The Aura of Infallibility

Religious beliefs, as a general rule, aren’t based on evidence.

I have little doubt that my fellow nonbelievers will agree without reservation, and equally little doubt that religious believers will call me arrogant and uninformed for so sweepingly dismissing the basis of their beliefs. But that’s not what I’m trying to say. By this statement, I’m not referring to the question of whether solid evidence underlies the tenets of religion (although I trust I’ve made my views on that issue known). I’m referring to something different: the question of how people become theists in the first place.

It may be that there are people who became believers after dispassionately examining a variety of world religions, deciding which one was best supported by the evidence, and choosing to join that one. It may be that there are such people; I’ve never met them. Instead, the vast majority of believers of my acquaintance had their beliefs chosen for them at a very early age, and were taught to follow those beliefs without skepticism or doubt. (My college friend John, whom I wrote about in 2006 in “A Seriously Warped Moral Compass“, told me with pride that he became a Christian at the age of five.) A relatively smaller number converted later in life, but again, I find that in the overwhelming majority of cases that decision was made for reasons other than a critical comparison of the options.

I bring this up because I recently came across an astonishing debate, one that clearly outlines what I think are the two major strands of thought competing in modern theism. This debate took place on a now-defunct evangelical Christian blog, Evangelutionist, in a thread titled “The YEC-Christianity Conflation” [link fixed --Ebonmuse]. “YEC” is an acronym for “young-earth creationism”, and the debate was over the issue of whether belief in a literal six-day creation and a 6,000-year-old cosmos is theologically necessary to be a Christian. The author, Touchstone, took the negative, but mattpowell, a commenter holding an opposite view, soon showed up.

I really recommend reading the whole comment thread, but to get a flavor of it, here are some highlights:

I don’t hold YEC doctrine in high esteem at all. I was raised in a YEC home, taught in a YEC church, and pushed to the limits of my faith when I finally reached the real world and discovered how misleading and dishonest the PR campaign for young earth creationism is.

It’s not YEC per se that’s being conflated with orthodox Christianity. It is obedience to Scripture that is.

…when you take theories of the age of things, interpretations of physical data that you have never seen, and use that to interpret Genesis 1, now you’re letting the ideas of men interpret Scripture instead of letting Scripture interpret Scripture. There isn’t a shred of evidence anywhere in Scripture that Genesis 1 ought to be regarded as anything other than a straightforward historical account, and rather a lot to the contrary.

Exegetically, I understand Genesis 1 to be a theological treatise, the written account of an oral tradition, an inspired co-opting of ancient cosmological myths. God is asserting his sovereignty over all of creation as the Creator, and relating the moral history of man as a context for His relationship with mankind. The length of a solar day versus billions of years has *zero* bearing on the message — the moral of the story, the theology attached to the history.

Most of what we know we accept on authority, like the phases of Venus and the rings of Saturn. I accept those things on authority. None of these things affect my worldview at all. None of these things contradict anything in Scripture.

…Genesis 1 is something entirely different. Genesis 1 is presented as a historical account, an account of how God created the universe. It’s not intended to answer every detail, but it is presented as historical truth, how God actually did it.

…If it is not historical truth, what else can safely be dispensed with? Adam and Eve? Modern science denies them. The flood? Modern science says it’s impossible. Tower of Babel? The exodus? …Where does it stop?

…None of you have direct knowledge at all of the origins, age, or nature of the universe. What you have, on the one hand, are the speculations of people who hate God and His Son. Is it surprising that their arguments seem very compelling? Jesus said they would be, doing signs and wonders that would deceive, if possible, even the elect. And on the other hand, you have the testimony of the One who made the heavens and the earth. It’s by faith that you know that God made all things (Hebrews 11). And it’s also by faith (belief in authority) that you accept the speculations of modern scientists. Presented that way, I think it should be obvious which faith is superior. Let God be true, and every man a liar. I will stick to the plain teaching of Scripture.

And finally, the money quote. Here’s Matt’s closing argument:

If someone came to me with actual evidence, went back in a time machine and videotaped the disciples stealing the body, gave me DNA evidence from a crucified man in a tomb outside Jerusalem with the inscription, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, and matched that DNA evidence to the ossuary of James proving it was his brother, I would still believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I’ll tell you why- because when I read the book of John, when I read the book of James, when I read the book of Philippians or Matthew or Revelation, I hear the voice of my savior, my God. It is spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2). No evidence of man can ever change that. I hear, and I believe. I would reject the testimony of every man on earth, including my own understanding, rather than reject the testimony of God. I believe it because Scripture says it, and Scripture is the word of God.

This is a jaw-dropping quote, but there’s a crucial point buried in there. Did you catch it?

Matt Powell proclaims that he believes in the absolute inerrancy of the Bible, including a 6,000-year-old universe, because to do anything less is to submit the Bible to tests of verification by non-Christian scientists, who are fallen and sinful, who hate God and are motivated by Satan. To allow this, he says, would be the first step in a process that would steadily chip away at the doctrines of Christianity until its central doctrine, the resurrection of Jesus, went up in smoke. To prevent this, we must trust in God and believe that every word of the Bible, from start to finish, is literally true. Only this firm stand can give rise to a solid rock of faith, rather than one that will steadily be eroded by every new wave of secular thought until it’s eroded away altogether.

Matt isn’t the only one who holds this viewpoint. Some very prominent Christian intellectuals say exactly the same; some of them are quoted in my essay “Thoughts in Captivity“. Among them is one of the most prolific and highly-regarded apologists for modern Christianity, William Lane Craig – who, if this account is true, asserted that he, too, would continue to believe in Christianity even in the time machine scenario discussed above. Craig has stated that he knows Christianity to be true via the “self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit“.

So what is the crucial point in Matt’s argument? What is the flaw in the foundation upon which his entire theology rests? It’s this:

…when I read the book of John, when I read the book of James, when I read the book of Philippians or Matthew or Revelation, I hear the voice of my savior, my God. It is spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2). No evidence of man can ever change that. I hear, and I believe.

I hear – the key pronoun being “I”. Matt says that he believes the Bible is infallible, but in fact, what he really believes is that he himself is infallible. He has decided that his interpretations, his opinions, his beliefs are the ones that are perfect and immune to error. The same can be said of William Lane Craig and of every other theist who uses this argument.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that the Bible was the infallible word of God. Even if that were the case, how could we recognize it as such? There is no way to answer this question that does not also assume the speaker’s own infallibility. Even if we believe a book to be infallible, rationally we must always recognize the possibility that we are not infallible, and that we could be mistaken about that belief. You may believe a text is infallible and be mistaken; you may believe you hear the word of God and be wrong. We are inextricably enmeshed in the fact of our own fallibility, and we cannot rise above that. We have no way to view the world that is immune to making mistakes.

