Francis Collins on Atheism

The Point of Inquiry podcast recently aired a very interesting interview between D.J. Grothe and Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project and a devout evangelical Christian. In the interview, Collins discusses the intersection of science and religious faith, whether belief in God is a scientific hypothesis, and the attacks on religion by Richard Dawkins and other prominent atheist scientists.

Dr. Collins is a superlative scientist, and his published work is beyond reproach. Sequencing the human genome is undoubtedly among the greatest scientific achievements of all time, rivaling the original discovery of DNA itself for importance. Not only was this a tremendous leap forward in our own self-understanding, it also promises immense practical benefits that may save countless lives, including the keys to fighting hereditary disease and the prospect of medicine custom-tailored to each individual’s genetic makeup.

So, Francis Collins is an intelligent, accomplished scientist: about this there can be no doubt. This makes it all the more surprising that his arguments for the existence of God were so outright terrible. Without exception, his case was shallow, poorly thought out, and in many places plainly fallacious or flatly contradicted by evidence. His arguments against atheism indulged in many typical apologist fallacies, including the blatant use of straw men that bear little or no similarity to the actual positions of real atheists.

I recommend listening to the whole podcast, but to get a sense of what I mean, here are some highlights:

8:45: “[Atheism] assumed that the atheist knows so much as to be able to exclude, within their own band of knowledge, the possibility of something outside of nature, namely God. That seemed to be a pretty arrogant position, a position of some hubris, for anybody to take and certainly not one that you could defend on rational grounds.”

Almost right out of the gate, Collins resorts to the time-worn “you’d have to search the whole universe to know there’s no god” apologetic. This comment demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of atheism, as well as a fallacious attempt to shift the burden of proof onto disbelievers. Anyone who makes a positive claim has the obligation to support that claim with evidence. If no evidence is provided, then the rest of us are fully justified in disbelieving it, and this holds especially true where evidence is missing when it should be present. We do not need to search the cosmos for proof positive of God’s nonexistence; we can merely observe that no one has yet provided evidence remotely compelling enough to support such an extraordinary possibility.

11:08: “A purely naturalistic worldview is impoverished in certain important ways. It basically says some questions are just out of order, like ‘What’s the meaning of life?’ and ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘Is there a god?’ If you’re going to insist upon a ‘fundamentalist’ brand of atheism, which is the brand that I think we hear from people like Dawkins and Harris, then basically you are saying those are not questions that are worth asking.”

This is a grossly ignorant mischaracterization of atheism. No atheist I’ve ever known or heard of has ever said that questions about the meaning of life are “out of order”. On the contrary, we discuss them routinely and repeatedly emphasize that humanism can give answers to these questions that are at least as satisfying as any answer offered by religion. (Grothe did rightly chide Collins for this obvious falsehood.) Most especially, we do not believe that the question “Is there a god?” is “not worth asking”. It should be too obvious to bear saying that the reason we are atheists is precisely because we have asked this question and consider it answered in the negative.

13:30: “I began to read what some of the great minds of the last many centuries have contemplated… some of those thoughts caught me up short, because they raised issues I’d never really seriously considered. Most prominently amongst those thinkers was the Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis… He outlines those [reasons] in a little book called Mere Christianity, which I would challenge any atheist to look at seriously and see whether those arguments in that book can be easily refuted. I don’t think they can.”

I have read and reviewed Mere Christianity, and yes, it can be easily refuted. It is a shallow and ill-considered bit of apologetic fluff. Lewis’ main argument is that all human cultures have had essentially the same moral code, which could only be the case if God had installed it in us. He breezily ignores the fact that all cultures throughout history have not had the same moral code, but differed in many drastic ways about the nature of moral behavior. If Collins takes his cue from Lewis, this would go a long way toward explaining his similarly vacuous theology.

18:20: “Why do the atheists insist that we should get over religion and try to be good to each other? Who cares about being good? If they’re right, we should all shrug off the whole idea and be just as darn selfish as we possibly can.”

Again, Collins drags out the old fallacies. This time it’s, “If there is no god, then there’s no morality and we should all go on killing sprees.” Again, as opposed to his uninformed criticisms, atheists have given great thought and in-depth discussion to this topic, and many nonbelievers have proposed secular foundations for morality.

24:00: “Science essentially has to remain silent on the real, fundamental question of ‘Is there a god?’ There may be clues from nature that are more consistent with God’s existence than not, but it’s not really a scientific question.”

We can clearly see here how Collins wants to have it both ways. He wants to claim that science offers evidence supporting the existence of God, but whenever there’s evidence presented against the evidence of God, he draws back and declares that this is not a scientific question. Which is it, Dr. Collins? Either this is not a scientific question, in which case science can offer no evidence either way and belief in God is purely a matter of faith; or it is a scientific question, in which case it can be answered in the negative as well as in the positive. (I myself believe that the existence of God as conceived of by most religions is most certainly a testable claim, and one that has been tested and found wanting.)

26:45: “By applying the scientific method to religious claims, you’re committing, I think, a logical fallacy.” [Collins recounts a parable about a scientist who sweeps the ocean with a three-inch-mesh net and goes on to conclude, based on what he found in the net, that nothing lives in the ocean which is smaller than three inches.]

As an analogy for God, this is utterly inappropriate. With this or any other scientific study, one can always point out the limitations of the original study and propose a new one that rules out those sources of error. What Collins is proposing is something completely different: an entity whose existence can never be detected by any empirical investigation.

A better analogy to Collins’ view would be if the ocean survey was done, and the scientist’s critics accuse him of incompleteness because, they say, there are fish that live in the ocean that are intangible. No matter how fine a net you use, they can pass immaterially through it, so the scientist failed to catch any of them and incorrectly left them out of his catalogue of ocean life. Such a claim would, of course, beg the question of how the claimant could know that these fish exist in the first place.

Collins makes one more final, telling comment that I can’t let pass. He says that when he was young and an atheist, he assumed that faith was “something that people arrived at by childhood indoctrination or maybe some emotional experience”. He then says that he finally investigated for himself and found that, to his amazement, there was a “compelling and rational case to be made for God” that overwhelmed his skepticism.

Or so he says in this interview. How did he describe his own conversion on a different occasion?

…I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains on a beautiful fall afternoon. I turned the corner and saw in front of me this frozen waterfall, a couple of hundred feet high. Actually, a waterfall that had three parts to it — also the symbolic three in one. At that moment, I felt my resistance leave me. And it was a great sense of relief. The next morning, in the dewy grass in the shadow of the Cascades, I fell on my knees and accepted this truth — that God is God, that Christ is his son and that I am giving my life to that belief.

Collins’ own conversion came about for the exact reason he himself assumed earlier in life: as the result of an emotional experience owing nothing to reason. (P.Z. Myers sarcastically asks, “If the waterfall had two parts, would he have converted to Zoroastrianism?”) He assumed that people become believers for irrational reasons and then went on to prove it.

It’s amusing how Collins, in describing his own conversion, tries to employ two stock apologist narratives which contradict each other. First he says that he was an atheist when he was younger, and I see no reason to doubt that, but he also says that he had never really thought about or investigated the topic until prior to his conversion. This second admission greatly weakens the first, for if it’s true that he had never considered an intellectual defense of atheism, why should atheists who have studied the topic be impressed by his testimony? (When D.J. Grothe, to his credit, presses Collins on the obvious point that his lack of intellectual background in atheism made him “ripe for being plucked up” by proselytizers, he laughs and admits, “Perhaps so.”)

The interview mentions that atheism is far more common in the scientific community than religious belief, and if Francis Collins is any sort of representative example, it’s not hard to see why. He isn’t a creationist, nor does he fall prey to the other forms of scriptural literalism that make most forms of fundamentalism laughable and demonstrably untrue. He’s also a highly qualified scientist who should understand how to argue rationally and know how to recognize a fallacy. If anyone could present a respectable case for theism, I would expect that it would be him. But instead, all we get are the same tired old falsehoods about atheism, emotion substituting for evidence, and easily refuted apologetics. There really is nothing more to it than that.

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://panicon4july.blogspot.com/ Will E.

    This C.S. Lewis thing has got to stop. I read “Mere Xianity” years ago, long before I had read any of the scientific, naturalistic theories of morality, and even then I knew, I suspected, it was just smug, holier-than-thou Oxford-don wind-baggery, but delivered in that crystalline measured prose that the English have mastered. That’s what’s so seductive about it. But there isn’t a whiff of anthropology or hard science in the whole book. Lewis was an “atheist” just like Collins was, that is, never bothered to think critically of religion, never considered it skeptically, so yes, they were “‘ripe for being plucked up’” by proselytizers.” Ugh. Spare me. Spare us.

  • http://panicon4july.blogspot.com/ Will E.

    This C.S. Lewis thing has got to stop. I read “Mere Xianity” years ago, long before I had read any of the scientific, naturalistic theories of morality, and even then I knew, I suspected, it was just smug, holier-than-thou Oxford-don wind-baggery, but delivered in that crystalline measured prose that the English have mastered. That’s what’s so seductive about it. But there isn’t a whiff of anthropology or hard science in the whole book. Lewis was an “atheist” just like Collins was, that is, never bothered to think critically of religion, never considered it skeptically, so yes, they were “‘ripe for being plucked up’” by proselytizers.” Ugh. Spare me. Spare us.

  • andrea

    It is indeed a pity that an actual scientist must resort to lies to support his religion and to tear down atheism. But that’s what is required, it seems, for a Christian to keep their faith.

  • andrea

    It is indeed a pity that an actual scientist must resort to lies to support his religion and to tear down atheism. But that’s what is required, it seems, for a Christian to keep their faith.

  • http://myspace.com/jamieguinn Jamie G.

    Although I am glad they had Collins on the program, I groaned most of the way through it. What I was really disappointed about was Grothe’s usual tough questions. He usually doesn’t let his guests get away with so much. I heard exactly what I was expecting from Collins, but I was expecting more out of Grothe.

    Collins’ answers also reinforce my suspicions that most Christian intellectuals are not really listening to the arguments made from our ”side”. They seem too busy with coming up with responses than considering what is being said. I find this very frustrating, but not surprising.

