirical testing to determine if it is serendipity or just a WAG.

  • Greg G

    Nobody knows the origin of the universe. If you mean why is there something rather than nothing, you may not understand nothing. A stable nothing is a philosophical construct that doesn’t exist in reality. It’s like a perfect circle. You can imagine one but you have a real one with an infinite number of points the exact distance from the center and all in the same plane. You can imagine nothingness but there are virtual particles popping up. A universe may be a sufficiently large number of simultaneous quantum events.

    A complex brain that can assess reality better and respond appropriately will survive and reproduce better. Some appropriate responses are usually incorrect but prudent. An unusual noise is usually not a predator but it’s better to find out from a safe distance. Some responses are always right given sufficient information and some are usually right and just as reliable with partial information. A complex enough brain can separate the always right inferences and call it Logic, which uses logic, from the usually right and call them Fallacies.

    As Bob pointed out, if logic came from God, he could make square circles and round squares. If he can’t, he didn’t create logic.

  • Mr. X

    “I’ve talked to lots of Christians who say that they do demand evidence, and that they would go where the evidence points. I have my doubts—I think that for many of them belief comes first and evidence is marshaled after the fact to support this presupposition … Scientists want their theories to collapse if they’re wrong. If they’re wrong, they want to know it.”

    Wait, so how come you disbelieve Christians when they say this, but assume scientists mean what they say? Whence the double standard?

    • smrnda

      This is just me, but take a look at the William Lane Craig quotes. Obviously some Christians are openly making statements that they know they are right, and don’t need evidence, and would reject evidence against in favor of their existing beliefs. Maybe not all, but this position is taken openly by some pretty high profile Christians.

      Scientists don’t always actually want their theories to collapse if they aren’t good (there can be some conflicts between self-interest and the truth at times) but it’s recognized that these people are bad scientists, and once you show a lousy, self-interested scientist evidence against their theory and they remain opposed to modifying it, they will lose credibility.

      By that standard, William Lane Craig should be dismissed as an apologist, and people like him. I’m not saying you yourself are a Craig supporter or sympathizer, but he’s basically saying “I believe, and no evidence would convince me otherwise, even this time machine deal that tells me the resurrection didn’t happen.’ So, as long as many Christians state such things openly, I know that a lot aren’t really open to new conclusions.

      • JohnH

        I have to say discussing anything about time machines going back to the time of the resurrection is such an improbable thought experiment as to be nearly useless. I mean if someone claimed to have a time machine and I “went back” in it and did or did not see the resurrection I would require a whole lot more proof in regards to the time machine itself before I would even consider addressing the issue of the Resurrection or lack their of. Once I was reasonably convinced that the time machine was real and was really taking me back in time then I would still need some way of validating that the time I was going back to corresponded to the time in question; some way of validating that the person resurrecting or not really was or was not Jesus (and not just any dude named Jesus but the actual Jesus around which the Gospels are written (or at least based on if the miracles and resurrection didn’t happen)). The simplest case would be Go back in time, validate that one really is back in time, see Jesus perform a miracle and validate that it was indeed something somewhat miraculous, watch Jesus die and validate, watch Jesus resurrect and validate as much as possible. The hardest case for me, and I assume WLC, would be disproving the resurrection, as in proving not only did this guy that is claimed to be Jesus not rise from the dead but that there was no Jesus that rose from the dead.

        I assume that WLC is like me in that he does know that he is right about something because such has been shown him by God, which appears to those that have it to be more sure evidence then anything else possible. Since there are only somethings that God has revealed to me that means that there are quite a lot of things that I don’t know and which evidence could greatly change what I believe or think about on those subjects. About the things that I do know to be true, such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ, then I honestly don’t know how I would react if it were proven wrong. It would certainly take more then what most people would consider a reasonable amount of evidence for me to consider it proven wrong, especially since I am very familiar with evidence that “disproved” my religion that were latter shown to be forgeries.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          Your skepticism about the practical time machine experiment are valid, but it still seems reasonable as a thought experiment. It assumes that you were convinced that the claim (no resurrection) was indeed true.

          But tell me what would get you to reject Christianity, if anything. Is your belief based on evidence, or is evidence not particularly important to your faith?

          I assume that WLC is like me in that he does know that he is right about something because such has been shown him by God, which appears to those that have it to be more sure evidence then anything else possible.

          And yet it’s also the most fallible route to knowledge possible. We know how we can deceive ourselves. We know that our minds are fallible and play tricks on us. We know that those guys in the other religion are deluding themselves when they say the very same thing.

        • JohnH

          “Is your belief based on evidence, or is evidence not particularly important to your faith?”

          My belief is based on evidence of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit in my life. I am much less concerned about other forms of evidence; they aren’t what I base my faith on though they can be interesting. I do not believe that it is really possible to actually have faith based on evidence, though evidence can help confirm belief or drive one to a better understanding of the truth, as it does in science.

          “And yet it’s also the most fallible route to knowledge possible”

          I am pretty sure we are talking about completely different things here, but I can see why you would say that.

          “We know that those guys in the other religion are deluding themselves when they say the very same thing.”

          No, I don’t, in fact I can pretty much guarantee that WLC doesn’t think of me and him being the same religion at all. I will admit that there are many that use the same words I use but for completely different types of experiences who are deluding themselves.

