The Argument from Results (a New Atheist Argument)

waterfallHere’s an argument for atheism. I call it the Argument from Results.

  1. People invent gods
  2. This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade
  3. Conclusion: probably, all gods are manmade

Note that because of the qualifier “this looks like” (rather than “this is”) in proposition 2, the conclusion must itself be qualified with “probably.” Nevertheless, “probably, all gods are manmade” is an interesting conclusion.

I think we can agree that step 3 is a reasonable conclusion given premises 1 and 2, so let’s consider the premises one at a time.

Premise 1: People invent gods

Sometimes the invention of the supernatural is deliberate. Joseph Smith created the Mormon Church. His story claims that he translated golden plates into King James English. The story doesn’t hold up, and the skeptical view is that he invented the claim of the plates.

Sathya Sai Baba (d. 2011) was an Indian guru who demonstrated his divinity with clairvoyance, resurrection, healings, materializing small objects, and more. Skeptics say that these were at best magic tricks.

L. Ron Hubbard is quoted as saying in 1948, “If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” And so he did, with Scientology.

These men seem to have deliberately created false stories, but sometimes the invention is inadvertent. One explanation for the gospels is that individual authors documented their Jesus story as their local church believed it. Oral tradition gradually changed the story, and in different places and different times, the story was different.

(Just for completeness, I’ll note that Robert G. Price argues that that everything in the gospels comes from previous writings—Paul’s epistles or the Jewish Scripture. With this view, the gospels are also deliberately invented. For more, see Price’s comment here.)

Shiva, Quetzalcoatl, Odin, Amun-Ra—mankind has invented thousands of great and lesser gods. On a smaller scale, Christianity has 45,000 denominations with many significant differences in the properties of their god.

Almost all Christians will happily agree that some gods in the world’s religions aren’t real but were invented by people.

Premise 2: This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade

Said another way: people invent gods, but it’s not just some gods but all gods. That includes the Christian god. Let me give several reasons why Christianity isn’t an exception to the “people invent gods” observation.

Compare how ideas work within religious vs. science. A new idea within science gets a hearing, and it becomes accepted (and possibly improved) or rejected. While this can take years or even decades, compare this with religion, where “Here’s a new idea that better explains the facts!” counts for nothing. New religions come into existence, but it’s not because they have better evidence. And religions do go extinct, but not because their claims weren’t backed up with sufficient evidence or their predictions didn’t come true. (More: Map of world religions.)

The Christian message looks manmade. Christianity is far too complicated to be the message from an omniscient god. Seen another way, an omniscient god who wanted to interact with us would give us a simple, clear, and unambiguous message. To take a quantitative example, the Christian site GotQuestions.org currently brags, “497,388 Bible Questions Answered!” (More: Argument from Simplicity.)

Christians claim that God loves us and passionately wants a relationship with us. They don’t have a good reason why God is so hidden. (More here, here.)

Even if believers say that religious truth isn’t clearly perceived but only dimly so (one wonders why god(s) couldn’t clearly convey the message, but ignore that for now), shouldn’t religions be converging? In this scenario, religions worldwide would be sifting clues for evidence of the supernatural. Bits of evidence from religious seekers worldwide could gradually be collected, like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Religions would converge. But, of course, that’s not at all what we see. Christianity alone creates two new denominations per day, but it’s a global phenomenon, illustrated in the tree of world religions.

The tree of world religions is like a family tree of world languages. Languages are put close to other languages that they’re related to by history, geography, and linguistic similarities. Similarly, religions are arranged by how they’re related to others by history, geography, and dogmatic similarities. But, like languages, these religions are all manmade. For Christianity to be radically different, as the only one based on a real god, it wouldn’t fit into the tree at all. Nevertheless, ancient Yahweh worship fits in nicely with other Canaanite religions of 3000 years ago, with Christianity as an unsurprising offshoot. (More here.)

In all these examples, Christianity doesn’t stand out. It’s the biggest, and that’s about it.

Conclusion: probably, all gods are manmade

Nevertheless, God might still exist despite strong evidence for these two premises. God might be deliberately invisible. He could be the Gnostic Demiurge, the builder of the world who’s not perfectly good and not all that interested in a relationship. He could be shy or deceitful or evil. He might be a deist god—a clockmaker who wound up the universe and then walked away. For the Christian to carve out a spot for God with any of these possibilities, however, is to abandon the Christian conception of God.

A popular Christian response is to flip the argument: “You haven’t proven that God doesn’t exist!” That’s true, but you don’t hold beliefs because they haven’t been proven wrong; you hold them because there’s evidence that they’re right.

World-famous apologist William Lane Craig makes a lot of flimsy arguments, and he’d like the bar set low to make his arguments more credible. All right—let’s lower the bar for this Argument from Results using his logic. Craig advises:

The premises surely don’t need to be known to be true with certainty (we know almost nothing to be true with certainty!). Perhaps we should say that for an argument to be a good one the premises need to be probably true in light of the evidence. . . . Another way of putting this [is:] you should compare the premise and its negation and believe whichever one is more plausibly true in light of the evidence.

Premise 1 is, “People invent gods.” I think most Christians would agree that that’s likelier than “People don’t invent gods.”

Premise 2 is, “This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade.” Is that likelier than its converse, “This looks like a world in which one or more god(s) is real”? I argue that an honest following of the evidence points to the original premise as more likely.

Christians agree that people invent religions. That’s how they explain all those other religions. But in explaining away these other religions, they’ve explained away their own. Christianity looks like just one more manmade religion.

When I do good, I feel good;

when I do bad, I feel bad.
That’s my religion.
— Abraham Lincoln

Image credit: Brad Higham, flickr, CC

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  • Philmonomer

    Nice post.

  • KarlUdy

    Bob,
    From reading your post, your second premise looks like it is either badly worded or not supported.

    You simply assert that all gods are man-made, and then provide your reasoning why you think the Christian God is man-made, and use an analogy as a substitute for proof, when you compare world religions and world languages.

    Interestingly, you also only assert that Shiva, Quetzalcoatl, Odin, etc were man-made. For such an argument to hold substance, you would need to provide some sort of reasoning for the appearance of the concept of Gods, and back it up by connecting it with the rise of ancient religion. Pointing out how modern religions were invented just doesn’t hold much water, since these occurred in the context of an already religious world.

    • adam

      “For such an argument to hold substance, you would need to provide some
      sort of reasoning for the appearance of the concept of Gods,”

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/02/word-of-the-day-hyperactive-agency-detection/

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cec86c13ff651044ebf846246f7b360fb2d8a3eccf42e97c497a2d680eb4b44d.jpg

      • KarlUdy

        “For such an argument to hold substance, you would need to provide some
        sort of reasoning for the appearance of the concept of Gods,”

        A God exists, therefore the concept of a God (or Gods) exists

        • Joe

          That’s entirely circular.

        • KarlUdy

          Really?! In what other cases would you not accept the existence of X, as sufficient reasoning for the appearance of the concept of X?

        • Joe

          When X has met its burden of proof.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it’s like taking Ockham’s razor to the femoral artery of a hypothetically substantive postive claim. “but it’s so much more elegant than adding ‘or there might not be one, in which case sure, it’s something we made up’!”

        • adam
        • adam

          When X has met its burden of proof.

          As Joe says.

        • epeeist

          In what other cases would you not accept the existence of X, as sufficient reasoning for the appearance of the concept of X?

          The Loch Ness monster, leprechauns, Big Foot, Yetis, Dragons, the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Sampo…

          As Adam notes, the existence of all of the above (and any gods) is an ontological commitment and the person making a claim for their existence has the burden of proof to demonstrate this.

        • KarlUdy

          I think we might be talking across each other. My point is that if, say, the Loch Ness Monster existed, that would be a good enough reason to explain the existence of the concept of the Loch Ness Monster. And so on for every other example.

        • epeeist

          My point is that if, say, the Loch Ness Monster existed, that would be a good enough reason to explain the existence of the concept of the Loch Ness Monster.

          But as my examples show, it isn’t necessary to have the existence of a real object for the concept to exist.

          Conversely, the existence of the concept says nothing about the existence of the object it refers to. One still has to provide justification for the referent.

        • KarlUdy

          epeeist,
          My original response was to adam, who wrote:

          “For such an argument to hold substance, you would need to provide some
          sort of reasoning for the appearance of the concept of Gods,”

          I think that should explain my responses.

        • epeeist

          Try Justin Barrett and the idea of HADD (Hyperactive Agency Detection Device). This works for gindylows, necors, nixies and so on and upwards.

          And as I say, the existence of a concept isn’t evidence for the existence of its referent. You might want to try Quine’s On what there is, though be advised it isn’t the easiest of reads. An easier summary might be Berto and Plebam’s Ontology and Meta-Ontology.

        • TheNuszAbides

          my bet is that Karl was just pouncing on the wobbliness of “some sort of reasoning” — adam wasn’t explicitly requesting that such reasoning be substantial (or sound, or valid, or some similarly optional feature).

        • epeeist

          my bet is that Karl was just pouncing on the wobbliness of “some sort of reasoning”

          Well that rather assumes that KarlUdy would actually recognise reasoning if he saw it.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Charitable is my seventh middle name.

        • kraut2

          “But as my examples show, it isn’t necessary to have the existence of a real object for the concept to exist”

          especially if its existence beyond the concept published in some politico-religious pamphlet is not supported by evidence. Yes, I am speaking about the bibel.

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

          Right, and if God exists, then lots of things follow. But that’s circular. God’s existence is the last thing we want to assume in an argument about God’s existence.

        • Kodie

          Martians.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “In what other cases would you not accept the existence of X, as sufficient reasoning for the appearance of the concept of X?”

          In many cases of TV Tropes. We can use language to create fiction without much or any basis in reality.

        • adam

          “A God exists, therefore the concept of a God (or Gods) exists”

          An IMAGINARY ‘God’ exists in the minds of the weak and ignorant

          Hyperactive Agency Detection explains Gods more than any mythology does.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Karl:
          “A God exists, therefore the concept of a God (or Gods) exists.”

          Chuck:
          Your logic is totally screwed up. But this makes sense:

          The concept of God exists, therefore, at least one real, living God exists, or at least one imaginary God exists.

          To go beyond this logical statement, we should refer to empirical evidence.

        • ZenDruid

          You got that backwards and left out a key clause.

          The concept of gods exists, therefore one can imagine that a god (or gods) exist.

        • Greg G.

          A Flying Purple People Eater exists, therefore the concept of a Flying Purple People Eater (or Flying Purple People Eaters) exists.

          Either that or human imagination is capable of generating concepts of things that do not exist.

        • smrnda

          I’m not sure that the existence of a concept is any evidence that the thing exists, nor is the lack of the existence proof that the thing doesn’t exist. It’s not like people haven’t been totally wrong on things. Diseases were thought to be caused by ‘imbalance of humors’ – rather than pathogens like germs. ‘Why, my theory of the four humors has to be true, because we see disorders that an imbalance of humors would cause!’

          Then there’s the problem with ‘a concept of.’ People have a concept of aliens – do aliens exist? If they do, would they resemble the concepts that we’ve seen in science fiction? The concepts we have of aliens and any actual aliens are kind of disconnected, and it isn’t like people need real aliens to create them as fictional beings. Superheroes (at least ones with super powers) are not known to exist, but it’s a fairly universal concept.

        • kraut2

          “A God exists, therefore the concept of a God (or Gods) exists”

          And which one in particular are you referring to and why?

        • al kimeea

          that was my question

        • RichardSRussell

          A God exists, therefore the concept of a God (or Gods) exists

          This is kind of like a watered-down version of Saint Anselm’s Ontological Argument about how we have the concept of the greatest possible being, and actual existence is one of the elements of being great, therefore the greatest possible being must in fact exist.

        • Carol Lynn

          and there are intelligent people who find that convincing.
          – shakes head sadly –

        • Kodie

          The concept arose from storytelling filling in for knowledge. It’s all myths. You want to also assert that “modern” religions arose in an already religious atmosphere, you think Christianity didn’t? Christianity could be the most manmade religion. Whenever you suppose or speculate what god could want, why he does things how you assume he does them or why, you are reinventing the god that already “exists” on the page. The bible isn’t enough, you continue to need to imagine god exists and why he behaves and what he wants from you. That is how I KNOW your Christian god is invented.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          No God agrees with, “A God exists.” Any God is free to disagree with that or let it stand by default of not existing.

    • Joe

      From reading your post, your second premise looks like it is either badly worded or not supported..

      My thoughts when reading Christian apologetics. You’ve gained a valuable insight here.

      This is a logical argument, with logical premises. Can you show the argument to be false, if you grant the premises to be true?

      We have do it with apologetics all the time, why don’t you try: Show the logical inconsistency here.

    • Otto

      Humans often make up answers for the unexplainable, early humans had many unexplainable experiences, the concept of god(s) filled that void nicely and easily.

      • Robert Templeton

        Albeit incorrectly.

        • Otto

          Made up answers are rarely correct…lol

        • TheNuszAbides

          that would indeed be ‘the stuff of legend’.

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

      You simply assert that all gods are man-made

      Right; it’s a premise.

      and then provide your reasoning why you think the Christian God is man-made

      I’m approaching this problem as I imagine a Christian would. The first premise deals with all the not-Christianity religions, and the second deals with Christianity.

      Interestingly, you also only assert that Shiva, Quetzalcoatl, Odin, etc were man-made.

      I suspect that we agree that there were more.

      • Joe

        I’d be interested to hear Karl’s method of determining which religions are man-made.

      • KarlUdy

        I suspect that we agree that there were more.

        My point was not that there are more, but that you merely asserted that they were man-made. You should at least give a basis for why you come to that conclusion.

        • busterggi

          Do you dispute that they are man-made or ar you saying you just believe in other gods who aren’t your personal god?

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

          How far apart are we here? I thought it was a given that Shiva, Quetzalcoatl, and Odin were manmade. No?

          Clarify your position: what gods are manmade?

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Humans are the only people claiming God(s) made their religions. Seems like a pretty solid data point.

        • Steven Watson

          Humans are the only people who are people. Humans are the only animal able to claim anything. Single datum are of no use for anything.

        • Greg G.

          The human brain is the only biological organ to give itself a name.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Theists, all human, don’t generally seem to think God is non-existent/dead/an invalid/a non-verbal illusive cryptid. So what gives? There is no God making any claims. All claims about God(s) are by humans.

    • Chuck Johnson

      Karl:
      “For such an argument to hold substance, you would need to provide some
      sort of reasoning for the appearance of the concept of Gods, and back it
      up by connecting it with the rise of ancient religion.”

      Chuck:
      Yes, scientific investigation is an important source of information here.

      http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~ara/Manuscripts/Shariff_Norenzayan.pdf

      Religion and the Origins of Civilization
      There has been much speculation about why the emergence of
      religious iconography coincided with a rapid increase in pop-
      ulation densities (Cauvin, 1999). It is possible—even likely—
      that early religions greatly facilitated population growth. Prior to
      around 12,000 years ago, group sizes remained small—limited
      by the threat of nonreciprocating defectors (Axelrod, 1984). A
      social group was restricted to genetically related individuals,
      bound by kin selection (Hamilton, 1964), and a handful of
      recognizable neighbors, bound by reciprocal altruism (Trivers,
      1971). Theorists of religion, from Durkheim to Rappaport, have
      commonly attributed religion’s socially cohesive effects to col-
      lective participation in costly ritual, rather than to belief in su-
      pernatural agents (see Sosis & Alcorta, 2003, for a discussion).
      However, in the present studies, we have found evidence that the
      invocation of supernatural agents may have played a central role.
      If thecultural spread of supernatural moralizing agentsexpanded
      the circle of cooperation to unrelated strangers, it may well have
      allowed small groups to grow into large-scale societies, from the
      early towns of Jericho and Ur to the metropolises of today.
      One evolutionary explanation for our results invokes group
      selection. That is, ancestral societies with culturally widespread
      God concepts would have outcompeted societies without such
      concepts, given the cooperative advantage of believing groups
      (Wilson, 2002). However, group-selection accounts of religion,
      and altruistic behavior in general, although plausible in prin-
      ciple, face a number of well-known theoretical and empirical
      challenges (e.g., Atran, 2002). One does not have to appeal to
      group-selectionist arguments to explain why the likelihood of
      generosity increases when God concepts become cognitively
      accessible. As we have discussed, another plausible scenario
      centers on responsiveness to reputational concerns. These con-
      cerns—naturally selected because they ultimately maximized
      individual fitness in social groups (e.g., Bateson et al., 2006;
      Haley & Fessler, 2005)—could be activated by the perceived
      presence of any intentional, moralizing agents.

      • TheNuszAbides

        Theorists of religion, from Durkheim to Rappaport, have
        commonly attributed religion’s socially cohesive effects to col-
        lective participation in costly ritual, rather than to belief in su-
        pernatural agents (see Sosis & Alcorta, 2003, for a discussion).
        However, in the present studies, we have found evidence that the
        invocation of supernatural agents may have played a central role.

        can’t cheap ritual be sufficient? repetition in concert with the in-group … ain’t brain surgery. OR IS IT?

        • Chuck Johnson

          TheNuszAbides:
          “… ain’t brain surgery. OR IS IT?”

          Chuck:
          Many of the component parts of the human cultures that we are immersed in are taken for granted.

          The increasing complexity and sophistication of our own culture is not noticed by most people. We are immersed in it, so we don’t notice.

          These human inventions are at least as sophisticated as brain surgery. Where we are (at the present moment) is the culmination of a hundred thousand years of cultural adaptive evolution.

        • Greg G.

          “Culmination” implies an end point, though. We might be just a step toward the culmination of artificial intelligence or electronically enhanced intelligence or something we can no more imagine than ancient Egyptians (or me thirty years ago) could imagine the cell phones connected to the internet with GPS capability.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Yes, my use of “culmination” only refers to our present moment on an upward-trending curve.

        • Greg G.

          It has been noted that the brain sizes of domesticated animals has diminished from the brain sized of their wild ancestors.

          Paleontology shows us that human brain size increased gradually by 200cc for a million years. Then, for about 200,000 years, human brain size increased by 250cc in both our line and the Neandertal line. As the Neandertal population began to decrease about 50,000 years ago, brain size leveled off.

          Human brain size has decreased over the last 20,000 years. We have domesticated ourselves.

        • busterggi

          Kinda makes me wonder if our overdeveloped sense of paredolia isn’t linked to that. Truly wild humans wouldn’t profit from worshipping imaginary things.

        • Greg G.

          But humans might profit from fearing imaginary creatures that are not there if it keeps them safe from the occasional unseen predator.

        • busterggi

          I didn’t make myself clear – I think wild humans may have been better at distinguishing real threats from imagined ones, we’ve lost that ability.

        • Greg G.

          Could be. I remember picking some zucchini from my garden when I thought I saw a snake’s head when I moved a leaf but almost immediately realized it was a box turtle. Then my arm jerked my hand away so fast that it scared me more than when I thought I saw a snake.

        • Kodie

          I think being able to imagine things that don’t exist and aren’t there is linked to our survival success though. As I have opined many times before, it seems our over-developed imagination throws out a lot of misses to get a few hits, and that’s technological progress. We need all the people thinking all the time, so brains that aren’t actually in the tech vein are still rambling on about whatever, because the brains don’t stop. Religion not only comes out of that but sort of sops up that urge from a lot of people. They are channeling their main brain function to a satisfying story that lures them in.

        • Pofarmer

          Hyperactive agency detection, coupled with our ability to see faces most everywhere.

        • Greg G.
        • TheNuszAbides

          i agree on all counts. pardon the hamfisted humor of the delivery.

        • eric

          can’t cheap ritual be sufficient?

          No. Three contributing factors spring to mind.

          First, if it’s cheap then you get insincere people merely pretending to be communal for the temporary benefits. Loyalty isn’t assured. It’s like the apocryphal gang that requires new members to murder someone to get in: anything less, you might be a cop. Religion isn’t that bad, but the same principle applies; they want to weed out potential freeloaders and non-loyal people. This is particularly so in groups that share resources.

