“This is Guaranteed to Convert You!”

Imagine that an atheist walks into a gathering of Christians. He says, “I hold in my hand a pamphlet that will rock your worldview. In fact, it will almost surely change your worldview. I have shown this to several hundred Christians of many denominations, and shortly after they read it, 90% admitted that their faith in Christianity was pretty much gone.

“Now—who wants a copy?”

How many Christians would take the challenge? How many would risk their worldview for a chance at a more correct worldview?

My guess is very few. My guess is that most Christians already have had pangs of doubt and don’t like them. They don’t want the boat rocked—it’s rocking enough as it is. They suppress their own doubt and they avoid any “opportunity” to increase that doubt.

But now turn that experiment thought around. Imagine that a Christian speaks to the atheists at a conference and says, “I hold in my hand a pamphlet that will rock your worldview. It has insights and arguments that you probably don’t know about. I have shown this to hundreds of atheists, and shortly after they read it, 90% went down on their knees and accepted the truth of the gospel message and asked Jesus into their hearts. Now—who wants a copy?”

How many atheists would take the challenge? My guess is many. My guess is that most atheists came to their position because of evidence, not because of suppressing it, and that they’re eager to find the most correct worldview. They hold on to atheism because they think it’s the truth, not because it’s convenient or pleasing, and they follow the evidence where it leads.

What would you do? And what does this say about the truth of the Christian and atheist positions and the role of evidence in those worldviews?

Related post: “I Used to be an Atheist, Just Like You”.

God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance
that’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time goes on.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Keith B. for this insightful idea.

Photo credit: Brandeis Special Collections

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Jim Hoerst

    My experience is that Christians are quick to offer books, Josh McDowell – Evidence that Demands a Verdict comes to mind. The problem is they usually won’t defend the arguments made in the book. Often they haven’t even read the book themselves and are happy just knowing that somewhere there’s a book that offers a rational defense for their faith.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      I was once gifted with a Josh McDowell book. The person who gave it waited until my last day at a previous job. That way he didn’t have to discuss or defend the arguments therein. The bastard.

    • Carol Lynn

      You sure you don’t want scare quotes around that rational in “rational” defense?

      • Jim Hoerst

        I try to avoid scare quotes, but in this case they may have warranted. I defense of Josh McDowell, I think that he actually believes he is being rational.

    • smrnda

      I once had someone recommend Lee Strobel to me. I asked ‘will you BUY it for me?’ and the answer was no. I mean, come on, I’m supposed to spend $$$ on this?

      Eventually read it, wasn’t horribly persuaded, even less so when the whole story starts with Strobel’s wife becoming a Christian.

  • MNb

    “They hold on to atheism because it’s the truth”
    This statement is too absolute to my taste. But yes, I’m totally an atheist and materialist because I think it’s correct. If I thought atheism and materialism were incorrect I would change my views (JM Keynes: if my info changes my decisions change – what about you, Sir?). If I have doubts – and I have had many – I formulate them as sharply as possible and go look for answers, no matter how long it takes.
    I haven’t brought up religiously, even haven’t been baptized. At 13 I started out as an agnost and dualist.
    Defending your views until the very end is a virtue, I think. Even defending opposite views to yours with the same aim (finding out their validity) is a virtue. But sticking to them just because isn’t.

    • Cafeeine

      The statement isn’t an absolute one and it reflects precisely your
      position: They hold on to atheism because they are committed to truth,
      and thats where the search for truth led them, as opposed to many
      religious people who attempt to redefine truth so that their faith will
      be compatible with it. There is no obligation to remain an atheist if the path to truth veers away from it.

      • MNb

        “The statement isn’t an absolute one”
        No, for lots of atheists not. But for quite a few other atheists it is an absolute statement and I especially don’t like the lack of skepticism towards their own views that goes with it.

        “There is no obligation to remain an atheist if the path to truth veers away from it.”
        Depends on what you mean with obligation. People tend to invest emotional commitment in what they perceive as the truth and that can have the function of an obligation indeed. Atheists being human beings like everybody else it works for them in exactly the same way as for others, psychology will tell you. If we atheists are as committed to science as we claim we are we should suspect our own motives and emotional commitments at least as much – hence my dislike of the word truth.
        I’ll give an example stemming from myself. I would think it great if I could convince myself that science and theism are incompatible. Because I am aware of this desire I scrutinize every argument for this statement I meet. Alas I have noted that far from every atheist does so. They are satisfied with “Look here! Another example! I am right!”

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

      Good point. I changed that sentence.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Most animals, including people, seem to spend their lives defining the boundaries in which they will be able to relax. I believe this is the purpose that religion serves for most people. I did not want to question the religion into which I was born and educated, but the gross abuses of myself and my family while living within what were the stated boundaries forced me to question all that the religion professed.

    All belief systems, whether scientific or religious, start with a body of beliefs accepted by a defined group as true. Theories are built around the accepted facts and tests are devised to prove or disprove the theories. In science, when the results are replicated, they are accepted, but often scientific “facts” are still shown later to be false. This can happen because of deceit or because of new evidence presenting itself.

    While I no longer believe in a deity, I do experience awe about many things that I don’t fully understand. As a non-scientist, the list that defies my comprehension is very long. As a compassionate and passionate human being, the list of those things about which I experience awe is also extremely long. That which exposure to brings me a feeling of awe, I define as sacred.

    I am fine with parents who think their own babies, no matter how deformed, are the most beautiful on earth. I can no more prove a universal standard of beauty than I can prove that people don’t truly experience what they describe as a deity. I run into problems, both with the theists and the a-theists, because they seem to both be hell-bent on creating hell on earth for each other.

    My children will always be the most beautiful children in my very biased eyes, and what I experience as sacred will remain sacred to me as long as I don’t surround myself with people looking to point out the errors of my belief system. To stomp on anything that you don’t personally experience as not worthwhile is adolescent and bullying behavior equivalent to schoolyard bullies screaming at little boys, “Your mama’s fat and ugly!”

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

      To stomp on anything that you don’t personally experience as not worthwhile is adolescent and bullying behavior

      I agree, but this is off topic.

      IMO, the majority of American atheist concern isn’t focused on “correcting” others’ views about God and reality and all that. Rather it’s pushing back against Christians who go out of bounds. Who want Creationism in public schools. Who want to modify textbooks to pretend that America was created as a Christian nation. Who want little reminders of their faith—“under God” in the pledge or “In God We Trust” as the motto or school prayer. Who want to siphon off federal money into faith-based initiatives while holding their breath until they turn blue to prevent federal money from going to universal health care. And so on.

      • Y. A. Warren

        I agree with that, and hope that atheists wouldn’t waste their money on pamphlets that would state a promise as foolish as guaranteeing to change anyone’s mind about anything.

        • Armanatar

          I think that’s somewhat tangential to the point of the thought experiment.

        • Y. A. Warren

          What is the point of the thought experiment if not to invite thinking?

        • Armanatar

          A thought experiment is usually intended to set a situation into as stark relief as possible by stripping away externalities and getting down to the core issue, like with the runaway train car. Attempting to derail the train and miss everyone or driving a semi across the tracks to protect the people are inappropriate answers, because the point is to use the experiment to discuss a core topic, such as whether killing one person to save five is moral. The salient point here is how Christians and atheists respond differently to challenges to their beliefs. Whether or not atheists would make such a challenge isn’t the point. Not to say it isn’t in and of itself a valid topic.

        • MNb

          Well, if people want to waste their money on pamphlets I don’t care much. But no, my money doesn’t go there indeed.

  • RichardSRussell

    I come from Wisconsin, where we still remember all too well our infamous Senator Joe McCarthy, who began one of his many polemics with “I hold in my hand …”. I confess that my distaste for mccarthyism runs so deep that I would be instantly suspicious of anyone who’d start a sentence that way.

  • KarlUdy

    People who agree with me are intellectually honest. People who disagree with me are in denial. Way to go there, Bob.

    • Jim Hoerst

      Facts are facts. Christians that are willing to engage with atheists in debate are few and far between. Try finding factual defenses for Christianity on YouTube and other social media. What you will find is lots of kids but very few clergy or scholars. Not so with videos against Christianity. On the secular side you find the likes of Segan, Harris, Dawkins, and the late Hitchens. This atheist has called many a clergy and asked for a debate on reasons why I ought to believe. I got no takers. I can show you videos of Christians refusing to answer reasonable questions about their faith. The honest truth is that most Christians don’t care rather what they believe is true or false. Their main concern is how their faith makes them feel.

      • Pofarmer

        i know a lot of places if you are making good points and supporting your positions, you get the “don’t throw pearls before swine” treatment, as if their glistening arguments are just lost on you.

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

      Karl: I think you posted a comment from another post. This comment has nothing to do with what I wrote.

    • MNb

      And that, Karl, is called a strawman unless you show with a concrete quote where BobS wrote something like that.
      If you don’t you – not people who disagree – are intellectually dishonest indeed.

      • KarlUdy

        Mnb,

        My guess is that most Christians already have had pangs of doubt and don’t like them. They don’t want the boat rocked—it’s rocking enough as it is. They suppress their own doubt and they avoid any “opportunity” to increase that doubt.

        Here Bob is saying that most Christians suppress their doubts are are not open to investigating new evidence. I think that it can be fairly said that Bob is saying Christians are “in denial”, and that they are Christians because it is comfortable (ie doesn’t rock the boat).

        My guess is that most atheists came to their position because of evidence, not because of suppressing it, and that they’re eager to find the most correct worldview. They hold on to atheism because they think it’s the truth, not because it’s convenient or pleasing, and they follow the evidence where it leads.

        Here Bob says that most atheists are open to evidence and to changing their views, even if it is inconvenient to them. In other words that they are “intellectually honest”.

        Now Bob admits that these are his “guesses”, and he openly identifies as an atheist. But that his guesses are that people who agree with him are intellectually honest and that those who don’t are in denial seems to be clear from what he has written.

        To put this in context, it is equivalent to the Christian who says that atheists really deep down do believe in God, and are in denial about it.

        Are either of these characterizations fair? If one is (or is not), why not the other?

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

          Now Bob admits that these are his “guesses”

          Yeah. Your argument crumples when you actually consider the evidence, doesn’t it?

          You have some statistics that will clarify this situation? Or even your own opinion? That’d be great. But you’d rather charge people with flawed arguments instead, I guess.

        • KarlUdy

          Yeah. Your argument crumples when you actually consider the evidence, doesn’t it?

          No. It stands. Your guesses reveal your prejudices.

          You have some statistics that will clarify this situation?

          I’m not the one who should be providing statistics. My point is simply that what you have said reveals your prejudices. If you had some statistics to back up what you said, I perhaps would not have responded.

          But you’d rather charge people with flawed arguments instead, I guess.

          What do you mean? That I am using flawed arguments? Or that I am accusing you of using them? As to the first, I don’t see the flaw. As to the second, is there anything wrong with that? You yourself have just done a series supposedly exposing flawed arguments by a Christian blogger.

        • arkenaten

          You have some statistics that will clarify this situation?

          I’m not the one who should be providing statistics. My point is simply that what you have said reveals your prejudices. If you had some statistics to back up what you said, I perhaps would not have responded.

          You are probably correct Karl, Bob made the claim so the onus is on him to provide data.
          Fairs fair.
          Now, in the same vein, do you think that those making a claim for a Christian god should be the ones providing the
          evidence?

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

          You now seem to have moved on to the determined defense of a flawed position, determined not to admit that you overstepped. I’m probably wasting my time …

          Your guesses reveal your prejudices.

          Are they wrong? Show me.

          They’re just speculation—that’s why I clearly labeled them as guesses. You got something better? Even an opinion? Share it with us, but keep the groundless accusations to yourself.

          I’m not the one who should be providing statistics.

          It is a fact that these are my guesses. I’m not allowed to state such facts?

          Every statement must be backed up by statistics? Not on this planet.

          Or that I am accusing you of using them?

          Uh, yeah. Obviously. You do read the stuff you write?

        • KarlUdy

          Are they wrong? Show me.

          They’re just speculation—that’s why I clearly labeled them as guesses. You got something better? Even an opinion? Share it with us, but keep the groundless accusations to yourself.

          What if someone had just proffered a “guess” that white people are generally more intelligent that black people? Would they be guilty of prejudice? Even if someone clearly says that it is a “guess”, would this person be treating black people fairly?

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

          Or we could focus on the topic at hand. You said:

          People who agree with me are intellectually honest. People who disagree with me are in denial. Way to go there, Bob.

          Since I didn’t say this (instead, clearly labeling my speculation as such), I guess I was naively looking for a retraction.

          Perhaps I have a long wait.

        • KarlUdy

          What I first wrote is a fair summation of what you guess about people who agree or disagree with you about the existence of God, is it not?

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

          It is not, which is why I’ve followed up as I have.

          When I toss out a hypothetical and you strip away the qualifiers, you’ve changed the meaning. I’m surprised this is a difficult concept for you.

        • KarlUdy

          Bob,

          You think I’ve changed the meaning?

          Why then do you end your post with

          And what does this say about the truth of the Christian and atheist positions and the role of evidence in those worldviews?

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

          Wow–you’re a waste of time, aren’t you?

          Read the previous question. It applies to that.

          I can’t imagine how I could propose a hypothetical question to your satisfaction. If you’re determined to see the worst in my posts, I’m sure you’ll find it. Enjoy.

        • KarlUdy

          So Bob, what you’re saying in these comments is that you do not believe that atheists are more willing than Christians to conform their beliefs to what they know is true, and that atheists are not more willing than Christians to have their beliefs challenged, and that I have misrepresented you by claiming that you do in fact believe such things?

        • KarlUdy

          So Bob,
          what you’re saying in your comments is that you do not believe that atheists are more willing to conform their beliefs to the truth, and that you do not believe that atheists are more willing to have their beliefs challenged than Christians, and that I have misrepresented you by claiming that you do in fact believe these things. Is that correct?

        • Kodie

          To put this in context, it is equivalent to the Christian who says that
          atheists really deep down do believe in God, and are in denial about it.

          That’s to take it out of context. Strip it out of context and you get another tu quoque. The whole story about god just doesn’t make a lot of sense, so I have a feeling many theists have to jump through hoops of rationalization to get it to fit, and they’re fine with it; it doesn’t cause them worry. I mean, a lot of our theist friends, when you point out that they have an invisible friend or whatever, they will not go, “oh my, you’re right! I totally ignored the fact that I’m doing something that otherwise might be thought legit crazy!” And the compartmentalization! If you take any one argument for or against god, it is kind of rough going. A theist has a lot of other arguments that, as far as we’re concerned, still stand. An atheist will point out they contradict one another and can’t both be true at the same time. A theist will not be backed into a corner to choose one thing and have to admit the other thing is false, because the over-riding argument they believe is that it somehow all fits together.

          The little things that should cause doubt do not pull the rug out from under the whole thing because it’s an incoherent mess, by design. It’s a slippery critter, finding and exploiting all the other holes someone might have in their reasoning faculties. You are dazzled by some scholars putting something a certain way and theists never question the whole thing. It all makes sense somehow, but darned if you aren’t going to be able to explain how it does, i.e. “read this compelling argument from someone I read and you might change your mind.”

          The analogous atheist situation would be like, say, me. I’m no science scholar, and no, I can’t explain or have the vocabulary to talk about a number of scientific subjects. The difference is people who do understand it discuss it frequently, and the only one who calls them on bullshit is dipshits like Ken Ham or Ray Comfort. I don’t talk a lot about evolution but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand it. It’s not unfathomably ridiculous for over millions of years. What is fathomably more ridiculous is people not handling information that large, like “millions of years”, while you’re capable of observing animal behaviors, anatomy, and such, quaintly putting together a family tree that might go back a couple hundred years before you get to guessing who you might be related to, by a scant fraction. And a creationist might even say, without great-great-great-grandpa’s sperm, I wouldn’t be here. While a biological lineage still seems really important to some people. they are also ignorant about time and species. For some, they don’t like to think we’re related to monkeys. They think some apes had sex and out came a person. Some people find it upsetting they might have slave blood in their background, while 1/64th Cherokee is some stupid thing they like to brag about for no reason. Our limits of time-thinking is short. America is a young country, relatively, with waves of immigrants, so people tend to call themselves “Irish” if their great-grandparents were all Irish. And people in Ireland tend to think of themselves as Irish, but you have to think a bunch of them probably are Scandinavian or something else, mixed in at some point. It’s “not the same” as having ancestry directly from Sweden. If they stopped in the place that is now Ireland first, at some point along they way, they were not considered “part” Swedish. They’re 100% Irish because some American wants it to be that way.