  • Simeon Kee

    I think Collins suffers from what can be called “compartmentalization of thought.” He cordons off his religious beliefs and never subjects them to his obviously brilliant scientific scrutiny.

  • Simeon Kee

    I think Collins suffers from what can be called “compartmentalization of thought.” He cordons off his religious beliefs and never subjects them to his obviously brilliant scientific scrutiny.

  • Ric

    Collin’s conversion story is as shallow as his apologetics, if anyone has heard it.

  • Ric

    Collin’s conversion story is as shallow as his apologetics, if anyone has heard it.

  • Valhar2000

    Jamie, I am not sure that letting Collins get away with so much should nto be expected from a guy who said: To our knowledge, there is no such thing as “atheist bashing”. The article is linked to here. I could not link to the article directly becuase the hyperlink won’t work; don’t ask me why.

    If he is able to not see the widespread discrimination atheisst suffer in the U.S. when their atheism becomes known, it will be easy for him to ignore the not-quite-so-egregiously-silly comments Collins makes.

    Furthermore, is Collins really that great a scientist? Did leading the Genome Project really require such a great scientific acumen, or was it more a matter of great technical skill? Not that great technical skill lacks value, of course.

  • Steve

    What annoyed me most about the interview and Dr. Collins’ stance is the fact that his arguments only seek to prove or imply the existence of a god / creator / intelligent force. Were he a merely a deist, this would not be such a good deal. His arguments would still ring of falsehood but at least we would be honest with himself about his true “quest for truth.”

    Instead, Dr. Collins is a devout Christian; someone who assigns incredibly specific attributes to a personal god. None of his arguments even came close to speaking to his rationale for making such a gigantic leap from deism to christianity, which throws into further doubt the extent to which is mind acually is “open.”

  • andrea

    I would add to Valhar’s comment and wonder if he’s much of a scientist at all or more of an adminstrator of the project.

  • andrea

    I would add to Valhar’s comment and wonder if he’s much of a scientist at all or more of an adminstrator of the project.

  • OMGF

    18:20: “Why do the atheists insist that we should get over religion and try to be good to each other? Who cares about being good? If they’re right, we should all shrug off the whole idea and be just as darn selfish as we possibly can.”

    People like this scare me. If the only reason that one is “good” is because of fear of divine retribution, then that person is completely immoral and not worthy of the reward they think they will get.

  • OMGF

    18:20: “Why do the atheists insist that we should get over religion and try to be good to each other? Who cares about being good? If they’re right, we should all shrug off the whole idea and be just as darn selfish as we possibly can.”

    People like this scare me. If the only reason that one is “good” is because of fear of divine retribution, then that person is completely immoral and not worthy of the reward they think they will get.

  • Archi Medez

    “His arguments against atheism indulged in many typical apologist fallacies…”–Ebonmuse.

    It’s very easy and efficient for Collins and other theists to rattle off these standard apologetics, while it requires more time, effort, and thought for us (mostly atheists, skeptics, etc.) to address them. It’s not that the apologetics are especially difficult to refute. As Ebonmuse notes, and demonstrates, they are “easily refuted apologetics.” But the refutation is “easy” in the sense that a familiar exercise routine is easy. That is, it still requires time, effort, energy expenditure. Moreover, it is based on years of preparation in terms of learning about, and analyzing, the arguments. Compare that to Collins’ easy, shallow sloganeering.

    One solution to this problem is to set up a handbook, online, that refutes the standard apologetic claims. If we had, online, standard concise rebuttals to each of the common claims, then we could use these during online arguments and discussions with apologists. Each rebuttal would have supportive references for empirical evidence, where necessary. The claims and rebuttals could be organized in an index by subject matter. To obtain the concise rebuttal, the debater would just click on the link. In an actual debate, the debater could provide the link, or a quote with a link, to the specific rebuttal online handbook. The guide could include not only rebuttals, but also the main (and strongest) criticisms against theistic beliefs, worded in a concise format. Using this guide/handbook would save us all a great deal of time and effort.

    The atheist could not simply link or quote the rebuttal in every case, cookie-cutter style. There would generally be some arguments, or variations of arguments, that would have to be addressed anew, to suit the specific context. Any weaknesses in the rebuttals could be detected through trial-and-error, and could be updated/improved.

  • bassmanpete

    People like this scare me. If the only reason that one is “good” is because of fear of divine retribution, then that person is completely immoral and not worthy of the reward they think they will get.

    Hear, hear! I get this all the time & it astounds and, like you OMGF, scares me. What these people seem to be saying is that, without their belief in god, they would act completely immorally. Maybe we’ll all be better off if they hang on to that belief :)

  • http://wild-eyedatheistboy.blogspot.com/ Wild-Eyed Atheist Boy

    The theists seem to be focusing a great deal on the “morality” argument lately. I wonder what they have up their sleeve this time?

    Sly animals that they are, they hold more and more to theories that have not yet; and perhaps never will, be proven to both side’s satisfaction.

    Even now, as many of the fallacies of religion are falling to the god of science, there is still SO much we do not know. This is the root from which religion still flourishes.

    As long as those questions are still out there, there will always be a twig for even the most liberal theologian to grasp onto.

  • http://everydayatheism.wordpress.com EverydayAtheism

    I was similarly disappointed with the Collins’ defense of theism. I would personally love to hear a convincing argument for the existence of a God. It would help me in relating to religious people if there was something in the religious impulse besides emotional need. So I downloaded the podcast hoping to hear something of substance from a prominent scientist. I was still hopeful that I would hear something interesting when he said he had read some of the greatest minds on the subject. But then he dashed all my hopes when he said that his biggest influence was C.S. Lewis. There is no real substance to Lewis’ arguments, and Collins thought they were unassailable. Everything he said after that defending theism was, as noted, nothing but apologetic fluff. The fact that people can accept such flimsy excuses for belief is disheartening. I wish more people would really start thinking for themselves instead of just repeating slogans and platitudes.

  • Polly

    Collins’s book is much the same. I was very disappointed. I expected more insight from the guy who led the HGP. I just kept thinking, you’re too smart for this… aren’t you? This just confirms my suspicion that religion is just “believing what you know ain’t so” no matter who you are.
    CS Lewis is about as deep a thinker as a 10th grader. I wasn’t impressed with “Mere Christianity” at all. It was just so much unbelievably sweeping generalizations and superficial reasoning. But, I think he says at the beginning that his purpose is not to convince unbelievers (IIRC) but to lay out the basics of xian belief.

  • http://thestoneoftear.blogspot.com Callandor

    Collins always leaves me with remorse, really. A man who is obviously very intelligent, yet as the strain of such outright and obvious idiocy and mind-numbing dogma attached firmly into his brain. And for bullshit reasons all around.

    It’s also tiring how fucking much he’s brought up. “A scientists who believes in god — Francis Collins!” Yay, never mind his panderings and stupidity with this topic, he’s a scientist and believes in god. “That’s all we need! Just give us a few dried out talking points.”

    It’s imbibed me with an instinctual reaction: if I read anything about religion and atheism, and see Collins talking and presented “well” without refutation, I cease reading such trash. Enough with the man.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    “It’s also tiring how fucking much he’s brought up. “A scientists who believes in god — Francis Collins!” Yay, never mind his panderings and stupidity with this topic, he’s a scientist and believes in god. “That’s all we need! Just give us a few dried out talking points.” — Callandor

    Indeed, and it’s doubly displeasing that a scientist would trot out what is in essence an argument from authority. Not to mention the fact that precious little in the syllabus of a molecular geneticist has to do with religion. This smacks of Henry Morris with his degree in hydraulic engineering “disproving” evolution.

  • SJL

    I find it very upsurd the weight that you have placed on Collins shoulder. You have all obviously made up your mind as to the existence of God. You expect one man to prove you wrong in a in 38 minute discussion. How foolish is that?

    Also, no matter how compelling of an argument that he could have made, you would have found a way to refute him. You have way too much invested in your way of thinking to give up now.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    SJL:

    You expect one man to prove you wrong in a in 38 minute discussion. How foolish is that?

    Did you read any of the above comments? So far as I could tell, they weren’t complaining that he didn’t provide irrefutable proof, but that he was using discredited (and often centuries-old) arguments.

    As Archi said (with a snip from Ebon):

    “His arguments against atheism indulged in many typical apologist fallacies…”–Ebonmuse.

    It’s very easy and efficient for Collins and other theists to rattle off these standard apologetics… [emphasis added]

    Or, heck, pretty much all of EverydayAtheism’s comment, especially:

    Everything he said after that defending theism was, as noted, nothing but apologetic fluff.

    Or the article itself?

    [Collin's] arguments for the existence of God were so outright terrible. Without exception, his case was shallow, poorly thought out, and in many places plainly fallacious or flatly contradicted by evidence.

    As EverydayAtheism stated, I would love to hear a convincing argument. I’m not an atheist out of some ruthless urge to destroy people’s arguments, but because I have seen neither a good argument nor good evidence for the existence of deities.

  • OMGF

    Actually SJL, the point is that Collins simply rehashed old, discarded arguments that we’ve all heard a million times before. I don’t actually expect him to prove me wrong, but I would hope that someone of his intellect would be able to come up with better arguments than he presented.

    Also, no matter how compelling of an argument that he could have made, you would have found a way to refute him. You have way too much invested in your way of thinking to give up now.

    Are you admitting that theistic arguments are inherently wrong, and therefore can always be refuted? Wow.

    In all seriousness, however, you’ll find that most people on this site are open to debate. Of course we think we are right, else we would have a different view, but we are open to hearing what the other side says. We only ask that it not be the same, tired, old arguments that are entirely unconvincing.

  • SJL

    I think the root of the problem when you get into Theisism and Atheisism it that you have people on both sides of the fence looking in opposite directions.