          Second, costly signaling may get recruits psychologically invested in the cause. You spend a lot of time and resources supporting something, it’s going to be psychologically painful to admit it was a complete waste. So costly signaling may in fact start or encourage sincere belief to grow, even if it wasn’t there to begin with.

          Third, you ever hear of the wine tasting studies where people think the $20 bottle tastes better than the $2 one, even though they’re the same? That sort of psychological bias might also be at play; by making membership sound more costly, a group may give the appearance of higher value to potential recruits. They gotta know some deep secret of the universe…if they didn’t, how could they charge $100 for their advice and still be in business!?! :)

        • TheNuszAbides

          if it’s cheap then you get insincere people merely pretending to be communal for the temporary benefits.

          okay, i wasn’t getting that you were going by ‘standards of unqualified success if followed strictly’. (and since it seems fair to say there have always been freeloaders (financial or emotional or otherwise) in any of history’s enduringly ‘successful’ religions.

    • Jim Jones

      > you would need to provide some sort of reasoning for the appearance of the concept of Gods,

      Dragons. Unicorns. Winged horses. Giants. Mermaids. Vampires. … …

      Gods are merely tribal leaders writ large.

  • Joe

    I like that post Bob. It’s like taking the Watchmaker analogy and applying it to religion. If it’s a strong argument in creationists eyes, then it follows that it should be equally strong when arguing against religion.

    Of course, getting theists to grant these premises, even for discussions sake with be an impossible task.

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

      Yes, a typical Christian will simply declare the whole thing unconvincing. I wish it were easier to submit an argument to an impartial panel to see if it is convincing to a reasonable person.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Bob:
        “. . . to see if it is convincing to a reasonable person.”

        Chuck:
        A reasonable person is one requirement.
        Plenty of empirical evidence would next be needed.

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

          I’m not sure I follow. Are you saying that my post needs more evidence to be convincing?

        • Chuck Johnson

          Bob:
          “Are you saying that my post needs more evidence to be convincing?”

          Chuck:
          Convincing to whom ? would be the next question.

          Many atheists will already agree with your statement and some will think that it needs improvement.

          But most theists will find it to be a piece of logic which doesn’t convince. This is because my mind, yours, and everyone’s mind is pre-loaded with data and theories that bear on this issue.

          It would take a futuristic Xray machine capable of showing the data and theories in people’s minds to figure out why such logical statements will convince or not convince.

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

          If you have specific suggestions, let me know. If you’re saying that no amount of evidence would convince many Christians, I agree.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Bob:
          “If you’re saying that no amount of evidence would convince many Christians, I agree.”

          Chuck:
          I consider that statement to be an exaggeration. But the particular evidence that might convince a particular Christian is not always at hand. A variety of techniques need to be tried.

          Anthony Magnabosco has a technique that gets Christians to begin regarding Christian beliefs with curiosity. This goes along with the Pope’s warning that curiosity separates people from God.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ic8O-m1lAZo

        • Chuck Johnson

          Bob:
          “If you have specific suggestions, let me know.”

          Chuck:
          I have spent some time studying the chemical origins of life (abiogenesis) and the evolutionary biology of humans.

          From PBS Nova, I recommend Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.
          Also, Becoming Human, parts 1,2 and 3.
          Also available on the PBS website if you are a donating member.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtJMvMMB29w

      • smrnda

        Impartial, or just more representative? If you asked a bunch of people from the USA which religions sounded ‘reasonable’ since the USA tends to contain more Christians, or people whose thinking has at least been influenced by Christianity, they’ll probably find Christianity ‘reasonable’ and the religions which are must unfamiliar will seem ‘unreasonable.’ It’s kind of like the question of whether polytheism or monotheism seems more ‘reasonable.’ Much of that’s just what you are familiar with.

        That’s similar with any culturally variable practice. People from the US will likely find the idea of owning firearms more reasonable than people from Japan. When I told a German that it was a crime to escape from prison, they found this absurd; isn’t it the job of the prison to keep you in?

        It’s impossible to find any totally objective panel, but the fact that a particular religious idea will be judged so differently all based on what people are familiar with makes it seem suspect. It’s the way that we don’t see such differences across cultures with mathematics, science or engineering.

  • kraut2

    The second premise is a bit vague.

    “This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade

    The magnitude of gods that are and were in existence (in excess of 10×10^5 up to several hundred million of the Hindu pantheon) is large and likely are man made..

    The amount of gods extant and “deceased” does not speak against all gods – it could be that there are many, but speaks against the likelihood that only particular one is the “real” one.

    • Joe

      Vague premises are the stock-in-trade of apologists. I know we should strive to be better, but I’d find it a bit rich if that was an objection from a theist.

    • Robert Templeton

      I would have worded it differently:

      “This looks like a world in which there are no gods”

      And then mentioned that almost basically everything can be explained by scientific inquiry without the need to go for extra-universal explanations (id est: Occam’s Razor). The fact that there are all of these (manmade) gods and yet nothing that can be definitively attributed to them. For shucks….

  • Chuck Johnson

    Bob:
    “People invent gods
    This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade
    Conclusion: probably, all gods are manmade”

    Chuck:
    Religionists would not be much impressed, but atheists tend to think this way.

    People invent gods – – – But MY personal God is the real thing.
    This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade – – – No, MOST gods.
    Conclusion: probably, all gods are manmade” – – – Most are, but not My God.

    Trying to combat superstition using simple logic barely scratches the surface of the problem. But people really do lose their religion. – – – This seems to require a ton of little reasons that gradually makes them suspicious that their belief doesn’t add up.

    • TheNuszAbides

      This seems to require a ton of little reasons that gradually makes them suspicious that their belief doesn’t add up.

      i’ve heard that narrative from fellow atheists more often (and it more or less fits my experience) than the occasional “by the time i was 10 it was all obviously bullshit.”

  • Anthrotheist

    In my Anthropology of Religion class, when considering the definable universal constants of all known cultural religions, there was a notion of what religion is (in the context of cultural anthropology, at least). Religion is the act of human beings, who are social creatures by nature, attempting to make sense of the natural (ie, non-human) world via social conventions. Spirits, gods, forces, karma… they are all versions of human social interaction: they respond to reason, rhetoric, etc. Most significantly, these “supernatural” entities/forces respond to reciprocity: they return what they are given, good or bad.

    This notion of religion is both an epistemology and a dominion: humans understand other humans, we have common experiences and needs regardless of cultural particulars; it also gives a sense of how humans can influence or even control nature, just as we influence or control fellow humans. I don’t see any deviation from this understanding in any religion that I have been made aware of; from animism to monotheism, from drum circles to prayer or confession, religion boils down to human beings trying to treat non-human forces as though they were governed by human-like agents.

    • TheNuszAbides

      i don’t particularly recommend an entire volume to anyone, let alone the series, but this was the gist of one passage in Walsch’s Conversations with God that knocked my perspective just askew enough that my skeptical exercise improved. it went something like “you narrate a war in heaven because you imagine we deal with problems the same way men do”. it reminded me that telling stories to each other can have a wide variety of effects and intentions and ~meanings~ and so on, but it’s risky to lose sight of the basic fact that they’re all made up.

  • dala

    I get it, but I consider this a weak argument because gods exist or do not exist independent of human thought or action. Reality is what it is regardless of what people do or think, and even if every god known to man is made up, that doesn’t mean there is no god.

    • Jim Jones

      > even if every god known to man is made up, that doesn’t mean there is no god.

      Except in that case it doesn’t matter.

      • TheNuszAbides

        well, it certainly wouldn’t matter in any sense that any religion has pretended it matters. as C.Hitchens would occasionally rattle off when pressed to concede trivial points: maybe there’s a god and no afterlife; maybe there’s an afterlife and no gods; etc.

        the bottom line still tends to be the ordinary utter lack of extraordinary evidence.

    • Lark62

      In this case, god is so absent that it does not matter whether it exists or not.

      A magic purple unicorn created the universe to appear as if everything is explained by natural processes and the magic purple unicorn never interferes with natural processes. Does it matter whether it exists?

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

      Right. I was responding to the confident argument from the believer that they know there’s a god and have a good idea of that god’s properties. It’s possible that we don’t have any accurate conception of the god(s) that do exist.

      • TheNuszAbides

        and [conceding some relatively sneaky/too-profound-for-prime-time deity] far more probable considering how lackadaisically all ‘divine corrections’ have unfolded here in mortal-land.

  • Jim Jones

    > In all these examples, Christianity doesn’t stand out. It’s the biggest, and that’s about it.

    Religion is spread by four basic methods:

    1. Deceit
    2. Fear
    3. Torture
    4. Murder

    Christianity happened to be the unlikely winner and was the one taken up by the aggressive Western Europeans. They used 1 – 4 with great vigor.

    • epeeist

      Do you count the prospect of riches in 1., or would it be a separate heading?

      • Phil Rimmer

        Possibly “riches” is foundational….

        I think the sudden appearance (400% uplift) of grandparents in the archeological record around 35,000 years ago suggests these people became useful, perhaps as the result of more sophisticated language and were no longer seen as just a helpless burden to marginal existence folk.

        I suspect “they sang for their supper” with genuine advice and experience, but having run out of material rather quickly they found they could make shit up and still get fed. They got child rearing duties too, just when kids are going through that biddable phase of of “over-imitation”. This was a money making scheme of great robustness.

        The racket needed protections subsequently, though the first and cleverest protection was endorsing the alpha male’s authority from the spirits of the dead alphas at first and then broader and ever more impressive spirits after that to shake off the sceptical.

        • epeeist

          Possibly “riches” is foundational….

          As Jared Diamond notes, once you have a surplus then you are rife for a kleptocracy.

        • Phil Rimmer

          This is true, but in selling beliefs, e.g. relief from misery, making America great again, the clever trick is to take from the poor to keep them needy and biddable. Klepto is functional as well as profitable.

      • Jim Jones

        Any promise would count. Even the implication, which seems to suck a few into the LDS.

  • Halbe

    Less rigorous, but I think more useful in a discussion with a theist, is the following more classic argument:
    1. People have believed and do believe in thousands of Gods throughout history.
    2. Only one or a few of these Gods can actually exist.
    3. Conclusion: The odds that your specific God(s) exists are very small.

    This is an argument against the existence of the God(s) of a specific religion, but it avoids categorically concluding that no deity exists at all. I have noticed that theists tend to move the discussion from “My God exists” to “At least some God exists”, which can be avoided with this argument. Maybe.

    • epeeist

      Less rigorous, but I think more useful in a discussion with a theist, is the following more classic argument:

      Well yes, in the absence of any other factors then one should assign equal probability to all the gods that have existed throughout history.

      Another possible argument would derive from the principle put forward by the good friar of Ockham. Do any gods provide us with a better explanation of reality if we include them compared to if we do not?

      • Halbe

        Yes, the crux lies in “the absence of other factors”, and that is of course where apologist say that there are several factors in favour of their God, e.g. “the eye witness accounts in the Bible”, or “the existence of Morality that aligns exactly with our doctrines”, or “billions of people cannot be wrong” etc. These arguments are much weaker than the arguments they (might) have for “at least some God exists”. Which of course also is why many apologists often do not want to accept the clear difference between “I do not believe gods exist” and “I believe no god exists”. It is much easier to argue against a strawman (the second one).

        Ockham’s Razor is often used the other way around by theists: reality is much easier to explain with God, than without, therefore God. Well yeah, but that would be Ockham’s Sledgehammer, not Ockham’s Razor. (I made up Ockham’s Sledgehammer, but I think you get my point).

        • TheNuszAbides

          i think of it as Ockham’s razor slitting the throat of falsifiability (or any other aspect relevant to a particular theistic premise).

      • TheNuszAbides

        a better explanation of reality

        i don’t doubt you would phrase this more precisely in the actual event of such an exchange, since merely “better” leaves all kinds of wiggle room for the cognitive-fair-weather-theist especially.

        • epeeist

          i don’t doubt you would phrase this more precisely in the actual event of such an exchange

          Well yes, my fallback would be on two things, Ernan McMullan’s The Virtues of a Good Theory and Peter Lipton’s Inference to the Best Explanation.

    • Michael Neville

      The problem is determining which gods exist. Arguments against the omniscient, omnipotent and other assorted omnis Christian god are much stronger than those against a vague deist deity who kickstarted the universe and then faded into the background.

      • Halbe

        I would even go so far that there is no good argument against (or: “disproving”) such a vague deity, other than that it does nothing to explain anything. “We don’t know if or how the universe got kickstarted” is a much better starting place imo because it at least leads to open-minded investigation.

        Edited for clarity.

        • eric

          “Does nothing to explain anything” is correct, but I’d argue it may in fact be too generous a description of theology. It leaves one with the impression that it’s just sitting out there, kind of in philosophical limbo.

          In reality, theologies considered as explanatory hypotheses have gone head-to-head with other explanatory hypotheses and failed every time. They aren’t in limbo; they are failures.

          So the good argument against such vague deity hypotheses is that considering them as potential explanatory hypotheses in the running now, after so many failed previous tests wastes our limited time and effort that is better spent elsewhere. Such investigations have a very poor expected ROI. Now if private sector scientists (such as Behe) or venture capitalists (Ahmanson’s DI) want to use their own time and money investigating these hypotheses, yes absolutely they should be allowed. We don’t censor such investigations. But when it comes to deciding how to invest public research dollars, we should not invest it in these ideas until those private sector efforts turn up some evidence of new success. Because these ideas are not just ‘non-explanatory’, they are failed explanations.

        • Halbe

          I agree. Science should only work with falsifiable hypotheses, and the ‘deity’ hypothesis is not falsifiable. It would be falsifiable only if the deity hypothesis includes testable claims about the effect of said deity on the natural universe, for which this deity would be the only or most probable explanation. And that means the hypothesis must include claims about the attributes and properties of the deity in question, and a clear description of how this deity interacts with the natural universe. And then, imho, the deity in question just becomes a part of the natural universe, just like say black holes.

        • epeeist

          Science should only work with falsifiable hypotheses, and the ‘deity’ hypothesis is not falsifiable.

          You have to be slightly careful here, does Galileo’s observation of the phases of Venus with a telescope definitively falsify an Aristotelian geocentric solar system?

          In principle claims about the existence of deities with defined properties could be made testable, but in practice what happens is that theists ad ad hoc auxiliaries in order to protect their claims from failed tests.

        • eric

          I agree. It is not the case that Gods are untestable; it is the case that Gods get tested, fail, and their believers posit a God-friendly reason for the failure.
          Siting here in the 21st century, lots of believers not posit that their God is untestable. But that’s not because philosophically there is something untestable about the concept of a deity; its because they are once bitten, twice shy.

        • epeeist

          it is the case that Gods get tested, fail, and their believers posit a God-friendly reason for the failure.

          But of course as soon as you start invoking ad hoc auxiliaries then you start weakening any explanatory power that your initial claim had.

        • Halbe

          Yes. I meant to say that the “vague deity that kickstarted the universe and then faded into the background” hypothesis (mentioned by Michael Neville above) is not falsifiable. As soon as you posit a deity that “has not faded into the background”, but that has an observable effect on the natural universe, then you have a hypothesis that is potentially falsifiable.

        • Greg G.

          The supernatural is defined to be “not natural” to protect it from scrutiny from the only methods we can use. Thus, there is no way to distinguish real supernatural entities of events from imaginary supernatural entities or events. It is not difficult to imagine things that cannot be tested as long as they are carefully contrived.

      • Kodie

        There is no evidence for any god, its’ qualities or its abilities. If any one religion on this earth is correct, it would be an extremely lucky guess. Over thousands and thousands and thousands of years, not even one has an edge of clarity or veracity. Are we getting closer to an actual god, the changes in, say, the Christian god over time, or his variability, it has nothing over any primitive volcano god or wind god or sun god. every “god” is assumed from inserting a person with a mood, which we can very well imagine, giving it powers to pull trees out by the roots, wham storms into coastal regions, statistically save …. goddammit, one elderly person on a church trip, but kill all the other passengers. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/03/30/texas-church-bus-crash-ntsb-set-to-launch-probe-into-wreck-that-left-13-dead.html Pray to appease this mysterious capricious fuck. Thank him for every day you get to wake up and breathe, defend every mismatch with reality (this is the superstitious part!), and pray you don’t die yet. Defending god is exactly like crossing your fingers when you lie, or avoiding black cats or throwing a penny in the fountain to make a wish. You think if you accidentally don’t speak up for god, he will follow you around and strike you dead at an inconvenient time.

        Good grief, I said “if”! I meant “when”! Good grief, I’m doomed!

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiSIQzwIPzQ&feature=youtu.be&t=133

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

      Good point. I explore that idea as an extension of the Monty Hall problem below.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/01/the-monty-hall-problem-and-how-it-undercuts-christianity/

      • Halbe

        Thanks, interesting read! Most of the theists’ comments at that post were horrible as usual…

  • Anri

    Sorry, argument #2 appears to be begging the question.

    The only way to determine what a world in which there are no gods looks like is to see one, and unless we’ve already reached that conclusion about this one, we can’t use it as the example that proves a general principle.

    To put it another way, this world certainly resembles a world in which a perfectly hidden god is not man-made. Or one in which god only appears to, and interacts with, a small group of faithful. Or one in which sufficient disbelief/disobedience can stymie god’s plans on earth.

    To put it a third way, if god exists, this world must by definition, exactly resemble one in which god exists. Only by accepting ahead of time that god does not exist can we state that this world looks like one in which god does not exist. But given that that’s what we’re trying to prove with the argument, we’re taking the conclusion as given halfway through.

    • Michael Neville

      A completely hidden god who doesn’t manifest itself in any way is identical to no god.

      • TheNuszAbides

        no, that’s just what it wants youus to think.

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

      The only way to determine what a world in which there are no gods looks like is to see one, and unless we’ve already reached that conclusion about this one, we can’t use it as the example that proves a general principle.

      I hope I was clear that proof isn’t my goal. Rather, my goal is to follow the evidence. What does this world look like? Does it look like a world with the supernatural? And, yes, it does look just like a world with a god who was perfectly hidden, but does that mean that we are entitled to believe that?

      this world certainly resembles a world in which a perfectly hidden god is not man-made. Or one in which god only appears to, and interacts with, a small group of faithful. Or one in which sufficient disbelief/disobedience can stymie god’s plans on earth.

      Yes, those are possible, but when the Christian opts for them, he’s abandoned Christianity.

      To put it a third way, if god exists, this world must by definition, exactly resemble one in which god exists. Only by accepting ahead of time that god does not exist can we state that this world looks like one in which god does not exist.

      I agree: this world looks both like a hidden-god world and a no-god world. Given that, what do we conclude? What hypothesis should we adopt about god(s)?

      • eric

        Hmm I think you and Anri are both right in part, because there are many conceptions of God. Thus I’d say that this looks like the world in which all the interesting conceptions of God are manmade, because those interesting concepts are typically not fully consistent with what we see. There are some pretty boring conceptions of God that are fully consistent with what we see, conceptions which would lead to a world that looks like this one – such as deism. But not many people care about them. The boring conceptions of God tend to only get pulled out by (a) agnostics making a case for agnosticism, and (b) theologians who like to use the “you can’t prove it’s impossible” defense.

      • Anri

        Does it look like a world with the supernatural?

        Well, unless we’ve concluded ahead of time if the supernatural exists or not, I dunno.
        If the supernatural exists, then, yes, this looks exactly like a world with the supernatural, because it is. If the supernatural doesn’t, than I dunno, because I’ve never actually seen a world with it – have you?

        And, yes, it does look just like a world with a god who was perfectly hidden, but does that mean that we are entitled to believe that?

        Are we entitled to use it as a postulate in making a logical argument against god existing?

        Yes, those are possible, but when the Christian opts for them, he’s abandoned Christianity.

        Both possibilities 2 (small group) and 3 (god respects free will) are consistent with some forms of Christianity as practiced.

        I agree: this world looks both like a hidden-god world and a no-god
        world. Given that, what do we conclude? What hypothesis should we adopt
        about god(s)?

