Faith Shows the Emperor has No Clothes

Suppose a religion worshipped a god that didn’t exist. How could it endure? Wouldn’t it be immediately exposed as a fraud?

Not if it turned thinking on its head and argued that not reason but faith* is actually the proper way to look at the world, or at least the religious part of it. Fellow believers would encourage this faith-trumps-reason worldview. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain and just have faith!

Defending an invisible God and celebrating faith is exactly what Christians would do if their religion were manmade. Faith is always the last resort. If there were convincing evidence, Christians would be celebrating that, not faith.

Augustine said, “Do not understand so you may believe; instead believe so you may understand.” But why? You don’t do that in any other area of life. You don’t pick a belief system first and then select facts to support it; it’s the other way around. You follow the facts where they lead.

Faith is permission to believe without good reason. Believing something because it is reasonable and rational requires no faith at all. If you don’t have enough evidence to cross an intellectual gulf to the belief on the other side, and if only faith will get you there, then don’t cross that gulf.

It’s a bizarre world where faith not only trumps reason but is celebrated since we use reason all the time to get through life. Only by using reason and following the evidence—that is, rejecting beliefs built on faith—did we build the technology-filled world we live in today.

In fact, faith is the worst decision-making and analytical tool possible. You don’t use faith to cross a busy street, or learn French, or treat malaria. It provides no method for distinguishing between true and false propositions. Faith doesn’t provide a reliable answer but simply discourages further questions. It’s even worse than guessing, because with a guess, you’re at least open to revisiting a decision in the face of new evidence. Not so with faith.

No one relies on faith unless their god weren’t just invisible but was actually nonexistent.

The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic
is no more to the point than the fact
that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.
— George Bernard Shaw

(This is an updated post that originally appeared 10/7/11.)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

*By faith, I mean belief without sufficient evidence. Christians might respond that their definition of faith is identical to that for trust: belief in accord with sufficient evidence. In my experience, however, Christians use each of these definitions for faith, switching them as necessary. If they stuck to just one, that might clear up a lot of problems.

About Bob Seidensticker
  • MNb

    “Faith is permission to believe without good reason.”
    What has philosophy done for you lately?
    1. This is Kierkegaard’s approach.
    2. Herman Philipse argues that in our age of science theists need some good reason to believe or give up being convincing. Hence the come back of natural theology last few decades. Don’t look further than the name of WLC’s website for confirmation.
    So there is your answer.

    “Believing something because it is reasonable and rational requires no faith at all.”
    Personally I prefer not to use the word belief at all in this context. Belief = faith. Knowledge = theory + empirical data being in agreement.

    “If they stuck to just one”
    christians hardly could pretend anymore that a reasonable faith system is possible. Mano Singham gives a fine example of a respected physicist, John Polkinghorne, turning to theology and immediately turning to ambiguous language as well.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2009/07/01/why-people-believe-in-god-2-when-good-physicists-get-theology/

    It’s something an atheist has to learn to deal with when debating theists.

  • RichardSRussell

    5 years ago I had occasion to respond to one of the stupidest essays I’d ever encountered, printed as an op-ed column in the Appleton Post-Crescent. It was filled with so many errors that it took me nearly 20 essays of comparable length to respond to them all.

    One such blatant error was that atheism was a form of faith. I started in on this canard here and went on for another 4 essays, concluding with the 2-part analysis of “How We Decide”. Basically what I said was that Bob is absolutely right to distinguish between faith and trust. I went on to enumerate half a dozen other methods of arriving at decisions, each of which is superior to faith, which is and should always be the decision-making tool of last resort — what you call on after you’ve fallen off the cliff and figure you may as well try to fly, because what else are ya gonna do?

    It is very much in the interests of the priest class to conflate faith (the basis for their income) with more reliable approaches, of course, which is why they praise it to the skies, name their churches and dotters after it, sing hymns to it, and never miss an opportunity to proclaim “Ya gotta have faith” (tho they never say why) or “faith can move mountains” (when it’s never demonstrably moved so little as a speck of dust). They have to lie, because their livelihoods depend on it. They have no honor.

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

      Reminds me of the “levitating” monks who have lotus-position flopping contests to see who can flop the highest (they can’t fly just yet, you see, though that’ll come with time, practice, and faith).

    • Mick

      Thanks for the link RichardSRussell. I’m going to read the whole series of posts you made on the subject. What I’ve read so far is very interesting.

  • Pofarmer

    Isn’t this really what it’s all about? I mean, if there was proof, there would be no debate, period. The Catholic Church likes to talk about miracles and such from 1000 years knowing that they can’t be proven or disproven one way or the others. Believers will believe and doubters will doubt. But, when you get down to the everyday, where is the evidence? Do believers have different suicide rates? Divorce rates? Are they better off financially? Is their health better? I mean, out of all the dozens of parameters you could use, do ANY of them get out of the noise of the statistics if anyone has even ever tried to measure them? As someone who was theist until very recently. I just don’t see it.

    • Castilliano

      I apologize for not providing links, but most or all of those rates have been studied, but they’re only reflective of the effectiveness of being part of a religion, not of the truthfulness of said religion. (Placebos, anyone?)
      Of those I’ve seen, the results have been varied, but they’re fairly standard across the religions, leaning toward no specific one.
      Many do suggest religious people have better health & live longer, but people who meditate gain many of the same benefits. Being part of a social circle also aids health, and many of the other “good life” aspects.
      It’s hard to account for the many side factors tied to religion, so I’m fairly skeptical about most of the surveys.

      You may want to look at the Barna group, or Pew Research Institute (?).
      Cheers.

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

        I’m sure you can find a specific religious subset that has a particular benefit over the population at large or atheists in particular. Perhaps like you, I don’t see that that tells us much. I’ve never seen what you would expect from God’s chosen–noticeable improvement in every single category.

        And let’s distinguish “religion is true” (what I care about) from “religion is useful” (possibly true but not as interesting to me).

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          And let’s distinguish “religion is true” (what I care about) from “religion is useful” (possibly true but not as interesting to me).

          But in an important sense, that’s the only reason we value scientific inquiry: the fact that it’s useful in certain contexts. It’s not like we’re comparing our models to “reality,” just that if they resist disconfirmation, that gives us confidence in their validity. But the way Einstein showed that the Newtonian model of the universe was wrong —although still useful in many ways— makes it hard to critique religion on the “truth” level, doesn’t it?