    You place excessive demands on Theists to prove in a tangible way that there is a god. This is something that cannot be done. Not scientifically. The last century has solved a lot of mysteries for us. Things that we didn’t undersand before, now we can explain. Did it mean that they didn’t exist before…No. Now you wish to apply the same scrutiny to everything even god. If god does exist and if he is the almighty creator. Does he owe you anything? Does he owe you proof of his existance?

    The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” 13Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side

    If no sign was given in that day why do you exalt yourself and expect a sign today?

    It isn’t for no reasone that he said

    “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    I know that you put no credence in the bible and that my points are moot. I know that you don’t buy into the whole faith crap. And you know what. if that is the case then where you are is where you belong.

    But one thing that I have observed with most of my athiest friends. Their mind is constantly struggling. They question everything. (which can be a good thing). Many of them have a hard time watching TV. They’ll watch football and question why they are entertained by it. Some of them have to coerce themselves to get up and go to work in the morning. Cause life is meaningless, when they die they go back to nothingness. That is a hard pill to swallow. But necessary to become an atheist.

    I believe that it is their mind rebelling against their thoughts. They are confusing themselves. They are going against everything that is naturally built into the mind and they are challenging it. Their own mind is fighting back.

    Not sure how many other people in this forum as gone through this process and if there is a light at the end of the tunnel for my struggling friends. I hope that it gets easier for them and for all of you.

    I know that you found Mr. Collins conversion story to be laughable. But, in the end, his story is all he has. When something strikes at the core of your being. It changes your life forever. There are no real way to express what that is. All you know is that you cannot shake what has happened. (Again, I’m sorry if I am diminishing any of your previous arguments)

  • Marty

    “Now you wish to apply the same scrutiny to everything even god. If god does exist and if he is the almighty creator. Does he owe you anything? Does he owe you proof of his existance?” SJL

    If we are expected to believe, under threat of eternal punishment, in a being that is claimed to be infinitely loving and just, I say, “yes”! Proof–evidence, even, is required.

    I fail to understand your point about the gospel and Jesus’ refusal to provide miraculous proof, in light of the many miracles claimed in the bible, not least of which is Jesus’ own alleged resurrection from death. Sorry, I just don’t understand.

    As for your final points about atheism, I would say that most of us find that life is not meaningless, but we are responsible for discovering or assigning the meaning on our own. That might mean it is periodically a mental struggle, but one we can approach with reason based on available evidence. I have given a lot of thought to the religious claims with which I was raised and are widely circulated in our culture, but cannot imagine how personal eternal ‘salvation’ might be a more meaningful or satisfying than living well in this world– the only one we have evidence for.

    Other than a personal experience of transcendence, the evidence of an existence of any god is lacking; evidence of the specific claims of christianity is non-existent. Dr. Collins’ testimony does nothing to change that.

  • Polly

    @SJL

    Does he owe you proof of his existance?

    If he calls himself just and then wants to burn me eternally for not believing in him, then YES, he OWES me some solid evidence. It really is the LEAST he can do.

    As to the rest of what you said, I respect that people have life-changing experiences and, speaking for myself only, am not one to try and convince people that their experiences are “invalid.” But, if someone asks for my view or interpretation I gladly give it just as I want others to be open and honest with me and to inform me if I’m missing something. I do want people to simply ADMIT the truth, that it is faith, that it is “becoming like a little child.”

    My biggest problem with Collins is not that he believes, but that he’s being used like a mascot to portray weak apologetics as stronger than it actually is. He accepts some form of evolution and an old Earth, IIRC, and to that extent his Christianity is very different from many other believers – literalists. His book got very harsh criticism from some Christians. But, really that’s a positive in my book and I would prefer xians to reconcile their faith with science rather than reject science. Do I want others to think like me? You bet. Who doesn’t? But I realize that atheism, like most -isms, is probably not for everyone.

    In that vein, I’ll admit that atheism can be, like you say, a tough pill to swallow. The thought that I will someday die along with all of humanity (hopefully at a much further date!) is depressing. But, I wouldn’t trade it. Because I’m convinced that it is a realistic view. In addition to that, there’s dignity and intellectual freedom in the materialist worldview that I don’t find in religion and did not find in a “relationship” with JC.

    Christianity has its own bitter pill. The doctrine of Hell used to make me depressed, too. I would look at my friends and relatives and all the people around me and feel weighed down by all the future misery of those destined for Hell, which is like 2/3 of the world or more. (Your views may be different from those that I once held.)

  • SJL

    “I fail to understand your point about the gospel and Jesus’ refusal to provide miraculous proof, in light of the many miracles claimed in the bible, not least of which is Jesus’ own alleged resurrection from death. Sorry, I just don’t understand.–Marty”

    I guess the point that I am trying to make is that no real sign will be given that would convince everyone in one quick swipe. Which is what I believe most atheist are looking for. It’s just not there. Maybe in the future they’ll develop something that will allow us to see god. But I doubt. Not sure if I can clear it up any further. Other than saying that Jesus was crucified, died and rose again. But that is not something that be easily accepted. Who knows, if we can create the time machine, we can go back in time and record the events .

    “Other than a personal experience of transcendence, the evidence of an existence of any god is lacking; evidence of the specific claims of christianity is non-existent. Dr. Collins’ testimony does nothing to change that—Marty”

    I think that without that experience then a person’s faith is in vain. There must be something to cling to (if you will). My faith doesn’t rest on the teaching that I have received, but more on the experiences that I have had, which are extremely personal.

  • SJL

    “As to the rest of what you said, I respect that people have life-changing experiences and, speaking for myself only, am not one to try and convince people that their experiences are “invalid.” But, if someone asks for my view or interpretation I gladly give it just as I want others to be open and honest with me and to inform me if I’m missing something. I do want people to simply ADMIT the truth, that it is faith, that it is “becoming like a little child. -Polly”

    I agree, that there is a part of it that is Faith. But some people get shaken to their core at times by these encounters. There are things that can be rationalized and explained away. But there are others, that it is not so simple. On a different point. Have you ever witnessed a miracle? I have and I have also seen things that were totally phony. I am very skeptical about most of these things. I’ve attended healing meetings in the past and for a while decided that it was all BS. But then I witnessed others that were genuine. It’s easier to see when you are in a small group and you know and trust the people there. I seen people’s back problems go away in the moment of praying for them. (sorry if I seem outlandish here, just sharing what I have personally witnessed) My buddy was at a national gathering and while there they prayed for someone who had a limp since birth. One of his foot was smaller than the other. They prayed for him and thought nothing more of it. After a few days he approached my buddy and told him that his show was getting really tight. 3 days after they had prayed for him he said that he needed to buy a new pair of shoes cause his old shoe would no longer fit. You may be able to rationalize this as a made up story. But to those involved, to this guy with the limp, their lives have
    been changed forever.

    “My biggest problem with Collins is not that he believes, but that he’s being used like a mascot to portray weak apologetics as stronger than it actually is.-Polly”
    I agree with you. I think they may be trying to over inflate this man. Which is unfair to Mr Collins. He may be a create scientist., but I think they put way too much weight behid that.

    “But I realize that atheism, like most -isms, is probably not for everyone.–Polly” I appreciate your honesty here. A lot of atheist that I have encountered basically look down on me for not seeing the world the same way that they do. Heck, I get that from fundamentalist friends too ;-). I guess I’m an oddball.

    “In that vein, I’ll admit that atheism can be, like you say, a tough pill to swallow. The thought that I will someday die along with all of humanity (hopefully at a much further date!) is depressing. But, I wouldn’t trade it. Because I’m convinced that it is a realistic view. In addition to that, there’s dignity and intellectual freedom in the materialist worldview that I don’t find in religion and did not find in a “relationship” with JC. -Polly”
    I am glad that you are living out of your convictions. I sometimes hear (mostly from my fundamentailst friends) that without God you can’t have any morals. Which I believe is hogwash. Most to the atheist that I know are outstanding people. So that argument has no weight (at least with me)

    “Christianity has its own bitter pill. The doctrine of Hell used to make me depressed, too. I would look at my friends and relatives and all the people around me and feel weighed down by all the future misery of those destined for Hell, which is like 2/3 of the world or more. (Your views may be different from those that I once held.) ”

    When it comes to salvation, I believe that god has a much more tolerable view of forgiveness than most Christians out there(I won’t get into want my fundamentalist friends think ;-)) I had been entrenched in the fundamentalist way of thinking. it took me years to strip that away. Their view is very narrow and intolerant, which makes me sick.

  • OMGF

    SJL,

    You place excessive demands on Theists to prove in a tangible way that there is a god. This is something that cannot be done.

    Yes, the burden of proof is on the theist. The theist makes the positive claim that god exists, therefore it is up to the theist to provide proof of this. If it can not be done, then it is up to god to provide that proof, especially if he is going to send us to hell for not believing, as others have already pointed out.

    The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” 13Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side

    How convenient. The more plausible explanation of this story – if it did indeed happen at all – is that Jesus could not provide a sign, which is why no one has ever actually seen a verified “sign from god.”

    But one thing that I have observed with most of my athiest friends. Their mind is constantly struggling. They question everything. (which can be a good thing). Many of them have a hard time watching TV. They’ll watch football and question why they are entertained by it. Some of them have to coerce themselves to get up and go to work in the morning. Cause life is meaningless, when they die they go back to nothingness. That is a hard pill to swallow. But necessary to become an atheist.

    A couple things here: first, death is a bitter pill to swallow for anyone, theist or atheist. Second, have you asked your atheist friends if they think life is meaningless and that is why they question things? For you to just assume they have these habits and do these things because they are nihilists seems rather presumptive on your part. On this site, there are numerous posts about this topic that put your comment to rest.

    Not sure how many other people in this forum as gone through this process and if there is a light at the end of the tunnel for my struggling friends. I hope that it gets easier for them and for all of you.

    Yes, it is always hard to be in a minority that is discriminated against. If you truly want things to get easier for us atheists, then you should support a more stringent separation of church and state, as well as tell your theist friends to stop actively trying to make us second class citizens.

    I guess the point that I am trying to make is that no real sign will be given that would convince everyone in one quick swipe. Which is what I believe most atheist are looking for. It’s just not there.

