Open Thread

Feel free to discuss anything, ask questions, introduce yourself, etc.

Be nice :)

  • chancelikely

    Okay, this is as good a place as any…

    Bracelet winners – do you wear them? I’ve been wearing mine since I got it, with nary a raised eyebrow (although I’m on a pretty liberal campus for my conservative state).

    Ironically, the first day I wore it, it was along with a t-shirt from Islamic Relief Humanitarian Day. And my given name is Christian, so I was just all kinds of ecumenical that day.

  • Susan B.

    Hiya! I’m Susan, frequent reader an occasional commenter. I’m an atheist and a pretty friendly one. Guess I’ll throw out this question:

    I’m a member of a religious discussion group on my college campus, consisting of a bunch of Christians (mostly Protestant but a good mix), some atheists and agnostics, and occasional others. I’ve volunteered to lead a discussion, and inspired by some of the discussion I’ve seen on this and other atheist blogs, the topic will be something along the lines of “What would convince you to change your beliefs?” That is, a number of atheist bloggers have discussed what evidence would convince them that God exists, and have also written about the importance of this kind of mindset (being willing to be proved wrong). To a large extent they seem to suggest that most Christians would answer this question with “Nothing could possibly convince me that God doesn’t exist”, and the articles I’ve read tend to strongly criticize this standpoint.

    I need to gather some quotes or writings on this subject before I lead the talk, and I’m interested in the question in general, so I’m wondering if anyone can point me to some writings on this topic from a religious (Christian or other) viewpoint. Specifically, if any Christians have written an answer to this question (what would convince them not to believe in God) and especially the religious viewpoint on whether this is even a valid question to ask.

    Can anyone point me to some appropriate articles?

  • Tolga K.

    I wore mine until I left for the Spring semester. It’s not with me because I take wristbands/pants/everything off before I go to sleep, and I forgot to take it with me in the stress that is trying to leave the house without getting killed by my sister (who left for school the same day I did, and who had some of my bigger items in her car).

    I never got any questions, even though my situation is the same as yours. I marched in a Drum and Bugle Corps called the Boston Crusaders and I wear my jacket all the time.

    Naturally, this makes for some pretty funny conversations when I get caught in hit-and-run religious debates. I wouldn’t wear the jacket if it wasn’t for this quick fact about the Boston Crusaders:

    It was started in 1940 by a church. The director (clergy), wanted to limit the corps’s membership to not just non-christians, but outsiders of their specific sect. The members were split over it, but the ones accepting of all people got to continue the corps, while the isolationists couldn’t keep membership.

    Meloves open-mindedness.

  • http://unorthodoxatheism.blogspot.com Reed Braden

    So this is what happens when Hemant can’t think of something to write! :-P

    On my blog, I just go AWOL when the block hits me.

  • http://badidea.wordpress.com Bad

    Has anyone ever heard of paying audiences to go see a movie on the opening two weeks to drive up reported ticket sales? ERV pointed out that Expelled! is apparently doing this, and the news just trickled through to me. Crazy stuff. Looks like trying to do flat-out viral marketing for this film like they did with Passion of the Christ isn’t quite working out without the addition of kickbacks.

  • xarexerax

    Introductions, eh?

    I’m Chaz, a data entry specialist located in sunny California. I’m a Christian, though not necessarily in the typical sense. I’ve just recently begun perusing this here site (as in, yesterday), and I’m always interested in different opinions on just about anything, so long as they’re presented in a fashion that exudes some sort of intelligence and/or forethought. I have little tolerance for the intolerant, and I like to pride myself on being open-minded (at least in terms of discussion, if not in changing my own opinion of things).

    Anyone who’s into one-on-one debates (with nods to civility and, again, intelligence) should feel more than free to email me (xarexerax@gmail.com). Also, anyone who’s just got something interesting to say – as I mentioned, I’m all about exploring the beliefs, views, and world opinions of just about anyone. I’m not going to change my mind about religion, as a warning, so religious and/or antireligious zealots need not apply.

    Other than that, I’m here simply out of interest and, more importantly, because the average level of intelligence I’ve seen from posts and comments here exceeds that which I’m generally confronted with when meandering aimlessly through the internet, and it’s a pleasantly refreshing change.

  • Claire

    Susan B said:

    especially the religious viewpoint on whether this is even a valid question to ask

    This seems to assume that the non-religious viewpoint is unanimous on this one, and it isn’t. I do think keeping an open mind is vital, but this question bothers me. When someone asks “what evidence would convince you to believe/disbelieve”, it’s almost like asking people to make up evidence, it’s almost like asking “tell me how I can convince you that you are wrong so I can refine my argument against you”.

    If the real question is “do you keep an open mind, and how is that demonstrated” wouldn’t it be more honest and productive to just ask that question instead of framing it the other way?

  • http://www.wordsfromthewya.com/between-the-trees Jake Meador

    As far as introductions go, I’m a 20-year-old English and History major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I’m also a columnist with the school newspaper, the Daily Nebraskan, and I’m the service coordinator with the UNL chapter of Reformed University Fellowship.

    Susan- Are you looking for Christians to answer your question in this space or for us to point you to resources dealing w/ that question? I, sadly, can’t think of any books dealing with that topic, although you might read some recent spiritual autobiographies and it might give you an idea of the thought process for some people who have struggled with faith. (Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller and Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott are both excellent. Lamott is a Christian writer who drops the f bomb occasionally, which amuses me to no end personally.)

    As far as what it would take for me to lose my faith, I think Hemant talks a bit about this in his book… there are points in your life where your system of belief (be it Christian, Muslim, atheist, whatever) is especially vulnerable. But if you don’t change it during that time, you’re less likely to in the future. I grew up in a fundamentalist church and in high-school I saw enough ugliness, pride, and bizarre ideas to make me severely question Christianity. And for awhile I wouldn’t have called myself a Christian, even though I still liked Jesus. I just hated the church.

    But then I discovered authors like Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, Brian McLaren (MikeC can probably tell you more about him :) ), Rob Bell, and Tim Keller and they really helped resolves all the issues I was struggling with. So now I’m fairly comfortable identifying myself as a follower of Jesus, slightly less comfortable identifying myself as a Christian, and I’m extremely uncomfortable identifying myself as a Presbyterian (we don’t have a very good history in terms of human rights or respect for human dignity) but that’s generally the stream I swim in today. So to answer your question, today I can’t really imagine changing my beliefs. I mean, I suppose if someone could show me absolute empirical proof that God didn’t exist, I’d change my mind because I would be compelled to by indisputable fact… but I don’t think that sort of evidence is possible.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Hello again.

    Susan, I don’t have any faith but the reverse question (What would make me believe?) is simple t answer. Evidence.

    In fact I am trying to gather evidence of a different kind, Over on the Friendly Christian site I am an occasional author. I have posted a challenge asking for evidence, not that God is real or not real, but that faith works or fails as a life style. If anyone has anything to contribute please do so.

  • http://aidanmaconachyblog.blogspot.com/ aidan

    Let me begin by saying that I think Friendly Atheist is extraordinary in that the blog invites a range of opinion and promotes civility and intelligence. The inclusive nature of the blog is admirable.

    It is very interesting to hear from Christians who aren’t locked into hard-and-fast positions, and who are open moreover to alternative points-of-view.