That is why all knowledge is, and must be, provisional. That isn’t to say that we can never know anything, or that we cannot have a great deal of confidence in our beliefs. But we must always grant the possibility, no matter how small it is, that we might be mistaken about what we believe. Theists who refuse to grant this assume that the strength of their conviction is a completely reliable guide to the true nature of objective reality. This is a self-pleasing delusion – it always has been and always will be. What’s more, it’s monstrously arrogant. Who are you, a human being, to claim that your feelings define reality? Who are you to claim you understand the true nature of the universe so completely that you will not countenance even the possibility of error?

Touchstone’s original post quotes a believer who worries, once we start questioning, where the slippery slope will end:

Yet, how can one know anything for sure about Jesus if the Bible that reveals him is wrong often or even from time to time. Is the Virgin Birth wrong? Is Jesus both God and man, or is that wrong? What about the Trinity? All such doctrines are attacked by secularists and non-believers as much as the Young Earth doctrine, why not jettison those as well? And if not, why not? How can you know what is right and what is wrong in the Bible?

Doubtless that is a serious problem for Christians. But deciding to abandon those doubts and trust in inerrancy is not a solution to the problem: it is a refusal to face the problem. Proclaiming yourself and your beliefs to be perfectly free of error is a doomed and desperate rear-guard action against a pattern of critical inquiry that has toppled one ancient superstition after another. The theologians of past ages, too, sought to proclaim themselves infallible, as Carl Sagan reminds us in The Demon-Haunted World:

“The giving up of witchcraft,” said John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, “is in effect the giving up of the Bible.” (p.119)

But Wesley’s pretensions of infallibility did not stop the world from marching on and revealing his beliefs, with the passage of time, to be ridiculous and pernicious superstition. We have no reason to believe that our own future has any kinder a fate in store for those who follow the latest iteration of this strategy.

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.

  • MisterDomino

    Alright, I’m the first to comment! Whoda thunk it pays to be up at six in the morning?

    He has decided that his interpretations, his opinions, his beliefs are the ones that are perfect and immune to error.

    I think this sums up most theist mentality: the self-righteous, arrogant, “holier-than-thou” attitude that drives so many to assert their faith despite any and every reasonable argument.

    I believe it because Scripture says it, and Scripture is the word of God.

    The Bible says God is real and God inspires the Bible says God is real and God inspires the Bible says… ;)

    It seems so ridiculously immature that these men – GROWN men, mind you – are making statements that are tantamount to saying, “I would believe it even if it wasn’t true, because I want to. WAAAH!”

  • http://www.wordsthatsing.wordpress.com Lirone

    You make a very reasonable point about some seriously scary arguments. I’m reminded of the fantastic quote from The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins):

    “Once self-supported by conscience, once embarked on a career of manifest usefulness, the true Christian never yields. Neither public nor private influences produce the slightest effect on us, when we have once got our mission. Taxation may be the consequence of a mission; riots may be the consequence of a mission; wars may be the consequence of a mission: we go on with our work, irrespective of every human consideration which moves the world outside us. We are above reason; we are beyond ridicule; we see with nobody’s eyes, we hear with nobody’s ears, we feel with nobody’s hearts, but our own. Glorious, glorious privilege! And how is it earned? Ah, my friends, you may spare yourselves the useless inquiry! We are the only people who can earn it-for we are the only people who are always right.”

    Another thought that came to mind while reading your post was to wonder why people don’t believe that contemplating creation is a valuable source of insight into the nature of the creator. Wouldn’t that be along the lines of the (infallible of course) words “by their fruits shall ye know them”?

  • http://yetanotheratheistblog.blogspot.com/ YAAB

    “Arguments” like the one you cite from Matt are very disheartening for those of us who would like to believe that theists can be reasoned into abandoning their superstitions. I recently had a chat with a fundie (he prefers “evangelical”) friend of mine who called my position dogmatic, so I trotted out your post regarding the sort of evidence you would require to accept a theistic worldview, and challenged him to do the converse by naming a set of criteria which would convince him that Christianity was false. Evidence of intentional biblical distortions would suffice, he said. So I pointed him to Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus.”

    That was about 6 months ago. I chatted with him yesterday. He still “hasn’t quite found the time” to read it. <sarcasm>Shocking!</sarcasm>

  • http://stargazers-observatory.blogspot.com/ Stargazer1323

    No evidence of man can ever change that.

    Once again, I find myself stunned at the difference between the way theists and atheists see the world. I have yet to meet an atheist who won’t readily admit that they would believe in God in an instant if solid, verifiable proof were given of his/her/its existence, but many theists take the exact opposite position, saying that they will never stop believing even if solid, verifiable proof contradicting their beliefs turns up. I get the feeling from comments like those that if we were to create a time machine and go back to find out that everything the Bible said was true, the number of Christians in the world would rise significantly, but if we went back to find out that none of it was true, the number of atheists would not change by very much.

    This seems to be the best example of why “faith” is the major stumbling block in discussions between atheists and theists. If one person states outright that nothing the other person says or does will ever change their mind, any discussion with them seems to only reinforce their feelings of infallibility, rather than opening their minds to other ideas and ways of viewing the world.

  • 2-D Man

    I like this post.

    There is no way to answer this question that does not also assume the speaker’s own infallibility. Even if we believe a book to be infallible, rationally we must always recognize the possibility that we are not infallible, and that we could be mistaken about that belief.

    This is analogous to signigicant figures in science. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, in science we take measurements. Typically, several measurements of many different quantites (distance, time, energy, phase, etc.) are combined to reach some conclusion. The measurment with the least precision is the limiting factor and we say that the whole experiment is no more precise than the least of the measurements. But I suppose that this all falls under the catergory of ‘wisdom of man’ and is not to be regarded by theists.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Yup.

    Yup, yup, yup.

    I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, but yes. This sort of rock-ribbed, rigid faith isn’t really a faith in the inerrancy of the Bible (or whatever the text is in question). It’s really a faith in the inerrancy of the believer.

    And my question always is this: If your personal experience of God is an accurate perception of reality, then why are there so many religious believers around the world who perceive God differently from you? They’re every bit as convinced by their perception of who God is and what he/ she/ they want(s) from us as you are by yours. On what basis are you deciding that your perception is right and theirs is wrong? And as someone on the outside, who doesn’t have this personal experience of God, how am I supposed to choose between them?

    And they call atheists arrogant. Sheesh.

  • Mrnaglfar

    And they call atheists arrogant. Sheesh.

    Of course they would call us arrogant; they’d already decided they’re right no matter what, so naturally any calling that into question takes extreme balls from their perspective. It’s like how they always feel we need to “reread that verse until you see it the way I do” and how “the bible always seems to support my view of morality, and when it doesn’t outright, it’s just being symbolic”.

