# Innovative Responses to the Fine-Tuning Argument

Several years ago, I attended a lecture by John Lennox, an Oxford mathematics professor turned evangelist. He touched briefly on the fine-tuning argument, only to say that it doesn’t exclude God. Okay, that’s true, but “you haven’t excluded God yet” isn’t much of an apologetic argument.

I’ve discussed the role of the multiverse in dismissing the fine-tuning argument here, here, and most recently here. This time, I’d like to look at a few less-well-known arguments.

Coarse Tuning

The first argument that undercuts the fine-tuning argument comes from the article, “Probabilities and the Fine-Tuning Argument.”

First, start with the fine-tuning argument. We have a handful of physical constants so carefully balanced that if any of them were tweaked by the tiniest amount, life in the universe would be impossible.

Imagine an n-dimensional space, with one axis for each of the different constants we’re considering. Assume that these constants can (in principle) be anything. There’s a tiny volume in this space within which life is possible, but the total space is infinite in size. What’s the probability that you’d hit the sweet spot by chance? Tiny volume ÷ infinite space = 0, so the probability is zero. And that’s the punch line for this argument: if the likelihood of randomly hitting this life-giving sweet spot is infinitesimally small, there must be a designer.

Now, imagine that the volume is actually quite large—that is, that the values that define our universe could be changed in any dimension by ten orders of magnitude. This is the coarse-tuning situation. If we’re in the middle of a sweet spot that’s this huge—it’s 10 billion on each side—who would be making the fine-tuning argument now? But the problem remains! That vastly bigger volume ÷ infinite space is still zero. The likelihood of randomly hitting this sweet spot remains infinitesimally small, but we’ve agreed that this is not remarkable. Conclusion: the punch line that implies a designer fails. Said another way, the fine-tuning argument is no stronger than the coarse-tuning argument. Why then would no apologist make a coarse-tuning argument?

Monkey God

Physicist Vic Stenger directly confronts the fine-tuning argument with his Monkey God experiment (article here and simulation here). He takes four constants from which can be computed the average lifetime of a star, the size of planets, and other traits that would predict whether a universe might allow life. His simulation randomly varies these constants within a range five orders of magnitude higher and five lower than their actual values to see what kind of universe the combination creates. His conclusion: “A wide variation of constants of physics has been shown to lead to universes that are long-lived enough for complex matter to evolve.” We know so little about life that there is little to say about whether life would come from this complex matter, but this seems a strong counterexample.

Atheist Single Universe Hypothesis

Another response is Keith Parsons’ critique of the Atheist Single Universe Hypothesis (ASUH). The fine-tuning argument says that the ASUH is very unlikely. The multiverse is the obvious atheist response, but the ASUH imagines a single universe. What response is possible if the multiverse isn’t an option?

If there is only one universe, Parsons wonders, what sense does it make to say that the constants that define that universe could be something else? How could they be anything without other universes for them to be in? “If the universe is the ultimate brute fact, it is neither likely nor unlikely, probable or improbable; it simply is.” We don’t have billions of universes to evaluate, some designed and some natural, so that we have some probabilistic framework in which to place our own universe. Therefore, imagining that we can evaluate the likelihood of our own poorly understood universe makes no sense. Our universe looks designed? Compared to what?

We must say that the values of the constants are neither probable nor improbable; they just are. In that case, as the proponent of the ASUH sees it, the only rational expectation of the values of the constants is that they will be whatever we find them to be.

ASUH supporters posit the universe and its laws as brute, inexplicable facts, but Christian apologists do the same. They posit God as a brute, inexplicable fact.

Parsons concludes by turning the fine-tuning argument on the apologist. If we’re insanely lucky to be in a life-friendly universe, there must have been a supernatural Fine Tuner to create this universe. But we must recursively apply this same thinking to the Fine Tuner. There’s a myriad of conceivable supernatural beings. Christians must marvel at our good fortune to have one who wanted us (rather than any of the infinite number of other possible intelligent life forms) and had the power to fine tune the universe so that we’re here to seek out this Creator.

Evaluating all the probabilities

Is the fine-tuning argument even well formed? It says:

1. The probability of Hypothesis 1 is very small

2. Therefore, Hypothesis 2 is true

Wait a minute—let’s find out the probability of Hypothesis 2 before we make any conclusions!

We’re evaluating the probability of our universe with its parameters (H1) against the probability of God (H2) without having any idea what the probability of God is. And since the fine-tuning argument is trying to establish the probability of God, it’s circular reasoning if that’s one of the inputs to the process!

One snappy answer is to say that most people throughout history have been theists, so atheist skepticism at least loses the popularity contest. However, this unanimity falls apart when we ask these theists the most basic questions: How many gods are there? What are their names? Why are humans here, and what is our purpose with respect to these god(s)? Pick any religion, and the majority of the world thinks that its answers to those questions are wrong.

What does the theist admit when using this argument?

Consider the theist’s desperation in advancing an argument like this. For most plausible claims of existence, we are given evidence. You want to know what “the sun” is? Just look up on a sunny day. Sometimes it’s direct evidence, though sometimes it’s evidence through instruments (telescopes, microscopes, etc.).

For God, though, we get just a vague shadow. If God loves us and desperately wants us to know him, he would make his existence known. He doesn’t.

So—option B—we assume God’s existence (for no good reason, but ignore that for now) and say that he wants to be an enigma for his own reasons that are unknowable to us. This thinking is necessary for the fine-tuning argument. But, of course, if he wanted to be hidden, he would be so! If you’re playing hide and seek with God, you will lose. He’s God—he could leave no trace, and there would be no enigma.

That leaves only option C for the Christian: that God deliberately leaves just the vaguest of clues—only enough to tease the seeker. This is rarely enough to give complete confidence, so the Christian is always on edge, never quite sure whether he’s got it right or that he’s going to hell. The Christian is like a pigeon in a B.F. Skinner experiment on intermittent reinforcement.

Mother Teresa wrote about her doubts, “The damned of hell suffer eternal punishment because they experiment with the loss of God. In my own soul, I feel the terrible pain of this loss. I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God and that he does not really exist.”

By arguing for deistic arguments like the fine-tuning argument, apologists argue for this trickster god.

The skeptical mind prefers to rest in the mystery of the visible world

without going beyond it to a further invisible mystery.
— John Hick

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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• CodyGirl824

Bob,

Perhaps you will consider this comment to be off-topic, but I write to express my objections to your use of this quote from Mother Teresa, austensibly to bolster your case about how Christians argue (according to you) about fine-tuning. Yes, Mother Teresa (now a saint in the Catholic Church) went through some painful periods of doubt. Most of the autobiographies we have of great saints, Christian mystics and spiritual role models also tell us about these periods. Think of it like a marriage. Most of us go through periods of doubt about our marriage vows. Some of us bail out, others hang in there and fulfill our vows for a lifetime. Mother Teresa never renounced her vows, despite these doubts.

If you are using Mother Teresa as an example of Christians’ supposed arguments about a topic like fine-tuning, just be aware that your reasons for doing so may be completely baffling, and possibly counter-productive to your purposes, for some of the visitors to your website. PS: I will never forgive Christopher Hitchens for his mean-spirited and relentless attack on Mother Teresa.

• RichardSRussell

Mother Teresa, like Christianity as a whole and faith in general, has a wholly undeserved good reputation completely at odds with the underlying reality. As one well informed observer of her career remarked, she didn’t love the poor, she loved poverty for what it did to the poor.

• CodyGirl824

This is only this person’s opinion, and yours, of course. Do you think that Pope Frances’ objections to economic inequality stem from a lack of love for the poor or a fear of what getting out of poverty might deprive them of spiritually? I don’t know what “underlying reality” you are referring to here, but if all Christians and all churches lived up to Jesus’ teachings about the poor in the Gospel, the world would most certainly be a better place.

• RichardSRussell

Do you think that Pope Francis and Mother Teresa are the same person? I was criticizing the latter, not the former.

The “underlying reality” I was referring to includes pretty much everything Christopher Hitchens wrote in his biography of Mother Teresa, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. I certainly don’t expect you to read the whole book, but you can get thru the Wikipedia article on it in under 10 minutes, following which you’ll see how the aphorism about idols having feet of clay holds true for real-life idolatry as well.

• CodyGirl824

Oh, Jesus! For Christopher Hitchens to have written a book for the popular market attacking a woman who made it her ministry to wipe the fevered brows and other soiled parts of the bodies of patients dying of AIDS that the rest of society had abandoned is the height of capitalistic and atheistic arrogance and corruption. Of course, metaphorically, human “idols” have feet of clay but Mother Teresa is not an idol. She is a flesh and blood woman who made great sacrifices to carry Jesus’ love and healing grace to the poor. Would your feet, clay or otherwise, be willing to walk where her feet walked? Is Christopher Hitchens who atheists consider to be their role model?

• ElderMusician

“…. but Mother Teresa is not an idol.”

What in the name of heavens do you think a “saint” in the Catholic Church is, but an idol???!!! You don’t think that Catholics pray to/thru Mother Teresa as they do all their saints / idols?

I’m reminded of the saying that there are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

• 90Lew90

Mother Teresa was an embezzler and a fraud who embraced misery and did nothing to alleviate it. She made millions of dollars disappear — puff!. She had untrained staff looking after children at her orphanages, where those children were kept chained to their beds. She neglected equipment worth millions donated to her foundation. It was never used. She cosied up to dictators, most notably Duvalier of Haiti, who was brutal in power and then fled the country with most of its wealth. She prescribed suffering as being good for people because suffering is akin to sharing in the Passion of Christ. Despite that, she sought the most advanced (and expensive) medical treatment in the world in the US when she had an ailment. And on top of all that, she didn’t believe in God. She was a disgusting, conniving little schmuck.

Find a report on her orphanages here: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/human-rights/2014/04/squalid-truth-behind-legacy-mother-teresa

As for “mopping the brow” of AIDS patients, she actively discouraged the use of condoms, calling contraception “the greatest threat to world peace.” She called AIDS “just retribution for improper sexual conduct.” Give me a break woman. Keep this up and you’ll make me very angry.

• CodyGirl824

How do you claim to know that Mother Teresa did not believe in God?

• 90Lew90

Because she wrote about it in her diary. When she was up for canonisation by John Paul II, her diaries were published.

It is worth quoting her (source Serena Sartari, ‘The Night of Silence’ from Inside the Vatican, November 2007; also Hitchens, ‘Teresa, Bright and Dark’; see also Bruce Johnston’s piece at telegraph.co.uk ‘Mother Teresa’s Diary Reveals Her Crisis of Faith’): “I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God and that he does not really
exist,” she wrote. “Heaven means nothing” and “I am told God loves me –and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul … I have no Faith.”

• CodyGirl824

Don’t you find it fascinating that the RCC made a woman a saint who at one point in time wrote in her diary that she had lost her faith in God?

• 90Lew90

No, I find it a typically cynical PR move by the Vatican. Not fascinating. Not even remotely surprising.

• CodyGirl824

Great PR, isn’t it, to canonize someone atheists can identify with, right?

• 90Lew90

I don’t identify with her in the least. In fact I find hypocrites loathesome. What are you implying? Do you doubt that Mother Teresa still retains a cult following? Do you doubt that many millions, in their credulity (not always, but often, wilful credulity), see her as deserving of sainthood? This is PR through and through. Why would any atheist “identify” with such a Janus-faced, cruel hypocrite? Why would any decent human applaud such cynical hypocrisy on the part of the church?

Can I remind you that John Paul II removed the age-old post of “Devil’s Advocate” in order to fast-track “saints”? He canonised more “saints” — 482 of them — in his tenure than had been made in the previous 600 years. But then, I suppose, he did embrace the doctrine of “infallibility”, instituted by the even more repugnant Pius IX. Who he made a saint.

Ask yourself: If this wasn’t a church, what would you think about it? If this was some secular organisation — say, a company which ran an international network of schools (the analogy isn’t bad, before you leap at it). What would you think?

• Kodie

Raising money to help the poor and then not helping them with that money is a felony offense. Are you saying atheists identify with a felon?

• Deanjay1961

That’s doubt and struggle, not atheism. I’m not a fan of the woman either, but her diary only establishes that her faith wavered, not that she gave it up for good.

• RichardSRussell

Mother Teresa is not an idol.

Apparently she is to you, because you are obviously blind to her flaws, failings, and phoninesses.

She is a flesh and blood woman

“Is”? Sorry to have to break it to you, but she’s dead.

Is Christopher Hitchens who atheists consider to be their role model?

I can’t speak for all atheists, but my earlier reference to “feet of clay” should have been a tip-off that I myself think that the whole idea of “role model” is a snare and a delusion.

• CodyGirl824

No, Mother Teresa is not my idol. She is a saint. And that “is” applies today. What I feel for Mother Teresa is admiration and love, not idolatry or worship. Like many saints in the history of Judaism and Christianity, she had her human flaws. These do not detract from her saintliness and the Christ-like devotion of her life’s work and ministry, which is what the Catholic Church recognized when they made her a saint.

I protested Bob Seidensticker’s use of the quotation from her personal journal because it has nothing to do with arguments about fine-tuning and is IMO, misleading about the role of doubt in Christian spiritual development. Frankly, I’m more than a bit surprised and saddened to see this piling on, using my comment as a pretext to further malign her.

• RichardSRussell

And that “is” applies today.

She is a flesh and blood woman? TODAY!!?? After being dead for 17 years? Wow, you are farther over the edge than I had thot.

• CodyGirl824

You missed my meaning. I said that MT IS a saint. That is the IS I’m referring to, because she wasn’t a saint according to the Catholic Church the day she died, but she IS today. I never expected to feel like Bill Clinton on this blog, having to explain what the meaning of “is” is, but hey, life is full of surprises.

• hector_jones

You have been caught repeatedly saying something ridiculous, having it pointed out to you that your words are ridiculous, then you reply by insisting that you never said what you actually said. This is pretty much all you ever do. Fuck you.

You are misinformed, btw. Mother Teresa isn’t a Catholic Saint. So far she has only been beatified, which is a step toward possible sainthood, but she hasn’t reached sainthood yet.

Do you have anything to say, about what this post is really about, namely the Fine Tuning Argument? Or are you just going to do what you always do – never address head on what people say to you, but instead dodge and weave, duck and spin, always changing the topic from something you can’t honestly respond to, to something you think you can score a cheap point over, then bobbing and shifting once again when a person shows you how stupid you are.

I see you really as nothing more than an internet troll and am not going to waste any more time on you, other than to say once again, Fuck you.

• CodyGirl824

I was mistaken. I thought that she had been canonized. Thanks for pointing this out.

If you think that my comments are a waste of time, why do you read and comment on them?

• 90Lew90

Some people are outraged when they spot plain, outright, lies. Come on Cody. Do you think we came up the road in a bubble? I for one am paying attention to what you write here. And it’s not altogether rewarding. How’s your “Zen Master” son doing these days? Chortle!

• CodyGirl824

This is the truth. My son is an ordained Buddhist priest. Everything I said about him is true. What reason would I have to invent such a story? Obviously, I’m not posting here on this blog to win friends and influence colleagues. I’m accused of being a liar when one of you simply disagrees with me, but now I’m accused of being a liar for revealing information about my family! You people are, to put it mildly, not very nice. Do you really wonder why there is so much prejudice in our society against atheists?

• 90Lew90

I knew you were going to do that. “Ordained Buddhist priest”? Yeah, I can buy that. No problem. But you spiced it up a bit, didn’t you Mom, and added that he’s a “Zen Master”. GUFFAW! (This is the THIRD ‘GUFFAW’ you’ve elicited from me in ONE DAY! Usually they’re weeks and months apart, and from different people. ‘GUFFAW’ is what you get from me when I decide you’re beneath contempt.)

All I ask is that you don’t treat me like I’m a dick. You’re treating me like I’m a dick. And you’re doing so while wheeling out Andy Pandy nonsense and expecting to be taken seriously. Sorry, but…

• hector_jones

Try this comment for another guffaw.

• wtfwjtd

There’s too many by our resident troll to list! But, surely, that one is one of the stupidest I’ve ever seen.

• hector_jones

I don’t know why but disqus doesn’t always show an entire thread when you click on a comment.

• wtfwjtd

Holy Shit, that reply may be even stupider yet, if that’s possible. I really hate to see the comments here being hijacked by such a self-preening, stupid troll.

• 90Lew90

Oh OK then. Fucksake! GUFFAW!!! That’s four in twelve hours. Damn! *slaps table* My work [beer] here is done. I’m gonna have to go to bed.

• hector_jones

Pleasant dreams.

• Greg G.

Disqus shows a partial thread leading to the quote you are replying to. It will only show a certain number of posts so if the thread is long enough, it won’t show others. If it isn’t that long, it will show the lists of posts, I suppose it orders them according to your selected preference. I notice that Disqus gets sluggish when there is a huge thread and you have them all open so showing just the pertinent posts is probably a good thing.

• 90Lew90

Oh that’s just a ‘chortle’. Out loud, yes, but not a GUFFAW!

• hector_jones

The guffaw comes in her reply to my reply. I thought disqus would show it all but it seems when you link a comment like that you don’t see the replies to it. I don’t see them.

• MNb

I have noticed it too.

• Greg G.

I figured out how to find the link for a post. Hover over the “Share” next to the “Reply” button. Three icons should appear: one for Twitter, one for Facebook, and one I can’t identify but I think it is a “Link” so if you right-click, you should have an option to copy the link location, depending on your browser.

• hector_jones

Oh and that shows the replies to the comment too? I’ll edit my above comment accordingly. Thanks.

• Greg G.

I believe it does not show the replies to it.

• hector_jones

Yeah it makes no difference. Oh well.

• hector_jones

I tested that and it doesn’t seem to make any difference. I was getting the link from the time of the comment at the top right of each comment, where it says e.g. ‘4 minutes ago’. Hover over that and you get the direct link. It seems to be the same link as you get from the share method. I don’t really get how disqus works exactly.

• Greg G.

Hovering over the date shows the date and time it was posted. Hovering over the name of person being replied to shows the beginning of the post, which I never realized, so that is helpful to follow the conversation. At the right there is a button that lets you copy a link but it is not for the link.

I’m using Firefox because of the IE bug.

• hector_jones

But if you right click while hovering over the time and date you can copy the link for the comment. You get the same link as using ‘share’.

IE? What’s that?

• Greg G.

Internet Explorer. They discovered a security flaw that is present in several versions. Many experts recommend not using it until Microsoft fixes them.

• hector_jones

I was joking when I asked what IE is. I stopped using IE a decade ago because of its security flaws and general crappiness.

• CodyGirl824

This is how my son refers to himself. He lives in a Zen community and his role or rank there is as a Zen Master (Teacher). He is also the Assistant Abbot of the Zen community. As an ordained “priest” he is licensed in my state to perform marriages, etc. I will not reveal his identity so that you can verify these facts because that would not be appropriate. If I’m saying it wrong in calling my son RAL a “Zen Master, it’s not because it’s not true. It’s because his Mom is an Episcopalian and I am not fluent in the terminology for Buddhist holy men and clergy. I’m sorry that you feel mistreated, but the feeling is mutual.