    I’m an Atheist with a Thelemic background. I find no contradiction between an Atheist position and spirituality. Atheism may not be a belief system in reference to “God”, but many Atheists have other beliefs that in some cases include nature-based spirituality.

    The value of Hermant’s forum for me at any rate, is the chance to follow a wide range of opinion. I often drop in to read rather than comment, and this has much to do with the quality of comment this blog has attracted.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Because of the way the brain develops it is fairly rare for people to gain or loose faith as an adult. Once all those formative connections are mode, it is hard to break them. It does happen, but for every example of someone loosing or gaining faith, there are probably 100 people that keep with the tradition of their upbringing.

    Change occurs trans-generation. If people are taking their kids to church a bit less than their parents took them, then atheism as a trans-generational movement will gain traction. If people are taking their kids to church a bit more than they were taken, then religion is gaining traction… I don’t see that sites like this really convince anyone to change their beliefs. But it might convince some to stay home on Sundays (or Wednesdays) and blog instead of going to church and having their kids indoctrinated…

    My wife is at church right now (Wednesday night Christian living classes) and I’m home with the kids… blogging… Hey, I just proved myself right!!! ;)

  • http://mollishka.blogspot.com mollishka

    And yet, Jeff, I know people in their mid-50s who have realized they no longer believe… they just aren’t willing to admit it publicly due to social pressures.

  • Bo

    Hemant, I found your website shortly after reading your book.

    It’s good to see an atheist leading by example – there are a lot of friendly ones among us, and I think we should let the world at large know.

    Keep up the great work!

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Hello, Susan B.,

    I appreciate your question, and I’m pretty sure it was discussed somewhere here before (all of them are running together in my head and I can’t keep them straight).

    I agree with Claire in that it may not be a constructive question. I don’t know if you would arrive at any solid conclusions from that type of a discussion. It just ends up going around in circles.

    I would much rather focus on how we can come to an agreement in the areas that we have in common, and work together to achieve our common goals. Converting each other’s beliefs about God should not be the main objective of any group.

    A conversion has to take place within oneself. No one can convince us to change our faith and convictions. Personally speaking, though, my views on so many things have changed greatly since I’ve been visiting the FA just by having the willingness to learn with an open mind. However, the foundation for my faith has not. My foundation is Christ, who represents love, grace, and freedom — freedom being the ultimate treasure that I have discovered in my new “identity.” Freedom from fear, guilt, and shame.

    So I’ve been exploring life with a renewed sense of awe. I have found that the more I learn about people who are different than me, the more I can understand, accept, and love them. I completely let go of my agenda (however small it was) of hoping to convert people about three or four months ago. I think I have a blog post to that effect.

    The freedom to just explore and learn without the religious agenda is what brought me to this site. I’m forever pushing the envelope, and I may very possibly (although I doubt it) shed my “Christianity” completely. But that’s only a word and a label. Who I am and the spirit of Christ that has become a part of me will never change, regardless of what I call myself.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    hoverfrog:

    In fact I am trying to gather evidence of a different kind, Over on the Friendly Christian site I am an occasional author. I have posted a challenge asking for evidence, not that God is real or not real, but that faith works or fails as a life style. If anyone has anything to contribute please do so.

    Hmm…interesting. I’ll check it out, Hov., if they promise not to eat me alive. 8O

    Jake Meador,

    Hi there! I’m an ex-Nebraskan myself. I grew up in Omaha, although I ended up in NYC for 10 years and now in VA (part of the Bible Belt.) :-( UNL is a good school. Go, Huskers!! ;-)

  • Mercurious

    Susan B.

    Every person goes through a different experience when they de-convert. I would suggest this site for a large number of personal stories.

    http://www.positiveatheism.org/mail/eml9663.htm

    One thing to remember that is de-conversion rarely happens from outside. Its usually an interprocess they the person themselves must work through.

    p.s. There is also a 2 part video on YouTube that a guy straight out says what he would need in order to be converted to any religion. Just do a search for "convert atheist" and you should find it.

  • http://tarafields.stumbleupon.com/ Tara Fields

    Hi all (here in the south “hey all ya’all!”)

    I’m originally from San Francisco, but have lived in the deep south for 20 years. So I’m a liberal in a sea of conservatives. :-)

    I’ve been an atheist since I was 12 years old. When my eldest sister converted to Russian Orthodox, I regularly attended church with her; however, I soon realized that I wasn’t praying or worshiping, I was only admiring the art and the chanting. So I told her I didn’t believe. No crisis of faith, no doubt. It simply wasn’t there. I didn’t feel sad or empty – I was at peace with my realization.

    In San Francisco my atheism was simply never an issue. I honestly can’t tell you the religions of any of my friends (if any of them were religious). It just wasn’t an issue.

    Then I moved to the south and culture shock smacked me in the face. I was 15. In class I was asked about my religious beliefs. I simply said, “Atheist.” and went back to my work. WRONG! A student literally thrust a bible at me and I was told that I “…needed this.” I was SHOCKED to say the least. I learned to keep my atheism to myself. I wasn’t ashamed of it – I just didn’t want to deal with the crap.

    As an adult I have generally kept it to myself – but I never denied my atheism. Only within the last year have I become an *outspoken* atheist. As a result, I’ve managed to run off some family members (including one who calls him/herself a Christian yet denies the divinity of Christ. Go figure.).

    So that’s where I am now. New to blogging, but not new to the controversy.

    See ya,

    Tara (home is in Georgia, but temporarily exiled to Texas)

  • tim

    I was self-converted from atheism to christianity in my 5th decade. My folks were agnostic. I became a follower of christ because of the evidence for god’s existence, the veracity of christ’s self-proclaimed identity and the evidence for the soul. It would have been irrational for me to deny these things based on the preponderance of evidence and arguments that I have studies on both sides. I could be wrong about all of this, but the evidence speaks for itself.

  • Samuel Skinner

    What evidence?

  • RobL

    It would have been irrational for me to deny these things based on the preponderance of evidence

    Jeff – please enlighten me, what is the evidence?

  • Mriana

    Hi, y’all. I’m the non-theist/Humanist, stuck in the Belt Buckle of the Bible Belt/HQ of the Assembly of God (A of G). FUN! :roll: I actually came by my non-theism by questioning and studying various religions and myths. I do admire Bob Price and Bishop Spong to name a few though.

    Currently studying Buddhism and the prof asked me what a Humanist, specifically a Religious Humanist is or rather my view of it and I basically told him, “Well, I don’t believe in a historical Jesus, a deity, heaven, or hell, but I still study the various religions from a critical view.” and then referred him to Bob Price’s essay concerning the difference between Secular and Religious Humanists (really not a whole lot of difference): http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/price_22_3.htm It’s all lobe, as Bob says. :lol: Or rather a human concept. He thanked me for sharing with him my view and the link. He is a cultural Jew (he appreciates his origins but isn’t practicing from what I gather), but enjoys studying Eastern Religions.

