A Dialogue with Quixote

Since its inception, Daylight Atheism has been first and foremost a platform for atheist thought. We’ve had plenty of theist commenters, but never an entire post written by a theist – until now.

Some of you may recognize Quixote, who’s been a commenter here for some time. There have been many theists commenting on Daylight Atheism whose beliefs I’ve strongly disagreed with, and (I like to think) many theists whom I’ve been able to converse with in a spirit of civility and friendship, but I don’t think any other visitor on DA combines those qualities in as high a measure as he does. That’s why I thought it would make for interesting reading for the two of us to engage in a dialogue, one that avoids the usual cliched arguments and gets down to the most meaningful differences in respective worldviews. When we more clearly outline the chasm between us, it may be easier for one side or the other to see across it.

My model is the 2007 debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan, which I thought was both civil and illuminating. I hope ours will achieve a similar standard. I don’t have a specific plan for how many rounds this will continue; I trust the time will become clear when we’ve both spoken our peace. My opening statement follows below, and his will be posted tomorrow. Your comments are welcome as well, but please be sure they show the kind of civility that attracts commenters like Quixote here in the first place!


Hi Quixote,

So, as I believe we had agreed, we were going to talk about the most fundamental reasons why people become atheists or theists. In my case, there are two main ones. These are similar to arguments I’ve made before, but in this letter, they’re described more personally: I wanted to emphasize the reasons why I’m an atheist, the ones that I myself find most convincing. You may disagree, of course. If you want to respond to these, or if you’d rather discuss the reasons that motivate your beliefs, either is fine with me.

The first reason is that, when I look at the world, I get the strong impression that no one’s in charge. History lacks a discernible moral order. Happiness and misery are distributed randomly, without regard to morality; good people sometimes succeed and sometimes suffer, and evil people sometimes are punished and sometimes prosper. Humanity has made some moral progress by its own effort, but even so, this world is not one that consistently rewards virtue or punishes vice. In short, the universe gives every sign of being ruled by pure chance and mechanistic, unintelligent natural forces. And when people are suffering unjustly – by which I mean, suffering in a way that bears no relation to any choice they have made – there is no divine help for them.

That last point is the one that sticks in my craw the most. If there is a god that loves us and cares about our well-being, why doesn’t he do anything to aid people who are suffering or in need? How could he not?

If I were God, I would pass through all the hospitals in the world and heal the suffering in their sickbeds. I would miraculously cure AIDS, so that millions of children don’t have to grow up orphans. I would calm hurricanes before they could hit coastal communities, or at the very least, send angels to pluck people from the raging floodwaters. I would send rain where there’s drought and turn deserts into fertile breadbaskets where crops grow in abundance, so no one would go hungry. When violent people tried to harm the innocent, I would make their guns turn into flowers in their hands. I can’t believe that, if there is a god, I’m more moral or more compassionate than him. Yet all these evils and many more remain unalleviated, and the only aid for those in need is the aid that we give each other. My sense of conscience rebels at believing that a god is responsible for this state of affairs.

The second major reason why I’m an atheist is the diversity and confusion of religious beliefs among humankind. When you look out at the world’s cultures, you don’t see a uniform testimony of faith; you don’t see the same creeds arrived at independently in different societies, you don’t see prophets preaching the same god and the moral lessons among every people. Instead, every culture has its own beliefs and its own stories, all of which are wildly different from the ones that predominate elsewhere. If every culture in the world past and present held what was recognizably the same faith, that would be extremely difficult for an atheist to explain. But what we see instead is a vast sea of religious confusion and discord, and this suggests that what we’re dealing with is the diversity and creativity of human imagination.

Again, if I were God, I would not leave humanity in darkness and ignorance. I would not communicate through hazy oracles, ancient anonymous writings, or vague promptings of conscience. I would make my message as clear as daylight and as brilliant as the sun. I would not have a chosen people; I would raise up prophets from among every people, from every region and every era, speaking my message to the populace. Or better yet, I would speak to all people individually – not in an ambiguous inner voice, but in visible, tangible manifestation, making it perfectly clear what I desired from them, so that even people who chose to ignore me would know exactly what my message was. I would not remain silent, hidden, invisible, leading some people to doubt my existence and others to cause chaos and strife as they battled over competing ideas about my wishes. This strikes me as the more rational course of action by far, and again, my sense of reason rebels when I’m asked to believe that an all-knowing god chose a plan so obviously inferior.

In my eyes, these are the two most persuasive reasons. What do you think?