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

          But in an important sense, that’s the only reason we value scientific inquiry: the fact that it’s useful in certain contexts.

          And its value comes from our seeking the truth. Truth comes first; value follows.

          But the way Einstein showed that the Newtonian model of the universe was wrong —although still useful in many ways

          Huh? In most situations, the Newtonian model isn’t wrong. The error in our measurements is greater than any error in the result due to ignoring relativistic effects. Newton’s law of gravity is useful because (and only because) it’s true. If you’re saying that it’s true not much further than the accuracy of our measurements, I’ll agree, but so what?

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          And its value comes from our seeking the truth. Truth comes first; value follows.

          You seem to be defining truth in a way that suggests we know “how reality is,” when in scientific terms the only way to define truth is in how well the model resists disconfirmation. In other words, how useful it is in general.

          Geocentrism was very useful in predicting where we’d observe the Sun and moon at any particular time. The heliocentric model of our solar system is more useful because it predicts not only solar and lunar motion but planetary motion as well. As far as Newtonian physics go, they’re not “true” in the strictest sense but they’re still useful in many contexts. Quantum mechanics and general relativity both have a high level of experimental validation, but they’re incompatible; can we say they’re both “true” even though they contradict one another, or is it enough to admit that each is useful in contexts where the other is not?

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

          “… when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.” — Isaac Asimov

          Yes, I understand that we have no absolute source of truth against which we can compare our approximations.

        • Castilliano

          I agree, religion is definitely not useful enough to make a case for god(s) because otherwise the stats would be trumpeted. (Some are, say by Fox, even when the data is weak or conflicted by a majority of other studies.)

          For the audience, if somebody does try to pull the “faith works” argument for god(s), you can link them to this:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_QDJ7DOD_Y
          It’s a debate where evidence clearly shows secularism (when democratic) works far better.

          Cheers.

        • Greg G.

          I listened to that one. Zuckerman points out that it is the post-Christian crowd that prospers the most and the benefits of Christianity comes from its association with post-Christians.

          It took nearly two centuries after it was no longer necessary to explain things in terms of God before technology was able to match what the Roman Empire had. A couple of centuries later, we had space travel.

        • Castilliano

          I found Zuckerman generous when he noted the Post-Christian aspect. Yes, it’s true, but Greco-Roman & Enlightenment influences were also strong, and it was after Christianity faded that these places flourished.
          Western Christianity has always had the advantage of being bolstered by those two factors, and I tend to give them more credit than Christianity, given how Christianity isn’t proving so notable elsewhere. (Popular, yes, but not game-changing.) And given how post-Christianity places shine better than Christian places.

          Cheers.

        • JohnH2

          I have pointed out a specific religious subset that does those things in the past.

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

          I’m not following/remembering your point. Could you elaborate?

    • JohnH2

      Depends on what type of believer you are as to whether the statistics are better or not. There are faiths that do have lower divorce rates, are wealthier on average, have a higher life expectancy, and so forth.

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

        Are you saying that there is one faith group of decent size that is better on every conceivable social metric? I’ve never heard this claim before.

        • JohnH2

          Every conceivable is asking too much I think; the group I am most familiar with is worse in bankruptcy, interfaith divorce rate (over all divorce rate is slightly lower than average, divorce rate for active members is way lower than average, but the divorce rate for inter-faith marriages is way way higher than average), and anti-depressant usage (possibly offsetting the low alcohol usage rates). Then there are quite a few social metrics where it is debatable what it means to be “better”.

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

          “Every conceivable” is very little to expect from the God who cares about his children far better than any of us do.

          Is this the LDS church? I’d heard that anti-depressant usage was actually far above average in Utah. But perhaps I’m thinking of something similar. Perhaps you remember.

          Utah has the highest usage of porn.

          As for inter-faith marriage, I could believe that. I conclude from that that religion is disruptive.

        • JohnH2

          “far above average in Utah”

          That was what I meant.

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

          So the membership in the LDS church is your example?

          I’ll grant you that Mormons are above average in some metrics. But IMO this isn’t much to crow about because (1) any subset of the population is likely to have some better and some worse metrics, and (2) at best this argues that religion is useful, not that it’s true.

        • JohnH2

          Yes that is my example.

          “Mormons are above average ”

          Considering as how the top comment was on the subject of usefulness of belief then that is all that was needed.

          ” this argues that religion is useful”

          If religion was not useful then what point would there be to it being true? It is completely false to suggest that religion doesn’t improve peoples lives and some, such as my faith, among a few others, improves adherents lives immensely. They are, at the least, highly useful.

          Anton did a very good job below of critiquing your line of thought, though it doesn’t appear that you have actually understood what he was saying.

        • Pofarmer

          Above average in some respects.

          “If religion was not useful then what point would there be to it being true?”

          My irony meter just exploded.

          Why do you think interfaith marriages with Mormons has such a high divorce rate?

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

          Pofarmer: Ditto!

          John: My focus is on the truth of religion. I’ll let the usefulness sort itself out. “I know X isn’t true, but I’ll believe it because it’s useful” is a nonstarter, for me anyway.

        • JohnH2

          Bob,

          Science is made of models, all models are wrong, some are useful.

        • JohnH2

          “My irony meter just exploded.”

          I am not understanding this?

          “Why do you think interfaith marriages with Mormons has such a high divorce rate?”

          Mormonism is more demanding than many faiths and its heavy focus on family causes problems when the theology is that the family must be married in the temple so being married to someone of another faith can obviously create theological conflict, besides the other problems.

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

          It seemed pretty plain to me.

          You said that you care about religion’s usefulness and seemed to have little interest in whether it’s true or not.

          First, how you can believe in something because it’s useful even though you know it’s false makes no sense. Second, I’m surprised that you’d opt for useful over true.

        • JohnH2

          Not what I am saying, it is true, but if it weren’t also useful then its truth would be irrelevant.

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

          If you could respond to my two points, that would help clarify your position.

        • JohnH2

          Bob,

          “First”
          As I said:

          Science is made of models, all models are wrong, some are useful.

          and also

          it is true, but if it weren’t also useful then its truth would be irrelevant.

          “Second”

          If there was something that was true but that had no impact on the world and no possible impact on the world then it could safely be ignored, where as, as pointed out, models are all wrong but we use models all the time because they are useful and approximate the truth.

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

          Science is made of models, all models are wrong, some are useful.