    Got a good laugh today in my Buddhist class. The Buddhist either feel the gods are unimportant or don’t believe in them. Their creation story is that Brahma suddenly pop up (like the big bang) saw no one and then suddenly saw others and thought he created them. I said, in class, “Wait a minute! So this so called deity pops out of no where, sees no one, and then when others suddenly popped out of no where he thought he created them with his thoughts?” The prof said, “No one said the gods were smart.” :lol: Well, it’s a good thing they don’t think they are important/rely on them or they’d be in trouble with gods like that! That was too good. (Picture a cartoon godhead popping out of no where in a cloudy like scene and go from there. :lol: )

    Needless to say the Christians studying religion don’t like me much, but what can I say? Can I help it if I catch onto some of the obserdities of religion? However, my older son (18) who professes to be a Buddhist loves that I’m taking the class and wants to steal some of my text books so he can read them too. He actually enjoyed the above conversation I had in class when I shared it with him and when I said, “Now I understand why you laugh when I make off-handed remarks about God.” He said, “Yup! That’s exactly it!” All the gods are stupid! :lol: Who’d a thunk it! A Buddhist and Humanist can get along so well even with all the wise cracks about deities. Trust me, I can be the most irreverant woman when it comes to religion and deities. Some of you know this already though.

    Oh but when I need to be, I try to be good and not offend anyone with my cartoon deities, IF I can help it. ;) Oh, I guess it’s too obvious I see it all as myth if I view cartoon characters in my head. :lol: Hey, no one said they weren’t a product of Looney-Toons Inc.

  • Mriana

    :oops: Oops! Hemant said to be nice. OY! :roll: Hemant! You let me have free reign and tell me to be nice at the same time?! :shock: Really! I don’t think I can and be myself at the same time. :(

  • Julie

    I do wear my bracelet, in answer to the first question. I love it. No one ever notices!

    I have decided not to wear it to the school where I work, however. I don’t appreciate people wearing overtly religious clothing, and I sort of think it’s respectful in kind not to wear my overtly unreligious wristband.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Did anyone catch the Atheists Talk radio show Minnesota Atheists did with Richard Dawkins on Sunday?

  • Susan B.

    Thanks for the responses to my question–I’m trying to come up with better wording, especially given that it might potentially be more offensive than I intended.

    I suppose I should introduce myself more thoroughly, since everyone else is:
    I’m a math and computer engineering double major at a small college in New York, with hopes for a PhD in math in the future.

    I’m an atheist, although I was raised sort of vaguely Jewish, with a non-practicing Catholic mother and a somewhat-practicing Jewish father. When I was twelve my father asked me what I was planning for my bat mitzvah, and at that point I admitted I didn’t really believe in God and had been considering myself an atheist for some time. He was a bit disappointed, but didn’t really push the issue, for which I am grateful.

    I went through a period of being very bitter about religion and very willing to pick fights with my religious friends and classmates, which lasted until early high school. At that point I realized I wasn’t really bitter any more and that in some respects I really admired and appreciated religion. My opinion on various religious issues has fluctuated over the years, but these days I try to think before I open my mouth, with the result that I don’t say much because I haven’t quite figured out where I stand on many of these questions.

    I guess I’m mostly a secular humanist, although once in a while I’ll say that my religion is math.

  • http://ecstathy.blogspot.com Efrique

    tim said,
    I became a follower of christ because of the evidence for god’s existence, the veracity of christ’s self-proclaimed identity and the evidence for the soul. It would have been irrational for me to deny these things based on the preponderance of evidence and arguments that I have studies on both sides. I could be wrong about all of this, but the evidence speaks for itself

    If your claims is true, that the evidence speaks for itself, then we’re all completely clear what this evidence is, presumably. Ummm… nope. I find myself unaware of even the slightest hint of anything resembling evidence. It’s not speaking at all.

    The thing is, if you have to enlighten us about what this supposed evidence is, then it is not speaking for itself, you’re speaking for it. But let me humour you for a moment (as if I didn’t already know how this would turn out*). Go for your life. Present a single actual piece of evidence.

    (* I expect I’ll get the same complete lack of evidence I’ve had from every other person that makes this claim. In fact the only evidence that comes to light from these experiences – and I’ve had many – is that people who say that kind of thing turn out not to have the faintest idea what evidence actually is.)

    I don’t care what you want to believe, frankly, and I have no particular interest in deconverting you, but if you’re going to bring claims up in a public forum, expect to be held to a proper standard. If you want to claim there’s evidence, produce some.

    So let’s get specific.
    (i) Which god? What attributes does this being have? where did it come from? How do you know?

    (ii) Why would whatever evidence you think you have not be equally evidence for any other mythological being instead?

    (iii) If you’re going to invoke scripture, what is your evidence that it is in any sense a document so reliable that I would suspend skepticism about its provenance? (i.e. if you require that I believe it’s true in order to … believe what it says, that’s not evidence at all.)

    (iv) you talk about “the veracity of Christ’s self proclaimed identity”. I’m going to hold you to a much, much weaker standard than your claim. Provide a single piece of evidence from the time of christ, or even (though this is an extraordinarily weak standard to hold you to for such an extraordinary set of claims) a single document written at the time that indicates the guy ever actually existed at all. There was supposedly some pretty big stuff going on, according to the bible – why doesn’t any comtemporary writer mention any of it?

    In fact, the onus seems to be on you to explain the incredible absence of evidence.

  • Gary

    So Mriana,
    I am curious as to how you rationalize choosing Buddhism over other faith based religions? After studying many religions, I came to the conclusion that it was fairly obvious that none of them make sense with illogical stories, assumptions, and dogma without evidence. That is how I arrived at this semi-atheist position. (I hate the word atheist since I am perfectly willing to accept a deity if someone would provide a shred of evidence) Do you honestly believe in rebirth or reincarnation? Can you provide any evidence for that proposal?
    Of all the major ‘religions’ buddhism seems to be fairly benign relative to its contemporaries but you still must accept some pretty silly stories.

  • Shauna

    Personally, I love the wristbands! And I hope everyone else who has them really likes them too! But then again me and my sister donated them. :)

    I have a variant on the ones Hemant has been handing out that say “Atheists are Friendly” that I wear everyday. No one really notices but I really like wearing it.

  • stogoe

    That reminds me – is it too late to get my bracelet for the haiku contest? I kind of forgot about letting Hemant know where to send it.

  • Karen

    I have a variant on the ones Hemant has been handing out that say “Atheists are Friendly” that I wear everyday. No one really notices but I really like wearing it.

    Are those available for sale, Shauna? I’d love to get one.

  • HappyNat

    (I hate the word atheist since I am perfectly willing to accept a deity if someone would provide a shred of evidence)

    Gary,

    What does the word athiest have to do with not being willing to accept evidence?

  • tim

    #

    Efrique said:

    January 16, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    “I don’t care what you want to believe, frankly, and I have no particular interest in deconverting you, but if you’re going to bring claims up in a public forum, expect to be held to a proper standard. If you want to claim there’s evidence, produce some.

    So let’s get specific.
    (i) Which god? What attributes does this being have? where did it come from? How do you know?

    (ii) Why would whatever evidence you think you have not be equally evidence for any other mythological being instead?

    (iii) If you’re going to invoke scripture, what is your evidence that it is in any sense a document so reliable that I would suspend skepticism about its provenance? (i.e. if you require that I believe it’s true in order to … believe what it says, that’s not evidence at all.)