        That we cannot differentiate, based on this argument, between a no-god and a hidden god world (or a partially hidden god world, as I noted above).
        But once again, this is begging the question – if this world has an active god, than this world exactly resembles a world which has an active god.
        This holds even if god does not behave in a way that you would consider appropriate or obvious for an active god.
        We can only declare that this world does not look like one that lacks an active god if we are either initially confident that we don’t have one, or that we aren’t sure about ours but have other worlds that we’ve determined the god status of to compare and contrast.
        In other words, if what we currently interpret as mindless natural forces acting all around us are, in fact, god’s willful actions, then god is incredibly active, constantly active, and enormously obviously so, as the universe would tear itself apart if he were to cease to be active. That that might not be how you would expect a god to make his existence obvious is presuming that you and god think along the same lines, isn’t it?

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

          Well, unless we’ve concluded ahead of time if the supernatural exists or not, I dunno.

          I’m not asking for certainty here. Do you have any reason that the supernatural exists? If so, then there’s evidence for it. Weigh the evidence and decide which hypothesis is likelier. It’s not hard.

          If the supernatural exists, then, yes, this looks exactly like a world with the supernatural, because it is.

          The supernatural could exist, with our not having any clues of it.

          If the supernatural doesn’t, than I dunno, because I’ve never actually seen a world with it – have you?

          This isn’t an “I dunno” kind of thing. We’re not asking for certainty; we’re just following the evidence.

          Are we entitled to use it as a postulate in making a logical argument against god existing?

          Yes, both a hidden-god world and a no-god world would give us evidence to adopt the “God probably doesn’t exist” conclusion (tentative, of course).

          Both possibilities 2 (small group) and 3 (god respects free will) are consistent with some forms of Christianity as practiced.

          Explain further. I don’t know what you’re saying about these two Christianities.

          That we cannot differentiate, based on this argument, between a no-god and a hidden god world (or a partially hidden god world, as I noted above).

          Yes, obviously. Given those 2 possibilities as the only possible ones, do we tentatively conclude that god exists or not?

          But once again, this is begging the question – if this world has an active god, than this world exactly resembles a world which has an active god.

          I thought we were tentatively assuming no evidence of an active god.

          We can only declare that this world does not look like one that lacks an active god if we are either initially confident that we don’t have one, or that we aren’t sure about ours but have other worlds that we’ve determined the god status of to compare and contrast.

          You’ve lost me. If we live in a world with zero evidence of the supernatural, we tentatively conclude that there is no supernatural. What am I missing?

          if what we currently interpret as mindless natural forces acting all around us are, in fact, god’s willful actions, then god is incredibly active, constantly active, and enormously obviously so, as the universe would tear itself apart if he were to cease to be active. That that might not be how you would expect a god to make his existence obvious is presuming that you and god think along the same lines, isn’t it?

          Precisely. We’re given a hypothesis—“God exists”—and then we must evaluate the evidence. Who to evaluate the evidence but us? Might we misconstrue the evidence? Of course, but that simply means that our conclusion isn’t a proof but just following the evidence as best we can.

        • Anri

          I’m not asking for certainty here. Do you have any reason that the
          supernatural exists? If so, then there’s evidence for it. Weigh the
          evidence and decide which hypothesis is likelier. It’s not hard.

          Yes, but this is occurring at the stage you’re setting up your initial arguments, not your conclusion. If we already must agree with the conclusion “god doesn’t do stuff” to accept argument #2, what’s the purpose of a further statement of “god doesn’t do stuff”?
          I’m not asking for certainty, I’m asking for non-circularity.

          Explain further. I don’t know what you’re saying about these two Christianities.

          Ok, before we begin, I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker a drafter, not a scholar, so I will happily take correction if my impressions of these faiths are incorrect. That being said:
          My understanding is that Calvinists believe that certain people are granted grace and that without it, one literally can’t comprehend god’s message. This would be an example of case 2: god doing miracles for a small following.
          My discussions with a Christian Scientist I was dating at the time suggest to me that their official line is that those that can’t see god’s miracles (especially miraculous medical cures) are missing them because of their disbelief – that their distance from god clouds their sight and makes them see things that aren’t really there, like bacteria and such. This would be an example of case 3 – partially hidden god (with the bonus of it not being god attempting to hide, but the sinner hiding god from his own sight).

          Yes, obviously. Given those 2 possibilities as the only possible ones, do we tentatively conclude that god exists or not?

          We tentatively conclude this argument can’t settle that question for us.
          Actually, I think there might be more than just these two conclusions, as noted above.
          And you’re asking for a tentative conclusion in support of one of your premises. If acceptance your premise is not reasonable without the conclusion to your argument already being taken as true, your argument is circular.

          I thought we were tentatively assuming no evidence of an active god.

          You are. I’m pointing out that such a tentative conclusion (god doesn’t do stuff) already requires your argument’s conclusion (god doesn’t do stuff) to be accepted, hence the circularity of your argument.

          You’ve lost me. If we live in a world with zero evidence of the
          supernatural, we tentatively conclude that there is no supernatural.
          What am I missing?

          As a conclusion, it’s fine. As a required precursor for an argument that the supernatural doesn’t exist, it’s circular.

          Precisely. We’re given a hypothesis—“God exists”—and then we must
          evaluate the evidence. Who to evaluate the evidence but us? Might we
          misconstrue the evidence? Of course, but that simply means that our
          conclusion isn’t a proof but just following the evidence as best we can

          But this argument is putting forward a hypotheses: “This world doesn’t look like god does stuff”. I’m pointing out that that does not seem like a well-supported position unless we are already assuming a godless world, which is the conclusion of the argument.
          Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think your conclusion is wrong, merely that it must predicate your premise.

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

          Yes, but this is occurring at the stage you’re setting up your initial arguments, not your conclusion. If we already must agree with the conclusion “god doesn’t do stuff” to accept argument #2, what’s the purpose of a further statement of “god doesn’t do stuff”?

          No, you don’t have to agree to anything up front. I present premise 2, and it might seem reasonable or crazy to you, but then I present evidence for why premise 2 is correct. If premise 2 is likely incorrect, then the conclusion doesn’t follow. Reject it. But if it’s correct, then the conclusion does follow.

          Ok, before we begin, I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker a drafter, not a scholar

          “Dammit, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a New Testament scholar!”

          This would be an example of case 2: god doing miracles for a small following.

          Yes, that’s a possibility: a god exists, but he reveals himself only to a select few.

          those that can’t see god’s miracles (especially miraculous medical cures) are missing them because of their disbelief

          Blame the victim, eh?

          “Yes, obviously. Given those 2 possibilities as the only possible ones, do we tentatively conclude that god exists or not?”
          We tentatively conclude this argument can’t settle that question for us.

          Huh? Are you like that with aliens? Bigfoot? Nessie? Flying Spaghetti Monster? I find it hard to believe that you’re perfectly agnostic on anything that doesn’t have overwhelming evidence one way or the other.

          And you’re asking for a tentative conclusion in support of one of your premises. If acceptance your premise is not reasonable without the conclusion to your argument already being taken as true, your argument is circular.

          Right . . . but where am I doing that? Accept/reject premise 1, then do the same for premise 2. Simple.

          If there’s circularity, let’s find it, but I’m not following the argument you’re putting forward.

          But this argument is putting forward a hypotheses: “This world doesn’t look like god does stuff”. I’m pointing out that that does not seem like a well-supported position unless we are already assuming a godless world, which is the conclusion of the argument.

          Again, you’ve lost me. Forget the conclusion. I’m simply asking if “This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade.” It’s a scale—you’re very convinced, you’re very unconvinced, or there’s something in between. If you need a push, I give my arguments for one side of the issue. Then you decide: premise 2 succeeds or not. Where’s the problem? Where’s the presupposition?

        • Anri

          If premise 2 is likely incorrect, then the conclusion doesn’t follow.

          I’m saying that premise 2 is trying to make a comparison between two things with only a single example.

          Yes, that’s a possibility: a god exists, but he reveals himself only to a select few.

          (and)

          Blame the victim, eh?

          *shrug* they’re not my ideas, and I find them silly, but you asked for examples of my suggested worldviews that were consistent with Christianity, and those are examples.

          Huh? Are you like that with aliens? Bigfoot? Nessie? Flying Spaghetti
          Monster? I find it hard to believe that you’re perfectly agnostic on
          anything that doesn’t have overwhelming evidence one way or the other.

          No, because I understand that the burden of proof is on the person making the positive claim. If you want to claim that bigfoot exists, okay, show me. If you want to claim Nessie exists, okay, show me. If you want to claim the FSM exists, okay, show me.
          If you want to claim that this world doesn’t resemble one in which god exists, okay, show me one in which he definitely does or definitely doesn’t, and we’ll compare and contrast.

          Again, you’ve lost me. Forget the conclusion. I’m simply asking if “This
          looks like a world in which all gods are manmade.” It’s a scale—you’re
          very convinced, you’re very unconvinced, or there’s something in
          between. If you need a push, I give my arguments for one side of the
          issue. Then you decide: premise 2 succeeds or not. Where’s the problem?
          Where’s the presupposition?

          Okay, I’ll try to take it point by point.

          New religions come into existence, but it’s not because they have better
          evidence.

          This presupposes the founder of a new religion was not given a revelation by a god, and thus, rock-solid – albeit personal – evidence.

          The Christian message looks manmade. Christianity is far too complicated
          to be the message from an omniscient god. Seen another way, an
          omniscient god who wanted to interact with us would give us a simple,
          clear, and unambiguous message.

          These are personal opinions, and many people have different opinions about the topic. At best, it’s an argument from incredulity. All that this demonstrates is that your opinion of how a god should act is different from that of believers.

          Christians claim that God loves us and passionately wants a relationship
          with us. They don’t have a good reason why God is so hidden.

          I presented some kinds of Christian thought that do indeed explain this.

          Bits of evidence from religious seekers worldwide could gradually be
          collected, like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Religions would converge.

          This supposes a lot of things about god – primarily that there’s just one god, or pantheon, and just one way of effectively worshiping him/her/it/them. It’s taking a very narrow view of god, and then making the blanket statement that it should apply globally.
          Wouldn’t the fact that just a few major world religions make up the vast majority of the faithful, as opposed to a much larger number of small, local faiths suggest that religions might indeed be converging?

          Saying that Christianity looks like a manmade religion makes sense, as we’ve got lots of religions to compare it to, at least some of which we can be confident are manmade.
          Saying the world looks like one in which god is not active would only work if we either had a preconceived notion of what such a world looked like, or several worlds to compare in which we were certain of the status of gods in each one.

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

          *shrug* they’re not my ideas, and I find them silly, but you asked for examples of my suggested worldviews that were consistent with Christianity, and those are examples.

          Yes, understood.

          If you want to claim that this world doesn’t resemble one in which god exists, okay, show me one in which he definitely does or definitely doesn’t, and we’ll compare and contrast.

          Why do I have to show you a world w/o god for you to evaluate but I don’t have to show you a world w/o Bigfoot for you to evaluate? You’re comfortable looking for evidence pro and con Bigfoot and making a conclusion. Why doesn’t it work that way for God?

          If you’re saying that my evidence to support premise 2 is inadequate, that’s fine. We can talk about that.

          Okay, I’ll try to take it point by point.

          Wait—are you now moving on to critique my argument for premise 2? That’s fine. That’s how the game is played. But before I thought you said that I wasn’t playing the game right.

          Wouldn’t the fact that just a few major world religions make up the vast majority of the faithful, as opposed to a much larger number of small, local faiths suggest that religions might indeed be converging?

          Religions aren’t converging. Christianity makes 2 new denominations per day, on average. Here’s a fragment of a tree of world religions (one bit from Christianity).

          http://wp.production.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/files/2014/09/Religion-map-fragment.jpg

          More at the post here.

          I’m not sufficient attention to the last half of your comment simply because I don’t want to focus on the justification for 2 (if you say that it’s unconvincing, OK, that’s helpful feedback; thanks) but rather on your primary concern which is that this argument is circular.

        • Anri

          Why do I have to show you a world w/o god for you to evaluate but I
          don’t have to show you a world w/o Bigfoot for you to evaluate? You’re
          comfortable looking for evidence pro and con Bigfoot and making a
          conclusion. Why doesn’t it work that way for God?

          If someone was making a claim about the existence of bigfoot, for or against, I’d ask them for evidence. If someone was merely saying “your case is unconvincing”, they wouldn’t require near as much of a case.

          You appear to be making the claim that the world does not look like one in which god exists, so I’m asking for evidence of that specific claim.

          I’m not sufficient attention to the last half of your comment simply because I don’t want to focus on the justification for 2 (if you say that it’s unconvincing, OK, that’s helpful feedback; thanks) but rather on your primary concern which is that this argument is circular.

          Ok, it was my understanding that you were arguing against my inference of circularity by citing your evidentiary support of point 2. That’s why I went through and made my arguments for your evidence of 2 not seeming terribly solid.

          Let me see if I can come at this from a slightly different angle.

          From our discussions, I think we could rewrite premise 2 to show it’s not a very good argument for atheism, while not actually disagreeing with anything you’ve said:
          2) This world looks like one in which god exists, but is hidden from skeptics.
          3) Conclusion: a hidden god is not manmade.

          Or an entirely neutral one:
          2) This world looks like one in which all gods are manmade, or in which god exists but is hidden from skeptics.
          3) Conclusion: the way the world looks cannot significantly inform us as to the possible manmade origin of god.

          The only time that premise 2 seems to gain force as an argument against god is when we presume the lack of evidence for god to be sufficient evidence for the lack of god altogether. But if we’re already there in the building of premise 2, why go further and attempt to use a conclusion that just gets us back to where we were before this point?
          In other words, as far as I can see, the only real way to pick which wording of premise 2 we have confidence in is to already have a pretty good idea of god’s existence or lack thereof. But if we’ve got that, then the argument is superfluous.

          The only way the world can look like one in which god doesn’t exist is if god doesn’t exist. If we know enough about god’s existence to state that with confidence, we don;’t have to then use it as a starting point for further arguments about god’s existence. If we don’t, then the very best we can say is that some of the god-worlds people have envisioned don’t match with our understanding of the evidence of the way the world looks – but certainly not in a rigorous sense. That does not seem like a very effective argument to me.

        • TheNuszAbides

          butting in:

          You appear to be making the claim that the world does not look like one in which god exists, so I’m asking for evidence of that specific claim.

          we can take it as given that “religious experience” exists, but how has a non-physical-brain source of any such thing been established beyond bald assertion, special pleading and appeals to ~mystery~ and in-group fuzzies?

          This world looks like one in which god exists, but is hidden from skeptics.

          seems like conceding something incoherent to mollify the credulous masses. much like countless scientists who at least pay lip service to the notion of ‘discovering how the Wonders of _____’s Creation work’ yet whose supposed belief/faith in no way substantively informs whatever progress they make in scientific discovery. (i.e. they’re not figuring out anything that nonbelievers can’t figure out.)

          [‘entirely neutral’ conclusion] the way the world looks cannot significantly inform us as to the possible manmade origin of god.

          if deities are so ~immaterial~ as to elude every [sub]culture that cooks up vague descriptions and egregiously humanoid motivations for them, how is it not more apparent [in a worldview encompassing all of them without appeal to the interference of StealthDemons] that the common thread is “stories we tell each other” rather than “we’re really onto something, we just can’t ever articulate any demonstrable truths about that something”?* inserting super-powered wishful thinking into a worldview isn’t useful enough to justify taking god-tales literally (let alone tribal warfare, racism, sexism etc. being ‘justified’ by differences in such tales), and StealthGod qua CreatorBeing has nothing meaningful to offer any understanding of anything other than how even human curiosity and curiousness has its limits. (or at least, i’ve seen deists through the centuries make brief statements of their deism, none of which has even slightly contradicted the simple statement attributed to de la Place, “I have no need of that hypothesis.” i welcome with great curiosity any more-heroic efforts.)

          EDITED to complete a sentence

          *telling exceptions to be found in the hypothetical unrecorded discussions among founding priesthoods as to which ideas should be nurtured and which stifled in order to get the flocks in line.

        • Anri

          we can take it as given that “religious experience” exists, but how has a non-physical-brain source of any such thing been established beyond bald assertion, special pleading and appeals to ~mystery~ and in-group fuzzies?

          It hasn’t. I don’t recall saying it had. Can you remind me of when I did?

          seems like conceding something incoherent to mollify the credulous masses.

          What’s incoherent about it?

          if deities are so ~immaterial~ as to elude every [sub]culture that cooks up vague descriptions and egregiously humanoid
          motivations for them, how is it not more apparent [in a worldview
          encompassing all of them without appeal to the interference of
          StealthDemons] that the common thread is “stories we tell each other”
          rather than “we’re really onto something, we just can’t ever articulate any demonstrable truths about that something”?*(etc…)

          I’ve described several different ways in which a deity could be hidden from scientific discovery, and given examples of religious sects that (claim to) believe such things. I’m sorry if you consider this to be Behavior Unbefitting A Deity, but I’m not sure where to tell you to send in your complaint.

          only if you neglect super-powered-hiddenness. which of course you should.

          My apologies, but are you saying that a world in which god exists would look different from one in which it does not, or that it they would not or might not be distinguishable, depending on the nature of god?
          I’m merely saying that something resembles itself, by definition. If you perceive it as something else, that’s an error in your perception, not in its reality.

          (Edited to correct a lost word…)

        • TheNuszAbides

          What’s incoherent about it?

          any definition of ‘god’ that gets to play the “imperceptible to skeptics” card.

        • Anri

          You’re saying you don’t understand the concept of god being hidden from those that don’t believe in him?

          I can try to explain it to you.

        • TheNuszAbides

          perhaps i oversimplified: the explanatory power of a god-definition incorporating hiddenness is incoherent. it produces zero description of the hiddenness itself, merely jumping from “there are those who do not believe” to “therefore they cannot see” (or ‘they cannot see, therefore they do not believe’, more in the vein of ‘the fool says …’ rhetoric). it may have been far more compelling when [e.g.] neuroscience wasn’t much of a thing yet, but as we all enjoy pointing out, reality has no incentive to honor incorrect or irrelevant opinions.

        • Anri

          the explanatory power of a god-definition incorporating hiddenness is incoherent.

          True.
          It is, however, an aspect of religion as actually practiced and thus should be addressed if we actually are trying to convince people with arguments.
          If we’re only trying to convince people who already agree with us, then sure, it’s safe to ignore it.
          What’s the goal here?

        • TheNuszAbides

          … thus should be addressed if we actually are …

          and it wasn’t addressed in the OP’s links?

          What’s the goal here?

          i’ll let pass my nearly automatic discomfort with the vague phrase “the goal”.

          unless i’m way off base, the primary function of the blog is exploration, with occasional gestures/tendencies toward refinement of approach.

          one of my personal goals as a participant in threads like these is sounding out the ideas raised, which i daresay is at least similar to what you’ve been doing since your initial comment.

        • Anri

          and it wasn’t addressed in the OP’s links?

          Yes, which is why I was discussing it until I was told it wasn’t worth in-depth discussion.

          And I meant to goal of the argument.

        • TheNuszAbides

          until i was told it wasn’t worth in-depth discussion

          under the link(s) provided or only here?

          my guess is that ‘the’ goal of the argument is to present yet another perspective that will be more familiar/useful/clarifying/compelling/thought-provoking to some and less so to others. i’ve never known any argument to be given knockout-victory status by any first, second or third party.

        • Anri

          It was said in this thread.

          In any case, thanks for engaging with me on this. Take care!

        • TheNuszAbides

          likewise!

        • TheNuszAbides

          It hasn’t. I don’t recall saying it had. Can you remind me of when I did?

          at no point have i put any words/thoughts in your head, so that tangent is a non-starter. i just find bizarre your insistence that the OP needs a more precise formulation of premise 2, or a bigger dose of rigor in general, in order to be [more compelling/useful to you personally? more objective at first blush to a lurker?] … when the premises of god-conceding or god-presupposing counterclaims (which, yes, i already understood you do not make yourself but merely relay for example) involve no rigor at all (or at least don’t require it in any way), using axioms and definitions that preclude any excuse for rigor.

          the consistent and constant absence of ‘game-changing’ (if i may attempt to be only slightly less vague/subjective than by saying ‘significant’ or ‘meaningful’) evidence is one of the pillars of the “what this world looks like” premise.