          I believe in feeling the Spirit, I believe in speaking in tongues, and I believe in healing but what I say for all of those and what many other churches say for all of those are different to the point of contradictory. When I say spirit it is a calm, peaceful, rational experience in ones mind and in ones heart, you are likely familiar with the alternative. When I say tongues I mean primarily being able to communicate with others in a different language well beyond ones natural ability, not speaking gibberish. When I say healing I mean something that happens completely in private and is not generally shared or talked about that much, not something that happens with lots of theatrics in front of a crowd. Even when I say prayer it can mean something quite different from what others call a “prayer”.

          That said there are many people of not only my faith but all faiths and those of no faith that know things to be true because God has revealed it to them by the Holy Spirit, even if they don’t believe in God.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          I do not believe that it is really possible to actually have faith based on evidence

          That’s pretty much how I see things.

          But why believe anything based on faith? What good is faith? It serves no purpose in my life.

          I am pretty sure we are talking about completely different things here, but I can see why you would say that.

          Are we? I thought we had some decent agreement going on here. Faith is an evidence-less route to belief, right? Yes, I understand that lots of people use it, but I’d like to see some justification for it. You can say, “Look, it’s just how I roll, OK?” And that would be OK, but you seem to be happy to justify your beliefs and faith.

          No, I don’t

          Are Hindus correct when they point to some sort of supernatural assurance of the correctness of their religious beliefs? Or Muslims? Or [fill in here any of the hundreds of religions of which you're not a part]?

          When I say tongues I mean primarily being able to communicate with others in a different language well beyond ones natural ability

          Interesting. Do you have any evidence of this claim? Or perhaps this is also something where you don’t see evidence as relevant or helpful?

        • JohnH

          Need to clarify, when I say faith based on evidence, I mean strictly evidence which is verifiable by everyone, things that are personal are evidence for the person and can generate faith for that person but are not that relevant for anyone else having faith.

          “What good is faith?”
          Faith is not belief but an actionable trust in something. If one believes in something that may not actually have a large impact on how one acts, if one has faith in something (like the sun rising tomorrow for instance) then one acts accordingly. You therefore do many things based on faith and it serves quite a lot of purposes in your life, just not faith in God or Jesus Christ.

          The process of getting faith is that of acting on faith on something which you think is right, such as Jesus enjoined in John 7:17, and then observing the results (which if they are good is personal evidence of that thing) and then continuing. That is one knows somethings if one has faith and one has tested somethings but one does not know all things meaning there are many things which are taken on faith because these other things are already known to be true. Just like with science, one knows some things about science through experience and knows the process of science but most experiments one has not conducted oneself but takes on faith that they actually did happen and actually did give the results presented (even when they might not of as is sometimes the case especially in the medical field).

          ” but you seem to be happy to justify your beliefs and faith.”
          I can’t find the quote right now but there is one which is along the lines of argument doesn’t produce faith but can create an environment where it can exist where as if attacks to faith are not met then they can be destructive to others faith. Something like that. I am sure I mangled that pretty badly as I imagine otherwise I would have already found the exact quote.

          “Are Hindus correct when they point to some sort of supernatural assurance of the correctness of their religious beliefs?”
          If the assurance is good then yes they are correct. If the assurance is not good then sure they are correct in pointing out the supernatural as justification for their belief, even if it is not correct. We have been over this before.

          ” Do you have any evidence of this claim?”
          Yes, there have been scholarly studies on the subject of missionaries learning of a second language, the discrepancies are chalked up to “motivation” as “the Spirit” is not likely to fly in scholarly circles. That is evidence but not proof, obviously. Also, personal experience.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          Faith is not belief but an actionable trust in something.

          Oh dear. I figured we’d have a redefinition phase.

          The definitions I’d prefer would be something like trust = “belief firmly grounded in evidence” and faith = “belief weakly grounded in faith or even in the face on strong contradictory evidence.” Most Christians with whom I have this discussion insist that they are always synonyms and that the first definition applies to both. And that works for me except the inevitable point later in the discussion when they slip in “faith” with the second definition.

          You can tell me where your own views fit here.

          If the assurance is good then yes they are correct.

          Are Hindus correct or not in their supernatural claims?

          Yes, there have been scholarly studies on the subject of missionaries learning of a second language

          Lots of people learn a second language. Do these missionaries learn it in seconds? Or does it take months?

        • Kodie

          Oh so you’re overly skeptical about an imaginary time machine but you’re not about what you read in a book written 2000 years ago and any scholarly imaginings that claim to support an historical Jesus historically resurrected?

        • JohnH

          Any scholarly anything claiming to support an historical Jesus historically resurrected is likely to be as much bunk as a claimed time machine.

        • Kodie

          Then why do so many Christians use them to argue that Jesus historically existed and historically resurrected, but if they were in a time machine, they’d start asking a lot of questions. When I read Bob’s post, of course I considered everything about the time machine and the arrival to be when and where one would arrive in order to witness such a thing, but you say you would not trust the time machine – it’s an exercise in which you could (I did) skip over those questions and answer the real question. If you were there and Jesus did not resurrect, the first thing to pop up is that you or WLC were tricked somehow.

          Hey, if someone said go back in this time machine for real, I would make sure everything was in order too, but these details can be overlooked when suppose somehow you were there at the time. You were there at the time and it wasn’t true.

        • JohnH

          If I was there and it wasn’t true then there is no point in believing something that isn’t true. I would then either join Confucianism, Stoicism, or perhaps atheistic Hinduism as I am not Jewish.

          If you were there and it was true, then what would you do? If you saw the risen Lord what would you think or believe?

