My Ways Are Not Your Ways

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

—Isaiah 55:8-9

One of the apologist replies frequently raised against atheist arguments such as the argument from evil, the argument from divine hiddenness, or the argument from incompetence, is that God is so much higher and more intelligent than human beings that it would be the height of arrogance for us to presume to judge him. Bolstered by verses such as the above, this argument holds that what we imagine to be evidence of God’s nonexistence, incompetence or malevolence is actually the wise plan of a powerful creator, and that the decisions religion says God makes only seem poor to us because we lack the intellect to appreciate the reasons behind them.

However, this argument has a major hole in it. Namely, if it is true that God’s thoughts are so much higher than ours that we cannot hope to understand them, then how can anyone know what he is really like or what he does or does not want? Ironically, the very same people who claim that human beings cannot understand God’s ways almost inevitably go on to add, either implicitly or explicitly, “But I know what God wants us to do!”

Why, after all, would a person go to certain churches and not others, read certain holy books, chant certain creeds, pray in certain ways, and participate in certain religious rituals – unless that person believed that they had at least a pretty accurate idea of what God thinks and desires? By their behavior, the religious apologists who make this argument show that they do not believe it themselves. Even if God exists, if his ways are truly beyond our comprehension, we would have no basis for ever being certain about his wants and expectations.

How do we know, for example, that God is not actually the Islamic deity Allah, creating deceptive evidence of Christianity to hasten doubters to their eternal condemnation (as the Qur’an says he will)? How does the apologist know that God has not sent him a strong delusion and forced him to believe a lie about who God is and what he wants (as the Bible says he does)? A believer could not even call this behavior morally wrong, since they would have to admit that God’s ways are not comprehensible by us, and that he might be performing such seemingly malevolent actions to bring about some greater good which they cannot perceive. In reality, of course, few are willing to entertain such radical skepticism about their own beliefs.

Granted, to use the apologists’ inconsistent behavior as a reason to dismiss their argument as false would be a fallacious use of tu quoque. The fact that apologists do not act in accordance with their own arguments does not show that those arguments are untrue. Rather, the point is that this argument buys the religious apologist nothing, because it undermines their arguments just as effectively as it undermines any atheist’s argument. It is a universal defeater, like the idea that we might all be deceived by a powerful Cartesian demon feeding us illusionary experiences of the world; possible in a strictly logical sense, but in practice a useless idea to contemplate. The apologists suppose that this argument is damaging to the atheist position but not damaging to their own, but this could not be farther from the truth.

It is always possible to claim that some plan, however bumbling or flawed it appears, is actually a secret and wise design. But what is missing is independent evidence of this fact, evidence not dependent upon the preconceptions of faith. And without such preconceptions, it is hard not to notice that what religious folk allege to be the plan of an omnipotent and benevolent super-being actually looks just like a set of post hoc rationalizations invented by fallible and self-justifying humans, interpreting the events of history in the way that paints them in the best possible light. If there is a God who wants us to believe in his secret plan, we have every right to expect evidence of that; and until such time, we are more than justified in maintaining a stance of skeptical doubt.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://www.anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    I feel the same way. Yeah, if there is a God, maybe I do not understand it properly. But that does not mean that the Christian, or the Muslim, or the Jew understands God either.

    All I can go by in determining whether or not the God of the Bible is real is to judge whether or not the actions attributed to him are sane and rational according to my standards. If God cannot meet my standards of how I would expect a rational intelligence to behave, then how can I possibly worship such an entity?

  • billf

    I completely agree. If god’s reasoning and actions are so much ‘higher’ than ours that we cannot hope to understand it, then how does anyone worship with any idea that they are doing so correctly?

    Atheist: “Why does god cause catastrophic disasters?”

    Theist: “We can’t hope to know. God’s motives are for good, but we are not on his level and therefore are not able to understand his methods and motives. Since we are his creation he is free to do with us as fits his higher purpose.”

    Atheist: “Well then, how do you have ANY idea that how you worship is correct? Since you admit that you are unable and cannot hope to ever interpret your god’s actions, how do you know you are not just pissing it off? Maybe YOU are the reason god brings on natural disasters.”

    Theist: “We have been given the (torah/bible/koran/book of mormon/fill in the blank/this space for rent), and it divinely tells us that we are correct in our beliefs and methods of worship.”

    Atheist: “Huh? You have already told me that you cannot know the mind and motives of your god. So how do you know that the (torah/bible/koran/book of mormon/fill in the blank/this space for rent) is really your god’s true word and not a deception put in place just to provide the TRUE FAITH with an adversary?”

    At some point, the inevitable circular logic begins…

  • Alex Weaver

    Much as it makes me cringe to read strings of responses all agreeing with something a Person In Charge at a given site said, I have to agree. “I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that term to my fellow creatures.” -JS Mill ^.^

  • Matt R

    Billf,

    I think the theist’s next answer may be:

    Theist: God has only revealed some things to us and other things remain a mystery.

    (not that this resolves anything regarding the current conundrum)

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com Infophile

    It is always possible to claim that some plan, however bumbling or flawed it appears, is actually a secret and wise design.

    I’m sorry, I can’t resist. One word sprung to mind at this sentence: Iraq.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I think the comparison is fairly apt, Infophile. Even besides their reliance on the religious right, the Republican strategy of governing could fairly be described as faith-based politics. Wasn’t it recently-defeated Republican Senator Conrad Burns who said that Bush had a secret plan for victory in Iraq that he wasn’t going to tell us because we’d only screw it up if we knew what it was?

  • Kate

    Tee hee, Infophile.

    This post reminds me of the recent movement in the Catholic church to make baptism “optional” in order to strengthen their anti-abortion rhetoric. Nevermind that it’s two millenia of tradition on top of biblical word, just gloss over original sin to get rid of that fetuses/babies-in-hell ickiness.

  • TK

    Thanks for that great quote, Alex –let’s also note Dan Barker’s even pithier 20th century update “Most Christians are nicer than God”

  • http://www.johnnnysstew.com/cool/cool/coolwet J

    “God works in mysterious ways” is always offered up as a supposedly all-defeating argument. But nevermind its logical uselessness, such words–nor any even close variation upon them–do not appear in the Bible. In fact, given how often they’re spoken, it’s actually a mystery where they came from. Greg Easterbrook thought they might’ve arisen out of the sociology of pastoral counseling: Priests and rabbis, needing something reassuring to tell parents whose kids just died of leukemia or something, came up with a sweet-tasting, religious-sounding lozenge and its been a persistent meme ever since.

    But the Bible doesn’t even give a lot of situational evidence that Gods ways are mysterious. Gods ways are pretty explicit in the Bible. He says what he wants to do, then does it. Or at least, tries to do it. That’s another trip-up for divinity: How often God fails to achieve his own goals. He rescues the Hebrews from Egypt and makes it clear they are to be a “sanctified people”. . .but then they keep right on doing the nasty with the surrounding polytheist tribes. God renders the Hebrews divine military aid on literally dozens of occasions . . . but then Israel and Judea are repeatedly conquered anyway.

    “God works in mysterious ways” is a pablum; a form of soul-masturbation. It’s something people say to themselves as religious self-medication.

  • Chris

    The same people who blindly follow a god they don’t understand also blindly follow a president they don’t understand. The religiousness of authoritarians is no surprise – it’s just “Our Fuhrer who art in Heaven” (or to put it the other way, the Leader is just god’s deputy on earth – sometimes this is stated explicitly).

    In both cases, anything that seems to be a mistake, or a crime, by the Leader, must really be for the good of everyone, and anyone who dares to question the Leader and demand proof of his benevolence or competence is a dangerous heretic/traitor. Authoritarians are quite violent against people they perceive as enemies of the State/Faith.

    This is why theodicy arguments don’t make a dent in them – by even asking the question you prove yourself to be a tool of Satan who deserves only death. And thinking about the answer could imperil their soul, so they don’t.