• 90Lew90

What kind of Buddhism does he practice? Did he travel? Where to?

• Deanjay1961

For what it’s worth, I will take your word for it, CodyGirl.

• GubbaBumpkin

This is the truth. My son is an ordained Buddhist priest.

Fear not, this circumstance does not disqualify him from sainthood in the Holy Roman Catholic Church:

How the Buddha became a Catholic Saint

• Rudy R

I disagree with CodyGirl’s position on her belief in the Christian god, but I believe she is genuine and is trying to have a cordial debate. Question you need to ask yourself is, do you want to debate someone who agrees or disagrees with you?

• hector_jones

I don’t believe she is looking for ‘cordial’ or ‘debate’. Question you need to ask yourself is whether you had all the facts before you posted this comment. Have you read all of her comments, not just a few?

• Rudy R

I have read her comments and my comment still stands. She may not agree (or may not realize it), but a first step in deconverting from your religion is to debate people who don’t hold your same beliefs.

• hector_jones

It seems even atheists can engage in wishful thinking. I didn’t see a shred of evidence that she is on the first step to deconverting.

I don’t see how you could have read all her comments and still believe she is here for ‘debate’. She was here to lecture and to preen. You’ve really read the hundreds of comments she’s posted in a few different posts here over the past week? And the ones she posted a couple months ago under her previous name?

But don’t let me stand in the way of your efforts to deconvert her. Good luck with that.

• Pofarmer

Maybe, just maybe, she’ll look at some of the stuff that’s been presented and think. But, I rather doubt it.

• hector_jones

Well she won’t do that now because I was mean to her. I’m having a sad.

• wtfwjtd

I don’t think she’s capable of that. But, I admire your optimistic attitude, though.

• RichardSRussell

No, I did not miss your meaning. You own words were “She is a flesh and blood woman“, which I quoted exactly (twice!), so there’d be no excuse for you to misunderstand what I was referring to.

No matter how much you may try to weasel out of them or change the subject, now that I’ve pointed out how out of touch and fatuous you are (not to mention being a poor reader), the fact remains that Mother Teresa is dead. Her flesh is withered, her blood has dried, and her many faults are finally catching up with her totally undeserved good reputation — at least, to anyone who’s interested in the facts instead of mindless adulation.

• CodyGirl824

Of course I know she is dead. This conversation is really silly. I simply find it interesting to reflect on why I wrote about her using a present tense verb. I think it is a linguistic artifact of my thoughts of her as a real person and not an idol, as you suggested. Your use of the term “mindless adulation” is both insulting and untrue. If you read my comment carefully, you will see that what I most admire about her is that she kept her vows despite her doubts and loss of faith in God. If you can’t find anything admirable about MT, so be it. However, I don’t share your point of view and don’t think that Bob S.’s quotation is appropriate in the context of this discussion. Just my humble opinion, of course.

• 90Lew90

Oh you’re ever so ‘umble. More than an hour ago you said you didn’t have time to read my considered response to one of your postings, and as such, you couldn’t respond to two questions I put to you which arise from claims you have repeatedly made on this board about how to choose which bits of the Bible can be taken literally, and how the immaterial [god] interacts with the material world. I said you were avoiding those questions like the plague. You said you didn’t have time to answer them. And here you are, more than an hour later, banging on about “linguistic artifacts” and the fraud, Mother Teresa. What am I to think?

• MNb

That Cody, like so many apologists, prefers to neglect hard questions.

• Kodie

• The Teresa quote above wasn’t tossed in just to annoy you. I put it in because it was relevant to the essay.

• CodyGirl824

How so? What does Mother Teresa’s “dark night of the soul” in her spiritual journey have to do with the fine-tuning argument?

• MNb

To illustrate Option C, which follows from FTA. Have you actually tried to understand what BobS wrote?

• Kodie

• It’s all up there. I can’t explain it any better than simply to repeat it.

• Scott_In_OH

Blessed (not “Saint” yet) Teresa’s was no simple “dark night of the soul,” a bit of doubt in a journey of hope. She lived most of her life in internal anguish because she could not feel Jesus’s presence even though she never abandoned the idea that he was out there somewhere.

Read David van Bierma’s article from Time in August 2007 (“Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith”). Here’s one place to find it: http://ca.renewedpriesthood.org/page.cfm?Web_ID=967

Combined with our knowledge of how she treated the sick and suffering–telling them they should be grateful for it–it’s enough to make me consider that she had significant psychological issues, perhaps exacerbated by her understanding of Catholicism, that played out in a frightening sadism (“for their own good,” of course).

It also appears to have played out in masochism–Google “Mother Teresa and cilice” or “Mother Teresa and Opus Dei.” Some of what you will find is hearsay, but Teresa herself extolled the virtues of self-inflicted pain.

• Fallulah

Those people with soiled feet and patients dying of AIDS probably would have benefited more from medication, baths, and other accouterments bought with cash donated by good hearted people (WHERE DID THE MONEY GO???). Instead they got Mother T telling them suffering will bring them closer to God. Awful woman. Awful organization.

• Teresa said this:

One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, “You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus–a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” And she joined her hands together and said, “Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”

Yes, incredibly, she said this herself. Publicly. At her Nobel Prize ceremony, as if didn’t undercut her entire approach.

• Christopher Hitchens was chosen by the Catholic Church as the advocatus diaboli (Devil’s advocate) to help them make sure to consider both sides of the canonization question.

• hector_jones

Are you sure about this? I know Hitchens referred to himself this way as a response to critics who said things like ‘how could you?’ But I don’t think he was an official advocatus diaboli. I think that role can only be given to a Catholic who is also a lawyer in canonical law. I’m pretty sure Hitchens was neither.

• Wikipedia says, “The British-American columnist Christopher Hitchens was famously asked to testify against the beatification of Mother Teresa in 2002, a role he would later describe as being akin to “representing the Devil, as it were, pro bono”.”

I’d heard that he was the last official Devil’s Advocate, but maybe he was just acting in that capacity.

• hector_jones

I was going by this Slate article which seems to be saying that he was never an official advocatus diaboli but that he was interviewed briefly by the Vatican’s investigators about what he knew of the details of MT’s alleged miracle. Hitchens thought this was somewhat ridiculous because they failed to interview the doctor who actually treated the woman whom MT allegedly healed.

I guess we could say that Hitchens was called by the Vatican as a witness for the devil. At the very least, they took him seriously enough to talk to him.

• 90Lew90

The role was abolished by John Paul II in 1983.

• wtfwjtd

From Hitchen’s own “god is not Great”, I offer the following quote:
“I am one of the very few people who has ever taken part in the examination of a sainthood “cause, as the Roman Catholic Church calls it. In June of 2001 I was invited by the Vatican to testify at a hearing on the beatification of Agnes Bojaxhiu, an ambitious Albanian nun who had become well-known under the nom de guerre of “Mother Teresa.” Although the then pope had abolished the famous office of “Devil’s Advocate”, the better to confirm and canonize an enormous number of new “saints,” the church was still obliged to seek testimony from critics, and thus I found myself representing the devil, as it were, pro bono.”

• CodyGirl824

The Devil couldn’t have made a better choice of someone to represent him than Christopher Hitchens!

• Kodie

Where was Mother Teresa’s objective source of ethics?

• Hitchens was indeed quite skilled.

• CodyGirl824

It really is just a waste of time, all this maligning of Mother Teresa. Either she will or she won’t eventually be canonized. But in any case, I rest assured that she is in much more comfortable a place now than is Christopher Hitchens.

• Kodie

You rest assured? You rest? You’re assured? You’re an awful, awful person. You believe there’s a heaven and a hell, and you rest, you’re content, you’re at ease, with the prospect that a human being is suffering in hell. And you’re assured that Mother Teresa is in a more comfortable place than Christopher Hitchens? You know that? Or you want that to be true? You hope god agrees with your assessment, or you tell god what you would do? Be careful how you answer.

This is how theology messes up your ethics, you have none.

• Ah, yet more unsubstantiated claims. It’s like we’re on the playground.

• Norm Donnan

And isnt this the bottom line,all this “fine tuning argument” will be irrelivent when we die.All that matters is does He know you or does He say depart from Me? Mr. Hichens knows the truth now.

• 90Lew90

How’s that? The man is dead. I note that neither you nor Cody can resist a bit of smug gloating about that fact. Classy.

• Norm, you’re back! Just can’t keep a good man down, eh?

As for your comment about the afterlife, it’d be nice if there were evidence to back up Christians’ claims. I see none.

• Norm Donnan

Thanks Bob,missed all my buddys at CE as well.
I guess other peoples personal experience is good enough for me especially when I myself and many others I know and trust have had plenty of spiritual experiences ourselves,it all makes perfect sense.
You on the other hand will believe and take as absolute truth things that some scientists say happened “millions” of years ago,things that scientifically will never be observed or repeated yet you will nod your head with,”wow thats amazing”.Now thats what I call faith…or gullable !!!

• About these spiritual experiences, how do you know how to interpret them? You just going to assume beforehand that they’re all from the Christian god and interpret them that way? That’d be the most satisfying interpretation, I imagine, but I suspect that you aren’t satisfied with something that’s merely satisfying but are looking for the truth.

What if they’re from another god? What if they’re from Satan and he’s trying to trick you? What if they’re from a wholly unknown god who’s trying to explain how things really work?

• Norm Donnan

Yes thats true and thats why you need to KNOW God personally as opposed to just knowing about Him which is religion.
I personally am acutely aware that I dont know all their is to know about God.I have my bias’s and understandings which is influenced by my upbringing and culture at this point in history.
Never the less when you do have faith and understanding you do recognize the voice of God which like any relationship grows in depth and understanding over time.
The enemy is cunning and decietful but usually easily seen when you listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Of course all this is so foreign to those who would like to put Him in a box of their limited understanding,all the while feeling interlectuall and educated.

• 90Lew90

I don’t know how you can’t but be acutely aware that you might be completely and utterly wrong, given your “biases and understandings” (vague, culturally specific, nebulous). As a sceptic through-and-through, though one who would, at a push, describe himself as “spiritual” (a name I give to the awe that life, the universe and everything frequently inspires in me), I don’t see how you can possibly decide what’s the “Holy Spirit” and what’s “the enemy” but through the lens of those biases and understandings of yours. I would have thought one red alert might be how readily the image of your god changes subject to cultural evolution, and the norms and values of a given culture depending on the time and the place. We are supposed to be talking about a being which is everlasting and constant, from which “objective morals” flows. That’s just not the case. Another demand of the Christian faith is that you must pretend to be certain even when you’re not. Just about the worst thing one can do as a believer is to express doubt, but robust knowledge proceeds from a rigorous, systematic application of doubt. Robust knowledge has produced a lot more good for humanity than insistent faith, for we’ve had both for long enough now to be able to compare their relative results. As such, I can’t help but find faith to be ultimately selfish. And yet the person of faith is doubly blinded in that he just swallows the line that what’s good for him and him alone, must necessarily be good for everyone, so we get this hijacking of the language of love and communion and oneness and flocks etc. when it’s really, always, all about the individual, and this in spite of the fact that the individual has no grounds to hold his belief. All he has in common with the next believer is his claim to believe in the same thing, which on teasing out, if it is ever the case, is so rare as to be insignificant. And yet collectively, believers exert an enormous amount of power over people who just don’t buy it. There is a terrible nexus of ignorance, selfishness and power-tripping that religions bring about that I find not only deeply unfair and retardant but also repugnant. And immoral.

• MNb

“you need to KNOW God personally”
Oh? Tell me, how does he look like? Does he have blonde, grey, brown, red or black hair? What about his voice? A bariton or a soprano?
Stupid questions you say? I agree. Because your remark is meaningless.

• Norm Donnan

Yes,yes,yes and yes,and much,much more

• thats why you need to KNOW God personally

Ah, I think we’ve found someone in the thrall of the Dark Lord®.

Yes, that’s exactly what Satan would convince you of. He’s the Father of Lies, remember? Norm, it’s not too late! Turn back now!

Never the less when you do have faith and understanding you do recognize the voice of God which like any relationship grows in depth and understanding over time.

Norm, do you hear yourself? You’ve become comfortable in the bosom of the Devil himself!

The enemy is cunning and decietful but usually easily seen when you listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Satan mimicking the Holy Spirit? Duh—of course that’s what he’d do.

Of course all this is so foreign to those who would like to put Him in a box of their limited understanding,all the while feeling interlectuall and educated.

And you’re fat and sassy, confident that you’ve got it all figured out? Norm, this is exactly what you’d feel if you’d fallen for the lies of Beelzebub!

• Norm Donnan

LOL,and thats why I call you atheists denialists and cringe when you say you want evidence.You shall have all the evidence you need,but alas it will be to late.

• MNb

Brrrrr, like the good Nazi you are the only thing you can do is spread fear. I’m trembling in my shoes, Nazi-Norm, for your Nazi-god who only provides evidence when it’s too late. Shall we do a body count?

http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/DebunkingChristians/Page22.htm
No miracle that Nazi-Norm drools when folding his hands and closing his eyes for praying.

• MNb

Dating fossils is completely repeatable, Norm. As so often you don’t know what you’re writing about.

“it all makes perfect sense”
Because you want it to make perfect sense.

• Norm Donnan

Of course its repeatable Mark,that doesnt mean it is correct.Of course it’s correct to you because you want it to be.

• MNb

Has your sciencey wife taught you that nonsense?

“things that some scientists say happened “millions” of years ago,things that scientifically will never be observed or repeated”
That “repeated” of yours is simply wrong. Not that you will ever admit it; rather you violate the 9th Commandment.

• Norm Donnan

Actually I learnt it from a renowned science magazine, you know “science has to be observable and repeatable”. The faith you follow is called a “Theory”,(a weak one at that)

• Scott_In_OH

Ugh. This incorrect argument is given often enough that this time I feel compelled to reply.

Even if events happened long ago, there are things scientists can observe that are the effects of those long-gone events. Fossils, as MNb pointed out. Background radiation, as we were reminded of in recent science news. The red-shift of distant stars and galaxies.

The argument that “you weren’t there, so you don’t know” is just as nonsensical as a bank robber saying “no one saw me, so you can’t convict me,” even though his fingerprints are on the vault, the stolen money is in his car, and the dent on his passenger door matches the gate to the bank parking lot.

• MNb

Written by a creacrap author and published by a creacrap publishing house, no doubt. That’s why you don’t care to name the magazine; you’re afraid that I’ll look it up.
But that’s not what I meant.
What I referred to was that dating fossils is totally repeatable. So you don’t use your own standard of repeatability yourself when it doesn’t suit you, like the good Nazi-Norm you are.

• 90Lew90

Since it has not been made up, it can be said that Mother Teresa maligned herself. Or perhaps better, that she was just malign.

• Pofarmer

Think about this for a moment, and btw, there is documentary on youtube called “hells angel” about Mother Theresa, because of her idea that suffering brought people closer to jesus, it is documented that people with initially treatable conditions were allowed to die rather than be afforded a doctor and proper medical treatment. On top of this, she advocated against birth control in one of the poorest, most overpopulated cities kn the world, insuring that millions more would live in poverth and squalor. I don’t know if she was stupid, evil, or just irretreiveably damaged by theology, but I would think that if you believed in heaven and hell, you might rightly wonder where her place was secured.

• 90Lew90

A role done away with by John Paul II so he could fast-track more people to sainthood during his tenure than had been put forward in more than 600 years. And Hector is right, as far as I’m aware, Hitchens only performed a quasi role.

• Pofarmer

Sathya sai baba did 10 times more actual good. He started actual hospitals, not someplace where people just go to die, some of which could have been saved with actual, ya know, medical treatment.

• Add to that the fact Sai Baba could do pretty much every miracle that Jesus could (including: be in 2 places at once, + raise the dead) and that there are perhaps millions of people who would today testify to his miraculous powers, and he eclipses both Mother T. and Jesus.

• Wait–how does Uncle Frank fit in here? We were talking about Mother Teresa.

• Pofarmer

Pope Francis ideas of economic equality stem more from catholic liberation theology and it’s inherent marxism and hatred of the wealthy than any great love of the poor.

• Fallulah

Mother Teresa was a horrid person who promoted suffering and poverty. Misappropriation of funds aside.

• A crucible of pain to burn away sins? Wow–that’s messed up.

And Christians wonder what gets atheists so hot under the collar.

• Most of us go through periods of doubt about our marriage vows.

How is this relevant? I know my wife exists! Uncertainty about existence was the very thing that caused Mother Teresa so much anguish.

• kraut2

I think Hitchens held back – too bad.

• 90Lew90

Nope. He nailed her. Fair and square. The essay is worth reading. A point worth making is that his essay was published in 1995 when she was still not dead. It was published in the UK, whose libel laws have (notoriously) global reach. If there was anything in that essay which was libellous, she could have sued, likewise any of her criminal associates who were also implicated. Any cases brought? None. There is however a photocopy of a letter to Mother Teresa from a US lawyer demanding that she un-vanish some of the millions she made vanish if she cared so much about “the poor”, because she had only been entrusted with that money to help them, not herself, or whoever all that cash went to. The reply? Just some bullshit. No other words for it. Something like, “I’m a poor old woman just trying to do her best.” Faux naïf, was how Hitchens described it, rightly.

• Kodie

What does her never renouncing her vows have to do with what she wrote in her diary? You seem to think “vows” are hard and fast material contracts, rather than something you can say out loud and not really mean inside. She had a good gig! I could speculate that she went into it shrewd or she became shrewd. Maybe she didn’t know what an asshole she was. Maybe she had such severe cognitive dissonance because her ethics led her to believe suffering was what god favored. Her “love” of the poor gave her the intuition to treat their suffering with hugs and bibles, rather than food and medicine. She felt she was doing the lord’s work, and she suffered a crisis of doubt because all the work she was doing wasn’t doing any good. I mean, she wrote it in her diary, which means she wasn’t trying to sell anyone. How could you be offended by her personal secret thoughts? Because you have an excuse for everything, because that’s what theology does to people. No ethics, only excuses.

If she felt god at any time in her life and acted on that belief, she acted wrong. If she felt it sincerely and did the best she thought she could do, she acted wrong. It didn’t bring the results she expected, because she thought god would intervene, but she was there with all the money. She relied on her faith and not on the material fucking money. That’s what theology does to a person. It points them in the wrong direction and no matter what they do or fail to do when they could’ve, they think they’re a good person. To the end of her life, even following doubt in god’s existence, she never snapped out of it and did the right thing. Her “vows” to something she wasn’t sure she believed in only made her double down and continue to do the wrong thing.

And you’re defending her, because your ethics are screwed up by the same disease.

• GubbaBumpkin

PS: I will never forgive Christopher Hitchens for his mean-spirited and relentless attack on Mother Teresa.

You don’t seem to care whether they were true or not.

• Tommykey69

I thought Christians were required to forgive. LOL!