          I am using this to demonstrate a point. We’re all having some kind of stroke over the fact that way even before all that time, our ancestors might not have been Swedish, but a tree-dwelling naked ape. Somewhere along the way, those apes went up to Sweden, and sometime after that, invaded and settled Ireland, and then about 100 years ago, a few of those ape-Swede-Irish got on a boat destined for the land called North America. People didn’t like those Irish, so they kind of hung together and stayed genealogically “Irish” until the present generation, where people actually don’t live in enclaves of their own culture anymore. There is such a thing that’s not an Indian that’s an American, just like there are Irish or German or Japanese. A way of life and a strong culture has been established that is determined to cling to its immigrant past, having nothing but an Irish last name, but deny that apes are a precursor to a place called Ireland.

          However, the US still gets a lot of immigrants. I know so many first and second-generation immigrants from over the globe. I am 4th generation mix and do not identify with any other country. You have to go through a lot of hoops to make any context about something other than evolution being true. If something was long enough ago, it might not really matter that much. It also depends a lot on bigotry. I think American subcultures of a small variety of nationalities exist because of bigotry, and possibly a language barrier – they stick together and marry for longer generations than folks who blend in or want to assimilate and mix up their kids’ genealogy to where they’re a 16th of each of many nationalities. We also have to understand that nationality is a political designation, not a biological one. Folks who deny evolution seem to gloss over that fact, as if the world we live in now has been continuous, starting with the creation of humans in relatively current form, who set up governments and started to identify themselves by the border of the country they were in at the time.

          That’s to say, if one can’t conceive of millions of years, and one can’t conceive of humans evolving from apes, then I think it’s also difficult for them to understand primitive humans. Where oh where did the primitive humans come from? Is it really easier to think a magical wizard planted humans from essentially nothing? As thinking, tool-making beings? We can observe animals struggling with and sometimes succeeding at the tool-making, and we can observe evolution of some animals in real time. We can definitely observe the genetic combination of two parents in one child. And so on, and so on, and so on – all the way back and all the way forward. Without getting into the biological technical terminology, I don’t find it radically difficult to comprehend the concept of abiogenesis.

          For many theists, it seems to be the one thing holding them back. Like I said at the very beginning, theists have a lot of arguments that seem to stand separately, such that a person can reject a lot of fairytale nonsense, but “it all makes sense somehow because abiogenesis is hard”. I can pretty much count on a lot of self-assessed intelligent theists to have that one argument they just can’t get over that grants everything else a pass (or else is picked-and-choosed, determined by what you “feel” or “experience” psychologically), and that isn’t helped by “scholars” and their well-worded explanations. If you’re that intelligent, why can’t you recognize holes in logic when you see them? Why does sounding smooth and smart convince you, when it’s telling you what you want to believe?

  • alfaretta

    If someone made that claim in a room of atheists that included me, I think I’d be extremely skeptical, but also curious. Hanging out here at the Patheos Atheist blogs, I have yet to hear from the believers who post an argument I didn’t hear 35 years ago when I was still a believer, so I’d have a hard time giving credence to any claims about new! improved! apologetics that convince 9 out of 10 atheists.

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

      It’s just a thought experiment. However, I can try it out to some extent on myself.
      Balboa is a commenter here who recently said that Peter Kreeft’s arguments (and others like him) are far more sophisticated than the ones I happened to be addressing at the time and challenged me check them out. I hesitated, not because I was afraid of what I’d read, but simply because I’ve heard much praise like this about apologetics that turn out to be weak.

      • smrnda

        I checked out Kreeft’s 20 reasons balboa linked to. He’s at least avoiding some horrible arguments and isn’t wasting time defending genocide a la William Lane Craig so he may be ‘better’ not in the sense that he has better arguments, just that he isn’t using the worst ones so Kreeft isn’t shooting himself in the foot the whole time.

        Like most Catholic apologists, Kreeft defends a more deist sort of god – by keeping some claims a bit more vague they’re easier to argue for.

  • Kodie

    I don’t think the claim that most atheists came to their position because of evidence is valid. You don’t know most atheists. You know self-selected atheists who choose to communicate on the topic and reinforce their atheism by reading avidly on the topic, attending meet-ups, or posting on blogs. I have a before and after story to my atheism. I was an atheist before and after, but I couldn’t begin to tell you how I arrived at my atheism before I arrived at my atheism after. I liked and/or admired the idea of having a religion, and one day surprised myself by realizing that people actually believed what they believed. I don’t even know what I thought it was before that, interesting horseshit to pass the time or identify oneself. This may have been my turning point, but I know it took a long time after that before I became active and seeking conversations about it because it predates my access to the internet by about 10 years.

    Atheism is the disbelief in god, it’s not the active quest for bad arguments for god to reject or take down. The “atheism” most religious people have for religions that aren’t theirs is a good illustration of it. Rejection of fantastical superstitions without having a logical and thorough examination of the evidence put forth by theists must be common. Even there must be theists who came to atheism, not by having their faith countered by good evidence to the contrary, but just looking at their beliefs with eyes from the outside. They believed in god and one day (or over many, many days) grew to realize how absurd their beliefs are.

    I would have to say the internet helps a lot. Once you have that nudge of conscious realization, maybe more atheists than ever now are arriving by evidence to the contrary of religious assertions, or at least reinforcing it and then talking about it with others a lot, because it’s available now.

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

      You could argue the opposite–that the internet will help convert more than deconvert–but I tend to agree that it increases easy access to information, and religions thrive by controlling free access to information.

      • Kodie

        Atheists who don’t arrive by good arguments and evidence against theism, I would say, may be swayed by bad theist arguments. I know there’s a cliche of “former atheists” testimony – to me, there are many kinds of atheist. Atheism as described by theists is often sordid and dangerous, either people who have never heard of god before (their god) or actually do experience the emotion of being angry with god (and I think that can happen). But some of the other “former atheists” were just not knowledgeable at anything. There are what I would call compelling arguments to the uninitiated. If someone rejects most of the claims of religion because they just don’t seem true, or they are even silly and obvious superstition, they only need to hear the one that compels them. And as it seems to me, that is the argument they think will get you too, that’s their favorite. It might be philosophical or it might be pseudo-scientific.

        It’s fairly popular, for example, for someone to reasonably grasp why none of the claims are sensible, but you just have to admit you don’t know something like how the universe began or why the earth is in just the right place to support life. Pascal’s wager is another example.

        And then once you can’t find a flaw in the logic of that one argument, you begin the journey of understanding that the rest of it might never make sense to you, but there has to be a god because that one compelling argument can’t seem to be undone. Christianity seems partly the industry of designing these so-called compelling arguments. Many Christians at least who post on atheist blogs do not seem to have more than a few of their own favorite arguments, which is weird, actually.

        So yeah, you’re right in suggesting the internet will win converts, and even the demonstration with the preacher. I know the atheists you know want to take a look at a new argument, not to find out if god is true, but to test it for bullshit. Some theists are up for the challenge also. How many have you converted? They’re here to find fault with your posts, but I’ve noticed that few comment everywhere on the blog, no matter the topic. Who knows why they ignore the other ones? Not confident on the subject, or perhaps remain silent in agreement. But you’re still wrong when you post to crush their favorite arguments.

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

          I suspect that emotional (or experiential?) arguments are what underlie most Christians’ faith, if they have arguments at all. That it’s just a custom (cultural Christianity) seems to me to be another large segment.

          you just have to admit you don’t know
          something like how the universe began or why the earth is in just the right place to support life. Pascal’s wager is another example.

          To me, these are of the form, “Ah, but you haven’t proven that God doesn’t exist!” (As if that gave them justification to believe.)

          But you’re still wrong when you post to crush their favorite arguments.

          Are you saying that a conclusion not reached through reason won’t be destroyed by reason?

        • MNb

          “I suspect that emotional (or experiential?) arguments are what underlie most Christians’ faith”
          Yes, but I suspect that applies to a lot of atheists as well. At least it applies to me. When I connect the Greater Good apology for the Problem of Evil to say Elisabeth Fritzl I feel pure disgust. The same for Craig’s Divine Command Theory.

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

          Yes, those are strong feelings, but I don’t think they’re the same feelings that motivate Christians!

        • Kodie

          I feel disgust toward Christians (actually, just people) when they justify something that ought to set off those morally superior bells. I mean, take some school shooting, like at Sandy Hook. We’re supposed to, culturally and socially, be affected by this. We’re expected to be shocked and saddened. On the other hand, one guy only killed 26 people. But most of them were children! When god does it, like that story with the bears and the bald-head guy, that’s ok because god needed to teach them a lesson. I’ve had actual conversations with other posters on patheos (if not here, then on FA) that defend god when he does a sickening thing.

          So I get disgusted and a little confused. I don’t believe the kids in the bible deserved to be mauled by bears, and I don’t believe the victims of Sandy Hook deserved to be shot. But just the same, I’m confused because we’re supposed to be sad about the closet full of Christmas presents they would never get to open. Dead people have no feelings or regrets, so I find it hard to be sad about them missing Christmas. I feel more for the parents, and the classmates, and I didn’t realize just how close I grew up to that school, so that affects me also. My sister knows someone whose kids were in that school that day, and that “feels” more. It feels like something more than just sad, and I’m a few comfortable degrees away from the incident.

          People are justifiably upset, but when you point out their hypocrisy, god gets a pass at everything. You know, it’s kind of like when your best friend does something, it’s obviously not true, or as bad as everyone’s saying. When anti-abortion Christians get abortions, their situations are different and warrant abortions, while everyone else is subject to judgment.

          Humans have this peculiar self-interest that makes heinous things more ok the closer we know someone who did them and what their reasons might be. For example, mental illness – the school shooter might be a mean bad evil man from afar, but up close, he was mentally ill and disturbed and needed psychological counseling, medicine, and/or restraint. There is a situation up here in Massachusetts that I can’t say I’m following too closely, but a teenaged boy murdered his girlfriend, and the parents of the girl, at least publicly, are reaching out to the parents of the boy. The other couple’s son abused and eventually murdered their daughter, and yet they can understand what his parents must be going through as well. At least this is how it’s portrayed on the news. Most people would put up a barrier and blame the whole family, especially the parents.

        • MNb

          Neither do I, but a priori there is no reason why my/our feelings should be valid and justified but christian feelings not.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I suspect that emotional (or experiential?) arguments are what underlie most Christians’ faith, if they have arguments at all.

          Well, those experiences are important to people. It’s the difference between knowing the explanation for the phenomenon of sunset and the perception of a sunset. I agree wholeheartedly that empirical inquiry has told us the naturalistic basis for the origin of the universe, the evolution of species, and the rest of what we know about our staggering universe.

          But the notion of mythos is supposed to provide meaning to what we know, a way of conceptualizing our place in the universe. Science has literally told us where we come from as a species. But our knowledge alone doesn’t tell us where we’re going, or how we should act toward each other or the environment.

          We don’t need more dogma, or to promote displays of faith that don’t benefit society. But the human need for meaning isn’t something trivial. Even Sam Harris, in The End of Faith, recounts his transformative experiences with the effects of meditation. People throughout history have reported such experiences, in which they accessed something in their psyche that can only be called transcendent. If it’s all neurochemistry, fine, let’s explore it. But even Harris warns against dismissing it as delusion.

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

          something in their psyche that can only be called transcendent.

          Is that supernatural? Why suppose that it is?

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Is that supernatural? Why suppose that it is?

          I never said it was supernatural. Sam Harris even said that neuroscience should study these experiences, and he’s no believer in the supernatural.

          All I meant is that the human search for meaning isn’t an empirical form of inquiry. Sadly, that leaves us vulnerable to charlatans and sentimentalists. But that doesn’t mean we should consider the search futile.

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

          OK, so it’s not necessarily supernatural, and yet it’s not empirical. Help me understand what we’re talking about and why there’s a there there.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I’m not being intentionally evasive here. “It” is the human search for meaning. It’s what religion and philosophy has always been on about. It’s not some paranormal pretend thing, but unfortunately it’s not something you can test in a lab.

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

          Search for meaning–OK, I get that. Maybe it’s your use of “transcendent.” That seems to imply something beyond this human plane of existence.

        • smrnda

          I’m not sure that the human search for meaning isn’t testable empirically. Most people derive meaning from pretty much the same things – being part of a community, having jobs that don’t suck, enough leisure time, entertainment – it isn’t the easiest to quantify, but we can, to some extent, measure how fulfilled people are and what’s helping them stay that way. My take here might be that, for a while, I studied the psychology of religion and morality and also social psychology, where trying to study things that seem resistant to empirical methods is the whole point.

          I also think questions on how we should behave are open to empirical methods. Check out societies that have low levels of crime or low levels of poverty or other types of social dysfunction – what are they doing? I’ve seen evidence that religious people in the US tend to be happier, mostly owing to the fact that their religion provides them not with metaphysical answers but with a community.

          I will agree that various mythos are part of how humans deal with questions of values and meaning – they’re stories that are part of a cultural tradition, but just as the stories in the Bible (or the Iliad) are part of a cultural tradition, stories with Harry Potter or the X-men are kind of the same thing.

          On transcendent experiences, I have never had such an experience so I’m unable to editorialize. I have had visual and auditory hallucinations (mental health problems) but those were more like dreaming while awake – during the episodes, they seemed totally convincing, real, and even logical. Afterwards they seemed absurd, the way that dreams seem like well-structured narratives but like nonsense the moment I wake up. I’ve done drugs which have occasionally given me mild euphoria or a numbed-up feeling, but I don’t think that’s what you’d mean by transcendent.

          This may just be me – I’m an extremely concrete person so I may not be predisposed to those types of experiences. When something impresses me (like a really good movie) I feel something but I also feel that it’s clearly linked to details of the film’s construction. Even emotions like ‘love’ – if someone asked my about people I loved or who loved me, I’d have a detailed but mundane list of why I felt the way I do.

          My own personal experiences with hallucinations and delusions have kind of conditioned me to disregard most ‘personal experience’ type evidence for god, gods or really anything, along with understanding how cognitive biases work. I don’t think religious believers are mentally ill or deluded, but I find that I’m too aware that my own personal experiences are fallible and potentially inaccurate to put much faith in them. During periods when I’d been delusional I’d sometimes have to reconstruct what I had done or was doing, and that’s an interesting experience, using empirical data about yourself since your own memory/perception isn’t reliable.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I’m not sure that the human search for meaning isn’t testable empirically. Most people derive meaning from pretty much the same things – being part of a community, having jobs that don’t suck, enough
          leisure time, entertainment – it isn’t the easiest to quantify, but we can, to some extent, measure how fulfilled people are and what’s helping them stay that way.

          You ignore how many people derive meaning from patterns of prayer and worship, liturgical ritual, and the literature of faith. Sam Harris explicitly rejects the notion that such things are permissible simply because people find fulfillment in them; he uses the analogy of a man laboring under the delusion that he’s destined to marry Angelina Jolie to trash the concept that religious belief is worthwhile if it gives people’s lives meaning. I think Harris misses the point. Religious beliefs don’t have to contradict what we know about reality, they provide a basis for our perception of why. It’s the same as the way our perception of the sunset is greater than the naturalistic explanation of a sunset.

          just as the stories in the Bible (or the Iliad) are part of a cultural tradition, stories with Harry Potter or the X-men are kind of the same thing.

          Well, you’re right in the sense that these narratives resonate among the population for many reasons. The Gospels were put together with great attention to echoing events from the Old Testament, to contextualize Jesus in the tradition of the Jewish patriarchs. I’ve heard it said that one of the main reasons Harry Potter is so popular is that in times when people feel politically and personally powerless, the notion of superpowers fulfills a collective fantasy.

          On transcendent experiences, I have never had such an experience so I’m unable to editorialize.

          Me neither. I just think (and Sam Harris appears to agree) that these experiences aren’t something we need to dismiss as delusion, like weeping statues and images of the risen Christ on toast. If you haven’t read the “Experiments in Consciousness” chapter in The End of Faith, check it out.