  • Matt R

    J,

    You are correct that stating “God works in mysterious ways” is a poor argument. However if there is a God, it can truthfully be observed the he does work in mysterious ways as evidenced by the lack of empirical signs that we are always looking for (letters of fire in the sky and booming voices from heaven, for example). Indeed, revealing himself through a book that has raised such disagreement as the Bible is a very “mysterious way”. Perhaps to theists, it is an observation as much as an argument. Perhaps more so.

  • Archi Medez

    One cannot judge the morality of some decision without having moral standards and the relevant facts. The appeal to mysteriousness implies that there is some unknown set of moral standards and unknown information that, magically, confirms whatever it is that the theist is claiming at the time about God’s morality. In this case, the onus is on the theist to specify these (as yet unknown) rules and pieces of information–otherwise there is no possibility of arriving at a sound judgement on the question of whether or not some decision of God’s was immoral.

    The appeal to mysteriousness, and other curious “arguments” of theists, can be rather disorienting in the moment when one encounters them in discussions. It is rather like playing chess with someone who suddenly decides to violate the rules, claiming that there are mysterious unknown rules regarding the conditions for checkmate–unknown rules and conditions which conveniently indicate that the theist has won. The aim of many of these illicit arguments (as another example, the claim that “you can’t prove God doesn’t exist”), coupled with a convenient failure to specify the conditions under such a claim could be tested, appears to be to obstruct investigation entirely, or postpone it indefinitely.

  • Archi Medez

    …and the Bible and Koran do provide sufficient information with which we can make a judgement on God’s morality, e.g., he states that people are to be punished simply for not believing that he exists. We can evaluate that (known) information according to a known set of moral rules or secular laws.

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com Infophile

    Yes, it was indeed Burns who said that. And I agree, this is a perfect example of faith-based politics, which I’ll note goes completely against the tenets of democracy. The republican stance can basically be summed up as “Bush is God. You don’t question God; you don’t impeach God.”

    Of course, when they weren’t in power, the Republicans were all too happy to question and impeach the current President for significantly more minor crimes. Much how Christians refuse to accept claims of any other gods working in mysterious ways, but accept it without question for their own god.

  • http://mindsmeaningmorals.wordpress.com Jeff G

    I have always thought the same thing as the post, especially with regards to the argument from evil. “God’s ways are not our ways” essentially means “God’s morals are not our morals.” If such is the case, then are our morals or God’s wrong? We can’t claim that God is the true foundation for our morality while at the same time claiming that God is beyond our morality. We can’t claim to not know what real moral goodness is and at the same time believe we are saying something meaningful when we call God morally good.

  • Paleoguy

    Infophile,
    Many of the religious right deny that the United States was an intentional democracy. They view democracy as “mob rules” and that the founding fathers intended a democratic republic (huh?) or some such thing. Therefore, they see nothing wrong with Bush’s blatant disregard for democratic decision making policy and wonder why everyone is in such a tizzy about it because, after all he was elected by the people. How could it be wrong? How does one argue with these people? The religious right really wants a king in America and a king in heaven.

  • http://www.johnnnysstew.com/cool/cool/coolwet J

    “The appeal to mysteriousness implies that there is some unknown set of moral standards and unknown information that, magically, confirms whatever it is that the theist is claiming at the time about God’s morality.”

    Verily. But of course, as others have pointed out, there’s a double standard in this. When it comes to the morality of the great flood or why kids die of cancer, then it’s “God is mysterious.” But then these folks turn right around and say that god is terribly offended at certain things certain people do while naked. “God is mysterious . . .except, of course, that he completely agrees with all of the most repressed, constipated, puritanical notions of the right.”

  • Alex Weaver

    On the other hand, if God’s thoughts were indeed *ahem* “higher” than any human’s, that would explain much of both the Bible and the behavior of its worshippers…

  • Matt R

    Jeff G,

    The passage from the Bible you (and the article) are referring to is not an argument in defense of God’s morality. It is part of a promise. In this passage, God is essentially saying “You can trust in the promises that I make because I am more powerful than humans”. Anyone who presents this passage to in an attempt to say “God is mysterious” hasn’t grasped the meaning of the passage.

  • Matt R

    J,

    There is no reason for anyone to tell you that the great flood or children dying of cancer are mysterious actions of God.

    The Bible clearly states that God caused the great flood because every thought and deed of the people of the time were evil. No mystery there.

    Regarding cancer, that requires that one read into the Bible and draw conclusions from it.

    No doubt you are aware of the story of Adam and Eve. Part of God’s punishment for their disobedience was death. From this I draw the conclusion that cancer is part of God’s punishment for disobedience. For the logical follow up question “why does God punish people now for the disobedience of a man long ago, I can only answer that God’s ways are mysterious.

  • http://www.johnnnysstew.com/cool/cool/coolwet J

    The Bible clearly states that God caused the great flood because every thought and deed of the people of the time were evil. No mystery there.

    Nope, sorry, not buying it. First off, there’s no evidence that the great flood actually, y’know, occurred. Second, if it had occurred, wouldn’t every animal, plant, and human being alive today be ridiculously inbred, having originated from a dyadic genetic stock just a few thousand years ago?

    And then in the moral realm, are you really trying to convince me that infants were being born into the world whose “every thought and deed” were evil? Fuck, I don’t even buy the idea that the adults at that time were wholly evil. And of course, Noah and his family are piss-poor excuses for “good” people; Noah’s a drunk who condemns one of his own sons and his son’s descendants to slavery forever for seeing him naked (and this provided scriptural cover for slaveholding for millenia afterward). I’m sorry if this offends your comic-book, Lord-of-the-Rings, Left-Behind, Book-of-Revelation vision of the universe but nobody is completely evil or good.

  • Matt R

    J,

    You are absolutely correct. No one is completely evil or good. I think my post may have been misunderstood.

    I was most certainly not trying to convince you that the Biblical account of the flood is real. As a matter of fact, I was not even trying to justify God’s actions in the matter according to the matter.

    I was simply attempting to point out that the “God is mysterious” argument is a very poor argument indeed, even from the Biblical point of view because the Bible explains the actions of God. This renders said arguments non-mysterious.

    I hope that clears things up.

  • Tony C

    heh, long time listener, first time caller, nice place ya got here. funny thing, i was just now reading an article by some protestant fella about reasons to reject atheism, here’s the address:

    http://protestantism.suite101.com/discussion.cfm/3843
    heh, dude took about 10 minutes to say nothing. eh well, I needed a good laugh. now getting on topic, folks goin on saying they “know” what their god wants sure like bragging about their knowledge. I don’t remember them ever saying what he wants, though, unless it was money to build a new addition to some church or fatten the head pastor’s wallet. heh, how are they sure he even wants anything? I tell ya, it’s like getting a present for my mom, I’d just be guessing.

  • http://travellingeast.blogspot.com Matthew

    Your argument is crap.

    There is a distinction to be made between the mind of God and the word of God. The word of God is made comprehensible to us. The mind is, quite predictably, hidden.

    Do you read minds?

    If not, do you then despair of understanding what I am saying to you?

    Of course not.

    What a load of crap.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Matthew, how do you know that those are really the (I assume) Christian god’s words? How do you know that those words didn’t really come from, say, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Zeus, or Satan (the great deceiver indeed!) pretending to be the Christian god? If they really are the Christian god’s words, how do you know that he’s not being deceptive with them? How do we know that he doesn’t have some higher purpose or is serving some greater good by lying to us?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Your argument is crap.

    Such anger – I seem to have hit a nerve. Do you praise your god with that mouth?

    Do you read minds?

    If not, do you then despair of understanding what I am saying to you?

    No, I don’t read minds, but I do have a mind similar enough to other human beings’ minds to make pretty good guesses about what they are thinking and how their minds work. That underlying commonality is what makes communication through language possible in the first place.