          Are all models wrong? That’s news to me. I’ll grant that it’s smart not to hold your breath for any particular one, since science changes all the time, but this statement about our lack of confidence sounds overconfident.

          it is true, but if it weren’t also useful then its truth would be irrelevant.

          Sounds like Zen.

          When I think of something that’s true but useless, I’m thinking of some bit of trivia. OK, I’ll grant you that the precise number of worms in the woods behind my house is useless information. But we’re not talking about trivia, we’re talking about the truth of religious claims. One of “god(s) exist” and “no gods exist” is true; how could usefulness not follow?

        • JohnH2

          As models are approximations to reality they are by nature wrong to some extent.

          If God were an unmoved mover that could not move according to our pleas (being unmoved) and that wished good to all but not all good to all such that heaven and hell were both good and our destination was determined at the time of our creation, irrespective of our own will or actions past that point, then there would be no usefulness in knowing or believing such a thing. That is one among many conceptions of God that even were it to be true would not be useful or relevant to anything.

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

          Resolving the greatest question of all sounds pretty useful to me.

          In the world that you imagine, we know that prayer is pointless. Good to know. We know that the only benefit to doing this good turn is to ourselves and society in the here and now. Good to know.

          Etc.

        • JohnH2

          And how is any of that different from not believing in such a God?

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

          You really don’t see the difference between a justified unbelief due to a lack of evidence and the positive and convincing evidence in your imagined example about the existence of a god?

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

          it doesn’t appear that you have actually understood what he was saying.

          Feel free to show me.

      • smrnda

        Depending on how you define your cohorts , you could end up with some confounding variables. If your religion is whiter than normal, you’d probably end up doing better on income because, overall, white people tend to have higher income than minorities. From what I recall, Muslims in the US tend to have higher than average incomes, though part of this could be the growth of Islam through immigration and the fact that it is easier to immigrate if you are educated and financially solvent, so it’s really a particular subset of Muslims we’re looking at rather than Muslims, on average. Worldwide, Muslims may not average to being very well off economically.

        From your discussion below, I note you and Bob mentioned higher rates of anti-depressant usage among LDS members in Utah. Given that there’s evidence for a biological component to mental health issues, and that Mormons in Utah may be drawn from a more limited than average gene pool, I couldn’t necessarily conclude that any predisposition to anti-depressant usage is related to the religion until lots of other variables are accounted for. If the claim that porn usage in Utah is higher than average, I’d be hesitant to label that *bad* in and of itself unless I knew for sure it was leading to relationship troubles.

        • JohnH2

          There are thoughts that the anti-depressant usage is tied to lower drug and alcohol usage; don’t know if that is true though.

          The porn stat is for internet porn and is more tied to the fact that getting porn magazines is much more difficult than in other states (while obviously getting porn online is just as easy) and that Utah has the youngest population in the US (ergo more likely to use the internet anyways) than it is to Utah actually consuming more porn than average.

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

          Roughly a century ago, there was an influx of eastern European Jews into the US. They talked funny, had lots of kids, and had little interest in education. Now, that population is well assimilated, puts great stock in education, and has a low birth rate.

          This example helps show that the metrics associated with a particular religion can change dramatically over time.

          I don’t label porn as bad by itself, though it could be a symptom of unhealthy behavior. Given all the not-so-good metrics attributed to Mormons, I’m surprised John wants to go there.

        • smrnda

          I’m not sure that the Eastern European Jews who emigrated had little interest in education as a group, though this could just be that “Eastern European Jews” covers a lot of territory, but I’d have to really look into that one. Plus, do you consider Prague eastern or central Europe? Birthrates tend to decline for about all populations, mostly with availability of contraception. I’m guessing that wasn’t easy to find in some countries.

          I think John is realistic that porn usage is very, very high, and the numbers on that are so reliable that it’s worth facing the facts and not denying it. Though I’m not sure if the lack of porn in stores is causing more internet porn to be consumed, just since I think most people use the internet for their porn elsewhere as well. I mean, I don’t see how retail porn outlets stay open these day.

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

          I was recalling from memory some facts about Jewish immigration from Ethnic America.

        • smrnda

          All said, groups do change quite rapidly. I mean, heck, back in the 1940s think of what the Germans were like, and compare the country then to now.

  • GCBill

    In my experience, however, Christians use each of these definitions for faith, switching them as necessary.

    Yeah, and then they get upset when atheists aren’t sure which definition they’re using (the “trust” one, the “unjustified” one, or yet another).

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    Only by using reason and following the evidence—that is, rejecting
    beliefs built on faith—did we build the technology-filled world we live
    in today.

    I forgot that everyone lived in mud huts until the Enlightenment. I’ll have to text my daughter and tell her that her iPhone proves there’s no God, as soon as my battery charges.

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

      Not a problem–there’s a lot of that going around! I forgot that before the Enlightenment, faith did indeed give us our advances in science (law of gravity, heliocentric solar system) and technology (eyeglasses, cathedrals).

      Whenever I put on my reading glasses, that’ll remind me that faith does indeed work (tangible) wonders.

      • http://batman-news.com Anton

        Whenever I put on my reading glasses, that’ll remind me that faith does indeed work (tangible) wonders.

        That reminds me of that old lens-grinder Spinoza, who rejected supernaturalism, miracles and omens to define a rational approach to belief. I know you’re unfamiliar with Spinoza because philosophy is pretty limp-wristed next to your macho empiricism. However, it’s disingenuous of you to define faith as the opposite of reason just so you can pat yourself on the back for your oh-so-rational approach to knowledge.

        I’m working on a parable about the blind man and the (tangible) wonders. But it turns out that if the blind man describes things in terms of general relativity, the (tangible) wonders are completely different than the ones he describes in terms of quantum mechanics. Oh well, I have faith that science will answer everything.

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

          I know you’re unfamiliar with Spinoza because philosophy is pretty limp-wristed next to your macho empiricism.

          Your clairvoyance serves you well, once again. A cage match between Spinoza and Isaac “Macho Man” Newton? Don’t get me started!

          it’s disingenuous of you to define faith as the opposite of reason just so you can pat yourself on the back for your oh-so-rational approach to knowledge.

          I don’t define faith as the opposite of reason. Perhaps you got your replies mixed up. My focus in on the role of evidence in how we come to our conclusions.

          If the f-word is tripping you up, perhaps we should just focus on the role of evidence in discovering how nature works. Do we agree that following the evidence is the best way to learn about nature?