    (iv) you talk about “the veracity of Christ’s self proclaimed identity”. I’m going to hold you to a much, much weaker standard than your claim. Provide a single piece of evidence from the time of christ, or even (though this is an extraordinarily weak standard to hold you to for such an extraordinary set of claims) a single document written at the time that indicates the guy ever actually existed at all. There was supposedly some pretty big stuff going on, according to the bible – why doesn’t any comtemporary writer mention any of it?

    In fact, the onus seems to be on you to explain the incredible absence of evidence.”

    tim says:
    good, thoughtful questions, in spite of the undertones of severe psychological and rational bias. I have no strong desire to convert you either, other than to convert as many individuals as I can to always seek truth in all aspects of existence.

    In spite your “rules” regarding a public forum such as this, I must say this type of forum is not the place to adequately discuss the evidence for and against the truth claims I previously made.

    However, let me at least respond to question (iv).

    A popular and frequent misconception about Jesus is that there is no mentio of him in any ancient sources outside of the Bible. On the contrary, there are numerous references to him as a historical figure who died at the hand of Pontius Pilate. Some secular historians even report that he supposedly was risen from the dead. Some of these are:
    Tacitus, a roman historian who lived from AD 55-120
    Suctonius, another roman historian (AD 117-138).
    Josephus, a Jewish historian working for the romans in the first century.
    The Talmud makes an interesting note about Jesus and his crucifixion.
    These historians and documents are acknowledged to be reliable by nonchristians and they satisfy all academic standards of accuracy of historical documentation.
    Therefore, your 4th question is answered by hard evidence.
    To deny the existence of the actual person of Christ is irrational.

  • Mriana

    Gary said,

    January 17, 2008 at 12:03 am

    So Mriana,
    I am curious as to how you rationalize choosing Buddhism over other faith based religions?

    I didn’t chose it. I’m only studying it. I’ve studied Christianity and Hinduism as well. More Christianity than anything since that is my background. Now if you are thinking I am a Buddhist, I am not. I’m a Humanist and a non-theist. I only study other religions. I thought I made that quite clear.

    Do you honestly believe in rebirth or reincarnation? Can you provide any evidence for that proposal?

    Oh you did read a lot into that. Did you miss the part where I said I do not believe in an afterlife, a historical Jesus, or a deity? It is my son who is a professed Buddhist, not me. Please do read a little closer, Gary, because I poked fun at it all and it made quite clear that I am a Humanist who happens to study various religions. :roll:

    I enjoy researching and studying the human condition, asking questions as to why people believe in this or that, and the psychology behind it all. You totally misunderstood all of that.

  • tim

    Efrique also asked:

    “(i) Which god? What attributes does this being have? where did it come from? How do you know?

    (ii) Why would whatever evidence you think you have not be equally evidence for any other mythological being instead?

    tim says:
    Again, I would like to say that these are excellent questions and, of course, go to the heart of the Christian faith. For now, if I may, just respond to the questions, Does God Exist? and ignore the subset of questions, such as which god, and god’s attributes.

    One can reasonably conclude God exists on the basis of a growing body of evidence from reflection and deduction, cosmology, astrophysics, the laws of physics, intelligent design, the nature of the mind, the moral nature of man, philosophy and mathematics. In other words, there is a constellation and aggregate of worthy arguments that when taken together form adequate justification for the truth claim of god’s existence. Science itself is limited and inadequate to be the sole source of knowledge regarding the existence of god, but seems to be more and more supportive of the claim as we learn more about the physical universe.

    So, if one reviews the list of arguments for god’s existence this would include: the argument from intelligent design combined with the Kalam argument, the cosmological argument, the argument from the reality of the nonphysical realm, the argument from the mind, the argument from morality, the argument for god and the meaning of life, the historicity of the new testament, etc. These are the main ones that have appealed to me on the basis of sound reflection and reason. There are many others that have been offered throughout history that are weak and unappealing to me. Each of the sound arguments has a vast array of forms of the argument and evidence for and against the arguments. If one is interested, explore all of these, in depth, and decide for yourself.
    The details about god–his attributes, nature, whether or not all worldviews describe the same god, etc,–is another discussion.

  • Gary

    Question from HappyNat:

    What does the word athiest have to do with not being willing to accept evidence?

    While there are many definitions of atheism, the general public tends to define an atheist as ‘someone who knows there is no god’. They would also likely define an agnostic as ‘someone who isn’t sure about god’. That may not be your definition but if you were to ask a person on the street, there is a good chance they would say something like that. For all practical purposes, I am an atheist. However, I would be the first to convert to whatever god(s) belief system, if someone were to provide some solid evidence for their god(s).

    Atheist are often accused as being as fundamentalist as the religious guys when we state our views. I find the way around this is to say that I am perfectly willing to accept god(s) when someone provides evidence. I also mention that the likelihood of that happening is about the same as finding a herd of unicorn on Uranus. Often the retort is something along the lines of ‘oh, so you are an agnostic’ or ‘I don’t know if there is a god’.

    It is a bit of semantics playing here which is why I dislike the generally accepted definition of atheist.

  • Gary

    Mriana,
    You’re right, I misread your position and that it is your son that is the Buddhist. Good luck on your religious education. It is a fascinating area of study from many aspects of art, culture, history. Let me know if you come across anything that helps explain WHY religion in this day and age. I understand the desire to explain things thousands of years ago, but many very smart, well educated people are very religious today. I don’t understand why.

  • Mriana

    Yes, Gary, it is fascinating and if I figure out why even the most educated are religious, I’ll let everyone know. Except for it being a security blanket and/or a need for an invisible parent figure, I have no other answers.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Tim,
    I think you should say that you are convinced of God by what you consider to be good arguments and I can respect that stance, but I think you should not call them “evidence.”

    Arguments are not evidence. Arguments need evidence.

    An easy way to keep from confusing arguments and evidence is if you can see it, hear it, touch it, smell it and taste it, and most essentially if others can do all that too, and if their interpretations of their sensations are similar it might be evidence. If it is a mouth going up and down, that’s not evidence, that’s an argument.

    If I claim to have an apple in my lunch box I can argue that it would be smart for me to have one, other people’s lunch boxes have apples, it would make me healthy to have one, my mommy used to put one in when I was a kid, I had a vivid dream about an apple being in my lunch box, some other person had the same dream too, somebody claims to have seen the apple in the lunch box long ago, the lunch box has clearly been designed to contain apples, science has confirmed that apples grow on trees and that apples can fit inside lunchboxes, good people eat apples and I’m a good person, I think there’s an apple therefore it is, millions of people for thousands of years have believed that there’s an apple in my lunchbox, I have a warm, wonderful feeling in my heart that there’s an apple in my lunchbox, my life has gone so much better since I came to believe in the apple in my lunchbox, really smart people have written long works of apple apologetics in support of it, and on and on until I have convinced myself and others that there is an apple in my lunchbox.

    Those are all arguments, not evidence. They consist entirely of my mouth going up and down.

    Only when I open the lunchbox, pull out an apple, hold it, look at it, thump it, smell it and take a big juicy delicious bite of it do I have evidence.
    It’s also much much better evidence if I can share half of the apple with you and you agree that it is an apple.

    I’m not contradicting any of the arguments that you find convincing. I’m simply asserting that those and any other arguments for any claim are not evidence, unless of course the claim is that someone can collect arguments.