        • Kodie

          I would think it was an illusion or that I was hallucinating. The difference is you believe something that defies reality without seeing it. I have seen illusionists and they can be very convincing but there is always a trick. If instead of dying and resurrecting, Jesus mailed a letter, I might believe it or I might not. I’m not sure they had any kind of postal delivery system, or whether I would spot the anachronism. I think I’d believe it if I saw him do something ordinary to me like that, but I also think others might see that as some kind of miracle. It’s weird how miracles aren’t the devil trying to trick you. If it was insisted that I form some kind of supernatural belief about Jesus resurrecting and not be allowed to (somehow my brain was kept from) think it was an illusion or that it was a hallucination, I would 3rd say that it’s scary. Most times people defend god or Jesus or miracles or whatever, and accuse reality of being planted by the devil, I kind of think y’all have it mixed up. God is a threatening character and everything I hear about love is, like, are you freakin’ kidding me? Panic about the devil seems to be misplaced. God is the devil and all these people you listen talk are tricking you. I’m not really afraid of nor believe in god or the devil, but it creeps me out to hear some people talk about how paranoid they are about being tricked into not believing in god, having your mind taken over by stray thoughts, of being tempted by reality to leave their religion, and missing their salvation because of some tv show they want to watch or wear certain clothes. It’s so clearly a cult from the outside, but I have no idea what it looks like from the inside.

        • JohnH

          It is amusing the response one gets when the tables are turned.

          ” defies reality ”
          Reality can not defy itself, if it is real then it is part of reality and thinking otherwise is insanity. Likewise if it is not real and one thinks otherwise then it is insanity; so it really cuts both ways.

          “It’s weird how miracles aren’t the devil trying to trick you.”
          The devil is able to do miracles. However, if something is good it comes from God.

          So you would be gnostic apparently? I am not sure who “all the people I listen to” are but I assure you that not believing in God is not really something I am panicked about, nor really the other stuff you assume is an integral part of religion.

          Ones mind can not be taken over by stray thoughts unless one wants ones mind to be taken over by stray thoughts, everyday experience should confirm that. If reality and religion are contradictory then one should probably learn more about both to see if they really are contradictory and if they truly are and there is no reconciliation possible then they are likely in the wrong religion. Watching certain tv shows, movies, etc can warp ones world view leading to problems determining what is right or wrong, an extreme example of this is pornography effects on judgement, decision making, views of women, and etc. I can not really say anything about other faiths but in my own one can not lose ones salvation for watching a bad tv show or wearing inappropriate clothing; one doesn’t watch bad tv shows because they do not depict values that one is trying to hold; one doesn’t wear inappropriate clothing because doing so damages ones image of oneself and the image that others have of one; which tv shows are bad or what clothing is inappropriate is largely between the person making the decision and God.

        • Kodie

          Resurrection is impossible. Therefore if I were shown it, I would have to first assume it is a trick. Unlike WLC, who assumes an impossible miracle occurred 2000 years ago and would assume he was being tricked if the ordinary occurred instead. ?????

          I am familiar with similar tricks. Illusions, they’re called. You’ve seen how they’re done, right? And these happen off the stage as well. Our eyes aren’t that smart a lot of the time, and I know this. If I saw something happen that did not have any apparent natural cause, I would have to assume that it follows the laws of physics anyway and that I missed a detail. If what happened could not have happened then it must have had some natural cause that was not made obvious – such as when illusions are performed deliberately. If I bounce a ball really hard and it goes very high and it does not come down, what do you think occurred? I think it likely followed an arc and landed where I wasn’t watching for it, possibly on the roof or in a tree. If something can happen statistically, even very low odds are possible it could happen to you. That is not a miracle, you were not chosen or singled out. A resurrection would have to be a miracle, a physically impossible thing. Why do you believe that it happened? If I saw such a thing happen, it has to be some other explanation. Upon finding no strings or back doors or thieves, where had that body gone? I do not still think it is a miracle because that is a different angle – to see that no miracle occurred and still believe a miracle occurred because of feelings inside you that persist in drowning out your own senses? You have to see the difference here?

          As far as the rest of it, I don’t know. I think the mind control is very powerful in religion that’s the same as how it operates in pornography. Exposure changes your own thoughts so that you don’t notice they were influenced. You think you have those thoughts yourself or that they are revealed to you. Under the suggestion that they would, you found something to listen for. That’s why I think it’s that devil mind-control thing I was trying to explain. Not “the” devil, more just like how many Christians describe paranoia about falling under the traps of the devil without recognizing how easily influenced they were to believe in an invisible deity with no powers detectable whatsoever, you believe you feel something and you name it spirit.

          I don’t, and I don’t see any reason to start, and I don’t see any reasonable argument that any of it is true.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          (If I could speak out of turn…)

          It is amusing the response one gets when the tables are turned.

          This assumes a symmetry that isn’t there. As I think Kodie made clear, your seeing that your supernatural beliefs were false is a mundane kind of thing. We look around our world and see zillions of things that have a natural (not supernatural) origin.

          But Kodie seeing something the reverse (something supposedly natural is actually supernatural) is very surprising. We have zero examples of this that are agreed to by pretty much everyone (contrast that with a natural claim like “water freezes”).

          You may have a puckish attitude toward life and are amused by almost anything, and that would be great, but don’t imagine that there’s anything odd or embarrassing or hypocritical about this analysis.

  • Greg G

    For example if someone tells you their name, you know their name by revelation, not by science.

    You aren’t a TSA agent, are you? They want documentation. For an international flight, you need a passport and a visa for some destinations. You have to provide verifiable evidence to get those documents.