About Adam Lee

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

  • http://www.chl-tx.com TX CHL Instructor

    I consider the “If I were God” arguments to be less than compelling, and easily refuted by even the average theist, who will argue something along the lines of “God works in mysterious ways” and “it’s not our place to second-guess God”. These are canned responses taught in just about any religious Sunday school. Worse, I consider that type of argument to be totally unneeded and really beside the point.

    The observation that nobody appears to be in charge is stronger, yet still easily countered, in a similar way.

    My own argument for the lack of god(s) would start out with the observation that even if there was a god(s), objective observations do not show evidence of anything that even remotely resembles the specific god(s) described in any of the current ‘holy’ books. (Countering the incredible leap made by Christians from the assumption of the existence of god(s) to the assertion that assumption somehow ‘proves’ the bible is true) I am a so-called ‘weak’ atheist, whose position is that the existence of god(s) is basically unprovable (and unfalsifiable), and I have seen no example of anything that would indicate that the posited existence of god(s) makes any detectable difference in anything, along the lines of Sagan’s invisible dragon. Therefore, I do not consider it reasonable to assume the existence of any such entity.

    I did indulge myself with pantheism for a while, but it is no more intellectually necessary (nor ultimately satisfying) than any of the major brands of theism I know about.

  • Sam

    TH: The “God works in mysterious ways” argument is far less compelling than the ones it tries to refute. I find it hilarious (depressing?) that they still try to claim God’s hidden mystery and then turn around and claim they know what god likes, dislikes, rewards, and punishes. They have a huge technical manual on God. Seems he is understood pretty damned well until the whole “logic” wrench is tossed in the gearbox.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Is this debate to focus specifically on atheism vs. any type of theism, or will it focus on the Xian god?

    If the latter (and for some formulations of the former), I think it’s important to point out the many logical disproofs that have shown that many conceptions of god are logically impossible (omni-max gods, for instance).

  • Michael

    I think the problem of evil is very important. If god is understood to be all knowing, all powerful, and all loving, then something is amiss.

    To quote Epicurus:

    “Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

    I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation of evil. Here are the arguments that I’ve heard:

    Argument #1: God has his own mysterious reasons.
    That’s a non-explanation if there ever was one. Being all powerful, god was free to make humans any way he wanted to. Why not give humans an intuitive understanding of his “higher morality”? It would have been trivially easy for him to do so, so why didn’t he?

    An all loving, all knowing, all powerful being should have the decency to explain his moral standards to us. To intentionally create us in such a way that we’re incapable of understanding his reasons is very much like a cruel experiment.

    Argument #2: We acheive salvation through suffering.
    Once again, god is all powerful. If we acheive salvation through suffering, it’s only because god decided that’s how it should be. He could have made it so that we acheive salvation through kindness, or laughter, or eating fried chicken. They’re his rules, he gets to decide. If he chose suffering as the sole method of salvation, then he’s a brutal sadist.

    Arugment #3: God believes suffering builds character.
    See my rebuttal to argument #2 above.

    Argument #4: God makes us suffer to test our faith.
    If god is all knowing, then he would already know how we would respond to suffering. To know everything means exactly that. He would know the exact position of every particle in the entire universe from the beginning of time through the end of time. God would know everything that ever was, and everything that will ever be.

    There’s no point in actually going through with the test if he already knows how it’s going to turn out. Once again, that’s just cruel.

    And there you have it. Those are the only four arguments I’m aware of as to why an all knowing, all powerful, and all loving/forgiving being would allow suffering.

    As you can see, none of them pass the BS test.

  • Lux Aeterna

    From TX CHL Instructor:
    “I consider the “If I were God” arguments to be less than compelling, and easily refuted by even the average theist, who will argue something along the lines of “God works in mysterious ways” and “it’s not our place to second-guess God”.”

    Ummm, you call that refutation? That’s just a form of arguing from ignorance.

  • http://www.chl-tx.com TX CHL Instructor

    I take the position that it is completely unnecessary to argue for the non-existence of god(s). The burden of proof belongs to the one making extraordinary and preposterous claims. In that light, I consider the entire original post to be somewhat weak (even thought I mostly agree with both the premise and the conclusion).

    As for ‘refuted’ as I used it, that’s pretty much in the minds of theists. As Dr. House pointed out, if you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people. IOW, applying logic to faith is a non-starter. I tend to opt out of such discussions with theists. Especially since they tend to be “argument from ignorance” as Lux pointed out.

    For instance, my immediate supervisor has a poster in his cube that states “Let GOD guide, and HE will provide”. I have never discussed religion with him, and I will refused to do so. There is no point.

    Sam >”They have a huge technical manual on God.”