    Others here may wish to challenge the arguments you have mentioned, most of which I recognize. That is a time-honored tradition that is almost always futile in changing any one’s beliefs. I only wish to clarify what I see to be the difference between an argument and evidence.

  • Mike

    I’ve been thinking a bit about this lately… Should atheist parents have their baby boys circumcised? My impression is that this is standard practice and has lost its religious foundations in most people’s eyes (but I could be wrong). Still, when thinking logically about it, it seems like an absurd practice.

  • atheos

    Susan B – My 2 cents worth…I would not bother to ask what would cause a theist to change their beliefs. As you said, most are pretty firmly convinced of what they believe. I can’t see that being productive of much thought on their part.

    What I would ask rather is “HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT GOD”? For some, the answer is the bible and that’s good enough. But for others who don’t believe the bible is literally true, then they may have to really think about how they acquired their “knowledge” about god. How did the people who wrote the bible know anything about god? How do we know those writers were “divinely inspired” and not just delusional, or people with temporal lobe epilepsy (now commonly known to result in visual and auditory hallucinations)

    Another question that was important to my deconversion was “WHY WOULD AN OMNIPOTENT GOD CREATE ANYTHING“? If god is perfect in himself, then god would never NEED or WANT anything. If everything is part of god, what point to fragment off part of it and make it so imperfect and “sinful”? Etc.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard Wade,

    “Apple apologetics…” That’s really cute! :)

    But what if that apple is in one’s stomach? What if no one can actually see the apple, but the person who ate the apple starts to smell like an apple? What if whoever that person speaks to can taste the apple without the physical act of eating one?

    So if everyone can smell and taste the apple without actually seeing it, could that be considered evidence for the existence of the apple?

    I’m not disagreeing with you. Just asking a hypothetical question… ;-)

  • Ben

    Should atheist parents have their baby boys circumcised?

    In the secular parenting forums it’s a divisive topic. Generally, the answer is no.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Linda,
    If the apple is in one’s stomach then the person can only give the argument of their subjective experience of its existence. I don’t really have much objection to that argument for someone else to base their belief on because it can’t really be contradicted. However the person’s description of that would never convince me.

    If the person starts to smell like an apple, I take it meaning that they begin to exhibit virtues in their daily behavior that they attribute to the apple’s influence on their very being, then that still is a report of their subjective interpretation of their new behavior. The change in their “smell” or their behavior may be confirmable by others, but the interpretation of the cause of that is not at all confirmed. Nice for them, not convincing for me.

    If someone speaks to others and they begin to have sensations of apple-ness that is called charisma and suggestion. A few people can do that to suggestible people, but then it boils down to their subjective experience and interpretation.

    Finally if some people (it never happens that everyone does) can have several actual physical sensations of the apple except for seeing it, then it warrants closer investigation. If the sensations can be confirmed by disinterested parties then it moves into the possibility of being evidence. Measuring the cause of those sensations by some kind of instrumentation would help to guard against the possibility of hallucination or suggestion. Even then the interpretation of the evidence can be highly contentious.

    Skepticism is a virtue. It stops people from buying useless land, from using quack medicine, from voting for demagogues, from persecuting folks who are different and from bombing busses. Non-skeptical people sometimes confuse it with cynicism or with closed mindedness. I don’t assume the worst of ambiguous situations and I am ready and eager for the evidence. There’s just nothing like having an apple in my hand.

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    Should atheist parents have their baby boys circumcised?

    My wife and I discussed this quite a bit when we were expecting. We didn’t know the sex of the baby so we wanted to be prepared either way. After doing some research and talking it over we found no convincing reasons to have the procedure done and several reasons to not have our child circumcised. So our answer was a pretty definate “no”, and then we had a girl and it didn’t matter. :)

  • Mriana

    Richard Wade said,

    January 17, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Hi Linda,
    If the apple is in one’s stomach then the person can only give the argument of their subjective experience of its existence.

    Well I ate the apple and it was really juicy sweet. :D *Mriana wipes off apple juice from her mouth* Yup! Very good. Now I just hope the owner of that apple tree didn’t mind I stoled his apple, because I make no apology. :lol:

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mriana!!!

    So you’re the culprit! Did you share it with Adam? ;-)

  • Siamang

    Richard

    That’s such a great post that I just want to copy it and paste it and use it instead of typing up a similar (but never quite as eloquent) version whenever these arguments come up.

  • Mriana

    Linda said,

    January 17, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Mriana!!!

    So you’re the culprit! Did you share it with Adam?

    That lazy dead beat? He can get his own apple. :lol:

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard,

    To tell you the truth, I don’t expect you or anyone else to be an apple eater. Sometimes I can’t even remember eating the apple, except when I burp. Then I can still kinda taste it. What bugs me are the people who keep spraying apple perfume on themselves to smell more like an apple. And they say everyone else should smell like them. It makes me dizzy and naseous. :-(

  • Richard Wade

    Thanks, Siamang, I’m not sure which post you liked but use any of them any way you like. Just don’t quote me so that way the lynch mob comes to your place instead of mine. :)

  • Richard Wade

    Yeah Linda, I hear you. Just remember the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the dogma away.” :D

  • tim

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. When I say “argument” I mean that I am making a proposition and supporting it with reasons or justifications as to why I think it is true or most-likely true.

    Let’s take your example, you made the proposition that: “An easy way to keep from confusing arguments and evidence is if you can see it, hear it, touch it, smell it and taste it, and most essentially if others can do all that too, and if their interpretations of their sensations are similar it might be evidence.” and then you go on to define arguments in the sense you thought I was talking about as mouths going up and down. Again, I was defining argument as a statement supported with adequate reasons. If I were just giving my opinion about something, I would hope to be ignored.

    Does that clarify?

    Now let’s look at your proposition that you made above about evidence. You are claiming that evidence “is if you can see it, hear it, touch it, smell it and taste it”, etc.

    I would say you are making an argument for the definition of evidence in the sense you thought I was. You are providing no evidence for it. In fact, the statement commits intellectual suicide, it self-refutes, if you will; shoots itself in the foot so-to-speak. All I ask is how can the statement: “Evidence is if you can see it, hear it, touch it smell it and taste it (scientific methodology) be tested scientifically. Your claim cannot be tested empirically nor scientifically. You are not requiring of it the same standard of evidence that you require of my truth claims. It is a necessarily false proposition. So, clear thinking really needs to be clear, don’t you think?

    Having said that, I really appreciate learning things from others when I am in error; and I hope you feel the same.

  • Karen

    Richard, Siamang beat me to it. Your apple in the lunch box analogy is the best I’ve seen as a clear, easy to understand explanation for the difference between argument and evidence. And that is SUCH a difficult, but crucial, point to make.

    Thanks for allowing us to copy it! I’ll just attribute it to a “wise sage of science” I know, or something like that. ;-)

  • Claire

    Tim, you lost me at “intelligent design”. I know enough about that to know it’s a crock, and if that’s the kind of evidence you are relying on, then you are easily convinced.

