A Threefold Anniversary

When I look back on my life, it seems sometimes that significant events tend to cluster around certain dates. This is almost certainly a product of the law of large numbers and the selective memory of the mind, as opposed to some cosmic kismet, but we can still recognize and commemorate these dates for what they mean to us and what they have brought into our lives.

Today’s date, June 25, is an anniversary of threefold significance. First, as I noted on this date last year, June 25 is the birthday of Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Have a joyous birthday, Dan, and many happy returns!

As I likewise noted last year, June 25 is a date of personal significance to me, my first anniversary at my current job. The year has truly flown by since I first wrote that post twelve months ago in which I announced I was taking the position – I find it hard to believe I’ve been out of graduate school and into the workforce for so long already. When I started this job, I feared it would cut into my free time so greatly that I’d have little opportunity to write, and I’m happy to say that this hasn’t come to pass. My list of eventual topics still seems as long as it ever was, but I intend to whittle it down however long it takes!

Finally, June 25 is the anniversary of yet a third occasion, one that I, to my shame, completely failed to remember last year. What occasion is that? June 25, 2001, was the opening of the Atheism Pages at Ebon Musings, my own website! (If your memory, like mine, is faulty, I have an archive of past years’ updates at Ebon Musings.) I’m proud to have overseen this site for six whole years, and I anticipate continuing to write for and update it for many years more.

I have an update relating to Ebon Musings as well. When I opened the site in 2001, one of the first articles on the Atheism Pages was “The Theist’s Guide to Converting Atheists“. In that essay, I wrote out a list of things that would convince this atheist of the truth of a religion, and made the following offer:

To be fair, I invite all theists to respond by preparing a list of things that they would accept as proof that atheism is true. If any theist prepares such a list, posts it on the Internet and tells me about it, I’ll link to it from this page.

I’m happy to report that after six years, which included numerous feedback e-mails on this essay and countless discussions of its content on the Internet, including on Christian sites, I’ve finally received the first ever response to this challenge, from a Christian named Andrew. Some of his proposed items are quite legitimate; others are logical fallacies like demanding proof of a universal negative, or are phrased vaguely so that it’s difficult to tell what would count as a fulfillment. Still, credit is due him for being the first theist ever, to my knowledge, to offer a response. I’ve already responded to Andrew in e-mail and will link to his page from Ebon Musings, as promised. If readers want to offer their own commentary on his proposed list, feel free to use the comments on this thread.

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.

  • Christopher

    Firstly, congratulations on your anniversaries, Adam.

    Secondly, to introduce myself as a long-time reader, first time commenter, because I feel so strongly about this issue at hand. The first theist to respond to your list has a – for lack of a better word – interesting list of conversion criterion, that I would love to address personally.

    In addressing the list as a whole, I find it ‘funny’ (not – ‘ha ha’ funny) that the entire list itself is self-serving, and denies the theory of reasonable doubt altogether. In the writer’s mind (I don’t presume to know what he thinks or feels, but from what I read) an argument can’t be true, unless it’s proven true. Thereby making it impossible to convert him, do to the theory that any agnostic holds, that the existence of a God can’t be proven true or false.

    Addressing the self-serving nature of his argument, the writer asks for an Atheist (or any potential converter) to prove that miracles that theoretically took place many millennia ago; are false. I find that, itself proof that his criteria is almost outrageous, compared to Adams, that I have read, and can agree with and consider lenient and agreeable. I grant you, my bias is obvious since I’m an Atheist.

    Next- And forgive me if I take this out of context but-

    it could be pointed out that athiests have, by far the worst record of human rights violations in history. Do I even need to say the names Stalin and Mao?

    I believe that’s a gross exaggeration and misconception. If I’m not severely mistaken, the population of the world is in majority theistic, it stands to reason that the majority of murderers, rapists, and kidnappers are also theists. Do modern day transgressions not take prevalence over those in history committed by the select few radicals?

    I realize the same argument can be made for theists, again. But the theistic hold that crusades and such are necessary are proof enough that it’s not remotely possible Atheists commit more and worse human rights violations than theists.

    Furthermore-

    Finally in most cases no distinction is made between what a religion teaches, and whether its followers actually practice it.

    I don’t believe a theist adhering to Christianity can use this example as ‘proof’ that their religion isn’t immoral; when their text denotes immoral acts committed on behest of their deity.

    I think I got all the points I wanted to..

    Sincerely,
    Christopher

  • Alex Weaver

    You might want to pick a pseudonym given that there’s at least one other Chris, and probably a Christopher as well, on the site.

    PS: Adam, congratulations on the anniversary. But isn’t the pattern of three supposed to suddenly overwhelm us with the realization of the truth of the Trinity? Or does that only apply to frozen waterfalls? ;/

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ John P

    Yea! Triplets! Congratulations! You must be proud.

    If I’m not severely mistaken, the population of the world is in majority theistic, it stands to reason that the majority of murderers, rapists, and kidnappers are also theists.

    Never thought of the old Stalin/Mao argument that way, before, but you’re right. Even if you assume, arguendo, that both of them were atheists, their transgressions resulted from a single act, i.e., one decision to rid themselves of large populations as opposed to single individuals. For sheer numbers of repeated cruelty, you can’t beat the countless single acts of murder, rape, and other acts of mayhem etc. perpetrated by theists over the centuries, given the assumption that they have always far outnumbered atheists.

    That’s not to diminish genocide, simply to put it in perspective.

  • Mrnaglfar

    1. Proof that the universe is eternal and/or caused itself.

    Science could never ‘prove’ the universe is eternal, as eternal is a span of time beyond our understanding. No matter how far back we can say for certain we know the universe existed, we could never say it always had. Likewise, the question assumes the universe had a ’cause’; some beginning point. See question down below for comment on how science works.

    2. Proof that all miricle claims are false.

    The Red sea was never parted, water does not turn into wine, and people do not walk across water. There’s no tooth fairy either, and Santa’s not real. I could start with the “this isn’t how science works; you need to support your claims for them to be legitmate, not tell other people they’re right until proven otherwise”, but I get the feeling that would have little effect.

    I’m astounded by the lack of modern day miracles. It seems impossible happenings were claimed to have occured in abundance hundreds and thousands of years ago, yet today, with all our technology, to the best of my knowledge, we have no recorded miracle (unless of course you want to count what Criss Angel does; stunts arguably more impressive then many Jesus miracles).

    First it fails to deal with the literally thousands of people(both ancient
    and modern) who claim to have seen miricles.

    I assume that not all of these people come from the same religion, and since the religions are not the same, at least some of them have got to be talking about miracles that are in opposition to your faith. If all miracle claims are to be proven false, we should start by narrowing the field to which religion we’re talking about.

    Granted some have been proven mistaken or fradulatent or otherwise false. But most are still up in the air. But even if most were proven false, it would be foolish to reject ALL such claims.

    So many have already been proven wrong; the rest have yet to gain any evidence in support of them, and just have not yet been discounted. I’ll grant that point. Most, are in fact, still undisproven claims; of course, that doesn’t mean they’re right, nor that the burden of proof lies on those who don’t believe.