          It’s getting mighty close to scientism when people here define evidence only in terms of objective, verifiable empirical data. There’s data that are brought to bear on many personal, academic, and legal matters that aren’t necessarily objectively verifiable. Historians and literary critics debate endlessly over points of fact that depend fully on context and interpretation. I fully understand that personal experiences aren’t evidence for God, but they indicate a legitimate cognitive basis for the belief in transcendent human experience.

        • smrnda

          I do think Harris misses the point, but I think it’s because (likely) he views ‘religion’ and thinks “Conservative American Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christianity” or “Fundamentalist Islam” – religions based on the idea of their scriptures being literally true. The religion I was most exposed to was Judaism (Reform) so the literal truth of the scriptures is much less a concern – you can celebrate passover while still admitting that the exodus is largely myth, but then again, in the US the “Fourth of July” I’d say is equally built on a myth as freedom wasn’t for everybody, and still isn’t, but I’ll still watch the parade and cook out and drink beer like everyone else :-)

          As a huge literature and film fan, I look at those things as part of the uniquely human (so far) experience, so I kind of feel the same way except I remove the word ‘transcendent.’ Perhaps a reason why these areas are kind of fun is that there are disputes which can never be resolved, and a lot of consuming media is enjoying things that are subjectively and personally appealing, and it’s hard to look at works from other times and places since they were produced by different people under different circumstances and have different meaning to us now. Occasionally I read or see something and I don’t think it’s bad, just that I’m probably not the intended audience, so I think a lot of things remain subjective.

    • http://batman-news.com Anton

      I don’t think the claim that most atheists came to their position because of evidence is valid.

      I agree. Whether you’re a believer or nonbeliever, you’re just seeking out the worldview that best resonates in your personal imagination. If an overbearing fundamentalist blowhard deconverts, he just becomes an overbearing fundamentalist blowhard atheist. If a tolerant, thoughtful nonreligious person finds faith, he usually ends up with a tolerant, accepting, New Age God-concept.

      I laugh when I see the “arguments” that believers think will convert the nonreligious. The point is that by and large, people don’t believe what they believe because of arguments and evidence, they merely rationalize beliefs they arrived at for emotional reasons. If someone says that God speaks to them, they’ve already decided to judge the matter in totally personal terms, not through deductive proofs. If someone says there’s no evidence for God, they’ve already decided to judge the matter through a method that they know isn’t likely to produce such evidence.

      • Kodie

        I don’t know…. I mean, that doesn’t seem like what I said! It’s my observation that there are theists and atheists who think about it a great deal, and many who like to actively discuss it, and many who know what they believe and just get on with their day. They’re not looking to be certain about it or getting all the facts to make a decision, or worrying about the answer and how it affects their daily lives.

        Most theists I know would fall into this category. Maybe “theist” is the wrong word? They come from a culture where everyone is assumed some kind of Christian, so they do tend to believe in a Christian god when pressed, they just take it for granted and live their lives in a secular culture as secular people until the atheists start trying to take away their Christian privilege. If you watch or read the news reports, the reporters themselves even assume the position of Christianity without really defending why. Few people are educated in logic or the ability to question faulty logic.

        I don’t and we don’t know most atheists. It seems true, and that’s faulty logic, that “most” atheists, the ones we encounter because we’re immersed in topics of conversation about it with people who choose to join the conversations, have thought long and hard about whether there is a god or whether there is an amazing argument in support for god, or quite regularly used to be believers who, by seeking information, were swayed to the position of disbelief. It seems that way, but it must also be true there are regular non-logical presumptions.

        A believer would see some coincidence as evidence of an unseen supernatural force, for example. A non-believer would perhaps be more likely to notice they see nothing, so it must not be there. I also believe this kind of atheist is the sort of straw man most theists come to these blogs to argue with. Another way to illustrate this is the theist’s atheism toward other religions’ versions of a god or gods – they simply reject it, no logical journey or takedown of the evidence provided for these other gods. It’s a non-issue, it doesn’t get in their way. There must be (I know there are) atheists (proper) who disbelieve all gods in the same way.

        Who knows what kind of atheist is the majority?

  • Rain

    “I hold in my hand a pamphlet that will rock your worldview. It has insights and arguments that you probably don’t know about. I have shown this to hundreds of atheists, and shortly after they read it, 90% went down on their knees and accepted the truth of the gospel message and asked Jesus into their hearts. Now—who wants a copy?”

    It’s been my experience that claims like that turn out to be the worst and cheesiest type of apologetics, and the 90% thing would be a complete lie. I wouldn’t believe one word the person was saying and I would tie my wallet down to a two ton ACME anvil with a freaking sledge hammer the size of Mount Olympus.

    • Rain

      Speaking of which, it looks like Rick Warren is ready to change your life a zilllion times a hundred zillion percent better both physically and spiritually

      http://www.parade.com/233849/margyrochlin/rick-warren-getting-healthy-doing-good/

      by charging everyone all kinds of money and stuff instead of just publishing it freely on his web pages for the benefit if humanly like Jesus would do lol. Gotta love the huckster business. Always booming.

      • Greg G.

        Warren was performing a magic ceremony that supposed to benefit the souls but his mind was thinking about how fat they were. Baptism doesn’t pay as much as selling books.

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

        Interesting point. Any of us might be eager to help our fellow man, but that’s pretty much Warren’s job.

        If he truly cared to help as many people as possible, why not post the entire book online, and then have a blog series to walk people through it? It’s not like he needs the money.

        I guess I’m just naive thinking that you’d give it away when you can sell a book (Now at the low, low price of $15.80 hardcover. Or $13.49 CD. Or $12.24 Audible. Or $9.78 Kindle. Or $8.96 paperback. Oh, and did I mention that there’s also a Study Guide? And a cookbook? And a journal? All competitively priced! Stock up now for Christmas!)

        I’d not heard of this.Thanks for letting me know (and taking Warren down a notch in my esteem).

        • Castilliano

          Yes, he’s a “brand” now, but I’ll give him this:
          He tithed 90% of his earnings from “Purpose Driven Life”.
          Unsure if it was net, gross, or personal share, but that’s many millions.

          Of course, I’d be interested in where the money actually went. If it just went to his own ministry…well, can’t verify that.

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

          I heard that, but there again, why should I have? If that’s just what his heart told him to do, fine. But this “inverted tithe” sounds like bragging.

          A bit like the Pharisee who prays devoutly in public?

  • MaryLouiseC

    Given the fact that I’m a Christian reading an atheist blog, I think it’s safe to say that I would take the atheist’s pamphlet and read it. In fact, I spend a lot of time reading what atheists say and learning why they believe what they believe. Many of them make the same claim that this blog does — that we Christians are all terrified to read what atheists believe in case we will be overcome with doubt. That simply isn’t true. Here’s why:

    Being a Christian isn’t simply about believing certain ideas or propositions. It’s about being in a relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ by the infilling of the Holy Spirit. It involves not just a head knowledge of God, but a heart knowledge as well. My faith is based on a variety of evidences including cosmological, axiological, teleological, historical, and ontological — that’s the head knowledge. But it’s also based on empirical evidence, that is, the experience of my ongoing relationship with the Lord — that’s the heart knowledge.

    It’s like any other relationship — the more you get to know people personally, the more you learn to trust them. The more you trust them, the less likely you are to believe lies presented about them and the less likely you are to end the relationship. I’m connected to the person of Jesus Christ and that is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions — it’s about relationship.

    I can honestly say that, after over a decade of dealing with atheist challenges to my faith, it has only increased as I find valid responses to them. My trust in God is warranted, not blind.

    And I think you give atheists too much credit. I offer information to atheists all the time at sites such as Apologetics315 and pleaseconvinceme. com (run by an ex-atheist cold case homicide detective who applied the methodology he used on the job to the evidence for God and found it too compelling to resist) and encourage them to read the work a variety of authors including Gary Habermas, J. P. Moreland, Craig Blomberg, Daniel Wallace, William Lane Craig, Hugh Ross, etc. It seems very few of them actually explore the work of these people. Why? I’m assuming it’s because they really aren’t interested in reading anything that doesn’t already line up with the beliefs they hold. And I find that extremely frustrating! It’s hard to engage in dialogue with someone who is only interested in his own point of view.

    • busterggi

      Really? You think I haven’t heard of your list of apologists? That I haven’t read or heard them already?
      May as well just toss out a few random bible quotes.

    • Kodie

      Being a Christian seems to be about ignoring what’s real or logical because your emotions favor the illogical answer. The longer you delude yourself, the more likely you will continue to be deluded. That’s the heart knowledge. You have been psychologically manipulated.

      • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

        I’m sure you realize there are infinite degrees of refinement within the individuals you lump together as Christians.

        I for one, am not much good at math beyond the rudiments of geometry and a little algebra. When I apply these, I am, though briefly, a mathematician.

        Should the entire spectrum of mathematics be held up for ridicule then?

    • Castilliano

      Kudos to your mental craftsmanship, but it’s not very persuasive.
      All of your arguments you list based on “head knowledge” are flawed. I know, I sought them out as my belief waned. Shockingly bad mush.
      All of your arguments based on “heart knowledge” are equally applicable to non-Christian devotees across the globe. This is very indicative of:
      1) many gods answering (which I doubt either of us are buying)

      2) one universal god under various guises (which is very non-biblical, anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, anti-most every religion, etc.)

      3) a universal human feeling brought forth by belief (which is no indicator of the belief being true)
      Of course you might be of the “Satan actively misleads” crew, which I doubt because you do visit atheist blogs.

      Your invisible friend is very well developed mental construct. It sounds like this construct has been of immense aid to you in developing an empathetic worldview. Congratulate yourself, you’re a good person.
      (Just please don’t read that horrific Bible. It may taint your goodness.)

      Curious, do you believe everything in the Bible? For example, young earth creationism?
      Where do you stop practicing biblical commands?
      I have yet to find a Christian who follows them all. Most chop out the OT (which is not very biblical according to Jesus in the NT), but even the NT has passages most Christians ignore.
      So is it really biblical Yahweh you’re following?
      Or just a Christian template that you filled in as fit your personality?
      Where do you and Yahweh disagree?

      Just some thoughts,
      Cheers, JMK

      • Kodie

        “Heart knowledge” seems to be all the best evidence all Christians have but cannot share. They know what they feel is true, but it is not in a format that they can expose. If you do not have “heart knowledge” already, it’s going to be hit or miss on the “head knowledge convincing you. If you don’t have a personal relationship with god, the arguments they try to use instead will probably just leave you cold. Without god all indwelling you, how could they otherwise make any sense?

        I have noticed this tendency to favor emotions over logic. Whenever something bad happens, many people fall over themselves to congregate and feel bad together, and you get someone pointing out some logical observation, and of course he’s an insensitive monster with a heart of stone. What difference does it make? When a loved one dies, we prefer that our feelings are indulged and even lied to. Then you get one guy who says “he died because he did a stupid thing,” or “he was rotten and mean and nobody liked him,” or anything other than the correct, polite thing, which is to ignore the deceased’s flaws and outright lie to his family and friends. Nobody likes that guy. We prefer people who have feelings and favor the concept of intuition, and dislike the cold, hard truth, mathematical equations because it doesn’t seem human enough. Even if the logical person is right, people prefer to use flawed emotional responses.

        Just for example, jealousy might tell you to be suspicious of someone close to you. That’s intuition, something seems off. We are not always correct in jealousy, some might say jealousy is always wrong and trust is always right, but some people are not trustworthy and cheat and suppressing the red flags of jealousy is not necessarily the right thing any more than jumping to conclusions and becoming possessive and driving the person you don’t trust to prove you right. In most cases, jealousy is destructive and a symptom of one’s own insecurities. But some people are actually flattered by evoking jealousy in another, or try to manipulate them into caring by setting up a situation to make them become jealous.

        Just talking about how this one feeling can play with your “heart knowledge” should suggest that wanting something to be true and having it be true are two different things. How many of us, at one time or another, felt a strong bond of love toward someone and another person exploited it to their advantage? For someone else to truly love us back looks just like someone practiced at the art of fooling someone to feed their own ego.

        Our feelings can be manipulated, so I don’t see why Christians having a relationship they can’t expose to us is evidence. Feelings are not evidence. Jealousy is not evidence of cheating, love is not evidence of returned love. They’re just feelings, they’re just neurons firing to give us a warning or comfort us. We feel them when we have no control over them, and they overtake us. The whole idea of this “relationship” with god, indwelling, emotional evidence of something that can’t be exposed if I have never had such an experience, even if I can’t see that relationship for myself, I can comprehend how literally bunk it is, by comparing it to other emotions and how they feel like something is really happening.

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

          I have noticed this tendency to favor emotions over logic.

          But, of course, they’re quick to say, “Well, yes, I do believe on faith, but this is faith based firmly on evidence. For me, faith = trust.”

          And then when there’s an archaeological discovery that supports their view, they’re happy to crow about that. I think they understand the value of evidence based on how many of them react when they’ve actually got something meaningful.

        • Kodie

          I don’t disagree with that. They’re only human, after all.

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

      It involves not just a head knowledge of God, but a heart knowledge as well.

      I understand that this is the Christian view, but notice that there is no “heart knowledge” in science. Notice, too, how phenomenally good science is about teaching us about reality.

      Anything that relies on “heart knowledge” sounds pretty suspect, though I’m happy to examine evidence that argues the other way.

      My faith is based on a variety of evidences includi ng cosmo logical, axiological, teleological, historical, and ontological — that’s the head knowledge.

      Are these reasons that convinced you that Christianity was correct? Or are they simply logical arguments that fit with your worldview, now that you’re already Christian?

      It’s like any other relationship — the more you get to know people personally, the more you learn to trust them.

      No, the God thing isn’t at all like “any other relationship.” With an ordinary relationship “Does the other person exist?” is pretty easily resolved. With God, it’s the fundamental question.

      If he just weren’t so shy—amirite??

      I offer information to atheists all the time at sites such as Apologetics315 and pleaseconvinceme. com

      I’m familiar with both sites (and podcasts), and I’ve responded to J. Warner Wallace’s arguments in several posts here.

      an ex-atheist cold case homicide detective who applied the methodology he used on the job to the evidence for God and found it too compelling to resist

      I do wonder how much evidence is involved vs. finding evidence to support an emotional choice you’d like to make.

      I’ve written in more detail about the idea that this is the kind of atheist I am. I’m not.

      it’s because they really aren’t interested in reading anything that doesn’t already line up with the beliefs they hold — and want to keep

      That’s one possibility. Doubtless, such atheists exist. Apathy is another factor—there’s simply no draw for Christianity, so why get in a lather that you might’ve missed the boat?

      • MNb

        “notice that there is no “heart knowledge” in science”
        That’s correct of course, but as long we can’t conclusively show that science and theism are incompatible this is not a strong argument (ha! I am having fun defending a christian argument!). MLC’s “heart knowledge” is subjective, but still good enough for her. And it should be as we atheists foster our own subjective points. One of mine is that happiness, never mind how vaguely defined, is an ethical value to be preferred above all others.

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

          My point is that not having any heart knowledge hasn’t stopped science from giving us all the verifiable knowledge about reality that we have. Religion has given us unverified claims.

          Conclusion: that “heart knowledge” thing may actually be a hindrance, not an asset.

        • Pofarmer

          “Religion has given us unverified claims.”

          Eh, religion has actually given us a lot of stuff that is just flat out wrong.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          And science hasn’t?

        • MNb

          Yes, but due to its method (using both induction and deduction and comparing the results) science is self-correctional. Religion isn’t because it doesn’t use induction by definition – proper religion doesn’t give us testable statements and predictions. Those theists who do because of their personal belief system invariably happen to be wrong.

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

          The fact that there’s no Map of World Science (comparable to the Map of World Religion) is relevant here.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          I’m curious about what you mean by “proper religion”?

          I would suggest a marriage of science and theology. Along the lines of Yoga or Zen. These systems are self correctional. i.e. Kensho, Samadhi, Enlightenment. Or, successful coming to Christ.

          The proof is in the pudding.

          But if you remain convinced of the “Invariable wrongness” of the enquiry it’self, where is the objectivity?

          Objectivity has no meaning without the counterpoint of the Subjective. Both are invariably present, here and now.

          Are they in harmony or in opposition? That is up to us.