    I love this post as well; I never quite thought about the matter like this, but when I do it seems to make a whole lot more sense. It’s not that attacking the bible or the ideas contained therein is the problem, is that the theists see it as an attack on their life and views, or at least the authority they try to use to make their views seem set in stone.

  • http://www.mysteryofiniquity.wordpress.com MOI

    I would offer that there is a third group of believers/converts; those of us who made emotional commitments after growing up in horrible environments and who were looking for unconditional love. Evidence is moot at that point. We will believe anything that saves us from damaged selves and the “offer of Jesus’ love” fit the bill. Analytical thinking and reading the bible thoroughly, however, could not sustain the emotional high.

  • Ingersoll’s Revenge

    It’s not that attacking the bible or the ideas contained therein is the problem, is that the theists see it as an attack on their life and views, or at least the authority they try to use to make their views seem set in stone.

    Most theists identify so closely with their religion that they don’t realize it’s possible to criticize the belief without belittling the believer.

  • Ellwood

    “the bible always seems to support my view of morality, and when it doesn’t outright, it’s just being symbolic”. – Mrnaglfar

    Exactly. I’ve always found that the biggest problem for believers, and for humanity as a whole, is finding meaning where no meaning lies. In life, so many people are desperately searching for answers…when one is found, it’s such a relief that it’s probably very hard to examine it to see if it’s the right answer. Most of the believers I know aren’t “fundies”. They find things in the bible that are comforting, taking morals from it which match their own, and pretty much ignoring what doesn’t fit. To these people, the contradictions with reality and within the bible (or whatever religious text) are non-existant. They choose what works for them, and would rather tread the path of least resistance than changing their beliefs to suit REALITY.

  • James B

    I hear – the key pronoun being “I”. Matt says that he believes the Bible is infallible, but in fact, what he really believes is that he himself is infallible. He has decided that his interpretations, his opinions, his beliefs are the ones that are perfect and immune to error. The same can be said of William Lane Craig and of every other theist who uses this argument.

    Thank you for that insight! Best post in ages. This should be really useful arguing with our local Jehovah’s Witnesses. :)

  • Karen

    To these people, the contradictions with reality and within the bible (or whatever religious text) are non-existant. They choose what works for them, and would rather tread the path of least resistance than changing their beliefs to suit REALITY.

    Exactly. Not only does it work for them emotionally, most of them also have deep community and family ties to religion and breaking them would be devastating. Having made the break, myself, I can tell you it isn’t for the faint of heart.

    I’ve had the same experience YAAB described, above. You get someone with the intellectual chops to start to see that some of the arguments you’re making are valid, and they will concede to a degree, but then at some point their curiosity shuts down. It’s like they realize they’re in danger of really putting some of their cherished beliefs under the microscope, and perhaps seeing them proven wrong, and suddenly they lose interest. “I get bored debating the existence of god,” or “I don’t have time to read that” – there’s a backing away from the precipice when the view gets too scary.

    It seems the individuals who get out have in common a deep curiosity and a deep commitment to personal honesty – no matter where it takes them.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Actually, I was particularly interested by this comment.

    Most of what we know we accept on authority, like the phases of Venus and the rings of Saturn.

    See, it’s comments like this one that really worry me. This particular example is amusing given that nobody with access to a back-yard telescope need take those things on authority, but it’s part of a broader pattern of simply not considering that knowledge could ever come from anything but the authority of someone else. That idea should have died with Aristotelian physics.

    A person who doesn’t even consider the possibility of concrete evidence for a position is pretty much forced into trusting their own view of who has authority and who does not. It’s arrogance by necessity.

  • http://www.dangerousintersection.org Erich Vieth

    “I hear – the key pronoun being “I”. Matt says that he believes the Bible is infallible, but in fact, what he really believes is that he himself is infallible.”

    Beautiful line. Terrific analysis throughout.

  • Dave Homiak

    Just a quick thought on the time machine question to Craig. I understand Craig’s perspective, and think that the question is a red herring that he could have addressed better. Why is it a red herring? If it were true that the resurrection of Jesus did not take place and he was just a man, then there would be no Holy Spirit to convict Craig in the present, because Jesus, not being the Christ, would not have been able to send Him (i.e., Christianity would be false). However, the fact that Craig feels convicted by the Holy Spirit, regardless of whether you may feel he is self-deluded, is evidence to him that the resurrection did take place, and so going back in time and not witnessing the resurrection would be a non sequitur for him, a deception. Based on other considerations, Craig does not believe his conviction by the Holy Spirit is a self-delusion, and chooses not to trust his senses in that case. Is that clear as mud?

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Clear as mud is right! I mean, I understand the argument, but look at it this way. If you see and hear and touch something that looks like one thing, but it smells like something else, would you automatically assume that it was your nose that was correct, despite the agreement of your other senses in a different direction? At the very least, you’d be justified in reserving judgement as to what exactly you were dealing with. But when you’re dealing with the ‘Holy Spirit’ disagreeing with what you see when you go back in time, not only would it be one sense contradicting all the others in this situation, but we’re talking about a ‘sense’ that supplies no consilient data whatsoever. It’s not like seeing, where two people can agree on what they’ve seen without discussing it beforehand. People have to be told to feel the Holy Spirit before they can ‘sense’ the same thing you do. And given that we know that the mind can be manipulated to experience things that aren’t real by inducing the expectation that something will be felt, well, I just see no reason to conclude that the ‘God’ sense is reliable.

    Based on other considerations, Craig does not believe his conviction by the Holy Spirit is a self-delusion . . .

    Now I think of it — what other considerations?

  • L.Nielsen

    Not often I chime in, but I read your blog nearly every day. Loves it every time!This entry and the on the other day about miracles are just brilliant. Keep them comming.

  • http://intrinsicallyknotted.wordpress.com Susan B.

    Very nicely done, and you’ve given me a great new perspective to use in my current ongoing discussion with a Christian who is absolutely convinced he’s experienced God and heard angels and so on. (He’s also convinced he knows more about how atheists think than we ourselves, which is annoying.)

  • OMGF

    Mr. Homiak,
    You’re arguing that Mr. Craig already believes in Jesus, so even if he sees evidence that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, he already believes it (strongly) so of course he won’t believe the evidence presented to him. Um, OK, but that’s exactly what is being criticized here, the attitude that one’s beliefs are more true and more important than reality.