          Conversing with me brings out your hateful side. Would you prefer I not reply to you?

        • MNb

          That question can be improved: would Anton prefer everybody not to reply to him? You’re not the only one who triggers his hateful side.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          A cage match between Spinoza and Isaac “Macho Man” Newton? Don’t get me started!

          Heh heh! You sure you want an astrologist like Newton in your corner? Dude would get bruises just hitting the sack!

          My focus in on the role of evidence in how we come to our conclusions.

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you getting all this “evidence” through the work of writers you already know will tell you what you want to hear about how reality is? It sounds like you’ll follow the “evidence” as long as you know where it leads. What’s the difference between your approach to knowledge and that of the faithful again?

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

          Correct me if I’m wrong

          I’m afraid that you are. I accept the scientific consensus (where there is one) as our best provisional approximation to the truth. Always. I mean, on what grounds could I reject it?

          Or were you thinking of something besides science?

          It sounds like you’ll follow the “evidence” as long as you know where it leads. What’s the difference between your approach to knowledge and that of the faithful again?

          That I follow the evidence where it leads. Period. Does God(s) exist? Great! I reject that hypothesis because there is insufficient evidence for it and for no other reason.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I accept the scientific consensus (where there is one) as our best provisional approximation to the truth. Always.

          As do I. Because we affirm the validity of that approach to knowledge. We believe that it’s good to believe in it. It’s not like we have independent knowledge of how reality is that we can judge claims against. We’re seeing it through the lens of empirical inquiry, and reinforcing our belief that empirical inquiry works. What else would you expect it to tell us?

          Or were you thinking of something besides science?

          Something besides science, Bob? Now that’s just crazy talk!

          Does God(s) exist? Great! I reject that hypothesis because there is insufficient evidence for it and for no other reason.

          And I don’t think many people accept the “hypothesis” because of evidence. I think it has always derived from people’s sense of powerlessness, and their wish to get some certainty about the universe.

          Which, not for nothing, is why scientific inquiry appeals to people too: they get the kind of certainty about phenomena that lets them look down on others.

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

          We believe that it’s good to believe in it.

          Speaking for myself, I accept the scientific consensus because science, though imperfect, has a fantastic track record. It’s earned my trust.

          It’s not like we have independent knowledge of how reality is that we can judge claims against.

          I guess not. “The theory says that X should happen when I do Y; let’s test that” works out pretty well at finding good approximations to the truth. If you’re saying that it’d be great to have something even better that experiment validating theory, sure. We don’t have it, and scientists are able to deal with that.

          We’re seeing it through the lens of empirical inquiry, and reinforcing our belief that empirical inquiry works. What else would you expect it to tell us?

          Given that empirical inquiry makes testable claims that just keep on passing tests makes me think that this route is pretty good. If that stopped happening, that would tell us something.

          And I don’t think many people accept the “hypothesis” because of evidence.

          Agreed.

          I think it has always derived from people’s sense of powerlessness, and their wish to get some certainty about the universe.

          Sounds reasonable. And when they get “certainty” about the universe through this route, what do we make of that? Has this route shown itself to be reliable?

        • MNb

          ” it’s disingenuous of you to define faith as the opposite of reason”
          Yeah, Kierkegaard was the most disingenuous philosopher in the history of Homo Sapiens.
          Or rather it’s a matter of proper definition. I don’t know about you, but I learned at the University pretty early that a definition has to discriminate. Hey! BobS does a pretty good job at this – your long toes are kicking up a row again.

  • KarlUdy

    Bob,
    Where do Christians use the “belief without sufficient evidence” definition of faith?

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

      This is a new concept to you? You’ve never heard any Christians use this?

      ”Faith therefore is to believe that which you do not see, truth is to see what you have believed.” — St. Augustine

      “Faith is acceptance of what we cannot see but feel deep within our hearts.” — Allaboutreligion.org

      Greta Christina dug into this quite a bit. Take a look.

      • KarlUdy

        I read Greta Christina’s post. I found it interesting that she characterized secular faith as “trust. reliance, confidence, conviction, hope.”

        She then does a survey of religious definitions of faith which include things like “take Jesus at his word; believe, trust and obey God; an attitude of confidence in God himself; prepared to stake yourself on something being so”

        And then she tries to say that these two sets of definitions are completely at odds.

        For the two quotes that you provided, try substituting “faith” with “trust” or “confidence” or “conviction”. They still work as perfectly adequate definitions for these words.

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

          I read Greta Christina’s post.

          Excellent.

          religious definitions of faith which include things like “take Jesus at his word; believe, trust and obey God; an attitude of confidence in God himself; prepared to stake yourself on something being so”

          Does this definition surprise you? If so, I’m surprised you’ve never seen this as a Christian. If not, I’m surprised that you asked the initial question.

          For the two quotes that you provided, try substituting “faith” with “trust” or “confidence” or “conviction”. They still work as perfectly adequate definitions for these words.

          We could spend many pleasant hours arguing about what the dictionary says, doesn’t say, or should say. I have no use for that.

          I’m saying instead that we have two important categories of belief: (1) belief well-grounded in evidence (and which will be overturned by sufficient disconfirming evidence) and (2) belief poorly grounded in evidence or even in spite of substantial disconfirming evidence (and which will not be overturned by new evidence).

          I use “trust” and “faith” for those ideas, but I have no interest in arguing about the terms. What I object to is lumping them together or (worse) using whichever definition suits one at the moment.

        • KarlUdy

          I’m saying instead that we have two important categories of belief: (1) belief well-grounded in evidence (and which will be overturned by sufficient disconfirming evidence) and (2) belief poorly grounded in evidence or even in spite of substantial disconfirming evidence (and which will not be overturned by new evidence).

          And I’m saying that you and Greta Christina both try to say that secular beliefs fall into the first category and religious beliefs into the second. However, the evidence that Greta provided in her article do not back up her case, and if that is characteristic of the evidence you have, then your belief that secular and religious beliefs can be differentiated in such a way is a belief of the second category.

        • MNb

          “secular beliefs fall into the first category and religious beliefs into the second.”
          Once again: I think this separation useful. But it is still far from clear that both categories always and everywhere have to conflict.

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

          So what do you say? How do you characterize both your personal faith and that of Christians in general? Do these invariably use definition #1?