• wtfwjtd

She’s willing to forgive Mother Teresa. Now that’s some absurd and disgusting irony !

• RichardSRussell

Statisticians just roll their eyes at philosophers trying to generalize about an entire data set starting with a sample size of 1 observation. It’s like trying to figure out what’s the “proper” line to draw thru a single point, even on a 2-dimensional plane, to say nothing of n-dimensional space.

• wtfwjtd

So, in other words, when the Christian is forced to admit option C, their entire description of their god goes out the window. All they’re left with is uncertain belief in a vague, unknowable “god” of unknown description. It seems that a look around the world at the fantastic variety of religions mankind has cooked up over the centuries is a pretty good confirmation of this lack of certainty.

• MNb

The link to “Probabilities and FTA” is excellent. Note that the authors try to make the case for FTA as strong as possible. I was already familiar with most points raisen, but it’s great to have them together in one coherent piece. In short: FTA is statistical hogwash. So thanks.

• KarlUdy

I’m not sure you’re giving the Fine Tuning Argument a fair hearing. It is well and good to make the ASUH argument but you don’t mention the responses to this argument.

The fact is that you can say that “it is so it is”, however such an approach only stands up to scrutiny if you are prepared to accept a universe devoid of meaning.

• Kodie

Yeah, so?

• KarlUdy

Most people, atheists included, don’t live that way. Unless you want to push the argument that atheists have meaningless lives?

• Kodie

Do we need to go over it again? I find it really tiresome when a theist pretends we’ve never had this conversation and we all have to start at the beginning and go over it slowly, again.

• KarlUdy

I’m not sure which conversation you’re talking about.

I’m not saying that atheists have meaningless lives. Completely the opposite.

Or if you’re talking about how some theories that atheists promote don’t match up with the life experience of most people (including atheists), then you don’t need to have the conversation but my point remains valid.

• Kodie

I don’t really know what doesn’t match up that you’re thinking about.

• The Thinking Commenter

I’m not saying that atheists have meaningless lives. Completely the opposite.

Theist: Atheists don’t have meaningless lives.

Atheist: Yeah I already know that. Big deal.

Theist: Atheists don’t have meaningless lives, because Jesus.

Atheist: Ummm, you should have said that in the first place.

Theist: Checkmate.

Atheist: Ummm, no not really…. grrrr….. 😀

• KarlUdy

And no atheist has ever accused a theist of saying atheists lives are meaningless, if the theist points out that the atheist believes the universe is meaningless.

• I’m not following.

And BTW, it would be helpful if you’d add “absolute” or “objective” as necessary. All lives are meaningless from an absolute standpoint, but that’s not an especially interesting standpoint.

• KarlUdy

All lives are meaningless from an absolute standpoint

This is I think the key point of difference. I believe that at the very least all human lives are meaningful from an absolute standpoint.

• Show me how to access this absolute standpoint, and I’ll begin to see your point.

• MGreen

What makes something meaningless? That you don’t get eternal existence?

Well then many religious people believe that. Religion doesn’t always involve eternal milk and cookies.

• MNb

Of course, but this is not what you should expect from an apologist. As Mano Singham noticed regarding the physicist John Polkinghorne the apologist idea is rather to obfuscate than to clarify. How else can he/she bring his/her point home?

• MNb

“I’m not saying that atheists have meaningless lives.”
Then to which people is this quote of yours referring to?

“to live our lives in constant awareness of profound meaningless”

• KarlUdy

To nihilists. I don’t meet many, to be honest.

• 90Lew90

Phew, thank god I was there to throw you that nihilism bone, eh?

• KarlUdy

If that’s what gives your life meaning 🙂

• Pofarmer

Which theories?

• KarlUdy

The aforementioned ASUH, for one.

• I see no absolute/objective meaning in life despite having seen this claim by Christians many times. If you have a compelling argument showing that it exists, I’d like to see it.

But, of course, the dictionary tells us that “meaning” or “purpose” aren’t defined with any sort of absolute grounding. Atheists, like Christians, find meaning and purpose in their lives, but no one (well, the atheists, anyway!) is arrogant to imagine that they’ve tapped into some sort of absolute truth.

• KarlUdy

The arguments you’re proposing imply that finding meaning and purpose is essentially “the opiate of the masses”. My impression is that most atheists don’t see finding meaning and purpose in their lives as being simply an exercise in dulling their existential pain and restlessness.

• Kodie

That’s pretty much what it is. Life is long and boring. What else are you going to do?

• I don’t know what you’re talking about. Atheist find meaning in their lives just like Christians do. “Dulling existential pain”? That’s no goal of mine.

Aside: you’re using Marx’s quote wrong. He was paying religion a compliment. More.

• KarlUdy

I think you’ll find I’m using the quote correctly.

I believe you are saying (please point out if I am wrong) that meaning we find in our lives is meaning we have created ourselves, with the implication that it ceases to be meaningful upon our death. In other words, death renders all of our meaning meaningless.

Of course, to live our lives in constant awareness of profound meaningless is less comfortable than a pretense that our lives really do mean anything. Such a pretense would dull our existential pain, though.

Christians believe that the meaning in their lives does correspond to an objective or ultimate meaning. You may think that they are deluded, but this is an important distinction to an atheist who believes that there is no ultimate meaning that their personal meaning could possibly correspond with.

• I think you’ll find I’m using the quote correctly.

OK. I guess I don’t know how you’re using the quote then. But that’s an aside.

I believe you are saying (please point out if I am wrong) that meaning we find in our lives is meaning we have created ourselves, with the implication that it ceases to be meaningful upon our death. In other words, death renders all of our meaning meaningless.

We do create meaning for our own lives, but other people enter into the equation as well. Andrew Carnegie’s meaning lives on with the charitable work he did. Carnegie is dead, but he left a positive impact on American society that lives on. That will be true for Bill Gates as well.

Of course, to live our lives in constant awareness of profound meaningless

1. Our lives aren’t meaningless.

2. Our lives have no ultimate meaning (the universe doesn’t give a damn about us), but so what? You imagine all atheists are obliged to wear black and mutter incessantly about the futility of it all and why don’t we all just kill ourselves? Your fear is simply unfounded. Or maybe atheists are too ignorant to realize that they should be doing that.

Christians believe that the meaning in their lives does correspond to an objective or ultimate meaning. You may think that they are deluded

Bingo. One would think that a single challenge to the Christian to support the claim of objective meaning (or morality) would be enough to make them realize that there’s nothing to support that bold claim, but it never seems to work that way.

• Pofarmer

“wear black and mutter incessantly about the futility of it all”.

Lol, isn’t that exactly what monks and nuns and religious shut aways do? By trying to find their meaning in an invisible diety, are they actually the ones living the ultimate meaningless lives?

• KarlUdy

I applaud the philanthropic efforts of Carnegie and Gates but if as you say all lives are meaningless from an absolute standpoint, then anything they have done for the betterment of others’ lives is also ultimately meaningless – straightening the deckchairs on the Titanic, so to speak.

• Pofarmer

Ultimately, the sun expands and burns away the atmosphere of the Earth and even our planet will be destroyed. So?

• KarlUdy

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
It’s certainly one way to approach life. Not one I’d choose, though.

• Pofarmer

And all I can think of when I read that quote, is what a horrible, empty way to libe your life, constantly worrying and pining away abut some unseen force that is supposed to make the next one perfect.

• KarlUdy

Good thing that’s not how I live my life then.

• Pofarmer

Are you sure? You’re here right now worrying us about the “meaning” of the Universe, which you won’t define.

• wtfwjtd

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

–Red, The Shawshank Redemption

• Kodie

That is exactly the one you choose. By applying meaning to yourself externally from an invisible friend in an invisible place offering eternal existence, your life here means nothing to you. By having that external meaning mean so much to you, so much that you perceive such meaninglessness without it, you already live in it, and you can’t escape that except in a fantasy.

What does this have to do with the FTA? You say atheists would have to admit and fully acknowledge and live our lives fully acknowledging the dark futility of it all. That’s… pretty extreme nonsense. If anything futility takes the pressure off. You are not capable of living in the moment and enjoying it for what it is.

• wtfwjtd

Here you go Karl, this is for you:

• Kodie

You are pathologically dour.

• So therefore, what? So therefore, the Christian view is correct? So therefore, the Christian view is more pleasing?

• KarlUdy

It is more consistent with the human experience of considering life to be meaningful. As is any other worldview which does not say that all lives are meaningless from an absolute standpoint.

• So therefore, the Christian worldview is the most pleasing.

OK. I have no use for “the most pleasing.” I’ll adopt the one that’s the most correct.

• Kodie

I applaud the philanthropic efforts of Carnegie and Gates but if as you
say all lives are meaningless from an absolute standpoint, then anything
they have done for the betterment of others’ lives is also ultimately
meaningless – straightening the deckchairs on the Titanic, so to speak.

So basically, you are saying that it is not a good idea to help people because someday they will just die anyway. You get a story about a great humanitarian and all the people he helped would have been dead by now, one way or another, so what good can come of this story now? He’s done helping people, and all those people died anyway and beyond help, and if atheists were honest, nobody should help anyone, but the fact that any of us try to alleviate suffering in the present indicates to you an acknowledgment that those efforts will not be for naught.

You seem to think we care about eternity to motivate us in the immediate, like being judged by an authority. We’re not doing things for credit. We’re not being graded by a teacher. You theists seem to need a lot more incentive to bother to get off your ass and help people. You sound like Linda Evangelista. If you can’t get graded against everyone else in a formal classroom, you won’t bother to learn anything. Why bother to study if nobody can give you an A for knowing something?

• MNb

“Of course, to live our lives in constant awareness of profound meaningless is less comfortable than a pretense that our lives really do mean anything.”
Why? My son and I don’t have any problems with this awareness.
Note: we must distinghuish external (absolute, objective)meaning, which basically is your ultimate meaning derived from god, and internal meaning, which is what we human ourselves give to our lives. This distinction is why so many atheists dislike Mother Theresa.

• KarlUdy

Would it trouble you if you considered the internal meaning to be illusory?

• 90Lew90

Probably not as much as it troubles you to consider the external meaning illusory.

• Kodie

We don’t have to ask if it would trouble you if you considered the external meaning to be illusory.

Your life appears to have profound meaningless without it. That’s the part where we call your religion a cure for the disease it has given you. Don’t project.

• MNb

Is it illusory that I made a difference in other people’s lives? That difference is still subjective – it’s how they and I perceive it.

• Kodie

Karl doesn’t seem to know the difference between ‘illusory’ and ‘transient’. That difference will not make a lasting or “ultimate” meaning, so he thinks you might as well not do it.

• wtfwjtd

One of the most poignant moments of my life came a few years ago, after our family had experienced several deaths in a very short period of time. My daughter, (who was around 13 at time) and I were having a conversation, and she told me, “Dad, for the first time in my life, I had to face up to the fact that when I die, it’s the end of not just my physical body, but the end of me.” It was a moment of great self-awareness for both of us, and like you, we both accept that reality as the world we know and live in. We both realized that making things up out of thin air don’t change this reality, and also realize that it is up to each one of us to find the ultimate meaning and purpose for our lives.

• Pofarmer

So, our ultimate meaning is to worship a diety that created us, that we’re concerned might wipe us out at any time, or send us to eternal torture for not worshiping it. What kind of a meaning is that?

• wtfwjtd

Pofarmer, I just stated above in to 90Lew90 that as a believer the things that most gave my life meaning were friends, family, and the worship of the Christian God. As a former believer yourself, wouldn’t you say that’s a fair assessment? If so, why do so many believers who visit this forum have such a hard time saying it?

• Pofarmer

Honestly? As a believer before I’m never sure that I was that self aware. Up through High School I sang in a lot of revivals, church choirs, all kinds of stuff. Although, I was probably more of a believer in the Marcus Borg liberal vein. In college I kind of fell away, that would have been starting in 1988, and never really thought about it much again until I met my wife in 1994. At one point in their somewhere, probably while we were still dating, I believe it was an Easter Sunday, I tearfully thanked her for “Giving me my faith back.” Still remember the ecstatic feeling. But I still hadn’t really studied and thought about much what faith, was. When my middle boy, now 13, was around 8 or 9? maybe, they were in parochial school, and I participated in a “school mass” singing in front of the Church with him. It was really a Joyous day, that would become quite bitter. It was at this time that I decided to start sharing more of “my” protestant faith with my kids, so they could understand what I had seen and learned growing up as compared to the Catholic Theology they were constantly dosed with. Well, my wife freaked out at the prospect of anything but Catholicism, and I started questioning, and reading, and understanding, and, bam, here I am. So, I guess, what all that long winded bullshit was about, is that when I was really forced to question what “meaning” was for the first time, it became just family, and life, and the whole worship of God thing never came into play. I never really considered worship a really strong part of who I was until later, and then the unbending hypocrisy and crazy of teh Catholic Church casued me to question and here we are. I hope that was possibly helpful.

• wtfwjtd

Actually, your post helps make the point I was trying to make. The meaning of life that people struggle to find is nearly always right in front of them, they just need to open their eyes and look at it. We don’t need textbooks of philosophy, or hours of meditation to find it, it’s right there. For you, your wife, and children, and your faith was a major component of that meaning. You had no doubts about your wife and kids; they are right there with you, a real, tangible part of your life. However, you eventually got to a point where you wanted to be sure that the religious aspects were genuine. You took a long, hard look…and found them to be lacking. So, instead of pretending you didn’t notice, you want to be honest about it. This is very commendable–and as you have discovered, in some circumstances very difficult.
As Kodie so eloquently stated above, life isn’t static, it’s a journey. Sometimes, we are free to choose our path, and other times, our path is already set, and we just have to find the wisdom to deal with it as it is. But we can learn to deal with it as honestly and straightforward as possible, without the crutches,delusions and false promises of religion.

• Pofarmer

Well, my wife and one or two of our boys are going to her sisters this weekends. One of their sons is graduating high school and the youngest is taking first communion. I look at that as another mind being indoctrinated, with the big deal Catholics make of the Eucharist and how they tell the kids it transforms. These are 8 year olds, for Petes sake. The one graduating high school was down over Easter, and it seemed like every story ended with going to church, or make sure of going to church before doing this or that. They are gonna be shocked when my two oldest don’t go through confirmation. I was shocked. My wice got called off work Sunday and she didn’t try to drag the boys off to church. She actually stayed home and we landscaped around the house. If she hadn’t, it wouldn’t have gotten done. She is slowly reading “Demon Haunted World” I don’t know if it’s having an effect or not but she seems to be better. It just sucks being on egg shells about it and not knowing what to expect.

• wtfwjtd

I remember those days well, my whole childhood was sacrificed on the alter of mandatory Sunday church attendance. What a waste, both for me and my parents. I know they did the best they could, and just couldn’t see it at the time. This was a manifestation of my father’s OCD, when he did something it was gung-ho or nothing. Too bad for me this phase for him lasted pretty much my whole childhood. Oh well.
Yes, when your kids don’t go through with the confirmation thing, that may be a SHTF moment, they are going to know something’s up then. I just hope that the fall-out isn’t too severe, and maybe once it’s out there moving on won’t be quite so difficult. Yea, that egg shells thing sucks, once again maybe there will come a time when you can work past it.
Landscaping sounds like a far more productive use of your time than religion on Sunday to me. I remember, the first time I went to the lake with my brother on a Sunday, I was like 30 years old and it was a life-altering game-changer for me. I realized, no wonder preachers rail against those who go to the lake on Sunday; if the congregation gets a whiff of just how much fun stuff like this can be, the church would be mostly empty.

That was over 20 years ago, and I’ve rarely been back to church since. For me, it’s an artifact of a by-gone era in my life. Better late than never I guess.

• Pofarmer

I was there in my mid 20’s, and let myself get drug back in.

• wtfwjtd

I guess you mean by meeting a pretty lady who happened to be religious? Life can be complicated sometimes. And it also can make us ask, if we had known then what we know now, would we make the same decisions? It’s an academic point of course, but when it’s on a personal level it’s always a question of considerable interest to us. And sometimes it’s not a useless exercise to pursue, it can be a useful learning tool.

• Pofarmer

I try not to second guess stuff like that, it’s unknowable. If our third child wouldn’t have had a genetic condition which put her in close proximity with hospitals and her mother for an extended time would things have been different? I’d like to think so, but there’s simply no way to know. My wife, for a time I think, hated me for leaving religion and denying Catholicism. I told her I was going to love her, because it was my decision to. I also told her in no uncertain terms that I hated her church, but not her. She has tried all kinds of stuff, from wanting to get our house blessed(absolutley not), to seeing a priest(not no but hell no), to putting God in the center of our marriage( you got to be kidding). We have seen two counselors, and this last one I don’t care to go back to, as we got in a theological “discussion” that I wasn’t about to lose. So, it’s been an interesting time. One of these nights, we are gonna lay outside n a blanket and look at the constelations and read and talk about the book of revelations. Maybe that will help her see, maybe not, but I think she finally realizes that this is me, and if she wants to stay married to me, this is who I am, and I am only going to put up,with so much religious nuttiness before I speak up.

• wtfwjtd

Certain things in life are best not to second-guess, as they have the potential for disastrous consequences. Sometimes, what is, just as, and we’ve got to deal with our lives from where we’re at. No doubt, you’ve both changed in ways that you couldn’t possibly have imagined, and unfortunately on the religious question you’ve went opposite ways. But, that doesn’t mean that the trajectory is permanent, or irreconcilable. You just have to do the best you can from where you’re at, and of course you are both aware that your decisions have an impact on others around you–especially your kids. It seems as we grow older life gets more complicated in this way. Hopefully you can find some common ground and a way to approach the subject that’s not threatening and can be mutually beneficial. Who knows? Life has surprises and twists and turns that take us in both expected and unexpected directions all the time.

• From Dan Barker:

Religion + Good Works = Good Works
Solve for Religion

• Pofarmer

It’s very much my contention that the right things to do are the right things to do. If the liberal Christians would just drop the Jesus language, we would be on pretty much the same boat.

• Kodie

Put in that language makes religion look like a hobby to me or a vocation. It’s certainly something someone can derive personal meaning from, but it’s like family, friends, and I like to build train models, or skiing every weekend is what I live for, or I want to go to school to be a doctor, or I volunteer at a dog shelter. What’s different about it for the people who believe it is nothing else could fulfill a person and everything else is shallow and empty, but what you really get out of it is the same type of pleasure. Another analogy is marriage and married sex being sacred while unmarried sex is fornication and lust. It’s a way for believers to feel like their lives have more meaning only because of the belief, otherwise it would seem pretty shallow itself, and pointless. I mean, why devote your life to worship if it didn’t mean anything and you could go do something else? It doesn’t have any appeal to it other than offering an ultimate universal meaning to the person, so it better be real meaning or you might as well do anything else.

To the makers of an atheist community such as a church is, this is something that people miss, that a lot of people suggest you could get anywhere else that is actually fun. I have to say, guessing, that in church you meet a variety of people with a variety of interests and it’s a vital networking opportunity that most clubs don’t offer for whole families and what families need as well as what family members need and want individually.