  • stuart

    well, I would like to play devils advocate here, and that is not an excuse to sit on the fence. More a,”C’est la vie, mon ami “. For those of you that don’t know, this means, ” the unexamined life is not worth living for a man”. What Socrates was saying in a nutshell, was that people whom ever they are, become set in their beliefs. Without analysing what or why they believe, and therefore consequently, not challenging their beliefs, progress no further forward. This is true of both theists and atheists. Neither theists or atheists can prove, or disprove that God exists. However,by examining what and why they believe, can lead either party to see things from a different perspective.
    You see all of our actions and our emotional responses correspond to our values. We cringe at death because we value life. Were this value not in place death would hold no sway over us. You go to any prison where the value of life has been minimized and meet individuals who value neither your life or theirs and you will find no fear of death. We pity the homeless because they are fellow humans and we value humanity. Where there is no love of humanity there is no pity for the suffering of others. We are outraged when someone attacks our country because we value it. If we did not we would care less if someone attacked it so long as it didn’t interfere with anything else we valued. When our values are askew we find ourselves reacting to things that would otherwise be meaningless. Like the Black woman who scowls and is angered when she sees that the mother of my child is Caucasian. Why does she react this way? Because she values Blackmen and sees White women as a threat. Why does she see them as a threat? Because she has been taught to. Even though a moments indulgence in logic would tell her that even were I not with this woman the chances of me meeting and falling in love with her out of all the other women in the world are still minimal. Logically she should see all women as threats and scowl every time she sees a man with any woman that is not her because they are all threats. The woman who scowls even when she has her own man makes even less sense. She is reacting to a cultural bias that she has in all likelihood never took a moment to truly examine. The same goes to the White men who react similarly. The list goes on and on. The fat girl who hates skinny girls. The short guy who hates tall guys. The straight guy who scowls when he sees two men kissing. What possible harm could that do to him? It’s because he has been taught to value heterosexuality. That’s fine. How is someone else’s sexual orientation a threat to his sexuality unless he has tendencies within him that he is battling with? It’s just a result of someone failing to reason and merely excepting that the more gays that are open with their sexuality the more that lifestyle will prosper as if it’s some type of disease you can catch. Pure idiocy. As a result of this willful ignorance you have the impediment of the rights of others because of the groundless fears of ignorant majority. That’s why we can’t always let the “Happy animals” remain happy, because maintaining their illusions often entail curtailing the freedom of others to live where, how, and with whom they desire.( wrath )

    Despite this, one thing I would like to draw everyone’s attention to is that if a God does not exist where does our conscience come from? by that i don’t mean what is written above. How many of us can claim that we were brought up accept murder or rape was wrong? yet we all know that it is. In other words we do not have to be taught this, we all have a basic conscience, other values inherent in us come via nurture. Is this proof of a God? maybe, maybe not. Think if we didn’t possess this basic conscience and we thought it acceptable to murder anyone who wronged us? there wouldn’t be many people walking the earth!!! On the flip side, was the bible written by intelligent people like Socrates, who saw a bigger picture of life than the average man? my conclusion is, ask yourselves why do I REALLY believe what I believe.

  • OMGF

    stuart,

    More a,”C’est la vie, mon ami “. For those of you that don’t know, this means, ” the unexamined life is not worth living for a man”.

    It doesn’t mean that! It means, “Such is life, my friend.” I don’t even know French and I know this.

    Neither theists or atheists can prove, or disprove that God exists.

    Your point? Why should an atheist have to disprove god? The burden of proof lies on the theist, for it is the theist that makes the statement that god exists.

    Despite this, one thing I would like to draw everyone’s attention to is that if a God does not exist where does our conscience come from? by that i don’t mean what is written above. How many of us can claim that we were brought up accept murder or rape was wrong? yet we all know that it is. In other words we do not have to be taught this, we all have a basic conscience, other values inherent in us come via nurture.

    It comes from evolution. We’ve evolved to be a social animal and you can see the same effects in other social animals if you care to look it up.

    Is this proof of a God? maybe, maybe not.

    No, it’s not. It’s begging the question.

    my conclusion is, ask yourselves why do I REALLY believe what I believe.

    Which is how many of us were able to brush off the shackles of religious thought that had held us down for too long. Now, we disbelieve in religious fairy tales, which doesn’t imply that we positively believe in something else.

  • Christopher

    Even as a believer I wasn’t as commited to the faith as this fellow is: if I saw irrefutable eveidence that the Bible’s words were in error (any of them), I would have left it behind in a heartbeat (which I eventually did once I dug a bit deeper into scripture).

  • lpetrich

    The link to that Evangelutionist blog entry is broken; it is really The YEC == Christianity Conflation. I found the arguments in it rather curious, arguments like Genesis 1 being intended to discredit pagan star worship, that it was a way of saying “Goddidit!”, and that it deliberately used Babylonian cosmology for that purpose. I find the latter one most curious, because one can easily present the basics of the real thing without resorting to very technical language, while pointing out the errors of Babylonian cosmology, like the ocean above the sky.

  • spaceman spif

    Hmmm…I wonder what William Lane Craig would think if he could travel back in time only to find Jesus was actually a disciple of Buddha?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Irrelevant preaching has been removed, as per the comment policy. This site is not the place for anyone to tell the world about the special new religion they’ve made up themselves.

  • stuart

    I’m not saying that God ( as depicted by the bible ) exists, not at all. But equally science can not prove that he doesn’t.It follows that if theists have to prove the existence, then the same follows that atheists DO have to come up with an alternative answer. Science can not explain how sight has developed for example. As a scientist myself; the theory of the big bang, and, consequently evolution, is what it is, a THEORY, and nothing else.It is not proven. In fact scientists can not even define what electricity is. Find me a textbook or journal that states clearly the definition of electricity! I tell you now, you will not find one, because it doesn’t exist.Evolution does exist in theory,it has been theorised in for the general public in nature programmes, but not catergorically proven. To try and use it explain everything is therefore ludicrous. If we have evolved as a social animal, then evolved from what? chimpanzees? so why then, can scientists not use technology to identify in chimps a transition state, however small, to show it evolving at this moment? I am not bogged down by any religous belief, I myself am agnostic. One can believe in whatever they choose, but whatever you believe, there is an answer, regardless as to whether one believes it or not.

  • KShep

    So many goofy statements, so little time….

    I’m not saying that God ( as depicted by the bible ) exists, not at all. But equally science can not prove that he doesn’t.

    Science doesn’t have to prove a negative. Atheists aren’t claiming there is no god, we just say that theists haven’t given us reason to believe. Honestly, give us irrefutable proof of god’s existence and you’ll have us.

    It follows that if theists have to prove the existence, then the same follows that atheists DO have to come up with an alternative answer.

    Why? You seem to be saying that the default explanation is “god exists” and it’s up to everyone else to prove otherwise. This isn’t how science works.

    Science can not explain how sight has developed for example. As a scientist myself; the theory of the big bang, and, consequently evolution, is what it is, a THEORY, and nothing else.It is not proven.

    You have no idea what a scientific theory is, do you? It is NOT an “educated guess,” as some theists would have you believe. It is a set of observable and testable facts that support a conclusion. Look it up—I shouldn’t even have to provide any links. Evolution is indeed, fact.