        • KarlUdy

          My faith is based on evidence. Faith implies a lack of certainty (this is why faith is contrasted with sight in the Bible), but instead to trust based on what you already know about someone or something. Faith is not simply “believing that …” but “believing in …” implying that it involves our actions, not just what we think is true.

          This is a standard orthodox Christian understanding of faith that would be affirmed by most Christian leaders and thinkers.

          Do all Christians think of faith in this way, or have this kind of faith? Of course not. But in this case I think it is because they subscribe to more of a “folk Christianity” than a traditional orthodox Christianity. I think that such a point of view deserves to be critiqued, but it doesn’t characterize Christian faith.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Faith implies a lack of certainty (this is why faith is contrasted with sight in the Bible), but instead to trust based on what you already know about someone or something. Faith is not simply “believing that …” but “believing in …”

          Ironically enough, this is a feature of the way science-minded people approach knowledge too.

          I have never seen the primary scientific literature that supports the notion that the Earth orbits the Sun or that DNA is the basis of heredity, and I doubt I’d be able to understand it if I did. But I trust that there are people with the ability to understand it, and I believe that empirical evidential inquiry is such a cumulative, competitive pursuit that it would be difficult to concoct a secret conspiracy about these matters if there weren’t evidence behind them.

          Religious faith shouldn’t contradict what we know about the universe; the dynamic whereby religion benefits by getting people to profess belief in falsehoods like creationism is its greatest weakness. But people’s faith in scientific authority is the same sort of credulity; it just makes them believe whatever nutty ideas they hear so long as the ideas are couched in science words.

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

          Don’t use the f-word to mean two very different things.

          When you do, people jump all over you, and then you get to say, “I don’t believe that and never said that” and then you wonder why people around here are so obtuse. Again.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Don’t use the f-word to mean two very different things.

          I thought it meant belief with insufficient evidence. Since we’re not privy to the specific research and the primary literature, we just believe even though we can’t really assess the sufficiency of the evidence.

          Science is another of the symbolic, metaphorical constructs we use to make sense of the universe. We trust in the honesty and capability of scientists and research programs not because we know what really goes on in these programs, but because they tell us what we want to hear.

        • Kodie

          What do you call denial or dismissal pending sufficient evidence? You jump ahead to accuse people of believing without skepticism or research the pronouncements of “science” as if science comes from, like, Fox News, and that we’re all drooling morons ready to repeat whatever sounds good and “fits,” and you’re up on your high horse, dismissing things that aren’t yet proven or disproven, like a theist, who can’t wait and substitutes god for any and all causes yet to be researched, proven or disproven. Without sufficient time to develop experiments and see them through to the other side, you are just declaring everything you, or we, don’t know yet to be untrue!

          What kind of hubris is that?

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

          Yes, that is a good definition. So then do we have “faith” in science?

          I submit that we actually have beaucoup evidence that science delivers. No one pretends that it’s 100%, but the scientific consensus is a safe bet.

          We trust trustworthy scientists.

          I’m drawing a distinction here between the scientific consensus (reliable) and the cutting edge represented by articles in popular-level media (not so much).

        • Kodie

          I don’t think Anton is drawing a distinction. He has a category of subjects he is extremely doubtful of ever being sufficiently researched, and lumps them in with pseudo-science. Even though he is no scientist, I’m no scientist, and I believe you do not claim to be any sort of scientist, Bob, we’re all just clinging to promises that have yet to be delivered, except Anton, who is smartly not only doubting, but dismissing these things from the get-go, with homeopathy and astrology, etc. There’s no way, since he can’t conceive of something, that a knowledgeable researcher can fathom the depths of a subject none of us are familiar with to the extent of ever finding an answer, so we should all just save our money and stay in the dark, because he has declared it to be insubstantial and bunk-a-rony. He seems pretty sure that any of their findings will be glommed onto by pseudo-intellectual non-scientists who are gullible enough to believe anyone wearing a lab coat.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          I’m drawing a distinction here between the scientific consensus (reliable) and the cutting edge represented by articles in popular-level media (not so much).

          As valid a distinction as they come.

        • Kodie

          Why do you do the thing you say you shouldn’t do?

        • smrnda

          My take is when I talk about trust, I mean something like “I trust person X to do Y.” The existence of the person is not a matter of faith or speculation, but one of relatively solid knowledge. I’d say ‘take Jesus at his word’ is a bit different – Jesus isn’t able to walk in the door right now or anything, and we have accounts from other people about what Jesus said. I

          When people compare trust in god to trust in a person, I realize that the big difference is that I know the people exist, but god remains a bit elusive there.

          I mean, if I said I trusted someone I see everyday, that’s a bit different than me trusting someone I have only chatted with online, who *may not be who they say they are.*

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

          That’s a relevant progression. The evidence for God/Jesus is weaker still.

        • MNb

          “And then she tries to say that these two sets of definitions are completely at odds.”
          Yep. This point I grant to you. I am not convinced (yet?) that science and religion are mutually exclusive, as much I would like it. In my terminology: a priori faith and knowledge don’t have to contradict each other.

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

          You can have a hunch or guess or dream or faith that X is true and then work to see if evidence supports it. The benzene oroboros story would be an example.

          But you’re not saying that faith is a reliable path to the truth, are you? Or that it alone is useful?

        • MNb

          Define useful. This is a tricky path to walk. Before you know you have to reject large chunks of mathematics because they aren’t useful either.

          “You can have a hunch or guess or dream or faith that X is true and then work to see if evidence supports it”
          This is why I prefer continental philosophy of science. This is by definition not faith. Faith is by definition about things that cannot be supported nor refuted by empirical evidence. Anglo-Saxon philosophy of science tends to mix them up. I refer to “christians are filled with the holy spirit” above.
          If you want to reject theism exactly because faith can’t then you have to explain why. And – how nice – that’s what philosophy can do for you (yes, I’m promoting a certain compatriot again).

          “But you’re not saying that faith is a reliable path to the truth, are you?”
          Once again: in the end I don’t know what the word truth means, so I don’t really understand this question. What I am saying is this: we should be very, very skeptical – if we want to call ourselves skeptics indeed – about the claim that faith always and everywhere produces results that conflict with science, given the defintion that faith-statements are not testable.
          Incompatibilism (of faith and knowledge the way I define them or of religion and science) is an extraordinary claim. And we all know what that means. Imo both PZ Meyers and JA Coyne are totally unconvincing in this respect. They both are very good at giving examples which confirm their incompatibilism but make hardly any effort to find examples which may refute it. Moreover they lack a good theory to explain incompatibilism.
          And I don’t dig it when scientists use lower standards for themselves as soon as it suits them.