    Surely, if your god is as powerful as you believe, then he should know what it would take to convince me. That he doesn’t do it is not my failing.

    I agree, that there is a part of it that is Faith. But some people get shaken to their core at times by these encounters. There are things that can be rationalized and explained away.

    Sounds like argumentum ad ignoratum.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    There are things that can be rationalized and explained away. But there are others, that it is not so simple.

    If you’re talking about deeply moving personal experiences that almost seem to come from outside you and can shake you to the core, well, I’ve got a story here about an awfully powerful dream…

    As for healing by prayer, let’s face it, there are all sorts of remedies that seem to work, but the only way to be sure it’s not merely confirmation bias and the placebo effect is a double-blind trial, and prayer doesn’t seem to pass those very well.

  • SJL

    “As for healing by prayer, let’s face it, there are all sorts of remedies that seem to work, but the only way to be sure it’s not merely confirmation bias and the placebo effect is a double-blind trial, and prayer doesn’t seem to pass those very well. ”

    So you are going to write off a person’s foot getting larger to a placebo effect? How lame is that. That is simply dismissive and refusing to ponder possibilities. You are so sure that you are right that you give no thoughts to the opposites.

  • SJL

    “Surely, if your god is as powerful as you believe, then he should know what it would take to convince me. That he doesn’t do it is not my failing.-OMGF”

    It is completely your failing, you entrenched yourself against any signs that he may show you and you dimiss them in which ever way you can convince yourself. If ever one day your eyes are opened, you will see that he was there all along, trying to lead you back. Until then, keep dismissing away.

  • Marty

    I read the story of the foot growing and thought, how ridiculously petty is this ‘miracle’! Quick, get those friends praying for something important while the creator of the universe is doing their bidding! How about a cure for cancer– not for one unfortunate person, but to releave the suffering of millions? How about if god were to turn the hearts of the perpetrators of genicide in Darfur! Surely that would be more meaningful, compassionate, and loving than repairing the small foot of one otherwise healthy American. It might even turn whole nations to his worship. But, to the point of your gospel story, are we going to witness miracles, or not? Just small, unsubstantiated miracles– the healing of a minor disability for a single individual are OK, but actual proof to convince the many unbelievers in the one, true god are off the table? Wow, the face of Jesus on a piece of toast! Now, I believe!

    Sorry, SJL, that story does nothing to convince anyone reading this blog. Aside from the pettiness of the ‘cure’, there is a question of credibility: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • SJL

    “Sorry, SJL, that story does nothing to convince anyone reading this blog. Aside from the pettiness of the ‘cure’, there is a question of credibility: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    I never expect anyone to be convinced by this. I can affirm that the person who’s foot has grown’s life as been changed forever, including those of his friends and family. It is easy to write off from your perspective, I agree. Who woulnd’t want god to step into history and change our world? To eradicate cancer all together. To change the hearts of those who commit grave crimes against humanity? All of these things would be welcomed with opened arms. But my belief is that no matter how big of a miracle god would perform. You would find a way to remove him from it. You have come to a place where you can “prove” (atleast to yourself) pretty much anything as not being “divine”.
    Now the story of the foot. You have to completely dismiss as hogwash or find a way of explaining it in a non divine way. You can’t say big deal..One man one foot..who cares if god did it or not. He either healed him or he didn’t. He either exists or he doesn’t.

  • SJL

    And for the record. I have witness a person being cured of cancer as well. Medical explanation, well there is nothing funnier than a confused doctor.

  • Marty

    I’m mildly curious why you’re hanging out on an atheist blog, since you don’t expect anyone to be convinced by your arguments and you don’t seem to be open to ours. I congratulate you on being at least open minded enough to look. Keep looking, and keep asking questions. But trust the accumulation of answers to lead you to the truth. I kept asking questions during my religious education, and kept getting the answer that mine were questions of faith, not reason. Either you believe or you don’t. Ultimately, I decided that I don’t. I still ask questions, and contrary to what you might think or have been told to think, I am still open to answers. But I do not conclude when I hear of stories for which there is not an obvious answer (even if they are adequately documented as factual), that there must be a supernatural explanation. Contrary to Dr. Collins’ claim about the ability of science to comment on the existence of god, the existence or non-existence of supernatural beings is very much within the realm of science. A universe populated by supernatural beings, especially those that intervene in the natural world, is very different than a universe without supernatural intervention. And the burden of proof is on those who claim existence.

  • SJL

    “I’m mildly curious why you’re hanging out on an atheist blog, since you don’t expect anyone to be convinced by your arguments and you don’t seem to be open to ours.”

    Well the reason that I am here is because one of my atheist buddies sent me a link to this article. I don’t know why, maybe, if I saw a christian scientist being unable to prove the existance of god, that I might be suddenly changed and decide to see the world through his lense. He has repeatedly mentioned to me that his desire was to “convert me”, those are his words. I enjoy dialog with him and understanding where he is coming from. I am, however, saddened by the lack of encounters that he can recollect. He too has found a way to “rationalize” his experiences and even other peoples. I am not religious, atleast not in the common sense of the word. I do not walk blindly to a set of rules that have been imposed to me by a church body or a bunch of people. There are people out there that do and it is more difficult to dialog with them then it is with my atheist friends.
    I must apologize if I seem close minded. I really am not. With that said it is difficult to communicate ones thoughts in paragraph format. Like I said, I do not expect to “convert” (I hate that word) you to my way of thinking. I simply wish to have an open conversation about the subject. Please let me know if I cross any lines or if I offend anyone. It is not the intention.

    The demand of such proof would violate a gift to man. The gift of free will. We have the choice to believe. If Imperical evidence was provided. The element of Free Will would be trumped.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    I have witness a person being cured of cancer as well. Medical explanation, well there is nothing funnier than a confused doctor.

    Ever hear of spontaneous remission? I know, I know, I’m just “rationalizing away” this “miracle” that you know in your heart is such.

    The most interesting line in that link is: “On rare occasions, even cancer can inexplicably disappear (although most testimonials for quack cancer remedies are based on faulty original diagnosis or simultaneous administration of effective treatment).” [emphasis added.] Obviously I know nothing about the person who was “cured,” such as what type of cancer they had, whther there was the possibility of a faulty diagnosis, whether they were doing chemo or other treatments, etc., nor am I a doctor, so I’m not really qualified to comment on it at all. I’m just pointing out other possibilities.

    The demand of such proof would violate a gift to man. The gift of free will.

    We would still be free to worship or not, or to follow JC’s path or not, or whatever, right? I don’t see how knowing that God/JC exist would rob us of that. Also, what about my case: I want any deities that exist to reveal themselves to me in a clear and unambiguous manner. How would that rob me of free will if I’ve already decided that that’s what I want?

  • Marty

    I am sure that if you offended anyone, they would let you know pretty directly.

    As for me, I am exercising my free will and that other great gift, the gift of reason. So until there is evidence of the existence of supernatural beings, I will continue to consider Jehovah in the same category as Zeus, Odin, Jupiter, Vishnu, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  • Polly

    I agree with Nes when he says:

    I want any deities that exist to reveal themselves to me in a clear and unambiguous manner. How would that rob me of free will if I’ve already decided that that’s what I want?

    Me, too. If god were to show up and “prove” his existence, far from ending my freewill, he’d be respecting and making efficacious my freewill (if such a thing exists) by finally giving me accurate information with which to decide.
    Freewill is useless if one is blind or being misled. If I am being misled into atheism, I want to know it and I will happily turn around. And by that same token, if someone is a believer for false reasons or because they’ve never been given another option, then are they really using freewill to make their decision for god? Why should god be any happier with them?

    Can hiding pertinent information ever be a prerequisite to enabling freewill? It doesn’t seem right. It seems like making all relevant data available is a bare minimum condition for a choice to be truly free.

  • Polly

    @SJL

    You know, if I saw someone’s shrunken foot grow to normal length right before my eyes, I’d start to really question hard my materialism. However, you don’t even claim to have witnessed the miracle so directly. I’m not writing it off, but, the tricky part about supernatural occurences and healings is that once news of them escapes the tiny circle of direct experience, it automatically becomes hearsay.

    I know you said you are not trying to convince anyone by relating that so I will not bother telling you that I’m not convinced ;-). Acutally, I think your bigger point (and correct me if wrong) was that stuff happens in the world and sometimes the people involved have no other (natural)explanation. Writing it off as if it didn’t happen isn’t really an appropriate response. Is it possible that we are ALL susceptible to that sometime in our lives. Maybe one day something will happen to me that will absolutely DEFY my materialist notions. I don’t expect it. But, if it happens, then I’m going to have a lot of thinking and investigating to do. And what the end result will be is not known to me here and now from my current vantage point. Everything is subject to change based on new information. That is the freedom I enjoy.

  • SJL

    @Polly
    I am glad to see that if something of that nature (which you doubt ;-) were to happen to you that you would see it worth reassessing your position. It is far more generous of a response than the atheist that I have in my life today.
    You are protected here with the freedom of religion (I know that I use this term loosely…no need to jump on me and re-inform me that atheism is not a religion…I get it ;-) But it is the same constitutional principal that protects you and I. We have the freedom to believe in what we want. We have the freedom to express ourselves. I enjoy that freedom as much as you do. I also enjoy the same intellectual freedom that you seem to be hinting about.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    You contradict yourself, SJL.

    If Imperical evidence was provided. The element of Free Will would be trumped.

    And yet you claim that the healing of that man’s foot was empirical evidence.

    In order to see if it really is evidence, we could ask questions like:

    1. Do such conditions sometimes heal themselves on their own?
    2. Have there been other cases where conditions previously thought unlikely (or impossible) to heal have healed themselves without being prayed for? Have there been other cases where conditions previously thought unlikely (or impossible) to heal have healed themselves after being prayed for by Muslims, Jews, Hindus?

    If the answer to either of those questions is ‘yes’, then surely you must agree that it would be premature to assume there was a causal effect between praying and healing in this case.