    If you want to buy a beer, it might take more than revealing your age. Bob Evans doesn’t really care if you want the Over 55 portions because they make money on it anyway.

    Revelation is OK if you don’t really care if it’s actually true.

    • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

      Not strictly true.

      If you forget your password, you can reset the password by revealing information you know about your account.

  • smrnda

    Karl – realized I didn’t respond to the question very directly. I would just put ‘the laws of logic are human constructs.’ As a mathematical formalist, I don’t really speculate about the existence of ‘logic’ outside of the formal systems humans create and I’m not even sure if the existence of this ‘logic’ could be demonstrated, so in many ways I treat logic perhaps more like science. We have some provisional hypothesis that have, so far, been good enough. We’ve found some problems with out existing formal systems and created some new ones. Is there somewhere, out there, a perfect logic waiting to be discovered that won’t have any holes? I’d say it’s nothing we can ever actually know or find. However, I take what we have and use it, because so far, a lot of it works well enough.

  • Greg G

    “If you were there and it was true, then what would you do? If you saw the risen Lord what would you think or believe?”

    Given sufficient evidence, I would believe. Even if I saw the saints arising from their graves as in Matthew and saw that the zombies ate Jesus’ body like a Communion wafer, my view of reality would change.

    Remember that the feeling in your heart is all in your head.

    Next time you are speaking in tongues, tell someone to write down the serial numbers of a couple of dollar bills in your wallet as you read them off and see how effective dictation really is.

    Have everyone write down what they heard from a certain person before any discussion of the topic to see who is really in the Spirit. Then compare notes.

    Your claim is testable. Let’s verify it!

    • JohnH

      I think you still have the wrong idea about speaking in tongues but are getting closer. Since it exhibits primarily in learning a language then I think the claim would require quite a bit more set up and control then what you are suggesting, that and it would still not be sufficient evidence, as when such has been tested before the discrepancy was chalked up to “motivation”.

      The traditional interpretation of Matthew is that the saints were resurrected after Jesus had already risen and that none of them were zombies, as it seems doubtful that Job was looking forward to an existence of being a zombie.

  • Greg G

    You can only retrieve your password by verifying the information you already gave them. If your first pet was named Rover but you originally told them it was Spot, revealing the real name won’t get you access to the account.

    • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

      You are revealing that you know what information is in the account. The revealed information is “This person knows what information is in the account”.

  • Greg G

    You are revealing that you know what information is in the account. The revealed information is “This person knows what information is in the account”.

    The computer doesn’t care about the truth of the revelation. You are proving point. Revelation is OK if you don’t care about truth.

    • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

      The principle would apply the same if you revealed information to a human.

      eg shibboleth’s

  • Greg G

    JohnH

    If speaking in tongues comes from the Holy Ghost, why do othercreligions do it? It’s not just a Christian thing. Why do speakers use phonemes and rhythms of their own language? It’s a learned talent.

    Matthew says they arose when Jesus died but went to town after the resurrection. Verse 27:51 says ” At that moment” then lists events. It’s typical for tradition to screw things up.

  • Carol

    “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” — Elton Trueblood
    “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” –Oswald Chambers

    Neither is faith belief with proof. It is trust without reservation and the realistic acceptance that the human intellect has its limitations.

    The scientific method is not an appropriate means to search for “proof” of God’s existence because it is based on evidence that is confirmed by repeatable experiments under controlled circumstances in a laboratory. Modern science is reductionistic.

    Religious experience is more like a “soft” social science than a “hard” empirical science. It is tested in the crucible of human experience. It rests on consensual validation or statistical evidence, the witness of believers from all ages and cultures. That is why the Tradition, rejected by classical Protestantism when it became confused with traditionalism, is so important to the continuing evolution of religious belief and practice.

    “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide.
    Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.” –Jaroslav Pelikan

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Carol:

      “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.”

      Note how radically different this is from what science does. Every scientific conclusion is provisional. New evidence could overturn anything.

      “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.”

      Based on what? Apparently not on evidence, since you want confidence despite a lack of understanding.

      The scientific method is not an appropriate means to search for “proof” of God’s existence because it is based on evidence that is confirmed by repeatable experiments under controlled circumstances in a laboratory.

      Show me how a non-scientific approach to knowledge ever makes sense.

  • Nemo

    The naturalistic worldview espoused by many atheists is quite falsifiable. Consider, for example, the following possible scenarios:

    1) The President is shot. At the hospital, nothing can save him, so one of the nurses, a faithful Wiccan, starts chanting. The President, in view of legions of reporters, is healed. Similar incidents are reported across the country.
    2) It turns out the Harry Potter series was based off of a very real underground magical world, except the bad guys kinda won. This is revealed to the world at large, and now everyone has to worship a guy named Tom.
    3) A group of atheists are unveiling a large statue of Mohammad having sex with a pig for their Blasphemy Day celebration. Several angels swoop down from heaven and vaporize it, telling the atheists not to mock the Prophet.

    In all three of these scenarios, the naturalist would have no choice but to readjust their worldview. Now, I highly doubt many atheists would worship Allah in that third one, but they would at least have to admit that he probably exists. The Christians, meanwhile, would merely shrug and declare all three of those scenarios to be tricks from Satan. Now, tell me who is open minded.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Nemo:

      The naturalistic worldview espoused by many atheists is quite falsifiable.

      Falsifiable? Or are you trying to show that atheists are closed minded? Neither one works here, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

      1) The President is shot. At the hospital, nothing can save him, so one of the nurses, a faithful Wiccan, starts chanting. The President, in view of legions of reporters, is healed.