    On the other hand, if there is some other kind of being whose mind works so dissimilarly from mine that I cannot hope to understand their thought process or motivations, then meaningful communication between us will be impossible, even if we share a language. That is exactly the case here. Just as I said in my post, if God’s mind is so different from ours that we cannot hope to comprehend him, then what basis would anyone have for assuming that his words were true or trustworthy? How would you know that some statement which seemed to us to indicate a certain wish or desire didn’t actually mean something completely different to him?

  • http://savedsinglehorny.blogspot.com/ SSH

    good points. i’m a born again christian and it’s hard for me to understand why things happen as they do. Whenever I read the passage in Genesis where the Lord was with Joseph in prison, I bug out. Like why didn’t God prevent him from going to prison then? i guess that’s the point of faith. it’s not about fully understanding, but trusting.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Just as I said in my post, if God’s mind is so different from ours that we cannot hope to comprehend him, then what basis would anyone have for assuming that his words were true or trustworthy?

    Once again, I have to hand it to Ebonmuse. Excellent post. If God were “wholly other,” we would not be able to understand anything about him.

    In behalf of the appeal to nescience, however, perhaps I can soften the perceived idiocy of the notion somewhat by way of analogy. For those who have children, I am certain there were times when they were very young that you did not explain your decisions for their life. Moreover, if you had, they would not have been able to comprehend them until they aged a bit.

  • Mrnaglfar

    MS

    Just as I said in my post, if God’s mind is so different from ours that we cannot hope to comprehend him, then what basis would anyone have for assuming that his words were true or trustworthy?

    Nothing you said deals with the true or trustworthy part. It’s more an appeal to “just trust because”.

    Not only that, but most parents make profoundly bad decisions. On what basis can you judge that you know god knows what he’s doing (after you got past the part where you figure out he exists the way you think he does) if you can’t begin to understand why he asks what he asks?
    Why would god just not create us with the ability to understand why, innately? After all, he surely saw this coming; even I can see that telling a kid to not do something because you said not to do it doesn’t work. They need to understand WHY they should or shouldn’t do something. On top of that, doing something just because you were told to do it hardly shows any free will of your own; at that point you’re basically a robot, begging the question of why god wouldn’t want robots, then make people and tell them to behave as robots if they want into heaven. That, and spending his life mysteriously absent from ours; god hardly ever drops by my place to check in on me and see how I’m doing. Good parents are normally there to provide guidance, or at least show you they exist. God does how many of those?

    Also, the anaolgy falls short because kids grow up in a matter of years and can soon understand more fully. At what point do humans “grow up” and get to understand god? After they die? At that point it hardly matters anymore; bad decisions would have been made and people wouldn’t be able to really change if they were in heaven or in hell at that point. It hardly seems they grow up in their lifetime because people of all age groups seem to be in radical disagreement about every aspect of religion. Is this one of those faith things I’m just supposed to not question?

  • OMGF

    On top of that, doing something just because you were told to do it hardly shows any free will of your own

    It also shows a lower level of moral development.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Mrnaglfar,

    Nothing you said deals with the true or trustworthy part.

    To the contrary, I affirmed EM’s phrase that you placed in bold letters, along with the rest of the isolated statement. If you sensed sarcasm in my reply, you misread me…

    The analogy I offered addressed separate contentions raised in some of the subsequent posts. To paraphrase, given that God is not wholly other, there appear to be some things we do not fully understand. The analogy does no more than offer a vague parallel to the question at hand, to “soften the perceived idiocy,” if you will. It should be readily apparent that it is not an attempt to present a fully developed argument.

  • Mrnaglfar

    MS,

    To paraphrase, given that God is not wholly other, there appear to be some things we do not fully understand.

    Not wholly other? What part(s) of god are like us then and are understandable? What parts aren’t? It seems thousands of years of theological debate have gotten us no closer to any real picture of what god is/could be; it’s more a field of “well your guess is as good as mine, really.”

    The analogy does no more than offer a vague parallel to the question at hand, to “soften the perceived idiocy,” if you will. It should be readily apparent that it is not an attempt to present a fully developed argument.

    It doesn’t soften the argument so much as it restates the original point in question. A parellel would be the original point being 2+2 doesn’t equal 5, and then saying “when you subject 2 from 5, you don’t get 2.”

    I understand it’s not an attempt to solve the problem as the problem itself changes depending on who you’re talking to and what their personal belief in god(s) is. If all the view points on the question about god are equally valid, and not all of them can be right, the rational thing to do is to proclaim them all wrong unless/until further evidence shows up to support one. Merely believing one is not enough.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Mrnaglfar,

    I think I see where you are coming from for the most part and am pretty much OK with it. Here’s a couple of quick comments…

    “Not wholly other?”
    This is a theologically technical way of stating a portion of EM’s post.

    “What part(s) of god are like us then and are understandable?”
    Communicable attributes.
    “What parts aren’t?”
    Incommunicable attributes. Understandable, but not able to be fully shared by us.

    It seems thousands of years of theological debate have gotten us no closer to any real picture of what god is/could be; it’s more a field of “well your guess is as good as mine, really.”
    I do not accept this statement as true, though I think I would if I began reasoning from where I assume you do.

    It doesn’t soften the argument so much as it restates the original point in question.
    I’m OK with this statement.

    I understand it’s not an attempt to solve the problem as the problem itself changes depending on who you’re talking to and what their personal belief in god(s) is.
    Are you aware that theists experience a similar difficulty with atheists?

    If all the view points on the question about god are equally valid, and not all of them can be right,
    All viewpoints on God are not equally valid…take the flying spaghetti monster as a launching point. Now if you have a formal logical validity or some type of epistemological challenge in view here, it requires a different answer.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I do not accept this statement as true, though I think I would if I began reasoning from where I assume you do.

    You mean if he didn’t reject the baseless assumption of god?

    All viewpoints on God are not equally valid…take the flying spaghetti monster as a launching point.

    I’m sorry, but are you asserting that Yahweh is more valid than FSM? On what grounds?

  • MS (Quixote)

    You mean if he didn’t reject the baseless assumption of god?</blockquote.

    Sure, but more specifically, if I shared his view that the assumption of God is baseless.

    I’m sorry, but are you asserting that Yahweh is more valid than FSM?

    As I understand its origin, the FSM is an admitted parody. We know his creator and that creator will testify to his creation. The FSM is a pretty ingenious way to get the point across, though. I am fond of him–even thought about buying one of the T-shirts.

    Yahweh may be fictitious as well, but you cannot produce his creator in the same manner that we can with the FSM.

  • Mrnaglfar

    MS

    Yahweh may be fictitious as well, but you cannot produce his creator in the same manner that we can with the FSM.

    What about the classic examples of Zeus and the greek/roman gods? You can’t point to their creator, yet people worshipped them, and built temples and statues to them. The FSM, parody or not, shares precisely as much evidence for it’s existance as Yahweh. Also, precisely as much evidence as scientology, and mormonism (same god, different story), and the witch doctor, etc etc.

    Communicable attributes.

    He certainly didn’t do a good job in that department. Last I heard there were thousands of splinter sects of christian, islamic, and jewish religions. There were parts of the world who god forgot to inform until the missionaries happened to get to them. There were millions of years of human existance before god decided to put his *2000* give or take a few, year religion in place. 2000 years is hardly a blink of the eye in geological time. Not to mention the differing ideas of god within those splinter sects as well. If anything, god seems better at NOT communicating than the reverse.

    Incommunicable attributes. Understandable, but not able to be fully shared by us.

    Like the ability to defy rational explaination for his existance? I’ll give you that we don’t understand original causes, if such things exist, but belief in god puts the most complicated, infinitely so, thing first in it’s assumptions and goes from there. Might as well just put the universes’ existance first as the constant; at least we know the universe exists.

    I do not accept this statement as true, though I think I would if I began reasoning from where I assume you do.

    The *10,000* (rough number I heard last) current different world religions beg to differ on that point. That’s not counting the missing ones that history has forgot.