• wtfwjtd

“Put in that language makes religion look like a hobby to me or a vocation. ”

Actually Kodie, I think that’s exactly how a lot of the religious approach their faith, even though they wouldn’t admit it. Of course, usually the preacher will excoriate them from the pulpit for this “casual” attitude, and make them feel guilty for it, to keep them coming back for more. Vicious cycle at work here, mainly.

People are religious for a variety of reasons– social pressure, they grew up that way, and so on. And some people do come at it from the angle of giving their life meaning and purpose. But often, from my experience anyway, the thing that gives them that meaning and purpose more than anything else is the social aspects that you mentioned above. Once again, religious professionals will occasionally make the case that this is somehow a bad thing, but most of them aren’t stupid enough to try and shut down the social aspects of their church just to see who is *really* a true believer in the faith. No, they’ll harp about it but they know that for most people that’s really what it’s all about, and so most of them try and accommodate this aspect as much as possible. It’s good for business.

• 90Lew90

If I may, all this talk about the “meaning” of life, or of having a “meaningful life”, the “meaning” of which is provided by religion… The believer who levels the charge at the atheist that they must take the position that their lives are ultimately “meaningless” is a subjective viewpoint which allows the believer to imply that they possess something which the atheist lacks. In reality, the opposite is true.

The atheist is perfectly capable of leading and participating in a meaningful life and in contributing to the great wealth of human endeavour, *without* the need for a god or gods. It is the believer who is lacking, and requires his religious belief to fill a hole. It is the believer who lives in existential terror of the nihilism he supposes he would be plunged into if it turned out his god didn’t exist, so he clings for dear sanity to his faith. He cannot for the life of him understand how anyone else can bear to live in the condition he supposes he would find himself if he were without faith.

This is not a shortcoming on the part of the atheist, it is doubly a shortcoming on the part of the believer. It is a shortcoming in that first, he needs faith which the atheist does not, and second, he cannot even muster the capacity to imagine how it is that atheists manage to cope in their condition of godlessness without descending into the nihilism he supposes would await him.

It rarely seems to occur to him that the knowledge that the life we have now is the only one we get not only makes us value our own lives more highly and encourages us to live more intensely, but concomitant to that is that we also value the lives of others more highly, something which I would say is diminished in the individual who believes in life everlasting (what a thought!).

It does not take bravery to be an atheist. It just takes honesty. It takes a healthy degree of scepticism and enough self-knowledge to know that we can lead ourselves up the garden path just as much, if not more so, as others. In a word and quite simply, it takes maturity.

• KarlUdy

The believer who levels the charge at the atheist that they must take the position that their lives are ultimately “meaningless” is a subjective viewpoint which allows the believer to imply that they possess something which the atheist lacks.

My argument is with the atheists who themselves claim that the universe (and by implication everything within it) is ultimately meaningless. If you are a different type of atheist – great!

It is the believer who lives in existential terror of the nihilism he supposes he would be plunged into if it turned out his god didn’t exist, so he clings for dear sanity to his faith. He cannot for the life of him understand how anyone else can bear to live in the condition he supposes he would find himself if he were without faith.

The one thing I cannot believe is nihilism. The human experience is so bound up in meaning that such a conclusion is untenable to me. If I were somehow persuaded not to be a Christian, then almost any belief system would be preferable to nihilism.

• 90Lew90

“My argument is with the atheists who themselves claim that the universe (and by implication everything within it) is ultimately meaningless.”

The implication/extrapolation is your own and it does not follow that because the universe is “meaningless” (which is itself a meaningless descriptor), this necessarily scales down (or up?) to the lives of individuals.

“The one thing I cannot believe is nihilism. The human experience is so bound up in meaning that such a conclusion is untenable to me. If I were somehow persuaded not to be a Christian, then almost any belief system would be preferable to nihilism.”

With this you confirm my points both about your terror of nihilism and about your religion filling a need for you that the atheist does not have. It is not the atheist who is lacking, it is the believer who *needs* his god.

• KarlUdy

The implication/extrapolation is your own and it does not follow that because the universe is “meaningless” (which is itself a meaningless descriptor), this necessarily scales down (or up?) to the lives of individuals.

With this you confirm my points both about your terror of nihilism and about your religion filling a need for you that the atheist does not have. It is not the atheist who is lacking, it is the believer who *needs* his god.

If nihilism were not so bad, why is it so important to believe that our lives have meaning? We seem to both *need* our meaning.

• 90Lew90

What special pleading? (I’m afraid that’s rich coming from someone who asks that we accept so much plain poppycock on faith!)

We might draw a distinction between authentic and inauthentic “meaning”. Life itself is enough for me to find meaning and purpose in it for me as an individual and for other individuals around me. But that is not enough for you. Your “meaning” must be transmitted to you through your understanding of your god. Nihilism poses no threat to me but it poses a very real threat to you, which is, I propose (and which you accept) at least part of the reason why you cling to your faith.

It seem pertinent to ask what you mean by “meaning” anyway. To me it seems like one of those rather nebulous utterances that could mean anything.

• KarlUdy

(I’m afraid that’s rich coming from someone who asks that we accept so much plain poppycock on faith!)

What have I asked you to accept on faith?

• 90Lew90

Belief in your god and all that goes along with it. You know, the stuff that gives your life so much more “meaning” than mine. Now, what is “meaning”? Do tell.

• KarlUdy

You have got things the wrong way around. I am not asking you to believe in my God so you can have meaning. I am pointing to the meaning that you recognize as evidence of God.

• Pofarmer

What meaning you obfuscatory jerk.

• 90Lew90

You still haven’t defined “meaning” so I don’t know what you mean when you say: “I am pointing to the meaning that you recognize as evidence of God.” Seems like an attempt at sleight-of-hand to me, because I’ve been quite clear that I don’t recognise any evidence for the existence of your god. It would be helpful if you would define “meaning” so we don’t get stuck. I’m afraid I suspect you can’t and you’re playing a semantic wild-card with “meaning”. That’s convenient for you.

• KarlUdy

Sorry if my wording was a little ambiguous. What I meant is that you recognize the existence of meaning (purpose, raison d’etre, etc). I am saying that the existence of this meaning is evidence for God.

• 90Lew90

And that, I say, looks like another logical leap. “Therefore, [my] god.” Non sequitur. But then I can’t be sure can I, because you refuse to define “meaning”, which is going to lead me to conclude that you want to have your cake and eat it in this discussion. In other words, cheat. Which makes the pursuit pointless from my point of view. One last time: What is “meaning”?

• wtfwjtd

You know, at one time in my life, I was a hard-core believer. If people were to ask me what gave meaning to my life, which seems like the simple question that you’re asking, I’d just tell them that friends, family, and worshiping my Christian God were the things that gave my life meaning and purpose. Geez, there. Was that so hard? Why do so many people of faith waltz over here to these forums and have such a hard time saying that?

• 90Lew90

My question is a little more tricky (for the believer at least). Friends, family, worship give “meaning” to the believer. I am asking what is meant by “meaning”. What is this magical “meaning” stuff that one gets by believing in a god and which, he says, is actual “evidence” for [his] god?

I can define what I mean by “meaning” when I say my life has it, but his conjecture is that my meaning and his meaning are qualitatively different, and he suggests that my “meaning” may be illusory, whereas his is authentic. So I have to demand to know what he means by “meaning” so we can proceed, but he won’t tell. That’s because he’s playing a semantic wild-card. And now, since I’ve pressed him on this question repeatedly, he’s scurried off. Hmmf!

• wtfwjtd

Thanks for the clarification and your patience Lew. I enjoy the discussions on these forums, and it can be a great place to learn things. Sometimes though, I think people try and over-think things, and make them a lot more complicated than they really are. That seems to me what Karl is doing here anyway–basically claiming I suppose that there is some kind of “objective meaning” to life, given to us by a god, that only the believer can experience? Well, that’s great, and like you, I would have to ask, what is it, where do we find it, and how do we know it’s the real deal?

• 90Lew90

“Sometimes though, I think people try and over-think things, and make them a lot more complicated than they really are.”
I think he’s just dug himself a hole. Much like Cody did when she asserted that the Bible is part-metaphor, which implies that at least some of it is fact, so then we have to ask how she knows which bits are metaphor and which bits are fact; where is the line drawn and on whose authority? Similarly, she asserted that God is immaterial, but intercedes with the material world and with material beings (us), and can make things happen in the material world (miracles), so it’s perfectly reasonable to ask how this happens. At what point does an immaterial god who occupies an immaterial realm interact with a material universe and material beings. No answer. It’s just guff dressed up as profundity. And at bottom, it’s dishonest frankly.

• wtfwjtd

Yes, it’s all just delusion. Whenever the subject of life’s meaning comes up, the thing I usually find at the bottom of the dour and/or evasive believer’s take on the subject is their inability to face up to their own mortality.

• 90Lew90

They can’t even face life, never mind death!

• KarlUdy

I am talking about meaning in the broad sense – so it would include what you call meaning, and what you think gives meaning to a believer. Synonyms would be (as I mentioned in an earlier post which you seem to have not read carefully) purpose, raison d’etre, etc.

I don’t think that an atheists meaning in their life is illusory. I do think that many atheists make claims about the universe that if true would render the meaning they say they have in life as illusory.

If this subjective, personal, internal meaning is real, then meaning as a concept is part of reality. Or to put it another way, if the universe has no objective meaning, then we can have no subjective meaning. The two options are to either deny subjective meaning (ie all subjective meaning is illusory) or to affirm objective meaning, which has implications which can fairly be called evidence for God.

• 90Lew90

OK then. Let’s substitute “purpose” for “meaning”. What is your purpose? What is the purpose of the universe?

(*I’ll be away for a little while but will be back.)

• KarlUdy

Way to try to change the topic.

And you accuse me of sleight-of-hand?

• Pofarmer

But what you were claiming early, wasn’t that life had meaning, but that the Universe had meaning, which is a different thing. What is the meaning of the Universe?

• 90Lew90

No. You said “meaning” is synonymous with “purpose” or “reason to be”. I’m most comfortable with “purpose” for our purposes here. Are you now saying that “purpose” is not synonymous with “meaning”?

(I thought we were about to begin getting somewhere. Could it be that you started bandying around the term “meaning” without actually stopping to think what you meant by it, and now that you’re being forced to think about that, you’ve discovered that although it sounded good to you, it’s actually meaning-less in your sense? Could that be it? Just asking, because you’re being very coy indeed about it. If we’re to proceed in discussion, I must insist that we adhere to the convention on defining our terms, and if you or I name a synonym for clarity, then we should be comfortable enough to use the synonym. As it stands, it seems you’re fighting hard to be as vague as possible. Why should that be? Before, it seemed as though you knew exactly what “meaning” meant. You weren’t shy of imbuing your life with it, and the universe, and naming it as “evidence” for your god, and pointing out that in others it may be illusory. I would have thought you’d have been able to shoot back a definition of so important a thing as “meaning”.)

• KarlUdy

I’m not fighting against talking about purpose as opposed to meaning. I just think that discussion about the particular content of meaning or purpose is a different conversation to what we were having.

My original comment was pointing out that I believe that to deny the universe has any ultimate meaning (as the ASUH does) is in conflict with the human experience of meaning in our lives.

What particular meaning you or I believe our lives to have has no bearing on the argument, as long as we agree that we do consider our lives to be meaningful.

• Kodie

My original comment was pointing out that I believe that to deny the
universe has any ultimate meaning (as the ASUH does) is in conflict with
the human experience of meaning in our lives.

How is it in conflict?

• 90Lew90

You’re all over the place. You name “purpose” as being synonymous with “meaning”, then accuse me of changing the subject when I suggest we use purpose. Now you’ve reverted to using “meaning” again, and STILL you have not explained what this all-important “meaning” is! As it stands, I could substitute any word I want for “meaning” when you use it, and the statements would make just as much sense to me. If you’re saying that “meaning” is ineffable, then how can you say that your life has it, or the universe has it, or someone else’s life doesn’t have it or that it’s evidence for your god. What you are talking, my dear man, is bullshit.

• KarlUdy

Meaning: that which gives something value, worth or significance.

btw if you read my earlier comment you will see that your claims about my accusations are false.

• 90Lew90

Why did it take you 24 hours to do that? Now, very simply, by your own definition, “meaning” is subjective. Case closed.

• KarlUdy

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make any sound?

• 90Lew90

Technically no. What is the sound of one hand clapping?

• KarlUdy

I would answer differently, but then that makes sense given our different views on the existence of objective meaning.

• 90Lew90

You would answer differently because you don’t grasp the difference between subjectivity and objectivity. “Meaning”, by the definition you gave of it, must be bestowed, and it must be bestowed by you. That makes it subjective. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. “Meaning”: “that which gives something value, worth or significance”, is subjective. By what objective standard is “value” measured? Answer: None. Because it is subjective.

We can go farther than this, because on this fallacious premise — that there is an objectivity to “meaning”, “value”, “worth” and “significance” — the religious, Christians in particular, have built an entire system of ethics, especially with regard to gender and sexuality. And it is, quite simply, fallacious. It is also, by virtue only of its vintage, deeply pervasive. It is the mistake of deriving an “ought” from an “is”, a problem raised by Lucretius, picked up by Hume, and drawn out very thoroughly by GE Moore. It is a mistake which has done untold damage to innocents, and as such I think combatting it is worth expending some energy.

• KarlUdy

Actually I would suggest that subjectivity implies the existence of objectivity.

• Kodie

You never quite make that connection. You seem to think the only reason a person might make, want to make, or need to make, subjective opinions about their environment and sort personal values is because they are made in the image of a deity, and his ultimate opinion of all value. We’re just animals who live, and our specialty affords us this. The imagination impulse creates just as many fears, or more, as there is inventions that can actually help us. It’s a superstition. You have the equivalent of a lucky penny, you have a portable, un-misplaceable, token of luck and comfort in your brain.

• 90Lew90

That’s reductio ad absurdum. It also causes problems for you for your conception of your god. If an observer must always be observed — the subject always implies an object — then your god is not “ultimate” but arbitrarily slapped into the picture, when what follows logically from this model (and we’re told your god is bound by the rules of logic — logos, reason, whatever… he can’t make a triangle with four sides etc) is that your god must also have an observer, and so must that observer, and so on ad infinitum.

• KarlUdy

I think a triune God avoids these problems.

• hector_jones

Oh so THAT’s why Christianity came up with the trinity, not because of the conflict between the desire to preserve Jewish concepts of monotheism and the new belief in a ‘son of God’ but to avoid the problems of objectivity and subjectivity. How interesting.

• 90Lew90

The triune god is something you take on faith and which is supposedly “revealed” to you via the Gospels. Now that IS special pleading. But supposing we accept the triune god (and we have no reason to): How?

Your last comment would have been better stated if you had said you “believe” rather than you “think”.

• Kodie

There is almost no problem a non-believer can find that a theist can’t fix by adding imaginary new qualities to their god.

• wtfwjtd

Kinda like the patch fixes for Windows.

• Subjective meaning exists, so therefore objective meaning exists, too?

• ZenDruid

I’m all for that. “Meaning” is too ambiguous. “Purpose” cuts to the chase. My purpose, in case I’m asked, is to learn as much as I can about life, etc., in the time that I have.

• Kodie

You assert that subjective meaning would then be illusory and this has implications, therefore god. Yes, you want someone to say it – whatever subjective meaning I get out of life is illusory. It’s chemicals I feel in the brain allowing me a moment of contentedness, of social support, or accomplishment, but what does that mean to anyone else? It’s here and then it’s gone. Once we win a prize, we want that to mean something forever. We had our party and now it’s time to get back to the task of staying alive. Why did everyone stop caring about my triumph? Why can’t I wear my medals and continue to get praised?

It’s just all temporary. It is subjective. The world goes on with or without me. But right now it’s with me, you want me to be a pessimist about it. Let’s say your life is a waiting room, ok, for all of us. To you, there is a great thing you’re waiting for, but in the meantime, you fill it with family, friends, and experiences that make you feel good about yourself. To us, there is nothing after, but in the meantime, we fill it with family, friends, and experiences that we can feel good about without external validation. Your sense of “meaning” is to be externally validated for your mere existence, when you succeed and when you fail, it all adds up to Karl’s life, which will go away and none of it will have mattered, so why bother to do it? How can you ever feel good if those emotions are just chemical responses?

If that’s how you would spend your time with nothing after the waiting room, that’s fine. I want to call it a waste but that’s subjective also. It’s your life and if you don’t want to have any fun because you can’t and it doesn’t matter, then don’t. You seem to have a problem with how other people react to the “bad news” as if it’s a sign that you’re correct. If there were no god, to you, we would not seek experiences and love and community, i.e. meaning. We would not even seek it. Monotony and depression would be ideal in that situation?

• 90Lew90

Sorry to interject, but it’s not mere pedantry to demand a definition from him of what “meaning” is. It’s no small point because he’s guarding it like Michael Jordan guards a ball, and then every so often he launches it at your head and claims some sort of superior understanding when it bounces straight back into his hands, where he dribbles and bounces and weaves until he decides to fire it at your head again.

What is it? As yet, I have no clue. He claims that what I would say makes my life meaningful “may be illusory”. He claims the universe itself has this “meaning”. This universal “meaning” is the one he possesses, and it’s qualitatively different from what I would say gives my life meaning. Moreover, he says this “meaning” as he understands it, *is* “evidence” for his god. That’s a pretty big claim.

I want to know how this magical meaning that his life has (whatever it is) relates to that of the meaning that the universe has. How are they the same thing? What is this quality that he shares with Uranus? (Tssk.) How is the quality that he shares with Uranus evidence for the existence of his god (and all that that implies)?

He says that “meaning” is synonymous with “purpose” or “raison d’etre”. So I say, ok, let’s call it purpose then. “What is your purpose.” Then he accuses me of trying to change the subject. It’s either synonymous or it’s not.

The point of this is that if we’re to have a “meaningful” discussion then we must know what the fuck we’re talking about. Otherwise we might as well substitute “meaning” for “Barabajagal”.

Try it: “Without God your life has no Barabajagal, and neither does the universe. But when seen to have Barabajagal, one begins to see this is clearly evidence of God.”

Not only is one of the predicates nonsensical, but its a nonsense inside a circular argument. I think he should be drawn out on this before we indulge him any further. I want to know what we’re talking about before we go discussing it.

• Kodie

I apologize, I tried to cut Karl off earlier knowing you had not had this particular conversation with him, but I had. Is it the illusion of meaning? I guess not. I have no illusion that my life means something beyond where my life extends both daily and during my lifetime, and potentially some time after. We are bubbles in a bathtub. I guess to the person taking a bath, it’s nice to have bubbles (it’s not a perfect analogy), but the individual bubbles mean nothing and are all about the same and easily replaceable. He often throws in the word ultimate to meaning, which implies our meaning isn’t really meaning and we ought to feel sad about it, but that we feel it and seek it, implies that it is not illusory and that it comes from outer space.