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

          The proof is in the pudding.

          So when the Scientologist or Mormon or Pastafarian says that he has found the path to the divine, we must accept that as true? I would’ve thought that you’d need to make allowance for people deluding themselves.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          One has to apply the same level of discipline to this enquiry as any scientist.

          Do the work yourself.

          Learning to recognize the path is a skill learned through practice.

          The path itself is our very nature, and rises to assist at every turn.

          It’s not about religion.

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

          “This inquiry”? Who says there’s even an inquiry here? You need to show us that there’s a there there.

          A little less Zen Master and more plain English would be helpful as well.

        • James

          Science is self-correcting; when science is wrong about something, it’s another scientist (and not, say, a creation “scientist”) who demonstrates him or her to be incorrect. Religion, by comparison, is not self-correcting. Its edicts are proclaimed to be true – always by a mere human being and not by any god or goddess speaking for him/herself – are assumed to be true by the faithful on the basis of faith alone and then any evidence to the contrary is rationalized away as merely a test of one’s faith. Conversely, scientists reward other scientists who prove old hypotheses wrong. Where scientists grant tenure to scientistis who expand our knowledge, religions burn people at the stake for questioning established dogma – or in these more englightened times, confine themselves merely to loudly insisting that anyone who disagrees with him one iota will burn for all eternity.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Careful about using science as a fetish to wield against your online foes. Science is really just a method humans have constructed to model reality. Reductionism and scientism are biases which hinder our understanding of complex phenomena just as much as religious or personal biases.

          Don’t get me wrong, The scientific method has demonstrated its utility, and I understand the history of the universe and the development of life on Earth in the exact same way you do. But the nostalgic positivism about empirical inquiry’s lack of bias or subjectivity is a quaint old belief that went the way of the passenger pigeon a long time ago.

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

          What is empirical inquiry’s bias? That it (and only it) has all the answers? That everything will eventually have a natural cause? That it’s never wrong?

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Well, the staggeringly popular notion that anything except empirical evidence is worthless seems based on the fact that science only deals with empirical evidence.

          So the next time a fundie tells you the Bible is the truth because the Bible says so, think a minute before you laugh. And then laugh.

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

          Nice. But tell me: what besides empirical evidence counts as useful evidence for you? Personal experience, history, …?

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          But tell me: what besides empirical evidence counts as useful evidence for you? Personal experience, history, …?

          First off, there’s not such a clear demarcation between empirical evidence and all that other irrelevant shit. Personal experience isn’t inadequate for scientific inquiry, rather scientific inquiry is only tentatively equipped to study personal experience. There’s no such thing as objectivity, the best we can manage is intersubjectivity.

          Like I keep saying, science can’t currently explain our perception of things like a sunset or a Beethoven sonata, it can only describe the naturalistic basis of the phenomena being perceived. Neurology is still struggling to model consciousness in any legitimate way, and that’s where all our questions about the human search for meaning need to be asked.

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

          science can’t currently explain our perception of things like a sunset or a Beethoven sonata

          So? We would rely on science to tell us if a sunset actually
          exists or what it actually is. And it tells us that the feeling of the supernatural is a delusion.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          And it tells us that the feeling of the supernatural is a delusion.

          Um, no, that’s what you guys do. And you do it because you think anything empirical inquiry doesn’t deal with isn’t evidence, because otherwise it would be empirical.

          I’m not saying the sky’s the limit on table-knocking and Jesus-on-toast. I’m just saying that religious people aren’t the only ones with a self-validating belief system.

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

          Let me figure out what we’re saying here. Science values empirical evidence, but that’s not the only way to knowledge. Personal experience is also a valid route. Is that right?

          But how do you differentiate valid personal experiences from invalid ones? I’m sure you agree that we delude ourselves all the time.

        • smrnda

          I wanted to add something, since I think it is relevant to discussions about science.

          At one point in time, there were psychologists who said that *internal mental states* were not things that could be investigated by science and that to be *properly scientific* you can only look at behavior. There was even a time in cognitive psychology where people were seriously in doubt that you could *prove* that people formed mental pictures of things in their head. (Part of that was that the analogy of ‘brain as computer’ became popular which made people mistakenly think of human cognition as computer-like symbol manipulation.)

          Now, a while later this seems absurd because we’ve developed tools we us in brain imaging, and these are helping us get new information all the time. Science in the past was limited because certain tools weren’t there, and people were incorrect in stating that you *could not* investigate internal mental states. They just lacked tools to do this and the imagination to think of them.

          This makes me think that it’s a much different claim that a particular thing *cannot be investigated by science* or whether we *can’t do it just yet.* Some things are categorically outside the realm – based on claims made about prayer, I’d say ‘the Christian god answers prayer’ is unfalsifiable and therefore a claim outside of science because the NT lists all kinds of conditions and exceptions.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          But how do you differentiate valid personal experiences from invalid ones? I’m sure you agree that we delude ourselves all the time.

          Just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean everyone’s stated personal experience should be accepted as proof of God or Heaven; neither does it mean we should dismiss everyone’s experience as sentimental horseshit.

          The experiences people have color their perception of reality and the way they ascribe meaning to phenomena. I had an experience a couple of years back where by accident I met an old friend of the family whom I hadn’t seen in several years; not only was he sitting in the seat right next to mine at Fenway Park, but as it turns out he works at a company affiliated with the one I work for. (Right now we both work in the same building.)

          Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this means we have a cosmic bond or that it was divine will or anything. Quite the contrary: this one incident was proof-of-concept for me that extremely unlikely events happen. This makes it very difficult for me to believe New Agers or conspiracy theorists when they make pronouncements about prima facie evidence according to how statistically unlikely a given phenomenon is.

          So is my experience “anecdotal” and therefore worthless? Perhaps so. But nevertheless it’s part of the way I perceive and interpret events and claims.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Consider that synchronicity is the ordinary.

          An adequate conception of God as the Entirety makes terms like “cosmic bond”, “divine will” or supernatural anything foolishly relative. Completely inadequate. So there is no need to assure us that you don’t hold these views.

          There is nothing that is not God. You, me, the savant or the autistic engage within this according to our abilities.

          These abilities are malleable. This is evolution. Regressive, Static or Awakening.

          The infinite multitude of relative self. Seamlessly not different. The Entirety.

          There is no ownership of self. Awareness being the very nature of the eternal present. The singularity of I am.

          Thank you for your wisdom and equanimity.

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

          Word salad.

          You may have something to say (evidence and argument would be better than declaration and theology), but I have no idea what it is.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          You may have something to say… but I have no idea what it is.

          That’s ok. I can’t read mathematics beyond the basics. However, I do respect the ability in others. And it’s nice when they take the time to teach me a little about it.

          Sometimes, just the intuition of a thing is enough.

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

          You may have an intuition for a cosmic truth. On the other hand, you may be deluding yourself. Since the latter is very common, that’s what I’m thinking.

          You could take steps to guard against this delusion by being skeptical of your intuitions. Sound like an option?

        • smrnda

          Could you give me an example of evidence that you would consider non-empirical but still potentially valid given gods or the supernatural? A concrete example would help me here.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I think that things like intuition and the loss of self during meditation constitute evidence in the sense of data from human experience. I don’t think such things are proof of God’s existence or the supernatural by any means, but they’re legitimate bases for people’s belief in areas of experience that are different from our everyday lives. Consider this passage:

          And so, while we know many things about ourselves in anatomical, physiological, and evolutionary terms, we currently have no idea why it is “like something” to be what we are. The fact that the universe is illuminated where you stand, the fact that your thoughts and moods and sensations have a qualitative character is an absolute mystery —rivaled only by the mystery, famously articulated by the philosopher Schelling, that there should be anything at all in this universe rather than nothing. The problem is that our experience of brains, as objects in the world, leaves us perfectly insensible to the reality of consciousness, while our experience as brains grants us knowledge of nothing else. Given this situation, it is reasonable to conclude that the domain of our subjectivity constitutes a proper (and essential) sphere of investigation into the nature of the universe: as some facts will be discovered only in consciousness, in first-person terms, or not discovered at all.

          That’s not some New Ager or mystic talking, that’s Sam Harris, who is just as opposed to unjustified belief and irrational delusion as you. Maybe you should be as receptive to the importance of subjective experience as Sam is.

          Once again, I wonder why a Christian like myself has to recommend that nonbelievers check out the “Experiments in Consciousness” chapter of Sam Harris’s The End of Faith. Shouldn’t you guys be quoting the New Atheist nabob, not me?

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Um, no, that’s what you guys do. And you do it because you think anything empirical inquiry doesn’t deal with isn’t evidence, because otherwise it would be empirical.

          Like a man in a wheelchair who insists it’s impossible to dance.

          Deliberate self-lobotomy. The latest rage.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Let’s not be that harsh. Personally, I think scientific knowledge is endlessly fascinating. But equating reality with scientific knowledge borders on superstition. Objectifying and reducing human experience —being itself— to mere scientific determinism is something philosophy has considered archaic since the 1800s.

          Religion objectifies the transcendent, which is just as superstitious a process. But science-as-ideology, despite its current fashionability, is pretty old-fashioned too. It’s like steampunk, only funnier.

        • MNb

          “There’s no such thing as objectivity, the best we can manage is intersubjectivity.”
          So if the victims of Nagasaki and Hiroshima August 1945 had constructed a different intersubjective reality for themselves they could have avoided the consequences? No? Then there is such thing as objectivity indeed.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          MNb, but the reason you and I can claim that atomic detonations destroyed two Japanese cities in 1945 is that we affirm the validity of the construct of historical inquiry that makes such a claim knowable. Or are you claiming that you accessed this knowledge without mediation, and simply “know” through intuition that these events happened?

        • James

          And religion has demonstrated no utility whatsoever. This isn’t a debate between an some imagined, ideal perfect epistomology and an inferior substitute; it’s a debate between two competing, imperfect worldviews both of which have observable track records grounded upon historical outcomes. One of which, science, has a proven track record of success; and the other, dogmatic religion, has consistently proven it is not up to the task. Every supernatural claim that has ever been tested has consistently proven its cause to be not supernatural – every single time, with no exception. If this were baseball, science is batting .400 while religion has never even made it to first base.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I know you don’t expect anyone to tout the virtues of “dogmatic religion,” James, but that just goes to show how effectively you’ve stacked the rhetorical deck in your favor here. Scientific inquiry has provided us with empirically testable models that so far resist disconfirmation. It is useful in a variety of contexts. But the belief that scientific inquiry is showing us how reality is depends on our willingness to affirm the validity of the construct in the first place. Like mathematics, it’s a for-us-by-us invention that is useful in helping us conceptualize a dazzlingly complicated universe in anecdotal terms. In other words, it’s storytelling.

          I’m just as fascinated by science as you are, James. I’ve read Dawkins’ books on evolutionary theory and enjoyed them immensely. I don’t trust people trying to peddle religion as science either. But I just think we should be honest about the self-validating nature of empirical inquiry and stop using it as a fetish with which to berate religious people. Scientism and reductionism trivialize human experience every bit as ruthlessly as religious fundamentalism. Scientific knowledge has been exploited for odious ends just as effectively and unfortunately as religion has.

        • Kodie

          I know this isn’t a popular idea, but what is wrong with trivializing human experience? As a species, we’re just so full of ourselves and drama. Religion does something like make our lives some kind of epic. Each of our lives feels like an epic to us, but our problems we create are petty. Religions tend to amplify that rather than diminish it. I like arts and stories and language and all that cool stuff. We might even, as a species, have gotten along pretty well forever if we stopped exploring space and still had to be at home to get a phone call. We have big brains, and our adaptation process concerns technology and taking steps to increase efficiency. What do we do with this excess of time? Make up more stuff to do and think about.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I know this isn’t a popular idea, but what is wrong with trivializing human experience?

          I’m not sure what you mean (comme d’habitude) but I only meant that we dismiss important personal experiences by reducing them to mere chemical interactions. In the matter of religion, people have reported transformative experiences and breakthroughs in consciousness during episodes as varied as meditation, drug trips, ecstatic religious transports, or strokes. Our willingness to see this as “only altered brain chemistry” is just the sort of trivialization I’m talking about. If people undergo primal experiences where they appear to access something transcendent in the human psyche, why not investigate these experiences and demystify them instead of denigrating and dismissing them?

        • Kodie

          Is it transcendent or does it just feel unusual? I get that it’s fascinating and might even help in areas of understanding and improving mental health, but I don’t see the overall goal of any human endeavor as a lot more than anything but passing the time. As a species, we tend to be restless and always looking for problems to solve. Have you ever noticed that we never get there?

          We are our brains. We can’t share experiences directly, but language tells us that our experiences are rather common and not unusual at all. Take, for example, the experience of having to pee. You recognize what that feels like, and I know what that feels like, but I can’t feel your feelings and you can’t feel mine. Some animals use urine to mark their scent on their territory. We use fences. Dogs find markers like a fence a good place to take a whiz. You ever notice how a dog doesn’t just pee, they have to pee on something? Ants also use scent to mark their trail. I once had an ant infest a pet food dish and I watched them, like cars on a highway, very organized. As opposed to my trip on Thanksgiving, ants don’t try to cut the line and cause the same delays they’ve been victim to for 9 miles. Anyway, these are common-common experiences. Everyone has to pee sometime, and everyone gets frustrated when the highway traffic doesn’t move.

          “Transcendent” experiences are less common. We don’t know what they’re telling us, but they’re coming from inside our own brains. What you’re looking for is the stimulus. Humans don’t really know what to do about a lot of experiences, though. Eating, drinking, shopping, gambling, smoking, using drugs, getting a makeover, having an affair, hitting someone, curling up in a ball, etc., are some of the ways humans cope with uneasy feelings. Why is it so difficult? Is praying much different? You might think it’s healthier to avoid bad habits…. be that as it may, but is the effect any better or different than any of the other methods we have? It’s transference of feelings to change our brain chemistry on a temporary basis by accessing other experiences.

          What are all these problems we’re still having? A consequence of interpersonal opinion and judgment and competition. Because we’re animals. I thought about this last night, how animals fight over mates and territory. We feel insecure and act out. What are transcendental experiences and how are they in any way different from ordinary experiences? Because we’re incapable of communicating adequately, they’re like dreams. Most of us have experiences while dreaming that are vivid and exciting, and most of us have experiences listening to someone talk about their dream and it’s so flat and lacking detail. Some people think dreams are messages and premonitions, I tend to think a good dream could be worked up into an interesting story or movie, given the talent, but they fade. Where do thoughts fade when they go, why is it so hard to put them back together, like when your document gets deleted? If you had a thought, and you didn’t write it down, why is it so hard to think of it again when you forget it?

          I am just wondering why you think this is anything but trivial? We have an abundance of time and so-called intelligence left over after we’re done fucking, eating, sleeping, and shitting.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          To trivialize the human being is to trivialize the Universe.

          Are you indifferent to the Monarch butterfly on it’s way to Mexico.

          What on earth is “it’s just Chemistry” suppose to mean.

        • Kodie

          Are you indifferent to the cockroach just trying to get a meal and make a family? What specifically is your issue?

        • Kodie

          That’s not entirely true. Some religious beliefs are rigid like you say, and I wouldn’t say that others are self-correcting, but they do modify. When something becomes clear that it conflicts with a belief, they can incorporate new information. Beliefs are warped to rationalize how it can still be true, but this other thing is also true. There wouldn’t be so many sects if any of it were correct, but as I understand “revelation,” for example, or our new friend Anton. For example, I would not call religion “self-correcting” because it never admits it was wrong. Where some deny evolution because facts distinctly contrast with the biblical literalism, some choose to say Genesis was “revealed” by the deity to be metaphorical after all. Some will try to balance evolution and belief by inventing an evolution that was divinely guided. I don’t know much about Anton, since he seems to believe it’s all a metaphor. I believe it’s a metaphor too. Someone wrote down some stories, like some kind of fables, and, like most examples of fiction, can be drawn from and related to.

          So I would not say religion is self-correcting the same way as science, but whoever believes it is not necessarily cemented in their beliefs so much as justifying all the things they believe. A Catholic can consider themselves 100% Catholic and consider Catholicism the 100% only right religion while deciding for themselves which of their own rules need to be followed, for example. Some people will even choose bits from other religions, and rather than express some idea that another religion might have something to it if that bit is useful or comforting to them, will be unironically invested in identifying with their primary religion and not see a conflict. Even if you want to call atheism a religion for the sake of categorizing, for another example, some will have some superstition or credulousness at a supernatural claim.