          If you perceive it as something else, that’s an error in your perception, not in its reality.

          which is why super-powered-hiddenness deserves our neglect. sure, in the inherently-less-falsifiable narratives by which super-powered-hiddenness is a thing, the point of view of anyone deprived of ‘access to the true nature of reality’ is irrelevant (unless perhaps they happen to exercise more social/temporal power than StealthGod and those loyal folk who ‘know the truth’). so, what, this argument doesn’t work because it won’t shake a vast swath of pernicious beliefs? premise 2 doesn’t work because

        • TheNuszAbides

          cut off in mid-composition because it was already bleeding into another reply.

        • TheNuszAbides

          The only way the world can look like one in which god doesn’t exist is if god doesn’t exist.

          only if you neglect super-powered-hiddenness. which of course you should.

        • Greg G.

          Yahweh has been the Universe Champion of Hide and Seek for three thousand years.

        • TheNuszAbides

          then the very best we can say is that some of the god-worlds people have envisioned don’t match with our understanding of the evidence of the way the world looks – but certainly not in a rigorous sense.

          some of? where are the exceptions to this group? concealed in the Vatican library? more importantly, do these exceptions tell anyone anything that anyone needs to hear other than to feel better about the cognitive dissonance between ‘god-worlds’ and ‘our understanding of the evidence of the way the world looks’?

        • TheNuszAbides

          simply because I don’t want to focus on the justification for 2 (if you
          say that it’s unconvincing, OK, that’s helpful feedback; thanks)

          cooking up a post just for that?

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

          Meh, I don’t think so. I put a summary of what I have in the post already.

        • TheNuszAbides

          taking as read (even by mere thought experiment) a hidden (selectively or otherwise) god/supernatural provides a model (if only a sketch of one) that requires rhetorical tricks, vague hand-waving and/or further concession via special pleading to make sense to the already-emotionally-invested anyone.

          taking as read (even by mere thought experiment) no such thing as god/supernatural is a model (even a default position, if only a sketch of one) that fits the vast absence of evidence in a way that makes perfectly ordinary sense to anyone who doesn’t have an awkwardly huge cognitive block/void bounded by deepities like “everybody has to believe in something“.

        • Anri

          But the position being advanced, that I am arguing against, isn’t “There are no gods”, it’s “This world looks like one in which there are no gods.”

          I have described several religious traditions – just within Christianity – that as part of their core beliefs would accept a god hidden from the non-faithful.
          If we want to reject those positions, based on the idea that god doesn’t exist that’s perfectly fine – and in fact, I believe correct – but then we find ourselves supporting premise 2 by saying “god probably does not exist”, which is a conclusion premise 2 is supposed to be supporting, not supported by.

          In other words, how – without already assuming at the time of creating premise 2 that god does not exist – do we reject a hidden god interpretation of the appearance of the world? And if we don’t do that when forming premise 2, why is a hidden god interpretation not addressed?

        • adam

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7786df5050a13684367f90eb753b953b17c746ef048fe8e05b1f3a989a977fd3.jpg

          “do we reject a hidden god interpretation of the appearance of the world? ”

          Of course, in the very same way we reject a magical unicorn interpretation, what good is a “God” that is absent, except as a display of ignorance?

          Definition of god

          1 capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality: such as a : the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe

        • Anri

          Of course, in the very same way we reject a magical unicorn
          interpretation, what good is a “God” that is absent, except as a display
          of ignorance?

          A god that is absent to the non-faithful is not all that uncommon an idea. I didn’t come up with the idea, so I’m not really sure I have to defend it, but to ignore its place in religious thought seems very odd indeed.
          Even if we are presuming that “all gods” and “a typical Protestant Christianity” are the same, which obviously they aren’t. I gave a couple of Christian examples in which god’s existence would be essentially absent to the non-faithful – should I repeat them? And that’s not touching on non-western faiths.

          I understand that you (and I) don’t understand or accept that such a god could exist. That’s kind of my point – we’ve already accepted that non-existence before premise 2 is delineated, and it appears to depend on that assumption, thus making that selfsame conclusion stemming from that argument appear circular to me.

        • adam

          “A god that is absent to the non-faithful is not all that uncommon an idea. …but to ignore its place in religious thought seems very odd indeed.”

          Why is it any more odd than to grant MAGIC and MAGICAL beliefs based on superstition and ignorance?

          ” That’s kind of my point – we’ve already accepted that non-existence before premise 2 is delineated”

          Of course, just like we’ve accepted that gravity is not going to make you float after jumping off a cliff.

          “argument appear circular to me.”

          No magic has been demonstrated, so how is it circular?

        • Anri

          Why is it any more odd than to grant MAGIC and MAGICAL beliefs based on superstition and ignorance?

          I was merely saying that ignoring the religious concept of god being hidden to non-believers was odd, given that it is reasonably widespread. It’s not my belief, so I don’t feel inclined to defend it, but it obviously exists as an aspect of religion. Ignoring it for the convenience of your argument severely weakens it, IMHO.

          Of course, just like we’ve accepted that gravity is not going to make you float after jumping off a cliff.

          Yes, and if I then used that as a supporting point in an argument that concluded, a step or two later, that gravity is not going to make you float after jumping off a cliff, I would be asserting my conclusion prior to establishing it with the argument, wouldn’t i?

        • adam

          “I was merely saying that ignoring the religious concept of god being
          hidden to non-believers was odd, given that it is reasonably widespread.

          but I am not ignoring it, but dismissing it, like every claim of xomeone who claims to be able to jump off a cliff and rise instead of fall.

          ” I would be asserting my conclusion prior to establishing it with the argument, wouldn’t i?”

          Is there ANY evidence EVER, verified, that gravity makes you float?

          See this is not circularity, but based on every piece of evidence available.

        • Anri

          I accept that premise 2 is supported by evidence. I get that by the time we have gotten to premise 2, we should already have a good idea that there is no god. Having said that, why then are we still making arguments, past premise 2, that treat “is there a god?” as an open question?
          If we’ve already gotten our answer, it’s rather disingenuous to continue to argue as if we were treating it like an undecided question, don’t you think?

        • adam

          ” it’s rather disingenuous to continue to argue as if we were treating it like an undecided question”

          Because of propaganda.

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

          But a hidden-god interpretation is addressed. I pointed to two other posts that discussed God’s hiddenness.

          I make no claim that a creator couldn’t be hidden, so we’re on the same page here. (I do argue that this proves that the Christian God doesn’t exist, assuming that “Christian God” is someone who seriously wants to have a relationship with us.) My claim is that “this looks like a godless world” is more reasonable than “here’s an odd way that God could exist while still being hidden.” If you disagree, that’s fine, but in that case, my failing would be not convincing you of premise 2, not in making a circular argument.

        • Anri

          Unless the reason that premise 2 was unconvincing was that for it to be convincing required even a tentative decision about god’s existence.
          Then we would be attempting to support an argument for a tentative conclusion about god’s existence with a prior tentative conclusion about god’s existence.

          Let me put it that way: if you aren’t making a tentative conclusion about god’s existence prior to premise 2, how are you choosing between a ‘god is manmade’ premise 2 and a ‘god is hidden’ premise 2?
          All of the reasons you have cited so far appear to rely on a tentative conclusion that god doesn’t exist, which is what you are trying to make an argument for. That appears circular to me.

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

          Hmm. We’re not making any progress, are we?

          Let me put it that way: if you aren’t making a tentative conclusion about god’s existence prior to premise 2, how are you choosing between a ‘god is manmade’ premise 2 and a ‘god is hidden’ premise 2?

          The same way you choose between “Bigfoot is manmade” and “Bigfoot is real.” Is there an inappropriate presupposition there as well?

        • Anri

          Only if you then go on to make an argument supporting the notion of Bigfoot not existing after you’ve already established the principle that Bigfoot doesn’t exist.

          I know we’re not getting anywhere, and I apologize for burning up so much time an effort – I might very well be off base here (I don’t think so, but that’s the way these things go), and if I can’t get any traction with this exchange, I’ll drop it.

          It seems to me that the only way to choose, when constructing premise 2, between a hidden-god world and a no-god world version of premise 2 is to (quite correctly, based on the evidence) decide that god is manmade.
          This only becomes an issue when we present premise 2 as part of an argument in which god being manmade is still treated as an open question (which is why we’re still making arguments, yes?)
          The argument appears to be saying that premise 2 has force because we’ve already established god’s man-made status. But that’s the argument we’re trying to support with premise 2. If it’s still in doubt, we haven’t established premise 2. If it’s not, we’re treating a closed questions as open in still addressing it.

          In short, we appear to require the conclusion we are supporting with premise 2 to support our chosen version of premise 2. That looks circular to me.

          In any case, thanks for engaging with me on this.

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

          It seems to me that the only way to choose, when constructing premise 2, between a hidden-god world and a no-god world version of premise 2 is to (quite correctly, based on the evidence) decide that god is manmade.

          Who’s choosing between a hidden-god world and a no-god world? They appear identical. I thought we were already on the same page here.

          Similarly, a hidden-Bigfoot world and a no-Bigfoot world look identical, but having no good evidence for the hidden-Bigfoot world, we default to the no-Bigfoot world. That’s not an immutable conclusion, of course, just the best conclusion with the imperfect information we have.

        • Anri

          Who’s choosing between a hidden-god world and a no-god world? They
          appear identical. I thought we were already on the same page here.

          But if they are identical, how can we say that a world looks like one but not like the other? That is what you’re doing, yes, asserting that the world looks like a no-god world – that was your argument, yes? Why, if you can’t distinguish between them, say that it looks like a hidden-god world instead, as premise 2?
          Or say, possibly more accurately, that you can’t actually tell if this world looks like a no-god world, because is also looks like a hidden-god world?

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

          But if they are identical, how can we say that a world looks like one but not like the other?

          Like I said: we can’t. That was never my intention.

          That is what you’re doing, yes, asserting that the world looks like a no-god world – that was your argument, yes? Why, if you can’t distinguish between them, say that it looks like a hidden-god world instead, as premise 2?

          Do we say that we live in a hidden-Bigfoot world?

        • Anri

          Like I said: we can’t. That was never my intention.

          Then why does premise 2 not include that possibility, if it is still (at that point in the argument) a viable explanation for how the world looks?

          Do we say that we live in a hidden-Bigfoot world?

          People who believe in Bigfoot do, yes.
          Just as some people who believe in god – which I presume is your assume audience for an argument about the existence of god – do.

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

          I covered the hidden-god possibility. I said in the post: “Nevertheless, God might still exist despite strong evidence for these two premises. God might be deliberately invisible. He could be the Gnostic Demiurge, the builder of the world who’s not perfectly good and not all that interested in a relationship. He could be shy or deceitful or evil. He might be a deist god—a clockmaker who wound up the universe and then walked away. For the Christian to carve out a spot for God with any of these possibilities, however, is to abandon the Christian conception of God.”

          I think I understand your point and we’ve devolved into parsing details.

        • busterggi

          Or god simply died from exhaustion.

        • Anri

          Ok, sounds good.

          Thanks for sticking with me on this.

        • Greg G.

          Which is more probable:

          A and not B or A and B

          given evidence of A and no evidence for B?

        • Anri

          If we decide A is more probable, should we then use that as a supporting point for a premise based on an argument that A is more probable?

          Or have we by that time already arrived at the conclusion that A is more probable?

        • Greg G.

          Or have we by that time already arrived at the conclusion that A is more probable?

          It seems as simple as that. We have loads of evidence for A, lots of false cases of B, no unambiguous evidence of B, and lots of excuses for why no evidence of B could be provided.

        • Anri

          I agree.
          Which means that by the time premise 2 is set up, we have already arrived at it’s conclusion: that god probably does not exist.

          As premise 2 has that both as it’s establishing prerequisite and it’s conclusion, it forms a circular argument.

          I’m not saying that conclusion is wrong, mind you, just that the argument needed to establish premise 2 is identical to it’s (correct) conclusion.
          Thus, circularity.

        • Lark62

          Anri said
          If the supernatural exists, then, yes, this looks exactly like a world with the supernatural, because it is.

          I would disagree. To look exactly like a world with the supernatural, supernatural events would have to occur in it. Yet we have no events that are beyond natural explanation.

          To revise Anris statement – The only way to determine what a world in which there are no magic tea pots looks like is to see one, and unless we’ve already reached that conclusion about this one, we can’t use it as the example that proves a general principle.

          We have seen a world without magic tea pots.
          We have seen a world without talking trees and intelligent plants. (Or elves, or evil spiders or ring wraiths)

          We have seen a world without quite a lot of things. Maybe talking trees could have evolved elsewhere, but if so, they are subject to the laws of nature. They don’t exist on our planet.

        • Anri

          There are, of course, many people who see the world as full of the supernatural, theistic or otherwise. To them, the world does in fact look like one full or the supernatural.
          If you want to ask them for evidence when they make such claims, that’s great – you should, and they should have to provide it.
          But claiming that this world does not appear to have the supernatural in it is the statement of someone who has already concluded (correctly, IMHO) that the supernatural does not exist, and therefore the things that appear supernatural are not. But it makes no sense to use this as a starting point for an argument against the supernatural.

          That’s why I consider this argument circular – one of the premises (god doesn’t do stuff) is based on prior acceptance of the conclusion (god doesn’t do stuff).

        • Kevin K

          It’s not what you “see” (aka, believe), it’s what you can verify objectively.

        • Anri

          I thought the argument was that this didn’t “look like” a world in which god operates. Did I misread?

        • adam

          So where is the MAGIC?

          MAGIC is the ONLY things that Gods have that humans lack.

        • Anri

          Lots of people say they believe humans wield magic, of a sort, too, if only though supplication of gods/spirits/demons/whatever.

          I don’t agree myself, but it seems to be a pretty prevalent belief.

        • adam

          ” but it seems to be a pretty prevalent belief.”

          As was the belief that the sun rotated around the earth.

          Who cares about superstitious claims?
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e0c0a6e176c242a1c10eb802be119d62661d9e20e2dc8846214dc8977ca57486.png

        • Anri

          Who cares about superstitious claims?

          …people interacting with religion?

        • TheNuszAbides

          then whatever wrong turn was made, it isn’t circular or question-begging, it’s distilling the more precise points made in various other posts into a simplified (perhaps oversimplified) premise. it was never about a narrow/singular “look” at the universe that Bob hadn’t already justified on one or more levels previously (hence the numerous links following key observational one-liners).

        • Anri

          Well, when I argued against the general premise 2, I was told the support for it had been addressed. When I went back and gave rebuttals to what I thought were the fairly weak points supporting 2, I was told it wasn’t important enough to go over.

          I didn’t pick the phrase “looks like”, the OP did. If it’s not what he meant, that’s fine, of course.

        • TheNuszAbides

          When I went back and gave rebuttals to what I thought were the fairly
          weak points supporting 2, I was told it wasn’t important enough to go
          over.

          i must confess i haven’t seen you make the case that they are important enough to go over (again). if your point is a lack of some sort of ‘concrete proof of godlessness’ to accompany/support a premise based on the banality of the common thread through all religious mythoi, i guess the answer is just something like “sorry, batteries not included”.

        • Anri

          I didn’t make that argument, it was made towards me, and I responded.

        • TheNuszAbides

          what, the argument that “the fairly weak points supporting 2” were/weren’t “important enough to go over”? nothing i said requires that you were consciously attempting to make either case. i’m saying it makes sense that you were told this, because your feedback isn’t connecting somehow.

        • Anri

          Which seems to me to be a reason to try again rather than to walk away.

          But maybe that’s just me.

        • TheNuszAbides

          one of the premises (god doesn’t do stuff) is based on prior acceptance of the conclusion (god doesn’t do stuff).

          i missed the part where you addressed Bob’s suggestion to “forget the conclusion”. on top of which you’re oversimplifying what’s already been simplified.

        • Anri

          I’m not sure how to ignore a conclusion when attempting to demonstrate the circularity of an argument.

          If I can’t reference the conclusion, how do I make a case that an argument is circular – any pointers?

        • TheNuszAbides

          good, skip the part about oversimplification — that earns points for sure.

        • Anri

          My apologies, I didn’t know what you meant by your comment about oversimplification. Could you be more specific?

          I’m assuming the points system has awarded you full value for not answering my question, no doubt. It’s funny like that.

        • TheNuszAbides

          one of the premises (god doesn’t do stuff)

          oversimplification of either premise. the use of imagination and logic to generate a relatively coherent range of possibilities is what leads up to the “the universe convincingly fits [this model]”. no assertion that “god doesn’t do stuff” is prefigured or required to get there.

        • Anri

          Well, when I tried to discuss the points in detail, I was waved off.

          If I’m not supposed to simplify, and not supposed to go into detail, but still should address the points supporting premise 2, I’m kinda of at a loss here.

    • Jim Jones

      First: Define ‘god’.

      • Anri

        I’ll let the person making the argument define the terms, and take issue with the definition after it’s made, if I feel the need to.

  • RichardSRussell

    The One True Religion was not man-made. It was given to us directly by the divine ones themselves, who continue to walk among us today, thousands and thousands of years after their initial revelation to humanity. And their doctrines and directives have not succumbed to the schisms and fractionalizations that have plagued all the false religions; no, their message remains simple, easily understood, steadfast, unified, and unchanging, and it applies worldwide.

    I speak, of course, of Ailurophilia. Blessings be upon their sacred avatars, all praise their holy names.

    • Herald Newman

      I’m sure there are plenty of crazy ladies that will agree with you.

    • kraut2

      “their message remains simple”

      FEED ME

      “easily understood”

      You are permitted to pet me…somewhat..

      “steadfast”

      That corner of the bed is mine

      “unified”

      We want more food

      “unchanging’

      I permit you to look after me.

      “applies worldwide”

      We want more food

    • RichardSRussell

      Many people have written in asking exactly what is the divine message of the holy ones. And here it is in all its simple glory, still constant after all these millennia:

      The 6 Commandments of Ailurophilia

      (1) Thou shalt love, honor, revere, and worship us.

      (2) Thou shalt feed and water us.

      (3) Thou shalt provide us with places of ease and comfort.

      (4) Thou shalt supply pets and scratches upon demand.

      (5) Thou shalt keep and treasure whatever physical objects we deign to bestow upon thee.

      (6) Beyond that, we don’t much give a shit. Do whatever the hell you want.

      • kraut2

        Way too complicated.

        We permit you to take care of us according to our desires.

        • eric

          The golden rule of Ailurophilia: do unto me as I would have you do unto me.

      • busterggi

        You left out:

        Thou will bleed for our amusement whenever we feel like it and be grateful for the attention.

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

      “Cats! Why did it have to be cats?!”

      (Oh, no–wait. Indiana Jones was talking about snakes …)

    • Lark62

      “Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.”

      Christopher Hitchens, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever

      • Kodie

        For several reasons, I do not want to have a dog. #1 on the list is the untimely needs to be walked and pick up their poo with nothing but a thin plastic baggie, and then carry it around with us until we get to a trash can. I do not wish to be woken up at 5am on a shitty snowy morning, or make sure I leave time if I’m running late, or come home and have to go right back out for walkies. I live in the 3rd floor in a building with a lot of dogs, and I don’t really want to get caught up chatting with “dog people” over dogs, much of these reasons is also good I don’t want or have a kid. In my observation, people who have dogs instead of kids or while they’re postponing kids never shut up about their dog.

        And while the most cats I’ve ever had at one time is 2, I get that “crazy cat lady” aspersions cast on me by people who hate cats and think dogs are superior and think anyone who has a cat (especially a single woman without kids) is always going on and on and on about the cute things the cat did. No, that’s dog people. I like dogs, I just can’t cater to a dog’s constant neediness. Sure they are stupid and think you’re their god, but are you really? I treat my cat pretty well, but I do make her wait enough if she thinks she needs new food, that she seems to understand she’s not the boss. She understands her order of importance is 3 (at best) when I get out of bed in the morning. I can’t eat a turkey sandwich in peace, or anything with sour cream, or a bowl of cereal, and she wants to know whatever I’m eating just in case, but I don’t have mice, and she doesn’t chew up my stuff or pee in the laundry basket.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuH6XdSh5tk

      • Michael Neville

        Dogs have masters. Cats have staff.

        • adam

          “Dogs have masters.”