    Good one!

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    “They have a huge technical manual on God.”

    “Hello, Hello, is that technical support..aah good! Look got a bit of an issue, running Earth 1.0 and have a natural disaster, millions of innocents dead or suffering terribly, looks like a POE bug, can you help….What? Sorry? What do you mean RTFM…..?”

  • http://piepalace.ca/blog Erigami

    It’s interesting that your reason starts from the assertion that there are deities out there, and you then try to refute that by stating that the Christian god isn’t very compassionate or organized.

    I was raised as an atheist, so I come at it from a different angle. What is the evidence for deities? Deities may well exist, but they have to be able to stand up against Occam’s razor. The more we learn, the less need there is for supernatural intervention when we try to understand the world.

    Your argument about the profusion of religions is valid, but only if we accept the existence of deities. If we can point to some event, and say definitively it’s supernatural, then exploring religion makes sense, but we still don’t know which religion to subscribe to.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    I look at the smallness of our Earth in this vast universe and compare it with the Biblical picture of a universal Creator who evinces an active interest in humans to the detriment of the rest of the universe. The POV of the writers of the various books of the Bible appears to me what I would expect of people of the time who had no inkling of the size of the universe and took it for granted that the tiny universe they lived in was just for them and that the qualities ascribed to their god were the all to human characteristics of a capricious tyrant.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    Occam’s razor is a useful tool for deciding which of a bunch of competing hypotheses you spend your time investigating. It is not true in any logical sense. Some theories are completely mad with loads of assumptions and suppositions – quantum theory is the one that springs to mind, yet it is in most senses true or exceedingly accurate at the very least.

  • http://www.superhappyjen.blogspot.com SuperHappyJen

    I’m anxiously awaiting Quixote’s response. While I have no trouble understanding why someone would be an atheist, I am continually mystified that anybody in this century could be a theist. Perhaps these posts will help me see across the chasm.

  • http://fargazmo.blogspot.com Fargus

    Erigami, I think you’re mistaken. Ebon’s discussion doesn’t assume the existence of deities and then go from there. He’s saying that the profusion of different beliefs and the surfeit of different religious structures points clearly against any loving God who simply wants all the people of the world to believe in Him. It’s more about the evidence pointing away from anything that purports to be the One True Faith.

  • Wayne Essel

    First of all, thanks Ebonmuse for undertaking the debate. I’m exited to see what comes of it.

    The one comment you made (twice) that struck me is this:

    If I were God, I would…

    If there is a God, and God is the source of all that is, then perhaps God simply is and we as humans run the risk of trying to make God in our image at the expense of what may be real.

    While some of the individuals who frequently comment here may feel that logic and the rules of scientific argument are the sole arbiters of reality, I would disagree. We have plenty of examples of paradox in the world. Additionally, page upon page of logic, applied to a questionable premise may make the proponent feel vindicated, but does nothing for the opponent with the questions about the premise.

    I believe that most people make an emotional decision about either the premise or the value of the argument itself based upon their experience and a projection of their experience, then they use logic to back up their decision. For this reason, I don’t think religion or belief in the supernatural will ever completely vanish.

    The biggest issue I see in the world is not the question of God’s existence or lack thereof. As you can see in the previous paragraphs, my take on the existence is that it probably cannot be argued successfully either way because of the great unknowns. The biggest issue I see is the combination of anthropomorphism (where man claims to know God’s mind and act on God’s behalf) and bigotry that results in violence.

  • Staceyjw

    Hello,
    Timely post! I can’t wait to see the reply.
    Staceyjw

  • Lynet

    Hooray! I consider myself a Quixote fan, and look forward to seeing his response.

  • http://evilburnee.co.uk PaulJ

    I’m looking forward to what I hope will be a calm, reasoned debate, with both sides able to take time to hone their arguments.

    That said, I think perhaps Ebon has handed the theist an initial advantage, in conceding to argue against a theistic presupposition. I’m with Erigami – let’s not be concerned with the morality or otherwise of a deity until we have some evidence for such a being. Personally I see no such evidence, and it’s all too easy to get bogged down in the niceties of “what God wants” or “how God operates in the world” when what should really concern is whether he exists in the first place. Theology is all fine and dandy, but without an existent deity it crumbles.

  • Leum

    Not necessarily atheism/theism related, but didn’t you say you had a book in the works awhile back, Quixote? Has it been published?