    Are you aware that theists experience a similar difficulty with atheists?

    I’m a bit confused here. I understand atheists are perfectly capable of switching the goal posts, but I can hardly think of a good example. Got any?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Sure, but more specifically, if I shared his view that the assumption of God is baseless.

    IOW, you don’t have a good basis for your assumption of god, but his rejection of that somehow constitutes an assumption on its own? Sorry, but that’s simply not so. Rejecting your baseless assumptions does not necessitate that I’m making assumptions. And, it’s not an assumption to call your assumption baseless considering that you’ve presented no basis for holding that assumption as valid.

  • MS (Quixote)

    The FSM, parody or not, shares precisely as much evidence for it’s existance as Yahweh.

    An idea that is a known falsehood carries as much weight with you as one that is a suspected (or even well-thought out on your part) falsehood? I am skeptical.

    Anyway, I get your point and would even agree with your statement above if it were modified to read “The FSM shares precisely as much evidence (that you have determined to be acceptable) for it’s existence as Yahweh.

    He certainly didn’t do a good job in that department.

    I think we are talking past each other. Communicable atributes of God would be love, personality, rationality, etc…things he could pass down to us. Your questioning God for not revealing himself is always a tester. Wasn’t it Bertrand Russell that said if ultimately God questions him about his unbelief he would ask God why he hid himself so well?

    Might as well just put the universes’ existance first as the constant;

    No argument from this end. This is one of the two possibilities available to us, logically.

    The *10,000* (rough number I heard last) current different world religions beg to differ on that point.

    This would only make sense if they were all false. That’s why it is meaningful to you, but not very convincing to me.

    I understand atheists are perfectly capable of switching the goal posts, but I can hardly think of a good example. Got any?

    Sure, but it is my experience that atheists will usually not switch goal posts. They are typically consistent in what they argue.

    What I was getting at is more along these lines: If I were to criticize Nietzsche, many of the commentators here would distance themselves from him, while a couple here would affirm his thought. It is similar to your difficulty of first determining whether you are discussing God with a Hindu or a Christian.

    Good discussion, BTW–many good thoughts in there to develop. Thanks…

  • MS (Quixote)

    IOW, you don’t have a good basis for your assumption of god, but his rejection of that somehow constitutes an assumption on its own?

    Sorry, OMGF, I am not familiar with “IOW”. Hold the phone…”in other words,” perhaps?

    Anyway, all I wanted to say is that if I shared his assumptions (for example, that I do not have a good basis for my conception of God) I would conclude the same way he did. In other words, this is a way of saying I agree with his train of thought, given his assumptions.

    And, it’s not an assumption to call your assumption baseless considering that you’ve presented no basis for holding that assumption as valid.

    Therefore I should consider this proposition baseless because nothing has been presented to demonstrate its validity? Of course not, because I understand your implied premises and can move on to the next step, trusting that you would correct me if I misread them.

    You’re right though, definitions and burden of proof are usually problems. I appreciate the keen eye for detail. You’re consistently a stickler for such. Do you know how hard it is to find someone that will even talk about formal logic? Somehow, I suspect you do. I share the frustration :)

  • OMGF

    MS,
    IOW = In other words.

    Anyway, all I wanted to say is that if I shared his assumptions (for example, that I do not have a good basis for my conception of God) I would conclude the same way he did. In other words, this is a way of saying I agree with his train of thought, given his assumptions.

    I understand that. What I’m countering with is that it’s not an assumption to reject your assumptions. For instance, you could tell me that the globfreg is really good today. I would be skeptical, because I’ve never heard of globfreg. If you told me that you simply assumed it existed, and did not provide a basis for that assumption, then I would be safe in continuing about my existence without believing that the globfreg is really good today, or even that globfreg exists. This does not constitute an assumption on my part.

    Therefore I should consider this proposition baseless because nothing has been presented to demonstrate its validity?

    I’m sorry but it doesn’t work that way. I don’t need to present evidence that you assumption has no basis to it. It is up to you to show me why your assumption is a valid one. Until you do that, I’m under no obligation to accept your assumption as valid. Further, it doesn’t necessitate that I’m making any assumptions to the contrary. And, yes, it is quite baseless if there is no basis given for the assumption you make, unless and until you provide a basis for that assumption.

    Do you know how hard it is to find someone that will even talk about formal logic? Somehow, I suspect you do. I share the frustration :)

    Yes, I do know how hard it is. It’s a shame really, because many of the concepts are found by easy google searches.

  • Mrnaglfar

    MS,

    Anyway, I get your point and would even agree with your statement above if it were modified to read “The FSM shares precisely as much evidence (that you have determined to be acceptable) for it’s existence as Yahweh.

    The FSM creation was done to demonstrate a point; it requires no evidence to cook up a new religion. While it was done as a joke, the FSM religion could answer just as many questions about life as the christian religion. Of course, there are situations where these things aren’t jokes (scientology, mormons, etc).

    Out of all the religions in the world, the question I always as and never get an answer to is the following: Why christianity? Out of all your choices, why your particular brand of it? Have you tested your ideas about what’s true? Have you looked into other religions to see if they have the same stories yours does, despite claiming entirely different things? Or that non-religious people have the same experiences to? Or that most parts of the world that used to be explained by religion are no longer under it’s jurisdiction? Or the countless advances made by science the most progress religion can claim is that it eventually decided women were people too (sometimes at least)?

    Communicable atributes of God would be love, personality, rationality, etc…things he could pass down to us. Your questioning God for not revealing himself is always a tester.

    Ok, let’s see how god did on those:

    Love- Present most often in families to which we are genetically related (sometimes, many families don’t exactly follow that pattern of treating those it marries or it’s offspring very kindly; see the divorce rate, child abuse, and all those depressed children who’s families have let the down). Also present when feelings of attraction are involved (also, those lovers are more likely to kill their fellow lover than anyone else on the planet). How about religion talking about loving everyone, except maybe gays, or members of different religions, or the non-religious, or women? Religious or not, people seem to have kind of a self-interested spin on love far more often then not. Strike one for god.

    Personality- Well damn, we all have personalities. Got me there; this is something that must only be able to arise through god. clearly. Point for god.

    Rationality- People of faith parade their irrational belief in spite of any evidence as a badge of honor. I’d hardly give god credit for that aspect (on top of many people who are driven primary by emotion and not by rationality; see drug abuse for starters)

    So those communicable aspects don’t seem to be fairing to well; at least not standing up to what could be considered the work of an all-powerful, eternal, intelligent being.

    This would only make sense if they were all false. That’s why it is meaningful to you, but not very convincing to me.

    What about the 9,999 different god stories out there, some with many gods, some with barely any god, some with spirits or minor deities, is unconvincing? That all those people are secure in the belief and declare yours wrong, for whom no evidence in available on any side, is unconvincing.

    More to the point, what would be convincing?

    What I was getting at is more along these lines: If I were to criticize Nietzsche, many of the commentators here would distance themselves from him, while a couple here would affirm his thought. It is similar to your difficulty of first determining whether you are discussing God with a Hindu or a Christian.

    Ah, I got you. Yeah, people have a habit of doing that, but with the right reason; outside of “not believing in god”, nothing else defines an atheist. So while all atheists do not believe in god, all also have different world views; in other words there is no atheistic stance of life, that’s free to vary between people. Some are philosophical in nature, and that’s were the divide comes in. Evidence can be debated with evidence, but philosophy is like science without the evidence; it’s very fluid in it’s form.

  • MS (Quixote)

    OMGF,

    This does not constitute an assumption on my part.

    Well, as a point of fact, it does. You would be assuming my unsupported testimony, considered as evidence, of the globfreg is inaccurate.

    I don’t need to present evidence that you assumption has no basis to it. It is up to you to show me why your assumption is a valid one.