    Secondly, a miricle is by definition a rare event, if something is
    commonplace it is not a miricle. Therefore its a big headed for any
    indvidual person to expect to see one within his lifetime(for the record I
    havent seen any miricles, but that doesnt damage my faith any). In fact, Biblically speaking, miricles only occur for particular people who God has called, and usually they are either small scale, or not blatently miriculous, Ie its the timing or the way circumstances worked that made it a miricle. Truely big, obvious miricles(the stopping of the sun by Joshusha ect) are very rare indeed.

    A miracle is when the ‘impossible’ is made possible through an act of a supernatural being; not just something that rarely happens. Of course, when it comes to miracles like “stopping the sun” there are a few problems. First, god would need to stop the EARTH, as the sun does not rotate around it (so I’ve already disproven it based on shakey language). Second, if the earth was stopped suddenly, just about everything on it would be thrown into space or at least ripped from its foundations, given the speed at which the earth rotates and revolves around the sun. Since this obvliously didn’t happen, it’s safe to assume that “big miracle” didn’t happen. Another problem is that absence of evidence is not evidence. You can’t claim miracles like that are true just because we have no evidence for or against them. I could claim I was walking alone one night and my heart stopped and I died. However, I was resurrected by voodoo; because it’s magic there are no effects on my body physically. It’s an empty claim, and anyone can make them.

    3. Proof that every religion is false.

    Aside from the fact they all contradict each other by nature of being different religions, I shouldn’t need to disprove all of them, just the one this guy believes in. Since he talks about biblical quotes, I can assume it’s some brand of Jesus worship. As I mentioned in a post a while back, simply google “bible contradictions”; there are hundreds. If any single piece of the bible is not 100% accurate with the rest, any validity of the ‘holy’ book being literal is gone (I think it should be apperant as to why). Since there are different accounts of Jesus’s life in the different cannons, I have disproven that particular religion is “correct”. So that’s a start.

    4. Aliens that admit to making up religion.

    I actually talked with some aliens myself; they claim to have invented every religion in the world. Where’s my evidence you say? I don’t need any; it’s up to you to prove me wrong. Oh, and the aliens only appeared to me, and they have technology too far advanced to be detected. They all take credit for all ‘miracles’, as those are just them messing with our world with their advanced technology. Again, it’s un detectable except to me.

    5. Proof that Jesus didnt rise from the dead.

    Dead people don’t come back to life. Next.

    Now the following things will not convince me:

    1. Speculation without evidence.

    You get to do it but I don’t? That’s some serious bullshit.

    2. Decry’s of the ‘immorality’ of religions(or a given religion).

    I still hold that religion has not done one good thing to actually better the human condition. That point is debatable by some, but I do know religion is responible for an incredible number of deaths over the years, and has been a major drain on education, and has aided in the spreading of diseases and suffering.

    -first if this line of argument hold any weight at all(I dont it does, for reasons I will list below), it could be pointed out that athiests have, by far the worst record of human rights violations in history. Do I even need to say the names Stalin and Mao?

    And Hitler was raised in a catholic(? some brand of Jesus worship) household. There are mixed accounts as to whether he maintained his religion, but this is a major flaw in the line of thought. People like Mao do not cause harm because they are atheists, whereas religion is more direct in declaring it’s holy wars and witchhunts under it’s name. After all, I’m an atheist and have not killed hundreds of people, so why is that?

    -Secondly the argument doesnt really deal with the truth of a given religion, so it kinda misses the mark from the get go.

    It certain doesn’t deal with the ‘truth’ of any given religion. But for more information, this exact argument is raised in the book “The God Delusion” By Richard Dawkins. Give it a read if you want.

    -third in order for this argument to work, one needs to assume that the moral standards they are using to judge a given religion are the correct ones. Which makes the whole arguemnt circuler.

    It doesn’t make it circular because religion (in this case, bible-based ones) fails it’s own moral preachings, whether they’re ‘correct’ or not.

    -Finally in most cases no distinction is made between what a religion teaches, and whether its followers actually practice it.

    Because there is no set list of “what it preaches”. It can preach war when it needs to and peace when it needs to. Or two different churches can preach two conflicting ideas. When you tell me which one you feel is ‘right’, then there can be a discussion about it (i.e. which translation/version of the bible do you read and why, as well as what particular church you attend and why).

    For example, if a religion teaches that rape and murder are wrong, and an adherent to said religion rapes and murders someone, we cannot blame the religion for his actions. Rather we need to place the blame on him for ignoring what his religion teaches.

    Again, religion both endorses and denouces things like rape and murder (typically hinging on whether people think god gave the thumbs up or not). We can, however, blame religion for things when it’s rabid followers admit to doing what they did in it’s name (i.e. 9/11, murder of abortion doctors, etc

    Even if the person claims that rape and murder are okay, that doesnt make it so.

    I agree, but why do you think this way? If it’s because of religion, then you lack any morals of your own. For instance, suppose god appeared and said “murder and rape are now ok” – would you start murdering and raping people? If you don’t do those things for reasons other than religion, then it shows we can have a moral code without religion.
    Likewise, just to clarify, are the following scenerios of “murder” wrong (and why):
    1) Abortion
    2) War
    3) Self-Defense
    4) Death Penality

    People have an amazing ablity to ignore, distort, and even make up the facts to support just about any position.

    Well, you’re sure right on that point. I don’t think I need to say anymore on that.

    Thus if someone does something horrible and says their religion condones or even mandates it, you dont have to take them at face value, what you need to do is look at their religion’s holy book, and any prominate teachers and/or scholars of that religion and make sure that is the case, and if its not, dont blame the religion, blame the person who’s ignoring evidence.

    Again, religions do not just teach one thing; they teach whatever they feel when it suits them. If you need a passage endorsing murder, you can find it. If you need one endorsing peace, you can find it.

    Now then, if by some chance there was a religion that said rape and murder(or some other horrible action) was okay, then moral outrage might be justified at the religion. However one still falls into the thrid trap above if they want to say that makes the religion false.

    See above. I’ll add once more, if the book is not in total agreement with itself, then it cannot actually be the word of an infalliable god.

    He’s essentionaly taken what he thinks theism should be, and denounced religions for not fitting the bill.

    They’re denouced because they’re fantasy presented as fact, not because they don’t fit the bill of what religion should be. They are in fact what religion should be, a series of irrational assumptions with no evidence; a faith in something preposterously hard to believe (because it’s just that out there).

    I’ll raise this point I’ve raised in countless other posts. If I told you I believe in a god who I feel appeared to me and told me your entire religion (and everyone other one known to man) was wrong and that if people don’t worship me and carve ice statues of my likeness you’ll all go to hell, would you be quick to convert to my religion.
    If you wouldn’t, I’d like to know why.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Oh yeah, I just thought up another point on:
    Now then, if by some chance there was a religion that said rape and murder(or some other horrible action) was okay, then moral outrage might be justified at the religion. However one still falls into the thrid trap above if they want to say that makes the religion false.

    So there’s an admission that morallity can exist without religion. Look at the wording and think about what’s being said:

    there was a religion that said rape and murder(or some other horrible action) was okay,

    Ok so far, bible endorses both in the name of god.

    then moral outrage might be justified at the religion.