          I find religion almost the opposite of what you say it is. It can’t occupy the same space, but it can fill gaps and co-exist with reality. Obviously, or it would have had to go away by now. Few people believe all their beliefs literally, and manage to find a way to keep them and reconcile them with reality. Few people look at religion and say it’s all not true, and yet we have managed to make some technological advances as a species.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          The type of knowledge that science has provided is by definition provisional.

          This atheism thing seems to be more about the inherent limitations of “Heart Knowledge”, Intuition, the personal sense of the sacred. etc. I would remind everybody that these other ways of knowing are also by definition provisional.

          For me “God” is a given. Religion plays a very small part in that “Knowing”.

          What else would the Entirety of Existence and Being be, but God?

          Key point being “Existence and Being”.

          Consciously placing our self awareness into relationship with this, is the essence of the evolutionary impulse.

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

          I’m not quite sure what your main point is, but I’ll give a couple of responses.

          If you’re a presuppositionalist, just assuming God exists, that’s fine, but you can imagine that those of us who need evidence will find this useless.

          As for what else everything would be but God, you may have noticed that science does a great job of explaining reality. It doesn’t have all the answers, of course, but it backs up its answers with evidence, unlike Christianity.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          I’m always curious what that evidence would have to look like.

          How does one provide evidence of the infinitude of potentiality?

          Science explains phenomena on it’s own terms, and the need for evidence is well within the bounds of the finite.

          You insist on proof of the existence of some phenomena called God.

          But…

          A phenomena has boundaries. It requires something that is distinct from it. This doesn’t meet the criteria required for the investigation.

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

          How does one provide evidence of the infinitude of potentiality?

          You’re referring to Yahweh’s infinitude of potentiality? I see no evidence for it, and I have no idea how to detect such a thing. Conclusion: there is no such thing.

          There might be, of course, and we’re just ignorant of it. Nevertheless, why should we hold that belief?

          You insist on proof of the existence of some phenomena called God.

          No, not proof—there is no such thing outside math and logic—but compelling evidence. Without such evidence, we have no warrant for such a belief.

          If you’re saying that science can’t prove you wrong, I agree. But so what? What you’re looking for is a reason to show that you’re right. Without that, it’s just mental masturbation.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Besides being rude, your arguments are based on a fundamentalist’s belief in your favored paradigm.

          Prove me wrong about what? The Entirety is it’s own proof. This is a priori.

          Of course God does not exist. Existence does not exist. The potential to exist does not exist. This is the only way to talk about God. What does “belief” have to do with it?

          At this point I predict that our dialog will start to lose coherence. What say we let it go?

        • MNb

          Yes, but that applies to us atheists as well and there are some relevant questions science can’t answer by definition.
          Btw I do not recognize “heart knowledge” as knowledge. The answers science provides may be provisional, like brmckay says (though I wouldn’t know how “Octavianus was the first Roman Emperor” would be provisional knowledge, but soit), that doesn’t prevent me from defining knowledge in terms of the answers science provides. I reject all other forms of knowledge – I call them opinions. An example is “which version of democracy works best, the Dutch, the American or another one?” The problem of course is “best”.
          And this is were “heart knowledge” (which is not knowledge in my view) plays its role. The same applies to you when you argue that your ethical decisions are based on instinct.
          It’s impossible to refute such statements by means of science. That includes MLC claiming “heart knowledge”. The correct answer I think is pointing out that “heart knowledge” always is subjective. That’s OK as long as it doesn’t contradict science; a priori there isn’t any reason it should.

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

      MaryLouise: And I hope you stick around. We need more thoughtful Christians here.

    • MNb

      “I think it’s safe to say that I would take the atheist’s pamphlet”
      I am convinced you’re far from the only one.

      “but a heart knowledge as well.”
      I like that point. My question is: do you realize that for many atheists their very atheism involves heart knowledge as well?

      “My faith is based on a variety of evidences ….”
      No, it isn’t. But I’ll save that for another time.

      “But it’s also based on empirical evidence”
      No, it isn’t. Personal experience which cannot be verified in any way doesn’t count as empirical evidence. If you claim that you will fall upward when jumping off a bridge I can verify in principle. If you claim that you have a personal relation with your personal god there is no way I can verify this.

      “the more you get to know people personally”
      What do you mean with getting to know god? This doesn’t make sense to me. But if you claim you are getting to know BobS I perfectly understand you.

      ” It seems very few of them actually explore the work of these people.”
      There are quite a few atheist blogs dealing with everything you wrote here, so I’m afraid you’re blind indeed. You must realize one thing. Big fat books on theology and philosophy of religion have been written since at least Augustinus of Hippo. You can’t expect atheists to read them all. Every single christian – other theists far less – brings up another set of authors. So if you think their work so impressive I propose you reproduce their points here. In return I won’t ask from you to read Herman Philipse’s God in the Age of Science (and other assorted works), even though I strongly recommend so.

    • Nemo

      Many Sufi Muslims insist that they also have a close personal relationship with God. Many pagans and pantheists do as well. Since they disagree with you, obviously they are wrong. I can laugh in their faces without addressing their claims of such a relationship; well, not really since I’m not that rude, but you get the idea. Now, if I can do that to them, what’s to stop me from doing it to you too?

      By cosmological, please don’t tell me you mean the Kalam Cosmological Argument. All that points to is some first cause. To ascribe any attributes beyond those two words is mere speculation. Muslims also use it, so that should tell you all you need to know about it verifying Christianity. Or maybe you think the universe was created 6000 years ago. If that’s the case, cosmology is not your friend.

      I’ve some experience with William Lane Craig. In addition to his use of the Gish Gallup in debates, he’s also used numerous strawmen. He also makes it clear that despite his talks of reason, he doesn’t care about facts or reality. Craig said that if he were provided absolute evidence against Christianity, he’d believe anyway. That is not a healthy relationship to have with a person, let alone some being whose primary attribute is being unverifiable outside of your feelings. Among Craig’s claims in Reasonable Faith are:
      -everybody agrees that Yahweh and his son Jesus exists, but some pretend not to because they like sinning. This is on page 35 and 36.
      -Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa. Page 36. Not making this up. Craig more or less says he doesn’t care about facts.
      The simple premise of Christianity is worship and praise Yahweh or he will torture you. That’s why I have some respect for the turn or burn preachers who don’t even try to pretend otherwise.

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

        Craig’s an odd guy. Thanks for the tips on what he’s written.

        Are you referring to Reasonable Faith? I tried to look that up, but I couldn’t find it. Perhaps I’m looking in a different edition (2008). If you have the book handy, could you give me a section heading or brief quote to look it up with?

        • Nemo

          I don’t have it handy. That said, there was a Youtube atheist, Steve Shives, who did a review of Christian apologetic works a while ago. I think Reasonable Faith was among them. You might be able to use him as a guide. I think he put his notes for the books on the Internet somewhere. There was also Mere Christianity by Lewis, Case for Christ by Strobel, Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.

        • MNb

          Looking for this?

          http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-witness-of-the-holy-spirit

          ” arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit for him who attends fully to it.”

          “I have argued that the witness of the Spirit is, indeed, an intrinsic defeater of any defeaters brought against it. For it seems to me inconceivable that God would allow any believer to be in a position where he would be rationally obliged to commit apostasy and renounce Christ.”

          “What is true is that evidence, as it is defined in these discussions, plays a secondary role compared to the role God Himself plays in warranting Christian belief.”

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

          Nice!

    • Nemo

      I think it was unfair of Bob to suggest that few Christians would take the pamphlet. I’m sure many would.
      Anyway, regarding your claim of “knowing God” for years: that’s nice. I won’t claim I can falsify that. Just realize that Christianity makes up about a third of world religions. At least 2/3 of people claim to know God while claiming he/she is NOTHING like what you say. And of those others who are Christians? I suspect the vast majority would disagree with whatever your interpretation is. For you to be right, the overwhelming majority of people who claim to know “God” in some form must be wrong. And if I can simply dismiss their claims in seconds, yours is on shaky ground at best.

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

        I think it was unfair of Bob to suggest that few Christians would take the pamphlet.

        I could certainly be wrong. This is just my own opinion made from my limited experience. But I don’t see how this is unfair. That would require a deliberate deception on my part, I would think.

        • James

          Having been in evangelical Christian churches for years, often teaching apologetics, I agree completely with your opinion: most Christians that I’ve met have little interest in exploring even the history of the church, much less examining the foundations of belief. Christians, in general, are far more adept at shutting down challenging conversations than they are in engaging in them. Conversely, every atheist that I know enthusiastically reads every bit of apologetics that come their way. I’m a sucker for anything that claims to be the “best proof for Christianity” and so forth, but usually I find that anything that talks itself up offers the worst arguments and bad paraphrases of widely debunked WLC BS.

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

          Thanks for the input. Are you a Christian now?

          Reading your comments about bold claims for “best proof for Christianity” made me think of Ray Comfort. That’s kind of his style. (And, with editing after the fact, he can make a video that almost makes his claim believable.)

        • James

          I’m an atheist now; I deconverted about two years ago (I’m 39)

          I too was reminded of Ray Comfort and his sidekick Kirk Cameron; they tend to make the boldest claims and have the poorest actual delivery. Matt Slick of CARM, by
          comparison, is a genius at playing the presuppositional card, in part because he doesn’t over-promise. For example (to paraphrase) if you don’t agree with my awesome apologetic, it’s only because your mind was already made up before hand and you’re the one here who is close-minded. But if on the other hand, you’re open to my way of thinking (i.e. you presuppose me to be correct), then you’ll see I’m right.

          In lieu of trying to answer a direct question – and failing at it miserably – Slick will consistently deflect the question back on the person asking the question. Comfort & Cameron, on the other hand, make bold claims, fail to deliver and then threaten people with hell, rinse and repeat, as if people who are not persuaded by emotional arguments will suddenly become much more amenable to emotion if only the apologist keeps upping the ante (i.e. making threats).

          As intellectually dishonest as WLC can be, I appreciate that he at least tries to answer the core of whatever question is asked of him, in lieu of the theist’s usual trick to question the questioner, while also avoiding the sort of under-delivered, grandiose claims in which the likes of Ray Comfort so much endulge.

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

          Nice analysis. The weird psychological makeup of the human mind that supports these shenanigans (or doesn’t call them out) is fascinating to study, but I may never get it.

    • Pofarmer

      The reason the relationship seems so personal is because it’s entirely in your head.

    • Makoto

      I’m a bit late to the party, since I was reading that convince me site. I really hate quote mining, but “#3 The POE is a problem because we forget that evil is evidence for the existence of God.” is just too good to pass up.

      Anyway.

      My counter-point is that I have read many, many works, as have most others here. I honestly didn’t like becoming an atheist. It went against everything I knew, and still goes against what most people around me believe. This wasn’t a random choice, nor one I just made because I wanted to sin (I think I live a relatively sin-free life, actually, even while not believing in a god).

      The arguments I’ve seen so far do not convince me. I’ll admit, I’ve only skimmed the convince me site, but it still only hits the same points I’ve seen before. If you have any particular pages on there that one should visit to be saved, please, share them. I’ll keep reading, but at this point, I expect to see more of the same old, same old.

    • RichardSRussell

      Once again the “deep, personal relationship with Jesus” bullshit. This comes up often enuf that I blogified my standard response to it.

  • busterggi

    I expect all of us have taken that challenge a bucket-load of times already. Usually its ‘aw, gee, whiz goddidit’ but sometimes its recycled bad apologetics or ‘yer goin’ to hell’.

    • Kodie

      Few Christians have all the arguments memorized, either. Few will admit “yeah, that does sound kind of crazy” before they retreat to an argument they are more comfortable with. Few seem to take on the challenges of an argument they are not confident arguing, and many seem to keep trying “the one” that they think is bound to stump atheists. God did it, god has his reasons, and all these unanswered questions. So what if it doesn’t make sense that a man literally not just rose from the dead, but corporeally disappeared from being dead. That doesn’t matter, what matters is but I read about all these firsthand cases of NDEs and they can’t be explained!

      • Itarion

        but I read about all these firsthand cases of NDEs and they can’t be explained!

        yet.

  • Darren

    Well, as a Christian _I_ would have taken the bait and read it, intending to refute it and then witness to the person who offered it to me, but most of my church-mates would not have.Course, I am now an Atheist while most of them are still comfortably within the fold of Christ, so there is probably something to my old pastor’s exhortation against “polluting your mind!”

  • avalon

    Bob,

    Your thought experiment assumes that some proven fact can change a person’s beliefs. I just read an article today that says that’s not true.

    It’s about the public exhibit of St. Peter’s bones at the Vatican. Lots of people believe the bones are really St. Peters. But “Some prominent Vatican archaeologists disagreed”. Suppose these bones aren’t St. Peters? Would that be enough to change someone’s belief that they were?

    “A senior Vatican official, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, acknowledged the debate Monday but suggested it barely matters if scientists eventually determine the bones aren’t Peter’s since Christians have venerated them for two millennia and will continue to do so, regardless. We want to highlight the theological value of this,” he told reporters.”
    http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/public-exhibit-st-peter-relics-revives-debate-20922991

    He seems to be saying that something can have zero truth value yet still have “theological value”. That explains a lot about belief in the bible, Jesus, God, miracles, etc….

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

      Heck, if you found the bones of Jesus, thus disproving the bodily resurrection and ascension, you wouldn’t dissuade all Christians.

      • MNb

        Probably not even most – it’s metaphor etc. etc.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Well, to me the Resurrection and Ascension (etc.) are symbolic and metaphorical. I realize that might not be the majority view among Christians, but the notion of a physical Resurrection of Jesus’s body isn’t what inspired the early Christians. Obviously Paul didn’t think he saw the literal Jesus on the road to Damascus. The first martyr, Stephen, sacrificed his life for his faith even though he never claimed to have seen the literally risen body of Christ.

          And as for the Ascension, I don’t think I’m the first person to point out that even if Jesus had literally risen into the sky at the speed of light, his literal body would currently be reaching the outskirts of our galaxy.

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

          the notion of a physical Resurrection of Jesus’s body isn’t what inspired the early Christians.

          No? But the standard line is that the gospels make clear that seeing the risen Christ turned the frightened apostles into soldiers for the Lord.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Like I said, not Paul or Stephen.

          I understand that the Disappearing Corpse was a popular Mediterranean hero-trope. Supposedly even Alexander planned to have his body removed from his tomb after death. The vagueness of the OT references to the “resurrection of the dead” makes it more likely that the Resurrection story was exploited to impress pagans in the meme-market of the first-century Roman Empire. And nowadays, of course, it’s used to make people believe they’ll survive their physical deaths as a reward for professing belief in Christ’s resurrection.

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

          Yes, I see your point about Stephen and Paul, but this doesn’t address the gospel stories. Don’t they make it clear that the physical resurrection was key?

          And what’s the significance of the bodily part of the resurrection? Why not just say that our souls go to heaven but that the body is unneeded and stays behind on earth? I understand that that’s an important Jewish element (if it were Greek, it would be just the soul).

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Don’t they make it clear that the physical resurrection was key?

          Curiously enough, the Gospels never describe the physical Resurrection. There are only accounts of the aftermath: an empty tomb, and Jesus’s appearance to the disciples in forms that sometimes seem physical, but at others seem spiritual.

          The point is that these are narratives, developed long after Jesus was gone. People like Ken Ham and William Lane Craig wear their literalism like a badge of honor in the culture war, but that’s the lowest form of belief. These stories are fraught with symbolism and numerology, but reading them as reportage is the only way unimaginative fundies can approach them.

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

          Sounds like they’re as frustrating to you as to me.

    • Kodie

      The “truth” value is that believers believe. I think there are many examples of restored art, where you’re not longer looking at original brushstrokes, or Grandpa’s axe contains no original parts used or held by Grandpa, and it’s still considered a coveted heirloom to be fought over who gets to inherit the artifact. They’re obviously someone’s bones, and if people believe, and they come to look at them, “something” must be true. It’s hard to just throw them in the trash after so long and so many people’s lives were affected by looking at them. But it’s also a testament to what makes people’s feelings that way. We can’t actually sense the truth a lot of the time. If your kid’s hamster dies, you can probably replace it a few times without having to explain to a young child that their beloved pet died.