He uses the uniquely human experience and collective endeavor and appreciation and creation as “evidence” for god. If there were no god, why is there music? Why do we have minds that can imagine there’s a god if he’s not there? We talked about imagination and how human brains work. We belong to a species that has this as our specialty. Theists like to point to human specialty, and earth’s specialty (life) as superior to anything else. We are closest to god, we’re really the only creature who can formulate this idea (that we know of, or even care to know of). How to expand our collective knowledge and progress our collective humanity without our brains? To the Christian, it’s revealed to us. It’s like going to the library (god) knowing nothing, and reading every book eventually.

I know what he means by meaning, it’s a job to do, it’s your job, why you were put here, your purpose on earth, such that we are dogs. Dogs are bred for certain purposes of herding or retrieving and trained for certain tasks like assisting the blind or sniffing for bodies in rescue/recovery missions. Dogs without a job to do are restless and need their purpose defined for them or simulated. People seem to feel the same, as if someone has to give us a sign what we should be doing all the time. Is having a family meaningful? Not really. Just about everyone does it. God said be fruitful and multiply…. even fruit can do it. Be like nature, a tree, and reproduce yourself. Is that a purpose? A person could serve that purpose, like a tool, a conduit, so that human life on earth can continue. So purpose and meaning are confused. What is “my” purpose? If someone has served a purpose such as parenting offspring, is that “their” purpose? Is that their assignment?

Reason for being is another thing. Why you and not someone else? In the long line of DNA leading to you, why is it you and not someone else? Random chance????? People seem to feel the need to justify their own existence with a reason they are here as opposed to not being here. The “meaning” of their lives is that they play a crucial role, a purpose, in the long story of life itself, a meaningful part, a part without which the story could not go on. Karl’s sense, and I suspect most theists, of meaning is that their existence provides a clue to the question of “why?”

I notice a lot of simple ignorance about life itself in this idea. Most people, if anything, only have a local and transient impact on the collective. Their legend does not survive them. Karl doesn’t know them. Karl regards their life as having “meaning” but they mean nothing to him specially, individually. He only hopes that someone in the universe is giving him and those other poor anonymous toiling schmucks the recognition they deserve… well, really only him. He’s not concerned with the meaning of others, but he recognizes that upon himself, he is just as meaningless if not for an imaginary friend validating him. His angst is his, and he projects this upon us nobodies. We’re nobody to him, but that we probably feel like he does, focused on our own interests within the context of a slightly larger community at least. How far does my reach reach? How far does yours? It’s all rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic if we’re all going down with the ship.

It’s all futile, and this is a morality argument as much as anything. With no eternal consequences, why don’t we just do whatever we want? What ties us to our responsibilities to other humans, rather contentedly, when we could ditch our obligations to be civil and cooperative, and just serve ourselves entirely?

• MNb

“if the universe has no objective meaning, then we can have no subjective meaning.”
Non-sequitur. The meaning of my life has been, especially last 14 years, to make a difference in the lives of other people (specifically my pupils). They tend to thank me for it. I don’t need an objective meaning in the Universe to recognize this.
The fact that it’s all chemicals in my brains and that I accept it as such doesn’t change this even a tiny bit.

• if the universe has no objective meaning, then we can have no subjective meaning.

You’ll have to explain this to me. Makes no sense.

Will we ever get the much anticipat’d demonstration that meaning or morality are objective?

• Kodie

You want it to be evidence for god that we have emotions, meaningful (to us) experiences and lives, but that doesn’t make it so. Take your bleak outlook, take someone who does sense meaninglessness and futility. Is their opinion a point in favor of the true, ultimate meaninglessness of it all? Would you take that as evidence that there is no ultimate meaning, no god?

ETA: ps. an atheist would not use someone’s opinion to prove any such thing, but a theist would have to look at both sides, or not call one side “evidence”.

• Kodie

I would not qualify “meaning” as purpose or reason for living.

I would classify it as, per my own judgment, what is worth my time, effort, and/or attention, and I might even describe to you that not all things are worth my time, effort, and attention – there is too much to do, not enough time, and I am perfectly capable of sorting most of it. Sometimes I am wrong and I’ve chosen to do something that wasn’t worth my time, and sometimes I have to do something that is worthwhile to someone else in exchange for money.

Think of life like a trip. Your “purpose” or “raison d’etre” of the trip is a business trip. Your company sent you on a trip to accomplish a certain task. You might have some free time during the trip to explore – but why would you do that if that’s not the purpose of the trip?

My trip is pretty much free to explore wherever the wind takes me. I could try surfing or meet someone for a fling, who knows what will happen, but all the amenities are there and I can make choices how to divide my time. I know the trip will end, so I might consult a guide to make sure all the time on my trip will be spent getting the most out of my location. Or I could lounge by the beach for 7 days of serene solitude. I don’t have to do any activities to get what I want to out of my trip.

• MNb

How? Let me guess: objectivism. BobS and most (if not all) of the atheist commenters are subjectivists on this subject. You have already failed to prove objectivism, hence no evidence for your god.

• Kodie

He is asserting that the meaning that you and most atheists recognize

is

evidence for god.

——————

He is not asserting that the meaning

that you recognize as evidence for god.

• KarlUdy

Thank you Kodie. As I posted below I didn’t realize I had worded this ambiguously at first

• Kodie

That is not how evidence works. Just like Jenna, “we have stuff, therefore god,” humans forge personal meaning into their lives, therefore god? We have had this conversation before. You didn’t learn anything, and you want to start at the beginning. All you have is an unsupported assertion. You are in awe of a mystery that’s already been solved. Why do humans make stuff up, why do they do poetry and art, why would they invent a god if he were not already there? You don’t like the answer, but you’re not going to like it again this time around.

• KarlUdy

I’m glad that you’ve got it solved Kodie. Let me know when I can read your results in a philosophy journal. I’m sure the philosophical community in general will be pleased to see these mysteries solved.

• Kodie

It’s not in a philosophy journal. I’m a commenter on a blog and you’re a commenter on the same blog, and we’ve had this conversation before, not another atheist and another Christian on another blog, but Bob and Kodie, other atheists, and Karl. You didn’t like the answers given, you don’t learn them, or accept them, or comprehend them, such that you can repeat your questions as if they are new to us and were never addressed before.

• KarlUdy

OK, so what you’re saying is that I should bow to the opinion of a commenter on a blog that a mystery is solved, when experts around the world think it is not actually solved?

• MNb

It’s not a mystery. Like that article at Stanford I linked to shows several answers have been formulated. The discussion is about which one is most satisfactory.
You get silly once again.

• Kodie

You have issues with perspective and vocabulary. I told you from the start we’d had this conversation before. I don’t expect not to have it again, but to at least pick it up from the last point that confused you. You are confused at the very beginning, so actually talking to you is futile. This idea is futile. Settling the matter on whether anyone does or does not have ultimate meaning is pointless. As for you, you persist in making rookie errors, that I would hope you’d have learned something.

You have two choices: meaning and not meaning. Your life is bleak without ultimate meaning. You arrive at that conclusion because most people behave as though they matter. Would you expect an animal to be trapped in hopelessness? What is the ultimate meaning of the life of an ant? An ant doesn’t seem to care for itself. Only the mission of the colony matters, only the queen matters. Does an ant queen matter to you? Do you think it matters to god? Should the ants just give up already? We are and aren’t a lot like ants. We go forward. willingly trap ourselves in obligations to others, like our children or our co-workers. We have language, we have thoughts – you have said before that this is indicative of a god. You are just stumped for a biological answer, and that answer when we tell you frightens you. You admit to being frightened by knowledge and realization, so I don’t know why we should talk to you.

• MNb

Dummy. Do you really think that no atheist philosopher ever has addressed the subject of meaning, given that about 80% of all philosophers are atheists these days?

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/life-meaning/#Nat

• Kodie

Right, here it is again. The Karl who finds evidence for a god’s existence in human feelings. If there wasn’t a god, why would we bother to care? I think the human condition is that we are self-interested and we want to feel good, we want social connections that give us a sense that our spending time has worth and appreciation outside of action, that it rewards us in some way, fairly immediately.

• Pofarmer

Would it be fair here to ask what the meaning of the universe is?

• KarlUdy

Pofarmer,
It would be a different discussion. Given how hard it can be to follow disqus discussions when they get long, I would prefer to have that discussion separately

• Pofarmer

I’m sure you would, but, here you are, advocating that the Universe has meaning, without any kind of inkling as to what that meaning might be, which, ironically enough, makes the whole discussion pretty much meaningless.

• Kodie

Do you think having this discussion is ultimately meaningful? I’m sure, as I said, that we’ve all had it before, and it didn’t mean enough then for you to remember it before you started at the beginning to go over it again.

• Kodie

Lew already told you that. That’s not our problem, that seems to be a psychological impairment on your part, and reinforced by those who share and affirm your religious faith. We call it wishful thinking. Wishing for meaning doesn’t make it true, but you really really really wish for it because you can’t cope with a lack of it, that you’d be looking for a lifeboat on dry land.

• GubbaBumpkin

My argument is with the atheists who themselves claim that the universe
(and by implication everything within it) is ultimately meaningless.

Oh adjectives, where would we be without you?
This is another absolutist argument; one of many which are popular with theists. For them, meaning must be “ultimate,” or it is worthless. Morals must be “objective” or they are worthless. Reward and punishment must be infinite and eternal or they are inadequate.
What a puny view.
I have \$10 in my pocket. Will it feed me for eternity? No. Will it even feed me for a lifetime? No. But it will buy me lunch today, and that is certainly better than nothing.
If karlUdy has \$10 in his pocket, it’s value is neither infinite nor eternal, therefore it presumably has no value to him. Since it is worthless to him, he can send it to me.

• NIcely stated. I’m amazed when professional apologists say, “for the atheist, there is no real/ultimate meaning” and don’t pause to make this distinction between real/ultimate/objective/absolute/transcendent/WTF meaning and just ordinary, everyday meaning as it’s defined in the dictionary that we all understand.

• wtfwjtd

And to top it off, the apologist can’t even tell you what that ultimate meaning is. It’s just as elusive as their “objective morality” and ultimately just as undefined and useless.

• Pofarmer

Not useless. In practice it is actually harmful.

• wtfwjtd

I suppose you mean when they use it as a cudgel to attempt to beat the rest of us into submission via politics? Very true.

• Pofarmer

It’s not only that. The idea that there is objective meaning in, well, whatever, and it comes in the form of a Bronze/Iron age book, or from a guy behind a pulpit that has studied that book, is fundamentally flawed. It’s sloppy thinking in the extreme. It leads us into all kinds of other sloppy thinking, like the idea of death for atonement of sins, or that humanity can’t develop it’s own morality. It stultifies our thinking and harms our culture, and prevents us from having meaningful conversations that we need to have.

• wtfwjtd

Point taken. That whole thing of objective morality is crazy, and demonstratively so. No need to add objective meaning to this nuttiness, it’s just as groundless and stifling.

• Kodie

Pretty much it’s all so we, as a species, can stay alive. It might not be conducive to that end, but everything we do is either in service to survival or something to kill time… we’re the only species (I think) that can hope to make rational decisions to avoid extinction.

• KarlUdy

Thank you GubbaBumpkin for providing a classic example of a strawman argument.

• Kodie

How is this different from your argument?

• KarlUdy

I deny that non-ultimate meaning is worthless. My argument is that such meaning implies that ultimate meaning does exist.

GubbaBumpkin’s strawman characterization of my argument is based on a false claim that I believe non-ultimate meaning to be worthless, despite my having spelt out many times in this thread that I in fact believe the opposite.

• Kodie

You deny that non-ultimate meaning is worhtless if there is no ultimate meaning. You haven’t shown that non-ultimate meaning implies ultimate meaning. You are just making stuff up. The clothes in my closet are meaningless if there aren’t little green Martians on Mars. That’s what you sound like to me.

• 90Lew90

How does the “meaning” you subjectively bestow on a given thing imply “ultimate” meaning? This is platonic rubbish. It’s simply a work of imagination. It’s entirely speculative and it was speculated by someone who lived 2,500 years ago with none of the knowledge we have attained since. It has no basis in what we know — no epistemological basis — to give it its formal title. It’s pie-in-the-sky. Why should “meaning” need a source or a conclusion, a beginning or an end — what you call “ultimate” meaning — at all? Just because the universe is bigger than you does not imply that whatever reaction to it that it provokes in you must also come from something bigger than you.

• Kodie

You might be able to help because of your no-mere-ape thing. Karl in the past has suggested that the existence of our intelligence suggests a greater intelligence. Our proclivity to art and music, because those areas of interest are unnecessary to survival, are gifts bestowed upon the species especially by which to get closer to god. If we were just animals, we wouldn’t do art and music, we would just be about survival like all the other animals. We wouldn’t be prone to invent a god if he weren’t actually there, etc. Why do we value things on earth – if we realized it was all going away someday, we wouldn’t get attached to anyone, and the fact that we do implies that we realize it’s going to last forever somehow.

• GubbaBumpkin

I deny that non-ultimate meaning is worthless. My argument is that such meaning implies that ultimate meaning does exist.

If that is your argument, you failed to make it. And I doubt if you can convince anyone of that.

• Pofarmer

You really need to say what you mean or STFU. What is the meaning of the Universe?

• 90Lew90

He actually did, at long last, define “meaning”. And he’s been wrapped up and packed off. If you click my profile and look for the comment where I mention the “triune god” you’ll find the exchange. Done and dusted.

• Pofarmer

• OK, good to clear that up. What I’m still waiting for is evidence for objective meaning. Is this something you just take on faith, without evidence?

• GubbaBumpkin

Fuck you KarlUdy for making a claim and failing to back it up. You fail to even specify to which argument you are referring, let alone why you characterise it as a strawman. You are a bad person.

• My argument is with the atheists who themselves claim that the universe (and by implication everything within it) is ultimately meaningless.

You act as if Christians aren’t in the same boat.

“I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. Then I said to myself, ‘The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?’ I said to myself, ‘This too is meaningless.’ For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die!” (Ecc. 2:13–16)

• KarlUdy

Koheleth was a genius. Keep reading.

• You’re saying that I’m taking this out of context? Show me.

• KarlUdy

Keep reading. And read again and again. Wisdom books like this need to be read over and over so they can sink in.

“Wisdom books like this need to be read over and over so they can sink in.”
You seem to be making an assumption that we have not done this already.

I spent the first 35 years of my life (20 years if you don’t count the first 15 for being too young) studiously studying the Bible, apologetics, all these questions. Eventually, when I went beyond only studying books that already agreed with me, I very quickly was faced with a dilemma: pursue truth as I was taught to do was the “right” thing to do, or continue believing life’s purpose had to be given to me from someone else, and all these other things you describe.

I chose truth. It took 5 years before I could admit there was no God. I thought life would be meaningless, but instead I find it much more meaningful, especially for being so short. And having to come up with that meaning myself, if any. Those make it more precious, not less. It was far easier being a theist and being told what to think, believe, and value.

Most atheists especially on these blogs have gone through this same painful journey.

• When you’ve read Dianetics a dozen times get back to me and I’ll know that you’re being consistent.

• almost any belief system would be preferable to nihilism.

Preferable? Why does that enter into it? Aren’t you looking for the truth? Or do you pick your worldview by how nice it is? (If so, I’ll bet you can find many that are a lot nicer than Christianity.)

• KarlUdy

Preferable because nihilism runs counter to foundational human experience.

• Kodie

You have a basic problem with binding two things together that are not related. The human experience tells you what you want to believe is true, but it could just be that’s how humans behave. Are you familiar with the behavior of any other animals? The more I learn about animals, the farther and farther away from any tendency to adopt a religious belief, not that I had one before.

• Huh? That there is no objective meaning to life may run counter to desire, but I don’t see how that touches on human experience.

If you are saying that humans can actually experience objective meaning and morality, I (still) await the evidence.

And you’re back to picking your worldview based on how much it pleases you rather than on where the evidence points.

• MNb

As long as you don’t get the difference between external meaning (ie of divine origin) and internal meaning (ie of human origin) you won’t get either that the vast majority of atheists are not nihilists. As soon as you get this you’ll understand that your comment is almost irrelevant.
Why don’t you start a poll? I bet you will find exactly zero nihilists overhere.
Like I wrote above: strawman.

• KarlUdy

MNb, that atheists tend not to be nihilists is part of my argument. So I don’t believe I am presenting a strawman argument, rather that you are not reading my argument correctly.

• that atheists tend not to be nihilists is part of my argument …

… that atheists are inconsistent and should be nihilists?

• KarlUdy

It is better to be an inconsistent atheist than a consistent nihilist.

• Kodie

Is it better to acknowledge that people can live fulfilling lives without a deity, or to make up a deity to explain things you can’t fathom because it skeeers you?

• KarlUdy

Arthur C. Clarke — ‘Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.’

• Kodie

What exactly is terrifying to you? That someday you won’t exist anymore and nobody will remember you or care?

• KarlUdy

Do neither of these possibilities terrify you?

• Kodie

I think he is talking about aliens.

• KarlUdy

He probably was thinking of aliens, given his interests, but he is talking about being alone.

• Kodie

You feel alone?

• KarlUdy

I know the feeling.

• Kodie

That’s why god was invented. He’s the perfect imaginary friend.

• hector_jones

• Pofarmer

Why be terrified? It is what it is.

• For mental health? I thought your point was that atheists need to face up to their inconsistency to realize the terrible worldview they’re actually advocating.

• MNb

Well, then it’s a non-sequitur. Pick your choice. Atheists tend not to be nihilists exactly because nihilism doesn’t follow logically from atheism. You’d understand this if you’d understand the difference between external and internal meaning.

• hector_jones

Your ‘ultimate meaning’ idea is just the question ‘why does anything exist?’ Neither atheists nor people of faith know the answer to this question. But believers think they know the answer is God. Atheists are able to accept the possibility that the question ‘why?’ may never be knowable and may not even be a valid question except within the workings of the human mind. That’s why you sometimes hear us say that the universe ‘has no meaning’.

If God answers the question ‘why?’ then I have to ask, why God? Christians can’t answer this, of course, but they think they don’t have to because their god will explain it all to them when they die. But they don’t know that’s going to happen either. It’s just an ad hoc, unproven hypothesis for why they can’t really answer the question ‘why?’.

• Kodie

Exactly. The way theists talk, they’re not happy unless their lives are part of a sweeping eternal epic story. We’re alive for a given amount of time, and we naturally seek to fill the time, to find people and things to do that are interesting and press our emotions that this is a worthwhile use of it. Who said to have meaning, we have to be validated by a deity and offered eternal life? It’s the acknowledgment and validation of an invisible spirit that gives life meaning? Is it the living forever? You know we don’t live forever on earth, you know our individual meaning fades with the memories of the people who die after us. To have some meaning made up by an invisible guy in an invisible place…. to spend your life having it mean “so much more” by this prospect. The whole nature of the story is that nobody deserves that, it’s more than an animal like us could hope for, and to develop inferiority over being “just an animal, with a natural lifespan”. You’re given an earth that is just horrible. It’s a way-station, it’s a hard and long test of endurance. Everything on it is meaningless, according to the story, and we’re rewarded for putting up with it all. That’s a warped and arrogant way to call what we do “meaninglessness”, for simply living and dying one day and filling the time in between.