    But wait a second, that’s using the ‘morals’ of your religion to judge the morals of another religion, or even is some cases your own. That begins by assuming your religious morals are in fact the correct ones, because if you didn’t know for certain that they’re correct, then you wouldn’t be able to be outraged that a religion endorses murder and/or rape (which the bible does at times). Not only that, but time and again, the points raised about morality (more specifically when people ‘misinterpret’ the bible to read as a violent book) assumes that things like rape and murder are wrong, which I’ll certainly agree on. Yet since the bible does endorse those two acts on certain occasions, you’ve interpretted it to be a book condemning those. This shows you’re using your own sense of morality, and not that found in the book. For instance, the bible clearly states anyone working on the sabbath should be put to death, but I don’t hear of people being killed en mass on sunday for working. It also states that disobident children should be stoned to death.

    To quote BULLSHIT: “If you believe it’s your god, and your god is infalliable, you can’t throw out some of the rules just because you don’t like them”.

    Clearly, you don’t like parts of the bible, which shows you using your own sense of morality. And there you have it; your morality evolved in spite of religion, and not because of it.

  • http://6thfloorblog.blogspot.com 6th Floor Blogger

    It’s also National Catfish day! How could you go wrong?

  • Andrew A.

    I read through his response, and have mixed feeling. I’m happy that any religious person actually responded, but disappointed in his lack of rational thought.

    1. Proof that the universe is eternal and/or caused itself.

    You are asking us to know of things outside of a universe. Consider a computer. It can never know, with absolute certainty, how it came to be unless it is hooked up to inputs so that it can interact with what created it. If the universe was created by an event outside of the universe, we must leave to figure that out. Obviously, this is out of our power. If the universe is self-causing, that’s a paradox and is beyond our logical understanding.

    2. Proof that all miricle claims are false.

    An earlier post addressed several of the issues with this claim, and I won’t go into detail, except to stress that, with miracles, the burden of proof is on those who claim miracles occur, rather than those who claim they do not.

    Consider the magical pink donkey named Bob. He runs across the landscape at any speed he feels like (this ability is a miracle in itself) and helps those who are in dire straits. However, recording his actions in any way is impossible (another of his miraculous abilities). He exists, and your inability to prove he doesn’t exists proves it. A magical pink donkey may seen difficult to believe in for anyone, but can you disprove him using your methods? You don’t have to, because it is my burden to prove his existence.

    3. Proof that every religion is false.

    Not again. Please, just not again. The burden of proof is with the religion, not everything else.

    4. Aliens that admit to making up religion.

    If aliens come to Earth openly, religion will only be a single point of great discussion, but I’m glad you’d come around. Though I wonder, if they did not make the religion, wouldn’t the existence of aliens still violate the human-centric viewpoint of Christianity?

    5. Proof that Jesus didnt rise from the dead.

    *Twitch* Quit doing that.

    Now, those were your five requirements. Myself and others have addressed them to the best of our abilities, and I’m sure several others will follow. I want to call attention to one of your first statements…

    Some of them do want absurdly high demands met before they will admit it, but they do have a point at which they will.

    You must be one of those people, then. #1 is out of our abilities as a race to confirm, #2, #3 and #5 are you placing burden on the wrong groups, and #4 cannot be performed by humanity. Your requests are ‘absurdly high demands’ that you want to be met, and I’m disappointed that you did not realize that.

    On to what would not convince you…

    1. Speculation without evidence.

    “maybe Jesus’s diciples stole the body.” “Perhaps religion had evolutionary advantages.” “It could be that matter could appear in a vacume.” I’m not interested ‘maybe’s ‘perhaps’s or ‘it could be’s I’m interested in proof. If all you have are ‘maybe’s and ‘could be’s then dont bother.

    How is your religion, or any other, not speculating? What proof do you have, beyond the words in the Bible? I have no doubt you would cite miracles, as at least one piece of evidence. What proof do you have of them? If you respond ‘they haven’t been disproven’ please see the response to #2 above.

    2. Decry’s of the ‘immorality’ of religions(or a given religion).

    -first if this line of argument hold any weight at all(I dont it does, for reasons I will list below), it could be pointed out that athiests have, by far the worst record of human rights violations in history. Do I even need to say the names Stalin and Mao?

    I wish I was a history buff, because I don’t doubt I could give you numerous examples throughout history of religious people committing such atrocities that you allude to. However, an individuals chosen religion or lack thereof has little impact of such extreme cases. If you’re ready to commit mass murders on any scale you must have already rationalized it out of your conscious, if you have one. Adam has an entire essay dedicated to addressing the morality of Atheists, and recently posted on here about the concept. Do not decry Atheists as immoral based on the acts of a few deranged men.

    -Secondly the argument doesnt really deal with the truth of a given religion, so it kinda misses the mark from the get go. If there is no god(s) then it doesnt matter if athiesm has the worse record of human rights violations in history, nor does it matter whether athiesm can or cant provide us with an objective moral standard(something philosophers have debated for some time now, Adam claims that it can) decrying the immorality of athiesm wont change the fact that there is no god(s), plain and simple.

    Yeah, I have to agree with you here.

    -third in order for this argument to work, one needs to assume that the moral standards they are using to judge a given religion are the correct ones. Which makes the whole arguemnt circuler.

    I hope you don’t use the Bible to demonstrate the Bible’s authenticity. If you do not, then please speak to other Christians. Make them see the flaw in circular logic.

    -Finally in most cases no distinction is made between what a religion teaches, and whether its followers actually practice it.

    And above, when you referred to Stalin and Mao, Atheists do not have a central set of codes. Our ommon ground is that we wish to use logic and empathy to determine what is correct and right.

    I hope you read through the comments here, and I thank you if you do.

  • Stargazer

    It is interesting to note that he first says this:

    it could be pointed out that athiests have, by far the worst record of human rights violations in history. Do I even need to say the names Stalin and Mao?

    and then goes on to say this:

    if a religion teaches that rape and murder are wrong, and an adherent to said religion rapes and murders someone, we cannot blame the religion for his actions. Rather we need to place the blame on him for ignoring what his religion teaches.

    So apparently, he can say that atheism is to blame for mass-murdering dictators just because they claimed no specific religious adherence (that he knows of anyway), but if they were to have held some sort of religious belief, that religion would be exempt from criticism because it does not teach that behavior.

    One cannot have it both ways. Either you get to blame atheism and religion equally for the actions of people who happen to have philosophical inclinations one way or the other, or (and this is the reasonable stance in my opinion) you hold the person accountable to their actions and do not use anyone’s espoused philosophy as a scapegoat if there truly is nothing within that philosophy that condones their actions.

    In truth, I do not believe that atheism itself can be held to account for the actions of anyone because all atheism is is a title for someone who does not believe in any gods. The moral philosophies that atheists espouse are entirely separate from the label of “atheist,” unlike many religions, including Christianity, which encompass a belief in a god or gods along with a moral philosophy.

    On a side note, I have been a frequent visitor to this site for months now, even though this is the first time I have gotten up the nerve to comment (imagine someone being shy of talking to people on the Internet!). I love the strong discussions that go on here, the wide variety of ideas that are presented, and the fact that the comment threads are the most civil that I have ever come across on the web. Though I hope to comment more in the future, right now I just want to say thank you for having such a wonderful and intelligent website.