    • Pofarmer

      “He seems to be saying that something can have zero truth value yet still
      have “theological value”. That explains a lot about belief in the
      bible, Jesus, God, miracles, etc…”

      Exactly, something can be theologically true, and have absolutely no basis in fact, at all, whatsoever. .

  • smrnda

    I’ve met some Christians who do try to read tough arguments from atheists. Some of these Christians tell other Christians “your faith is too weak, let me read these atheist arguments and summarize them later, so that you’ll encounter them in a weakened form and I can assure you that our counter-arguments win. Just remember, there is an actual real devil out there and you don’t want to let the devil catch you when you’re weak.” (Something to that effect.) So it isn’t necessarily individual Christians avoiding stuff of their own volition – people whose judgment they trust are telling them that it’s bad for them to read this stuff the way it’s a bad idea for them to watch porn, do drugs or play Dungeons and Dragons.

    • Itarion

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with dungeons and dragons. Hell, I’m okay with D and D religion, because when clerics call on their gods, they ANSWER. So, i see where religious folk might have an issue with it.

  • Pofarmer

    Ya know what the funny thing is? I originally started out researching the truth of the claims of Catholicism. Not even reading Atheist arguments. And yet, trying to unravel all that bullshit, I wound up going through CARM, and some other apologetics websites, and then through Bart Ehrman and then I found Robert M. Price, and John Spong, and then everything just went Kaboom. It didn’t take a truly Atheist argument at all. Although it took a while before watching folks like Hitchens and Dawkins on youtube was actually soothing.

  • arkenaten

    Spot on. But how does one surmount the ”pangs” when discussing their faith?

    Oh, and I would take up this challenge in a millisecond.

  • ctcss

    I would easily take the atheist challenge simply because I find the idea that anything an atheist could say to me would cause me to quiver in my boots to be a rather ludicrous notion. The only people affected by such a “threat” are people who probably have never made their stated faith something that they truly own. (In other words, attacking a weakly held position is not any proof that the other person’s position is one of strength.)

    Honestly, all this post is pointing out is that atheists have more likely thought deeply about their stance on the question of God than many Christians have. This kind of “threat” is kid’s stuff. If a person has thought deeply about the question and arrived at a useful conclusion, their stance is likely to be a firm one. Mine certainly is. I have yet to see any atheist argument that moves me, mostly because of two things. 1 – Atheists typically are basing whatever it is they consider to be “earthshaking” on matter and materialism, and I am not a materialist, nor is my my religious faith founded on material premises. 2 – I have my own personal experiences that they have not shared in. Thus, I will take my own hard-won experiences in life as to what can be trusted far more that any armchair critic’s view of what they think my life should be governed by.

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

      And how do you think the average Christian would respond? You seem to have an above-average confidence in the intellectual arguments that support your faith.

      • ctcss

        I am guessing that the average Christian may not have spent as much time considering their faith concepts in depth. But to me, the main issue is that atheistic concepts, centered as they are on matter, may strike a chord of fear in some Christian’s minds if their faith concepts also have matter as a major part of their mental framework regarding God. With matter as a major part, the atheistic view may seem to be more logical and thus may call into question the theological framework that also contains material concepts. I have no such conflict, since matter isn’t the foundation upon which my religious beliefs depend.

        God, at least as I understand the concept, is not material in any way. Thus matter has no real claim or hold upon God or upon that which God creates. Thus atheistic concepts don’t coincide with my theological concepts. Thus there is no conflict. The atheistic radar typically doesn’t even see where my religious thought is centered. To the atheist, I am an even more illogical religious believer than the believers they usually target. But that doesn’t matter to me. They and I have no common ground upon which to disagree. Our thoughts are centered on entirely separate frames of reference.

        To each his own.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          God, at least as I understand the concept, is not material in any way. Thus matter has no real claim or hold upon God or upon that which God creates.

          I’m a Christian too, but I think that referring to God as a creative entity that’s nonetheless immaterial is more of a rhetorical game than a coherent concept. The God-as-powerful-being meme is a vestige of the mindset our ancestors used to relate to the divine. This kind of shorthand, whereby God is analogous to a chieftain, king, or sky-pal, is something we as believers need to outgrow.

          For me, God is more about meaning, the way our perception of the world exceeds our scientific understanding of it. We can only relate to such unmediated experience by using symbolism, and that’s the source of human religions.

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

          God is more about meaning

          Is God a separate entity with a mind? You seem to be getting close to God = nature or something similar–no?

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Is God a separate entity with a mind?

          I don’t conceptualize it that way. Anthropomorphic deities —ones that do and create and want— are just humanity’s way of projecting its limited perspective onto the core experience of transcendence. In the process, all kinds of Freudian family issues come into play. It’s so primitive it’s embarrassing, but the construct survives because it works as a means of controlling populations.

          Like I keep saying, I don’t have a specific definition for what God is. I think the more important issue (and I’m pretty sure Dennett and Harris would agree) is what sort of behavior the edifice of religion can be used to inspire in people and communities. Recall that our ancestors made a big deal out of controlling the worship patterns of conquered enemies; if you took away their gods (i.e. rewired their collective consciousness), you controlled the community. The same primitive urge is behind the contemporary creation-evolution wars; the religious resent their creator God being dispelled as a cognitive mirage, and they’re desperate to re-establish that meme-complex through ID propaganda.

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

          I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that you seem to be one of those maddening Christians who explain everything just like an atheist (John Shelby Spong and Karen Armstrong are others). Why not just take that last step into atheism?!

          Do you believe in the supernatural? You do call yourself a Christian, right?

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Bob Seidensticker addressing Anton – “…you seem to be one of those maddening Christians who explain everything just like an atheist… Why not just take that last step into atheism?!”

          A more evolved conceptualization of God does not equate to atheism.

          If you were a Buddhist, your question might make the kind of sense that you seem to think it does.

          Why not retain your atheistic sensibilities but add the missing ingredient? The open ended and impeccable unknowing required. The complement to your highly developed empiricism.

          Then inquire into the infinity of infinities that can only be conceived of as Singularity. The eternal Now.

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

          Without evidence, your don’t have an argument.

          What I hear from you is little more than, “Imagine if you will … “

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          See? You have already dismissed the role that Imagination plays in the the Universe.

          This is not “open ended and impeccable unknowing”.

          Your inquiry will always yield the same results. Which at this point, I’m pretty sure, is the way you want it.

          I have presented the “Entirety” as evidence of “God”. But for this to mean anything, it would require the application of reason, intuition, imagination and the above mentioned “unknowing” on your part.

          I can’t do it for you.

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

          See? You have already dismissed the role that Imagination plays in the the Universe.

          Imagination plays a big role in science, technology, and life in general. Beyond that, I can’t imagine what you’re referring to.

          Your enquiry will always yield the same results. Which at this point, I’m pretty sure, is the way you want it.

          The way I want it is for my inquiry to direct me to the truth.

          Am I missing something?

        • JohnH2

          “Am I missing something?”

          A familiarity with Buddhism apparently.

        • MNb

          “Why not retain your atheistic sensibilities but add the missing ingredient?”
          How do you know any ingredient is missing, let alone which one, let alone that it improves the recipe? I quite respect Karen Armstrong, but she never seems to get to addressing these questions either.
          I rather stick to what I can be sure of beyond reasonable doubt than add all kind of doubtful assumptions which only complicate things, if not lead to a straightforward contradiction. One such a contradiction is an immaterial entity (ie by definition not having any material features) interacting with our material reality. Another one the Problem of Evil; yet another one the Problem of Hiddenness. Quite a few trees have been cut down to explain these self-inflicted contradictions away, with rather meager success.
          Not an improvement, that missing ingredient, not in any respect I’m aware of, except that it seems to make believers feel better. OK, that’s a valid subjective reason I concur. But then the answer to your question is: I don’t need that ingredient to feel good. My loved ones do an excellent job already.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          But my point was that Bob did not respect the “enlightened” and highly “reasonable” articulation put forth by Anton.

          I also quibble with Christians to some degree, because of the dualistic elements of their thinking about God.

          But, I have to acknowledge, that as long as there is any sense of “otherness” in my perceptions of life and the world, then God is a valid expression. To be used with the caveat that direct experience of the singularity is the ultimate Truth, and the purpose of evolution.

          Christ, Samadhi, Enlightenment, Buddha mind.

          Can’t be faked. Can’t be conjured.

          Only realized.

          Not sure what “The problem of Hiddenness” is.

          Evil is a strong word I use if for things like war, nuclear weaponry, slavery, rape etc. Yes, these are a problem.

          Sin, as I see it, just translates to ignorance of the seamlessness of Self inherent in Singularity. Actions arising from that ignorance, create and perpetuate more ignorance. Along with that, suffering and identity with a self that is subject to death. It’s a form of inertia.

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

          Do you always write like this? If you could write in clear English, that would help us understand what you’re saying.

          The Problem of Divine Hiddenness is: If our understanding and believing in God is essential for us to get into heaven, and God wants that more than we do ourselves, why is he so hidden? Why not be obvious? Why is faith necessary, since that screams out that the whole thing is a fraud.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Yes, I pretty much write like this. I try to get better at it all the time.

          I can’t agree with the term “fraud” as a blanket term. Just people codifying a compromised and incomplete understanding.

          Sophomoric or theologically challenged works better for me.

          Yes, of course there are frauds, but that does not relegate all religious and spiritually oriented people to the role of misguided fools.

          There are, and have been, many geniuses. There are also many earnest students of the process that they inspire.

          Faith is a stage. For instance when I wanted to learn to play a musical instrument. I initially only had faith that it was possible.

          As for “God” being hidden. It’s just that there is nothing that is not God to compare to.

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

          Yes I pretty much write like this?

          OK, but a little less Yoda or Zen master or New Age would be helpful. I find your meaning unclear.

          I can’t agree with the term “fraud” as a blanket term.

          Good point. That suggests deliberate deception. While there is that, too, much of the deception is innocent. Still makes it false. And wouldn’t you think “just believe!” or “just trust me!” are warning signs in many circumstances?

          Yes, of course there are frauds but that does not relegate all religious and spiritually oriented people to the role of misguided fools.

          I wouldn’t call them fools, but if their belief is false, wouldn’t they be misguided?

          For instance when I wanted to learn to play a musical instrument. I initially only had faith that it was possible.

          That’s not what we’re talking about. You’ve seen people learn to play your instrument of choice. You have evidence. You have nothing like this in the case of God.

          As for “God” being hidden. It’s just that there is nothing that is not God to compare to.

          Yes, if you presuppose God exists, then God exists. Doesn’t help advance the conversation (or address the Problem), however.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Yes, if you presuppose God exists, then God exists. Doesn’t help advance the conversation (or address the Problem), however.

          In what way have I not tried to advance the conversation?

          The hiddenness is explainable and also provides the solution. (see previous koan like exercises)

          Not sure what you want.

          I’m just aiming for accuracy. Not my fault if the style makes it hard to pigeonhole and I avoid the usual strawgods for you to knock down.

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

          In what way have I not tried to advance the conversation?

          You presuppose God. Yes, that eliminates the problem, but that’s cheating. It’s a non-answer.

          The hiddenness is explainable and also provides the solution. (see previous koan like exercises)

          (1) No koans, please. Plain English (unless you don’t much care about actually communicating).

          (2) “there is nothing that is not God” is not clever or witty. It’s useless. “Let’s assume God. There—problem solved!” doesn’t help.

          Not my fault if the style makes it hard to pigeonhole

          Uh, no, it makes it hard to understand. You do intend to communicate, right?

          I’m not trying to be overly harsh if this is just your style. But seriously, you talk this way to people throughout the day? You write email to businesses that sound like this?

          Too many people, I think you’ll agree, use words to hide the truth–that they don’t have arguments or that the conversation makes them uncomfortable or whatever. I’m looking for plain talk so we can efficiently make progress.

          and I avoid the usual strawgods for you to knock down.

          Uh, no, I’m looking for arguments and evidence. I don’t have much use for anything else.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          And, I can’t make my point playing by your rules. They are not appropriate to the question.

          I apply a technical language to the inquiry that seems appropriate to the question from my vantage point. But you assume that I am hiding something? Or, uncomfortable with the truth? What truth would that be?

          You rule out the functionality of koans and all technology tailored to the question of God realization. Which as I have tried to explain, is ultimately better termed, Self realization. What is your motive for this?

          Your dismissal of the musical instrument analogy shows that you do not understand the ordinariness of the process involved. Knowing God, is a skill that can be cultivated. Practice is the path, but first a 180 degree turn about; The initial intuition. Then the work.

          You assume too much about who I have met and who has taught me. What is the basis of your assumption?

          Since I do not want to foster even more division, and your agenda seems to be to deify empiricism, this will have to wait.

          Perhaps you will meet someone better able to teach. Even show you directly. In a way that leaves no questions.

          If you really want Truth. And not just facts.

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

          You rule out the functionality of koans and all technology tailored to the question of God realization.

          Perhaps koans are useful for illuminating some points. Illuminating the evidence for God’s existence isn’t one of them.

          How would you complete the sentence, “I know the Christian god exists because …”?

          Knowing God, is a skill that can be cultivated.

          This is where we diverge. I have no interest in cultivating such a “skill.” I believe (or accept that) things exist because there is sufficient evidence and for no other reason.

          I suppose believing in Shiva or Quetzalcoatl are also skills that can be cultivated. Have you considered doing so? Why/why not?

          You assume too much about who I have met and who has taught me. What is the basis of your assumption?

          I dunno. I have no idea what you’re even talking about.

          your agenda seems to be to deify empiricism

          Show me a better way to know that something exists.

          If you really want Truth. And not just facts.

          Does the Christian god exist in the same way that this keyboard on which I’m typing exists? If so, give me the evidence. If not, then show me why I should care about such a thing.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          You are not being honest.

          Every comment that I have made here, is specifically addressed to a very easy to understand point.

          All of these gods that you obsess over, Christian included, are only conceptualizations.

          Fingers pointing at the Moon.

          No one has the copyright.

          If you can’t give me that point. There is nothing left to learn from this conversation.

          I have a hard time believing that you can’t interpret symbolic language to the degree that you have demonstrated. Either mine, or the multitude of cosmologies, metaphors, myths, poems, songs and sacred scripture that the human spirit has produced.

          You are as guilty as any Bible thumping, flat landian, world is four thousand years old creationist. You are taking it all literally.

          My effort is to remind people that engaging with the Entirety through our entire being. Body, mind, heart, soul. Is what evolution creates us for.

          There are no rules about this. It is it’s own nature expressing.

          Empiricism worship, at the expense of the big picture, is just as obstructive as IFB, King James only, hell and brimstone, Jesus or the highway, Bibleism.

        • Pofarmer

          The problem is, all too often, actually, most often, Gods are not thought of as conceptualizations. They are thought of as real entities that will send you to hell or bless your family or find your car keys.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Yes, this is true. But a lot of atheists that I run into seem to echo the same lack of theological maturity.

          The god/s they don’t believe in are just as earth bound.

          It is a different thing to say; this or that conceptualization of God is starting to fray around the edges. v.s. God does not exist.

          The logical absurdity should be obvious. God, more accurately defined, would be causally related to existence. And, therefore, can not be said to exist or not exist.

          Of course though, our relationship to causality, does affect our ability to find car keys, experience good of bad luck etc.

          What we do with that, is what this conversation should be about. The level of awareness, awe or indifference that we apply to the study of the source is ours to choose.

          Free will, as it were.

          However, the nature of infinitude, is what it is. Not what we say it is.

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

          God, more accurately defined, would be causally related to existence. And, therefore, can not be said to exist or not exist.

          And you believe that he does exist? If so, how can you have an opinion on a matter that has no such resolution?

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Because I am a human being. I seek the freedom and joy that comes with awareness.

          What I said originally, was that “for me, God is a given”. I work hard to get an accurate understanding of what that means.

          It is important not to put the process into a box. Especially by deliberately setting up artificial limits to the inquiry; Whether through religious dogma or rigid empiricism.

          Both religion and science have their place, but neither framework is absolute.

          Like you, I am interested in results, but start from a different place using different skills. Where’s the problem?