    Richard’s definition of evidence is perfectly legitimate, by the way, and your argument is not. You don’t need evidence for a definition, you only need agreement so that all involved are discussing the same thing. Definitions are about about semantics, not truth.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    I must disagree with the apple analogy. Some of what you describe as merely arguments I think should count as evidence. For example, why should we discount a witness account of the apple? Sure there’s a lot of opportunity for error there–maybe the person is lying or mistaken. And it’s much more indirect for the evidence to travel through another human than it is for the evidence to travel through photons to your eyes. But you can’t reject evidence out of hand just because it’s indirect or prone to error.

  • tim

    Claire,

    The definition of evidence is debatable and worthy of good argumentation. If one posits that evidence is only obtained empirically then it is untrue. It implies that the scientific method is the only source of knowledge, also untrue. Therefore, his statement about the nature of evidence and what construes evidence is inadequate. Besides it is self-refuting which automatically kills itself. Let’s just leave it at that. “What is evidence” is not simply semantics (see I’m debating your definition,too), and evidence, hopefully, does guide us toward what’s most-likely true.

    Why is intelligent design a crock–specifically??

  • AJ

    Tim,

    I would like you to answer Efrique’s questions, especially what makes Christianity true and other claims, e.g. other religions, or any claims about the Invisible Pink Unicorn, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the Celestial Teapot not true.

    A popular and frequent misconception about Jesus is that there is no mention of him in any ancient sources outside of the Bible. On the contrary, there are numerous references to him as a historical figure who died at the hand of Pontius Pilate. Some secular historians even report that he supposedly was risen from the dead.

    That doesn’t answer the question, you list sources after Jesus supposedly died. For the extraordinary things he supposedly did, I would say that there aren’t numerous sources about him, especially considering the dates of them.

    These historians and documents are acknowledged to be reliable by nonchristians and they satisfy all academic standards of accuracy of historical documentation.

    i) There are historians who don’t think these are reliable sources.
    ii) There are numerous other supposed man gods, and accounts of miracles in history.
    iii) Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
    iv) These are not first hand accounts, or even second hand accounts, as far as I have read. There are things that historians use to judge how reliable sources are, and these I suspect would not be high in quality.

    You are not requiring of it the same standard of evidence that you require of my truth claims. It is a necessarily false proposition. So, clear thinking really needs to be clear, don’t you think?

    Rationalism makes small leaps about basic beliefs and axioms that shouldn’t be compared to religion’s leaps over mountains through faith. Can you say that “2+2=4″ is the same as “an all powerful, all knowing, all good creator who lives outside of space and time exists”? If you can then we have no where to go. Reason is out of the window. It’s a slippery slope to a dark place.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Miller said,

    For example, why should we discount a witness account of the apple?

    Good point. Wouldn’t it hold up in a court of law as evidence?

  • ash

    Tim, i’m afraid you didn’t even manage to answer one of the questions you already tried to tackle –

    Provide a single piece of evidence from the time of christ, or even (though this is an extraordinarily weak standard to hold you to for such an extraordinary set of claims) a single document written at the time that indicates the guy ever actually existed at all.

    Some of these are:
    Tacitus, a roman historian who lived from AD 55-120
    Suctonius, another roman historian (AD 117-138).
    Josephus, a Jewish historian working for the romans in the first century.

    given that, according to biblical historians, Jesus was purported to have died aged 33, (and Josephus was born approx 37 CE), none of these historians could have ever met him, and their accounts were written some time after he was supposed to have died.

  • tim

    Thanks AJ for your response:

    Efrique”s question (4) merely required evidence that a person, Jesus Christ, actually lived (not if he was the son of god, died and rose,etc). I produced adequate evidence that he was a real person that lived and died. Numerous refers to the fact that an ordinary person probably would have no written references of any kind referring to his or her existence. For more nonChristian references I refer you to Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus, by Gary Habermas.

    Your criteria that there should have been on site written records of the “extraordinary” things he did. Well, there are. Check out the gospels. Again, the response to Efrique was to demonstrate the existence of the person, Jesus Christ. If you are skeptical of the gospel accounts regarding the extraordinary things he did, please give your reasons for their unreliability.
    Regarding raitionalism (not sure of your definition), but assume it is to apply reason and laws of logic to data to help identify truth. Is that def. OK? Also, am not sure of your point.

    People can have blind faith beliefs such as the only source of knowledge is through empirical scientific methodology. People can have blind faith about God as well. To me, Faith is defined as what is reasonable to believe to be true. I have Faith that the electron theory of the atom is true. This could be wrong, but I have reason to believe it is true. I have Faith that it is wrong to torture babies for fun. I have good reasons for this belief, and have probably more rational certainty about this than the electron theory. I’m afraid of “big leaps” of any kind. How about you?

  • RobL

    Why is intelligent design a crock–specifically??

    Tim – It is a crock for the simple reason that we are NOT intelligently designed. We have all sorts of useless parts, lots of DNA that does nothing, parts that wear out prematurely. Why would an intelligent designer connect our windpipe to our esophagus so that we can choke to death so easily? Why aren’t we covered with hair so we don’t have to wear protective clothing? The assumption that we are intelligently designed is the reason intelligent design is religious baloney. Except I forgot – God works in strange and mysterious ways so there must be a reason we have all these engineering flaws built in. I guess there is no way to win the argument.

  • Claire

    Tim, I didn’t say the definition of evidence was unworthy of debate, I said that definitions don’t require evidence, and they don’t. Otherwise, there would be no definitions for things that don’t exist, since there can be no evidence for them, and there are plenty of definitions of those. And if we agree on a definition different from Richards, then we need a new word that fits Richard’s concept, so it is just semantics.

    The most telling bit of evidence I can come up with off the top of my head against intelligent design is the the genome. The genomes of every creature on this planet is chock full of crap – bad code, outdated code, defective code, useless code. It’s a living history of every bad side trip and dead end that evolution ever took, and there is no design there, just a record of random trial and error.

    And also, let me restate Efrique’s question: if this evidence is so self-evident, why do you need to speak for it?

  • Mriana

    Linda said,

    January 17, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Miller said,

    For example, why should we discount a witness account of the apple?

    Good point. Wouldn’t it hold up in a court of law as evidence?

    Esp if you had the apple core. However, I already admitted my guilt. :lol:

  • RobL

    Check out the gospels.

    Tim – The gospels are lousy evidence. The earliest was written down 40 years or so after Jesus died and the rest were written down long after that. Just an opinion but I think it is absurd to believe that the gospels provide any kind of accurate picture of the life of Jesus. If I tried to write down an account of what happened to me during a particular year of my life 10 years ago I could not do it accurately, let alone 40 years ago. And this was a period of history where there was no media at all and 99% of the population was illiterate. Sometimes I cant remember what I did yesterday. ? At best the gospels give us a very filtered account of Jesus’ teachings. At worst (my opinion) is that they are 95% mythological.

  • RobL

    Check out the gospels.

    Tim – The gospels are lousy evidence. The earliest was written down 40 years or so after Jesus died and the rest were written down long after that. Just an opinion but I think it is absurd to believe that the gospels provide any kind of accurate picture of the life of Jesus. If I tried to write down an account of what happened to me during a particular year of my life 10 years ago I could not do it accurately, let alone 40 years ago. And this was a period of history where there was no media at all and 99% of the population was illiterate. Sometimes I cant remember what I did yesterday. ? At best the gospels give us a very filtered account of Jesus’ teachings. At worst (my opinion) is that they are 95% mythological.