    I agree. I don’t mind ceding the point that theism has a burden of proof–I’m not sure what it buys you, unless you are attempting to argue epistemologically that theism is unwarranted. However, I beleive it properly leads to agnosticism rather than atheism, or I might settle for a weak atheism over strong atheism where the burden of proof is concerned.

    What I was getting at above, though, is that the following assertion:

    it’s not an assumption to call your assumption baseless considering that you’ve presented no basis for holding that assumption as valid.

    taken in itself, is a proposition that has nothing offered to demonstrate its validity, which seems inconsistent with the assertion itself. Furthermore, you would be assuming that I have no premises to support my conclusion, though they were not offered. Where I agree with you is that it is always proper to ask for the rationale.

    Why am I laboring this point? I think because it is important to note that when you say there is no evidence for God, what I believe you are really saying (and forgive me if I am putting wrong words in your mouth) is not that there is no evidence for God, but rather that you have examined the evidence traditionally offered and found it lacking, or better yet faulty (pick your best description). Or, something along the lines of “there is no empirical evidence that everyone in their right mind would agree on”. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one…

  • MS (Quixote)

    Mrnaglfar,

    The FSM creation was done to demonstrate a point; it requires no evidence to cook up a new religion. While it was done as a joke, the FSM religion could answer just as many questions about life as the christian religion.

    I agree. All of which does nothing to demonstrate whether they are true or not.

    Out of all the religions in the world, the question I always as and never get an answer to is the following: Why christianity? Out of all your choices, why your particular brand of it?

    Amazing quote…thanks for sharing. Have you really never gotten an answer to this? It leads me to believe you have never encountered a Christian before, which I doubt could be the case. At any rate, I think it is bad taste for me to answer this on an atheist website. Besides, I suspect you know the answers :)

    Have you tested your ideas about what’s true?

    Absolutely. Can I know for certain they are true? No. Do I have doubts? Yes. Do I think I have chosen the best available answer? Yes. Do I think it is rationale enough and likely enough to lead me out of agnosticism? Yes. BTW-to give a little personal background, if I deconverted today, I would be a continental philosopher (a collective UGGGGGHHHHH fills the room).

    Have you looked into other religions to see if they have the same stories yours does, despite claiming entirely different things? Or that non-religious people have the same experiences to?

    Yes. As CS Lewis said, the scary thing would be if no elements from the truth filtered into other thought systems.

    Or that most parts of the world that used to be explained by religion are no longer under it’s jurisdiction?

    Like what, the size of the universe or the shape of the earth? Religious people have no business determining such things, unless of course they are scientists. I am with you on this one. The church should not be in the science classroom, or he public schools, for that matter. Politics either. It’s no wonder atheists have little respect for the Church these days. I for one don’t blame them a bit and share their disdain in many cases.

    Or the countless advances made by science

    Which have nothing to do with the supernatural, if it exists.

    the most progress religion can claim is that it eventually decided women were people too (sometimes at least)?

    At least you recognized one, thank you…that’s more than I can say for many atheists. While I think it is fair for atheists to argue that science is a better guide for us than religion, to argue that religion has never accomplished anything is to be the victim of propaganda.

    So those communicable aspects don’t seem to be fairing to well;

    All that was meant by the attributes was a tie-in to the original post. You would agree that a finite being could by definition never fully comprehend an infinite being, correct?

    That all those people are secure in the belief and declare yours wrong, for whom no evidence in available on any side, is unconvincing.

    I interpret this statement not as “for whom no evidence is available”, but as “no evidence that you would accept”.

    So while all atheists do not believe in god, all also have different world views; in other words there is no atheistic stance of life, that’s free to vary between people.

    Which is why I enjoy talking to atheists. Kinda why I lurk around this site…

    Evidence can be debated with evidence, but philosophy is like science without the evidence;

    To some degree, yes. But keep in mind that philosophy, and theology, are dealing with concepts that are not readily evidential as you are defining it. Ontology, for example. How exactly ould you test it in a laboratory.

    Let me press you a bit on this. What is energy? I am not asking for a mathematical equivalence like E=MC2 or a ligusitic description like the ability to do work. What is it? This is a very hard question that defies the type of evidential solution you are seeking. Philosophy deals with these types of concepts and thereby earns the reputation cited above.

    You can observe the same phenomena in the evidential sciences when the boundary is pushed to the very small, the very large, and the very long ago. So what do we do? Conclude with Kant that we may not be able to comprehend the noumenal? Many find this an appropriate solution and I sympathize with this conclusion and would not cast apersions at anyone who holds to it. For me, though, it is unsatisfying, so I press ahead, perhaps in the dark

    Sorry for destroying the thread, EM, but it was worth it…I gotta run. See you tomorrow.

  • Mrnaglfar

    MS,

    I agree. All of which does nothing to demonstrate whether they are true or not.

    Guilty until proven innocent? Nope, it’s innocent until proven guilty. Same with truth; it’s not true until proven not true, it’s not true until proven to be so. Until objective evidence can be provided for medicine, would you take it? Would you rather go see the faith healer or the doctor? Which has the better success rate, and why would you suppose that is?

    Besides, I suspect you know the answers :)

    I don’t suppose I’d be out of line to suspect your family members held similar views. Would I be right?

    Absolutely. Can I know for certain they are true? No. Do I have doubts? Yes. Do I think I have chosen the best available answer? Yes. Do I think it is rationale enough and likely enough to lead me out of agnosticism? Yes. BTW-to give a little personal background, if I deconverted today, I would be a continental philosopher (a collective UGGGGGHHHHH fills the room).

    These tests, were they double-blind by chance? Were they weighed against the probabilty of chance? I’d be curious to know what they were really; more to the point, would they be as conclusive to other observers.

    Which have nothing to do with the supernatural, if it exists.

    While true, begs the question of why the supernatural couldn’t get it right. Why the book supposedly written/inspired by it would contain so many errors, or how prayer isn’t doing better than medicine. Or chance.

    to argue that religion has never accomplished anything is to be the victim of propaganda.

    Well that depends on your definition of both “accomplishment” and “religion”. Religious people have accomplished things, but how many of those accomplishments have come from things perpherial to the religion itself, and how many have come directly from the heart of it? Bear in mind as well the good religion has done should also be weighed against the bad it’s done. A belief that might bring a person a little temporary comfort might also bring more people lasting pain. Now that of course doesn’t deal with the truth of the matter, but again, not considered true until proven so.

    You would agree that a finite being could by definition never fully comprehend an infinite being, correct?

    I would agree on that. Of course, our brains, while impressive, normally can’t fully understand many large numbers that are considerably smaller than infinity; we can have a concept of it, but not a real understanding. For example, try picturing 100 of something, or a 1000. It’s why the quote is so famous (and true) that “the death of one is a tradgey and the death of a million is just a statistic”.

    Of course, our brains only being able to comprehend numbers and sizes that were appropiate for our world and evolution seems to fit less in line with a creator, much less a personalized one.

    I interpret this statement not as “for whom no evidence is available”, but as “no evidence that you would accept”.

    let’s just say “no objective evidence”. Or “no evidence that has stood up to double-blind testing and re-testing”

    Which is why I enjoy talking to atheists. Kinda why I lurk around this site…

    I lurk because I love debate and don’t get enough of it in my personal life yet.

    What is energy? I am not asking for a mathematical equivalence like E=MC2 or a ligusitic description like the ability to do work. What is it?

    I don’t know. Roughest idea off the top of my head is “the potential to effect other objects”. (and now that I check, that’s not too far off from the wikipedia definition -“In physics and other sciences, energy (from the Greek ενεργός, energos, “active, working”)[1] is a scalar physical quantity that is a property of objects and systems which is conserved by nature. Energy is often defined as the ability to do work.”