  • TommyP

    Oh how exciting, I’m looking forward to some nuanced ideas, hopefully.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Excellent post. I feel much the same way. I came to feel this way after reading Camus, who has much the same view as you put forth in your first couple paragraphs. I just can’t help but feel that, like you, any god that could co-exist with the world the way it is, is morally outrageous, given the almost unthinkably terrible things that happen to virtually unfathomable numbers of people. I cringe when I hear people try to defend god; it strikes me as very like our current defenders of torture – only infinitely worse.

  • 2-D Man

    That’s a good observation on Occam’s Razor, keddaw, but your example is, well, let’s examine it:

    Some theories are completely mad with loads of assumptions and suppositions – quantum theory is the one that springs to mind,

    That’s wrong…

    yet it is in most senses true or exceedingly accurate at the very least.

    …but you refuted it yourself.

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

    I consider myself a Quixote fan, and look forward to seeing his response.

    Hear that, Quixote? You’ve got a fan. :)

  • Doug

    Ebon-

    In agreement with TX CHL Instructor, I don’t think the ‘mysterious ways’ response is compelling. In agreement with Sam, though, I don’t think the ‘mysterious ways’ response is compelling, either. However, I do think the free-will response to the “If I were God” argument is more so. I myself don’t buy it, but I think that theists can in good conscience hold that God doesn’t “turn guns to flowers” because it would interfere with free will. There’s good arguments on both sides, and again I don’t buy it, but I avoid that argument precisely because the free will response is a somewhat compelling argument. If Quixote doesn’t use it, what would be your response to that line?

    OMFG-

    What is the logical disproof of an omni-max God? (This is not, though it may sound so, a rhetorical question. I’m under the impression that a logical disproof of an omnimax God is not possible, so I’m curious what you have..)

  • Doug

    Grr, so much for proofreading. The first sentence should read:

    In agreement with TX CHL Instructor, I don’t think the ‘If I were God’ response is compelling.

    Doug

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Oh, figures. Post it on a Wednesday when he knows I have Church. Typical immoral atheist behavior…

    Stop it: I have to provide a disclaimer before we go any further together. Those of you who know me are already aware that I’m joking half of the time, kinda like a ModusOperandi except equipped with logic, and the above is a perfect example (& the Modus quip, I think), so let’s enjoy this time together while we explain to each other how utterly wrongheaded the other appears to be.

    I’m actually honored that Ebon sought me out for this exercise. We have a modest amount of water under the bridge by now, and my keen observation of human nature has led me to conclude that he’s genuine, someone I would readily vouch for, and an all around fine person: one I would call my friend. (not joking)

    And he’s right; we disagree sharply and significantly on most things metaphysical. That’s just the way it is. But he’s also correct in assuming that we can venture through this exercise with civility, and, in fact, that’s really my one condition in agreeing to appear here. Y’all are more than welcome to deliver the weightiest criticism possible. I expect and encourage it. Nevertheless, at the end of the day(s), let’s all agree that the person is more important than the argument.

    I’ve made many other friends here as well, and, as I told Ebon, I’m rather fond of many of you. Though I don’t always comment–this is an atheist site and I refuse to make myself into an unwanted guest–I’m a constant reader, and I read nearly every comment daily. Translation: I know your weaknesses :)

    With that in mind, I’ve posted the first chapter of my work-in-progress on atheism at my blog. You’re welcome to come read it. It’s a way for me as a Christian theist to say “thank you” to Ebon and you all for welcoming me here for so long, and allowing me to participate. A quick word on this, however. This exercise should occur here at Daylight Atheism, not at my blog. The post is simply over there to say thank you, so please enjoy.

    Now for a word on the dialogue. I’m philosophically and theologically trained, and even have a semester of Philosophy of Religion under Keith Parsons, who I remember as an excellent, fair-minded, atheist professor. I enjoyed him very much, and was even able to catch him in action at a psuedo-science seminar, at which my Christian brethren acted out a bit, but that’s another story. I only provide this brief background on myself by way of introduction, and to say that I will make myself available to all, and to answer each and every comment directed specifically to me, whether it be a criticism of theism or Christianity, or a specific question you may have had but have never been able to get a straight answer on. I only ask that due to the amount and presumed depth of the comments, that you understand it may take me as a single responder multiple days to get to every comment, not to mention follow-ups.

    I’m not intending to change any minds, but, as Ebon said, maybe we can make the chasm easier to see across. At any rate, my experience argues that personalizing opposing viewpoints reduces hatred and strife, and perhaps if this kind of dialogue were more common, mankind could learn to live together without butchering each other. I hope so–but doubt it–but we should at least give it our best efforts.

    My own argument for the lack of god(s)

    Nah, TX CHL, there’s no atheists in Texas :)

    Is this debate to focus specifically on atheism vs. any type of theism, or will it focus on the Xian god?