  • Claire

    Good point. Wouldn’t it hold up in a court of law as evidence?

    Are you sure you want to go there? Mostly when we hear of things like this in a court of law it’s when people are saying that the apple told them to drown their children. If you are going to take people’s unsupported word, then you have to allow the bad with the good.

  • RobL

    Sorry about the duplicate, my computer burped.

  • tim

    RobL,

    Thanks for your response. In actual fact, I respect you and you have a right to your opinion, but give me reasons that it is more than just your opinion, so I have something to go on, other than just your opinion.

    References to Biblical transmission and historicity would be helpful here to present your case.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Tim wrote:

    If you are skeptical of the gospel accounts regarding the extraordinary things he did, please give your reasons for their unreliability.

    I think a much more plausible explanation of the gospels is that they were written specifically to fulfill previously written scripture for the purpose of starting a new cult/religion and that they are NOT an accounting of history.

    Some references for this line of thought and related subjects can be found in writings from the following people:

    Bob Price
    , John Shelby Spong , Karen Armstrong, Victor Matthew, Tom Harpur, Earl Doherty, and the scholars (some already mentioned) at the Jesus Seminar among others…

  • Karen

    For example, why should we discount a witness account of the apple? Sure there’s a lot of opportunity for error there–maybe the person is lying or mistaken. And it’s much more indirect for the evidence to travel through another human than it is for the evidence to travel through photons to your eyes. But you can’t reject evidence out of hand just because it’s indirect or prone to error.

    Anecdotal evidence is the worst kind of “evidence” possible and doesn’t even count as empirical evidence (as I understand it) in a scientific sense. (Richard, correct me if I’m wrong here.)

    Here’s an example of why witness evidence isn’t reliable: Back in the days when “patent medicine” ruled the medical world, such as it was, every new miracle cure elixir could claim anecdotal evidence – witness accounts – as to its powers to cure disease. There were no random controls and impartial studies that could actually give us good, empirical evidence as to whether these wonder drugs actually worked better than placebos, let alone WHY they worked.

    So, Lydia Pinkham would patent yet another tonic that was about 20-30% alcohol, and she could gets lots of witnesses to swear that it helped them. Well, it put most of them in a very good mood, so sure – they’d swear that it helped!

    Other medications of the era included cocaine, heroin, opium and who knows what other kinds of herbs and chemical compounds. Most of them were nothing more than addictive, yet they had marvelous anecdotal evidence to back them up. It’s just not very good evidence, and nothing to bet your life on – at least not for me.

  • RobL

    Tim – the book ” The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously” by Berlinerblau provides a great analysis of this subject. My opinion was only part of the post – my main point was that the gospels were written long after Jesus died (hopefully you at least agree with that point as a fact). I think most rational people would question the accuracy of a story held in collective memory for 40+ years then written down. That is not good evidence.

  • tim

    Claire,

    Thanks again for your response. Allow me to explain (define) definitions. Definitions (next to God, and the human soul) are the most important nonphysical things in existence. The word is all powerful, so to speak. For example, how we define, the human being (you, for example), determines our views on so many things, such as law and order, parenting, teaching, leading, abortion, relationships, etc. etc. etc. So, I try to (but not always) be careful about definitions such as the definition of evidence because that definition determines what you allow in to your thinking which leads to your determination of what is true. Richard’s definition presumed and implied certain things. It suggested to me that the only evidence worthy of debate (what one lets in) is strictly empirical. This definition of evidence is way to narrow to explain reality and to determine what is true. Therefore, evidence needs to be presented to discuss whether or not his definition is adequate.

    Regarding intelligent design and random genomes. I am not an expert. But I could respond with a counter example. This example bhy itself is inadequate for a strong explanation of “garbage” genomes.
    We are all familiar with Darwin’s Finch beak observations which is one of many observations he made regarding adaptive changes in species over time. From this special theory of evolution he extrapolated to the general theory of evolution which is that this basic observable ability for adaptive change is unlimited and can account for the transitions from species to species through genetic changes (mutation) given enough time.
    An interesting observation about lengthening Finch beaks, for example, is that they revert back to short beaks when the environmental changes so dictate. Perhaps these “garbage” genomes are kind of a library of possible adaptive scripts for a given specie in order to “evolve” within limits.

    Regarding the evidence speaks for itself. I was wrong to use that phrase. It was flippant and useless. Ultimately, the evidence does speak loudly if it is seen clearly, but it was poor choice of words on my part.

  • Mriana

    Claire said,

    January 17, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Good point. Wouldn’t it hold up in a court of law as evidence?

    Are you sure you want to go there? Mostly when we hear of things like this in a court of law it’s when people are saying that the apple told them to drown their children.

    No, the apple said, “Eat me! Eat me!” :lol:

    Sorry guys, I just can’t help it. We are talking about a juicy red apple and I’m a vegetarian. When I hear talk of apples I think food. That’s one sorry deity if it can be eaten, but hey, y’all chose the deity. I just ate it.

    Survival of the fittest you know.

  • AJ

    Tim,

    Efrique”s question (4) merely required evidence that a person, Jesus Christ, actually lived (not if he was the son of god, died and rose,etc).

    I believe he asked specifically for evidence at the time. Not accounts written years after his death.

    If you are skeptical of the gospel accounts regarding the extraordinary things he did, please give your reasons for their unreliability.

    They mention extraordinary things. If I say to you, I flew today without aid, I hope you would require more evidence than if I said to you I walked a mile today.

    There are numerous religions all with accounts that mix historical events with mythology. No one believes them all, and I have yet to hear an argument that puts one over the other.

    The gospels were written years after Jesus’s supposed death, were not first hand accounts, and are not consistant.

    The concepts involved are not new, humanity had already thought and written about many of the concepts brought by gospels. There were many claims of divine heritage at the time of Jesus, and many similar myths that incorporate many of the concepts.

    To me, Faith is defined as what is reasonable to believe to be true.

    Why is it reasonable to believe in God but not in any other god, or fairies, or anything?

    I have good reasons for this belief, and have probably more rational certainty about this than the electron theory.

    Please elaborate on this reasoning process, explain the reasons, and how you got to them because the way you’re using the terms “reason”, “rational”, and “blind faith” are not close to how I understand them, or explanations of them I have read.

    I’m afraid of “big leaps” of any kind.

    Then you must have huge courage to face those fears because you seem to be making many great leaps.

  • http://ecstathy.blogspot.com Efrique

    tim said,

    undertones of severe psychological …bias

    Quelle suprise. Kettle. Black.

    You started by displaying your biases. Why get excited when we don’t all share yours?

    and rational bias

    Yes! I freely admit I am biased toward being rational and against being irrational. Would you like to provide an argument why an irrational bias is better?

    If you like, you can also point the finger at me for my anti-kitten-baking bias, my not-drinking-poison bias and my not-cutting-my-arm-off-with-a-spatula bias.

    Me, I’m filled to the brim with handy biases like that.

    YOU spoke of evidence. You raised the claim of evidence. Discussing evidence seems like a rational position to take, but you did that. The fact that I would like to see some of this evidence properly presented is suddenly “rational bias”?

    If that’s true, stamp my hand with the “rational bias” stamp. I’ll wear the t-shirt with pride.