  • Mrnaglfar
  • Malky

    I just want to say congratulations and keep up the good work. This is my favourite atheist webiste and I try and visit every day.

  • bassmanpete

    Hey guys, why don’t you copy your posts & add them to Andrew’s page – the poor chap doesn’t have any comments at all. He’ll be rapt :)

  • dye

    a) What would he consider “proof” I wonder?

    1. Proof that the universe is eternal and/or caused itself.

    Suppose the universe caused itself, or is eternal, how will we suppose proof it? I admit I do not have enough imagination to figure that out.

    2. Proof that all miricle claims are false.

    If I have seen apple fall all mylife, and according to all the reputatable record the apple fell in the past. It is a good enough proof that apple have fall when Socrates let it go of his hand?

    Gravitational Laws (GL)

    If I have seen GL at work all mylife, and according to all the reputatable record the GL is at work in the past. It is a good enough proof that at Joshua’s time GL work and the sun did not stop?

    Suppose miracle had not occured, how will we suppose proof it? I admit I do not have enough imagination to figure that out.

    3. Proof that every religion is false.

    Suppose no religion are false, how will we suppose disproof everyone of them? I admit I do not have enough imagination to figure that out.

    4. Aliens that admit to making up religion.

    Cool, we will just keep looking/waiting for alien to visit us. But only when they make up religion? Why alien? We all know strange PEOPLE who make up religion? (And they are not alien enough?)

    5. Proof that Jesus didnt rise from the dead.

    Suppose Jesus didnt rise from the dead, how will we suppose proof it? I suppose if they had mummified the corpse, we may have a chance. Now suppose we did dig up Jesus’s corpse and present it in front of your eyes, how do we authenticate it as Jesus?

    ———————-
    1-3, 5 is really out of my imagination. The philosophical conclusion is I will be agnostic on the issue. (Which is really something simiilar to Richard Dawkins’ view point)

    4 is possible, maybe we will just have to wait a bit longer (like a couple billion year)

  • TEP

    “2. Proof that all miricle claims are false.

    This is a big one for me, as it was this that first got me thinking about
    the possibilty of God. Basicly every time I’ve asked an athiest why he
    doesnt believe in miricles, the answer always comes to some variation of “I’ve never seen one.”(although the wording is often more eloquent this remains the essence of the response). ”

    I wonder if he believes in the goddess Aphrodite’s miracle in which she teleported Paris back to Troy to protect him from Menelaus? Or how about the miracle in which Perseus used Medusa’s head to turn Phineas to stone? What about the death and resurrection of Hercules, and his ascension to heaven?

    If not, on what basis does he dismiss them? I doubt he can prove those miracles false. So why does he believe in Christianity, and not Hellenism? He seems to be exhibiting something of a double standard – saying that we aren’t justified in rejecting miracles because we can’t falsify them all, while at the same time he rejects all the miracles which contradict his religion, without having proven them false. After all, the miracle claims of Christianity comprise only a small fraction of those made throughout history, so if any of them are correct, it is exceedingly likely that they would falsify, rather than support, Christianity.

  • James Bradbury

    Would a better question be:

    “What set of questions or tests would convince you of the falsity of any other religion, but not your own, and why?”

    (infinity pts, show your working)

  • Ric

    His five things he needs to believe that atheism is true are all logical fallacies and pretty much all involve proving a negative or proving an inductive claim absolutely. That’s pretty damn poor logic. Adam, though you mention this list contains fallacies, frankly you are being too king to the guy. His list is superficial.

  • Entomologista

    Proofs are for alcohol and math, silly Andrew. I was actually just thinking about the supposed virgin birth this morning as I drove to school (where I’m now slacking – ha!). I suppose this would qualify as one of Andrew’s miracles. First of all, the idea that a human female would give birth parthenogenically is ridiculous at best. And it’s not really any better to suggest that she was impregnanted by some magical means. Zeus impregnated a lot of women in Greek mythology and had many little godlings. I’m willing to bet that most Christians don’t think Zeus exists or that he impregnanted women through miracles. But Christianity is somehow more believable because magical impregnation only happened once? Or maybe it’s better because he didn’t come to Mary in the form of a bull? (That makes one wonder how he did come to her…pervy.)

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Adam,

    Congratulations on your first year at your job, and on the Atheism pages at Ebon Musings.

  • law & disorder

    Congratz Adam on all of the above!

    Regarding Andrew’s response to your guide to theists, I laud him for making a genuine and fairly well-reasoned attempt to point out what a theist would need to deconvert. Adam, I wouldn’t link to it without editing it for typos, though… it would be a shame for one of the more thoughtful theistic responses I’ve read in a long time to be discredited for superficial errors.

    One by one, then:

    1. Proof that the universe is eternal and/or caused itself.

    I’m in the minority here in approving of this one. Consider that religion has a long history of withdrawing against the advance of science, from old animist beliefs in spirits acting behind every unexplained event, giving way to Greek scientific enlightenment that yet persisted in believing that lightning was thrown by the gods, to today, where the last frontiers of religion are pretty much The Beginning (the birth of the universe) and The End (what happens when we die). It’s a valid observation that, if science answered or overcame these final enigmas, then there’d be no room left for religion in our worldview.

    I neither see this as an impossible task, nor as just another exercise in irreducible complexity. We don’t know what science will reveal in the years to come, and it may well completely undermine our understanding of cause/effect in such a way as to present a wholly self-contained explanation of the universe. I don’t think it’s disingenuous to present this potential explanation as one way to completely disprove religion.

    2. Proof that all miracle claims are false.

    This is an impossible task, and should be reworded. Andrew, if you’re reading this, note that none of the atheist scenarios for conversion are logically impossible. There will always be new miracles, and for many of them, there is nothing to ‘prove’ false. Take that famous Virgin Mary apparition in the piece of toast. I’m not saying all, or even most, Christians ascribe this to a higher power, but it’s still a “miracle claim” that cannot, under any circumstances, be proven false. The only secular explanation is that it was just dumb luck (combined with a healthy dose of pareidolia), and it’s impossible to prove that. No fair stacking the deck against us! ;)

    As an alternative, what about changing this to “2. Scientific proofs that dramatically undermine the vast majority of significant, credible miracle claims.” This is still quite difficult, but possible. It would establish a precedent, at least, demonstrating the ease with which very convincing ‘miracles’ can have mundane explanations, and would seriously strip miracles of their faith-building power.

    3. Proof that every religion is false.

    You said yourself that this is a “tall order;” for the same reasons as #2, it’s actually an impossible order. I’m actually going to defend theism a bit and say that this shouldn’t persuade you that there is no God. Just because religions are wrong doesn’t mean that there isn’t a higher power; it just means human beings have an imperfect understanding of him.

    I think this represents a flaw in theistic reasoning that should be evident from a brief thought experiment. Say I show you a black box. Inside are a thousand different claims about the universe written on pieces of paper. You read them all, and find that a few hundred are easily disproved while the rest can’t even be tested or verified in any way. You do notice a few things about these untestable ones: First, they all contradict each other. Second, the vast majority of them aren’t believed by anyone anymore, despite being indistinguishable from the remaining minority that are.