    If we have evolved as a social animal, then evolved from what? chimpanzees?

    Yes, in a nutshell. Ape-like creatures, anyway.

    so why then, can scientists not use technology to identify in chimps a transition state, however small, to show it evolving at this moment?

    Do you think evolution means that you should be able to observe a living creature change it’s genetic structure before your eyes? That isn’t how it works. Evolution by natural selection involves changes in genetic structure over millions of years. Genetic mutations occur in every species. Those mutations that provide a favorable rate of survival are passed along to their offspring. Those with poorer mutations are less likely to survive long enough to produce offspring. This is Darwin’s theory broken down to it’s simplest terms. He proved it by observing the different adaptations among finches in the Galapagos Islands.

    (Problem is, we’ve now outsmarted evolution. We now have airbags in cars, which just allow stupid people that refuse to wear seatbelts to survive crashes and live long enough to produce stupid offspring.)

    One can believe in whatever they choose, but whatever you believe, there is an answer, regardless as to whether one believes it or not.

    You bet there are answers, and it’s science that has revealed the facts we know now and will reveal more as time goes on.

  • OMGF

    stuart,

    I’m not saying that God ( as depicted by the bible ) exists, not at all. But equally science can not prove that he doesn’t.It follows that if theists have to prove the existence, then the same follows that atheists DO have to come up with an alternative answer.

    If that is the case, then prove to me that Allah doesn’t exist, or Thor, or Zeus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. If the burden of proof lies on the one disproving all fanciful claims, then there’s no reason to rule out anything, yet this is clearly irrational. Unfortunately for you, logic doesn’t work that way. If you wish to make the positive assertion that god exists, it is up to you to provide evidence for it.

    Science can not explain how sight has developed for example.

    I suggest you look up evolutionary theory and the evolution of the eye.

    As a scientist myself; the theory of the big bang, and, consequently evolution, is what it is, a THEORY, and nothing else.It is not proven.

    Nothing in science is “proven” but I seriously doubt that you are a scientist since you seem to not know what “theory” means. A theory is about as good an explanation as you can hope for in science. It’s something that is well attested to, something that incorporates lots of testable and tested hypotheses that have never been disproven through many, many attempts. Theories are very powerful, or else you think that gravity is somehow lessened because it too is only a theory?

    In fact scientists can not even define what electricity is.

    You’re not serious, are you? You have heard of Maxwell, right?

    If we have evolved as a social animal, then evolved from what? chimpanzees?

    Nope. We evolved from a common ancestor with apes. The evidence is very solid. You should look up Ken Miller’s testimony in the Dover trial.

    so why then, can scientists not use technology to identify in chimps a transition state, however small, to show it evolving at this moment?

    Everything is evolving right now. The time frame, however, for evolution is hundreds of thousands of years at the least for most changes. That said, are you not aware of the nylonase bacteria, or the change in finch beaks on the Galapagos? How about fruit fly studies or bacteria evolving resistance to anti-bacterial meds? Seems to me like you need to study the subject that you are bashing before making such comments that show that you don’t know what you are talking about.

    I am not bogged down by any religous belief, I myself am agnostic.

    Oh really? Then, where does your denial of evolution come from?

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    I hope this video (currently the very first hit on Google) is the one I think it is. Between being on dial-up and QuickTime not working, I can’t watch it to be sure. If it is the right one, it has a beautiful example of a viable path for the evolution of the eye, complete with real living examples of what the transitional forms are thought to have been like.

  • Jim Speiser

    Definition:

    God: n. A being so powerful that he can overcome any logical argument against his existence, no matter how cogent.

    That may sound a little Ambose Bierce, but it is the mindset we are dealing with. And it may be the key to breaking through the barriers that theists have set up for themselves. I suspect that deep inside every theist’s brain you will find a small dose of doubt, usually chained to a wall like a prisoner in a dungeon. Somewhere in those chains is a weak link, and this may be the key to prying it loose: “If you’re an imperfect being, then you are fallible. If you are fallible, you could be wrong. If you could be wrong, you could be wrong about God. But you will never find out whether you are wrong about God unless you closely examine the things that make you feel you are right.”

  • MIchael

    On the discovery channel there are scientists who are retro engineering dinosaurs from chicken eggs. Essentially they are proving that dinosaurs evolved into modern day birds. They can add proteins to have instructions embedded in DNA turned on again to grow long tails, teeth, scales instead of feathers and arms.

    The argument is all but over. When thinking about how young genetic engineering is as a science, it is not with long odds that you can bet we are going to find more of the answers that explain the way evolution works.

  • Eric

    Definition:
    God: n. A being so powerful that he can overcome any logical argument against his existence, no matter how cogent.

    Some thoughts pop in here with this little gem. If it is such a powerful being, why then is it defined anthropomorphically? We assign “he” to this thing. Makes no sense. Anything so powerful and outside all definition shouldn’t be assigned a human sex characteristic.

    Also, the defintion is circular. If it is something that is beyond any deifintion, how then can we define it in the first place?

    It is again, the magical semantic shell game played by theists and apologists to try and support their personal confirmation biases.

  • OMGF

    The argument is all but over.

    For all thinking people, the argument has been over for a long time.

  • Brit-nontheist

    Stuart:

    Despite this, one thing I would like to draw everyone’s attention to is that if a God does not exist where does our conscience come from? by that i don’t mean what is written above. How many of us can claim that we were brought up accept murder or rape was wrong? yet we all know that it is. In other words we do not have to be taught this, we all have a basic conscience, other values inherent in us come via nurture. Is this proof of a God? maybe, maybe not.

    Christopher Hitchens makes a rather stunningly-simple knock-down argument to this point. He points out that it is the height of arrogance, monumentally stupid and plain old insulting to believe that until Sinai the Jewish people thought murder, rape and pillage were perfectly acceptable! You can judge a person’s morality by which ethical commands he or she picks and chooses from the bible – after all, it provides enough material for all views.

    Stuart:

    Think if we didn’t possess this basic conscience and we thought it acceptable to murder anyone who wronged us? there wouldn’t be many people walking the earth!!! On the flip side, was the bible written by intelligent people like Socrates, who saw a bigger picture of life than the average man? my conclusion is, ask yourselves why do I REALLY believe what I believe.

    Stuart’s first point here actually provides a NON-theistic answer to his previous question – it’s not one I think is a full answer, but it is an answer nontheless: utilitarianism. I can only assume that Stuart thinks the NT is the extent of the bible if he believes Socrates could have written it (not of course that that would have been possible either).

  • stuart

    where does our souls come from then??? a massive in rush of hydrogen? what a load of b*llocks! are you seriously expecting people to believe that the combination of basic elements can create a soul? if scientists have worked out, through evolution,the creation of man,then why can’t they manufacture a human being from basic elelments, and no I don’t mean cloning. If scientists know that we evloved through evolution, then they should be able to replicate every step ( as this is suppose to be the proof for atheists) and recreate man?