    You can observe the same phenomena in the evidential sciences when the boundary is pushed to the very small, the very large, and the very long ago. So what do we do? Conclude with Kant that we may not be able to comprehend the noumenal? Many find this an appropriate solution and I sympathize with this conclusion and would not cast apersions at anyone who holds to it. For me, though, it is unsatisfying, so I press ahead, perhaps in the dark

    I too understand that there are some things our brains are simply not capable of understanding; limits can be pushed to extremes, but we are still working within our original parimeters of understanding the world. From an evolutionary perspective, being able to understand objects smaller than we would ever encounter or effect us, or larger on the opposite end would offer little survival benefit and doubtfully any sexual benefit, so it simply never had the ability to evolve. I too find many explainations unsatisfying, which is why I do my research, make predictions and test them.

    But I find the explaination god has to offer simply making the original question of “how did it all begin” turn into “how did god suddenly just appear”?

    I would like to return to my main question though; ebon has asked it before, as have I, but I’ll ask again-

    What would it take to convince you that a belief in god is mistaken

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    MS,

    Well, as a point of fact, it does. You would be assuming my unsupported testimony, considered as evidence, of the globfreg is inaccurate.

    Once again, not accepting your testimony because you can offer no reason to accept it is not an assumption.

    I harp on this because it inevitably leads down the road of, “I’m making assumptions and you are making assumptions, and neither of us can prove our assumptions, they are just starting points. So, why should I consider your assumptions more valid than mine? They aren’t, so my worldview is just as valid as yours, since we both make up assumptions and follow through with them.” This is simply incorrect, however. (Apologies if you weren’t remotely thinking this.) The number of assumptions made here is one, and that is the one you are making. I am rejecting that assumption and starting from scratch with no assumptions. If you can’t support yours, then the rational stance is to reject the assumption until it can be supported or another is found that can be supported. Rejecting your assumptions, however, do not constitute an assumption on my part. I can’t state it any more plainly than that. Saying that your assumption for god or globfreg is unsupported does not mean that I’m assuming such things don’t exist. It means that I’m not using your assumption until you show it is valid.

    I agree. I don’t mind ceding the point that theism has a burden of proof–I’m not sure what it buys you, unless you are attempting to argue epistemologically that theism is unwarranted. However, I beleive it properly leads to agnosticism rather than atheism, or I might settle for a weak atheism over strong atheism where the burden of proof is concerned.

    It buys me a lot, actually. My position is the rational to hold unless and until the theist can present evidence to strengthen their position. BTW, I see atheism not as a positive statement that no god exists – although some do – but as a denial of the positive assertions put forth by theists due to the lack of evidence for those positive assertions. Agnostic, in some circles, is more of someone who says not only that she doesn’t know, but that one can’t know. I’ll admit that I don’t know that there is no god, but there’s no reason to believe that one exists.

    Furthermore, you would be assuming that I have no premises to support my conclusion, though they were not offered.

    No I’m not. If no basis is given, I don’t have to assume that you don’t have one. But, I shouldn’t accept your assertions simply because you might have some pertinent information that you’re not sharing. Unless and until you share that information, I’m under no obligation to accept anything you declare.

    I think because it is important to note that when you say there is no evidence for God, what I believe you are really saying (and forgive me if I am putting wrong words in your mouth) is not that there is no evidence for God, but rather that you have examined the evidence traditionally offered and found it lacking, or better yet faulty (pick your best description).

    I would say that there is no evidence that is not post-hoc rationalization that could be invoked for anything and that the “evidence” presented is all dependent on the assumption that god exists, which is the very thing that the theist is trying to show! Thus, it is begging the question.

  • MS (Quixote)

    OMGF

    They aren’t, so my worldview is just as valid as yours, since we both make up assumptions and follow through with them.” This is simply incorrect, however.

    Preach it, brother. This irritates me to no end as well.

    I think we are both pretty well conversant with the arguments on both sides from here on out; however, if you can spare a minue or two, there is an intriguing statement you made that I would be interested seeing developed just a bit more:

    the “evidence” presented is all dependent on the assumption that god exists, which is the very thing that the theist is trying to show! Thus, it is begging the question.

  • MS (Quixote)

    What would it take to convince you that a belief in god is mistaken

    This question is how I found my way to this site. You can search a post from February under “a response to the theist’s guide. But Shhhhh. Keep it on the low down between you and me. I have managed to successfully infiltrate this blog to keep tabs on the progress of the evil atheist conspiracy (mahoke, mahoke). Don’t blow my cover, I’ve managed to escape the mind-rays thus far :)

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    MS,
    Glad we cleared that up then. So, instead of insisting that I am carrying around an assumption that I don’t have, perhaps you should concentrate on showing why your assumption should be held as valid?

    there is an intriguing statement you made that I would be interested seeing developed just a bit more:

    I’m not sure what you are asking. Do you have a specific question in mind?

  • Mrnaglfar

    MS,

    I’ll probably get back to this later, but I reviewed the section again you mentioned and realized that all your assumptions (such as believing your life has an intrinsic meaning, that personality pervades the universe, etc, etc) were all stated without any evidence to back up what you were saying in the first place.
    Quick to review:

    1. Hope, joy, love, jealousy, personality, intelligence, and the like — we observe them everyday, both firsthand and in others. Both atheism and theism account for them in their systems, however, theism has a prima fascia advantage given these observations…. Personality appears to permeate the universe, which lends itself to theism over atheism. Were it demonstrated conclusively that these observations are more likely to obtain under atheism (not proved, mind you), I would deconvert.

    2. I have heard humanity described as “DNA robots,” the latest development in the arms race concerned with the survival of DNA. This characterization seems reasonable. If this is accurate, then our selves are illusions. Our sense of purpose and meaning is illusory… If it could be demonstrated conclusively that I was deluded in thinking that life has meaning, I would deconvert.

    3. Good and Evil, the Problem of Evil, an objective morality. If it could be demonstrated that these are illusory concepts as well, or that they are more likely to proceed from irrational matter, I would deconvert.

    4. Those who claim that good is only a human construct act as though it permeated the structure of the universe.

    1. Personality appears to permeate the universe, which lends itself to theism over atheism

    Evidence please, then we can discuss. First you need to establish your premise exists.

    2. Our sense of purpose and meaning is illusory… If it could be demonstrated conclusively that I was deluded in thinking that life has meaning, I would deconvert.

    Again, evidence. Show me either a) why you should be deluded in a sense of purpose, and b) tell me what your purpose is perhaps.

    3/4. If it could be demonstrated that these are illusory concepts as well, or that they are more likely to proceed from irrational matter, I would deconvert.

    Give me a) a reason to think that morality couldn’t have evolved given the evidence of morality (in some sense of the word at least) in primates, or b) that good and evil can be determined objectively – after all, how many thousands of years have different moral codes struggled with that issue without making a whole lot of progress? Or why different areas of the world live under different moral systems with different subtilties involving justice (in some cases murder is acceptable during war, in some cases when a male ‘steals’ another man’s woman, in cases to restore honor, and in many cases, whoever has the ability to do it safely gets to).

  • Randi B

    I actually find these comments humorous because by the meaning of the verses you are referencing it states that we cannot comprehend all that God is able to comprehend. That is why most belief systems are based on a certain element of faith. (Not just Christians, but any other belief system). God is a big God, one that we could never possibly fully understand while we are on this earth. Our human brains are amazing but do not have and never will have the capacity to fully know why God allows things to occur in this world. If you read the bible, He really does begin to enlighten us to whatever He feels we need to know.
    God bless you all!
    Randi B

  • Arch

    God is a being than which nothing greater can be conceived -St. Anselm

  • Mrnaglfar

    Arch,

    I do hope someone told St. Anselm that his definition is about as good as “your guess is as good as mine”. Personally, I define greatness by not sending people to hell, so I just conceived your god out of the water. Get back to me with a better example.

    Randi,

    That is why most belief systems are based on a certain element of faith.

    No, they’re based on faith because they have to be; because they have no evidence to back up their claims.

    Wanna take a crack at why they have no evidence?

    God is a big God, one that we could never possibly fully understand while we are on this earth.