    The box represents Faith, and its contents are all the religions that have come and gone during our development as humans (of which only a vanishingly small fraction are still believed today). Your #3 basically demands that, in order to dismiss the box as a whole, every single piece of paper it contains must be individually discredited. It implies that, even if the one you currently believe is proven wrong, you’ll just hop to one that hasn’t yet been disproved. If 999 of the pieces of paper are shown to be false, you will doggedly adhere to the truth of that final scrap until it, too, is refuted. From the perspective of the box-filled-with-paper, is that a fair way to approach the question of whether or not to trust it?

    4. Aliens that admit to making up religion.

    I think this one’s brilliant. Can it be extended, perhaps? What if a very advanced race had once believed in religion (of which none bore any resemblance to our religions), but outgrew it and had developed their civilization into an atheistic utopia? If there had been no rapture, no second coming, no apocalypse, and they’d built a genuine Heaven-on-Planet-X? If they were clearly sentient in the human sense, clearly very intelligent, cultured and possessed of an ironclad and virtuous morality?

    5. Proof that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.

    I think this one is very valid, and would presumptuously remind the atheists that these aren’t demands of us but simply a list of ‘if this happened, then I’d stop believing’ hypotheticals. Surely we aren’t expecting theists to conjure up an alien society of believers, and so neither is this theist expecting us to actually accomplish #5. As long as it’s logically possible, then it’s fine by me! Imagine if Cameron’s Jesus Christ documentary hadn’t been so effectively discredited; what if he really had found the remains of Jesus Christ and his Earthly family? An honest Christian, whose faith is based on the Assumption of Christ, would have a real problem with that and I think this is a fair avenue to disbelief.

    A question for Andrew: What if an ancient text was found and carbon dated to the first century, ostensibly written by one of the apostles of whom we never hear about (e.g. Philip), and which contained a first-hand account of a conspiracy to fake Jesus’ resurrection?

  • law & disorder

    Congratz Adam on all of the above!

    Regarding Andrew’s response to your guide to theists, I laud him for making a genuine and fairly well-reasoned attempt to point out what a theist would need to deconvert. Adam, I wouldn’t link to it without editing it for typos, though… it would be a shame for one of the more thoughtful theistic responses I’ve read in a long time to be discredited for superficial errors.

    One by one, then:

    1. Proof that the universe is eternal and/or caused itself.

    I’m in the minority here in approving of this one. Consider that religion has a long history of withdrawing against the advance of science, from old animist beliefs in spirits acting behind every unexplained event, giving way to Greek scientific enlightenment that yet persisted in believing that lightning was thrown by the gods, to today, where the last frontiers of religion are pretty much The Beginning (the birth of the universe) and The End (what happens when we die). It’s a valid observation that, if science answered or overcame these final enigmas, then there’d be no room left for religion in our worldview.

    I neither see this as an impossible task, nor as just another exercise in irreducible complexity. We don’t know what science will reveal in the years to come, and it may well completely undermine our understanding of cause/effect in such a way as to present a wholly self-contained explanation of the universe. I don’t think it’s disingenuous to present this potential explanation as one way to completely disprove religion.

    2. Proof that all miracle claims are false.

    This is an impossible task, and should be reworded. Andrew, if you’re reading this, note that none of the atheist scenarios for conversion are logically impossible. There will always be new miracles, and for many of them, there is nothing to ‘prove’ false. Take that famous Virgin Mary apparition in the piece of toast. I’m not saying all, or even most, Christians ascribe this to a higher power, but it’s still a “miracle claim” that cannot, under any circumstances, be proven false. The only secular explanation is that it was just dumb luck (combined with a healthy dose of pareidolia), and it’s impossible to prove that. No fair stacking the deck against us! ;)

    As an alternative, what about changing this to “2. Scientific proofs that dramatically undermine the vast majority of significant, credible miracle claims.” This is still quite difficult, but possible. It would establish a precedent, at least, demonstrating the ease with which very convincing ‘miracles’ can have mundane explanations, and would seriously strip miracles of their faith-building power.

    3. Proof that every religion is false.

    You said yourself that this is a “tall order;” for the same reasons as #2, it’s actually an impossible order. I’m actually going to defend theism a bit and say that this shouldn’t persuade you that there is no God. Just because religions are wrong doesn’t mean that there isn’t a higher power; it just means human beings have an imperfect understanding of him.

    I think this represents a flaw in theistic reasoning that should be evident from a brief thought experiment. Say I show you a black box. Inside are a thousand different claims about the universe written on pieces of paper. You read them all, and find that a few hundred are easily disproved while the rest can’t even be tested or verified in any way. You do notice a few things about these untestable ones: First, they all contradict each other. Second, the vast majority of them aren’t believed by anyone anymore, despite being indistinguishable from the remaining minority that are.

    The box represents Faith, and its contents are all the religions that have come and gone during our development as humans (of which only a vanishingly small fraction are still believed today). Your #3 basically demands that, in order to dismiss the box as a whole, every single piece of paper it contains must be individually discredited. It implies that, even if the one you currently believe is proven wrong, you’ll just hop to one that hasn’t yet been disproved. If 999 of the pieces of paper are shown to be false, you will doggedly adhere to the truth of that final scrap until it, too, is refuted. From the perspective of the box-filled-with-paper, is that a fair way to approach the question of whether or not to trust it?

    4. Aliens that admit to making up religion.

    I think this one’s brilliant. Can it be extended, perhaps? What if a very advanced race had once believed in religion (of which none bore any resemblance to our religions), but outgrew it and had developed their civilization into an atheistic utopia? If there had been no rapture, no second coming, no apocalypse, and they’d built a genuine Heaven-on-Planet-X? If they were clearly sentient in the human sense, clearly very intelligent, cultured and possessed of an ironclad and virtuous morality?

    5. Proof that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.

    I think this one is very valid, and would presumptuously remind the atheists that these aren’t demands of us but simply a list of ‘if this happened, then I’d stop believing’ hypotheticals. Surely we aren’t expecting theists to conjure up an alien society of believers, and so neither is this theist expecting us to actually accomplish #5. As long as it’s logically possible, then it’s fine by me! Imagine if Cameron’s Jesus Christ documentary hadn’t been so effectively discredited; what if he really had found the remains of Jesus Christ and his Earthly family? An honest Christian, whose faith is based on the Assumption of Christ, would have a real problem with that and I think this is a fair avenue to disbelief.

    A question for Andrew: What if an ancient text was found and carbon dated to the first century, ostensibly written by one of the apostles of whom we never hear about (e.g. Philip), and which contained a first-hand account of a conspiracy to fake Jesus’ resurrection?

  • heliobates

    @TEP

    If not, on what basis does he dismiss them? I doubt he can prove those miracles false. So why does he believe in Christianity, and not Hellenism?

    I prefer to modernize the argument. If having thousands of claims of the miraculous is de facto proof that the miraculous exists, then thousands of “eyewitnesses” to UFOs are de facto proof that we’re being visited by aliens who like to mutilate cows and have a fetish for cybernetic anal rape.

    This counter-argument has a huge STFU factor built right in.

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Congratulations again – and I’ve tagged you, sorry.