    OMGF: Both, as you know, I’m a Christian.

    That’s a non-explanation if there ever was one.

    Hang on to that thought, Michael, Sam…

    I’m anxiously awaiting Quixote’s response.

    Why thank you, Jen, and I’m very happy you’re super happy. I’ll try not to disappoint. Same to Stacey.

    Wayne: we see things very similar, you and I.

    Hooray! I consider myself a Quixote fan, and look forward to seeing his response.

    I’m definitely a huge Lynet fan. In fact, Lynet posted one of my all-time top ten favorite posts on her blog, Elliptica. I hope the US is treating you well, Lynet…

    I’m looking forward to what I hope will be a calm, reasoned debate, with both sides able to take time to hone their arguments.

    Amen, Paul :)

    Not necessarily atheism/theism related, but didn’t you say you had a book in the works awhile back, Quixote? Has it been published?

    Leum! How are you doing? I hope all is well. Yes, as a matter of fact The Dark Man was released 4/1/09. It’s doing quite well. Thanks for asking. Ebon busted me a bit the other day though with his post on Christian persecution complexes. It definitely features that element:) For anyone who’s interested, search “Marc Schooley” on Amazon, or you may read all about the book and myself at Marcherlordpress.com. I apologize for the commercial Ebon.

    Oh yeah, sorry for devastating any of you who may have thought I was Ms. Quixote :)

    Oh how exciting, I’m looking forward to some nuanced ideas, hopefully.

    Definitely on the second round Tommy.

    I came to feel this way after reading Camus,

    Got two on my bookshelf, Matthew. Camus is an exceptional writer. Funny how we come to different conclusions through his work, though…

    OK, sorry if I missed anyone, but that’s enough for now. See you tomorrow.

  • Mathew Wilder

    I don’t see how god turning guns to flowers could negate free will. The bad choices are still made, they’re jus ineffectual. Of course, I think free will is an incoherent concept.

    Regarding proofs that certain conceptions of god are incoherent, Edwin Curley has an excellent argument that the orthodox Christian god is incoherent as that conception entails the contradictory beliefs that god both allows free will and determines out actions. I think his article is called “The Incoherence of Christian Theism.”

    I think that Michael Martin, or perhaps one of the atheist Smiths (George or Quentin? ) – one or all three? – have proofs that certain properties traditionally ascribed to god are incompatible.

  • Danikajaye

    I apologise for interrupting this thread but I could not find a more appropriate place for this- In regard to Christianity I have to admit my knowledge of the subject is rather underwhelming. All I know is what I was told in limited religious education classes- and I must admit I was rather resistant to listening. Is there somewhere I can get a brief summary of some of the main ideas involved in Christianity? Without reading the bible? Last time I looked it wasn’t exactly light reading and I unfortunately don’t have the luxury of time. It is difficult to formulate cohesive arguments- and follow these threads- without a reasonably sound knowledge of Christian religious teachings. For example I do not even know what the whole “father, son, holy spirit, something about a ghost” thing is. I know there was some guy named Jesus and he died and came back to life and then you get chocolate. It is a case of “Who said what now?” for me.

  • http://www.chl-tx.com TX CHL Instructor

    MS Quixote> “Nah, TX CHL, there’s no atheists in Texas :)”

    There is an atheist *church* in the DFW area, and another in the Houston area.
    http://www.churchoffreethought.org/

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Doug,
    Check out this book for a plethora of disproofs of certain types of gods. Mostly, they focus on omni-max gods and then go on to use single and multiple attributes of being omni-max to disprove the concept.

  • Steven

    Danikajaye wrote:

    “Is there somewhere I can get a brief summary of some of the main ideas involved in Christianity?”

    Well, if you’re not kidding I’ll do my best. I did go to Sunday school but I’ve been an atheist for about 30 years so anyone with better credentials feel free to correct me. Christianity is…
    - a monotheistic religion that posits the existence of one god who is responsible for the creation of the universe
    - based on a god that is considered omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent
    - from the teachings of Jesus Christ, described as the son of God, born of a virgin (Mary), sacrificed through crucifixion to redeem the sins of mankind, and then resurrected before ascending to heaven
    - the holy mystery of the Trinity in which the single God has three aspects, God the Father, God the Son, and the holy ghost
    - deeply concerned with salvation, in which those who believe are rewarded after death by going to heaven while sinners and non-believers are tortured eternally in hell
    - approximately 2,000 years old and practiced worldwide

    There is a lot more to it, especially all the things that are considered sinful and there are many different “flavours” of Christianity including Roman Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, etc. I’d say it’s a case of “buyer beware” – read the Bible and talk to some believers and non-believers if you’re looking for insight into Christianity. It can be compelling for those searching for meaning and simple explanations but I prefer to make my own meaning and simple explanations never really satisfy me.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Quixote, are you saying reading Camus pushed you towards theism? I’d be interested in hearing how that works. For myself, The Plague is one of the most moving depictions of the problem of evil/suffering I’ve ever read. The Rebel, of course, was also influential; say there is a god – I say he must be pulled from his throne, for he is a monster. To paraphrase Bakunin, if god existed, it would be necessary to kill him.