• 90Lew90

I’m of the no-mere-ape school myself. And the *fact* that we can describe ourselves as the universe become aware of itself fills me with a certain, well, awe really. Still no need for gods. Life itself is of intrinsic value on this view. To quote the famous naturalist, “There is grandeur in this view of life”.

• Kodie

The awe is an effect of intelligence, but I still don’t think as highly of humans as most humans do. Pretty much, it’s all to keep eating and pooping. To put it a way that I think agrees with yours, yes, humans are very creative about ways to pass the time because we don’t like to be bored and we can. If we can look at it the way I see it, pretty much the whole of technology (including slavery) is to free up leisure time (including increasing our life span), time to actually feel satisfied with what we can get done, and time to fill. As it turns out, the more productive we can get, the more productivity we care about. We work just as long, and then don’t leave our jobs while we’re still well enough to work.

I admit humans are sophisticated but I wouldn’t go so far and say amazing. Occasionally one of them will amaze me, and I like most of the people I know personally. I don’t look at what humanity has managed to accomplish as though all of us helped accomplish it, when most people are consumers and cogs in the machine. It bothers me when people take credit for intelligence they don’t actually have, and I think the basis for religion, especially Karl’s take on it. We all have the basis for creative wheels turning all the time, and sometimes this turns into a movie, sometimes it turns into inventions, sometimes it turns into medicine. It’s calculation and the ability to imagine results and then work the steps toward the solution – when sometimes the solution isn’t there. The invention of god is one such example of creative expression, what we idlers tend to do to reach such an outlet. Some of us find it’s a workable solution and some of reach a dead end. Could the cure for cancer be candy? No*. We can imagine the ridiculous, the far-fetched, and then we cross it off the list so we can find a/the solution among them and don’t miss it. Sure, no other animal appears to do this.

But – what the animal wants is what it wants. Why is that? We can have a solution and most of us don’t want to believe it. We can pretend we’re so smart when the smart people deliver us the solution, or we can arbitrarily decide we know more than they do and not get on board. Even religion is a form of skepticism. Or judge people by their full character, even such as Mother Teresa. If devotion to the lord means more to you, her crimes mean nothing. If her crimes mean everything, would we forgive her if she also actually fed people? (I think in this case, she’s the complete package of shit and hate that she’s admired solely because she had faith or even good intentions).

*I happened upon an Amazon listing via a blog I read called “The Worst Things for Sale” (by the same author of the cartoon “Toothpaste for Dinner” if you you know that guy), for a 5-pound bag of sugar-free gummi bears. The reviews had me in tears for a few pages, but then there was a review from someone with cancer who found the candy to be, in the right dose, pretty perfect to alleviate the constipation arising from chemotherapy, better than any medicine.

• 90Lew90

I just came across this, sorry for the delay. Much of what you describe strikes me as a malaise peculiar to the West, and even at that, only certain parts of the West (the US, Britain and Ireland, France, Germany etc, but less so the Nordic and Scando countries). I agree with you about time intended for leisure ends up being consumed by the demands for ever more “productivity”, and that much of that productivity is divorced from any real creativity. It is a symptom of the economic system we acquiesce in. I’m not a communist, but we’re getting something deeply wrong with the kind of capitalism that we use (or which uses us). It encourages people to be shits. “Shit floats” in this system. If you’d said that our much-vaunted freedom is illusory, I would have agreed wholeheartedly.
Having said that, it’s not set in stone and perhaps our friends Karl and Cody would opportunistically say that this is a symptom of our godlessness. I don’t accept that either. Travel and history put paid to that claim, and they also put paid to the notion that “our” culture is the only culture. I would elect travel — proper travelling — as being as important as formal education for any young person. I try to immerse myself in literature also. It’s that which alleviates the hum-drum of daily life for me, and when I get the opportunity I still am in love with the thrill of culture-shock. It never really wears thin for me and it softens me up again when I haven’t even noticed I’ve been becoming quite hard.
Yes, the foolishness of the supposedly “smart” people infuriates me, and yes, I am at heart an idler. I’m often happier in my own company and my dog gives me more pleasure than most of the people I can’t help but encounter every day, but from a wider scope, it can’t be denied that we’re no “mere ape”, and I don’t mind doing my bit to try to elevate the whole towards my ideal. Whether I have much impact doesn’t much bother me. The point for me is to aim always at truth as a goal and honesty whatever comes of it. Honesty can often be dangerous. When you take risks by being honest, hypocrisy becomes a crime, and so does thoughtlessly sucking up prefabricated “morality”. These are among the many, many reasons I regard religion as the enemy.

• MNb

I don’t think humans are amazing indeed, at least no more than ants and crows. But I think the Universe very awesome.

• Kodie

The more I learn about animals the less impressed I am with humans, actually. Mostly it is what’s going around – I don’t get why people love to watch and share videos of someone doing the right thing or a nice thing and moves them so much. Life must not be like that enough for a simple gesture by someone else evokes so much good feeling. People seek things that make them “restore faith in humanity” or whatever, but I don’t see a sweeping trend, an exponential spread of opportunities to be generous and kind, which is what? A little more money than someone was expecting, or someone who listens or helps someone when they fall down. It is still like something you see on tv that you can consume, and not something that happens to you or happens because of you.

Very few times I am wowed by something a human did and it is usually in a creative arena and not because of their kindness. I expect people to be kind, and then I am disappointed. That doesn’t mean the kindness touches my heart like it does so many – it’s sometimes more than most of us take the time to do, and it seems to really cheer people up, so the world must be a mostly depressing place. I am very hard to please regarding creativity, but when I am impressed by humans it’s “I can’t believe someone thought of that!” Then more people try to copy it, and gain fame through it. Wouldn’t it be nice if people would be more opportunistic about generosity and kindness?

• MNb

The fun thing of course is that the lives of the atheists are part of a sweeping epic story that beats everything from any Holy Book. Science provides that story, beginning with the Big Bang (and perhaps even before, mind you).

• Kodie

I don’t see myself so much as a part of that “story” or that it’s a real story. We’re all uncredited extras in that movie, and as soon as we know something, we get amnesia forever.

• Carol Lynn

round of applause. That’s a wonderful comment.

• 90Lew90

Thanks!

• Greg G.

So what if all of our subjective meaningful experiences end at death? All the theist has for objective meaning are the eternal ramifications of an opinion held at the time of (or held at some time prior to) death. The things that make life worth living are everything else that atheists and theists hold dear. A life that doesn’t end would likely get tedious after all the unexpected pleasures become old hat.

The meaning of life for the typical Christian is to receive the reward of heaven where there is nothing but joy forever. The implications of that would be that they would either have their memories of damned loved ones deleted or they would be overjoyed that they are receiving the eternal torture they deserve. So death for them is having the subjective meaningful experiences rendered meaningless and their humanity expunged. The meaning of the finite experiences of a few decades of life would become inconsequential after trillions of years, anyway.

What about the meaning of God’s life? Would existence for the sake of existence have an objective meaning for God? Does creating a cosmos inhabited by souls add to the meaning of God’s existence? Setting up an experiment with the fate of sentient entities with an arbitrary distinction to decide who gets an eternal reward and who gets eternal punishment seems like something a bored kid with a magnifying glass would do to ants that cross a crack in the pavement. (I still have regrets about that.)

The whole concept of an absolute meaning to life is as imaginary as the soul. It’s never actually defined in an objective way.

On the other hand, what if the cosmos is a four dimensional space-time continuum where our conciousness is only aware of a three dimensional projection of the continuum that is driven by time and the laws of thermodynamics of the 4D continuum? Think of a pre-digital age movie where a series of images are projected rapidly enough to give the illusion of movement and our minds are able to follow the meaning of the action in the movie. Just because we are presently aware of scene 3 doesn’t mean that the frames depicting scene 1 and scene 2 have disappeared. Likewise, the states that produced our experiences which we base our meaning of life upon may still exist in a 4D reality even after our ability to remember them has degraded. That concept is no crazier than theism and it could be modeled using Newton’s laws of motion.

Theists often taunt atheists that if they don’t believe in an afterlife, “why don’t they just kill themselves?” But the idea that an atheist’s life has no meaning means that the theist’s life outside of religion has no meaning and some religions proffer the idea that suicide is unforgivable just to keep theists from doing themselves in. That’s bad for the business side of religion.

• MNb

Strawman.

• KarlUdy

How so?

• MNb

Your impression of atheists is wrong.

• pianoman

My life is very meaningful. I am happy to be alive, to be lucky to be healthy, financially stable, a nice family.

But i worked for years to get to that. However, I am very aware that it could all vanish. That doesn’t make me appreciate my life any less.

• hector_jones

I’ve never found these christian arguments that god exists because of meaning to be the least bit compelling.

They seem to consist of two basic approaches:

Approach A
1. People (regardless of faith) feel that their lives have meaning
2. This meaning must come from an external source
3. That external source is God
4. Therefore God

That approach obviously fails at #2 and #3

Approach B

1. Christian’s feel their lives have meaning, but atheists do not
2. What separates Christians and Atheists is their belief or lack of belief in God
3. Therefore belief in God is what gives meaning to people’s lives

This fails because premise 1 is false. Atheists’ feel their lives have meaning as much as anyone else. I’ve been an atheist for about half my life now and I was agnostic for a long time before that. I’ve never noticed that my life lacked meaning. I just hear christians telling me it does. Even if this argument worked all it could conclude is that belief in God helps christians find meaning, not that God exists.

• wtfwjtd

The Christian’s claim of “objective meaning” is as hollow and groundless as their claim of “objective morality.” I’ve never yet seen a shred of credible evidence to support either one.

• KarlUdy

hector, your approach A is close to what I am getting at. I agree that steps 2 and 3 as you have put them are not obviously true. However, they are not obviously false either.

• hector_jones

1. People (regardless of faith) feel that their lives have meaning
2. This meaning must come from an external source
3. That external source is cats
4. Therefore cats

Not obviously false is it? It’s even better than your version because at least we know cats exist.

• Pofarmer

To say that the universe is meaningless, doesn’t imply that our lives our. That’s the point of secular humanism.

• hector_jones

The impression christians have always given me is that their lives have no meaning unless they can go on forever, as if eternal existence and meaningful existence are the same thing. What makes this approach so bad is it allows christians and their leaders to claim that this life on earth has very little meaning at all, as it’s just preparation for the afterlife, which is where the real meaning begins. To the christian, a real bird in the hand is worthless compared with two birds in the bush – two birds that they have no way of knowing even exist.

They also seem to think that this ‘ultimate meaning’ is something that matters very much to God and he’s going to reveal it to them when they get to heaven. More wishful thinking. Even if there is a god who understands the ‘ultimate meaning’ of things, there’s no reason to believe it requires you to live forever or that it need ever be revealed to you.

• wtfwjtd

“They also seem to think that this ‘ultimate meaning’ is something that matters very much to God and he’s going to reveal it to them when they get to heaven.”

You’d think that if this really were the case, he’d at least make an attempt to be communicative in the here and now.

• Kodie

Well, now I can’t even think what this ultimate meaning might be that’s so much more important than what is. It’s sort of like an author writes a story, publishes and sells this book, a lot of people read it and like it very much but parts of it are confusing, still all in all a satisfying story with a rewarding end…. some people still manage to hate it and pick it apart and criticize this book. Anyway, what the book means to readers is somehow less important. All anyone wants to know is the ultimate meaning of the book via the author’s meaning in writing the book. Once we know how the author really feels, we can all level up to actual meaning instead of merely consuming what’s written in the book and interpreting it by relating to it.

Sometimes people who consume articles of culture, like books and films, feel the need to tell everyone about it from their own point of view, and some feel the need to find other people who felt the same way, or may alter how they perceived it by reading other reviews of it, more knowledgeable critiques and such. I’ve liked movies before and then found out why someone else didn’t like it and changed my opinion before. But if you really like something, why should anyone else be able to tell you that you have to hate it, and vice versa, if you hate something they like, that you have no taste, or you’re not sophisticated enough to “get it”.

So anyway, the whole thing with ultimate meaning is we can tentatively enjoy a book, but the only thing that really matters is how the author intended by writing it. Was it cathartic, was it semi-auto-biographical? Maybe the author felt it pretty hacky but realized it would have popular appeal and sold it anyway. You can’t form an opinion, and your opinion doesn’t count. There is one ultimate opinion, and we’re all waiting to hear back from the author. This is so “ultimate”, I can’t wait.

• wtfwjtd

And you would think, if it was so important to the author of the book that they wanted people to “get it” in a certain way, they’d write in a relatively clear, direct manner. Have you ever read Huck Finn? I recall Mark Twain being asked about the deeper meaning of this, and he said all he ever intended it to be was a kid’s story. But, of course a careful reading of the book shows you that, yes, it is a great kid’s story, but there’s also some biting commentary regarding race relations and other things in there too. As for his actual purpose for writing the book, who knows? But it’s all there, and we can take it however we want.
That’s more or less how I would view life–I don’t see any over-arching theme or meaning, it’s just there for us. I can’t think of anything more frustrating or futile that searching for some invisible, undetectable being’s imagined “meaning” for us.

• Kodie

I guess that we all think our observations are flawed, our intuitions may be mistaken, our impressions might be influenced by what other people who are flawed think, but the author’s perspective will give us some kind of deeper understanding. Your example of Huck Finn is great. I also notice Sesame Street as well as many other programming for children as its primary audience offers something for the adults who watch with children. Sometimes I think they give too much cool for the parents, but anyway. What is there and what seems to be written into it, and how I interpret it can sometimes be from analogies, comparing underlying themes to other books and movies. I occasionally look up a song I like on songmeanings.net and if the song is popular enough someone invariably thinks it’s about Jesus. The Jesus story is just so familiar that the theme is interpolated, and maybe it is like the Jesus story because the Jesus story has familiar themes that appeal to people (like Superman or Star Wars that are also “about” Jesus). But the commenter thinks the songwriter had literal Jesus on the mind. Just as many people think all songs are about drugs, especially marijuana.

But anyway, nobody really knows without asking the author. So on this song site, sometimes a person will know the story behind the song. I think that’s also a program on VH1? People love a good backstory from the horse’s mouth. The ultimate meaning of your or my life is a “mystery” only known by the author, and theists go about insisting that it would blow your mind. Has the author’s commentary on their own work ever blown your mind? Been inconceivable? I am really struggling to figure out how much more I could personally mean. It promises to be huge.

That said, I do lean toward the “futility” end of the spectrum, as per Karl’s suggestion that atheist lives have no meaning, but we all say they do, they do, of course! I don’t protest, because I know what Karl means. It doesn’t make me feel hopeless or unimportant. I actually find it helpful and takes a lot of pressure off. I used to work at a community live theatre, and we were late making copies of the program for that night’s show and I got really panicked because it was going to fail to be perfect. The stage manager saw me in the hall practically having a meltdown, and someone who actively pursued a life in the theatre, it was everything to her, she said, “it’s only theatre, nobody will die if you don’t get it done.”

We all put too much meaning on our participation, I think. Mini-sagas taking place daily. Lacking ultimate meaning feels like being sad that I’m not famous, where fame gives someone more exposure, more popularity, more fake love, more real appreciation, more criticism, more stalkers, more chances to embarrass yourself in front of more people. Speaking of which, I don’t easily embarrass for that same reason.

• wtfwjtd

I apply my own meaning to popular songs all the time, and for me it makes the listening experience more enjoyable. I’ve read where a lot of authors say that’s exactly what they intend with their stuff, they don’t like to talk about “what they meant” because they like people to put their own spin on it and they’re totally cool with that. That’s where the theist really loses me, their imaginary friend has this over-arching theme that they know about because god secretly told them about it! What was that idiocy Jenna was babbling about? Our body’s god sensors have to be tuned properly to pick up the proper signals or some such tripe?
As for getting bleak, I don’t see the point, really. When my family experienced several deaths in close succession a few years ago, it was a real downer, no doubt. My way of dealing with it at the time, at least in part, was taking on adding a room to our house. That sounds silly to a lot of people, but rather than booze or drugs or whatever, I tend to get creative during tougher times in my life. It’s far better than self-destruction, and it’s almost always beneficial to the people around me, besides. And since that’s how I give my life some meaning, the benefits are multiplied. The whole “waiting ’til I die hope I find meaning” is a very bleak and futile outlook, no wonder our friend Karl here is so dour. This drives lots of people to self-destruction, which to me is even more pointless.

• hector_jones

I thought all songs were about sex.

• Kodie

It’s the phenomenon of when you first meet someone and crushing on them, all the songs on the radio are about falling in love, and when you break up, all the songs are about breaking up.

• wtfwjtd

Rock n Roll is all about sex, Country is all about breaking up.

• Did you see the South Park episode where Cartman creates a religious band called Faith Plus One? His clever idea was just to repurpose romantic songs (“Ooh, baby, baby, I want you in me,” etc.) into religious songs.

When the band went for their record deal, the producer gently said that it sounded like they were in love with Jesus. Cartman said: I love Jesus; I’m in love with Jesus–what’s the difference?? I don’t think you love Jesus!

They got their deal.

http://www.therealmusician.com/images/eric-cartman-faith-plus-one.jpg

• Pofarmer

I wouldn’t really care if they didn’t want to force this wishful thinking on everybody, and proclaim, “the good news” that a guy died 2000 years ago to pay for our sins. But, I don’t think they ever really notice that there is still an awful lot of concentration on all this sin that was supposedly “Paid for.” Maybe the check bounced?

• Kodie

I have said this before, but Jesus Christ came to liquidate the burnt offerings system.

• Rudy R

MNb, you’ve given one of the best responses to the theists claim that atheists don’t live meaningful lives. I’ve always wondered when Christians, who believe in evolution, think humans started receiving their “meaning of life” from a god. Was it during the homo sapiens reign, or did it start as early as Australopithecus, who existed 4 million years ago and had 35% of the brain mass as modern humans. I also wonder if Australopithecus would have had a greater understanding of the meaning of life than a modern-day chimpanzee (28% of the brain mass as modern humans.). I understand this is a mute point for Christians who don’t believe in evolution,

• Pofarmer

I see absolutely nothing that indicates any meaning in the Universe other than what we give it.

• MGreen

The fact is that you can say that “there is no Santa”, however such an approach only stands up to scrutiny if you are prepared to accept a universe devoid of presents from Santa.

• RichardSRussell

“Meaning” is a human construct. There is no such thing as “meaning” without a brain to create it.

No, the Universe does not have any intrinsic meaning, and I’m surprised that you apparently think either that it should, it must, or it would be desirable.

And, in any event, things don’t cease to be true simply because we find their consequences to be unpleasant or uncomfortable.

• GubbaBumpkin

however such an approach only stands up to scrutiny if you are prepared to accept a universe devoid of meaning.