      Cause and effect? Maybe someone began chewing a stick of gum at the same time as well–who’s to say that that didn’t cause this recovery?

      In all three of these scenarios, the naturalist would have no choice but to readjust their worldview.

      I’ve written about the difficulty in being certain that a startling event is supernatural rather than just done by very advanced aliens, but forget this for now.

      It’s laughable to imagine that Christians are the open minded ones and that those who follow science aren’t, but we can discuss this further if you want.

    • Carol

      If we are looking for certainty, then neither faith nor empirical science can deliver it. The most we can hope for is a high degree of probability.

      Western empirical science is reductionistic. It’s methodology can only be applied to what can be discerned and measured by the physical senses. It is limited to evaluating the material universe. Much of what is of value, even unique and/or rare, to human experience, like kenotic love, cannot be counted. It’s methodology also demands that proofs are repeatable. The methodology of empirical science cannot test the validity of unique, unrepeatable events. Neither is it wholly “objective.” Michael Polanyi, a philosopher of science, “killed” logical positivism by pointing out that “the experimenter is always part of the experiment.” Empirical facts are meaningless until they have been interpreted by a human subject. That is why there are often, at least on the cutting edge of science, many competing theories and schools of thought just as there are many Religious Traditions with their esoteric sects. All of the Great Religions teach a form of the Golden Rule. Interesting enough, enough only Jesus taught it’s positive form, not merely the negative “DON’T do to others that which you would not have them do to you”, but “DO unto other others …”. In addition to “sins of commission”, Christianity condemns “sins of omission”, a passive failure to love others as we ought, not just a condemnation of overt aggression.

      Faith [not to be confused with fideism] is not irrational, but it is meta-rational. As theologian Emil Brunner states, “Revelation can never find a place in reason, but reason finds a place in revelation.” God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor God’s ways our ways and, apart from a change in the WAY we think, not just WHAT we think, Revelation makes no sense. Once the theological presuppositions are accepted “on faith”, they can then be “tested” in the crucible of human experience. The problem is that although Grace is free, it is not cheap. In disordered societies [all societies are disordered to lesser or greater degrees], where individual behavior is as likely to be motivated by immediate selfish interests and disordered desires, serving the common good will involve socioeconomic sacrifices. If one has family responsibilities, the choice to faithfully practice a universal love instead of a narrowly self-interested life-style becomes even more difficult. Fortunately, the Kingdom of God is not a meritocracy or we would all be “screwed” instead of “saved.” Nietzsche was quite correct in observing that “[T]he word “Christianity” is already a misunderstanding – in reality there has been only one Christian, and he died on the Cross.” St. Augustine also reminded us of the “uniqueness” as well as the commonality of Jesus’ humanity to ours, “God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” Simone Weil, the Jewish/Christian mystic believed that the power to give meaning to [legitimate] suffering was uniquely christian, “[t]he extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering, but a supernatural use for it.” Of course faith, too, can become disordered and result in a martyr complex that goes beyond merely refusing to pass on to others the pain and cruelty experienced at the hands of others, as Oswald Chambers points out, “[t]o choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God’s will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not.” So, if we are going to judge the validity of Christianity based on how it “proves” itself when tested in the crucible of human experience, we must judge it on how it played out in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, not in how it plays out in the lives of his professed followers. As Flannery O’Connor stated, “Ideal Christianity doesn’t exist because anything the human being touches, even Christian truth, he deforms slightly in his own image. Even the saints do this.”

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Carol:

        Interesting
        enough, enough only Jesus taught [the Golden Rule's] positive form

        Yes, when the negative form makes more sense. Shouldn’t I do unto others what they want done to them? It’s probably arrogant of me to impose my idea of the correct balance on someone else.

        Faith [not to be confused with fideism] is not irrational, but it is meta-rational

        Then, to avoid confusion, perhaps you should define “faith” and “meta-rational.” I fail to see the use of faith.

        Once the theological presuppositions are accepted “on faith” …

        Yeah, but what bonehead would take this step? And how can you even do this?

        Experiment: take the claim “leprechauns exist” on faith. Where do you even start?

        the Kingdom of God is not a meritocracy or we would all be “screwed” instead of “saved.”

        So God is like the kid with a magnifying glass deciding which ants to burn and which not to? I don’t see a lot of justice here.

        if we are going to judge the validity of Christianity based on how it “proves” itself when tested in the crucible of human experience

        We judge the truth of a claim with how well it withstands tests. And Christianity’s lack of evidence means that it doesn’t do well.

        • Carol

          Of course, we should “do unto others what they want done to them” as long as what they desire does no harm to either themselves or others. None of us wants others to impose their judgment of what is “good for us” upon us, so I fail to see an issue here.

          St. Anselm defined theology as faith seeking understanding. Unfortunately, faith is often confused with giving intellectual assent to a system of dogmatic beliefs rather than a relationship of trust without reservation. Enlightenment rationalism [not to be confused with reason] is responsible for the dogmatic absolutism, especially in Latin/Western societies, that has corrupted not only the Christian religion, but also science and politics and many of our academic disciplines. These corruptions can be recognized by their *-isms*–Catholicism, Protestantism, Scientism, Conservativism, Liberalism, Capitalism, Socialism, ad nauseum.