          I do need to ask though,….what is this “he” business when referring to God? That’s pretty old school. Maybe thinking in those terms is keeping you from appreciating some of my comments.

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

          what is this “he” business when referring to God? That’s pretty old school.

          Is that not how God is referred to within Christianity? What with him being the Father and all that?

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I do need to ask though,….what is this “he” business when referring to God? That’s pretty old school.

          In all fairness, that’s not something nonbelievers invented.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Yes, I know. That was a little too specific to Bob’s comment. He was as usual making zero effort at an honest reflection on my contribution.

          Habitually diminishing contemplation of God for his own purposes.

          Ingenuine dialogue.

          Just to clarify it for you and for him, I realize, honor and respect, that the metaphor of God the Father serves to orient the devotee. In the practice of Christianity this is a key component.

          Coming from Bob though, it is just insincere sabotage. And I fell for it to no good effect.

          I apologize, and also thank you for reminding me of how the Hindu tradition recognizes and accommodates the various temperaments found in the worship of God.

          Friend, Lover, Father, Mother, Emptiness, Wholeness. God with attributes and without.

          All ultimately serving the mature realization of Brahman. One without a second.

          “I and the Father are One”. Both the finger and the Moon.

          Not just the Carpenter but you, me and Bob as well.

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

          Every comment that I have made here, is specifically addressed to a very easy to understand point.

          You called them koans yourself. Aren’t koans deliberately hard to understand?

          All of these gods that you obsess over, Christian included, are only conceptualizations.

          Is there actually a god called Yahweh who created the universe? Is Jesus one of the Trinity?

          If you can’t give me that point. There is nothing left to learn from this conversation.

          So we assume that the Master has it all figured out?

          I have a hard time believing that you can’t interpret symbolic language to the degree that you have demonstrated.

          When you write using simple language and concepts, you’re more likely to be understood. If you are determined to be obtuse, fair enough. I’m actually trying to help.

          You are taking it all literally.

          No, I am responding to those who take it literally.

          My effort is to remind people that engaging with the Entirety through our entire being.

          What is this Eternity® and why should I think that it exists?

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          What is this Eternity® and why should I think that it exists?

          Logic? At least a fully extended version of it.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Oops.
          I read “Entirety” not “Eternity”.
          Is that why we are having difficulty?

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

          We don’t seem to share much of a common vocabulary or worldview. You seem to be focused on communicating your theology/worldview, and that’s helpful, but that doesn’t do anything to convince me that it’s correct.

        • Kodie

          Calvin Klein’s lawyer will be here shortly to order a takedown.
          http://www.calvinklein.com/shop/en/ck/womens-perfume/44010016

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

          I knew they’d get me eventually …

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          You called them koans yourself. Aren’t koans deliberatelyhard to understand?

          No.

          It’s the fundamental paradox that is hard to understand without engaging intuition.

          And I only called the style “koan like”.

          So far speaking in “plain English” isn’t working either.

          I’ll refer you to Anton’s comment, it’s quite good.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/11/this-is-guaranteed-to-convert-you-2/#comment-1168660246

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I have a hard time believing that you can’t interpret symbolic language to the degree that you have demonstrated.

          You are taking it all literally.

          I’ve mentioned scientism before, and this is where it starts to become a problem. If the only important question that can be asked is Where is your evidence for God?, then we’re already talking past one another. As the saying goes, when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. If people are only equipped to discuss scientific matters, they prefer to define every issue in scientific terms.

          I’m never trying to be deliberately obscure in discussions like this, and I think part of the problem is that there’s a philosophical depth that’s missing from the discourse. Even matters like facts and evidence have a philosophical background that’s not as straightforward as the debate makes it seem. It would be like a creationist showing up and attacking the usual straw man of species evolution, and taking offense if anyone used terms like gene duplication or algorithm. These matters don’t lend themselves to quick-and-easy summaries, and a lot of times we have to have familiarity with an existing literature about the subject.

          If nonbelievers don’t want to read Tillich, James, or Jaspers, that’s their decision. But to pretend that the only way to talk about religion is on the Jimmy Swaggart level —and the “literal truth” of myths like the Flood— is to admit that they’re not interested in anything but an easy takedown.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Thanks, this is solid stuff. Reaches a level that I can’t.

          I’m not really expecting to convince Bob of much, but there may be others in the background still sorting things out.

          And, of course, I gain insight with each effort.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I’m not really expecting to convince Bob of much

          Let’s recall the words of Carlyle:

          “The man who cannot wonder, who does not habitually wonder (and worship), were he President of innumerable Royal Societies, and carried the whole Mecanique Celeste and Hegel’s Philosophy, and the epitome of all Laboratories and Observatories with their results, in his single head, — is but a Pair of Spectacles behind which there is no Eye. Let those who have Eyes look through him, then he may be useful.”

        • MNb

          No, it’s just the fact that your god fails to reveal him/her/itself to atheists like BobS and me. The fact that there is nothing that is no Deep Purple’s Child in Time to compare to doesn’t prevent me from thinking the song one of the greatest of all time.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          …, it’s just the fact that your god fails to reveal him/her/itself to atheists,…

          I don’t understand the reference. Perhaps you’re just being obtuse for the fun of it.

          By “…your god” do you mean my working model of God? In which case why not say that? And then explain how it could be improved.

          Nice song though. Had to Google it.

        • MNb

          “god” do you mean my working model of God?”
          Yes. Ten theists tend to have eleven god-images (which is the official theological terminology).

          “In which case why not say that?”
          Because it’s at least three words longer and I’m lazy.

          “And then explain how it could be improved.”
          Now why should I do that? It’s the theist’s problem, not mine. No matter how much your god-image improves, I’m still not believing. No, I’m a parasite. I try to figure out what kind of god you believe in (ie which one of gazillions is your god-image) and debate on that basis with you. Obviously I sometimes I grant some theist or another a wrong god-image. Then I’m happy to be corrected.
          Btw that’s why so many theist complaints about Dawkins are so silly. If he addresses a thousand god-images there will always be a theist who says “but neither of your gods is the one I believe in!” Not that I’m a fan of Dawkins, but that’s another subject.

        • Kodie

          By “…your god” do you mean my working model of God? In which case why
          not say that? And then explain how it could be improved.

          You assume he’s everyone’s god and call him “god.” We have a pretty good idea he’s nobody’s god but yours, since you’re the one defining him.

        • MNb

          Doesn’t answer my question above:

          “How do you know any ingredient is missing, let alone which one, let alone that it improves the recipe?”
          Weird that so many theists get evasive when I as an atheist take over their metaphors.

        • ctcss

          Anton

          “I’m a Christian too, but I think that referring to God as a creative entity that’s nonetheless immaterial is more of a rhetorical game than a coherent concept.”

          I think we may be dealing with semantics here. By “creative”, I mean expressive or expressing. Beethoven expressed his musical nature through the works which reflected his thinking. His musical expressions were the natural outcome of his musical nature. As I understand the concept, God expresses His nature through the works which reflect His thinking (i.e. the kingdom of heaven and everything within it). Thus, God’s spiritual expressions are the natural outcome of God, who is Spirit.

          Once again, language makes it hard to say such things without bringing a bit of the human mental framework into it.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Once again, language makes it hard to say such things without bringing a bit of the human mental framework into it.

          Actually, language makes it very easy to say such things without saying anything meaningful. It’s one thing to make reference to the ineffability of the divine. It’s quite another to create an entire cosmology of beings and realms and natures that doesn’t admit to being literature.

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

          matter isn’t the foundation upon which my religious beliefs depend.

          For what reason to you trust non-matter? Maybe you’re deluding yourself. Brains do that, y’know.

          atheistic concepts don’t coincide with my theological concepts. Thus there is no conflict.

          I can’t imagine why. Couldn’t the pamphlet still have new philosophical or theological arguments that would destroy your faith?

          They and I have no common ground upon which to disagree.

          Don’t you and the atheist both value reason? Logic? Don’t you both want to avoid self-delusion?

        • ctcss

          Bob

          You appear to be a bright guy, but you keep making mistakes (or leaving out the obvious) in your responses.

          “For what reason to you trust non-matter? Maybe you’re deluding yourself. Brains do that, y’know.”

          And you could be deluding yourself as well. Your view offers no more formal proof for its correctness than mine does. So you don’t win any points for this non-point. But as for why I trust Spirit (what you are referring to as non-matter), that’s simple. I have learned to trust it just as you have learned to trust what you find to be trustworthy, through experience and also through the efforts of others who have gone forward before and marked out a safe trail to follow. Could either of us be wrong? Sure. But we won’t know unless we make the effort to try, will we?

          “I can’t imagine why. Couldn’t the pamphlet still have new philosophical or theological arguments that would destroy your faith?”

          Wow, after what I posted, are you still thinking that I am relying on some theoretical philosophical or theological argument to base my faith on? Unlike a philosophical or theological scholar, sitting in a comfy armchair in a university lounge pondering hypotheticals regarding the question of God, I am actually trying to deal with real world problems in the here and now using what I believe to be God’s help. Thus I am not much interested some new theoretical argument unless it has already been proven to have some practical grounding in the here and now. And ideally, I would like those putting forth any new arguments to actually be placing their lives on on the line in order to provide proof of their theory to me. A pamphlet is not likely to do that. To the best of what I am able to say with a straight face, I find myself, not in a comfy armchair, but on the equivalent of the front line, actually trying to apply what I was taught. (Very definitely a non-trivial, and sometimes a rather daunting, dismaying, sobering, and even a scary effort, at times.) So a pamphlet is not likely to make much of an impression on me.

          “Don’t you and the atheist both value reason? Logic? Don’t you both want to avoid self-delusion?”

          I very much value reason and logic. The problem is, as I mentioned in my post, the atheist is starting with the assumption that matter is real and God is unreal, a decidedly formally unprovable position from the human standpoint. I am starting with the assumption that matter is unreal and God is real, also a decidedly formally unprovable position from the human standpoint. Reason and logic work with starting assumptions and proceed outward from there. And as I pointed out, our vastly different starting points really leave precious little common ground to disagree on. We really are looking at completely different playing fields. And yes, I definitely want to avoid self delusion. And I would hope the atheist would as well. But without formal proof on either side, both of us are simply going forward with what we have learned to trust. We won’t really know where the truth lies until we reach the end. And both of us are willing to put what we trust in on the line, I would presume, until we are proved incorrect. Do you really have a problem with either person following such an approach?

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

          Your view offers no more formal proof for its correctness than mine does.

          How do you characterize our two views?

          I don’t care about proof; I care about results. Using evidence that can be verified and critiqued by others and following that evidence where it leads has been shown to deliver good results. If you have an approach to understanding reality that gives even better results, I’m interested.

          I have learned to trust it just as you have learned to trust what you find to be trustworthy, through experience and also through the efforts of others who have gone forward before and marked out a safe trail to follow. Could either of us be wrong? Sure. But we won’t know unless we make the effort to try, will we?

          You act as though these are two similar approaches. Follow whatever approach you want, just don’t pretend that doing your fallible best to listen to the supernatural gives anything like the same reliable results as following empirical evidence.

          I am actually trying to deal with real world problems in the here and now using what I believe to be God’s help.

          And when you get results that are explainable only by the supernatural, I’ll be quite interested.

          the atheist is starting with the assumption that matter is real and God is unreal

          Well, sure. That’s where the evidence points, right?

          … a decidedly formally unprovable position from the human standpoint.

          Agreed. So what? When new evidence shows that there is more than just nature as we know it, atheists will adapt. Very few atheists say, “There can be no supernatural”: they say, “There is no good evidence for the supernatural.” Show us the evidence.

          our vastly different starting points really leave precious little common ground to disagree on. We really are looking at completely different playing fields.

          If you say so. And yet we both operate in society, hang out at blogs, use computers, pay taxes, take vacations, cross the street safely, and so on. I’m surprised that you characterize our “playing fields” as radically different.

          without formal proof on either side, both of us are simply going forward with what we have learned to trust.

          You have your own personal algorithm. It works for you, and you share it with other Christians, but you must execute it privately. My algorithm is much less impressed (though it doesn’t dismiss) that evidence, preferring to value evidence that has been publicly shown to be reliable. Much less self-delusion that way.

    • MNb

      ” I have yet to see any atheist argument that moves me”
      Well, that’s what mutatis mutandis Ken Ham says about the age of the Earth, Fred Hoyle said about the Big Bang, Lenin about the bourgeoisie and Julius Streicher about jews.
      At the other hand Stephen Hawking first did theoretical search on Black Holes assuming that they are totally “black” indeed. A few years later he did theoretical research trying to show that Black holes aren’t that “black” after all.

      “I have my own personal experiences that they have not shared in.”
      Apparently they are completely infallible.
      Yup, a sure way to avoid having to change your views ever.
      It’s not a virtue imo. I rather live according to “if my information changes my decisions change.” Compare Hawking and his Black Holes above. Clearly I don’t have to ask “what about you, Sir?”

      • ctcss

        MNb, this post seems to be lacking input from what I actually wrote. When I said “I have yet to see any atheist argument that moves me” I pointed out that atheists are almost always approaching things from a materialistic viewpoint, but that I was not since my understanding of God considers God to be non-material. Given my stated viewpoint, an atheist has two choices. Either they can ignore what I say and simply move on, or they can actually address what I said and realize that it would be rather difficult, if not impossible, for any argument made from a materialist standpoint to have any impact when the framework being discussed (i.e. my religious beliefs) revolves around that which is non-material. There is no intersection between those two completely opposite standpoints. Thus, atheist arguments based on materialism fail to move me. (I should also note that all of the people you cited who have changed their viewpoints are basing their viewpoints on matter, as well. That means that, for them, material evidence informs their worldview. Thus, they need to take it into account because in some way, it under-girds what they are looking at and trying to understand. Once again, my religious beliefs are not founded on matter or materialism. And just to make sure you understand what I am saying here, I am rejecting that a material reality even exists.)

        “Apparently they are completely infallible.”

        I never said that anything I think or do is infallible in nature. (If you continued to read what I wrote further in this exchange with Bob, you would have certainly noticed that I said I could be completely wrong, so I am not sure why you are even trying to make this point.) All I was saying is that, absent some atheist having followed me around for my entire life (and none have done so that I am aware of), any criticism they may offer about what I think and do is simply based on conjecture and speculation their part. Why should I accept their conjecture and speculation as “truth”? Shouldn’t they have something a bit more substantive to base their assertions on? “I say you are wrong sir, because you claim to have been in Boston on October 15, but I have proof that you were actually on a flight from Atlanta to LA on October 15.” I could accept something like that as valid criticism. But mere opposing assertions? Sorry, no deal. Thus, atheistic arguments don’t really do much to move me.

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

          atheists are almost always approaching things from a materialistic viewpoint, but that I was not since my understanding of God considers God to be non-material.

          If you’re simply speculating about a Never Never Land that’s supernatural and inaccessible from our world, you’re right that you’re untouchable by atheist arguments. But you’re also untouchable by the supernatural, so this can’t be your argument. The two worlds touch or interact somehow, and when they do, that’s a change in our natural world.

          I don’t see how your worldview could be immune from naturalistic arguments.

          There is no intersection between those two completely opposite standp oints.

          Really? God never enters or affects this world? No miracles? No divine intervention? No Jesus as man?

          I am rejecting that a material reality even exists.

          So there aren’t two worlds that don’t interact but simply one world with unlimited interaction between the components. So that-which-seems-supernatural interacts with that-which-seems-natural all the time?

          Perhaps I’m missing your point completely.

        • ctcss

          “But you’re also untouchable by the supernatural, so this can’t be your argument. The two worlds touch or interact somehow, and when they do, that’s a change in our natural world.”

          Statements like this just point out to me just how materialistic this particular worldview is. Spoken of in this way, that which is spiritual is simply being wrapped up in a materialistic framework. At least as I understand these things, there aren’t two (or more) worlds that interact or don’t. Rather, there are differing views or comprehensions of what actually exists, only one of which is correct.

          What you call matter is simply a view of reality that interprets things in a materialistic fashion. The view I am talking about is what I believe to be God’s view of His creation. God’s creation (God’s kingdom) isn’t composed of matter, energy, time, or space. And God, being God, only His view of creation is the accurate view.