  • http://6thfloorblog.blogspot.com 6th Floor Blogger

    It might be a little biased of me, but I have a hard time taking anything seriously that’s posted on Myspace.

  • Mark C.

    Just posted on Andrew’s blog. It’s rather long, so I won’t post it here. I go by “Mark” on MySpace (a rather crappy site), I might add, for whoever wishes to comment. :)

  • Christopher Merchant

    [Note: I'm the same Christopher as above, just decided to go full name; and save confusion.]

    It might be a little biased of me, but I have a hard time taking anything seriously that’s posted on Myspace.

    I have to agree wholeheartedly in most situations; but this is a rare case where the Myspace content in question is actually of some sort of thought-provoking variety; and attempts (albeit fails somewhat) at proper grammar and linguistics.

    Chris

  • James Bradbury

    It probably helps that he seems to be at least ten years older than your average myspacer. (OT: myspace always seems really ugly and clunky to me).

  • prase

    Proof that the universe is eternal and/or caused itself.

    I can’t understand what the infiniteness of the the universe has to do with the existence of God. Would the infiniteness (in either space or time) of the universe be a proof of the God’s nonexistence? Why?

    Majority of physicists today (regardlessly if they are atheists or not) think that the universe is finite (in both space and time). If it is so (and it is probable according to the observations we have done until today), then the proof is simply impossible. But we can’t say for sure. By that I don’t mean the obvious fact that you can never be 100% sure with anything, but I want to stress that the physical laws governing the behaviour of the universe at the very beginning are difficult to find out. It is useful to look back at the history of physics. Aristotle thought that the natural state of all bodies is to lie steadily on the ground. Galilei realised that (roughly speaking) this is valid only in the environment with friction, and otherwise the bodies move on straight trajectories when any force is absent. Newton thought that relative velocity of two bodies is a subtraction their velocities, but the experiments in late 19th century shown this is not true for large velocities like that of the light and the resolution was the theory of relativity. In the fifties the neutron and proton were considered elementary particles, but experiments with higher energies prooved they must have internal structure, and so on. Always the older laws were discovered to be only an approximation of some more fundamental ones, but the difference betwwen the old and new is visible only in some previously unattested conditions. So we can say that is is with a reasonable level of confidence prooved that the universe was very compressed once upon a time, but in these conditions of extremely compressed matter one can expect that a completely new physics takes place. But all we can do today is to extrapolate our present laws that are “prooved” to be valid only in conditions we are able to create in laboratories. (This is not too exact, because we can also observe the world outside the laboratory and gain the knowledge from there, but still, events like the big bang are far from direct observation).

    That’s about the eternality and why I think such proof is probably impossible. The latter suggestion for proof (“that the universe is caused by itself”) is even more peculiar. What does it mean “caused by itself”? I personally think the phrase is a nonsense. First, events have causes, objects don’t (at least in modern meaning of the word “cause”). Second, a cause of some event is some other event preceding the former in time, by which the latter is implied. One event can not be the cause of itself – statement that the beginning of the universe was caused by the beginning of the universe says nothing. Obviously, if the history of the universe is finite, there was some first event, or, say, first cause. The theists since the times of Thomas Aquinas usually identify somewhat the first cause with the God, but I can’t see any reason for that.

    “It could be that matter could appear in a vacume.”

    Well, if this is about the big bang, it is misleading. Vacuum is an empty space (by definition). There is no vacuum outside the universe and there was no vacuum before the universe began, because the space and time are properties of the universe and there is none of them outside the universe. It is even more correct to say that phrases “before the universe began” or “outside the universe” have no meaning. It is maybe difficult to imagine, but the imagination usually doesn’t work well for matters of cosmology.

    “maybe Jesus’s diciples stole the body.”

    Imagine a situation (this may be, unlike the big bang, easily imaginable) when you see an apparently death man (very ordinary man, e.g. your neighbour) put into the morgue. When you come back next day the body is away. What will you believe?

    a) somebody has stolen the body

    b) you have been not enough careful when investigating the body and the man hasn’t been really dead

    c) miracle has ocurred

    Imagine also a slightly changed scenario, when there is a guard at the morgue who says he saw the dead man ascending to heaven. Will you believe

    a) that the guard is insane

    b) that he lies for some reason (e.g. he fell asleep and doesn’t want you to realise that)

    c) that he tells the truth and a miracle has ocurred?

    If you don’t pick the answer c) if the dead man is your neighbour, what makes the difference for Jesus?

  • Mark C.

    Hm, I posted thrice last night here, but none of my comments went up. Odd.

    Anyway, I posted to Andrew’s blog under my first name.

    (BTW, Adam, I’ve been wanting to know this for a while, but do you or did you use a pseudonym for your last name? During an e-mail correspondence of ours a few years ago, the e-mails were from “Adam Marcyzk (sp?).)

  • Judy

    Congratulations, Adam, on everything, and thank you for doing what you do! When I need my brain stimulated [at least twice a day hehe ;-)] I get to Daylight Atheism as soon as possible. And two years ago, the Atheism Pages pulled me back from the brink. I hope you know how important it is that you continue this good work.

  • Andrew

    Ugh I cant believe I missed this discussion for so long:

    I’m going to respond to some spacific points that touch on the general issues I’m seeing:

    Aside from the fact they all contradict each other by nature of being different religions, I shouldn’t need to disprove all of them, just the one this guy believes in.

    No because disproving one religion istn the same as disproving God. In fact I must say if every religion were false I sould probably shift, not to athiesm, but to a form of deism.

    A miracle is when the ‘impossible’ is made possible through an act of a supernatural being; not just something that rarely happens.

    Actually I would define a miracle as something that happens as a result of God’s intervention. The event in question may or may not have been possible otherwise. For example the 10 plauges of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea were probably natural events. The ‘miracle’ in this case was the timing and the fact taht Moses predicted the plauges beforehand.

    And Hitler was raised in a catholic(? some brand of Jesus worship) household. There are mixed accounts as to whether he maintained his religion, but this is a major flaw in the line of thought

    Hitler was raised Catholic, but by the time he got into politics he had adopted a lot of cultic-beliefs. The truth is Hitler wasnt an athiest, but he was not a Chrisian either. He was a cult leader along the lines of Charles Manson. He seemd to hold to parts of Christian belief, but rejected a lot of them and replaced them with his racist tendencies, psudo-history and bizarro interpertations.

    In either case its not at all a ‘flaw’ in the reasoning. If Christians are to be blamed for the ‘bad’ thigns they’ve done, then athiests can be blamed for the ‘bad’ things they’ve done. My point(that a lot people seem to have missed) is that this line of argumentation is fallicious for BOTH sides. Saying athiesm is false because of Stalin, Mao, Kim ect. is just as falicious as saying Christianity is wrong because of the crucides, witch hunts ect.

    After all, I’m an atheist and have not killed hundreds of people, so why is that?

    And I’m a Christian who hasnt murdered hundreds of people, your point being?
    I never said all athiests are mass murders(and I never will because I dont believe taht) but rather if your going to blame Christianity for the bad things some of its adherants have done, then I can blaim athiesm for the bad things it’s adherants have done. However I want to reiterate this so everybody understands: I believe THAT THIS LINE OF REASONING IS FALICIOUS FOR BOTH SIDES.