Your argument would only carry weight if you had convincing evidence that the universe did have some intrinsic meaning. Otherwise, it sounds an awful lot like wishful thinking.

The universe doesn’t give a *&**** ***** whether you can accept meaningless or not.

• RichardSRussell

I’m not sure you’re giving the Fine Tuning Argument a fair hearing.

As Bob points out right at the beginning of this essay, these are the minor-league rebuttals to the FTA. He’s already dealt with the best-known rebuttals in earlier essays. This is a blog, not a book, and he doesn’t even pretend that he engaging in exhaustive coverage of a subject.

Besides, if he didn’t leave openings like this, folx like you wouldn’t be treated to the opportunity to “set him straight”, and wouldn’t that leave a gaping hole in your existence?

• nakedanthropologist

I think you may be wrong about the meaning thing. For example, if we were to compare five people, each from a different culture, we will get five different meanings – it’s a subjective and arbitrary concept. Humans do not hold a universal definition of what gives their lives meaning – it varies from religion to religion, culture to culture, and so on.

• Kodie

An demonstration of random chance: take a hundred or so pebbles and drop them from a height onto a wide area of pavement. Choose one pebble at random and draw a chalk circle around it, and mark the pebble so you can see a difference between that pebble and all the others. Go back up the ladder and look at the array – this is the universe.

Go gather up all the pebbles and toss them again. There is a non-zero chance the painted pebble will land inside the circle again. There is a much better chance of another pebble landing exactly inside the circle. There is an extremely likely chance of the painted pebble going inside the circle if you decide to put it there. This is the fine-tuned argument. How likely is it for the painted pebble to land inside the circle? It landed in the circle the first time before you painted it and drew a circle around it, randomly.

• aisiantonas

As to evaluating probabilities: that is obviously difficult, and the assignment of numerical values easily gives a false sense of definiteness. But it’s hard to proceed without numbers, so it’s best to do so while keeping a little salt between our fingers. If the fine-tuning argument works (I’m not trying here to show that it does), then it’s plausible to assign a really low value – i.e. some way into the negative indices – to H1, or rather, the probability of a life permitting universe (or better, a universe permitting communities of embodied consciousnesses) given H1.
How do we assign an initial probability to God? Well, because of the problem of old evidence, we have to use only a priori considerations. That leaves us the ontological argument and the cosmological argument. I think the ontological argument is bad, but putting ‘God is possible’ way into the negative indices is unwarranted, and that’s really the only controversial premiss of the best formulations of the argument. Then there’s the cosmological, which I think is pretty good, and is at least difficult to banish into the far negative indices. Which all suggest that the initial probability of God is considerably higher than probability of the life permitting universe given H1 (granting that the basic fine-tuning stuff works). With a fair non-tiny probability for the life permitting universe given God, the God hypothesis ends up looking pretty likely on the fine-tuning evidence.

Focussing solely on the question of what Mother Teresa’s *interior* life tells us about the finetuning-God. Teresa certainly wasn’t worrying about whether the fine-tuning argument could meet all its critics. Her faith, like all faith, was based on her experienced relationship with God. Her problem was simply that the relationship had turned sour, and in a way that no evidence for theism would be likely to fix. ‘ Blessed (not “Saint” yet) Teresa’s was no simple “dark night of the soul,” a bit of doubt in a journey of hope. She lived most of her life in internal anguish because she could not feel Jesus’s presence even though she never abandoned the idea that he was out there somewhere.’ But this internal anguish, and not any mere intellectual doubt, is precisely what the dark night of the soul is. It’s a widely attested mystical phenomenon, one usually followed by an awareness of and joy in God’s presence more intense than any previously experienced The dark night of the soul is nothing to do with the state of anyone’s evidence, and everything to do with the unfolding process of the mystical life. Most Christians are not, in fact, in a state of continual anxiety because of intellectual uncertainty.

• Most Christians are not, in fact, in a state of continual anxiety because of intellectual uncertainty.

I would bet that no atheists are in such a state. Ex-Christian atheist do sometimes complain about residual habits from their past pulling them back, but I don’t hear of “doubt” within the atheist community as it is in the Christian community.

• Kodie

I would not take that bet myself. You interact with a self-selected kind of atheist who wants to confront the arguments of theism.

• GubbaBumpkin

If there is only one universe, Parsons wonders, what sense does it make
to say that the constants that define that universe could be something
else? How could they be anything without other universes for them to be in?

This sounds like the lottery winner’s argument that they are special. “You say anyone else could have won the lottery, but they didn’t did they? It was I who won, so that fact must be have immense significance.

• Georgina

A dice is thrown – a six! Now what are the chance of that happening?
A dice is thrown – a two! Now what are the chance of that happening?
multiply by 100 – what are the chances of that particular sequence happening?

We evolved to fit our environment. As yet, we do not know what type of life has/could evolve in the rest of the universe. However, if our environment had been different, maybe we would have evolved differently. It wasn’t, so we didn’t.

• Kodie

We don’t have access to an alternate outcome. Another outcome might not be fit for life, but we don’t know that outcome, and for sure you and me wouldn’t be talking on the internet analyzing the alternate outcome that might have been this universe. People don’t like to question too deeply a world or universe in which they never would have existed. I like to think of the earth with dinosaurs – the earth got along a very long time without humans and without any human in particular, and will go on a long time without that human in particular and without humans. Applied to the significance of the person themselves, one often feels upset at their job, under-appreciated – they will fall apart when I leave, there is no one who does my job better than me. That is pretty much how insignificant humans are, and how significant most of us want to believe we each are.

• RichardSRussell

As a veteran gamer, I use “douse” as the singular, because in D&D we never say die. 8^D

• RichardSRussell

Quite a bit earlier in this discussion, in reaction to the fawning over Mother Teresa and the suggestion that perhaps “atheists” (in general) felt the same way about Christopher Hitchens, I commented

I can’t speak for all atheists, but my earlier reference to “feet of clay” should have been a tip-off that I myself think that the whole idea of “role model” is a snare and a delusion.

As it happens, this article in today’s Daily Kos makes much the same point. It asks why political conservatives glorify certain personalities (specifically naming Donald Trump, James O’Keefe, Joe the Plumber, Sarah Palin, Dean Chambers, Ted Nugent, Dinesh D’Souza, and Cliven Bundy) and end up looking like idiots when their heroes are eventually revealed to be losers or worse. Meanwhile, “when genuine liberals go down, like Anthony Weiner, Elliot Spitzer and John Edwards, we don’t feel compelled to rally around them and invent conspiracy theories. If someone is a scumbag, party ID doesn’t rescue them from our scorn.”

• wtfwjtd

Kos is always a great read, his instincts and perceptions on political reality is usually spot on. Here’s another great quote from that article:

“There is no one in liberal punditry as consistently wrong as Bill Kristol, Dick Morris or Jennifer Rubin, because we don’t need to bend reality to sleep at night.

Sound familiar? It should; these shit-shovelers lie their asses off in pushing their piles of shit, and their conservative audiences love them for it. It’s because they push a version of reality that only exists in the fevered brains of true believers, and they just know if they lie about it often enough that it will make it reality. Much like the deluded religious posters here, eh? Truly a bizarre and disturbing sight to behold.

• Pofarmer

I don’t think the left is immune. But that’s neither here nor there. It’s human nature to overlook flaws in people you admire.

• RichardSRussell

I don’t think anybody’s immune, but some people seem to be more prone to adulation than others. This psychological tendency is at the heart of what Eric Hoffer was writing about in The True Believer, his seminal study of mass movements, in which he points out that TBs really, really, really want to attach themselves to something (be it a cause, an institution, or a person) larger and more important than their own pitiful selves.

• MNb

Well, for what it’s worth, the Dutch party that gets my vote (radical left, not the kind that’s called liberal in the USA) has the habit to sac those who fail, even when they are not to blame. Needless to say that that party is not too big.

• Kodie

I’m not even sure there’s anything wrong with that. Nobody is perfect. Depends on the flaw and whether it affects you personally.

• pianoman

I’ve wondered how it is that anyone with even remedial education can listen to Palin or Nugent and say “hmmm…this one’s got something!”

Then again, I wonder why it is that tabloids are still supported by creepy, obsessive people buying their magazines.

• MNb

Oh, when I listen to the solo of Journey to the Centre of the Heart and the initial riff of Great White Buffalo I totally say “The Nuge has got something.”

• hector_jones

The Nuge has got something all right. I believe it’s called ‘syphillis’.

• SparklingMoon

It is well established that of the objects that are visible in the universe, none is indispensable. For instance, the earth is spherical and according to the estimate of some, its diameter is approximately eight thousand miles, but there is no firm reason why this shape and this bulk should be essential for it, and why is it not permissible that it should be of greater or lesser bulk or should have a different shape. From this it follows that this shape and bulk, the combination of which constitutes existence, are not essential for the earth. In the same way, the existence and continuation of all things is dispensable. Besides, in many cases circumstances come into operation which threaten the continuation of certain things and yet they are not wiped out. For instance, despite severe famines and epidemics from the very beginning, all through the seed of everything has always survived, while reason permits, indeed it demands, that on account of thousands of hardships and calamities which have afflicted the world from the beginning, it should have happened sometime that in consequence of severe famines, corn which provides sustenance for humanity should have become non available, or through the severity of epidemics the human species should have disappeared, or some species of animals should have been wiped out, or the machinery of the sun or the moon might have gone out of order, or of numberless other things which are necessary for the proper working of the universe, something might have got out of order. It is contrary to expectation that millions of things should escape disorder and disruption and should not become victims of calamity. In conclusion, such things whose existence and continuation is not essential in their own right, and whose going out of order is more of a possibility than their continuation, and their suffering no decline and their coming into being and continuing in an orderly way, and the continued availability of billions of things needed in the universe, are a clear proof that for all of them there is a Bestower of life, Protector and Sustainer, Who combines the perfect attributes in Himself. That is to say, He is the Controller, the Wise, the Gracious, the Compassionate, Eternal and Ever-Living, free from every defect, not subject to death or destruction and even free from slumber and sleep which have a resemblance to death. He is the Being Who combines in Himself all perfect attributes, Who brought into being the universe with perfect wisdom and appropriateness and chose its existence in preference to non-existence. He alone, on account of His perfection, His creation, His Rububiyyat, and His Self-Existence, is worthy of worship. (Ruhani Khazain)

• 90Lew90

“For instance, the earth is spherical and according to the estimate of some, its diameter is approximately eight thousand miles, but there is no firm reason why this shape and this bulk should be essential for it…”

Gravity.

• SparklingMoon

You are right that this diameter is essential for a good function of gravity but who had measured this diameter for earth? God Almighty says that He has not only created all things of this universe but also has measured their capacity .

• hector_jones

No. The earth is spherical because the force of gravity made it that way, not because it needs to be that way in order for gravity to function.

“…the earth is spherical and according to the estimate of some, its diameter is approximately eight thousand miles…”

I wouldn’t put it that way. Unless I was writing in the 1600s.

• SparklingMoon

You may be right according to your better knowledge of science. I say honestly that I have no good knowledge about the working of these laws of nature as has been investigated by the scientists of recent time. Actually I want to say only that every object of this universe has an estimation for its perfection that is decided by God Almighty before creation.

• 90Lew90

Ridiculous. Forgive my disdain but maybe you should make some effort to inform yourself a bit better before piping up with “god-did-it”. The knowledge and how we acquired it is all there for your perusal. It’s not esoteric stuff transmitted by priests.

• SparklingMoon

maybe you make some effort to inform yourself a bit better before piping up with “god-did-it”. The knowledge and how we acquired it is all there for your perusal. It’s not esoteric stuff transmitted by priests
………………………………………………………….
I appreciate whole heartedly the all efforts of scientist who struggle to explore the laws of nature to progress earthly life. This knowledge of scientist should not confuse with the knowledge of a prophet who informs about a different world. Religions talk about the prosperity of human soul.

Secondly, God has distributed all abilities in different people to run the system of this world. We can understand this division by considering the whole humanity as it is like a human body. As different particles and organs do different functions in a body to run its system and one particle or organ can not take the place of other one as among the people of this world God has divided all abilities and guts in different people to run the system of this world for its progress. All people can not become a poet or writer or a scientist etc. All have their own field of struggle and duty. It would be a sheer mistake of a religious person if he interferes in science matters, considering ones knowledge equal to a scientist (who has passed a long part of his life to investigate the laws of nature).

Thirdly, We can appreciate scientist for their efforts but they can not take the place of God Almighty who is the Creator of this whole universe. The Holy book does not arbitrarily and without reason describe God the Glorious as the Master of all souls and all cells of bodies. God Almighty sets forth the reason, as He says that the heavens and the earth and all that is in them belong to God Almighty, inasmuch as He has created them all. He has put a limit to the capacity and work of each created being, so that limited things should point to a Limiter Who is God Almighty Himself. Thus, we observe that as bodies are confined within their limits and cannot go outside of them, in the same way souls are also confined and cannot create more powers and capacities than those that have been invested in them. For instance, the moon completes its orbit within… ……….. https://www.alislam.org/library/browse/book/The_Essence_of_Islam/?p=1#page/116/mode/1up

• Rudy R

The fact that 99.9% of all life that ever existed on Earth became extinct refutes your whole hypothesis.

• SparklingMoon

According to the Census of Marine Life: About 8.7 million is the new, estimated total number of species on Earth (with 6.5 million species on land and 2.2 million in oceans). Do you mean that the numbers of these different species (8,700,000) are only 0.1 % of the numbers that were in the beginning of earthly life?

• MNb

No, 0,1% of the total since the beginning of Earthly life.

• Rudy R

I should have stated “99.9% of all species.” And yes, 0.1%. Is there a problem with the low number? After all, life has existed on Earth for about 3.6 billion years and there is plenty of time for a lot species to die off and new species to evolve.

And yet, over and over, almost all life on earth has been wiped out. Famine is the worst thing you (or Ruhani) can imagine? Much much worse has happened, and each time almost all life on earth was wiped out, over and over. I’m sure if the dinosaurs were a little smarter, they’d have thought the earth was fine tuned for them. They were here a lot longer than we have been.

Looking at the universe, it is a lot more tuned to form black holes than it is to form humans.

• SparklingMoon

Looking at the universe, it is a lot more tuned to form black holes than it is to form humans. …………………………………………………………………….
The discovery that the universe is constantly expanding is of prime significance to scientists,as it helps to create a better understanding of how the universe was initially created. It clearly explains the stage by stage process of creation, in a manner which perfectly falls into step with the theory of the Big Bang. The entire cycle of the beginning, the end and the return again to a similar beginning is already informed by God Almighty in His revelation about 1500 years ago: ”And the heaven We built with Our own powers and indeed We go on expanding it.”

One of the two theories relating to the expansion predicts that the universe thus created will carry on expanding forever. The other claims that the expansion of the universe will, at some time, be reversed because the inward gravitational pull will ultimately prevail. Eventually, all matter will be pulled back again to form perhaps another gigantic black hole. Whilst speaking of the first creation of the universe, the Holy Book clearly describes its ending into yet another black hole, connecting the end to the beginning, thus completing the full circle of the story of cosmos. God Almighty declares: ”Remember the day when We shall roll up the heavens like the rolling up of written scrolls.” The clear message of this verse is that the universe is not eternal. It speaks of a future when the heavens will be rolled up, in a manner similar to the rolling up of a scroll. Scientific descriptions illustrating the making of a black hole, very closely resemble what the Quran describes in the above verse. .

A mass of accretion from space falling into a black hole,as described above, would be pressed into a sheet under the enormous pressure created by the gravitational and electromagnetic forces. As the centre of the black hole is constantly revolving around itself, this sheet -as it approaches- will begin to be wrapped around it, before disappearing into the realm of the unknown at last. The verse continues and informs further : ”..As We began the first creation, so shall We repeat it; a promise binding on Us; that We shall certainly fulfil.” (105:21) Following the eventual collapse of the universe into a black hole, here we have the promise of a new beginning. God Almighty will recreate the universe, as He had done before. The collapsed universe will re-emerge from its darkness and the whole process of creation will start yet again .This wrapping up and unfolding of the universe appears to be an ongoing phenomenon, according to the Holy Quran.

This Quranic concept of the beginning and the end of the creation is undoubtedly extraordinary.It would not have been less amazing if it had been revealed to a highly educated person of our contemporary age, but one is wonder-struck by the fact that this most advanced knowledge, regarding the perpetually repeating phenomenon of creation, was revealed more than fourteen hundred years ago to an unlettered dweller of the Arabian desert. The Foundersa of Islam, the recipient of the Holy Quran, was an unlettered person, born in an unlettered society. His birth and upbringing took place in a land flanked on its eastern and western frontiers by two great civilizations of that time, the Roman and Persian empires. The desert of Arabia lay trapped in the middle as a wasteland of darkness and ignorance. Would it not be extraordinary for a person born there in AD 600, to so vividly talk of the vastness of the universe and the secrets it contains, secrets which are only now beginning to emerge like the twinkling of dimly lit stars seen through the hazy light of dusk. It is incredible for such a person to speak of things unknown to the greatest scholars of his time anywhere in the world, and yet be proved right under the scrutiny of the scientific examination of the twentieth century.How right he must have been when he declared that whatever knowledge he transmitted to the world was not of his own making, but came from a Supreme, All-Knowing Eternal source of Absolute Wisdom!

The Divine scriptures are not textbooks of science, hence any reference therein to scientific subjects could not be merely incidental. The main purpose is to establish the unity of source; to prove that the material world and the spiritual world are both the work of the same Creator. (The Quran and Cosmology)

• I’ve heard “fine-tuning” called the “stealth creationism argument.” You’ve tackled it very well in this brief space. It’s downright narcissistic and egocentric in my opinion to believe that the universe is in any way fine-tuned (just because its tuning happens to support our existence?). I’m a non-science-nerd so I just think of it thusly: Calling the universe “uniquely suited for life” is ridiculous because 99.99999999% of it (which might not even be enough decimal places) is outrageously hostile to life, because we’ve only found life on exactly one place in the whole universe, and that even in that one little tiny corner of the universe, life arose comparatively late in the game. It seems to me that far from being fine-tuned or uniquely suited to life, the universe is glaringly hostile to it–but that life, as Jeff Goldblum famously said, finds a way. Life arose because conditions for it were okay in this one little bitty speck of the universe (though obviously not everywhere even on that speck!), not because the universe is suited in any way for life. It’s unsuited for life, and that’s the whole point of awesomeness that we’re here anyway.

This argument goes up there with the equally ridiculous Christian urban legend about the Earth’s “goldilocks zone,” the claim that if the Earth were just a few feet to one side or the other from the Sun, that we couldn’t exist. It just shows ignorance of science, that’s all.

Thank you for writing your lovely and concise examination of this beloved bit of Christian apologetics.

• On the topic of 99.9999999%, here’s a good perspective.