          Can someone help me locate my dog’s ‘master’?

          She obviously does not think that is me or my wife.
          Lol

  • Kevin K

    I’d go further with regard to the Abrahamic religions, and declare them to be definitely “made up”.

    We know where Yahweh came from — his history of goddiness. First as the primary god of this particular nomadic/semi-nomadic tribe borrowed from the Ugaritic pantheon, then as the only god of this tribe, then claimed to be the only god there is. Traits keep getting added, without regard to the historical evidence of the absence of those traits (omnipotence in a god that cannot defeat iron chariots, as one glaring example).

    We know that he did not have the characteristics currently assigned to him, but were added much, much later. We know that the Christian religion and the Muslim religion are syncretic, taking bits and bobs of other extant religions and mashing them together.

    Unless you’re holding to the very original claims of the powers, attributes, and ontology of the god Yahweh, you’re looking at human invention. And even the original claims can be traced to earlier claims of earlier gods. So, the Ugaritic deity isn’t original, either.

    I don’t know about the other deistic religions (Hinduism, etc.), but would strongly guess you’d find the same thing.

    Of course, we know the non-deistic religions are “made up”, because we have knowledge of their founders! Confucius, Buddha, etc. I’d even put L. Ron Hubbard in this category, since Xenu doesn’t appear to be a god, merely an alien.

    • Zeta

      Kevin K: “We know where Yahweh came from — his history of goddiness.

      I always believe that the best and most effective argument against the truth of Christianity is to look at the origin and history of their god Yahweh. If Yahweh is a made-up deity invented by ancient people, there cannot be a Jesus god also. The Wikipedia entry on “Yahweh” gave a summary of the history of Yahweh. Recently I have already used this argument twice, quoting 3 passages from that article (apologies to those who have read it):

      It is easy to see that he is a god who was completely made-up by ancient people. Let me quote some passages from the Wikipedia page on Yahweh:

      1. “In the oldest biblical literature he is a typical ancient Near Eastern “divine warrior” who leads the heavenly army against Israel’s enemies;[6] he later became the main god of the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and of Judah,[7] and over time the royal court and temple promoted Yahweh as the god of the entire cosmos, possessing all the positive qualities previously attributed to the other gods and goddesses.”

      2. “A widely accepted hypothesis is that traders brought Yahweh to Israel along the caravan routes between Egypt and Canaan, the Kenite hypothesis, named after one of the groups involved.”

      3. “El and his sons made up the Assembly of the Gods, each member of which had a human nation under his care, and a textual variant of Deuteronomy 32:8–9 describes the sons of El, including Yahweh, each receiving his own people:”

      Yahweh was allotted Israel by a higher god (supposedly his daddy Elyon) and he lived on Mount Sinai. It is obvious that he was made-up by his believers and then embellished to have the omni-everything attributes. It is abundantly clear from their holy book that he lacked all these incredible powers. How can anyone believe that he is the Creator god of the cosmos?

      BobS also has a recent article related to this:

      “Combat Myth: The Curious Story of Yahweh and the Gods Who Preceded Him”
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2017/02/combat-myth-the-curious-story-of-yahweh-and-the-gods-who-preceded-him-2/
      See Item: “4. Israelite myth: Yahweh defeats Leviathan”

    • TheNuszAbides

      doesn’t appear to be a god, merely an alien

      distinction with no (or only trivial) difference.

      • Kevin K

        Actually, it’s an important distinction. Because aliens at least have an ontology. We know they’re made up of atoms. Gods? We have no idea what gods are actually made of. Which is why I have such a hard time believing such things exist.

        • busterggi
        • TheNuszAbides

          sorry, i trimmed it down too far. i was only dismissing in the context of ‘Scientology having a superbeing[‘alien’] in its narrative’ vs. ‘_____ having a superbeing[‘god’] in its narrative’.

        • Kevin K

          If you look at it from one perspective, Scientology has a greater chance of being “correct” than theistic religions, merely because it can be falsified. Unfalsifiability — ie, all religions that rely on a supernatural source — falls under the “incoherent” category in my book, aka “not even wrong.”

        • TheNuszAbides

          true, the Xenu yarn is at least open to the trail of questions as to which barely-imaginable region of spacetime it came from.

  • busterggi

    Beast, Mr. Kitty, Sheffield, Blink, Tippi, Company, Snowdrop, Muffin, Patches & Moe – my present household gods.

    • BlackMamba44

      Kitkat, Snickers (brother & sister gods), Muchacho, & BlackMamba (my avatar) are my gods that protect the inside of my house

      Morris the Feral is my god that protects the outside of my house and property. He’s really good at smiting demon squirrels and demon mice. Along with the occasional demon pine vole. :)

    • kraut2

      Thou shalt not have other gods above, beside and below me.
      Polytheism is a sin.

    • katiehippie

      Awww, I used to have one named The Ravenous Beast.
      Now it’s just Uncle Fluff, Ziggy, Red, Blackie, Yowler and Merci.

      • busterggi

        So many out there that need rescuing.

    • Ol’ Hippy

      Isis or as registered, Little Poo. Nuff said!

    • TheNuszAbides

      we’re currently presided over by Serafina and Gemma. later this year we’ll relocate under the occasionally-watchful gaze of Cleo, Lato, Max (adorably incompetent maremma) and the ghosts of Zima* (drowned), Bella** (fell afoul of this exceptionally ruthless hemovore) and Sammy (roams the fields and hills where he disappeared).

      * Polish for ‘winter’, shut up about the wine cooler
      ** nope.

      EDIT: can’t get the link right: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ixodes_holocyclus#Domestic_pets

      must be misremembering my [a href _____][/a]?

  • kraut2

    https://phys.org/news/2017-03-cats-humans-thought.html?utm_source=nwletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily-nwletter

    Praise be to thee of furry one. They like us….we have misunderstood, please forgive us.

    • kraut2

      What is fascinating is their response to persons. My wife can cuddle with her, she sits in front of the laptop while my wife is reading. I am allowed to brush her, but not cuddle or lift her in my arms. When my wife sits in her favourite chair, she sits on her lap for hours. Never with me sitting on the couch.

      • BlackMamba44

        They pick their person. My oldest female loves me but ADORES my man. Her brother loves my man but ADORES me. The one in my avatar I’ve had for 7 years and she started demanding attention from my man only 2 years ago. And that’s ONLY when I am ignoring her demands.

      • Kodie

        Your wife is the god’s chosen people. Sorry, heathen.

        • kraut2

          What can I do??? I feel so left out…

        • Kodie

          The gods can’t resist sliced turkey, so include a cat slice when you make a sandwich, and save it aside for your cat to share while you’re eating your sandwich. Doesn’t work with ham, and they are disappointed by baloney but will eat a couple nibbles. The gods also love the best part of the fried chicken – the breaded skin. They can do without the actual chicken. Pepperoni from your pizza is ok, but sausage is not. The gods hate tomatoes, but if they get curious and impatient, try to feed it a tomato out of your hand. Or lettuce. The gods want to know what you are eating and hate you if there is nothing they want you to share. It’s like they went to a movie but it turned out to be a time-share seminar. There is nothing else you can do to win a cat’s love. If you eat cheetos or barbecue chips, let them lick your fingers when you are done. Keep in mind, this is going to be kind of a full-time job from now on.

        • busterggi

          I’d have said get sweaty and then roll around naked in catnip but your advice may be safer.

        • kraut2

          That would be disastrous here. Within 100 meter around the property there are at least 40 cats belonging to various neighbours…..

        • Kodie

          It’s not worth it.

        • kraut2

          Mine like potato chips – just a tiny chunk here and there, I feed here fresh fish when making sashimi or fish-soup, she gets her share of the groundbeef when making hamburgers but still – the goddess is less attentive to me.
          Devastated on an Island with more cats than people…

        • Kodie

          Sliced turkey is the only food I eat that the cat needs a whole slice of, she doesn’t eat potato chip pieces, but she licks them. I don’t eat a lot of tuna, but she gets the saucer of juice. She wants to know everything I’m eating, so sometimes I just stick it in her face and watch her recoil from fruits and vegetables. I try to give her crumbs of cheese or eggs or chicken, and she won’t eat it, but a small bit of fried chicken crust or pepperoni or sour cream she will.

        • busterggi

          Have you tried offering cheese-covered popcorn? I’ve several that love it.

        • Kodie

          No, she won’t eat it, but she can’t wait to lick cheese off my fingers with any cheeto or barbecue chip or cheese popcorn, etc. Or she can lick a chip but she won’t eat it, even if I break it up.

        • kraut2

          Ours likes: Yogurt pure, cheese (cheese produced locally , from fresh to long term cured) she likes them all. Pork roast, broiled chicken. To tease her I let her smell freshly cut onion…ah, no.

          Fish is caught here through the night and is in the store or the fish market in the morning. Served as sashimi with a bit of Wasabi and soy sauce in the evening, after the cat had her share. Fresh tuna is the finest of course but only seasonal. Rockfish, Seabream, etc., even Marlin soemtimes, Moray eel (not my favourite). She eats them all and goes nuts when she smells it in the shopping bag.

    • Kevin K

      I’m allergic, so I guess I’m damned to hell.

      My nephew has 3 cats. I can’t go to his house. Not even with antihistamines onboard. Doesn’t work.

      • kraut2

        Satan’s spawn. go hither.

        OTOH – sometime I wish I wouldn’t cherish them as much, always hard to loose one.

  • sandy

    What a coincidence that the christian god/jesus just happens to have so many characteristics of the man made gods before him i.e.. virgin birth, saying that were said before, miracles that were done before such as walking on water, water into wine, feeding masses on bits, raising the dead and of course a resurrection and we can come up with many other features that were copied. Why would the creator of the world/universe copy the MO of previous man made gods? The obvious answer is….just another man made god. The Christian God is a fake.

    • http://anncar.com blogcom

      Because the supernatural is so manmade? its all been done before-its so yesterday and you’re so ignorant.

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

        You get an A for peevishness. Not so good on clarity, I’m afraid.

        What’s your problem? Be specific.

        • epeeist

          Looks like Tom Lehrer on Gilbert and Sullivan type posts “A lot of words and music, signifying nothing.”

      • Kodie

        You just sound like an ignorant butthurt little know-nothing. What is your problem here? That it hurts your feelings? Can’t articulate because it’s too hard?

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

        What happened to all your huffing and puffing? Did the handwaving get so exhausting that you have no energy left for an actual argument?

        If you have an actual argument, make it.

  • TheNuszAbides

    {trigger warning: brief description of a suicide}

    i’ll try to make this my last ramble on the essentially irrelevant coincidence of R. G. Price’s name with others i was hearing/seeing mentioned around the same time. taking English 201 as a medical-technicking prereq, i bit off way more than i could chew for a single research paper (trying to include treatments of AI, AR, VR, game theory and ‘evo.psych.’) and was sidetracked by fascination with the work and story* of George Robert Price.

    the only difference now is that i don’t have to look up who R. M. Price is anymore, having heard recent speaking engagements and a few podcasts and read a few of his shortest works (all reviews, iirc). but i keep forgetting who R. G. is — so, thanks for the vridar link!

    *my G.R. Price highlight reel {h/t wikip}:

    … degree in chemistry from University of Chicago in 1943 … doctorate … same institution in 1946.

    In 1947 he married Julia Madigan, but their relationship was contentious because George was a strong atheist while his wife was a practicing Roman Catholic. They divorced in 1955, having had two daughters …

    … [’46-’48] Price was an instructor in chemistry at Harvard University and consultant to Argonne National Laboratory … took a position at Bell Laboratories to work on the chemistry of transistors … worked as a research associate in medicine at the University of Minnesota, working on, among other things, fluorescence microscopy and liver perfusion … published two papers [’55, ’56] in the journal Science criticizing the pseudoscientific claims of extrasensory perception … employed by IBM as a consultant on graphic data processing [’61-’67].

    … he tried to write a book entitled No Easy Way about the United States’ Cold War with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China but complained that “the world kept changing faster than I could write about it”, and so the book was never finished.

    … read [W.D.] Hamilton’s 1964 papers on kin selection, and with no training in population genetics or statistics devised the Price equation, a covariance equation that generated the change in allele frequency of a population [and could] be applied to all levels of selection, meiotic drive, traditional natural selection with an extension into inclusive fitness and group selection.

    … In 1966 he was treated for thyroid cancer, but the operation to remove the tumour left his shoulder partially paralysed and left him reliant on thyroxine medication. With the money from his medical insurance, he moved to the United Kingdom to start a new life in November 1967.

    … On 6 June 1970, Price had a religious experience and became an ardent scholar of the New Testament. He believed that there had been too many coincidences in his life. … wrote a lengthy essay entitled The Twelve Days of Easter, arguing that the calendar of events surrounding Jesus[‘s] death in Easter Week was actually slightly longer. Later he turned away from Biblical scholarship and instead dedicated his life to community work, helping the needy of North London.

    Price’s ‘mathematical’ theory of altruism reasons that organisms are
    more likely to show altruism toward each other as they become more
    genetically similar to each other. As such, in a species that requires two parents to reproduce, an organism is most likely to show altruistic behavior to a biological parent, full sibling, or direct offspring. The reason for this is that each of these relatives’ genetic make up contains (on average in the case of siblings) 50% of the genes that are found in the original organism. So if the original organism dies as a result of an altruistic act it can still manage to propagate its full genetic heritage as long as two or more of these close relatives are saved. Consequently, an organism is less likely to show altruistic behavior to a biological grandparent, grandchild, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew or half-sibling (each contain one-fourth of the genes found in the original organism); and even less likely to show altruism to a first cousin (contains one-eighth of the genes found in the original organism). The theory then holds that the further genetically removed two organisms are from each other the less likely they are to show altruism to each other. If true then altruistic (kind) behavior is not truly selfless and is instead an adaptation that organisms have in order to promote their own genetic heritage.

    Price grew increasingly depressed by the implications of his equation. As part of an attempt to prove his theory right or wrong Price began showing an ever increasing amount (in both quality and quantity) of random kindness to complete strangers. As such Price dedicated the latter part of his life to helping the homeless, often inviting homeless people to live in his house. Sometimes, when the people in his house became a distraction, he slept in his office at the Galton Laboratory. He also gave up everything to help alcoholics, yet as he helped them steal his belongings, he increasingly fell into depression.[citation needed]

    He was eventually thrown out of his rented house due to a construction project in the area, which made him unhappy because he could no longer provide housing for the homeless. He moved to various squats in the North London area, and became depressed over Christmas, 1974.[citation needed]

    Unable to prove his theory right or wrong, Price committed suicide on January 6, 1975 by cutting his carotid artery with a pair of safety scissors.

    • Phil Rimmer

      What a pity Price didn’t realise that the nature of kin detection is the escape hatch he needed. Evolution is a bodger and does a good enough job to reduce the selection pressure below the noise of all the other random and countervailing pressures, and no more. In this it is important to remember that kin detection isn’t a conscious cultural thing. It is an entirely automatic process as unbidden and unmediated as your amygdala’s judgements.

      Kin detection in ducks may be nearest moving thing. For kids its the nearest adult, and particularly a feeding or cuddling adult. For adults a quite separate selection pressure built into all mammals are detectors for young/neotenous features (big, wide eyes relative to face etc.) So crude is this “must nurture” detector that we adore all young mammals.

      Further is the crudeness of bonding mechanisms to create long term relationships. Oxytocin, the hormone that helped control the timely release of live young from the tenacious grip of the cervix, got coopted into sweaty fat and then milk release. It got co-opted in both young and old into a passivating calming during feeding and was triggered by slow stroking /grooming of the fur/hair, which act as mechanical levers connecting directly to a mammal exclusive nerve the afferent C-tactile nerves, tiny, unsheathed and slow. These oxytocin/pleasure nerves, only newly discovered, were later co-opted to increasing social management and creating trust.

      Finally in humans, children go through a period of over-imitation, because their brains are radically premature at birth to be able to fit, need to be dependent on the instruction of their parents and follow it faithfully even if the instructions appear bonkers. (This incidentally is probably the very root of our having a vibrant and stable enough culture.) This is a period of indoctrination and habit formation. But given the crudity of kin detection the nearest credible adult will do. Give me the child until seven and I will give you the woman….

      So now with utterly crude kin and offspring detectors, we can see that in all practicality they are as-if-kin detectors. Further child hood bonding mechanisms retain this as-if-kin mode and bonding mechanisms persist. The habits of an accepting mutuality could flourish if it were beneficial which, usefully it is…

      In adulthood sex isn’t just testosterone and oestrogen, isn’t just mating, its often oxytocin and bonding and love sonnets.

      Price also needed antidepressants or better still a lover.

      • Greg G.

        !!!!

      • TheNuszAbides

        i only had the sonnets during nearly my entire teen age. (well, looks too, through no fault of my own)

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

      I already have to keep straight R. M. and R. G., so you throw yet another Price into the mix??

      • TheNuszAbides

        it’s the last time, i promise!

  • Kevin K

    I’d like to propose an argument against the common Christian conception of Yahweh, based on the evidence of its characteristics.

    Premise 1: Christians believe Yahweh exists.
    Premise 2: Christians believe that if Yahweh exists, he holds the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence.
    Premise 3: According to the bible, Yahweh cannot be omnipotent because he lacked the ability to defeat iron chariots. He also lacked sufficient power to reverse the magic contained in the IQ-raising sin-fruit that he left in the Terrarium Garden of Eden.
    Premise 4: Yahweh cannot be omniscient, since he did not know whether or not Job would continue to praise him, but had to settle the matter on a bet with Satan. In addition, he lacked sufficient omniscience to know where Adam and Eve were after they ate the IQ-raising sin-fruit and expressed surprise that they had put on clothing.
    Premise 5: Yahweh cannot be omnibenevolent, since he reserves heaven only for those who believe in him and/or his earthly avatar Jesus. He also used a giant flood to cold-bloodedly murder every puppy, kitten, and unborn baby in a misguided attempt to cure mankind of sinful behavior.

    Therefore: Because Yahweh demonstrates none of the characteristics claimed for him by Christians, and because these characteristics are considered part of its fundamental nature, therefore Yahweh, god of the Christians, cannot exist.

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

      nicely stated.

    • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

      Interesting, but I’m sure there are answers for each of those premises.
      Premise 4 seems to me particularly weak. As someone who at work often knows more than those around me, I don’t want to be the person who always jumps in with the correct answer. Sometimes I conceal my knowledge to let other people work it out.

      I have always assumed that the two examples you gave are the same. In the Garden of Eden, even if he knew exactly where Adam was, how would it be productive to jump on him and say “You can’t hide from me – I know you’re guilty”? Making Adam work through the problem himself makes much more sense.

      In the book of Job, I see nothing to imply God doesn’t know what will happen. In fact, all his predictions are shown to be correct. Satan, on the other hand, doesn’t know what will happen. He isn’t just going to accept God’s word for it, omniscient or not. It has to be demonstrated – for Satan’s benefit. Of course, there are all kinds of justice issues around the idea of giving a mortal suffering to prove they can take it. I don’t think the book of Job answers those questions, particularly since God’s authority is based on a laughably out of date view of creation, but I don’t think it suggests a lack of omniscience. (actually, second thoughts: not knowing how the creation you allegedly made works does suggest a lack of omniscience – but last time I suggested that to a believer they said it was just poetry and wasn’t meant to be taken literally).

      (note that I don’t consider either of these events historical events – but that’s a different story).

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

        If God knew what would happen with Job, why go through the exercise? You’re saying it’s just to educate Satan (or prove it to him)? If God were omniscient, Satan would know it and happily accept, “Trust me–Job is worthy.”

        On the other hand, the story makes more sense if we assume that God didn’t know everything. He suspected that Job would make him proud but didn’t know for sure. God’s omniscience came over time.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          I’m saying that’s a valid interpretation, yes (for this fictional story). And on balance it’s the interpretation I would pick. It could just be an omniscience bias on my behalf (though I’m happy to accept that things like sending angels to have a look at things is a strike against omniscience).