    Because there is no set list of “what it preaches”.

    No? Dont most religions have a book they consider holy, or at least to contin the basic teachings of their religion?

    It can preach war when it needs to and peace when it needs to.

    I’m not sure what you mean here. Generally churches support wars that they feel are justified, and condem ones they feel are not. I know some(such as Quakers) preach complete pacifism, but they do so out of a misunderstanding of the Bible.

    Or two different churches can preach two conflicting ideas.

    Thats when you go to their holy book to determine who is in the right.

    When you tell me which one you feel is ‘right’,

    I dont ‘feel’ which is right.

    then there can be a discussion about it (i.e. which translation/version of the bible do you read and why, as well as what particular church you attend and why).

    I cant really answer that question since I’m of the opinion that the original copies of the Bible were the ‘Word of God’(although I’m not a huge fan of that phrase) and I dont believe in demonations(though for the record I go to a Methodist Church).

    For instance, suppose god appeared and said “murder and rape are now ok” – would you start murdering and raping people? If you don’t do those things for reasons other than religion, then it shows we can have a moral code without religion.

    Truthfully the main reason I dotn rape or murder is because I have no interest in doing so, if in the absurd scenaro God told me ‘Rape and murder are moral’ I probably would not simply because I dont want to.

    Likewise, just to clarify, are the following scenerios of “murder” wrong (and why):
    1) Abortion

    I have a rather odd opinoin on abortion. I believe that life doesnt begin at conception, but rather at the point where the baby’s organs are fully developed and it can(in theory at least) live outside its mother. This differs from pregnency to pregnency but usually occurs around the beginning of the thrid trimester.

    So abortion after the thrid trimester is a huge no-no. But before taht point is more of a grey area and probably not wrong.

    2) War

    Depends on the reasons for conducting the war, and, to a lesser extent, the manner in which it is conducted.

    3) Self-Defense

    Generally not wrong. Though I would say shooting somebody for punching you in the face probably is murder.

    4) Death Penality

    Depends on the person being condemned. I would say though generally no not wrong.

    But wait a second, that’s using the ‘morals’ of your religion to judge the morals of another religion, or even is some cases your own. That begins by assuming your religious morals are in fact the correct ones,

    Indeed, a good point. And my point wasnt saying that IF a religion endorsed rape and murder then it has to be false, that would indeed be falicious. My point was that at least then somebody would have grounds for saying the RELIGION was immoral, as opposed to INDVIDUALS. I may have been a bit unclear in my wording there.

    Though I wonder, if they did not make the religion, wouldn’t the existence of aliens still violate the human-centric viewpoint of Christianity?

    No I dont believe God’s plan of salvation is necessarly limited to earth. Though this is probably a discussion best done somewhere else.

    ” If any single piece of the bible is not 100% accurate with the rest, any validity of the ‘holy’ book being literal is gone (I think it should be apperant as to why). Since there are different accounts of Jesus’s life in the different cannons, I have disproven that particular religion is “correct”. So that’s a start. ”

    Not necessarly. The ‘Bible’ is not a single book at all but a collection of 66 books. Even on book were totally false that wouldnt prove the other 65 were.

    And even if part of one book were false doesnt necessarly mean that the rest of it is. Really I dont know or care if the Bible is inherent. Ultimately atheists(or anybody set to disprove Christianity) have to deal with Jesus’s ressurection, since that is what Christianity stands on. Period.

    because if you didn’t know for certain that they’re correct, then you wouldn’t be able to be outraged that a religion endorses murder and/or rape (which the bible does at times). Not only that, but time and again, the points raised about morality (more specifically when people ‘misinterpret’ the bible to read as a violent book) assumes that things like rape and murder are wrong, which I’ll certainly agree on. Yet since the bible does endorse those two acts on certain occasions, you’ve interpretted it to be a book condemning those. This shows you’re using your own sense of morality, and not that found in the book. For instance, the bible clearly states anyone working on the sabbath should be put to death, but I don’t hear of people being killed en mass on sunday for working. It also states that disobident children should be stoned to death.

    I’ll raise this point I’ve raised in countless other posts. If I told you I believe in a god who I feel appeared to me and told me your entire religion (and everyone other one known to man) was wrong and that if people don’t worship me and carve ice statues of my likeness you’ll all go to hell, would you be quick to convert to my religion.
    If you wouldn’t, I’d like to know why.

    I’d ask for evidence. A miracle, a prophetic prediction. I dont think that’s too much to ask of a self-styled prophet.

    I hope you don’t use the Bible to demonstrate the Bible’s authenticity. If you do not, then please speak to other Christians. Make them see the flaw in circular logic.

    I dont and I dont know many Christians beyond the hyper-fundyliteralists who do either.

    One cannot have it both ways. Either you get to blame atheism and religion equally for the actions of people who happen to have philosophical inclinations one way or the other, or (and this is the reasonable stance in my opinion) you hold the person accountable to their actions and do not use anyone’s espoused philosophy as a scapegoat if there truly is nothing within that philosophy that condones their actions.

    That’s exactly my point. Thank you for agreeing with me.

    I wonder if he believes in the goddess Aphrodite’s miracle in which she teleported Paris back to Troy to protect him from Menelaus? Or how about the miracle in which Perseus used Medusa’s head to turn Phineas to stone? What about the death and resurrection of Hercules, and his ascension to heaven?

    If not, on what basis does he dismiss them? I doubt he can prove those miracles false. So why does he believe in Christianity, and not Hellenism? He seems to be exhibiting something of a double standard – saying that we aren’t justified in rejecting miracles because we can’t falsify them all, while at the same time he rejects all the miracles which contradict his religion, without having proven them false.

    Actually my rejection of Hellenism has less to do with SPACIFIC miracle claims and more to do with the claim that the gods were responsible for every occurance of things we now know to be natural phenominin. But its probably not best to begin it here.

    I have some more but I dont have time right now. Later

  • TonyAgee

    I wanted to contribute something to the “Stalin/Mao” discussion, because I see the same ground rehashed frequently. My apologies if my take on the issue is not original but I’ve not seen anyone present it.
    Simply, I think Stalin/Mao/Hitler/Jesus/Ghandi/Whoever made up that bullshit in the bible/etc are great examples of how a charismatic human, in challenging times, can somehow capture the imagination of large groups of people with some pretty “out there” ideas. Scary, isn’t it, regardless of which side of the “religion is bullshit” question you’re on?
    If you carefully tuck J.C. into a long list of bad guys like that, the xian with even half a clue can’t fail to draw the comparison. If they can’t find their way to shut up from there, point out that Jeffrey Dahmer was scrupulous about saying Grace.

    Once they understand that arguing on little evidence about individual humans won’t prove anything about what religion or it’s lack will make an individual do….

    Then you can talk about the Inquisition! An organised practice of ritual torture carried on for in excess of 400 years, by large numbers of deeply religious men, for absolutely positively explicitly religious reasons. Some of xianity’s most famous theologians considered the issue at length, and concluded that since it was for the greater glory of their imaginary friend, it was all cool. It was only stopped ~350 years ago.