    Perhaps there is some weird intellectual alchemy going on for both of us. Dostoyevsky pushed me towards atheism, which might seem opposite what one would expect. I never understood how he was able to overcome Ivan’s arguments, nor the Grand Inquisitor. He seemed to see so clearly the problems with believing in a loving god while the world is full of suffering. I can clearly understand why Nietzsche held him in such high regard. It just seems to me that he didn’t follow the lines of his argument to their proper conclusion.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Here is a link to the Curley article I mentioned before.

    Here is the argument he defends in the paper:

    (1) If God has infallible knowledge of future human actions, then determinism must be true

    (2) If God is not responsible for human wickedness, determinism must be false

    (3) God has infallible knowledge of future human actions

    (4) God is not responsible for human wickedness

    (5) Determinism is both true and false

  • Doug

    OMGF, Matthew

    I think I’ve gotten my terms confused. As a quick aside, I do hold a philosophy degree, but I focused mainly on philosophy/history of science. I did take a Philosophy of Religion course, but the cobwebs are thick in some areas. :/

    My mistake was that I assumed because we cannot prove that there is no God (or no unicorns or aliens or whatever) in the universe, that a logical disproof of any specific God is impossible. Of course that is not the case; as soon as you give God specific attributes (like omni-max) then it is possible to show how that conception of God is impossible. Much like if you were to give a unicorn omnimax powers. Again, shaking out the cobwebs, but this is correct, no?

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

    Yes, Doug, that is correct.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    MS Quixote “Those of you who know me are already aware that I’m joking half of the time, kinda like a ModusOperandi except equipped with logic…”
    I’ve been mentioned! *Swoon*

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    While I’m here:
    *Argument from religious confusion
    *Argument from (Natural) Evil, eg flood, fire & famine
    *Argument from Divine hiddenness
    These don’t call into question all gods, just the omnified ones.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Wups, I forgot the…
    *Argument from “If we’re so special, how come bonobos look (and act) just like old people?”

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

    Is there somewhere I can get a brief summary of some of the main ideas involved in Christianity? Without reading the bible?

    Hi Danikajaye,

    This summary looks pretty accurate to me:

    http://www.ambs.edu/ljohns/biblestory.htm

  • http://marcschooley.com/blog MS Quixote

    Modus, your reaction time to the MOSIGNAL gets a little worse every time it’s used. I’m beginning to doubt its effectiveness…

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    It’s time to replace the bulb. That low wattage one is useless. (One day isn’t bad for a reaction time for me, anyway. I mean, last time my doctor tapped my knee with a hammer, two days later I ended up kicking a cop in the nuts. That was what I told the judge. He still said I was guilty. Next time, he’s getting a shot in the groin. Stupid “laws”. *Grumble*)