  • OMGF

    Stuart,
    You seem to be laboring under the impression that we have souls, but there is no evidence for such a thing nor does any science lend credence to the idea of a soul. In fact, science leads us away from the idea. So, in answer to your question, no, I don’t expect people to believe that natural forces create a soul, since there is no such thing as a soul.

    if scientists have worked out, through evolution,the creation of man,then why can’t they manufacture a human being from basic elelments, and no I don’t mean cloning.

    Knowing how something happened is not the same as doing it first of all. We know how the sun works, that doesn’t mean we can recreate it. By your “logic” I guess the sun isn’t really a huge nuclear fusion reactor? In general, we are quite certain of how humans came to be. We know the specific mutations that resulted in the chromosomal change that led to us having one less pair than apes. We know where it happened in the genome, we know what happened, we know approximately when it happened, etc. There’s no real debate on the topic, evolution happened and we descended from a common ancestor with the apes that are around today.

    If scientists know that we evloved through evolution, then they should be able to replicate every step ( as this is suppose to be the proof for atheists) and recreate man?

    Not only are you confused about evolution, but you also seem to be confused about proof. Even if we recreated, step by step, the evolution of man, this would not disprove god, nor would it prove atheism. Why would you think that it would do so? You are aware of theistic evolutionists, right? They accept that evolution happened and believe it was guided by god. Therefore, to them evolution doesn’t prove atheism. Of course, atheism doesn’t need proof. Theism carries the burden of proof in this debate. If the theist can not provide evidence or proof of the idea of a god, then there is no reason to accept that idea, and it’s rational and reasonable to be an atheist in such a situation. Of course, I’ve already explained this to you and you don’t seem to be able to grasp it or simply don’t want to, but I’ll say it again: If the burden of proof lies on the negative proposition, then prove to me that Thor, Zeus, Allah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Russell’s floating teapot, invisible pink unicorns, and Santa Claus don’t exist. Otherwise, you’d better start believing in all those things.

    Also, evolution takes millions/billions of years, and it’s very difficult to pinpoint every single point mutation that has taken place, if not impossible. Wanting to know every single mutation would be like asking me to pinpoint every single molecule in the sun that leads to the next fusion event and recreating it. It’s simply not feasible and not practical. We don’t need to know every single mutation, however, in order to know what happened. I suggest you actually read something about evolution. I would try http://www.talkorigins.org for starters.

  • stuart

    has anyone ever heard of the dead sea scrolls?

  • Jim Baerg

    has anyone ever heard of the dead sea scrolls?

    Probably everyone who has been reading this website. What point do you want to make?

  • OMGF

    Stuart,
    Can I take it from the fact that you’ve stopped arguing about evolution that you are (or at least will) learn something about it before you uncritically argue against it?

  • jim

    what the hell is this site? I came across this site by accident. It seems that it is just a site for atheists to RANT about religion. I myself am agnostic, that is, I have a very open mind. Neither side can be proven or disproven, and neither side needs to prove or disprove to the other. You guy’s need to chill out, you’re obsessed. Both good and bad things can be taken from both sides. I’ve been reading the comments about evolution, and whilst there is evidence,it does not explain the whole picture. Not even Stephen Hawkings can explain or offer proof that the big bang happened, he is still working on it, and has concluded so far that it arised from the point of singularity. But he can not effectively explain that,and has admitted such, so what chance have you guy’s got? no wonder this guy ceased arguing about evolution. Because quite simply evolution must have started at some point, which is exactly what Hawkings is trying to find out. I myself am a hypnotist, and have cured many people of their mental conditions.Note, i have not used traditional medical practices. Basically, this has to do with the power of the subconscious mind. However, one of my patients after being cured offered me an explanation as to why hypnosis worked.
    Whether or not they knew this before coming to see me, and tried to trick me, I’m not sure, but they made references out of the bible that made reference as why it worked. I was amazed at what it said. I am still agnostic, but what I have read has given me food for thought. I have consulted religious people I know, and have subtlety asked what the verses mean,and, unlike other verses which are open to interpretation, these are not. That might i add doesn’t disprove or prove anything. If you wish, I can explain how the subconscious works, and relate the verses to it. But the overall conclusion, is to remain openminded on both sides.

  • mikespeir

    Jim,

    Many of us here have been Christians. (In my case it was many years.) We’ve been through and past the open mind stage. Personally, I don’t know how it would be possible to remain completely open-minded for long. The evidence is what it is. The only way to remain open-minded would be to shutter one’s eyes from the evidence. If the evidence and arguments were equal in quality and strength, then I might understand. They are clearly not.

  • OMGF

    Jim,

    It seems that it is just a site for atheists to RANT about religion.

    If you think reasoned arguments are nothing but rants, then so be it.

    I myself am agnostic, that is, I have a very open mind.

    That’s not necessarily so, and those of us who are atheist don’t necessarily have closed minds. As mikespeir pointed out, many of us are former Xians, and it is through opening our minds that we realized that Xianity is man-made mythology.

    Neither side can be proven or disproven, and neither side needs to prove or disprove to the other.

    Wrong. Theists need to provide evidence for their positive assertions.

    You guy’s need to chill out, you’re obsessed.

    Being passionate about something is not the same as being obsessed.

    I’ve been reading the comments about evolution, and whilst there is evidence,it does not explain the whole picture. Not even Stephen Hawkings can explain or offer proof that the big bang happened, he is still working on it, and has concluded so far that it arised from the point of singularity. But he can not effectively explain that,and has admitted such, so what chance have you guy’s got?

    Evolution has nothing to do with the big bang, nor does it strive to. Are you complaining that evolution is not a theory of everything? No one has ever claimed that it is. And, yes, there are gaps in our understanding, just as there are gaps in our understanding of other areas…so what? Evolution still remains the best explanation we have and the only scientific explanation we have. No other “explanation” even comes close – and I find that religious “explanations” are not even true explanations in that they don’t explain anything. Further, I don’t see any of us trying to prove what happened during evolution; we are merely pointing people to the evidence. I don’t see what’s so wrong about clearing up other people’s ignorance – like yours.

    Whether or not they knew this before coming to see me, and tried to trick me, I’m not sure, but they made references out of the bible that made reference as why it worked.

    And those references are?

    I have consulted religious people I know, and have subtlety asked what the verses mean,and, unlike other verses which are open to interpretation, these are not.

    I doubt that, considering the Bible is not a science text.

    But the overall conclusion, is to remain openminded on both sides.

    You’ll find a lot more open-mindedness on this side of the fence. Don’t believe me? Go check out some Xian blogs and see how open-minded they are.