    That’s right folks, it took your high and mighty moral xian’s 400 years to figure out that not only will inserting an expanding device in a witches vagina and using it to shatter her pelvis fail to get you a true confession of her “sins”, it’s just a bad idea. Anybody with an imaginary friend should educate themselves about the whole thing, if they doubt that creative thinking about skydaddy can be used to justify ANYTHING.

    btw- I include Ghandi to flesh out the list. He captured the imagination of a lot of people with that “out there” idea of pacifism. Most won’t consider that so bad, unless you stop to think about it. I consider strict pacifism to be indefensible, but he made it work for him. Read Sam Harris’s “End of Faith” for a much better discussion.

  • http://leapersjournal.blogspot.com/ Shiyiya

    I would just like to make a point that nobody else seems to here (I know I’m way late to the discussion, but this is all fascinating. Incidentally, I’ve sporadically read and admired Daylight Atheism for ages, first time commenting, etc etc).

    Okay. You want someone to tell you how the universe was formed, if it wasn’t made by god. Specifically:

    1. Proof that the universe is eternal and/or caused itself.

    Okay. This is less specifically at this one guy, because he says he’s not a creationist, which is weird if he claims to follow the bible, but whatever. This is at all Christianity – I ask anyone I can this question, and I have yet to get a satisfactory answer – most of the time I don’t get an answer at all. My favourite intelligent nice reasonable Christian friend said “Hm, I’ll have to think about that”.

    You want us to prove where the universe and life came from, if they were not created by god.

    I’d like you to tell me where God came from. If anything resembling life requires a creator – Who created the creator? All you’re doing by saying god made it is moving the question of how one step back and getting defensive if anyone questions how *your* illogical thing works. I will admit – yeah, we don’t know exactly how life began. But guys, saying ‘god did it’ doesn’t really answer any questions – it just raises the same question again, only a step further removed. Occam’s razor – I’m going to believe that version *without* an invisible dude in the sky.

  • MS Quixote

    I’d like you to tell me where God came from.

    It’s a good question, Shiyiya, and you’re correct: no Christian, or anyone else, can tell you where God came from. It’s not like He lives over on the next block, or just dropped in from the next Universe over. If you would, however, please pass the following answer back to your Christian friend.

    It seems to me that since something exists, there must be a brute fact, an explanation that cannot be explained, underlying existence, independent of whether one is atheist or theist. One can escape this conclusion if one believes that something can come from nothing, or that everything is an illusion. If you reject both of these propositions, then the only seemingly available logical option is that something must be eternal, that is to say, it has the power of being within itself, or is ontologically necessary.

    Thus, the universe, or some natural, physical property related to the universe–a multiverse or universe generator, say–may simply be a brute fact. It exists necessarily and eternally; it has the power of being. No atheist should be faulted logically for holding this view.

    If this is not the case, and obviously theists believe they have good cause to think it is not, there is presumably only one other option open to us to explain being: a supernatural realm or a supernatural being such as God. This being or realm would be a brute fact, in much the same manner as an eternal, natural realm. If it’s true that no atheist should be faulted for holding to a brute fact, and I think it is, it’s hard for me to accept that a theist would be faulted for holding to a brute fact.

    In addition, it is impossible to conceive of the Christian God coming from anywhere, by definition. If He could arise out of nothingness, or be created, He wouldn’t be God, as conceived by Christians. So, by definition, if He exists, He simply has to be there as a brute fact.

    It appears, then, that a brute fact is required logically to explain existence, regardless of whether one is an atheist or theist. What we argue about is what that brute fact, or necessary being, actually is:)

    None of this says anything about whether He does exist, it only demonstrates that it is a logical potentiality, and satisfies your question, even while acknowledging that there’s no explanation for the explanation (enter Modus stage left). For what it’s worth, if I were you, I’d approach this potentiality just as you have, by wondering why we would add this extra explanation. After all, we know the universe is there, given that it’s not an illusion. For instance, If I understand Mr. Dawkins correctly, he asks why we would posit something more complex than the universe to answer this question, rather than settling for the simpler answer that we immediately observe.

  • http://www.adeptwit.com Ren

    Hey, really liked the original article and also enjoyed the response to it, even if flawed.

    1) An Eternal Universe.
    I actually like this argument from the response. No matter how far back in time science has gone, it always gets to a point where it can’t go back any further… that current point is the big bang with some newer theories about other dimensions being thrown in. Whatever point we do get to, it presents a problem.

    Our universe is a universe of logic. Part of our logic is that some event must always precede another event. How did all matter/energy of the universe come into existence? Is matter/energy capable of having no beginning and being eternal? Can we prove it?

    If not, it stands to reason that something outside our realm of logic must have come first (the first thing ever). Our current logic doesn’t really allow the universe itself to fulfill that role as first. In turn, it leaves a wide-open hole to be filled by something that is beyond the logic of our universe. Whether an intelligent being or simply some sort of unintelligent power, it certainly points to something that could be called God.

    2) Proving All Miracles as False
    I definitely am not a fan of this argument for many of the reasons noted above. Nearly every modern miracle has been proven to be a fake and is easily duplicated by scientific means (usually illusions) while those that haven’t been proven false tend to be miracles that leave no evidence. Are there any miracles that have left evidence that aren’t easily disproved?

    3) Proving All Religions as False
    I can point to fallacies in the bible to prove Christianity/Judaism wrong, but they are explained away by those who want to believe anyways. I don’t see the need in proving every religion as false though. As mentioned above, the burden of proof is on the person claiming something as true. I can claim anything as true, point to my own beliefs as the truth of its existence, and tell you to prove that it’s false. That would be very poor of me. Yet most religions tend to do it with their only claim of proof being things that supposedly happened, but left no evidence.

    4) Aliens
    Aliens would certainly be interesting. The major religions would have to change, but most could survive an alien invasion (peaceful or warlike) with some minor tweaks. I honestly doubt that most Christians would believe the aliens even if they said “we parted the red sea” or “we beamed Christ’s body up to our spaceship”. They’d accuse the aliens of lying to gain control over us and take us away from God. So, despite being evidence for you, I actually doubt this one would work on too many people.

    5) Proof that Jesus Didn’t Rise from the Dead
    Same as #2. It’s a miracle claim. The burden of proof is on the people who make the claim. The only “proof” of its existence is in the writings of Jesus’s followers where the writings don’t actually appear until at least 15 years after his death when few people are around to dispute it.

    Unconvincing Argument #1) Speculation
    Fair enough. However, claims without actual evidence is what most religions are based upon. Where does the burden of proof lie?

    Unconvincing Argument #2) Immorality of Religion
    The difference between a religion and atheism is that the religious people are bound together by a written (or verbal) code. Atheists are not. Atheism is not a religion at all and shouldn’t be grouped together in the same way. The followers of atheism have many different beliefs about what is right and wrong with the one common trait being that they believe all religions are wrong. So we are not tied to Mao or Stalin and their moral judgments (or lack thereof).

    On the other hand, religions are bound by a moral code. Immoral acts by the members (especially leadership) of a religion does point to a flaw in the morality of the religion. At the very least, the moral code of the religion was not convincing enough that all members felt the need to follow it. That is an important (but not damning) strike against a religion.

    —————————

    I hope this sheds a little more insight into this debate.


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