          BTW, in my denomination “sons of God” was generally taken to mean “believers”, both here and before the flood. That makes “Satan” the adversary, a fellow believer who was jealous of Job because he had life too easy. If that is true, how many humans have been renowned for trusting exactly what God said? (omniscient or not). Of course, that raises other theological issues, like how come one human gets to use God’s power against another? But I’m not sure there’s a good interpretation of Job without theological issues.

        • Greg G.

          The wager between God and Satan might be a later addition to the story as Satan disappears throughout most of the story. Satan is barely mentioned through most of the Old Testament and seems to have been invented later. For example, 2 Samuel 24:1 says the anger of the Lord incited David to take the census while the Readers Digest version in 1 Chronicles 21:1 says Satan incited David to take the census.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          I was from a group which didn’t believe in a supernatural devil. So we needed ways of getting rid of “Satan”. Fortunately, Satan does actually mean “adversary”, and devil does actually mean deceiver / slanderer, so often we could assume it was just Translator Bias that these verses didn’t get translated Properly. The Samuel / Chronicles parallels were among the proof texts: There was an adversary against David’s people, and that adversary was God. Also, did you know that God’s angel meeting Balaam in Numbers 22:22 was called Satan? It’s just that this time they translated it Properly as adversary because they were uncomfortable with the idea of calling God’s angel Satan.

          I could go on, but that gives the gist of the method. It was nice to feel that we understood the original text better than the highly qualified translators…

        • Kevin K

          It’s my understanding that Job was one of the first books of the bible written. So, in that context it makes sense that Yahweh and Satan have a different relationship than they do elsewhere, after the theology matured a bit.

          No one seems to notice that Satan is supposed to be Yahweh’s mortal immortal enemy. That the entire “fall of mankind” is laid at the feet of someone who was kicked out of heaven … and yet here we have the two characters conversing as if they were two guys at a bar betting on whether the Knicks will win.

        • Greg G.

          It’s my understanding that Job was one of the first books of the bible written.

          Yes, the inner part being the oldest is how I recall the explanation.

          two guys at a bar betting on whether the Knicks will win.

          I’ll take the Knicks to lose because of the Charles Oakley incident.

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

          I’ve always heard that, at this point in the Bible, Satan was half prosecuting attorney, half personal assistant, and at no point was he not on God’s side. He was helping God make sure that every supposed believer was for real.

          One trait of the Job story that evangelicals like to forget is that Job was without error. He wasn’t just 90% good; he was perfect. So much for Man not being able to meet God’s strict NT standards for getting into heaven without Jesus.

        • Pofarmer

          He was helping God make sure that every supposed believer was for real.

          Which kind breaks down the omniscience argument.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          OK, I never noticed Job was perfect (I guess you get in the habit of reading “blameless” as “more than usually righteous”). I can see the problems that causes…

          Cross-references suggest similar was said of Noah, Abraham was called to be blameless, and even in the NT John the Baptist’s parents were blameless.

        • Greg G.

          Did you ever notice that JtB’s father was struck mute by the angel for questioning whether he and his wife could produce a child at his age while Mary questioned how she could have child and didn’t even get yelled at by the angel?

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          Like I said, blameless. Sorry, I mean, like the author of Luke said.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          I know almost nothing about the non-Biblical sources for the time (Ugaritic, etc.), but I do get concerned about circular referencing: Satan in Job was an instance of God’s attorney / PA. How do we know about this attorney / PA? From Job.

          There could be other sources as well, but I’m sure I’ve seen that pattern in other Biblical interpretation, where someone’s interpretation of a confusing passage accidentally gets promoted to authoritative and verifiable fact.

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

          Yes, I believe there are other sources that clarify Satan’s role.

          And yes, we do have to be careful to understand why “Everyone knows that X” is true. “Everyone knows that the apostle Mark wrote the gospel of Mark” and others quickly become flimsy under investigation. In the case of Satan, I believe there are other old writings (Ugaritic being one source) that clarify Satan’s role.

        • Greg G.

          I think these verses show that “satan” is used that way in these verses:

          Psalm 109:6-7 (NRSV)6 They say, “Appoint a wicked man against him;    let an accuser stand on his right.7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty;    let his prayer be counted as sin.

          Psalm 109:6-7 (NIV)6 Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;    let an accuser stand at his right hand.7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty,    and may his prayers condemn him.

          Psalm 109:6 (KJV)6 Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.

          Zechariah 3:1 (NRSV)3 Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.

          Zechariah 3:1 (NIV)3 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.

        • kraut2

          http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/bible-interpretation/how-the-serpent-became-satan/

          The Hebrew word śāṭān, meaning “accuser” or “adversary,” occurs several times throughout the Hebrew Bible and refers to enemies both human and celestial alike. When referring to the celestial adversary, the word is typically accompanied by the definite article. He is ha-satan—the Accuser—and it is a job description rather than a proper name.

          http://drmsh.com/the-absence-of-satan-in-the-old-testament/

          Without exception, the word “satan” in Job occurs *with* the article. This indicates quite clearly that “satan” is *not* a personal name. It is generic, and means “the adversary”. The word can be used of human beings (1 Sam 29:4; 2 Sam 19:23; 1 Kings 5:18; 1 Kings 11:14). All of these examples have “satan” without the article, but the referent is a human being, not a divine being, so we don’t have “Satan” here either.

      • epeeist

        In the book of Job, I see nothing to imply God doesn’t know what will happen.

        So his bet with Satan wasn’t really a bet, Yahweh was cheating but Satan didn’t know this.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          Honestly, today is the first time I’ve ever heard it called a bet. As far as I can tell there is nothing at stake, and we don’t hear anything more of Satan after the first couple of chapters.

        • epeeist

          As far as I can tell there is nothing at stake

          Doesn’t god claim that Job is perfect and challenge Satan to test him? Looks to me as though Yahweh’s reputation could be at stake if Satan succeeds.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          But if he’s omniscient his reputation isn’t at stake – which brings us back full circle…

        • epeeist

          But if he’s omniscient his reputation isn’t at stake

          But if it is omniscient and hence knows the result, then what is the point of making Job suffer?

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          Quite so. I said there were theological issues whichever way you interpret it.

        • Zeta

          I think there is a grave moral issue here. Life has been treated far too lightly and without the slightest respect. Just kill Job’s family and servants with impunity and later compensate him with a new set of family and more riches. Only people with a very sick mentality can come up with this exceedingly immoral story. Life is valuable and people are not replaceable goods and toys. This kind of thinking is sick to the core. And it appears in a supposedly holy book with a god who is supposed to be the foundation and source of morality! This has to be condemned using the strongest terms. Believers should be ashamed that this is in their “holy” book and they are worshiping such an immoral god.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          I’m sorry to say I never looked at it like that, but you’re absolutely right. In my former denomination the children were to be resurrected to salvation, and that’s why their numbers weren’t doubled with everything else – they would be doubled in the resurrection. But I guess that means that we just accepted the servants were as much property as the sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys (though it doesn’t appear to list new servants in Job 42).

          As for the resurrection, I understand that Job 19 is viewed as much less of a proof-text than it used to be. It is an old book, and isn’t expected to have a full doctrine of resurrection. But even if that were the answer, it still raises questions about proportionality of this “proof” of Job’s faith.

        • Zeta

          Jon Morgan: “I’m sorry to say I never looked at it like that, but you’re absolutely right.

          Thank you for your response. My perspective sometimes is different from believers or former believers. This maybe due to the fact that I was never a Christian (never a believer in any religion, in fact).

          I only started to read the bible a few years ago when a pious “born-again” Christian friend tried to convert me. A closer reading convinced me that it is a collection of myths, ancient literature, unbelievable events, bad morality, mixed with a little history and plenty of wishful thinking and contradictions.

          A further look at the origin and history of the Christian god also revealed that he is totally man-made because he had been embellished by believers and theologians through the ages, from a mythical local tribal deity with limited power to an omni-everything one and a fanciful creator god of the universe.

      • Kevin K

        The “it’s just a metaphor” apologetic is the worst excuse…because it’s always at the ready for any inconveniently wrong thing in the bible.

        No literal 6-day creation? Just a metaphor.
        No literal “fall from grace”? Just a metaphor.

        You can extend that right up to the end, and I have had Christians do that…to wit:

        No literal Jesus? Just a metaphor.
        No literal heaven or hell? Just metaphors.

        Certain sects have metaphorized their religion right out of existence.

        • busterggi

          If only the rest would do so.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          I don’t think my argument is “It’s just a metaphor” (unless I’m missing something). I’m saying that I’m treating God like any other agent in any story anywhere. Actions are recorded, but thoughts are not. We have to determine what thoughts and purposes lie behind those actions, and I disagree with you on what I think is the most plausible interpretation.

          Note I am an unbeliever, so this is strictly textual analysis. It’s not me trying to support my faith by removing bits that don’t suit me.

        • Kevin K

          I wasn’t accusing…I was just stating my opinion that Christians of a certain stripe will create metaphors out of practically anything in the bible, rendering it perfectly meaningless.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          OK. And I do actually agree with your point on metaphors. It starts with apparently harmless “accommodationism” (e.g. the demons Jesus cast out were clearly mental diseases rather than evil spirits – that’s why some translators use words like “epilepsy”). But where does it stop?

          I do think there has to be room for poetry and figurative language, but not as a magic catch-all escape clause. And that’s why it amuses me when a group tries to take a literal truth out of a Psalm that is obviously poetry, and then make something else figurative where there’s no other driver than “I don’t like the literal interpretation of those verses”.

        • adam

          “I do think there has to be room for poetry and figurative language,”

          Why?

          Why obfuscation over clarity?

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          Why? Because things like the Psalms sound like poetry.

        • adam

          And all the MAGIC claims sound like imaginative fantasy.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          Yeah, sure. Adjust them according to genre too. It’s standard historic practice to discount things like talking animals, miracles, virgin births, gods interacting with men, etc.
          I thought I made it clear in my original point that I was not a fan of trying to make things literal or figurative purely based on whether the believer wants that point to be there.
          I am considering the Bible as a collection of literature, not as a source of truth. And it does no more good insisting on taking every word of the Bible literally than it does insisting on taking every word of Shakespeare literally. The soliloquies of Hamlet or Macbeth are beautiful and elegant whether or not they literally happened.

        • adam

          Ok

      • Kevin K

        FWIW: I only gave two examples of Yahweh’s non-omniscience so as to not get bogged down. There are certainly plenty of other examples.

        Any time Yahweh expresses anger, for example. No one who knows what’s coming can possibly be “angry.”

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          Fair enough. I raised one of my own, which was having to send angelic investigators to figure out what was going on.

        • Kevin K

          Ah yes, good point. Unless the angels volunteered to visit Sodom … for the … um … hospitality.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          Looking back at that record, it’s a bit confusing. God apparently knows that Isaac will be born next year (something which requires foreknowledge), and he also knows about Abraham’s descendants, and yet needs to go and check out reports he’s heard that Sodom and Gomorrah are causing trouble:

          “Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.” ( Genesis 18:20-21)

    • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

      I think events like the flood or the Tower of Babel call into question either his power or his judgement. To listen to Christians, one would have to ask “Were the days of the flood really as bad a time as now? Why judgement then and not now?” And as for Babel, apparently it was a really worrying thing back then building a city with a single skyscraper. People who did that could do anything. And yet now skyscrapers are just an expected part of the city skyline, and we can do wonders with silicon (including language translation – working round the barrier that allegedly was to fix this problem). Why not apply the same treatment to factories for Intel, Apple, and other technology companies? And to major construction companies? If everyone started speaking a different language it would really jolt our English-centric culture. Though maybe there is nowhere further to disperse people to since humans occupy most of the world already…

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

        Great point about language translation being a slap in God’s face as it undoes God’s deliberate Babel-ification of society.

  • Sven2547

    I’ve attempted a version of this argument in the past, but you state it more succinctly. Good post.

    • http://anncar.com blogcom

      If an argument devoid of substance can be called succinct.

      • Susan

        If an argument devoid of substance can be called succinct.

        What does a substantial argument look like? Give us an example.

        Bonus points if you are succinct.

        If you are not going to do that, engage the article’s argument and show how it’s insubstantial.

        It should be child’s play for someone like you.

        • http://anncar.com blogcom

          Are you asking for the meaning of the word succinct or requesting a lesson in the art of argumentum.
          Maybe both?

        • Susan

          Are you asking for the meaning of the word succinct

          Nope.

          or requesting a lesson in the art of argumentum

          Not necessarily a lesson.

          Just an argument. Or a response to the argument.

          If you have either, you should provide them.

          If you can’t or won’t do either, you are in no position to provide us with a lesson in the art of “argumentum”.

        • epeeist

          a lesson in the art of argumentum

          Given the complete vacuousness of your posts so far one would have to doubt your grasp of the “art of argumentum”.

          We have yet to see you present claims, evidence or warrants, to develop topoi or stasis. All we see is sniping and JAQing off.

        • Joe

          Well, you’ve failed to reply to either.

      • Sven2547

        Go on? Which part is insubstantial?

  • http://anncar.com blogcom

    “Christianity is manmade…. its far too complicated to be the message of an omniscient God” Lol that’s quite a supposition. But that’s all it is.
    Just like all atheists musings.

    • http://anncar.com blogcom

      Conclusion……PROBABLY all Gods are manmade???
      But you’ve proved nothing so wither the conclusion.

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

        I’m just a stupid atheist, so you’ll have to take it slow with me.

        You don’t like the conclusion, but I don’t see why. If you have specific concerns, point them out.

        • Kevin K

          Seems like “blogcom” is another incarnation of “Frank”. It’s a wonder he isn’t Hindu.

      • Max Doubt

        “Conclusion……PROBABLY all Gods are manmade??? But you’ve proved nothing so wither the conclusion.”

        Obviously there’s no attempt there to prove anything, but the conclusion does seem to reasonably follow from the premises. Given your replies so far it looks like you’ve overlooked something, so…

        Would you agree that (1) people invent gods?

        Would you agree that (2) this looks like a world in which all gods are man made?

        Would you agree that (3) probably, all gods are man made?

        If you disagree with a particular point, or if maybe you accept the premises but reject the conclusion, please explain your concerns. If, on the other hand, you’re just here to be a dick without making a productive contribution to the conversation, you may consider your effort successful.

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

      You could read the post in the link and actually respond to the argument.

      Or not, if your goal here isn’t to make an actual argument.

  • ShirleyCooper111

    <- Find out how this single mom was able to earn $6k/monthly for working at her home for a few hours a day and how you can do it yourself……………………. http://s.id/ix7

  • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

    Premise 2: This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade

    If in fact no non-manmade gods exist, then from whence would you get your evidence-based beliefs of what a world would look like in which there are non-manmande gods? Let us recall some science: if you have a pattern on your perceptual neurons which does not sufficiently well-match any pattern in your non-perceptual neurons, you may never become conscious of that pattern. (Grossberg 1999 The Link between Brain Learning, Attention, and Consciousness)

    Christianity is far too complicated to be the message from an omniscient god.

    How did evidence + reason lead to this conclusion? I am particularly interested in what body of evidence led you to believe this. Let’s take a snippet from your linked article:

    Let’s explore the idea that not only is this a surprisingly large number of words, but it’s a clue that Christianity is false. Why would a perfect god need a million words? Couldn’t he have gotten his message across at least as clearly (or more clearly) with a tenth as many words? Or even a thousandth as many? (Simplicity: the Trait Missing from Christianity)

    How do you know that God could have used 1/10 or 1/1000 as many words and still achieve his purposes? You later talk about how simple the U.S. Constitution is, and yet you fail to understand the vast amount of social knowledge required to make sense of it. It is like saying that a computer program is only 4500 lines, neglecting the complexity of the compiler and hardware—not to mention the understanding the human brings to the system.

     
    I’ve discussed this matter with you and others who frequent your site, Bob Seidensticker, and it seems that when you try to think about “what God would do”, you draw on formless magic and completely discard any of the properties of methodological naturalism which allow us human beings to intelligibly grow in understanding of how reality works. (I argue that it is these properties and not the “naturalism” itself which is important.)

    Whenever you talk about “what God would do” (≠ “what God could do”), all evidence and logic seem to fly out of the window. This is rather like Descartes’ res cogitans, which was not bound by any of the rules of res extensa. Perhaps you believe that this reality is so full of unadulterated evil that God would have created something radically different from it? But how could you, being an embodied being, possibly know such a thing? Or even suspect it with high probability?

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

      If in fact no non-manmade gods exist, then from whence would you get your evidence-based beliefs of what a world would look like in which there are non-manmande gods?

      I reject the claim for God in the same way that I reject it for Bigfoot—lack of evidence.

      How do you know that God could have used 1/10 or 1/1000 as many words and still achieve his purposes?

      I don’t. As I made clear in the post.

      You later talk about how simple the U.S. Constitution is, and yet you fail to understand the vast amount of social knowledge required to make sense of it.

      The Constitution is written in English, and much is required of the person to understand that. Ditto God’s imaginary constitution. Yes, I’m assuming that maturity in both cases.

      Did you think I was proposing to present God’s constitution to a newborn baby? I wasn’t. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        I reject the claim for God in the same way that I reject it for Bigfoot—lack of evidence.

        No, you’ve gone beyond that. You’ve implied that you know what it would be like if God were to exist. I want to know how you know that.

        I don’t. As I made clear in the post.

        But you seem to think your position is quite plausible. So maybe “know” is too strong a word. Pick whatever confidence you do have in that position, and then produce the evidence and reasoning for why you have that confidence. I’ve never seen you do this.

        The Constitution is written in English, and much is required of the person to understand that. Ditto God’s imaginary constitution. Yes, I’m assuming that maturity in both cases.

        Why object if more of what is required is located in the text, so less is required of the person? This seems to be a really big problem for you and I have no idea why.

        Did you think I was proposing to present God’s constitution to a newborn baby? I wasn’t. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

        It was not entirely clear to me. But I should think you would expect the Bible to be comprehensible to more than just a fully grown adult who has already been socialized into a post-Enlightenment world.

        • Greg G.

          I want to know how you know that.

          It’s about Christian theology and the excuses given for God’s hiddeness. Being an invisible being means looking like the being isn’t there.

          Romans 1:20
          For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

          Colossians 1:15-16
          15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

          1 Timothy 1:17
          Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

        • adam

          If we are made in God’s image, why aren’t WE invisible?

        • TheNuszAbides

          cuz, like, ‘image’ is totally a reverse-metaphor for, like, physical body.

          *cue activate_bong.wav*

          oh, wait, he optionally doesn’t have one of those either.

        • Brett Harris

          I am going to posit an interesting, but minimalist argument derived from implications of modern information theory and quantum cosmology. I am aware that such an argument by its nature, is unable to address any questions of intentionality or what meaning may be ascribed, but it may show a different aspect of the argument for design or lack thereof.

          There is a paradigm in which the so-called laws of physics, are underpinned by more fundamental laws of information, and the development of complex structures such as life and ultimately intelligent, conscious beings are a direct consequence of these laws.

          Simple but plausible theories of quantum gravity suggest that units of quantum information – quantum bits, mixtures of 0’s and 1’s which can exist in both states until some interaction (“observation”) occurs. There has always been the mystery of the arrow of time, which was first formulated as the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which states that “disorder” or entropy always increases in a closed system. However, to account for the highly ordered, complex patterns which exist, there needs to be an additional condition, that the universe just after the Big Bang was very low in entropy, that is very, very ordered, for example like a perfect crystal, which conversely means that very little information is required to describe the state (ie a crystal is a simple patten repeated exactly over and over). But we know that models of a Big Bang, are of an hot expanding gas cloud, which suggests high entropy, or maximum disorder. Physicists such as Stephen Hawking, Steven Bekenstein and mathematician Roger Penrose, using thought experiments on the most enigmatic of objects Black Holes, discovered that Black Holes actually contain an enormous entropy, by hiding all the information about all the different objects which may have fell through the event horizon, never to be seen again. This means that a gravitational field, generated by all material bodies, actually encodes information, and what’s more, it has the peculiar feature, domes called the holographic principle, that the information content of a region of space, depends not on the volume of space, but strangely the surface area of the enclosed region. It’s as if all the knowledge of the Earth’s interior, could be figured out by examining the surface. But also, while we think a cloud of gas has maximum disorder, and energy needs to be used to mechanically compress the gas just making it hotter and more disordered, a large gas cloud which begins to contract under gravity, happens naturally requiring no outside force, there may be heat generated, but what also happens is that the cloud begins to form clumps, becoming less disordered.