  • OMGF

    SJL,

    It is completely your failing, you entrenched yourself against any signs that he may show you and you dimiss them in which ever way you can convince yourself. If ever one day your eyes are opened, you will see that he was there all along, trying to lead you back. Until then, keep dismissing away.

    Do you agree that god could do something that would convince me he exists? If god came before me and showed himself, especially in a repeatable, verifiable way, I would have no choice but to conclude that he does this. god knows exactly what it would take for me to believe, correct? Else god is not omniscient. Therefore, the “signs” that you seem to think god is showing me are unequal to the task, and god knows it. I am the way that god made me (according to you) so my skepticism is also from god. Therefore, I disbelieve because god made me to disbelieve, and he does not remedy the situation, opting instead for “signs” that he knows I will not accept, even when it is in his power to do something that he knows I will accept as a “sign from god.” Yet, somehow this is my fault? Please explain.

  • OMGF

    SJL,

    You are protected here with the freedom of religion (I know that I use this term loosely…no need to jump on me and re-inform me that atheism is not a religion…I get it ;-)

    You don’t actually get it (I’m not trying to be mean here) but you are on the right track. We are protected by freedom of religion not because atheism is a religion, but because freedom of religion must necessarily entail freedom from religion. It is the latter clause that protects us atheists.

    But it is the same constitutional principal that protects you and I.

    Exactly. And when theists seek to erode the separation of church and state, for example by posting the ten commandments in courthouses, then they are not just eroding my rights, but their own rights as well.

  • SJL

    OMGF,
    My apologies for not know the actual clause verbatim, but the I think that you understand that I was referring to the principal that keeps us free.

    As far as having the 10 commandments posted up in the courthouse. I think that this is not a battle worth having. My thoughts are that if they are there that’s fine if they aren’t no big deal. I don’t see why they should be an issue either way for you. Except I guess that it comes from a religious text. If you can take the heart of what it says then it is a good concept. I concur that the first commandment would be a little difficult to swallow, from your stand point. But, to appease the masses I would make concessions on that. Again, it’s the fundamentalist that you are fighting with.(heck, I inadvertently end up fighting with them too, sigh)

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

    My thoughts are that if they are there that’s fine if they aren’t no big deal. I don’t see why they should be an issue either way for you.

    Then perhaps you could imagine the issue from our viewpoint. Let’s say that you, an avowed Christian, are going to a courthouse to seek justice for some vitally important matter. As you pass through the rotunda, you must walk by a two-ton granite monument, placed there by the chief judge of the court, that says in boldly carved letters, “THERE IS NO GOD.” Below this stern pronouncement, the monument features many other quotes from atheists past and present, attacking faith and denouncing religion. You also happen to know that the judge of this court took the initiative to place that monument there because he believes that America is an atheist nation and our laws reflect our shared belief that there is no deity.

    Would you feel even a little bit worried that you might not be treated fairly in that courthouse because of what you believe?

  • Alisia

    Instead of picking apart a person’s personal experience with their named “God,” Perhaps we should learn the ever important value of respecting diversity and intelligent conclusions. In the area of religion vs. atheism, we are discussing two forms of belief. I respect that the atheist has faith in the existence of no existence of God, despite an overwhleming evidence given by people (of many different religions and beliefs) who say they have experienced the power of “God” in their lives. Hardly mass hallucination. Why can’t the atheist respect my belief in God? Or Collins’ for that matter?

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    I respect that the atheist has faith in the existence of no existence of God…

    No doubt you mean well. Nevertheless, I would ask you please to stop respecting my ‘faith’ in the nonexistence of God. In general, I aim not for ‘faith’ but for truth arrived at rationally. I may not always (or even usually) be successful at reasoning impartially, but I think it is worth the attempt, even so. If you can respect that, I will be very grateful :-)

    …despite an overwhleming evidence given by people (of many different religions and beliefs) who say they have experienced the power of “God” in their lives.

    But that’s part of the trouble, isn’t it? If everyone — believers in Yahweh, believers in Allah, believers in Brahma and Shiva and Vishnu — says they have experienced the power of “God” in their lives, but they still all wildly disagree about what “God” is actually like, then I can take very little from their statements.

  • Marty

    Alisia, I respect your right to make your own determination about the existence and nature of god. Please respect my rights to make up MY own mind about religion by not using the power of government to force your ideas about religion down my throat. If we can agree to that, we can get along just fine.

    Now if you want to have a discussion about the existence or nature of god, I will have respect for your position if you will refrain from judging my moral fabric based on my opinion about god. I will have even more respect for your position if you will back up your statements with evidence. I will try to meet that same standard. Finally, if you will listen to my statements rather than assuming my position based on what you have been told that atheists believe, we can have a very productive dialog. By that I mean, I don’t have ‘faith in the existence of no existence of God, despite an overwhleming evidence given by people…’ I have not seen credible evidence of the existence of any supernatural being, the Miracle of the Foot notwithstanding. Provide some evidence, and you will be the first. Provide some evidence (I’m not saying ‘proof’, just evidence!), and you might sway a lot of the people reading this thread.

    I do not find the testimony of people who claim to have had a personal experience of god to be credible, because I have worked for more than 20 years in the mental health field, and have had the opportunity to meet many people who claimed to be Jesus, or the devil, or to be receiving radio signals from outer space. Their experience is very real to them, but has no basis in external reality. The fact that there are, as Lynet pointed out, many very different gods that people claim to have experienced is strong evidence that those experiences are subjective and not objectively true.

  • heliobates

    I’ll pick up on Dawkin’s criticism from The Root of All Evil. Why is it that “cures” only seem to happen to people with diseases that have spontaneous remission rates?

    Is there any documentary evidence to demonstrate that someone was cured of Sickle Celled Anemia? How about Cystic Fibrosis? Regrowth of an amputated limb?

    SJL, I can understand the very powerful inclination to view your friend’s “cure” as “miraculous”. How many people at the prayer meeting didn’t get cured? The cure rate for people attending Lourdes is below chance. A sceptical mind considers the balance of probability and finds implausible the idea that God heals afflictions in a seemingly random and capricious manner. The believer, already preconditioned to expect outcomes which confirm his beliefs, succumbs to the gambler’s fallacy.

  • SJL

    “I aim not for ‘faith’ but for truth arrived at rationally – Lynet”

    Truth is a loaded word. You claim that what you have rationalized is truth. It may be the truth given the parameters that you have allowed into the equation. But stating it as truth assumes that you have weighed every single parameters there is. I think that using the word truth is extremely bold and extremely boastful, my fundamentatlist friends seem to love the concept of truth. They make up rules and live their lives based upon “the truth” . I just don’t like the use of the word cause it implies an “I am right and you are wrong” mentality and closes the doors to open conversations.

  • SJL

    “I aim not for ‘faith’ but for truth arrived at rationally – Lynet”

    Truth is a loaded word. You claim that what you have rationalized is truth. It may be the truth given the parameters that you have allowed into the equation. But stating it as truth assumes that you have weighed every single parameters there is. I think that using the word truth is extremely bold and extremely boastful, my fundamentatlist friends seem to love the concept of truth. They make up rules and live their lives based upon “the truth” . I just don’t like the use of the word cause it implies an “I am right and you are wrong” mentality and closes the doors to open conversations.

  • SJL

    Ebonmuse,

    I guess you missed my concession. I, for one would change the commandment that refers to god. I know that most christians out there would gringe at that thought. The rest of the commandments, Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not steal…etc. Should be applicable to everyone. Like I said, I’m not for or against having them pasted on the wall, it’s pretty much a non-issue for me.

    As far as the table being turned. I think that it would matter very little if a judge had decided that a huge sign saying “THERE IS NO GOD” posted in the main hall. If I did something that deserved my presense in the court room, whatever is written on the wall should have nothing to do with the way that I am treated. I believe that all men should be treated equal, no matter of their belief. I may be naive to assume that this is the case.
    Besides, if a christian, being judged by an atheist judge or an atheist being judged by a christian judge. Will the outcome be different based on what is written on the wall. I certainly hope not.

  • heliobates

    Alisa:

    Why can’t the atheist respect my belief in God? Or Collins’ for that matter?

    Most atheists do “respect” your and Collins’ belief in God. At least to the extent that we agree that your spouses are attractive and your children brilliant.

    The problem is, Collins levelled his guns at atheism and opened fire. You’ve obviously not been able to pass up the opportunity to respond to criticisms of your faith. Why is it so hard to understand that atheists might be as protective of their unbeliefs?

  • heliobates

    Alisa:

    Why can’t the atheist respect my belief in God? Or Collins’ for that matter?

    Most atheists do “respect” your and Collins’ belief in God. At least to the extent that we agree that your spouses are attractive and your children brilliant.

    The problem is, Collins levelled his guns at atheism and opened fire. You’ve obviously not been able to pass up the opportunity to respond to criticisms of your faith. Why is it so hard to understand that atheists might be as protective of their unbeliefs?

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    “I aim not for ‘faith’ but for truth arrived at rationally – Lynet”

    Truth is a loaded word. You claim that what you have rationalized is truth. It may be the truth given the parameters that you have allowed into the equation. But stating it as truth assumes that you have weighed every single parameters there is. I think that using the word truth is extremely bold and extremely boastful…

    Bold, certainly, but not boastful. I said I aimed for truth, not that I had it. Just as we can boldly aim to be courageous, humble, fair, empathic and honest so also we can boldly aim to think critically and rationally. Faith is no virtue, but in seeking to test our claims of truth we find a virtue as difficult as any. I do not claim to have achieved that virtue, only to seek it.

  • OMGF

    SJL,

    My apologies for not know the actual clause verbatim, but the I think that you understand that I was referring to the principal that keeps us free.

    I wan’t accusing you of not knowing the actual clause verbatim. I was simply pointing out that freedom of religion entails freedom from religion. Atheists aren’t protected because we are some religious group to ourselves. We are protected because our choice to not be religious is protected.

    My thoughts are that if they are there that’s fine if they aren’t no big deal. I don’t see why they should be an issue either way for you.

    It matters to me because equal rights/protections matter to me.

    If you can take the heart of what it says then it is a good concept.