          There is always a lot of agnostic doubt in authentic faith:

          An Adequate Faith

          “If I, as a Christian, believe that my first duty is to love and respect my fellow in his personal frailty and perplexity, in his own unique hazard and need for trust, then I think that the refusal to let him alone, to entrust him to God and his conscience, and the insistence on rejecting them as persons until they agree with me, is simply a sign that my own faith is inadequate.

          My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In these depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt, when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. On this level, the division between believer and unbeliever ceases to be so crystal clear. It is not that some are all right and others are all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity. Everybody is an unbeliever more or less.” ~ From “Apologies to an Unbeliever” by Thomas Merton

          “It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.” –Fyodor Dostoyevski

          Since neither theism nor atheism can be empirically proven or disproven, both belief systems require a “leap of faith.”

          You are entitled to believe that I am a “bonehead” because of my theistic beliefs if you like, but you are not entitled to have me take your opinion seriously. Atheistic communism does not exactly have an impressive record as far as respecting the dignity and freedom of the person, either, but that does not lead me to the conclusion that you are a “bonehead.” I would rather speculate that you have met many professing christians whose behavior has fallen far short of the eschatological vision that supports faith in its hope for the better world that cooperation with Grace has the potential of creating. As G.K. Chesterton stated, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and not tried.” Except by Jesus of Nazareth, of course and Mary, the archtypal New Testament believer. Protestantism does not have a Marian theological Tradition because, unlike Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, Protestantism is monergistic rather than synergistic, a 16th century sectarian departure from the Church’s Traditional teaching.

          What you seem to define as a theological problem, I would define as an epistemological problem that can be traced to the Enlightenment’s failure to recognize the limitations of the human intellect leading to the rationalistic dogmatic absolutism of Western modernism. We would have to be omniscient to be absolutely certain of our convictions and that is a Divine, not a human, attribute. Post-modern radical scepticism was an over-reaction to dogmatic absolutism which claimed that not only was there no absolute certainty since nothing could be fully known, but that nothing could be known, period! We are now advancing to what [for lack of a better term] is sometimes called post-post modernism. Since we cannot know fully, we cannot know with certainty, but we can know some things truly and cummulative evidence can provide a high degree of probability.

          From an epistemological perspective, I would speculate [and it's only a guess, not a dogmatic conviction] that you and most of the theists who are posting to this blog are modernists rather than post- or post-postmodernists.

          One of the most promising evolutionary developments is occuring in our lifetime is the complementary convergence of true science and true religion. Contemporary theoretical physicists, like traditional religious mystics, not only have no problem with unknowing/agnosticism, they are attracted to the unknown rather than being fearful of it.

          Intuition is the voice of the non-physical world. –Gary Zukav

          ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’ –A. Einstein

          Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. –Albert Einstein, “Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium”, 1941

          It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.
          – Albert Einstein

          You are not thinking. You are merely being logical. –Neils Bohr, physicist

          I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. – Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist

          Mechanistic science has no place for enchantment. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist. The problem is, the important things cannot be measured….”–Anne Wilson Schaef (Cherokee), Author, Native Wisdom for White Minds
          From rear cover:
          What is a white mind? White minds are trapped in a closed system of thinking that sees life in black and white, either/or terms; they are hierarchical and mechanistic; they see nature as a force to be tamed and people as objects to be controlled with no regard for the future.
          This worldview is not shared by most Native Peoples. Anne shares the richness poured out to her by Native Americans, Aborigines, Africans, Maoris and others. In the words of Native peoples themselves, we come to understand Native ideas about our earth, spirituality, family, work, loneliness and change. For in every area of our lives we have the capacity to transcend our white minds – we simply need to listen with open hearts and open minds to other voices, other perceptions, other cultures.
          Anne often heard Elders from a wide variety of Native peoples say, “Our legends tell us that a time will come when our wisdom and way of living will be necessary to save the planet, and that time is now.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          None of us wants others to impose their judgment of what is “good for us” upon us, so I fail to see an issue here.

          The issue is that the Christian statement doesn’t recognize what is so obvious to you. A small matter, perhaps, but then let’s not elevate the Christian version of the Golden Rule.

          There is always a lot of agnostic doubt in authentic faith:

          Let me suggest that we go where the evidence points. If the evidence clearly points to a conclusion, we accept that provisionally, but we don’t call this faith, we call it “trust.”

          Since neither theism nor atheism can be empirically proven or disproven, both belief systems require a “leap of faith.”

          Outside of math and logic, what can be proven?

          The idea of “burden of proof” avoids this nonsensical symmetry. We don’t hold every position equally; when a claim has shouldered its burden of proof, we are entitled to accept that claim, but until that point we aren’t.

          You are entitled to believe that I am a “bonehead” because of my theistic beliefs

          That’s not my claim.

          Atheistic communism does not exactly have an impressive record as far as respecting the dignity and freedom of the person

          Let’s not blame atheism for the excesses of a dictatorship.

          As G.K. Chesterton stated, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and not tried.”

          I’ve seen minimal evidence for Christianity; therefore, I’m not entitled to hold that belief. Real simple.

          I would define as an epistemological problem that can be traced to the Enlightenment’s failure to recognize the limitations of the human intellect leading to the rationalistic dogmatic absolutism of Western modernism.

          I fear that you hide behind big words and big ideas. Seriously, it’s simple: the claims of Christianity are remarkable, and the evidence simply isn’t there.

          We would have to be omniscient to be absolutely certain of our convictions

          I’m not certain that there are no unicorns, but I live my life as if that’s the case. Same with gods.

          Since we cannot know fully, we cannot know with certainty, but we can know some things truly and cummulative evidence can provide a high degree of probability.