          If anyone is still following, this means that gravitational field, unlike all other forces, actually encodes information in the structure of space itself, and its capacity is far greater than that of ordinary matter. Roger Penrose then realised that there was something very special about the Big Bang, the matter may be hot and disordered, but despite the rapid expansion of space, the gravitational field encompasing all of space was exceedingly smooth and uniform, almost impossibly so, which implied that the entropy, or degrees of freedom, or information content at the instant of creation was tiny, and in terms of what followed, basically zero.

          This is profound, the first manifestation of the universe, arose out of absolutely nothing, no form, no structure or original plan, and it could be conceptualised as a single quantum bit – not 0, not 1, but a perfect mixture of the two, containing the potential for both. The quantum bits actually form space, as well as matter, and they “evolved” by multiplying like digital cells, morphing, transitioning, and most importantly interacting, to “observe” each other, some actualising into “real” bits like 0 and 1, just a quantum particle “decides” where it appears, instead of being in two possible places at once. This process of growth, combined with interactions, creates new, real information out of nothing. Some could wish to interpret these choices as that of God, but only a God which allow full freedom to become, subject the external constraints, yet they appear entirely random. This injection of information increases, and interacts with the environment to select different structures from others. The in turn changes the environment, and the entire process repeats in an unpredictable, but order preserving fashon, forming subatomic particles, then atoms, then stars and heavy elements, each quantum choice adding to the total information content of the universe. The force of gravity caused the gas to compress into stars, which later exploded, then reformed into new starts and rocky planets made of heavy elements.

          This is where everything comes together. The new star, incredibly compressed under gravity, causes high energy nuclear reactions to occur. These reactions create high energy photons of light, which carry away some of the highly ordered information of from the gravitaional field of the star. This source of order, if it lands on a rocky planet with the right chemical composition, with water, carbon, oxygen etc and temperature, will provide the energy and low entropy, to create larger molecules which again store order, in more and more complex structures. Like any thermodynamic or information transforming process, the waste energy is released as heat, but, and think about this, the very gravitational clumping which made the stars and created the order, also made the empty space, which made space cold and dark. Only a dark night sky allows the waste heat radiation to escape to space, balancing the planets energy budget, but transforming the high order photons, made in the star, due to gravitational compression of matter, into molecular and ultimately genetic, cellular, mental, cultural and even conscious and perhaps meaningful order out of the creative power of universal gravity.

          What does this all mean? It suggests that the “being” of the universe at all scales, began from the simplest, formless state. The “design”, or perhaps better potential, was embedded in the interactions, in the spontaneous generation of random information, which in itself allowed all potential structures to grow which were most favored by the surrounding conditions. Yet there was no plan, only the freedom for everything to explore full potentiality, but favouring the most adaptive, the most “experienced” highly ordered arrangements of matter and energy, driven by the nature of the universe itself. But any particular universe is exceedingly unique, the unimaginable choices large and small, creates a cosmos with an apostiori probability of existing “as we observe” to be 1 in 10^500. The detail is everything. Most likely, almost all possible universes look the same on the large scale. But down to the fine level, what was the exceedingly small chance that there is an Earth? That an asteroid killed the dinosaurs so mammals could evolve. Or the chance that your great grandfather survived WW1?

          The possible ways the order in the universe could have manifested is astronomically large. Most of the order we see around us was created in the recent past, there was not the information in all the atoms of the universe, 5 billion years ago as the Earth formed to have any possible idea about what it would become, let alone which kind of creature would eventually ask these questions. Yet, barring the very possible disaster scenarios, at this point it was probably virtually certain that some such creature would appear, in roughly the same length of time.

          On the one hand, everything is so unique, yet so contingent, that the specifics of the world tell us nothing. But the amazing potential for complexity was there at the start, yet there were no blueprints, no control, only freedom to be, and with it the responsibility to allow potential to flourish, without the arrogance of deciding what we think ought to be.

        • TheNuszAbides

          looks like the bulk of that hinges on your third paragraph’s assumption of “needs to be an additional condition” and suggestion of “maximum disorder” — both of which would seem to hinge on a closed-system universe — a rather huge ‘if’.

        • Michael Neville

          everything is so unique, yet so contingent, that the specifics of the world tell us nothing.

          This is a tautology (also ungrammatical).

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

          No, you’ve gone beyond that. You’ve implied that you know what it would be like if God exists. I want to know how you know that.

          A little slow today? Drink more coffee.

          I just stated that I don’t know. Indeed (and I hope you’re sitting down), I don’t know that Bigfoot doesn’t exist, either. That’s my conclusion, based on evidence.

          But you seem to think your position is quite plausible. So maybe “know” is too strong a word.

          Golly. Maybe you’re right.

          Pick whatever confidence you do have in that position, and then produce the evidence and reasoning for why you have that confidence. I’ve never seen you do this.

          Color me surprised.

          I keep disappointing your, keep not living up to your expectations. Dang. I’ve done it many times in many posts, some of which you’ve read. I won’t be able to satisfy you, a burden that I’ll have to carry for the rest of my life.

          Why object if more of what is required is located in the text, so less is required of the person? This seems to be a really big problem for you and I have no idea why.

          Again, I’m certain that this will mean nothing to you, but perhaps for those reading: the Bible is ambiguous. Really, really ambiguous. It’s unclear. It’s 45,000-denominations unclear. Less is more.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I just stated that I don’t know. Indeed (and I hope you’re sitting down), I don’t know that Bigfoot doesn’t exist, either. That’s my conclusion, based on evidence.

          Is that all you’ve stated? Let’s revisit your OP:

          Premise 2: This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade

          That certainly seems to imply that you know, or at least have a pretty good idea of what the world would look like if { at least one god were not manmade }. I want to know what empirical evidence led to such belief/​knowledge. I don’t ever recall you providing a shred of evidence for this. The best you’ve done is reference what some Christians claimed, and if I recall correctly, you cherry-picked so that you could make Christianity look dumb.

          So, it seems that you have some faith-based beliefs, in the derogatory sense of “beliefs not based on a shred of empirical evidence”. Beliefs about “what God would do if he existed”. One could then suspect that you’ve chosen those beliefs rather strategically. It would model the evidence quite well.

          I keep disappointing you, keep not living up to your expectations.

          Nobody cares.

          Again, I’m certain that this will mean nothing to you, but perhaps for those reading: the Bible is ambiguous. Really, really ambiguous. It’s unclear. It’s 45,000-denominations unclear. Less is more.

          Right, because the best way to organize society is any less ambiguous, any less plural. Now, you’re probably comparing to the lesser pluralism in science (there are still many interpretations of quantum mechanics and many paradigms of psychology research), but science doesn’t talk about the hardest subject matter: what constitutes a good life and good social order. A lot of religion does, including Christianity.

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

          That certainly seems to imply that you know, or at least have a pretty good idea of what the world would look like if { at least one god were not manmade }.

          No, it doesn’t imply that I know. Never seen a formal argument before? They are usually written without qualifiers.

          I want to know what empirical evidence led to such belief/knowledge. I don’t ever recall you providing a shred of evidence for this. The best you’ve done is reference what some Christians claimed, and if I recall correctly, you cherry-picked so that you could make Christianity look dumb.

          No, thanks. If what you’ve seen so far in my recent posts doesn’t do it for you, then I appreciate that feedback. I’d just be repeating myself and wasting your valuable time.

          Beliefs about “what God would do if he existed”.

          Do you have any beliefs about “what Bigfoot would do if he existed”? Do those beliefs help you decide between likely-Bigfoot and likely-not-Bigfoot worlds?

          Right, because the best way to organize society is any less ambiguous, any less plural.

          Not talking about organizing society, Mr. Non Sequitur. We’re talking about how best for God to convey his Perfect Message® to us. The Bible’s million words are hilariously ambiguous and unclear. Methinks a perfect God could do better.

          Oops . . . have I just hypothesized about what a perfect God would do? My bad.

          the hardest subject matter: what constitutes a good life and good social order. A lot of religion does, including Christianity.

          I doubt you want to go there.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB: Let’s revisit your OP:

          Premise 2: This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade

          That certainly seems to imply that you know, or at least have a pretty good idea of what the world would look like if { at least one god were not manmade }.

          BS: No, it doesn’t imply that I know.

          If reality were entirely without color, you would not know what color is. You might have heard stories, but for all you know they’re crazy fairy tales. You would not have a single shred of evidence-based belief to say, “This looks like a world in which there is no color.” Only if God exists and has interacted with reality in the past, can one say that he is not doing so in certain ways (e.g. ways detectable by science) and have that statement have any evidence-based content.

          No, thanks. If what you’ve seen so far in my recent posts doesn’t do it for you, then I appreciate that feedback. I’d just be repeating myself and wasting your valuable time.

          Really, it would waste too much time for you to even provide one piece of evidence that led to your belief/​knowledge in what reality would be like if God existed (and were in causal contact with it)?

          [1] Do you have any beliefs about “what Bigfoot would do if he existed”? [2] Do those beliefs help you decide between likely-Bigfoot and likely-not-Bigfoot worlds?

          [1] Other than leave big tracks, nope. [2] I have no need to so-decide. What decision of mine need be predicated upon the difference?

          [1] Not talking about organizing society, Mr. Non Sequitur. [2] We’re talking about how best for God to convey his Perfect Message® to us.

          [1] The Bible does. [2] Yes, and you seem to have many evidence-free beliefs in this domain.

          The Bible’s million words are hilariously ambiguous and unclear. Methinks a perfect God could do better.

          Do you wish he had employed a programming language with unambiguous syntax instead of the yuck that is natural language?

          I doubt you want to go there.

          Then you do not know me as well as you think you do.

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

          Really, it would waste too much time for you to even provide one piece of evidence that led to your belief/knowledge in what reality would be like if God existed (and were in causal contact with it)?

          Really, it would waste time repeating arguments I’ve already made in this post. You say I’ve made no arguments? OK, thanks for that feedback.

          “I doubt you want to go there.”
          Then you do not know me as well as you think you do.

          Touché! Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, eh?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          absence of evidence ≠ evidence

        • adam

          absence of evidence for claims = eviidencedenceidence

        • adam

          absence of evidence for claims = evidence

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

          Oh? Does the lack of evidence for Bigfoot make you reject the claim of Bigfoot??

          Checkmate, atheists!

        • adam

          ” Does the lack of evidence for Bigfoot make you reject the claim of Bigfoot??”

          Duh!!

          Although I am still holding out for Invisible Pink Flying Unicorns.

        • Greg G.

          But we don’t have a lack of evidence for Invisible Pink Flying Unicorns. Look around. Do you see any? No? That’s evidence for them because they are invisible. There is evidence of them everywhere!

        • Stefano Amico

          have a pretty good idea of what the world would look like if { at least one god were not manmade }

          Please, you know the standards: your God is capable of implementing a place where there’s no conflict between free will and his presence. So there, with a new body and new cognitive set (given by him, as we don’t have it now) free will cannot cause any disaster as it is always correclty used (or can there be troubles in heaven as well?). Provided that the cognitive set is completely different from the current one there’s no valid reason this state of things could not be implemented from the start, avoiding all the troubles your god caused not doing as described. So based on your standards you should know what the world would look like if it was made by your god and I can assure you it doesn’t.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Are you interested in an extended discussion on this? I started a rather long response, but I’ve saved it for now. In lieu of that, I will say that I suspect A&E’s most egregious error was to deny their free will:

               Adam: YHWH it’s your fault.
               Eve: YHWH it’s the serpent’s fault.

          The difference between that situation and heaven (or: the new heavens and earth) is that there was no empirical evidence for YHWH to draw on with A&E. They were the first. YHWH desired their trust, but they failed to trust him (perhaps by erroneously adding to his commandment: compare Gen 2:16–17 and 3:1–3). Instead of engaging on nanny state tactics, he let them go out into reality and experience the empirical consequences of their distrust.

          Or did you not want empirical evidence?

        • Susan

          I will say that I suspect A&E’s most egregious error was to deny their free will:

          Are you asking us to discuss this as though Adam and Eve actually existed?

        • TheNuszAbides

          surely he’s just dumbing it down for the hard-of-metaphor-ing. though i’m shocked there’s no accompanying link to another rabbit-hole of “what we sophisticated theologiamatics actually [or at least could] ~mean~ when we use Edenic terms”.

        • adam
        • Joe

          Time to put on our magical thinking caps!

        • Stefano Amico

          there was no empirical evidence for YHWH to draw on with A&E

          It seems that omniscience doesn’t help:
          you need an actual test while humans should guess based on bad and poor evidence. Poor God and poor humans.

          You don’t seem to get the point. In heaven the cognitive set is different from the current one as (they say) can bear – with no hindrance to free will – the presence of God. Not only, the new cognitive set (you don’t have it until you are there, at the gates of heaven) doesn’t allow to make wrong choices (or does it? In that case instead of multiverses we could have multiheavens).

          No empirical testing of current cognitive set can say anything about the completely different set you are given in heaven. If God and humans are ok with the behavior of the new cognitive set, testing the current one is pointless. So is a world before heaven.

          There is no logical reason why a god that can implement a state where a cognitive set can use free will only for good creates one where he has to test (?) something that’s unrelated. Every choice made with the current cognitive set has nothing to do with every possible choice made with the new one, as both the set and the available information are completely different. And you are supposed to make choices with available information.

          Please set aside that what I am saying is at odd with the possibility to have different cognitive sets and make wrong choices all the same: take a look at Satan.
          But this is only an example of the complete logical mess and contradictions you believe.

          So either in heaven you don’t have free will or free will is not influenced by the presence of God (Satan docet).

          You cannot have it both ways.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          It seems that omniscience doesn’t help:
          you need an actual test while humans should guess based on bad and poor evidence. Poor God and poor humans.

          Bad and poor evidence?

          You don’t seem to get the point. In heaven the cognitive set is different from the current one as (they say) can bear – with no hindrance to free will – the presence of God. …

          No empirical testing of current cognitive set can say anything about the completely different set you are given in heaven.

          “different from” ⇏ “completely different”

          Read 1 Cor 15:35–49.

          There is no logical reason why a god that can implement a state where a cognitive set can use free will only for good creates one where he has to test (?) something that’s unrelated.

          God could indeed have built robots. Free moral agents, however, could easily be another matter.

          So either in heaven you don’t have free will or free will is not influenced by the presence of God (Satan docet).

          Suffering cannot be erased/​transmuted?

        • adam

          “God could indeed have built robots. ”

          Yes, but what would then satisfy it’s hunger for eternal TORTURE?

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9bfb7cbb09a39ae8911c3879d7def113ab5277eb302961e16b02b2a649a0e7d6.jpg

        • Stefano Amico

          Yes, bad and poor. I am explaining why in my posts concerning your god.
          I will not argue with you about the magnitude of the difference, but for sure is a difference that makes a difference, at last as God doesn’t need to play hide and seek anymore.
          I repeat, everything that could work in heaven could have been implemented before. It has not.
          I let you decide if in heaven there are robots or free moral agents: howerer whatever your choice the beahavior probably is different from the current one unless heaven is not heaven. And is different with mutual satisfaction of god and robots or free moral agents.
          If suffering can be erased/transmuted by God he failed not doing it from scratch, saving himself and us some annoyances.
          Heaven is the hell for your god.

        • adam
        • Greg G.

          Unless you like kissing ass and thanking God for letting you do it forever.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Yes, bad and poor.

          Why was the evidence A&E had “bad and poor”?

          I will not argue with you about the magnitude of the difference, but for sure is a difference that makes a difference, at last as God doesn’t need to play hide and seek anymore.

          You do not seem to want to acknowledge the possibility that it was humans who wanted God to go away, and that God would possibly oblige.

          I repeat, everything that could work in heaven could have been implemented before.

          Not evidence-based belief. That may be the precise thing which “could not have been implemented before”. Oh the irony, that the theist is propounding on the importance of evidence-based belief to the [ostensibly:] atheist.

          I let you decide if in heaven there are robots or free moral agents: howerer whatever your choice the beahavior probably is different from the current one unless heaven is not heaven.

          It is almost like an agent might act differently with an empirical history than without. You don’t just want six-day creation, you want something like instantaneous creation. Do you have something against time?

          If suffering can be erased/​transmuted by God he failed not doing it from scratch, saving himself and us some annoyances.

          On what basis is this a failure? Are you petrified by the prospect of suffering?

        • Stefano Amico

          Can robot/agents in heaven want God to go away? Why not? In case, would God oblige? Or will heaven corrupt?
          There will be suffering in heaven? There will be time in heaven? Whatever you pick, heaven is supposed to be better than current situation. And is different. The state of affairs in heaven, good as it is supposed to be, could have be implemented from the start. It has not. Poor job.

          About the evidence based belief in God that would be in heaven, not before. I let you decide he details and importance of time and experience over there. Whatever you choose remember that God forgot to do it at the beginning. Remember, he can (?) make heaven and he didn’t.

          I let you decide about A&E as I am more prone to believe to Santa Claus. Anyway If they only had a bit more evidence than I have it was really bad and poor. Or maybe was the job or you omnigod that was poor.

          Could it be that believers believe without good evidence? That would explain a lot of invented gods…

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          The number of absolutely unjustified claims you’ve made to-date is getting too high for my taste. You say that God can do things differently while implying that “differently” would be better, but you don’t justify that. How do you know that “differently” would be better? Is this based on empirical evidence, or something other than empirical evidence?

        • Stefano Amico

          Please, I don’t make claims: remind, I am the atheist.
          You make claims and I show that they are bad ones.
          I don’t care a bit about the supposed differences of your heaven: you say that it’s different from the current state. And is better . I will let you decide about the (free) will, choices, time, experience, the importance of each and all these things together. When you will decide all your unjustified claims and how they work in heaven please remind that God forgot to do the right thing from the start. To be fair I am particularly interested in one of your unjustified claims: will heaven corrupt in case something goes wrong? Or maybe nothing can go wrong over there?
          I can understand why this is getting too high for your taste.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Please, I don’t make claims: remind, I am the atheist.

          There is nothing about the term ‘atheist’ which has any bearing on any claims whatsoever except the claim of God’s actual existence. This is therefore a non sequitur if not a red herring.

          You make claims and I show that they are bad ones.

          Exactly what claim did I make? Be precise, please, and cite exactly with hyperlink.

        • Stefano Amico

          This is therefore a non sequitur if not a red herring.

          I am learning from you this discipline, the one above was nice!

          Exactly what claim did I make? Be precise, please, and cite exactly with hyperlink.

          This one was even better!

          You are right, you didn’t make any claims so please forget about heaven and God, I realize now that you don’t believe in these things.

          Anyway, just in case:

          Do you believe in heaven (Yes/No)
          Is heaven better than the current state (Yes/No)
          In case it is, why is it better?
          Your answer would be a list of unjustified calims that I could cite with hyperlink.
          In case you are well informed about the state of affairs over there you are in a good position to answer my questions:

          will heaven corrupt in case something goes wrong? Or maybe nothing can go wrong over there?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Let me know if you want to have a real conversation.

        • adam

          “Let me know if you want to have a real conversation.”

          Why?
          Do you know someone who is capable?

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8a9c445af45e953d4208e553c51ae97b60263f4724d6c9ebf19ff30ec8cbcde1.jpg

        • Joe

          Zing!

        • Stefano Amico

          Questions cannot be erased/​transmuted?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You are welcome to repent.

        • adam
        • busterggi

          To err is human, to forgive is also human.

        • Stefano Amico

          I don’t repent, my questions are still there. Somebody else tried to erase/transmute them.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I don’t repent …

          Ever?

        • adam

          Just like D Trump

          ‘I don’t regret anything’: President Trump is completely un-humbled

          https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/04/03/president-trump-is-completely-un-humbled/?utm_term=.0b9ffa3b104b

          kind of like YOU and all the lying rabbit holes you’ve sent people.

        • Stefano Amico

          Never with who eludes questions.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You mean like this:

          SA: You make claims and I show that they are bad ones.