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

          the claim that faith always and everywhere produces results that conflict with science, given the defintion that faith-statements are not testable.

          Are you saying that faith statements may, by happenstance, give results that coincide with what science says? Sure.

        • MNb

          It goes a lot further. We agree that science cannot answer all questions: should we prefer The Beatles or The Monkeys, Mozart or Haydn? Are genocide and slavery morally reprehensible? The theist might claim that there is yet another field of research (in the broadest meaning of the word) which is not accessible for science. Call it the transcendental reality, to which god (if there is any) belongs. Induction fails here. Hence the theist relies on revelation and deduction. We might call that method faith. As long as this method doesn’t cross the line between transcendental reality and material reality faith hardly can produce results that conflict with science, just like arguing that The Monkeys made better music than The Beatles (no matter how controversial) never conflicts with science.
          I don’t buy it, but obviously “science and faith are incompatible” is not nearly good enough to explain why. Fortunately for us atheists here your favourite question is handy: what has faith (defined as above) done for us lately?
          Even more fortunately I think it can be shown that this method I call faith can’t produce consistent and coherent results. Swinburne obvously disagrees.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          We agree that science cannot answer all questions: should we prefer The Beatles or The Monkeys, Mozart or Haydn? Are genocide and slavery morally reprehensible?

          I’m glad to hear some acknowledgment that science isn’t the final arbiter on all human knowledge, and that there are important questions it’s not equipped to answer. I don’t think anyone’s search for meaning should contradict what we understand through science, and it’s fair enough to debunk claims that religious people make that run counter to scientific and historical research.

          However, meaning isn’t a scientific matter, particularly the meaning of Being itself.

        • MNb

          You’re glad in vain. Science is the final arbiter on all human knowledge. Questions which science can’t answer don’t contribute anything to knowledge, no matter how you answer them. Such answers are called opinions. That’s a matter of proper terminology, not the strongest point of theists, even if they are non-theists like you.
          Best wishes and especially clear thinking for 2014.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          Science is the final arbiter on all human knowledge. Questions which science can’t answer don’t contribute anything to knowledge

          :rolleyes:

          Okay. Sorry to have overestimated you. I promise it won’t happen again.

        • MNb

          When you type this it’s a compliment. Thanks.

        • Compuholic

          I am not convinced (yet?) that science and religion are mutually exclusiveIn my terminology […] a priori faith and knowledge don’t have to contradict each other.

          You are right: A priori faith and knowledge don’t have to contradict each other: If you happen to have faith in the correct stuff from the start.

          That is a very weird way of putting it and I don’t see how science plays into this. Because science is not so much about knowledge, it is about how you arrive at that knowledge. And that is where the two are fundamentally incompatible:

          Scientists try to eliminate faith whereever possible. There are usually many ways to explain a certain effect. And you don’t just pick one and hope for the best. You actually do tests to find out which explanation is actually true. If you happen to have an opinion about how something works in the first place, a real scientist must try to prove himself wrong. And speaking from experience here: This is the hardest part.

          But only in very rare cases you can actually confirm your suspicion. Most of the time you can only reject competing hypothesis which does not imply that your hypothesis is correct. So your conclusion is always tentative and needs to be adjusted when new evidence comes along.

          (Religious) faith never does any of this. And that is why one thing is a path to knowledge and the other one is not and therefore they are fundamentally incompatible.

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

          I could have faith that my next coin flip with be tails and–sure enough!–it is. My faith was correct, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a reliable route to the truth.

        • Compuholic

          I believe that was exactly what i was saying, though not as concise

        • MNb

          Define truth.
          Furthermore your example only shows that a belief system shouldn’t contain testable statements. One example is “christians are filled with the holy spirit”. It’s nonsensical to me as it is to you, but that’s not nearly enough to decide that it conflicts with science.

        • MNb

          “If you happen to have faith in the correct stuff from the start.”
          Or happen to have a kind of faith that somehow doesn’t conflict with science. We are getting close to NOMA here. That it doesn’t work in practice (because of theists acting dumb) doesn’t mean it necessarily never works. What I have in mind is pastafarianism.

          “that is where the two are fundamentally incompatible”
          That’s a premature conclusion.

          “faith never does any of this”
          So the conclusion must be: faith shouldn’t even try.

          “why one thing is a path to knowledge and the other one is not”
          That’s a circular argument as soon as one rejects the claim that faith can produce knowledge. I reject that claim indeed. Faith is by definition not about knowing, it is about believing, ie accepting statements without using induction. As long as those statements don’t conflict with science there is no problem. The theist still runs the risk of the god of the gaps (ie at some point science will refute such a statement based on faith). But it is still conceivable that some of such statements don’t run that risk by being unfalsifiable and still logically consistent and coherent. Again: pastafarianism does a pretty good job.
          Of course I immediately admit that the vast majority of believers worldwide indeed holds ideas that conflict with the outcomes of scientific results. This even applies to the smart ones like Craig and Plantinga (and his Dutch colleagues).
          Swinburne is a hard nut to crack though. I’m not aware of any statement put forward by Swinburne that collides with science.

        • Compuholic

          Faith is by definition not about knowing, it is about believing, ie accepting statements without using induction.

          So in other words faith is belief in something without actually knowing anything about this something. Doesn’t sound like a worthy objective to me.

          Or happen to have a kind of faith that somehow doesn’t conflict with science. We are getting close to NOMA here.

          Sure, but that kind of faith must never interact with the world around us because that is the domain of science and all interactions in the real world are measurable in one way or another.

        • MNb

          Exactly. You’ll recognize that many theists have accepted this after all the defeats religion has suffered from science in this department. Examples may be religious scientists like Francis Collins and Kenneth Miller.

          “Doesn’t sound like a worthy objective to me.”
          Neither to me, but the answer of the theist will be very simple: “to me it is; show me why I’m wrong”.
          This blog having the motto “Clear thinking about Christianity” I don’t think we should give this brand of christians a free pass. Then we must avoid attacking strawmen.
          Tackling loons like Ken Ham and the IDiots from Seattle is easy. Tackling smarties like Craig and Plantinga is not too hard either. Tackling people like Swinburne, Armstrong, Collins and Miller is a lot harder. Their lack of clarity doesn’t help.