  • jim

    you guy’s are great! In my work it is very satisfying to heal many people of their mental problems. However, I don’t need to create a website to be passionate about it. So why do you guy’s need to? It is healthy to have debate from both sides, but all this site contains is opinions from one side, IE you lot. If you were former Christians, what happened to you? did you get banned?
    One can remain open minded for a very long time, as new things are discovered and explained, whilst at the same time, previous science is rewritten. For example Einsteins rewriting of Newtons theory of gravity by exclaiming that Newton did not realise the bending of space time. I don’t believe or disbelieve in Aliens. Why? cause I’ve never seen one. But, conversely, I would find it very difficult to believe there weren’t other intelligent life forms out there. Thus, the open mindedness.
    Reasoned arguments???
    how can evolution have nothing to do with the big bang? the big bang is the point of singularity, whereby matter created expanded to give the universe as we know it today. Because of that, it gave rise to life, and hence, life evolved. So how has evolution nothing to do with the big bang theory???
    You say that through opening your minds you realised religion was unfounded. So, it would be safe to assume that your minds are now closed to that. We don’t have all the facts from either side, so I’ll reserve judgement. What I do know is this. Having had a patient that had done a Ouija board, and had seen some pretty frightening things, and consequently became disturbed by them, I remain open minded. I can’t release details for legal reasons.But through hypnotic regression the things I discovered were horrifying. If you are all atheist, then you can’t really believe in evil spirits, so I challenge you to try it. Cause if religion of any sort is false then it follows that evil spirits can’t exist. I’ll sit on the fence on that one as I’m agnostic. But atheists have nothing to fear???
    I could give you the religious text I was given, but to make any meaning of them, I would have to explain how the mind works,and that would take pages. I will if you want me too.
    However, I can, along similar lines provide a similar argument. Many doctors in the British NHS are now turning to hypnotherapy for cures. They are now starting to accept,reluctantly, that there is a place for hypnotherapy. An experiment carried out at Bristol University showed the effect of the placebo effect. A terminal cancer patient was given what they thought was a cure. However, what they thought was a cure, was actually nothing more than paracetamol from the local drug store. But it was the pure belief that it was that brought about a healing. The patient was never told what the medication was, as it has been proven in scientific experiments in the UK, that a relapse can occur if the patient is told the truth. One of the passages that was pointed out to me in the bible was when Jesus was lowered into a house to cure a man of blindness. In particular the part when Jesus said be sure that no one knows of this. In other words, as the religious leaders were trying desperately to disprove Jesus’s claims, a healed person may have had a relapse if they could be convinced it was just nonsense in my opinion, Jesus didn’t heal anyone, it was their belief ( placebo effect) that healed them. There are two conclusions, either the bible is true, or a very clever person who knew about the power of the subconscious mind, inserted it into what we know as the bible today. Who knows? that’s why I remain open minded.

  • Jim Baerg

    how can evolution have nothing to do with the big bang?

    It would not make any difference to the theory of evolution by natural selection if the Steady State Theory ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steady_state_cosmology ) of cosmology rather than the Big Bang had turned out to be true.

    BTW how do I use the html tags to get the relevant phrase to become the link to the reference?

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    It would not make any difference to the theory of evolution by natural selection if the Steady State Theory ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steady_state_cosmology ) of cosmology rather than the Big Bang had turned out to be true.

    For that matter, it wouldn’t matter if some deity created everything up to the point of, say, the first cell. Evolution would still be able to work from there. (Not that I believe that any such situation took place, I’m just saying…)

    BTW how do I use the html tags to get the relevant phrase to become the link to the reference?

    Like so:
    <a href=”http://www.example.com/”>the text you want to be a link</a>

    Or, to use your earlier line:

    It would not make any difference to the theory of evolution by natural selection if the <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steady_state_cosmology”>Steady State Theory</a> of cosmology rather than the Big Bang had turned out to be true.

  • mikespeir

    “One can remain open minded for a very long time, as new things are discovered and explained, whilst at the same time, previous science is rewritten.”

    Jim, if what you mean by “open-minded” is “vulnerable to new evidence,” I’d hope everybody here is open-minded. But you can’t claim to be vulnerable to evidence if you can’t see that the evidence for one opinion is clearly better than the evidence for the other when it clearly is. Fence-sitting is not being vulnerable to the evidence, it’s being intentionally blind to the evidence.

  • OMGF

    Jim,

    However, I don’t need to create a website to be passionate about it. So why do you guy’s need to?

    Um, I haven’t created a website. Ebonmuse made this site and he writes all the articles. I come here to read them because they are interesting and thought provoking. I don’t see what’s the problem with that. There are websites devoted to all manner of things, including religions, hobbies, etc. Are you really going to criticize us for doing the same thing that everyone else does? Are you claiming that we should be different in some manner, or that we should be apathetic by virtue of being atheist. Further, I pointed out why it matters (rights and stuff) that the perils of faith by confronted. Do you really disregard your rights so easily?

    It is healthy to have debate from both sides, but all this site contains is opinions from one side, IE you lot.

    And there are Xians and other theists that come here to debate. That you have not personally witnessed such means that you need to actually look at some other threads, because most have at least one theist. But, the fact that an atheist site that discusses atheist issues has a mostly atheist readership is hardly surprising.

    For example Einsteins rewriting of Newtons theory of gravity by exclaiming that Newton did not realise the bending of space time.

    This is an overly simplistic characterization of this and I don’t see what it has to do with anything. Most here are willing to say that there might be a god. There is no evidence for said god, however, and the evidence that we do have leads us away from the idea of a god.

    Reasoned arguments???
    how can evolution have nothing to do with the big bang?

    Yes, reasoned arguments that aren’t based on arguing from ignorance.

    You say that through opening your minds you realised religion was unfounded. So, it would be safe to assume that your minds are now closed to that.

    No. As I’ve already said, I’m open to any evidence that a theist can present for his/her side. If they have evidence, I’m open to considering it and changing my mind. I’ve been asking and searching for a long time and no evidence has yet come to light. With no evidence for god, the rational position is to disbelieve.

    Having had a patient that had done a Ouija board, and had seen some pretty frightening things, and consequently became disturbed by them, I remain open minded.

    Ouija boards? Please.

    I could give you the religious text I was given, but to make any meaning of them, I would have to explain how the mind works,and that would take pages.

    Whatever. I asked for the passages and you now seem to be making excuses to not give them; I am tentatively concluding it’s because your assertions are full of it. The Bible is not a science text, so I’m at a loss as to how you can find passages that are unable to be interpreted in any light except as some profound commentary on the latest science of the human psyche (forgive the hyperbole).