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  • Peter

    I came across this site while researching Bonobo monkeys and found it very interesting. In response to “A Dialogue with Quixote”, posted April 29, 2009, I submit the following to the leading argument directed at Quixote concerning the two most compelling reasons why the writer is an atheist. The writer states, “The first reason is that, when I look at the world, I get the strong impression that no one’s in charge. History lacks a discernible moral order. Happiness and misery are distributed randomly, without regard to morality; good people sometimes succeed and sometimes suffer, and evil people sometimes are punished and sometimes prosper. Humanity has made some moral progress by its own effort, but even so, this world is not one that consistently rewards virtue or punishes vice. In short, the universe gives every sign of being ruled by pure chance and mechanistic, unintelligent natural forces. And when people are suffering unjustly – by which I mean, suffering in a way that bears no relation to any choice they have made – there is no divine help for them”. First of all, were this not a logical world, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Therefore, my first and most important premise in any discussion is that the observable universe is compelled by order, symmetry, and logic. Yet, the first reason that “no one is in charge” is a perfectly reasonable observation when we focus on war, crime, retribution, selfishness, and the other reprehensible aspects of that side of the coin. When we turn the coin to the other side, we find love, joy, peace, compassion, moderation, forgiveness and characteristics we generally consider altruistic. Is altruism then the improvement of egoism or is egoism the deterioration of altruism? Which is superior and which came first? In fact, can they be divorced one from the other? I would argue that Logic demands that where there is one, the other must also exist, if only in its potentiality. That is, in actuality, one can behave in a totally altruistic manner which is totally devoid of egoistic behavior, but the potential of a less than perfect altruistic disposition is a logical reality. Morality is, of course, the regulatory and defining line between actual and potential behavior affecting relationships. The reason there is no divine help for the morally upright is that if there is no God, then morality is irrelevant and if there is, it has to contend with the consequences of evil. Even Jesus mentions that the sun shines and the rain falls on both the good and the bad as a principle of existence in a deprived world. That assertion reveals that while from the Christian perspective God is working to fix the problem of evil, the process is not instantaneous. Most of us would like a world without evil, but most of us would also regret, if not just plainly refuse, to give up those things that lead to the evil we deplore. We want peace, but we insist on retribution. We want love, but we want our interests addressed first. We don’t want broken marriages, but we insist on drinking, having our illicit affairs, and disrespecting each other. We demand loyalty, but we are not trustworthy. In effect, we want the addiction without the consequences of the addictive behavior. And finally, when the help comes, we reject it if it is not as we would like it to be. So, God comes in human form to address the consequences of evil and eventually suppress it for all eternity, but that is not good enough because, “If I were God… I would do things right.” So, while it might seem as if the world is ruled by chance, it clearly isn’t. There are laws that regulate every facet of the universe. Acts of Nature, on the other hand, have no moral value. And if humanity, as mentioned by the writer above, has made moral progress, what is the value of it? Is existence necessary? What contribution do we make to the haphazard universe the writer describes? Would the universe be better off without plants, animals, or even human beings? We possess an insatiable desire for life, yet we know that we can’t turn that desire into reality. And even if future generations can, of what value is that to us in the here and now? But what we see instead is a vast sea of religious confusion and discord, and this suggests that what we’re dealing with is the diversity and creativity of human imagination. Again, if I were God, I would not leave humanity in darkness and ignorance. I would not communicate through hazy oracles, ancient anonymous writings, or vague promptings of conscience. I would make my message as clear as daylight and as brilliant as the sun. This is really a very good argument. If God really wants to reconcile people to him, why not be clear about it? From the Christian perspective, the Biblical fact is that God has a plan for the eradication of pain and suffering, sin, rebellion, and disobedience in his creation. However, Christ himself stated that “this generation wants a sign, but none will be given to them except for the Prophet Jonah.” If Christ weren’t the one that said that, it would seem like a cop out for someone that was just exercising his imagination. The writer says, “Or better yet, I would speak to all people individually – not in an ambiguous inner voice, but in visible, tangible manifestation, making it perfectly clear what I desired from them, so that even people who chose to ignore me would know exactly what my message was. I would not remain silent, hidden, invisible, leading some people to doubt my existence…” Well, Christ actually went around performing miracles, meeting with people and addressing their needs. But as we can see from history, when Christ came, the Emmanuel, God in the flesh, even that wasn’t good enough for people. True, he was a man. But he was the manifestation of God in the flesh to bring God’s message of reconciliation to mankind. So, God has spoken. God has come. God has given a clear message of repentance from sin. Those that believe will be reconciled with their creator. Those that don’t will spend the rest of eternity without him. This reminds me of the story of the man caught in a flood. He was a strong believer in God and asked God to rescue him from the flood. As the waters began to rise, a rescue bus went by and they asked him to come with them. He refused saying that God would take care of him. As he sat on the roof of his house with the flood waters about to overtake him, a boat full of people approached and asked him to jump in so he could be saved. He refused saying that he believed in God and God would rescue him. Then a helicopter came by and dropped a rope down for him to grab onto. He refused saying God would rescue him. Eventually the flood waters rose and the man died. When he got to heaven his first question to God was, “God, I trusted in you and you let me die in the flood. What happened? Well,” said God, “I sent you a rescue bus, then I sent you a boat and finally I sent you a helicopter to rescue you and you refused help from all of them. What else did you want me to do, come down myself and force you out of the water?” God has given us an orderly universe ruled by the laws of physics with mathematical precision and reliability. God has given us a book that is unparalleled with his message of salvation for us. Finally, God gave us himself as a human being performing miracles and telling us individually what we are required to do. But that isn’t good enough for most. I suspect that if God showed up in a shining light, dressed in a bright robe and a white beard and spoke with a thundering voice, someone would quip, “what an incredible diversity and creativity of human imagination.” As I see it, Atheism is the religious passion to disprove and reject the love of God. Isn’t it time for atheists to start looking at the signs and reaching out to God instead of complaining that God is not reaching out to them?