          “I don’t see how your worldview could be immune from naturalistic arguments.”

          It’s pretty hard for an atheist to point out that God doesn’t seem to exist in matter and have that statement make a negative impact on the believer’s outlook if the believer already agrees that God doesn’t exist in matter. As they say on Wall Street, “The market has already taken that into consideration.”

          “God never enters or affects this world?”

          Not in the way you’re thinking.

          “So there aren’t two worlds that don’t interact but simply one world with unlimited interaction between the components.”

          Nope, you’re still thinking materially. A mental framework that might be more helpful is one that revolves around education. A student coming into a classroom for the first time may be either completely ignorant of the subject being taught, or may have incorrect notions about the subject being taught. In any case, the student will need to start grappling with the unfamiliar and unknown (or the incorrectly surmised) subject area and whatever it comprises. And it is only as the student begins to grasp what it is that the subject is about that the student’s view of it begins to correctly come into focus. In other words, when one “sees through a glass, darkly”, the view will not be very helpful or accurate. The view changes (improves) as one gains understanding. So the change (what you call interaction between different realms) is actually just the improving view that brings into focus that which has actually been there all along, but simply mis-perceived, or not perceived at all.

          “Perhaps I’m missing your point completely.”

          I think you are since John apparently caught on immediately and you’ve interacted with me a number of times, and even mentioned my group several times in passing, but never once did you seem to associate my group with me. And this despite my often trying to describe what it was that I was taught, as well as what I do in practice. Which suggests to me that you probably don’t understand much about my group at all.

          At any rate, an atheist’s arguments, typically focused on and framed by matter, aren’t likely to have much of an impact on someone whose view of things is focused on and framed by God (Spirit). The very foundation on which either person is viewing things eliminates the other view from consideration. Either everything is material (coming from matter) or everything is spiritual (coming from God). Thus, it’s an either/or kind of thing.

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

          Statements like this just point out to me just how materialistic this particular worldview is.

          How much of our basic assumptions must we discard? I’m assuming that our world here is materialistic and natural. Are you saying that we could be in The Matrix? That’s possible, but we have sufficient evidence for that conclusion.

          What you call matter is simply a view of reality that interprets things in a materialistic fashion. The view I am talking about is what I believe to be God’s view of His creation.

          Do we have the same view of reality as God does? If not, let’s make clear what limited set of reality we can perceive and use that as a starting point.

          only His view of creation is the accurate view.

          And if this view is inaccessible to us, we’ve jumped into the “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” domain. I’d rather start from what we know and see if there’s any viable path to your supernatural.

          It’s pretty hard for an atheist to point out that God doesn’t seem to exist in matter and have that statement make a negative impact on the believer’s outlook if the believer already agrees that God doesn’t exist in matter.

          If God parties in his own world and never touches ours, then God, for all practical purposes, doesn’t exist. We have zero warrant for even talking about God because we have zero evidence. Now, if God enters our world, that’s a different matter. Then we’d have evidence. But then God puts himself in the domains of both science and atheistic arguments.

          Are you trying to have it both ways? God can’t be immune from scientific inquiry and atheistic arguments and enter our world to perform miracles and so on.

          The view changes (improves) as one gains understanding.

          So our understanding is like a bubble that expands into the huge/infinite space of truth. It’ll always be a subset. Sure, I understand this, but I don’t see how this affects my concern at all. Does God affect us or not? You can’t have it both ways.

          you probably don’t understand much about my group at all.

          Probably so.

          an atheist’s arguments, typically focused on and framed by matter, aren’t likely to have much of an impact on someone whose view of things is focused on and framed by God (Spirit).

          I don’t think that’s the right dichotomy. I think natural/supernatural makes more sense. Perhaps you’re trying to erase the boundary between these two. Fair enough—the problem remains. We humans are within our rights to look for evidence. God can’t both interact with us without being (in principle) detectible.

        • JohnH2

          “I am rejecting that a material reality even exists”

          Do you consider yourself to be a Christian? if so are you by chance a Christian Scientist? Or what faith do you belong to?

        • ctcss

          “are you by chance a Christian Scientist?”

          Very good. Most people don’t pick up on that. I guess it takes a thoughtful religious type to notice such things. Kudos to you on being well versed.

          I also enjoy reading your responses. Even though we appear to disagree on theological grounds, you strike me someone who is bound to find your way forward, spiritually, because of your sincere efforts to want to find the truth. That’s a good attitude and approach for anyone who is interested in growing spiritually IMO. I think that if there were more serious and thoughtful religious seekers, there would be far less animosity towards religion in general from different believers and non-believers.

          There is always likely to be disagreement on such things, but there is no reason for people not to be respectful and kind towards one another’s personally held beliefs, as long as they are not harming others.

          Keep up the good work.

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

          there is no reason for people not to be respectful and kind towards one another’s personally held beliefs, as long as they are not harming others.

          Agreed! I’d find another hobby if not for the harm that religious excesses have within society.

  • http://bit.ly/glUAR7 Calladus

    “A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.”

    It doesn’t matter how much truth the pamphlet holds or how it is applied. People who quickly change their opinion do so out of emotional reasons, not out of rational thinking.

    I think that a slow change of opinion is more likely, after a period of of examination of a truth.

    Atheists are eager to see such evidence because most atheists are past Christians, and are eager to apply the arguments and reasoning that they have learned.

    Christians would be just as eager to see this pamphlet for several reasons. To test their faith and prove it superior, to enhance their feeling of being persecuted for being “right”, to show their bravery in the face of heresy.

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

      Re your last paragraph: I certainly agree that this is the case for a few Christians, but my take on Christians (limited, admittedly) is that most wouldn’t be eager to rock the boat. That’s just a challenge they’re not eager to wrestle with.

      • http://bit.ly/glUAR7 Calladus

        Agreed, moderate Christians are very reluctant to take the psychotically insane Christians to task. They leave it up to atheists to do that.

        “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”.

  • Rafael

    So, do you have anything other than wild guesses? Sorry to be THAT guy, but if you’re just going to say Christians are mostly weak people with weak faith and atheists are strong and evidence-based, you don’t really need that fictional pamphlet.

    If you did try that experiment, now that would be something different and much more interesting to share.

    • SecularAmerican

      Agreed. There are more pursuasive arguments than knocking down your own strawman.

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

      No one said that Christians are weak people. I said that I suspect that most have little interest in wrestling with substantial challenges to their faith.

      You think differently? Great–I could be wrong. My sample size is limited. Contribute something to the conversation.

      • Rafael

        You wrote and I quote:

        “[…] My guess is that most Christians already have had pangs of doubt and don’t like them. They don’t want the boat rocked—it’s rocking enough as it is. They suppress their own doubt and they avoid any “opportunity” to increase that doubt.”

        That’s basically saying their fatih is fragile and they know it. And because of that they avoid questioning. I think that implies weakness.

        I fail to see how I could give you anything more constructive than what I already did. You presented a hypothetical situation to illustrate your opinion but didn’t give us any argument for said opinion. IMHO, pointing that out is the only contribution I can give right now.

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

          I just made clear that weakness wasn’t the point. And now you’ve got it a second time, so we’re doubly on the same page now, I’m sure.

          If that’s all you’ve got, OK. Since the idea that most Christians are not eager to engage in debate is outlandish to you, I wonder why you feel this way. Is it because your faith group eagerly seeks out debate, have no problem with evangelizing 1-on-1, and you hear the same story from others? I’d like to hear that.

          What I hear is something quite different. I read articles from prominent apologists who say that doubt is natural and that almost all Christians struggle with it. I read that evangelization is difficult for many or most Christians but that they should consider it nevertheless. I seek out Christians to debate, argue, or chat with (their option) and find it quite difficult.

          You say that my experience doesn’t match yours? I invite you to tell me more.

        • Rafael

          You didn’t “make clear that weakness wasn’t the point”. Again, you mistake presenting your opinion with arguing for it. What you did was say that I had misunderstood you. And then I extended my argument to try to show you why I did not.

          I’m not very good at naming fallacies. But I’m gonna go with my guts here and say that what you’ve got there is a non-sequitur. Yes, Christians (from what I’ve learned; I’m an atheist, I can’t know for sure) do struggle with doubt. And evangelization is difficult. But how does that lead to “not wanting to rock one’s boat”? And what you should have replied before instead of claiming I’m sticking to the same page: how “not wanting to rock one’s boat” does NOT lead to a conclusion of weak faith?

          My experience is that everyone struggles with doubt. And that evangelization is difficult to anyone. People tend to resist changing their state of mind, no matter what they currently believe. So the fact that you read Christians do that is not very significant…

          My experience is also that not only Christians, but everyone, avoid confrontation. Most people are not like us, who enjoy engaging an exchange of logical arguments. Most people just want to get through their days without having to think too much if what they’re doing and believing is right or wrong. Christians and atheists alike.

          But that’s my personal view. It could be (probably is) biased.

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

          You didn’t “make clear that weakness wasn’t the point”.

          In the post? OK, thanks for the feedback. But I’ve made it explicit twice already in these comments, so we’re on the same page now, I’m sure.

          But I’m gonna go with my guts here and say that what you’ve got there is a non-sequitur.

          I thought my crime was stating an opinion without sufficient evidence to convince you. No?

          Yes, Christians … do struggle with doubt. And evangelization is difficult. But how does that lead to “not wanting to rock one’s boat”?

          I’m going to hell if I get it wrong, everyone tells me that Jesus died for my sins, but it doesn’t really make much sense (in my heart of hearts), and I’m going to be eager to go out there and invite even more doubts?

          If your point is that this isn’t a proof, I agree. That’s why I made it clear that it was an opinion. But I don’t see why that opinion is incredible.

          And what you should have replied before instead of claiming I’m sticking to the same page: how “not wanting to rock one’s boat” does NOT lead to a conclusion of weak faith?

          Huh? It does lead to a conclusion of weak faith. What you accused me of (and which I’ll say for a third time isn’t my point) is saying “Christians are mostly weak people.”

          My experience is that everyone struggles with doubt.

          My hypothesis is that this is a bigger problem with Christians than atheists.

  • Thomas Prescott

    I’d read it, just to see what arguments they were using and then attempt to refute them.

    I’d be highly skeptical of his claim that its converted 90% of atheists who read it, or I’d at least question their thinking if they chose to convert back to Christianity based only on a pamphlet. It would take a shitton of evidence for me to convert back to Christianity.

  • Jonas

    I would most certainly not look at it. With a 90% conversion rate using nothing but the written word, I’m lead to assume that as soon as I take my eyes off the guy, I’m going to get acquainted with their tazer, kidnapped, and brainwashed. A single pamplet can’t possibly bring enough information AND verification of said information to get such a conversion rate.

  • Hermann o

    I would certainly take and read it!
    Shalom
    Hermann (Christian)

  • scottie

    I would most definately read it. I’m an atheist, but I would so love to believe like so many others. I think we were all happier when we were kids and believed that majic did exist, Santa and the Easter Bunny were real, and we would see Grandma again in Heaven. Fairy tales are meant to make people happy. If the truth was that instead of the absoluteness of death there was a place after this world, where everyone lives in bliss, I would be on board in a heartbeat. But there is no pamphlet with all the answers, and there is no proof of an afterlife, just a painful realization that though the world is a wonderful place, it is restricted with practicality and the laws of science.

    • scottie

      This being said, I’d also like to add in a scenaio when, as a test for myself, I prayed to god. I’ve been an atheist since early high school. I had not prayed since grade school. I told “god” that if he really wanted me to believe in him, that he should have me win the lottery. If I won, I would denounce my atheism and give majority of my winnings to a local church. I then went and bought a Powerball ticket. Turns out I won $10. Not the jackpot that I was asking for, but just the same, I found my faith questioned by my own stupid project. I have to admit, my religious grounds crumbled a little bit. I didn’t want to believe in god, because it made NO sense to me. I eventually rationalized winning $10 as statistically common for a Powerball drawing, and continued my life as a non-believer.
      I think I would take the pamphlet, read it, and then find myself miserable with the results. We want majic to exist, but we also want to know that what we believe in is right. It all depends on wich feeling is strongest.

      • Kodie

        I had a similar instance – one time I had no money and I was walking all over to get where I needed to go or just to get out of the house. I had this idea one night to ask god, if he’s there, to find $10 on the ground. Then I had this thought, like, holy crap, what do I do if I actually happen upon someone’s dropped money? A few months or a year later, I found $20 twice in the summer, and so now, when I feel broke, and nobody’s watching, I shake my hands together and roll my imaginary dice. My test for “god” is not something that could statistically happen, or a lot of money. I ask to find a $20 bill on my kitchen table.

        The test for magic is not to find money you left in a pocket, but to find it where nobody (including yourself) would have put it, which for me is on the kitchen table or counter (this might not work for some people). Last year, in a test challenge, I earnestly asked for this sign. It’s not a lot of money, it’s not a lottery jackpot that would set me for life, so I don’t see why god will not show me and take care of me for a day or two in a demonstration of his actuality. If you ask, like me, to find money where it can actually be found, a religious person would say that the coincidence is evidence of god’s intervention, where I say it is the opposite. I could ask to find money on the ground every day, and eventually, I will find something that fell out of a pocket from someone else. While that’s kind of a treat for me, it probably sucks for the other person. I don’t want to believe in a god who tricks someone into distraction for me to benefit. On the rare occasions I play a lottery, I pick the numbers myself, and they rarely have any significance except at the time, they “feel” right. So you can understand how awful it feels when none of them come up. I might have won about $13 in the last 10 years, and spent maybe $30-50. I know someone who scratched $1000, and while a sum that large feels good at the time, he had a scratch-ticket habit, and they’re not just $1 anymore. I find it unbelievable that someone will throw $20 on one scratch-off ticket that will not give them any winnings, for the chance of $10, and I really hate standing behind them at the convenience store counter, “feeling” which tickets they should pick. And many people will buy them a lot more than my friend before they ever hit $1000.

        I sort of agree with you in essence – life would be or could be a lot more convenient or helpful if there was a magical helper. A lot of theists would analyze my life and find a lot of evidence for god, and I just see the roll of dice. I manage not to go under, I stay just above water, and treading water is exhausting, but I’m not suffering as much as many people do, so I’m supposed to be thankful – to god for not making it as bad for me as it could be. Sorry, but I can’t help but think that’s at the cost of a handful of people who keep me afloat, and a lot more that do not get the benefit. We are “social” creatures, but we tend to live and breathe in limited social networks. For some, that may be their church. Widening the group of people who give a shit about whether you, personally, live or die seems to be a factor of the kind of security most people would like to have. You can’t go it alone, but religious people have this fixation that it only matters that god cares. They look at the people who care about them and imagine it’s all because god set them up ok with friends and a caring family. Religion is set up to make people feel undeserving of the kind of care we all need, and owe nothing to themselves for being worthy of attention. The whole notion of morality coming from god rejects the idea that one might actually care about another person because it’s nice. You wouldn’t actually care about that person, or they wouldn’t care about you, if god didn’t make you feel feelings of empathy or compassion – isn’t that rotten? It’s one thing to feel like you’re not worthy of concern, but to feel like you are not able to be concerned to act without intervention? And praying about something instead of physically helping is just lazy.

        There is no magic. I don’t have a lot of friends, because I don’t get a lot of benefit compared to how much I give, so I give up on it. It’s exhausting, and maybe that’s not a great attitude, but the bible gives a lot of tips to being selfless and not an accounting bastard with friendship. In reality, if you’re not getting what you need from the people in your social circle, it’s easy to be taken advantage of as a giving, generous person you’re trying to be. There is supposed to be a personal benefit to being empathic and moral – this is what atheism lays out scientifically. There is a survival benefit to doing “the right thing” as opposed to the convenient thing, or the self-interested thing, but I see it as a network of people who know how to get what they need without having to give too much back. It’s just the notion that some people will go out of their way to help anyone, and people who will never go out of their way who nevertheless manage to exploit their social network.

        Then again, that’s where the economy comes in. People fill roles where they get paid to help you out. No strings attached, just money, no emotional entanglement. You get what you need if you can pay for it, except for the sincerity. What we really want is sincerity, but the more people know you can get what you need from someone else, they would rather keep their distance and let you go elsewhere.

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

      Sounds in tune with the movie “The Invention of Lying” with Ricky Gervais. Have you seen it?


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