    How do you know he’s big? You just said you can’t fully understand him, so how are you qualified to make any statement about him?

    If you read the bible, He really does begin to enlighten us to whatever He feels we need to know.

    And you know he’s enlightening you because you get the distinct feeling you can’t understand him, or is it that tingly feeling that lets you know it’s working?

  • Alex Weaver

    God is a being than which nothing greater can be conceived -St. Anselm

    I can conceive of a being greater than the god depicted by the bible. Morally, at least, I AM one.

  • karatemack

    People who teach from the Bible (or criticize it) should have a proper understanding of what it says. It would not be fair for me, as a Christian, to denounce the Quran as complete heresy unless I first understood it’s content. Even then I will be the first to admit that I would have certain presuppositions about the text which would prevent complete subjectivity. First, I come with my preunderstanding of western culture which will undoubtedly be applied to anything I read in the Quran. Second, I come with my prejudice towards the Bible as the only authoritative Word of God. And Third (though probably not last), I come with my presupposition that anything which contradicts the Bible cannot be valid in terms of it’s doctrine.

    Not that I think anyone needed a lecture on subjectivity, but it’s only fair to point out that if I, as a Christian, have a certain amount of subjectivity which will ultimately affect my interpretation of the Quran; then it is equally true to say that any Athiest or person who holds to another belief system will bring the same amount of subjectivity. Do I claim to be the best person to properly interpret what the Quran says? Absolutely not! How could I be? Given my admitted subjectivity, I won’t accept the Quran as truth at all and will undoubtably miss the original author’s intended meaning.

    So, then, how am I able to possibly justify my position as a Christian with any type of validity when comparing my beliefs to those of other religions? What a long discussion that would be! Briefly; Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Muslims all trace their religous roots back to Abraham. All four accept the OT as a part of God’s revealed truth. Judaism accepts it as a currently completed work. Catholicism accepts it along with the NT and Apocrapha. Protestants accept it with the NT only. And Muslims claim that God is revealing Himself in stages, and that the last revelead truth replaces previously revealed truth. So they hold to the Quran and the teachings of Mohammed. My point? All four major world religions hold that the OT was a part of God’s revealed truth about Himself.

    Luckily, for our discussion then, the verse originally quoted is from the OT. If you read this verse more carefully, I believe you will find the SUBJECT of the verse is forgiveness. God’s thoughts are higher than our thought and His ways higher than our ways when we consider His great forgiveness of people. Noah was given in a previous example. Not what we would call a good person. Yet the Bible states he was a righteous man who walked with God. Why? We find an interesting verse in Genesis 15:6 (again OT). It says that Abram believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Perhaps God is willing to look at us a little differently than we look at ourselves. We judge each other based upon deed alone, whereas God is able to judge the heart. Weak argument? After all… Noah got drunk soon after the flood. Perhaps when we look at the sins of Noah and his family (Ham) we see the POINT of the verse in Isaiah quoted. If Noah and his sinful family were saved by God’s grace (despite their obvious faults), then how much more sinful the rest of humanity must have become that God was not willing to hold back judgement upon them. The fact that God offers mercy (underserved favor) to sinful people (not perfect people) and declares them to be righteous because of their faith in Him, is certainly a RADICAL teaching.

    Can I understand certain things about God and His will without knowing EVERYTHING about Him? I think so. I know that a piano maker is skilled. I can learn from an instructor how to properly handle the piano which was made. I can increase in skill on the piano and learn the in’s and out’s of the how the piano functions. Do I gain any knowledge, from my intimate exploration of the piano maker’s creation, about the piano maker himself from which I could claim a personal relationship with him? Do I know his political affiliation? Do I know what foods he prefers to eat? Do I know the name of his wife or if he has one? Probably not. Not unless I either had a personal relationship with him, and even then I would only know those things about him which he chose to reveal to me (unless I’m a stalker).

    Does God HAVE to reveal the why for His ways to be truly good? Does God answer to man? Well, no. NO credible religion accepts the premise that God is somehow accountable to mankind. I think the point in an earlier example was missed entirely. If I tell my child not to touch a hot pot on a stove, I have a good reason. My child is incapable of understanding WHY, so they simply have to trust me that what I have said comes from a loving father. If they choose to disobey, they are actually choosing to suffer. If they listen, they’ll enjoy the freedom which comes from not being burned. They are kept safe by my loving restriction. This is what is meant when we say we cannot always fully understand God’s ways. Not that He isn’t clear about some of the WHAT’s, but that He doesn’t necessarily always reveal the WHY’s. Why doesn’t God tell us why? Again; 1. because He’s God and isn’t accountable to us, 2. it could be we wouldn’t understand even if he did try to explain, 3. God wants us to trust Him.

    Many of the opinions I hear and read often reflect a misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches (which to be fair is often propogated by people claiming to be christians) or reflect a prejudice which is not really objective at all and seeks only to discredit a Book which was predetermined to be false.

    I won’t post more at this time as I know I’ve already written a fairly long post. If you legitimately would like to hear more about why I believe Christianity is distinct and why I believe the Bible is authoritative and complete (OT and NT), then please let me know. Otherwise, I don’t want to waste your time (more than scrolling through this post has) or give you cause to be angry. God loves you and it is my prayer that He will bless you despite your unbelief, and that you would come to know the truth about Him and that that truth would set you free.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    karatemack,

    It would not be fair for me, as a Christian, to denounce the Quran as complete heresy unless I first understood it’s content…Second, I come with my prejudice towards the Bible as the only authoritative Word of God. And Third (though probably not last), I come with my presupposition that anything which contradicts the Bible cannot be valid in terms of it’s doctrine.

    Make up your mind.

    Not that I think anyone needed a lecture on subjectivity, but it’s only fair to point out that if I, as a Christian, have a certain amount of subjectivity which will ultimately affect my interpretation of the Quran; then it is equally true to say that any Athiest or person who holds to another belief system will bring the same amount of subjectivity.

    Except that’s simply not necessarily true. Your subjectivity is based on you accepting unevidenced assertions that are not proven. If I reject those assertions due to their lack of proof or evidence, then I have made a more objective determination than you.

    So, then, how am I able to possibly justify my position as a Christian with any type of validity when comparing my beliefs to those of other religions?

    You can’t, considering that you’ve already told us that you simply assume the Bible is correct.

    My point? All four major world religions hold that the OT was a part of God’s revealed truth about Himself.

    Irrelevant.

    If you read this verse more carefully, I believe you will find the SUBJECT of the verse is forgiveness.

    Please support this statement, considering that I see nothing in the verse about forgiveness.

    God’s thoughts are higher than our thought and His ways higher than our ways when we consider His great forgiveness of people.

    Is that how you rationalize the immorality of sending people to hell?

    It says that Abram believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Perhaps God is willing to look at us a little differently than we look at ourselves. We judge each other based upon deed alone, whereas God is able to judge the heart. Weak argument?

    Yes, very weak. You’re claiming that god doesn’t judge us by our morality, but by our ability to figure out what the correct beliefs about him are, and that somehow is a moral position for god to take.

    The fact that God offers mercy (underserved favor) to sinful people (not perfect people) and declares them to be righteous because of their faith in Him, is certainly a RADICAL teaching.

    And highly immoral.

    Does God HAVE to reveal the why for His ways to be truly good?

    I doubt that you, god, or anyone can come up with a why for putting people in hell for eternal torment.

    Does God answer to man?

    Yes. He has a moral obligation to us.

    NO credible religion accepts the premise that God is somehow accountable to mankind.

    Which makes them less than credible.

    If I tell my child not to touch a hot pot on a stove, I have a good reason. My child is incapable of understanding WHY, so they simply have to trust me that what I have said comes from a loving father.

    A better approach would be to use the example as a way to teach the child, instead of simply issuing commands. Still, what assurance do you have that god is issuing commands for your benefit?

    Many of the opinions I hear and read often reflect a misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches (which to be fair is often propogated by people claiming to be christians)…

    How do you know that your interpretations of the Bible are more authoritative than anyone else’s?