    One of the passages that was pointed out to me in the bible was when Jesus was lowered into a house to cure a man of blindness. In particular the part when Jesus said be sure that no one knows of this. In other words, as the religious leaders were trying desperately to disprove Jesus’s claims, a healed person may have had a relapse if they could be convinced it was just nonsense in my opinion, Jesus didn’t heal anyone, it was their belief ( placebo effect) that healed them. There are two conclusions, either the bible is true, or a very clever person who knew about the power of the subconscious mind, inserted it into what we know as the bible today. Who knows? that’s why I remain open minded.

    I’m sorry, but are you actually asserting that the Bible is talking about the placebo effect and that if you tell people they are taking sugar pills that they might have a relapse? Please provide the chapter and verse. More likely, this is a case of counting the hits and ignoring the misses. You’re doing what so many other people do in that you are taking your modern understanding of the world and imparting it to the Bible. So, what happens is that you conclude that either the Bible is true or the person had to know what you know, because you are putting your biases onto it when the truth is that neither holds. Still, prove me wrong and post the verses so we can all see it.

  • NightShadeQueen

    If scientists know that we evloved through evolution, then they should be able to replicate every step ( as this is suppose to be the proof for atheists) and recreate man?

    Does an detective have to prove every step of a crime to implicate a criminal? Of course not. Even if a few steps are ambiguous (how did the criminal open the door? Did he use a baseball bat or a golf club?) as long as the major parts of the crime is figured out, a criminal can be convicted.

  • mike

    If scientists know that we evloved through evolution, then they should be able to replicate every step ( as this is suppose to be the proof for atheists) and recreate man?</blockquote?

    Does an detective have to prove every step of a crime to implicate a criminal? Of course not. Even if a few steps are ambiguous (how did the criminal open the door? Did he use a baseball bat or a golf club?) as long as the major parts of the crime is figured out, a criminal can be convicted.

    He didn’t say “prove every step”, he said “replicate every step”, which is even more absurd. Does a prosecuting attorney have to murder someone in front of the jury to prove that a murder took place in the past? No. If the past murder left evidence that is still around, that evidence can be examined in the present.

    In science, it is the observation and analysis of evidence that must be repeatable. It is not necessary that the events that originally produced the evidence be repeatable.

  • goyo

    Jim:

    Having had a patient that had done a Ouija board, and had seen some pretty frightening things, and consequently became disturbed by them, I remain open minded. I can’t release details for legal reasons.But through hypnotic regression the things I discovered were horrifying. If you are all atheist, then you can’t really believe in evil spirits, so I challenge you to try it. Cause if religion of any sort is false then it follows that evil spirits can’t exist. I’ll sit on the fence on that one as I’m agnostic. But atheists have nothing to fear???

    What are you talking about? A Ouija board simply spells out words. How does a person “see” anything?
    You’re absolutely right evil spirits don’t exist. What do you want us to do, invoke some as a test?

    I could give you the religious text I was given, but to make any meaning of them, I would have to explain how the mind works,and that would take pages. I will if you want me too.

    This isn’t Dutch in disguise, is it?

  • Perry Killion

    Jim,
    Kind of a sidebar here but perhaps reveals that your knowledge of scripture is also lacking?
    Jesus was never lowered through a roof to cure a blind man. There is an account in Mark 2:4 where a man with palsy was lowered through a roof to be healed by Jesus.

    This is perhaps a small thing and beside the main point but demonstrates, once again, your dedication to accuracy. Without that accuracy it is very easy to think science and religion have equal arguments.

  • andrew

    It may be that there are people who became believers after dispassionately examining a variety of world religions, deciding which one was best supported by the evidence, and choosing to join that one. It may be that there are such people; I’ve never met them.

    You have now. My name is Andrew

  • http://wheatchaff.blgospot.com Matt

    Hi all,
    I imagine this thread is pretty much dead. It was started almost two years ago and the last comment is from early this year. But I just happened to stumble across it. And I think I’ll leave some thoughts here for anyone else who might stumble onto it.

    I am the Matt discussed in the original article. I found this to be quite interesting, as it was an approach to the theistic approach to epistemology that I hadn’t heard, at least not put quite that way. The specious argument that I am making a claim to infallibility myself when I claim to believe in the Bible’s infallibility is really quite stunning when I think about it. The only logical conclusion of such a claim, and the resultant claim that “all knowledge must be provisional” is that none of you know anything at all, in which case why take such an arrogant absolutist tone with those with whom you disagree?

    Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, “…I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate’s response is, “What is truth?” This exchange reveals perfectly the two different epistemological approaches here. You said all truth must be provisional. But that means that there is no truth, or at least no way for us to ever know that truth. And if so, then there is no right and wrong, no such thing as evil. There is only what works for me as an individual.

    And yet you all know full well that that isn’t true. You know full well that there are things that are evil, regardless of evolutionary processes or survival needs. You demonstrate that over and over in this thread. You act as absolutist as any Pharisee ever did, insulting the intelligence of those who disagree with you, even casting aspersions on our moral character, describing our perspective as “scary” and the like, in direct contradiction to your insistence that all knowledge must be provisional (which sounds like a pretty absolutist statement itself).

    Science is not the only source of knowledge. It’s not even the most important one. Within its proper role, science is wonderful, a gift from God to be used to understand His beautiful creation. But each of you have souls, whether you acknowledge that or not, and the image of God within you which teaches you right and wrong, is far more important than science. A good but scientifically illiterate man is a far better man than a scientifically knowledgeable but cruel and deceptive man.

    I do not claim infallibility. My views on many subjects have changed. Your arguments on this point are circular. If there is truly a God, and He truly revealed Himself to mankind infallibly, then He can do so in a way which is compelling, and it is no claim of infallibility on my part to say that I have recognized His infallible revelation and submit to it. You say that I am wrong about many things. Why is it somehow different when I say that you are wrong about many things?

    Pilate’s statement, “What is truth?” was immediately followed by his order for the crucifixion of a man he himself knew to be innocent, because he felt compelled to do so for his own survival. Was he wrong to do it?

  • Gunnar Tveiten

    It may be that there are people who became believers after dispassionately examining a variety of world religions, deciding which one was best supported by the evidence, and choosing to join that one. It may be that there are such people; I’ve never met them.

    I’ve met several who -claim- to be that person. Usually this happens when I confront them with the fact that they all believe more or less exactly what their parents and/or the society they grew up in believe. That makes perfect sense if you view religion as social conditioning, but should be unexpected if you claim it’s based on eternal universal truths for which there’s substantial evidence.

    At this point people claim, and I’ve had this happen ~half a dozen times, that they are -NOT- blindly following what their parents told them to do, but rather that they, themselves, have undertaken a dispassionate investigation into the worlds religions only to discover that Mom and Dad where right all along.

    When I pointed out that I’ve heard -precisely- the same claim from Catholics, Muslims and Hindus, and that the very fact that they end up where they started strongly implies that the investigation was no such thing as dispassionate, no clear answer is forthcoming other than “I’m right, and all those others are wrong, for no reason really, it’s just so.”


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