    • http://batman-news.com Anton

      Karl, you’ll have to excuse Bob for being unaware of the words of
      Tillich from The Dynamics of Faith: “One of the worst errors of theology and popular religion is to make statements which intentionally or unintentionally contradict the structure of reality.”

      Sam Harris likes to deride Tillich as “the parish of one,”
      as if his definitions are unworthy of mention because they don’t
      represent mainstream Christian belief. I think neo-atheists aren’t
      particularly well-versed in the philosophy of thinkers who are just
      as opposed to supernaturalism as nonbelievers, not to mention that
      they simply like shooting fish in a barrel.

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

        Agreed! If atheists had to take on the actual issues, they’d realize that their thinking is empty in a moment!

        Thanks for the Tillich quote. Were you just passing time, or was this supposed to be relevant to our conversation? If the latter, I completely missed it (not surprising, I imagine, for an atheist who is ignorant and prefers to hide from the actual arguments).

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          If atheists had to take on the actual issues, they’d realize that their thinking is empty in a moment!

          I’d settle for them realizing that they don’t hold the Monopoly cards for the properties of Reason Railroad and Logic Lane. Plenty of prominent believers have criticized popular religion for pandering to people’s credulity. I could just imagine arch-ironist Kierkegaard chortling along with Bob’s jocular jabs at the edifice of fundie folly. Though eighteenth-century wi-fi was not too reliable.

        • Izzy

          what are the “actual” issues? What more than pointing to you that you have no real evidence thus you can’t depend on reason and have to resort to faith do you need for actual issue?

          If you want to discuss actual issues where you can back it up with evidence, please, speak up.

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

          what are the “actual” issues?

          That first paragraph was all sarcasm. (Anton had turned into Mr. Hyde for a moment and seemed to be asking for it.)

          If you still have a question, let me know.

    • MNb

      If they don’t they are as so often trying to obfuscate matters. The branch that tries to confirm faith by looking for evidence, whatever that means, is called natural theology, philosophy of religion or apologetics.

  • FullertonXJ

    “In fact, faith is the worst decision-making and analytical tool possible. You don’t use faith to cross a busy street, or learn French, or treat malaria. It provides no method for distinguishing between true and false propositions. Faith doesn’t provide a reliable answer but simply discourages further questions. ”

    Also, consider the possibility that the punishment for choosing the wrong religion may be unimaginably dire (eternal damnation). Why on earth would any sensible person use an unreliable epistemic as faith to evaluate such an important matter? Seems to me like religion should be the area of religionists’ lives that should warrant the most frequent and careful use of reason, not the least.

    • MNb

      “consider the possibility”
      Done so. Eternity in heaven doesn’t look better to me than eternal damnation. Vastly superior to both is Nirvana a la buddhism.

  • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/28/jesus-radical-nonviolent_n_4512335.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

    I like the quote, and the slide show about all the places that don’t exist is pretty cool, too.

    • Pofarmer

      So there were things built in first century Judah?

      • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

        Amazing, isn’t it? And all those place names, I think I read them somewhere… oh, yes…

        Bible.

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

          I’m convinced! The Bible refers to the names of rivers, places, and kings. The whole darn thing, miracles and god claims included, must be true.

          That’s why I believe “The Wizard of Oz” is history–Dorothy came from Kansas and I’ve actually been there!

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          I have read from both you, Bob, and pofarmer that the Bible contains nothing worth knowing. That it is not history, cannot claim or pretend to be history — yet here it is, part of history.

          You laugh, and don’t even know what you’re laughing at.

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

          the Bible contains nothing worth knowing.

          I’ve never said that.

          You laugh, and don’t even know what you’re laughing at.

          I laugh at some of the stuff you write. (It’s either that or cry.)

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          Really? You think the Bible has material worth knowing?
          These are your posts —

          10 Reasons the Crucifixion Story Makes No Sense
          20 Arguments Against Abortion, Rebutted
          How Could an Atheist Convert to Christianity?
          Polytheism in the Bible
          What Did Paul Know About Jesus? Not Much
          Five Intuitive Pro-Choice Arguments
          The ONE Bias That Cripples Every Christian Apologetic Argument
          “I Used to be an Atheist, Just Like You”
          How Science Works (and How Christianity Thinks it Wins)
          The Parable of the Professor and the Rocks

          I have read you say at least a dozen times that quoting the Bible proves nothing, that the Bible is unreliable, that Jesus Christ did not exist…

          Now you deny that you have denied.

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

          Wrong again. I never argued that the Bible has not a single word of truth, simply that it has many words of falsehood.

          Surely this distinction isn’t difficult to grasp.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          Who, or what, is your authority to determine which of the Bible’s words are true and which are not?

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

          Just me.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          Thank you.

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

          And you?

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          I had to agree, to become Christian, that I would ‘submit’ to the authority of the Church. The language makes it sound more dramatic than it is – we modern people think of all submission as being inherently evil – yet submission to God is the greatest good a person can do, IMHO.

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

          How do you weigh the demand of your church to submit and the equivalent demand of some other religion? You could submit to Allah or Shiva or lots of other gods.

          Maybe you’ve backed the wrong horse.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          I think we’ve covered that in the posts above. Plus I feel no attraction whatsoever to those faiths.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s not really much of a metric.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          It is not math. I was raised in Western culture, and am predisposed to Christianity as ‘the’ religion to affirm or deny.

        • Kodie

          It is not math, but it is marketing. If you can believe it, going on very little, as far as I can tell, it just means you bought what they’re selling. It doesn’t make it true. It doesn’t make Hinduism false – you are predisposed to reject perhaps the true religion of the world because of geography!

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          Most ‘Christian marketing’ is terrible. It’s either entertainment or hellfire or some combination of the two. I was nearly ‘unsold’ on God thanks to Christian marketing.

          I don’t understand why I must prove other religions false in order to believe in Christ.

        • JohnH2

          If you were in Syria and the Islamists came your town and held a knife your neck and told you to convert to Islam and profess Mohammad as God’s prophet or die, what would you do and why? Would you die as a Christian, as so many have, or would you become the newest member of the Jihad and offer that same choice to your friends and family?

          Is religion something that is done in a marketplace or is it something that is an inherent part of reality which is either true or false with no reference to whether you or anyone else believes it to be true or false?