          And you’re claiming that Christianity has this strong body of evidence? I’ve searched for years for this El Dorado and not found it. My conclusion: it’s probably not there.

          Contemporary theoretical physicists, like traditional religious mystics, not only have no problem with unknowing/agnosticism, they are attracted to the unknown rather than being fearful of it.

          Works for me.

          I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.

          And where are you on the god question?

          I am not absolutely sure of anything

          Ditto.

          Mechanistic science has no place for enchantment.

          I have no idea what “mechanistic science” is, but wonder is enabled by science, not stifled by it.

        • Carol

          There is no doubt about what Jesus meant by his positive statement of the Golden Rule since he taught the parable of Dives [the Rich Man] and Lazarus, the beggar whose obvious basic human needs Dives ignored throughout their lives even though Lazarus lie right outside his doorway [Luke 16:19-31]. Even though the context makes the meaning plain, doesn’t mean everyone is going to “get it.” I have much less faith in the power of “evidence” to persuade than you do, since I have observed that we humans tend to find [or not to find] what we are looking for in it.

          As to the eyewitness testimony of the Gospel writers, most of their peers both Jewish believers and Roman conquerors, saw only a charismatic itinerant Jewish oddball who ran afoul of the local religious and political power-elites and paid the ultimate price becoming a threat to their authority. The Palestinian landscape was full of such characters in those days of occupation, think John the Baptist, a cousin of Jesus. A handful of people saw something more and an unorthodox Jewish sect became the Christian Religion, which BTW is often nothing like the spiritual movement that the disciples knew and taught. So the “evidence” that led me to faith as an adult from a none-church-going famiy has not moved you in that direction, may even have led you to atheism. “Evidence” plus subjective factors- [temperament, personal experience] may “clearly point” to a conclusion that can be called either “trust” or “faith”, IMO, but it is still trust/faith in our own subjective conclusion which is all we have to guide us through life. The question for me is whether this “trust/faith” is dogmatic and absolute/closed or whether it is speculative/open to additional revelation/evidence. I believe that there are absolutes that transcend human experience, but that all subjective human knowledge and experience of them is relative. So, am I an “absolutist” or a “relativist”? Most Western people are either/or dualists unable to “posit the paradox” while Eastern thought tends to hold the complementary opposites in dynamic tension for a more balanced perspective. There has been a “turning East” in Western societies, a major shift in human consciousness [a growing number of "unorthodox" thinkers like the earlier "Jazz Age" writer F. Scott Fitzgerald who stated that “the test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”] that gained momentum during the 60′s in the US. This “Copernican evolution” in human consciousness is not merely non-dualistic, it is the recovery of a native intutive sense of “knowing” which has become underdeveloped, often to the point of atrophy, in our excessively logical post-Enlightenment Western society.

          The limitations of linear logic are being increasingly recognized. It is not that linear logic is wrong, it is simply not the only way we aquire insight. If billiards were a metaphor for life, then preceding the logical strategies of aiming for the pocket, there was the “break.” Logic cannot predict how the balls will break. It is a much more random, messy event.

          Religion, which speculates about the beginning of life, relies more heavily on intuition than it does on logic. Intuition, the “sixth sense”, is the voice of the non-physical world. With evolution as a catalyst, science has unexpectedly joined religion in speculating on “beginnings.” Post-Newtonian physics has reintroduced intuition into science which has led us to the reconvergence of religion and science.

          Theories are thought experiments. There are all sorts of imaginative theories, many of which will fail to produce practical results, but they are opening up the Western mind to unlimited possibilities that the narrowly logical mind, which is only concerned with what is, not what could potentially come to be, could have never conceived.

          The two scientific theories that have captured my mind and heart are Chaos Theory [which really should be called Complexity Theory] because life is so much more complicated that tunnel-visioned linear logic would lead us to believe and the Parallel Universe Theory, because I envision the fullness of Eternity ["Heaven"] as being a parallel universe separated from the space-time continuum [temporal existence] by a thin veil rather than a “place that is somewhere up there.” Primitive societies have always sensed that there is a relationship between Eternity and time. Science is rediscovering it and that discovery is filling our hearts with wonder and hope, not just filling our heads with knowledge. It is brain chemistry and neurological wiring that makes the mystic a mystic, a spiritual and intellectual erotic whose passion is the search for Reality/Truth. The venue can be either theological or scientific belief systems or both theological and scientific beliefs. More and more of us are choosing a both/and experience of the quest for Truth. It is our values that guide us on our quest that will determine whether we use our knowledge to enrich on destroy life. Without values, we are simply the most clever of the primate species, not a uniquely moral animal that sets us apart from [but not above] all other species. The Eastern Church explains the uniqueness of our species in the Creation myth of man made in the image of God with the potential to acquire godliness through an intimate participation in the Divine Life [Grace]. There is an important theological difference in how the Eastern and Latin/Western churches interpret the Creation Story:
          In Orthodox theology, the two words “image” and “likeness” are not used interchangeably as they are for Roman Catholics and Protestants. For Orthodox Christians, “image” denotes the powers and faculties with which every human being is endowed by God from the first moment of his existence. “Likeness” is the assimilation, the growth process to God through virtue and grace. We call this growth process “theosis.” For Western theology, man was created perfect in the absolute sense and therefore, when he fell, he fell completely away from God. For Orthodox theology, man was created perfect in the potential sense.–Fr. George Nicozisin

          Although there is no such thing as a “perfect church” since there is no such thing as a perfect person, I feel much more comfortable with the Tradition of the Orthodox Churches of the East than I do with most of the theological/spiritual formation in the Western Churches,with the exception of the pastoral care offered by contemplative Religious Orders that have remained faithful to the vision and insights of their founding Saints. I am especially drawn to the Carmelite and Franciscan Traditions, which Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr calls “an alternative orthodoxy.”