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

    Shorter Peter.
    There is a God but there may as well not be.

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

    Peter, ever heard of things called paragraphs? Reading through that muddle of yours was painful to my eyes.

    First of all, were this not a logical world, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Therefore, my first and most important premise in any discussion is that the observable universe is compelled by order, symmetry, and logic.

    Tell that to quantum particles or the mutations in your genome. Also, you should note that Ebon was talking about randomness in the evil and good that people experience. IOW, why do bad things happen to good people and vice versa?

    I would argue that Logic demands that where there is one, the other must also exist, if only in its potentiality.

    Does this include your god or do you not count special pleading as part of what “Logic” demands?

    The reason there is no divine help for the morally upright is that if there is no God, then morality is irrelevant and if there is, it has to contend with the consequences of evil.

    Without god morality is irrelevant? Really? You can’t do better than that?

    That assertion reveals that while from the Christian perspective God is working to fix the problem of evil, the process is not instantaneous.

    And while god is sitting around taking his sweet time, people are needlessly suffering. So much for that whole omni-benevolence thing.

    Most of us would like a world without evil, but most of us would also regret, if not just plainly refuse, to give up those things that lead to the evil we deplore.

    Glad to know that heaven won’t actually be heaven…or are we doing that special pleading thing again?

    So, God comes in human form to address the consequences of evil and eventually suppress it for all eternity, but that is not good enough because, “If I were God… I would do things right.”

    Well, yeah, for a bunch of reasons. One, we have no assurance that god did anything of the sort. Two, what in the world does having god be killed do to address any alleged wrong-doings of mine? Three, why wouldn’t a perfect god “do things right?” His plan is so full of holes that it’s a laugher to suggest that it came from a perfect being…unless that being is perfectly good at messing up and making ineffectual plans that don’t make sense.

    So, while it might seem as if the world is ruled by chance, it clearly isn’t.

    Again, tell that to your mutations and all the quantum particles you meet.

    Well, Christ actually went around performing miracles, meeting with people and addressing their needs. But as we can see from history, when Christ came, the Emmanuel, God in the flesh, even that wasn’t good enough for people.

    And you know that this happened how? On the contrary, we see that people are all too willing to believe things based on flimsy evidence.

    As I see it, Atheism is the religious passion to disprove and reject the love of God. Isn’t it time for atheists to start looking at the signs and reaching out to God instead of complaining that God is not reaching out to them?

    Atheism is not a religious anything. It is a rejection of religion. That some atheists may spend their time disproving god does not mean it’s a “religious passion.” And, it’s hard to reject the “love of god” when there’s really no love to be found, even by your own myth.

    Also, do you think that all atheists simply were atheists for all time and never once even tried to find your god? Really? Take a cursory look around and you’ll find tons of stories of atheists that deconverted even though they fervently wanted to believe. Your assertion is simply false.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Yet, the first reason that “no one is in charge” is a perfectly reasonable observation when we focus on war, crime, retribution, selfishness, and the other reprehensible aspects of that side of the coin.

    Peter, I notice you have carefully avoided any mention of tsunamis, leukemia, impacting bodies, etc, and selected only man-caused evils; you have ignored the fact that many evils aren’t man-made. Is this bias conscious or unconscious?

    Acts of Nature, on the other hand, have no moral value.

    Are you honestly arguing that believers never ask the question, “God, why me?” It is obvious that when misfortune arises, the vast majority of humanity disagree with you. And, how is an “Act of Nature” not an “Act of God”? Can God not control these acts? Then he is not omnipotent. Can he do so, but refuses to? Then he is morally neutral. These are your choices.

    But as we can see from history, when Christ came, the Emmanuel, God in the flesh, even that wasn’t good enough for people.

    Please cite some contemporaneous non-biblical evidence that 1) there was a man named Joshua who was executed for proclaiming himself the King of the Jews, and 2) that he was divine and not simply a madman or charlatan.

    Isn’t it time for atheists to start looking at the signs and reaching out to God instead of complaining that God is not reaching out to them?

    Actually, it strikes me that it’s time for theists to stop broad-brushing the reasons why atheists are atheists, quit supposing they know the reasons, and actually listen to our reasons when we give them. If you’re really interested, you’ll listen to the answers. If you’re not, don’t waste the time — yours and mine both — by posing an assertion that masquerades as a question.


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