    I disagree. The heart of what it says is that one should follow god. It’s the first commandment for a reason. The heart of it is also that one should blindly obey the dictates of a made-up deity in faith instead of in reason. These are not things that we should be enshrining in our courthouses.

    As far as the table being turned. I think that it would matter very little if a judge had decided that a huge sign saying “THERE IS NO GOD” posted in the main hall. If I did something that deserved my presense in the court room, whatever is written on the wall should have nothing to do with the way that I am treated. I believe that all men should be treated equal, no matter of their belief. I may be naive to assume that this is the case.

    Of course everyone should be treated the same, yet that’s not the case. Atheists are discriminated against, and part of it does come from the things posted on the wall.

    Alisia

    In the area of religion vs. atheism, we are discussing two forms of belief.

    No, we most certainly are not. I’m sorry if this sounds rather strong to you, but you are incorrect. Atheism is not a belief anymore than bald is a hair color or not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    …despite an overwhleming evidence given by people (of many different religions and beliefs) who say they have experienced the power of “God” in their lives.

    Yes, there is ample evidence that people have made this claim. This does not constitute evidence that god exists, however, mostly for the reasons that people listed above. To date, I’m aware of no evidence for god that does not hinge on logical fallacy – begging the question to be specific. If you have some, I’m all ears.

  • OMGF

    SJL,

    My apologies for not know the actual clause verbatim, but the I think that you understand that I was referring to the principal that keeps us free.

    I wan’t accusing you of not knowing the actual clause verbatim. I was simply pointing out that freedom of religion entails freedom from religion. Atheists aren’t protected because we are some religious group to ourselves. We are protected because our choice to not be religious is protected.

    My thoughts are that if they are there that’s fine if they aren’t no big deal. I don’t see why they should be an issue either way for you.

    It matters to me because equal rights/protections matter to me.

    If you can take the heart of what it says then it is a good concept.

    I disagree. The heart of what it says is that one should follow god. It’s the first commandment for a reason. The heart of it is also that one should blindly obey the dictates of a made-up deity in faith instead of in reason. These are not things that we should be enshrining in our courthouses.

    As far as the table being turned. I think that it would matter very little if a judge had decided that a huge sign saying “THERE IS NO GOD” posted in the main hall. If I did something that deserved my presense in the court room, whatever is written on the wall should have nothing to do with the way that I am treated. I believe that all men should be treated equal, no matter of their belief. I may be naive to assume that this is the case.

    Of course everyone should be treated the same, yet that’s not the case. Atheists are discriminated against, and part of it does come from the things posted on the wall.

    Alisia

    In the area of religion vs. atheism, we are discussing two forms of belief.

    No, we most certainly are not. I’m sorry if this sounds rather strong to you, but you are incorrect. Atheism is not a belief anymore than bald is a hair color or not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    …despite an overwhleming evidence given by people (of many different religions and beliefs) who say they have experienced the power of “God” in their lives.

    Yes, there is ample evidence that people have made this claim. This does not constitute evidence that god exists, however, mostly for the reasons that people listed above. To date, I’m aware of no evidence for god that does not hinge on logical fallacy – begging the question to be specific. If you have some, I’m all ears.

  • GH

    By applying the scientific method to religious claims, you’re committing, I think, a logical fallacy.”

    Then he thinks wrong. if it occurs in our world it is subject to the scientific method. I simply hate this type of dodge.

    As for the fellow above who thinks atheists lead sad lives, he simply needs to meet more atheists. Some of the saddest people I know are regular church attendees. some of the seemingly happiest also. Why? Smple numbers. People seem tobe either happy or not and if you meet enough of them you’ll see all kinds. Superstious beliefs or lack of aside.

  • SJL

    “Sorry, SJL, that story does nothing to convince anyone reading this blog. Aside from the pettiness of the ‘cure’, there is a question of credibility: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    I figured that it would be dismissed easily. I could track him down (like I said it was a very good friend of mine who was involved in praying for him), have him join the conversation here. Yet you would diminish was has happened to him, to his face no less.
    Like I have said before, you have way too much invested in the way that you have convinced yourself, to give up now. You have spent years rationalizing the unrationalizable to the point where you have convinced yourself that he must not exist.

  • SJL

    “Sorry, SJL, that story does nothing to convince anyone reading this blog. Aside from the pettiness of the ‘cure’, there is a question of credibility: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    I figured that it would be dismissed easily. I could track him down (like I said it was a very good friend of mine who was involved in praying for him), have him join the conversation here. Yet you would diminish was has happened to him, to his face no less.
    Like I have said before, you have way too much invested in the way that you have convinced yourself, to give up now. You have spent years rationalizing the unrationalizable to the point where you have convinced yourself that he must not exist.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    {all quotes below are by SJL, except as noted]

    “If god does exist and if he is the almighty creator. Does he owe you anything? Does he owe you proof of his existance?”

    In demanding that I actively worship him or her, god certainly owes me some bonafides, especially since it was he who (according to Christianity) made me so damned curious, and skeptical.

    “Cause life is meaningless, when they die they go back to nothingness. That is a hard pill to swallow. But necessary to become an atheist.”

    Actually, my life blossomed with meaning once I discarded the god hypothesis. I took it upon myself to behave responsibly and decided to help make the world a better place, because I no longer had a god to credit or blame. To equate atheism with existentialism is a common error. You should avoid making it.

    “I am very skeptical about most of these things. I’ve attended healing meetings in the past and for a while decided that it was all BS. But then I witnessed others that were genuine.”

    You should check out James “The Amazing” Randi’s body of work, and read up on Martin Gardener while you’re at it. Both men do much to expose the “BS” (a very apt word here) in faith healing.

    “The demand of such proof would violate a gift to man. The gift of free will. We have the choice to believe. If Imperical evidence was provided. The element of Free Will would be trumped.”

    The concept of free will is pernicious. If god truly granted free will, he wouldn’t threaten me with Hell in my lack of faith. That is holding my soul hostage, and to take hostages for the purpose of changing a person’s actions or beliefs is called *compulsion* — the exact opposite of free will. Not to mention that, implicit in the idea of “free will” is a limitation on god’s knowledge. Do you mean to assert that you do not believe in a god who knows everything?

    “Again, it’s the fundamentalist that you are fighting with.(heck, I inadvertently end up fighting with them too, sigh)”

    No, I am fighting irrationality, not fundamentalism.

    Finally, in writing “….I am the way that god made me (according to you) so my skepticism is also from god. Therefore, I disbelieve because god made me to disbelieve, and he does not remedy the situation, opting instead for “signs” that he knows I will not accept, even when it is in his power to do something that he knows I will accept as a “sign from god.” Yet, somehow this is my fault? Please explain.”, OMGF summed up beautifully my reasons for questioning everything I’m told about god(s). Do you honestly believe that in creating the most marvelous thing in existence, the human brain, that god would demand it not be used?

  • SJL

    “Finally, in writing “….I am the way that god made me (according to you) so my skepticism is also from god. ”

    I don’t believe that you were made that way. I believe that circumstances brought you to where you are. You are fully accountable for yourself. Calling out “your god made me this way” doesn’t cut it. You absolve yourself of your own responsibilities and cast them off to anything or anybody else. That is one thing I that hate about fundamentalism, they vilify things and in doing so absolve themselves of the responsibility when things go wrong.
    It is much easier to live a life when you can put the responsibility on everything else but yourself. But it is less honest and far less rewarding.

  • SJL

    “Finally, in writing “….I am the way that god made me (according to you) so my skepticism is also from god. ”

    I don’t believe that you were made that way. I believe that circumstances brought you to where you are. You are fully accountable for yourself. Calling out “your god made me this way” doesn’t cut it. You absolve yourself of your own responsibilities and cast them off to anything or anybody else. That is one thing I that hate about fundamentalism, they vilify things and in doing so absolve themselves of the responsibility when things go wrong.
    It is much easier to live a life when you can put the responsibility on everything else but yourself. But it is less honest and far less rewarding.

  • OMGF

    I don’t believe that you were made that way. I believe that circumstances brought you to where you are.

    Ah, but aren’t those circumstances all a part of god’s plan? You can’t have it both ways. Either we are responsible and god is not omni-everything, or we are not responsible.

    Either way, as atheists, we are not actually claiming that we aren’t responsible for our actions and our thoughts. We are instead pointing out the logical conclusion of your beliefs.

  • OMGF

    I don’t believe that you were made that way. I believe that circumstances brought you to where you are.

    Ah, but aren’t those circumstances all a part of god’s plan? You can’t have it both ways. Either we are responsible and god is not omni-everything, or we are not responsible.

    Either way, as atheists, we are not actually claiming that we aren’t responsible for our actions and our thoughts. We are instead pointing out the logical conclusion of your beliefs.

  • SJL

    “Ah, but aren’t those circumstances all a part of god’s plan? You can’t have it both ways. Either we are responsible and god is not omni-everything, or we are not responsible.”
    Ahh… Now where does Omni-everything and free-will meet. And where does god’s plan fit in there. Blaming these things doesn’t address the fact you have made the conscious decision to not believe.
    If that is the logical conclusion of my belief, then you really do not know my beliefs. You may have a Christian upbringing or something, but thanks to the mess that the “church” as a whole is in, it is very possible that you were indoctrinated in some weird stuff….. and believe me there is a lot of weird stuff. Sola Scriptura, was the biggest downfall to Christiandom. Some good came from it, but as a whole, it removed the context in which scriptures were to be applied….and voila… the mess that we have today.
    I have seen many Fundamentalist go to Atheism when they have had a bad experience. It is the natural progression. The quest for truth (what the Fundamentalist try to do) leads to atheism. Logical enough.. If all the truths that I was so sure about are not so tre, then there must be no god. In my observations, the only difference between fundamentalists and atheist is the god link.
    But from my experience, Atheist are easier to get along with ;-)

  • SJL

    “Ah, but aren’t those circumstances all a part of god’s plan? You can’t have it both ways. Either we are responsible and god is not omni-everything, or we are not responsible.”
    Ahh… Now where does Omni-everything and free-will meet. And where does god’s plan fit in there. Blaming these things doesn’t address the fact you have made the conscious decision to not believe.
    If that is the logical conclusion of my belief, then you really do not know my beliefs. You may have a Christian upbringing or something, but thanks to the mess that the “church” as a whole is in, it is very possible that you were indoctrinated in some weird stuff….. and believe me there is a lot of weird stuff. Sola Scriptura, was the biggest downfall to Christiandom. Some good came from it, but as a whole, it removed the context in which scriptures were to be applied….and voila… the mess that we have today.
    I have seen many Fundamentalist go to Atheism when they have had a bad experience. It is the natural progression. The quest for truth (what the Fundamentalist try to do) leads to atheism. Logical enough.. If all the truths that I was so sure about are not so tre, then there must be no god. In my observations, the only difference between fundamentalists and atheist is the god link.
    But from my experience, Atheist are easier to get along with ;-)

  • heliobates

    Like I have said before, you have way too much invested in the way that you have convinced yourself, to give up now. You have spent years rationalizing the unrationalizable to the point where you have convinced yourself that he must not exist.