          You say you believe in Christ, the question is why? Is the answer because that is the culturally appropriate thing to do, as you appear to have suggested? You appear to be some form of Catholic, unless I am reading what you have said wrong, so why Catholic and not some other denomination? Why Christian instead of Hindu? Does it matter whether one is Hindu or Christian, Catholic or Protestant or Evangelical or Restorationist?

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          I would die a Christian.

          I’m sorry, I don’t understand the second question.

          Why believe in Christ? When I had to accept that there was a God, and I am not Him (reference to the movie ‘Rudy’), I searched for the best expression of God that I could find.

          I am not ashamed, or surprised, that I leaned towards Christianity, and consider it a blessing that I live in a place where I am free to pick and choose a faith, or choose no faith at all.

          For me, the catholic faith is the fullest expression of the faith. I dragged my spouse to all sorts of churches and all kinds of ‘worship services,’ until I knew that the oldest, most ancient church was right for me.

          I cannot answer why be one thing and not another. I still respect an individual’s right to choose their own path.

        • JohnH2

          Second question, regardless of what one chooses as their path is there truth independent of the path one chooses?

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          Thank you. Truth is a person. The person is Jesus Christ. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He said.

        • JohnH2

          Any chance you want to finish that quote? “No one comes to the Father except through me.”, I mean obviously the statement of Jesus being the way is enough.

          I can’t pretend to understand your position, As I understand what you have said you have said things that contradict that statement and/or are otherwise wrong on three kinds of levels given that you are nominally Catholic (and therefore nominally hold to the councils and the CCC, in addition to shared scripture). However, I more think that I don’t understand what you are trying to say and I don’t know how to pin you down so as to not be incomprehensible to me.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          Thank you for finishing the quote. I did not leave it out, it just didn’t occur to me to include it.

          I have not spoken my church affiliation, and I am unsure if I am comfortable doing so. I’ve acted badly, and wrongly, and in good conscious cannot represent anything other than myself.

        • JohnH2

          If you aren’t Roman Catholic then you have to be Orthodox.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          Am I still wrong on three kinds of levels?

        • JohnH2

          No, the councils that fully express that sentiment are not ones the Orthodox church accepts and while the doctrine is expressed in Orthodox Christianity, it being Orthodox Christianity there isn’t a need to adhere to that particular interpretation.

          There is still the question of the scripture (and others like it) but based on what I know, you aren’t taking it wrongly and your interpretation is probably not entirely wrong either, though the theology on why and how it is right is frustratingly unclear (from my point of view within my faith),

          I have a much better idea of what you are trying to say.

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

          Yes, I’m sure you’re just a product of your environment.

          There are eight countries in which the fraction of Muslims is greater than 99%. When a baby grows up to be an ardent Muslim, is that because Islam is true or because they are a product of their culture?

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          Islam is certainly true to itself, and if a baby grows up a Muslim in a Muslim country, that seems like low-impact decision on his part.

          I, personally, would investigate and inspect and dig into it before joining. Yet I am allowed that freedom – I don’t know if I would be so brave in a culture where apostasy meant death.

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

          Death and apostasy aren’t the issue. I’m simply observing that people are often (not always, of course) a product of their culture.

          That doesn’t say much for the truth of the religious claims.

        • Kodie

          Lol, so you feel no attraction to them, they must be wrong. I feel no attraction to Christianity, so it must be wrong.

          But that’s not why I’m not a Christian. (I will wait for you to ask me why I’m not, and then I will be coy for 17 posts and never really get around to anything you could call a good reason – oh wait, that’s you).

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          It was how I behaved, and I was shamed by your retort. I’m attempting to do better.

        • Pofarmer

          So, you just give your brain over to the church? I think there are some posts somewhere about how religion sabotages critical thinking.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          I put my mind to work in and for the Church. Critical thinking is required.

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

          I like that thought, but I confess that I’m doubtful.

          You seem to have a very low demand for evidence from Christianity. Would you have such a low demand for another religion, like Scientology or Bahai or Shinto?

          I suspect that the reason you’re a Christian is because of special pleading–a tough demand for evidence … except for the religion you’ve already decided you want to win the contest.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          I don’t feel I had that much choice. At that point in my life I was courting death. I was killing myself in a number of ways, nothing was working, and life was hell. God saved me from that life and gave me a new life. Same exterior, but with a new interior.

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

          So you don’t claim that you became a Christian through evidence? Sounds like an internal transition that was important to you but would convince no one else.

        • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

          I’m still trying to figure out what qualifies as evidence. Posting here is an education.

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

          You seem to be interested in learning others’ views, which is much appreciated. Not everyone is so inclined.

        • MNb

          Except when it comes to doubt things like the existence of god, the reliability of the Bible and stuff like that. Then critical thinking is thrown out of the window.
          There is a word for it. That word is dogma. That words means “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true” and is as such exactly the opposite of critical thinking.
          Mmmmhh, perhaps religious thinking is incompatible with scientific thinking after all. I need to ponder this issue a bit. So thanks, I seem to have learned something from you, though not exactly what you’d like to teach me.

        • Kodie

          How do you figure?

        • Fred

          “yet submission to God is the greatest good a person can do, IMHO”

          That’s called setting the bar so low you can barely stand to look at it.

        • MNb

          Historians of Antiquity like Jona Lendering. One excellent principle is Testis Unus Testis Nullus. Guess what? Those topographical names you mention are mentioned in independent sources as well. Even Pontius Pilatus is!
          Yup, the Bible is reliable as long as it’s confirmed by independent sources. Otherwise not so much. Surprise! Exactly zero of the miracle stories have independent confirmation. Now how could that be possible?
          Yup again – History of Antiquity has an answer to that one too. The Ancient authors didn’t care about separating fact and fiction. That’s a modern hobby, slowly becoming en vogue since 1500 or so.
          Science is wonderful, so much more wonderful than faith in a dubious divine revelation. In sport I like to root for the underdog, but here I rather root for the winner. And science always wins.

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t know who he thinks he’s arguing against. I don’t think anyone has ever said that there aren’t actual Geographic places listed in the bible. If this is the new, more better apologetics, then wow.

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

          I’ve heard this Argument from Accurate Place Names before, but it’s such a paltry argument, I’m not sure it’s worth an entire post to rebut.

        • Kodie

          I can’t figure out what your argument is, but your leaps of logic are huge!

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, that logic proves Achilles, Hercules, King Arther, Harry Potter, and all the John Grisham novels. Brilliant.