          All religion is not equal. If I thought that God was anything like Calvin’s Cosmic Bully, I would probably be a militant atheist.

          “Everything makes sense when God is communion instead of domination.” ~Source Unknown

          A NEW COSMOLOGY
          In the Old Cosmology, salvation largely became a kind of heavenly transaction that took place by your moral behavior, by belonging to the right group, and by having the right rituals. It wasn’t really relational. You didn’t have to connect with God; you just had to pay dues to God. You didn’t have to really love God at all. You just had to obey His commandments.
          And God was totally a He in this worldview, which preferred a description of reality as not connection, but domination, despite Jesus. Our word for that is “patriarchy.”
          In fact, we took an amazing amount of ammunition from one single line in Genesis that told us our job was to “dominate the earth.” (See Genesis 1:28.) Of course, if we’d recognized that we were created in the image of God and our job was to dominate the way God dominates, then it would be much more like nurturance and protection.
          ~Richard Rohr, Adapted from The New Cosmology: Nature as the first Bible

        • Carol

          I forgot to address you final comment: I have no idea what “mechanistic science” is, but wonder is enabled by science, not stifled by it.

          “Mechanistic science” is Newtonian Science based wholly on linear logic. It is not “wrong”, it is reductionistic, too simplistic. It resulted in the substitution of deism for theism in Western religious beliefs, which permitted faith in God as Creator, but denied the theistic concept of God as Sustainer the Universe that S/He had created. Deism became the transitional “bridge” between the traditional theistic Christianity and an atheistic secularism. Deterministic natural laws, not Grace became the “mechanism” by which the Universe was believed to exist. “Miracles” do not happen because they cannot happen. The Deistic God does not tinker with the mechanism that he has ordained to sustain the Order of his Creation.

          Interestingly, for many contemporary Christians acquainted with post-Newtonian scientific thinking, “miracles”, in the sense of an interruption of the natural order do not exist. The problem is that Newton’s understanding of the “natural order” was too simplistic. What he understood to be a “natural law” was not the result of a single cause and its linear effect but the result of many complex interrelated causes with a high degree of probability remaining in a sustained dynamic of interrelationship. A “miracle” is beating the odds with a good outcome. Beating the odds with a disastrous outcome is a “clusterfuck” or as some people might say, a “perfect storm.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          I have much less faith in the power of “evidence” to persuade than you do, since I have observed that we humans tend to find [or not to find] what we are looking for in it.

          Yes, they do. The process of science has a remarkable (though imperfect) record of finding good approximations for the truth. Let’s look there.

          As to the eyewitness testimony of the Gospel writers

          What eyewitness testimony?

          I believe that there are absolutes that transcend human experience

          For something like “1 + 1 = 2,” that sounds right. For morality, however, I see no absolute moral truths.

          Logic cannot predict how the balls will break.

          Neither can religion or philosophy. Let’s not resolve limitations or problems within science by assuming that (by default) religion must have the answers.

          Religion, which speculates about the beginning of life, relies more heavily on intuition than it does on logic.

          And you’ve uncovered the reason why I see no use for it.

          Intuition, the “sixth sense”, is the voice of the non-physical world.

          What nonphysical world?!

          Theories are thought experiments.

          Scientific theories are explanations backed up with much evidence.

        • Carol

          Bob says:
          Religion, which speculates about the beginning of life, relies more heavily on intuition than it does on logic.

          And you’ve uncovered the reason why I see no use for it.

          Intuition, the “sixth sense”, is the voice of the non-physical world.

          What nonphysical world?!

          Hmmm, you must not have any Celtic or Native American DNA in your genetic code.

          Oh, well, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on the importance [not to be confused with infallibility] of the sixth sense.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carol:

          we will just have to agree to disagree on the importance [not to be confused with infallibility] of the sixth sense.

          Can this sixth sense be put to the test? Or is that off limits? I hope you’re not saying that your sixth sense tells you that your sixth sense is reliable.

          I’m happy to have the sixth sense/intuition put to the (scientific) test. So far, I’ve heard of no evidence that it works. Confidence is not the same thing as evidence.

    • uhx116

      If those scenarios would really happen, the naturalist worldview would still be right and most supernatural views would still be most likely wrong, the naturalistic worldview incorporates new facts as they’re discovered and tries to find explanations for them instead of making up facts and explanations.

  • Carol

    By the way, I believe that Western theologians need to “transcend their white minds” as much as reductionististic modern Western scientists. I feel more spiritually akin to an agnostic like Feynman than I do to a reductionistic *christian* fundamentalist.

    Christian fundamentalism: the doctrine that there is an absolutely powerful, infinitely knowledgeable, universe spanning entity that is deeply and personally concerned about my sex life. ~Andrew Lias

    There are three religious truths: 1) Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. 2) Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian faith. 3) Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store or at Hooters. ~Author Unknown

  • Carol

    The “Ultimate Unverifiable Hypotheses” are why *something* rather than *nothing* exists. It is not only the Christian religious Tradition that engages in speculation on this matter in the search for meaning that we humans seem prone to pursue.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      But as physicists are asking now, why imagine that nothing is more likely than something?

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