    Bullshit. That exact argument slices your own position to ribbons as well. If you truly believe that, then why are you bothering to respond at all.

    Yet you would diminish was has happened to him, to his face no less.

    Crass emotionalistic white-flaggery. I have good reason, based on the cultural accumulation of 2,500 years of empirical inquiry, to doubt that your friend’s situation occurred exactly the way you—or he—described it. Remember, you offered it as evidence to support your position, but when we raise reasonable questions about its veracity, you retreat.

    What is it about this concept that believers just can’t get: your experiences are unavailable to us except through your representation and your representations are not reliable? Your experiences of “God” are unverifiable. We’re completely justified in dismissing them, the same way a believer will dismiss my complete lack of “God-experience”.

    What you also don’t seem to get is that atheists see this all the time from believers. You insist that your faith is reasonable but you can’t defend it reasonably. And this is why, to us, so much of apologetics looks like arguments about “who would win in a fight: Superman or Chuck Norris?”

    Galen Strawson, Owen Flanagan, Daniel M. Wegner and 20th Century neuroscience put paid to the illusion of free will. Apologetics hasn’t even tried to keep up.

  • heliobates

    SJL: in case my previous post was a bit heavy handed, let me extend this olive branch.

    I saw the question raised on another forum and I like it:

    Assume that I and six of my friends will swear to you—with absolute sincerity as far as you can discern—that we’ve met Harry Potter in person. We’ve seen him do magic with his own wand and he turned one of our friends into a frog. We can even produce the frog and pictures of our “former friend” for your examination.

    What would it take for the seven of us to convince you that our experiences really happened to us?

    Welcome to the atheist side of the fence ;o)

  • heliobates

    SJL: in case my previous post was a bit heavy handed, let me extend this olive branch.

    I saw the question raised on another forum and I like it:

    Assume that I and six of my friends will swear to you—with absolute sincerity as far as you can discern—that we’ve met Harry Potter in person. We’ve seen him do magic with his own wand and he turned one of our friends into a frog. We can even produce the frog and pictures of our “former friend” for your examination.

    What would it take for the seven of us to convince you that our experiences really happened to us?

    Welcome to the atheist side of the fence ;o)

  • Harvard

    Dear SJL

    You said, “…believe me there is a lot of weird stuff.”
    Believe you? Why? Believe someone who has a compulsion – against all reason – to fling xian propaganda around like a lawn sprinkler?
    And, yes, lets talk about weird stuff.
    How about humans who fall on their knees and pray to – what? – an idea? An idea of an illusion?
    How weird is that?
    How about humans who eat little wafers, and say that they’re eating god.
    SJL — the weird stuff is coming from everyday xians.
    .

    How weird is that?

  • SJL

    @heliobates
    I accept your olive branch, I know that harsh word can be used to explain what we are really trying to say. I am not taking anything personally here, I hope that no one else feels personally attacked by my comments.

    “What would it take for the seven of us to convince you that our experiences really happened to us?”

    Assuming that you had a geniune encounter with Harry Potter in person. Would my disblief in your experience, my thinking that you are crazy or anything else along those lines. Would that diminish your experience. Would my disbelief negate your belief. If it was genuine, than I say no it wouldn’t.

  • SJL

    @Harvard

    I simply pointed out that there was weird stuff out there. A lot of stuff that I disagree with. I never claimed that I wanted to defend it.

  • heliobates

    Assuming that you had a geniune encounter with Harry Potter in person. Would my disblief in your experience, my thinking that you are crazy or anything else along those lines.

    And that’s where you lose me SJL. Why would you assume that I had this encounter? Because I appear to sincerely and honestly believe it? Because I can discuss details and recall specifics?

    The problem we humans have is that our senses are imperfect and our memories are not really facilities of “recall” but rather of “re-creation”. We confabulate, we “count the hits and ignore the misses”, we’re lousy at understanding probability, and we can make ourselves believe the wildest post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies.

    Would that diminish your experience. Would my disbelief negate your belief. If it was genuine, than I say no it wouldn’t.

    But here’s the thing: you don’t have access to that experience or that belief. You only know what I tell you and if I have a heavy investment in re-experiencing things in a specific way, is it wise to trust what I’m telling you?

    Based on what you’ve posted here, I think you leap to premature certainty. Yes, the “still, quiet voice” might be God, but how do you go check that assumption?

  • SJL

    @helibates

    I never said that I would believe you, if you recounted an encounter with Harry Potter. All I’m saying is that my unbelief wouldn’t rattle your belief.

    >

    You admit that our senses are imperfect and pretty much the same thing for our memory. Yet, you assume that your logic isn’t subject to the same imperfection. How can one thing be flawless, when so much more is far less than perfect?

  • OMGF

    SJL,

    Ahh… Now where does Omni-everything and free-will meet. And where does god’s plan fit in there. Blaming these things doesn’t address the fact you have made the conscious decision to not believe.

    If everything occurs according to god’s plan, then god must want me to be a skeptic. If it was my choice and god did not want that, then I foiled god’s plan. If god is omni-everything, then he knew what I would do before I did it, so his plan should not have been foiled and therefore I had no choice in the matter and he wanted me to be a skeptic. If I have free will, then I can choose to go against god’s plan and I can choose something that he can not foresee.

    The inescapable conclusion is that if god is omni-everything, then there is no free will, and I could not have chosen my skepticism.

    If that is the logical conclusion of my belief, then you really do not know my beliefs.

    If you believe that god is omni-everything, then logic dictates that it is the logical conclusion of your beliefs as I’ve shown above.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    SJL:

    You are absolutely right to point out that logic has its limitations, too. However, the fact that rational people are willing to admit and understand these limits is very heartening, and in sharp contrast to religion, which refuses to admit flaw until dragged kicking and screaming (by modern knowledge, often arrived at by the exercise of logic, in a delicious irony) into doing so.

    In short, in the absence of falsifiability, one is much more likely to stray into falsehood.

  • SJL

    Thanks OMGF,
    You have shown me an insight that I had not seen before. That is, truly how narrow my understanding has to be in order to be an atheist. You have demonstrated that if god is not this way then there is no god. You have completely closed your mind to the possibilities that are so much larger.

    I’m telling you right here, right now, that your logic is flawed. God is much bigger than your assumptions. It is not either this or that…it is all of that. Failing to understand that is at the root of your disbelief. Unless you can expand your mind and accept the greater possibilities you will remain where you are. From what I read, you are fine with that, so it is not an issue.

  • OMGF

    SJL,
    Your sarcasm aside, you’ve demonstrated that you don’t even understand what I wrote. I did not set out to disprove your god. I set out to show that your god, as described, means that we do not have free will, nor am I able to choose to go against god. Please try to follow the arguments and stop with the personal attacks.

    I will spell it out for you.

    If god is omniscient, then he knows all that I will think and do. He knows what it would take to convince me and he doesn’t do it. But, it’s worse than that. He knew all I would do before he created me or even created the universe. Therefore, the universe is completely deterministic. If I have free will, then I can choose something that god has not foreseen, and that would mean god is not omniscient. Perhaps this time you will actually try to understand the point that is being made and not resort to sarcasm and personal attack?

  • Harvard

    Dear SJL

    You say, “God is much bigger than your assumptions.”
    Wow! You have met god and talked to him?
    Or did he tell you, and you listened?
    What was it like?
    Did god have a deep voice?
    And which god is it?
    The xian god? Jewish god? Muslim god? Buddha? Thor? Isis?
    Or is it some new god we haven’t heard of yet?
    Gee. You must be really special.
    .

  • heliobates

    God is much bigger than your assumptions.

    It’s disappointing to see you fold under questioning, SJL. Atheists, particularly regulars here, won’t dismiss your arguments because we can’t counter them. We’ll dismiss them because we’ve seen them before and didn’t find them persuasive the last time they were offered.

    To define this as close-mindedness is more rhetorical white-flaggery. You seem to want to quit the field so that you can yell from the sidelines.

  • SJL

    @OMGF

    I apologize if it was received as a personal attack.
    The point that I was trying to make is that, things are not black and white. You try to paint things that way when they simply are not. You have the freedom to do what you like. Even if God knew that you would respond in a certain way. Absolving yourself of the blame is not a logical answer. I think we are both seeing the situation from very different view points. I don’t mean to offend, but like I said before, I think you have a very bad understanding of the character of god. His grace is boundless.

  • SJL

    @Harvard
    I was told to tone down my sarcasm , then I get this. Come on, what does it have to do with anything.

    So what, would you be jealous if I truly was “special” and I actully had coffee with him at Starbucks? (matching sarcasm with sarcasm…sorry ;-)

  • Marty

    “You have demonstrated that if god is not this way then there is no god. You have completely closed your mind to the possibilities that are so much larger.

    I’m telling you right here, right now, that your logic is flawed. God is much bigger than your assumptions. It is not either this or that…it is all of that. Failing to understand that is at the root of your disbelief.”