          LB: Exactly what claim did I make? Be precise, please, and cite exactly with hyperlink.

          SA: This one was even better!

          You are right, you didn’t make any claims so please forget about heaven and God, I realize now that you don’t believe in these things.

          ? Flip flop for the win?

        • Stefano Amico

          I refer you to Greg G. post above, his English is far better than mine:

          Is the state of affairs in heaven supposed to be different than the state of affairs on earth? If different, is heaven supposed to be better than earth? That’s what Christians have maintained for centuries. Those are not unjustified claims for this debate.

          You were just the pigeon playing chess.

          Either you don’t believe these affirmations or – in case you do – they are implicit claims, as they are necessary in order to give proper content and meaning to the belief of existence of heaven.

          On the contrary, If you don’t think that heaven is different and/or better than the current state of affairs please let us know. By the way, that should be a good motivation for you to stop bothering atheists with your religion, isn’t it? 😉

          This should be clear and easy enough to understand, unless you were desperately trying to find a way to avoid answering the questions I made, clinging on the fact that you didn’t make formally and explicitely those claims. All pointless if you believe in heaven as described.

          That’s why I wrote (with sarcasm) “You are right, you didn’t make any claims so please forget about heaven and God, I realize now that you don’t believe in these things.”

          All these things presupposed, I think that the implicit or explicit claims (I’ll let you choose) are bad and unjustified, being contradictory, considering the properties ascribed to your god.
          If you don’t believe these claims instead, well, let us know.

          No need to flip flop as so far I only see your flops

          By now I accept the clear conclusion that you don’t answer those questions probably because you cannot reply in a satisfactory way and I agree completely with Greg that you are the pigeon playing chess.

          That’s more than enough for me.
          Have a nice time.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          I’m sorry, but I’m trying to reconcile these two things:

          SA: I don’t repent …

          +

          SA: You make claims and I show that they are bad ones.

          LB: Exactly what claim did I make? Be precise, please, and cite exactly with hyperlink.

          SA: This one was even better!

          You are right, you didn’t make any claims so please forget about heaven and God, I realize now that you don’t believe in these things.

          As far as I can tell, either you are terrible at reasoning from the empirical evidence, or you’re a flagrant liar. Is there a third option I’m missing?

        • Stefano Amico

          is there a third option I’m missing?

          YES.

          You are not answering these questions:

          Will heaven corrupt in case something goes wrong? Or maybe nothing can go wrong over there?

          using these childish excuses:

          you are terrible at reasoning from the empirical evidence, or you’re a flagrant liar

          I’ll keep adding the ones you will suggest.

        • Greg G.

          Is the state of affairs in heaven supposed to be different than the state of affairs on earth? If different, is heaven supposed to be better than earth? That’s what Christians have maintained for centuries. Those are not unjustified claims for this debate.

          You were just the pigeon playing chess.

        • adam

          “You do not seem to want to acknowledge the possibility that it was humans who wanted God to go away, and that God would possibly oblige.”

          So is this based on the Godly Electorial College, or the Popular Vote?

          Why would ANYONE want God to go away?

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/398eee168a95a1c3714d1513e1274d5c0eb7136e6f5206bb94180f68ef55410d.jpg

          And why didnt it take it’s Satan with it?

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/31c0369f60b3e2062c18efaffc8b2dc0e965d1137c84726d22e9f0c641423fb5.jpg

        • Stefano Amico

          You should decide which is the behavior of a “free moral agent” in heaven: does he always make the right choice?
          In case he doesn’t, does heaven corrupt?
          If you answer yes to the first question (and both God and the robot/agent are happy, you are supposed to be in heaven after all) Plantinga can retire, if you answer either yes or no to the second, well that’s God that can retire.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You should decide which is the behavior of a “free moral agent” in heaven: does he always make the right choice?

          Who says that there is only one right choice? (You said: “the right choice”.)

          In case he doesn’t, does heaven corrupt?

          If a child is building a wood block tower and it falls, is that “corrupt”?

          If you answer yes to the first question (and both God and the robot/agent are happy, you are supposed to be in heaven after all) Plantinga can retire, if you answer either yes or no to the second, well that’s God that can retire.

          In a sense God retired after the first six days. This is perfectly consistent with his desiring theosis. We can probably think in terms of nesting Russian dolls and say that humans themselves should ultimately retire, once creation under their dominion is sufficiently mature. But retirement isn’t perfect inactivity. At least in well-functioning societies, Grandma and Grampa are around for advice, expert help, as well as plain old relationship. Sadly, we moderns are obsessed with power and control—making life miserable for everyone.

        • adam
        • adam

          “YHWH desired their trust, ”

          But ended up sentencing them and their progeny to DEATH.

          WOW, how impotent.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7786df5050a13684367f90eb753b953b17c746ef048fe8e05b1f3a989a977fd3.jpg

        • Joe

          I started a rather long response, but I’ve saved it for now.

          Thank the Lord for his mercies.

          is that there was no empirical evidence for YHWH to draw on with A&E.

          Why would an omniscient being need to draw on empirical evidence?

          Adam: YHWH it’s your fault.
          Eve: YHWH it’s the serpent’s fault.
          Serpent: Don’t ask me, I’m just a taking snake here for no other reason than to advance the plot.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          The thing that people who use phrases like “nanny state tactics” want to play sleight of hand with is that nannies are meant to provide aide to people who without their aid would be in a bad situation/die (young children). When those people have built themselves up they no longer need the nanny, but the nanny doesn’t stop being a nanny because those now bettered people are not the only people in need that there were ever going to be. Getting people to have a better life does require investment.

          We see conservative-minded people botch such analogies like this in cases of police brutality, too. To paraphrase John Oliver, “The phrase is not ‘It’s just a few bad apples, who gives a fuck!’ The phrase is ‘A few bad apples spoils the barrel.’

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          What turn of phrase has not been botched?

        • Greg G.

          That’s not what Michael Jackson said. Now I have an ear worm.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Um… what?

        • Greg G.

          Oops. A senior moment. It was the Osmonds imitating the Jackson 5.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wunv9U4IWk

        • adam

          ” but science doesn’t talk about the hardest subject matter: what
          constitutes a good life and good social order. A lot of religion does, including Christianity.”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/432d2d0f061a75e798dd98b009edc524a744a11cab0e268a8d5ec46762c0c7a4.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/576b5354eb99d2993f45ae1c298d7ea1beb6be63a081a92e69a99632f9b856b3.jpg

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “That certainly seems to imply that you know, or at least have a pretty good idea of what the world would look like if { at least one god were not manmade }.”

          Base assumptions about a God for me is that they are an immortal omnipresent person (can at least express thoughts and desires and perform actions that the average westerner adult human can). In the world of even this modestly-defined God existing, there are no religious texts “inspired” by this God as holy writ and no apologetics books or debates with apologists over evidence for this God. The existence of a God (meaning a ton of testable evidence comparable to everything else that exists) would give validity to those mentioned texts and apologetics, but we would have no use for them- just ask the God eagerly talking to people all at once in a universal forum!

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Universal forum? Is God a person or a force, here? You claimed “person”, but claims get outvoted by dominant usage.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          So, Jesus is not at least capable of average human activities?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Humans can do universal forums? Or do you mean those summits where the rich and powerful nations get together and pretend to respect human rights while exercising power over the weaker nations?

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Talk- people talk.

        • David Peebles

          I’ve tried putting the following challenge to a few people, but all I get is a puzzled expression in response. So maybe there’s something wrong with the questions, but here goes:

          Posit two worlds. One is created by, and ruled by, a god.
          The other isn’t.

          How would you tell which of those two worlds is which?

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

          That’s an excellent challenge. Surely Luke will make short work of it and will give clear and compelling reasoning supporting his answer.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          That’s too under-determined. One would have to posit characteristics of the god which can somehow be detected (no matter how indirectly) by inhabitants of the world. These would be characteristics which are too unlikely to obtain in a world … randomly generated.

    • Joe

      If in fact no non-manmade gods exist, then from whence would you get your evidence-based beliefs of what a world would look like in which there are non-manmande gods?

      The same place people get their belief in a teleologically designed world, or a world where God does exist.

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        And how did the impersonal laws of physics construct an accurate idea in your head of what a “teleologically designed world” would be like?

        • Joe

          The laws of physics did no such thing.

          I’m not proposing a designed world, so it’s not my problem.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          So how the hell do you know what “a teleologically designed world” would be like? (On your view, how does anyone?)

        • Joe

          So how the hell do you know what “a teleologically designed world” would be like?

          Congratulations, Luke! You’ve just stumbled onto the main counter apologetic to the Argument from Design.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          That’s a terrible rebuttal. Why? Because:

          (I) If this is a teleologically designed world, we don’t know what a non-teleologically designed world is like.

          (II) If this is not a teleologically designed world, we don’t know what a teleologically designed world is like.

        • Joe

          Agree, the argument from design is a terrible argument. Still, apologists are still using it.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          As far as I can tell, what you wrote is still as foolish as ever:

          J: The same place people get their belief in a teleologically designed world, or a world where God does exist.

          Nice attempt to deflect to something completely different, though!

        • Joe

          As far as I can tell, what you wrote is still as foolish as ever:

          I try to live up to your standards of foolishness.

          Nice attempt to deflect to something completely different, though!

          Coming from the master of deflection, I take that as a compliment.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Why is it we only get claims from other humans that a God claimed to have teleologically designed the universe? Is God dead/no longer existent?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          My guess: because almost nobody wants to hear very much if anything of what God has to say—Christians included. We would prefer to call ourselves “good”—a.k.a. be self-righteous. One strategy God has is to let us see how not-righteous we are when he removes his presence. Empirical evidence for the win? Or is this one of those places where [some] atheists hate empirical evidence?

        • Kodie

          This is you, a man, creating a god. Empirical evidence.

        • adam

          “My guess: because almost nobody wants to hear very much if anything of what God has to say—Christians included.”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/878b8e07d2b942087c85ac234890ad18b3e8f811594bc275918c5d05cbe88467.jpg

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “One strategy God has…”

          I thought you wanted to hear what Jesus has to say. Here you are acting as if Jesus doesn’t exist. So far Jesus has nothing to say on any strategy.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

        • busterggi

          If an omnipotent god has the ability to speak then maybe its his responsibility to do so and stop blaming the victim.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          What victim? Are you going all A&E and blaming God and/or the serpent—everything and anyone but yourself?

        • busterggi

          I don’t blame fictional characters for anything.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Ahh. Well, do you cause anything to happen which isn’t really just the impersonal forces of nature acting through you? I mean, why attribute praise or blame to a mere temporary confluence of impersonal causation?

        • adam
        • David Peebles

          I wouldn’t thank them for anything, either.

        • adam

          “Are you going all A&E and blaming God and/or the serpent—everything and anyone but yourself?”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7786df5050a13684367f90eb753b953b17c746ef048fe8e05b1f3a989a977fd3.jpg

        • C_Alan_Nault

          Also uses his immense powers to have his son’s image appear on toast, taco shells, etc instead of using it to regrow people’s amputated limbs.

        • adam
        • Giauz Ragnarock

          You really don’t think Jesus exists to talk, then. Your quote would be really hillarios if Jesus were to say it.

          Me: Uh, Jesus? We can hear you and all real people just fine. People have been talking instead of you and showing us book quotes as if you were dead or something.

        • Brad Estes

          The train was already unstable, but this is the precise point where it completely derails. Nothing good can possibly follow this.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Some people only like empirical evidence when it matches what they already believe. That’s what the empirical evidence shows, by the way; see for example Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government.

        • adam

          “So how the hell do you know what “a teleologically designed world” would be like?”

          By listening to your fellow christians:

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/03d0b3fd159e4308d8b3a7a48d8fe96b1d5e9db5d6c55ae9555eb8756b54cfc6.jpg

        • adam

          “So how the hell do you know what “a teleologically designed world” would be like?”

          By listening to your fellow christians:
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ab1bc7cb47df140d2e012e4bc5a99edb763d3aed95ae30e236e1b1b79a38e852.jpg

        • adam

          “And how did the impersonal laws of physics “construct” an accurate idea in your head of what a “teleologically designed world” would be like?”

          Ignorance and imagination.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6597272c55aa1dd14b2602406d98ba576903e53dce5800dd7f26a6fb2ca9728c.jpg

          The same things that made humans come up with magical unicorns, leprechans, wizards and witches….

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d4a9fe92fd2df6b68f44234ff448220ccc77661338e00c9760f09a5ce875ca15.jpg

  • https://thebookofamos.wordpress.com/ Harry Amos

    Really good twist on an older base argument. Thanks for writing. I think the connection between premises and conclusion could be tightened up in the wording, though, just to make it punchier. Also – that is the most sensible thing I have ever heard Craig say; it drives a massive nail in the coffin of biblical inerrancy though; as I show via binomial here. You have to believe there is more than 1 in 45,000 chance of no error at the individual verse level to satisfy Craig’s sensible criterion.

    https://thebookofamos.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/the-mad-maths-of-inerrancy/

    • epeeist

      I think the connection between premises and conclusion could be tightened up in the wording, though, just to make it punchier.

      Bertrand Russell said it slightly differently:

      I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally
      cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian god may exist; so
      may the gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one
      of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside
      the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason
      to consider any of them.

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

      In response to your link: I say that faith statements undermine the authority of the scholars who are bound by them. Consider the Mike Licona case–bad stuff happens when you say stuff that’s out of bounds, so when a scholar so bound says something, is that him saying it? Why should I think that when he is obliged to not be objective?

      • https://thebookofamos.wordpress.com/ Harry Amos

        I agree completely. At least Mike Licona is simultaneously a nice guy, promotes evidential (as opposed to presuppositional) apologetics and frequently sounds more and more ridiculous with his “verified paranormal experiences”, which has ended up making more conservative evangelicals question their beliefs as a result. He famously got forced to resign over his belief that the Matthew 27 “zombies” passage wasn’t literal. (Mental, huh? Fortunately I live in the UK where there aren’t many fundagelical colleges.)

        Thank you ever so much for the follow by the way! I really appreciate it and take it as a huge compliment because I avidly follow your posts and have done for some time – I even folder-ise them on my favourites tab. :)

  • RichardSRussell

    This is really just a variant on the oft-quoted proposition that “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”

    Is it 100% conclusive? No. But it’s the way to bet.

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

      Very succinct.

  • DennisLurvey

    When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.
    — Abraham Lincoln

    Christians like to believe all our presidents were god fearing christians, but no. None of our first 7 presidents were christian, none of them believed in the trinity (that jesus was god). For christians that makes us atheists, since they believe there god is the only god, deists cannot be christian. deists believe in the god of nature, nature’s god, who played a role in creation then disappeared.

    the inventors of judaism and christianity left a paper trail, we can see when they first appeared in stories, how they were changed over and over into what people were buying at the time.

    • Susana Gonzalez

      In regards to this great Book [the Bible], I have but to say it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this Book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are found portrayed in it.

      Abraham Lincoln

      • Pofarmer

        It’s interesting that this may or may not be an actual quote. It’s a report of what a reporter says he said, and, apparently, there are differing accounts.

        http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=lincoln;cc=lincoln;type=simple;rgn=div1;q1=September%207%2C%201864;view=text;subview=detail;sort=occur;idno=lincoln7;node=lincoln7%3A1184

      • Joe

        Flagged for spamming the same comment without reply.

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

        “When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”

        — Abraham Lincoln

        • Susana Gonzalez

          Religion has nothing to do with the belief of GOD. And Mr. Lincoln was very devoted Christian . You should remove his quote from your site, it does not help to your cause…

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

          Why? Because it annoys you?

          I like it for several reasons: it’s a great quote, not matter who said it. And it shows that Lincoln might not fit into the mold Christians have prepared for him.

  • Kitirena Koneko

    I can easily disprove the existence of Satan in one simple, rational argument: if he did exist, we’d still be fighting World War II. And before anyone claims that God stopped it, my question is why did he let it happen in the first place, doubly so because the Bible clearly states that the Twelve Tribes of Israel (i.e the Jews) were his chosen people.

    Of course, this then leads us straight to the argument that if the Judeo-Christian God is both all-powerful and all-compassionate, then why does he allow evil to exist? My answer is that he, too, doesn’t exist.

    I can’t prove the existence of other gods/goddesses/kami/etc., but I can’t disprove them either. While I believe they exist, I don’t force my beliefs down anyone else’ s throats, and I freely admit that my beliefs could be mistaken. My beliefs make me happy, they don’t harm anyone, so does it matter my beliefs are wrong or not?

  • Susana Gonzalez

    In regards to this great Book [the Bible], I have but to say it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this Book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are found portrayed in it.

    Abraham Lincoln

  • Susana Gonzalez

    Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation…

    Abraham Lincoln

    • Pofarmer

      There was a lot of that around the Civil war, and again around the Red Scare. So what?

  • Susana Gonzalez

    I am busily engaged in the study of the Bible. I believe it is God’s word because it finds me where I am.

    Abraham Lincoln

    • Michael Neville

      So? While Lincoln was an intelligent, rational man, that doesn’t mean he was correct about gods.

  • Susana Gonzalez

    “Nevertheless, God might still exist despite strong evidence for these two premises. ”
    Bob Seidensticker

    • Joe

      The emphasis is on might.

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

      Are you going somewhere with this? If you think God exists, give us some evidence.

      • Susana Gonzalez

        Well, as a rational person, you accept the possibility that God can exist. And if you accept this fact then you must accept that you can end facing GOD JUDGEMENT.

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

          Yes, it’s possible that I will face Yahweh’s judgment. There’s also a roughly equal chance that I’ll stand in judgment of Odin or Zeus. Should that bother me? Why or why not?

        • Susana Gonzalez

          Yes you should be concerned. You do not care about Odin or Zeus. In fact you do not attack them regularly as you attack the God of the Bible. For someone who do not believe in a god, you seems to do everything possible to deny His existence. You care so much for denying God, maybe because your conscience bothers you.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s more because Christians keep doing stupid shit in U.S. society.

        • Greg G.

          We care about Odin and Zeus every bit as much as we care about the god of the Bible, which is not at all. We care about the actions and claims of believers of all religions. Believers in Odin and Zeus are not threatening our freedoms and our environment.

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

          The atheist prayer: “Dear Lord, protect me from your believers.”

        • Dys

          Hmm…interesting point. Maybe the reason you ignorantly bash atheists is because you’re secretly terrified that they’re right, and that you’ve been wasting your time with the god nonsense.

          Sorry, but if you want to play bullshit psychological analysis, everyone gets to make shit up about you as well.

        • epeeist

          you must accept that you can end facing GOD JUDGEMENT.

          It always seems to come down to “Believe in me or burn in hell for ever” doesn’t it.

          What a sadistic monster your god is.

      • Susana Gonzalez

        Look at your own ADN. Look in to the well tuned Universe. That is the evidence. Look your own brain, your own body. It cries a CREATOR not the “causality”.

        • Pofarmer

          Are you aware of what percentage of the Solar system is known to contain life? What about the known Universe? Fine tuned? REally?

        • Greg G.

          We are adapted to a thin veneer of a small planet around a small star in a vast galaxy which is one of billions. If we go seven miles up or seven miles down, we need artificial life-support.

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

          ADN?

          As others have noted, the universe is insanely hostile to human life. Anyway, modern science is the tool we use to move from your common sense idea (“Well, duh, things are designed!!”) to reality. Common sense was a good start, but now we have science, which has proven itself to be much better.

        • MR

          ADN is DNA in Spanish and perhaps other languages.

        • Dys

          “I can’t imagine how this came about naturally, so a magical spirit must have done it” is evidence of a lack of imagination, not of god.

        • ktorch

          Nature is by far more powerful than any brain of any god or creature. If we can accept the idea of a god, we can accept any other imaginable possibility. Back to square one.

    • ktorch

      When you reference “God”, are you in reference to the Hebrew god? Even the Hebrew god made reference to, acknowledged other gods in the old testament.

  • Susana Gonzalez

    A true story of a muslim conversion to christianity
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIn3pBsd-SA

    • Michael Neville

      Lew Alcindor, now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, went the other way.

      • Pofarmer

        Don’t forget Malcolm X.

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

          Mohammed Ali

    • Joe

      *shrugs*