    God loves you…

    Which is why he will send us to hell for disbelief I suppose?

  • Brad

    karatemack, you are preaching. This is against comment policy. If you would like to voice such long personal opinions, then please do so on your own site. You can easily set up a free wordpress blog or googlepages site if you want to. And then you can link to said blog or site with the Website option in comments here at Daylight Atheism.

    And yes, I would legitimately “like to hear more about why [you] believe Christianity is distinct and why [you] believe the Bible is authoritative and complete” – just do this sort of talking elsewhere. This place isn’t a pulpit.

    Sorry Ebonmuse, couldn’t resist.

  • http://basketofpuppies-billy.blogspot.com/ Billy

    I like using this one against them too.

    You may be interested in Stephen Law’s “god of Eth” posts http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20God%20of%20Eth which reverse the moral nature of god and shows how worthless the “good god” claim acually is

  • Virginia

    karatemack, God indeed takes accountability towards mankind. Many instances in the Bible, God did things so that “people know that He is God/Lord”.
    This is accountability.
    God in the Bible also referred to the mutual covenant with Hebrews — a two way agreeement which God is required to keep His words — another form of accountability.
    Finally, Isaiah 55:8-9 which you quoted again in defense of God not having have to answer mankind is a self-undermining way — if God’s way is so much above yours, how can you answer on God’s behalf as though you know his ways ?

  • Mac

    Brad,

    What do you call the past 50-some comments? I’m amused that when persons of one particular faith (Christian or otherwise) present their perspective, it’s “preaching,” yet for a discussion board of all-knowing atheists its simply discussion. Surely if an atheistic world view is superior, one would welcome such comments, so as to shed the light of knowledge on the millions of people out there obviously duped, right?

    Is the idea to just pool our ignorance, or actually REASONably get at truth? If there can be bigoted and closed-minded Christians, Muslims, etc., then it stands to reason that the same can be true for atheists. I mean, was this discussion for “My ways are not your ways” meant to make a bunch of atheists feel good, or is it meant to actually understand its meaning, weigh it against ALL the evidence, and hence make judgment. Make no mistake, any belief system has some element of faith, even atheism.

    Next, one would be a poor judge of character if they took every person on a first-impression basis. In other words, you would have to understand that person in multiple contexts, right? Did they have a bad day at the office, are the kids sick again, did the dog get run over, was he beat as a kid, did she witness that horrible event back in ’85; etc. I should think that each one of us would like to be viewed “in context.” When we don’t do this, we make some pretty downright stupid mistakes, simply because we didn’t take the time to understand the seemingly confusing, quirky, strange, etc.

    Similarly, it stands to reason that the best way to come at a verse such as the one presented (or any verse from any religion) is in its context; textually, historically, etc. Thus, this discussion board should, one might think, welcome Virginia’s comments, as it provides more context to go on; to judge, to some extent, whether it is a valid point. I would hardly call presenting key doctrines of any religion for discussion “preaching,” unless of course you’re feeling a wee bit convicted. ;-)

    Finally, it may be said (and has) that the best look into a belief system is by looking at its founder. Thus, if one truly wants to get an understanding of Islam, let us take a good look at this so-called prophet named Muhammad WHILE looking at the Koran. If you are indeed trying to judge whether Judaism or Christianity is valid, look to their founders. Since Christians are in the crosshairs (though historically nowhere near as long as the Jews), let us take an objective look at this self-acclaimed God-man named Jesus, called the Christ.

    Honestly, If the design was to rant and rave about how foolish religious folks are and barely scratch the philosophical surface… aren’t you proving the very thing they supposedly claim atheists do?

    May the best argument win!

  • Brad

    I do regret the former comment – it was unfairly suppressive.

  • goyo

    mac
    Indeed, let’s look at the founders:
    Who founded judaism? What do we know about him/her?
    Who founded xtianity? What do we know about him/her?
    If you are intellectually honest, you will have to admit, very little.

  • John

    As a devout believer in Christ, I admit, this is perhaps the best argument (in the article about Isa 55: 8-9) that I have come across. And I confess, I have struggled with the very same questions myself. As beievers, we’re taught to understand these questions and dilemmas as “the testing of your (our faith), more precious than gold”. We are warned not to abandon the faith (on fear of punishment, chastening, or for some Christians who believe salvation once given by God, can be revoked by Him, being sent to hell). So, we are in effect, told to abandon our minds, “doubt our doubts” and still affirm that He is GOOD, that no matter how “irrational” God may appear – by either His delay to bring about the promises He has made in His word about answered prayer, or His refusal to answer our prayers (how many believers have prayed for a healing for sick loved one, have stood on the promises of God relative to such and still saw that loved one or friend die from that sickness? Yet the promise of James is “The LORD WILL raise them up” (when the Elders of the church have prayed “the prayer of faith” and “anointed in the name of the Lord” etc). Jesus promised, “I tell you the truth, if two of you shall agree on earth concerning anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father in heaven”…yet, it we’re honest, how many debout believers can attest to lack of answered prayer? These questions do indeed trouble me, I admit.

    Yet I would offer this for consideration: One person commented

    My answer and question to such a claim would be this: If your OWN standard of intelligence and sanity differs from say, an Adolf Hitler, or Jeffery Dhamer, then whose specific STANDARD of intelligence is worthy to judge whether God is acting in a “rational” way? Since there is no universally accepted STANDARD by which all other sentiment, understanding or belief is to be judged, then in point of fact, no human intelligence would or even could judge God.

    The belief in atheism (and I admit, I have wrestled with many of these questions myself), ultimately, seeks to make sense of life and the world we live in, according to it’s OWN understanding or opinion on the nature of life, morality (however it be defined by any culture at any time). Who made the Athiest ALL-KNOWING? Who said they know enough about everything there is to know in the universe (which is pretty big), and that they are competent therefore to judge the claims of God as being “illogical”? Is it just me, or is the irony present in such a fantatic and inconsistent claim, hidden from they themselves?

    To assume we could understand EVERYTHING about a being who transcends our finite and mortal existence, is, IMO, arrogant folly. A God who is no bigger than any of those who made a comment in favour of Atheism, would be, for myself, not worthy of my respect or reverence….I know, this probably makes me a “simple-minded fool of a believer”, but the fact is, while the Atheist can raise similar and troubling questions, which are difficult to answer, they STILL end up with a FAITH-DECLARATION of their own… The only difference is they it would seem prefer their own, because, of course, they in themselves, are wholly competent to know it all about it all.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    Thread necromancy much…
    But John you are falling into the same pattern Christians alway seem to find when trying to make sense of their religion’s inconsistancies. On one hand you want your god to be understandable and “human” as depicted in most of the bible and derive moral lessons from his behaviour, but when that behaviour doesn’t suit he suddenly become ineffable and beyond our puny understanding. The atheist position of course does not require this level of mental gymnastics. Even if I was to concede that atheism or materialism were faith positions (I don’t)the fact that there is a lot about the universe we don’t know doesn’t negate that the bits we do know seem to function perfectly well without supernatural intervention. It is not faith, but rational extrapolation to assume that will continue to be the case as we learn more

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    John,
    The empirical world presents standards for us to use. The rules of logic are such because they agree with what we actually observe in the world. For instance, we know that simply because a majority agrees on something doesn’t mean it is right. How do we know this? Because we have seen cases where a majority of people said X and we found X to be empirically wrong (like the sun moving about the Earth, for instance). So, whose standard should we use? The empirical one that is verifiable and repeatable.

    But, you’ve walked right into a trap yourself. You can’t very well hold that you are able to judge god’s goodness/logic/morality/etc, and then turn around and claim that we are in no position to judge god. You can’t have it both ways.

    Lastly, atheism is not a faith position. Rejecting your faith position does not necessarily mean that I have adopted my own faith position. Atheism is a non-faith position.