    OK, SJL, enlighten us. Tell us the nature of god. Specifically, please address the logical flaw of OMGF’s very clearly outlined irreconcilability between god as omniscent and human free will. While you are at it, please tell us YOUR assumptions, because reading this latest round of dialogue, I see us veering into the squishiness that attends so many god claims. By that I mean, an atheist addresses a logical fallacy based on the qualities commonly ascribed to god (omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinitely just, loving and merciful, etc.), and the theist says ‘no, god’s not like that at all’. In this case, OMGF is working off a point of dogma that many Protestant sects hold to be true– that events are pre-destined. SJL, you’ve stated that you’re not a fundamentalist, and I think you have otherwise indicated that you are not affiliated with more traditional christian churches (information which would give us a better understanding of what flavor god you claim to believe in). Help us get past our limited, un-inspired assumptions.

  • OMGF

    SJL,

    I apologize if it was received as a personal attack.

    No worries.

    The point that I was trying to make is that, things are not black and white. You try to paint things that way when they simply are not.

    First of all, what Marty said.

    Second, it’s not about being black and white, it’s about logic and illogic. If you believe that god is omni-everything, then I am absolved of any responsibility. Again, I should point out that I don’t personally feel that way. I do feel that I am responsible for my actions. I’m simply arguing your beliefs to their logical conclusion. If you hold that god is omni-everything, then logically it leads to determinism and me off the hook.

    If you don’t hold to omni-everythingness, then I shall change my argument accordingly.

    I don’t mean to offend, but like I said before, I think you have a very bad understanding of the character of god. His grace is boundless.

    If god’s grace is boundless, then no one will go to hell. Otherwise, god’s grace is not boundless. Actually, I could go further and argue that god’s grace is not boundless simply because of suffering in this world, but I’ll leave that for later.

  • SJL

    @Marty/ OMGF
    For starters, I am not a theologian who has studied the field at great lengths and can expand on every attribute of God. I will be honest and say that I don’t think that I can shed you the light that you need and completely put the issue to bed. Although, there may be some out there who can. What I can say is that looking at Omni(everything) and Free will is not addressing the whole equation. Neglecting the other attributes makes the formula incomplete. That is all I was stating. I would love to be able to dive into this a little further, but at this point in time, I simply cannot. I will try to find sometime to do the research and come back with something.

    As far as who I am, I am not affiliated with any traditional churches, The grid in which I fit best is the Kingdom Theology( Not Kingdom Now, very different) I also fit into the Post-Charismatic group.

    What do you mean by “I will change my argument accordingly”

  • SJL

    I must apologize if I don’t address every questions raised. I am trying to make an effort to get to everything, but unfortunately, I have work that I need to do and I have a family to tend to. So this is done in little windows of time.
    Also, as a disclaimer, I admit to not having all the answers to the questions that you are asking me. I realize that I am in your territory but I was invited here by one of yours.
    Not sure how often you get Christians here or if we are welcome, but I have certainly have gotten my share of questions thrown my way. Not that I am complaining, but it is difficult to address them all when it fells like I am being tag-teamed.

    I do enjoy these discussions, they have opened a bunch of questions that I need to find a way to answer. Most of the time I know what I believe about the answer, but conveying it can be difficult. I’m not as articulate as I would like to be.

    So if you are enjoying this dialog, then I am glad to continue. If you feel like I am wasting your time, then I will leave, no harm no foul.

  • Wedge

    SJL,

    I hope you stick around, as I’m enjoying the debate. Part of the reason you’re feeling tag-teamed is that, much as we like the support and enthusiasm of talking to fellow atheists, it’s much easier to have a good debate with someone who disagrees with you. Here, that happens when posts get into off-god topics like politics or biased media (also interesting debates) or a thoughtful theist shows up. I do appreciate your willingness to discuss and listen.

    I also hope you don’t get the idea that because you can’t answer an argument you’ve somehow confirmed problems people have with Christianity or that we really expected you to pull out a good response. After all, the best theologians in the last 2000 years haven’t been able to answer these questions. There are two points in bringing them up: to show you some of the irreconcilable problems that (in many cases) drove people away from Christianity or keep them from buying it; to point out to you something you may not have considered in your own religion which may help you see where atheists are coming from; and of course, to open the door in case a god has picked you to share some real answers. Hey, new evidence would surprise me, but I’d listen.

    Whoops…ok, there are three points…

    No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  • Marty

    Well said, Wedge.

    Many of us were raised in religious, usually christian, traditions and are now atheists because we asked these kinds of questions or came to these realizations and found that there were no good arguments on the other side.

    I certainly hope that this discussion does not seem to be an attack in any way, just spirited debate. You are welcome to hang around and I would venture to guess that if anyone was bored or put off by the debate, they would have dropped off by now.

    Finally, I don’t think anyone on this board has an interest in ‘converting’ you, but this is a good opportunity for consciousness-raising. Often, christians mis-characterize atheists as being angry with god, rejecting the holy spirit, or not adopting their particular definition of god as the reason we don’t play with their invisible friend. Even Francis Collins (remember him? he’s what this thread was about!) resorts to a strawman of atheism, critisizing the ‘strong’ definition of atheism (the positive assertion that god does not exist), as opposed to the much, much more common ‘weak’ definition: one who has not seen sufficient evidence of gods’ existence to believe. If through this discussion, we can have one more believer who understands what atheism is about, the effort will have been worthwhile.

    SJL, as long as you keep asking questions and follow them wherever the answers lead you, you will move in the direction of the truth. Even if we can never ultimately find it.

  • Marty

    Well said, Wedge.

    Many of us were raised in religious, usually christian, traditions and are now atheists because we asked these kinds of questions or came to these realizations and found that there were no good arguments on the other side.

    I certainly hope that this discussion does not seem to be an attack in any way, just spirited debate. You are welcome to hang around and I would venture to guess that if anyone was bored or put off by the debate, they would have dropped off by now.

    Finally, I don’t think anyone on this board has an interest in ‘converting’ you, but this is a good opportunity for consciousness-raising. Often, christians mis-characterize atheists as being angry with god, rejecting the holy spirit, or not adopting their particular definition of god as the reason we don’t play with their invisible friend. Even Francis Collins (remember him? he’s what this thread was about!) resorts to a strawman of atheism, critisizing the ‘strong’ definition of atheism (the positive assertion that god does not exist), as opposed to the much, much more common ‘weak’ definition: one who has not seen sufficient evidence of gods’ existence to believe. If through this discussion, we can have one more believer who understands what atheism is about, the effort will have been worthwhile.

    SJL, as long as you keep asking questions and follow them wherever the answers lead you, you will move in the direction of the truth. Even if we can never ultimately find it.

  • OMGF

    SJL

    What I can say is that looking at Omni(everything) and Free will is not addressing the whole equation. Neglecting the other attributes makes the formula incomplete.

    “Omni-everything” is all the attributes.

    What do you mean by “I will change my argument accordingly”

    It means that if I’m arguing against a belief that you don’t hold, then I’ll stop using that argument. It would be fruitless to argue against free will using an argument against “omni-everythingness” if you don’t believe that god is omni-everything.

    Not sure how often you get Christians here or if we are welcome, but I have certainly have gotten my share of questions thrown my way. Not that I am complaining, but it is difficult to address them all when it fells like I am being tag-teamed.

    You are welcome here so long as you don’t start preaching – that’s when Ebon starts deleting stuff. As for tag-teaming, I think that’s a byproduct of the fact that you happen to be rather out-numbered. It’s not meant to stop you from conversing, it’s just a natural occurrence. I get the same when I go onto Xian sites.

  • Steve Slater

    These posts ended long ago, but I have just now read them. I agree with the first two criticisms of Collins’ reasoning. The criticisms that follow after that appear weak to me. For example, I’m left to wonder how many on this board who read CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity really grasped his arguments? Lewis stated that as an atheism he was brought kicking and struggling into the Kingdom of God by the historical evidence for the claims of Christ and that he was the most unwilling convert in all of England. No one addressed his arguments specifically, except the universal moral question and that was addressed quite poorly. The naturalistic or evoutionary explanations do not get to the essence of what we understand intuitively by “morality”. Hawkins’ position that there is no good or evil is a more logically consistent – I would argue an inevitable – conclusion for a materialist. But then where did the nonexistent ideal come from? I mean, there are no counterfeit four dollar bills.

  • Steve Slater

    These posts ended long ago, but I have just now read them. I agree with the first two criticisms of Collins’ reasoning. The criticisms that follow after that appear weak to me. For example, I’m left to wonder how many on this board who read CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity really grasped his arguments? Lewis stated that as an atheism he was brought kicking and struggling into the Kingdom of God by the historical evidence for the claims of Christ and that he was the most unwilling convert in all of England. No one addressed his arguments specifically, except the universal moral question and that was addressed quite poorly. The naturalistic or evoutionary explanations do not get to the essence of what we understand intuitively by “morality”. Hawkins’ position that there is no good or evil is a more logically consistent – I would argue an inevitable – conclusion for a materialist. But then where did the nonexistent ideal come from? I mean, there are no counterfeit four dollar bills.

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

    The naturalistic or evoutionary explanations do not get to the essence of what we understand intuitively by “morality”.

    I hear this a lot…

    The simple fact is that we are evolved as a social animal, much like all other mammals (I think all…) Social animals have also evolved rules for living in social structures, which is where morality comes into play. If there is no such thing as moral behavior, then societies and groups fall apart, and we could not have survived as social animals (which was essential for survival – strength in numbers and all that). It’s still something that needs more study, but it makes a lot of sense, especially since we see the same sorts of behavior in other animals.

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

    The naturalistic or evoutionary explanations do not get to the essence of what we understand intuitively by “morality”.

    I hear this a lot…

    The simple fact is that we are evolved as a social animal, much like all other mammals (I think all…) Social animals have also evolved rules for living in social structures, which is where morality comes into play. If there is no such thing as moral behavior, then societies and groups fall apart, and we could not have survived as social animals (which was essential for survival – strength in numbers and all that). It’s still something that needs more study, but it makes a lot of sense, especially since we see the same sorts of behavior in other animals.