As for the earth’s Goldilocks zone, the earth already does vary is distance from the sun by a percent or so (I think it’s closest in February?). Also, the amount of oxygen is now 20% but has been far less and over 30%. Life adapts to its environment, not the other way around.

• Exactly! The Earth moves back and forth in its distance to the Sun all year long and somehow we’re all still here. Oxygen levels vary considerably over time. Average temperature, humidity, you name it; it all varies so wildly. And life adapts to it all. It doesn’t take much to debunk this BS. It’s mind-blowing that such obvious and egregious lies have taken hold the way they have. Some religious folks (not just Christians, obvs) just absolutely have to have things a certain way, and nothing–not even facts–will get in their way to get ’em there. I have heard so many times about Christians whose faith was considerably rocked and shaken when they discovered that these apologetics routines are lies through and through; it made them wonder what else was a lie. I myself ran into that situation as I deconverted. I’m still angry that I was fed so many obvious, self-serving, pandering lies as a Christian. You can’t build a solid foundation on shifting sand, indeed, hmm? If something’s the truth, it doesn’t need lies to support itself. Truth should hate lies, not embrace them.

• I would like to invite you to read my new book, “The First Black Friday: The Crucifixion of Christ” by K L Rich on Amazon.com. It took the love of a Father to send His son down to earth to suffer at the hands of an evil world and die for our sins. Jesus having been told what was needed to save mankind, mentally struggled with the mission, but knew that it was necessary to keep man from being eternally lost. It was a horrible day. It was a day of cruelty and torment. It was…The First Black Friday. He Loves you and me.

• SparklingMoon

Jesus was a great Prophet and was the beloved of God and near to Him and honored, but he was only a man. It does not consider it necessary for salvation that the burden of a sinner should be placed upon an innocent one, nor does reason permit that for the sin of X, Y should be held responsible. No government has ever followed this principle. It should be borne in mind that where human nature possesses many excellent qualities, it is also subject to the defect that on account of its weakness it is prone to commit sins and defaults. The Almighty Who has made human nature has not invested it with the inclination to commit sins so that He might condemn man to torment, but so that His Attribute of Forgiveness might be manifested. Sin is doubtless a poison, but the fire of repentance and istighfar converts it into an antidote. Thus after repentance and remorse, sin becomes the means of progress and roots out from inside a person the feeling that he amounts to something and stamps out arrogance and pride and self-exhibition.

It is the eternal natural law of God that He forgives sin through repentance and istighfar and accepts the prayers of the virtuous by way of intercession, but we have never observed that X should strike his head with a stone and this should cure the headache of Y. Then we do not know by what law the suicide of Jesus can remove the inner disease of others.Nor are we aware of any philosophy on the basis of which the blood of Jesus can wash out the inner impurity of anyone else. Indeed observation contradicts this.(Salvation)

• You have a lot of good points and due to my getting ready for church tonight, I will have to address each one in more detail tomorrow. However, very quickly I will have to disagree that Jesus death was a suicide. I look forward to further discussion with you. Thanks for your insight .

• SparklingMoon

This doctrine that God loved the world, and to provide salvation for the world He arranged to put the burden of the sins of the disobedient ones and of disbelieves and of wicked ones on His beloved son Jesus, and made him accursed in order to deliver the world from sin and hanged him on the accursed rood, is false in every aspect . If it is appraised from the point of view of justice, it is obviously wrong that the sin of X should be fastened upon Y. Human conscience does not approve that the punishment of an offender should be inflicted upon an innocent one.If one reflects upon the reality of sin from the point of view of spiritual philosophy,that also condemns this doctrine.Sin is a poison which is generated when a person is deprived of obedience to God,His eager love and His loving remem- branch.

As a tree which is uprooted from the earth and is unable to suck water begins to dry up and loses its greenness, the same is the case with a person from whose heart the love of God is uprooted so that it begins to dry up and falls into sin. In God’s law of nature there are three remedies for this dryness. One is love; the second is istighfar which means the desire to suppress and cover up, for so long as the root of a tree is firm in the earth there is hope of its greenness; and third is repentance, that is to say, to turn humbly towards God in order to draw the water of love and to get close to Him and to pull oneself out of the darkness of disobedience with the help of good deeds. Repentance is not merely by word of mouth but is completed by good deeds. All virtues are for the perfection of repentance, for the purpose of all is to approach close to God.

Prayer is also repentance for through it we seek nearness to God. That is why God having created the life of man and called it the soul, inasmuch as its true comfort lies in the affirmation of the existence of God and His love and His obedience, He also called it self inasmuch as it seeks union with God. To love God is to be like that tree in the garden which is firmly planted in the ground. This is man’s heaven. As a tree sucks the water of the earth and draws it into itself and thereby expels its poisonous vapors, so is the condition of a person’s heart. It sucks in the water of God’s love and is thereby enabled to easily expel its poisonous matter and, being based in God, is purely nurtured and spreads and exhibits pleasant greenness and brings forth good fruits. But he who is not firmly related to God, cannot suck in nourishing water and therefore dries up progressively and in the end loses its leaves and only dry and ugly branches are left.(Salvation)

• 90Lew90
• Hi Sparkle! I wanted to take time to address your reply thoroughly without having to rush through it. Even though some of what you said I can agree with. I didn’t agree with all of it. Therefore, I addressed it according to the areas that I disagreed. I did take text from the New International Version Bible because this is what I live my life by. I pray my responses find you well.

1.)“Jesus was a great Prophet and was the beloved of God and near to Him and
honored, but he was only a man.”

Matthew 3:16-17 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he
went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the
Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from
heaven said, “This is my (beloved KJV) Son whom I love; with him I am well
pleased. (NIV) This scripture lets us know that Jesus was not just
beloved of God, but he was His son.

Luke 1:30-33 But the angel said to her, “Do not
be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give
birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be
called the son of the Most High. The Lord god will give him the throne of his
father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom
will never end. (NIV) This scripture clearly lets us know that Jesus birth
was of God and therefore, he was not just an ordinary man. Jesus came down in
the form of a fleshly man in order to save us from a world of sin. This is why
he was born of a virgin birth because there was no sin in him and therefore,
God needed a pure vessel to be used for his coming.

2.)“It does not consider it necessary for salvation that the burden of a
sinner should be placed upon an innocent one, nor does reason permit that for
the sin of X, Y should be held responsible.” The Bible absolutely
disagrees with this statement. Hebrews 9:22 In fact, the law
requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the
shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (NIV) It was necessary for
Jesus to come and die for our sins so that we might have eternal life. Without
the shedding of his blood, we would have been eternally lost. The animal
sacrifices were only temporary leading up to the Ultimate Sacrifice, which was
Jesus.

3.)No government has ever followed this principle. Well, it is
irrelevant if a government did not follow this principal because God made it a
mandate that sacrifices were to be done. However, this mandate was given to the
Children of Israel and not the other heathen nations. When they disobeyed God,
there were rebuked. Mark 7:8-9 You have let go of the
commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he
continued, “you have a fine way of setting aside the
The government’s law never out ranks God’s law.

4.)It is the eternal natural law of God that He forgives
sin through repentance and istighfar and accepts the prayers of the virtuous by
way of intercession, but we have never observed that X should strike his head
with a stone and this should cure the headache of Y. This reminds me of when Satan quoted the scripture to
Jesus while trying to tempt him.

Luke 4:10-13 For it is written: “ ‘He will
command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up
in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ “Jesus
answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to
the test.’ “ When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him
until an opportune time. (NIV) Jesus paid the price for us (X) to
cure the “headache” of sin by way of the cross (Y).

5.)
Then we do
not know by what law the suicide of Jesus can remove the inner disease of
others. Nor are we aware of any philosophy on the basis of which the blood of
Jesus can wash out the inner impurity of anyone else. Well, Jesus
did not commit suicide. John 19:15-16 But they shouted, “Take him
away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify you king?” Pilate asked. “We
have no king but Caesar,” the chief priest answered. Finally Pilate handed him
over to them to be crucified. (NIV) Jesus did not put himself on the
cross, but this act was done by mankind. When soldiers enlist in the military,
are they committing suicide when they decide to defend their country? No! Even
though military men and women know that there is a chance that they will be
called to war and possibly die, they are not signing documents upon entry of
suicide. They would be remembered as heroes having died for their country.
Jesus did the same thing. He signed up for a battle knowing that death would
come, but He decided to be our world’s hero.

6.)
Indeed
observation contradicts this.(Salvation) I need not have seen The actual
death of Jesus to believe that it happened just like I didn’t see George
Washington was ever the president of the United States. Faith is the only thing
that is needed if you have a mind for God. Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence
in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (NIV).

I pray that
one day, you will see and understand Jesus and what it took for him to save us
from our sins. I pray that you will have an encounter with God that will answer
the questions that are in your mind. I pray that you are open to the hearing of
God’s voice and that He will show you the truth in what you seek. I pray that
you will turn your heart to Him and seek after Him whole heartedly. I pray for
you.

• SparklingMoon

What is the aim of religion? It is only that man should have full faith in the existence of God and in His perfect attributes, and then deliver himself from his carnal passions and develop a personal love for Him.This,in fact, is the Paradise, which will find various manifestations in the Hereafter. To remain unmindful of the True God, and to keep away from Him, and not to love Him truly, is the Hell which will reveal itself in diverse forms in the Hereafter. The purpose of religion is to attain full faith in the existence of God and to love Him completely.

According to the followers of Trinity: The door to Divine converse and dialogue is closed, the path to achieving conviction is forever barred, everything is confined to the past, and there is nothing for the future. It is indeed strange that while God can hear in this age, He cannot speak! Is there any consolation in the belief that He could hear and speak in the past but now He only hears and cannot speak? What is the use of a ‘God’ who loses his powers with the passage of time, just as man loses his faculties with old age? And what is to be gained from a ‘God’ (of Trinity) who cannot forgive the sins of his servants until he has been flogged, spat in the face, imprisoned for days, and then crucified? ‘God’ who was overwhelmed by the Jews ( a helpless people who could not even hold on to their own kingdom). According to the faith of the followers of Trinity their God is a who ended up being arrested by a Roman soldier and thrown into jail, and his night-long prayers remained unanswered.

Jesus had never presented such a weak God before his followers but had called towards an Almighty God Who is not only the Creator but also the Sustainer of this universe , Jesus, according to his own claims, was sent as a Messiah prophet to reform the people of Israel to practice Mosaic Law and nothing else.

The God Almighty, to Whom Jesus used to pray, had not left him alone in this critical time and helped him also as He used to help his other beloved prophets and people.. According to Gospel ‘Matthew, chapter 26, verses 36 to 46, which relate that after getting information, through revelation, of his impending arrest, Jesus prayed to God all night,on his face, and in tears, and such prayer offered with such humility, and for which Jesus had ample time, could not go unaccepted; for the cry of an elect of God, addressed at a time of distress, is never turned down. How was it then, that the prayer of Jesus which he had addressed all night with a painful heart and in a state of distress was rejected?

Jesus had said: The Father who is in heaven listens to me. Therefore, when his prayer addressed in such a state of distress was not heard,how can it be said that God heard his prayers? The gospels also show that Jesus (peace be on him) was certain at heart that his prayer had been accepted;he had great confidence in that prayer.That is why when he was arrested and put on the Cross, and when he found the circumstances not according to his expectations, he involuntarily cried ‘Eli, Eli lama sabachthani’, meaning, ‘My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me. ‘,i.e., he did not expect that it would come to this — that he would die on the Cross. He believed that his prayer would be heard.

So, both these references to the gospel show that Jesus firmly believed that his prayer would be heard and accepted, that his tearful supplications addressed throughout the night would not be wasted,whereas he had himself taught his disciples, on divine authority: When you pray, the prayer will be accepted. Further, he had also narrated the parable of the judge who feared neither man nor God. The purpose of this parable was that the disciples should realize that God undoubtedly answered prayers. Although Jesus knew from God that there was a great affliction in store for him, yet, like all righteous persons, he prayed to God, believing that there was nothing impossible for God and that God determined whether any events would happen or not.

Therefore, the rejection of Jesus’ own prayer would have shaken the faith of the disciples. Was it possible to place before the disciples an example destructive of their faith? If they had seen with their own eyes that the prayer of a great prophet like Jesus, addressed all night with burning passion, was not accepted, the unfortunate example would have been very trying for their faith. Therefore, the Merciful God could not but have accepted this prayer. It is certain the prayer offered at Gethsemane was accepted.

Many references in the gospels clearly point out that Jesus(peace be on him) did not die on the Cross; he was saved from it, and migrated to another land.Jesus’ (peace be on him) meeting the disciples after his Crucifixion; his travelling up to Galilee; eating bread and meat; his display of wounds on his body: staying a night with the disciples at Emmaus; fleeing secretly from Pilate’s jurisdiction; emigrating from that place, as was the practice of prophets; and travelling under the shadow of fear – all these events are conclusive that he did not die on the Cross; that his body retained its mortal character; and that it had undergone no change.'( Jesus in India)

• 90Lew90

Verbose. Maturbatory. Hokum.

• MNb

Object. There is nothing wrong with masturbation. If many people would practice it a bit more the world would become a better place.

• 90Lew90

I didn’t say there was anything wrong with it, what I meant was Sparkler here was wanking on pointlessly and self-indulgently.

• MNb

“deliver himself from his carnal passions and develop a personal love for Him.This,in fact, is the Paradise,”
A paradise without carnal passions isn’t paradise. This antisex attitude is one major reason to reject every single version of abrahamism.

• SparklingMoon

A paradise without carnal passions isn’t paradise. This antisex attitude is one major reason to reject every single version of abrahamism.
………………………………………………………
Carnal passions are those actions which lead man far away from purity and righteousness.The true love of God and union with Him is the true pleasure and real comfort. Thus moving away from God and being distant from Him is also sin and is the source of pain, sorrow and difficulty. There are some matters on which people may not agree but, on the other hand, the greater part of the world is jointly agreed that lying, stealing, adultery and cruelty are such acts that all nations and religions jointly consider them to be sins.The root of sin is precisely those acts which distance man from God , which are against His sanctity, against His wishes and against man’s nature – it is such acts which constitute sin.If someone has the opportunity to commit adultery and he possesses the ability to do so but then he abstains from this sin, this action is called goodness. If someone has the opportunity to steel, or to be cruel, and he is capable of doing these acts, but he does not do so and positively abstains from them, then he is doing a good deed.To have the opportunity and capability of sinning and then not indulging in sin, that is a good and blessed deed.

Secondly, It is a great mistake to give carnal passions a name of antisex attitude. No Prophet or Revelation of God has suggested or promoted to practice it. If celibacy and monasticism had been imposed by the Divine, everyone would have had to adopt this discipline, in which case the human race would have come to an end long ago. Also,if chastity had to be preserved through castration or any other such device, it would amount to criticism of the Divine Who has bestowed this capacity upon man. Besides, merit depends upon restraining the exercise of a capacity on an improper occasion, through fear of God, and thus acquiring double benefit through its proper exercise. By destroying the capacity a person would deprive himself of both benefits. Merit depends upon the possession of the capacity and its proper regulation. (Ruhani Khazain)

• Norm Donnan

That sounds awesome,l look forward to the day when we walk with Him and are able to comprehend the truth of what it was that Jesus really did do for us.Only then will we be able to worship Him as He deserves.

• I do too…what an awesome day that will be.

• D Rizdek

I have a few observations relative to the FTA.

The best answer for me seems to be the one presented above in Evaluating the Probabilities. If we see the universe as fine tuned…how much more so must a god that COULD fine tune a universe be fine tuned? A god would need to have many attributes and capabilities that are “just so” to allow it to create universes. What are the odds that THIS kind of god just happened to exist AND decide TO make a universe at all.

Plus it had to have the information needed to “fine-tune” a universe and if we posit such a god that is omniscient, we posit it just “had” that info and got it from nowhere. UNLESS a theist might also posit that this god had many opportunities to experiment with untold numbers of universes and figured out by trial and error what the constants need to be for one like this to happen. Some sort of multiple creations hypothesis that would give god all the info it supposedly has now…virtual omniscience.

One way to look at it is there really isn’t an argument from fine tuning if there is a god. Because a “god” that is omnipotent and omniscient can make anything out of…anything. Why does gravity have to be just so for matter to coalesce into stars and planets if a god could make it happen if gravity was different? That would apply to any and all constants physicists think have to be “just so” in order for this universe to happen. But wouldn’t a god be able to take any set of constants and MAKE it become the universe we see around us or any other kind of universe? And wouldn’t we then be saying, “oh look, those constants have to be just so otherwise it couldn’t have happened.” But from a theist’s perspective there is no such problem. So, the FTA only works if there isn’t a god. But it’s a little on the order of there is no “problem of evil” if there is no god.

Another aspect of the argument fine tuning that is along the same lines as the last paragraph…it seems a god could create life in any kind of universe, even one without stars and planets. So the appearance of fine tuning, while interesting, is unnecessary. Consider, from most Christian perspectives, life, even sentient life WITH free will is entirely possible with no physical universe at all. At least that is my understanding of what angels are supposed to be. They are sentient, and have free will. Particularly, if one is to believe Satan is a fallen angel, obviously he and some other angels had enough freewill to rebel and follow him away from the “God.” And even if most view angelic life differently, there is no reason to suspect a god couldn’t make sentient free willed life with NO physical universe at all.

This last leads to an interesting unrelated thought. Will it be possible for folks who get to heaven to eventually…after tens of trillions of years…rebel or at least harbor some doubts about the whole thing? Particularly after they hear from God that the reason for suffering is that he simply gets his jollies watching folks suffer and THAT is why all their relatives plus billions more are burning in hell…it soothes him to smell the aroma of burnt human flesh{: Genesis 8: “20Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21The LORD smelled the soothing aroma…”

• JohnE_o

physical constants so carefully balanced that if any of them were
tweaked by the tiniest amount, life in the universe would be impossible.

I think there’s something missing, yet assumed, there…let me spend about three seconds thinking about what that might be…oh yeah…

physical constants so carefully balanced that if any of them were
tweaked by the tiniest amount, life AS WE KNOW IT in the universe would be impossible.

Well lookie there – the whole problem goes away. Now the whole argument collapses to “If the universe were different from what’s around us, life would have to be different from the way it is.”

• Good point, though their arguments often say things like: if these constants were tweaked by a tiny amount, stars would have short lifetimes, never go supernova, and never make heavy elements. They would say, “Well, if you can imagine life from hydrogen, helium, and lithium, go for it!”

That might be compelling, but then you have Sean Carroll’s point that Hawking’s concern in A Brief History of Time that the expansion had to be fine tuned actually dissolves when you look at the problem from a broader standpoint.

• Georgina

you beat me to it!

Like the silly lady who thought green was invented to make our eyes happy.

• kieraeastedi321

up to I saw the check ov \$9125 , I didnt believe
…that…my cousin woz really earning money part-time at their laptop. . there
dads buddy started doing this for less than 17 months and resently repayed the
mortgage on there home and bourt a great new Nissan GT-R: . read the article F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­Ｃ­Ｏ­Ｍ­