    Of course I am biased toward being rational. To do otherwise is to be open to every charlatan. (Indeed being openly irrational about anything other than the religious/spritiual would rightly get me a quick recommendation to seek medical help.)

    In spite your “rules” regarding a public forum such as this, I must say this type of forum is not the place to adequately discuss the evidence for and against the truth claims I previously made.

    Then it was utterly inappropriate of you to raise them here. You started this by talking about evidence. If you expected the rules to save you from being asked for evidence, that sounds like you were hoping to abuse the rules in order to avoid having to put up.

    Tacitus, a roman historian who lived from AD 55-120
    Suctonius, another roman historian (AD 117-138).

    As it happens, I have some familiarity with Tacitus and Suetonius from when I did history. Tacitus and Suetonius do provide evidence for the existence of Christians, there’s little doubt of that (Tacitus, for example, refers to “followers of… Christus”). But I have never doubted that Christians existed. Which passages provide evidence that the particular Jesus (/Yeshua) of the Bible (and, further, not some other Yeshua) is an actual historical figure? In Suetonius there’s a reference to a person with a particular Greek name (which he renders in Latin as “Chrestus” – “the useful”) whose name sounds somewhat similar to the title Christ/Christus (“the anointed”). That’s pretty tenuous. These are your highlights? How do you know it’s the same person? That might be minor supporting evidence alongside some other sources (if it agreed with them), but alone that’s about as strong as claiming Nostradamus predicted WWII jet fighters. This is your idea of “hard” evidence?

    Indeed, the tektonics.org website (a Christian apologetics website) refers to Suetonius as one of the “references to Jesus in secular sources that have little value”.

    I find it interesting you would bring up Tacitus at all (besides the fact that he only refers to Christians). Is he reliable in what he says about Christians? That would be an interesting position to take, since according to Tactitus, Christians are filthy and criminal. You might not have a strong interest in saying he’s a particularly reliable source on Christianity.

    I think Tacitus’ Annals date to around AD 117. Not so so historically current. It would be a bit like me writing about some guy at the battle of the Somme. What are his sources?

    Suetonius is even more out of date.

    Ookay, so far, we’ve discovered Christians as a religious sect have some historical evidence, and a second-hand report of some guy called by the somewhat suggestive Greek name Chrestus (evidence I produced, by the way – you just wrote some names and claimed they did stuff).

    Not wowing me so far.

    Josephus, a Jewish historian working for the romans in the first century.

    Ah! The famous fabrication. See, for example, the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Or check it out at wikipedia (not that I claim wikipedia is reliable on this – it’s just a convenient starting place, if somewhat biased toward the belief viewpoint in its religious articles).

    It’s been widely regarded as a forgery at least since the 18th century (and particularly the Christ references in Jospehus). At best, Josephus is highly controversial. The most that apologist scholars are able to argue today is that Josephus’ writings may be partly non-forgery, but even this much is disputed.

    I can see why you avoid giving details!

    The Talmud makes an interesting note about Jesus and his crucifixion.

    Here’s an idea. You do some of the work. So far, you’re making me argue both sides! When exactly was this “interesting note” written? What exactly does it say?

    Come on, you’ve missed a couple of other pieces of non-evidence. Where’s Pliny, for example? You’ve been skimping on your apologetics, young man.

    These historians and documents are acknowledged to be reliable by nonchristians and they satisfy all academic standards of accuracy of historical documentation.

    That’s plainly untrue as even five minutes of research would have shown you.

    Either you know that this statement is false, or you’re ignorant. If you’re that ignorant then I can’t blame you for repeating the deliberate lies of others, but in that case you aren’t in a position to proclaim knowledge. Which is it?

    The “historically reliable” writers like Tacitus and Suetonius* give no hard evidence that Yeshua as described in the bible was an actual living person.

    *(the quotes around historically reliable are because Seutonius was pretty much a scandal-sheet writer – in our time he’d probably work on something like the National Enquirer. He’s not your Edward R. Murrow)

    You take me for an ignorant fool. You’d think I’d never looked for evidence before. I did. It was absent.

    Therefore, your 4th question is answered by hard evidence.

    I’d love you to produce some of it!

    Hard evidence? My daughter has better evidence than that for the existence of Santa Claus! She has photographs of herself sitting on his lap. She has the evidence of the disappearing reindeer-food. She has a hand-written gift-tag in an unusual writing style with the name Santa right on it.

    For now, if I may, just respond to the questions, Does God Exist? and ignore the subset of questions, such as which god, and god’s attributes.

    Well, I see those other questions as central, because otherwise you can produce something suggestive of, say, a Deist position and claim it as evidence for a Chistian God. It’s like me making a claim that my house is infested with slamanders and as evidence I produce a tadpole. “A baby amphibian!” I proclaim gleefully, “Hence, my house is infested with salamanders!”

    A person with a skeptical frame of mind would rightly say “hang on, that’s a tadpole! You said salamanders. Where are the salamanders?”

    If I said “let’s leave that aside for the moment – I just want you to accept that there’s amphibians, and then later I’ll explain why you should accept that tadpoles are really salamanders”, he’d be right to be highly skeptical of my motives, and expect that I’d be pulling a fast one somewhere down the line.

    One can reasonably conclude God exists on the basis of a growing body of evidence from reflection and deduction, cosmology, astrophysics, the laws of physics, intelligent design, the nature of the mind, the moral nature of man, philosophy and mathematics.

    Uh, I can copy lists from apologist literature too. Can I say I am unimpressed by non-evidence?

    If crackpottery like the utterly debunked lies of the cdesign proponentsist crowd is your idea of evidence, then I can only assume your definition of the word evidence is even closer to “wish fullfilment” than I had guessed.

    Which particular parts of your list do you imagine constitutes evidence? (if your historical efforts are any indication, this is going to be pretty sad)

    Just pick one or two highlights.

    Returning to the “which god?” point for a moment…
    For the sake of argument, let us presume that, say, cosmology gave you a basis to consider the existence of some god (which the evidence available to date assuredly does not). Which god? If you merely find that something supernatural is indicated, you end up having to disprove every other possible supernatural explanation.

    That’s not another discussion. It’s the starting point. You need to explain why any such argument for a generic being is an argument for your particular God. And the reason you have to list the attributes up front is so to avoid the old bait and switch. If it’s evidence for your god, let’s examine the evidence on that basis. So give me the attributes of your god so I can check whether what you say is evidence for your god is anything of the sort. What evidence that indicates specifically and uniquely the Christian god should we find if we examine the cosmos? What should we find instead if the Christian god is absent?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mriana,

    Whatever you ate, I want some of that too!! :lol:

  • http://ecstathy.blogspot.com Efrique

    oh dear, I see tim has started on an anti-evolution line.

    Tim, if you’re interested in evidence, evolution has about as strong an evidence for anything (outside perhaps of the basic laws of physics) as you’ll ever find. Try reading about it sometime (I mean the modern synthesis) – and the actual evidence and current research, not the anti-evo apologetics.

    If you do it honestly, you might begin to get some idea what the word evidence means.

    Looks like you’re willing to accept the possibility that there is at least descent with modification (essentially the definition of evolution), but not that it can account for the variety of life we observe.

    Start with something basic like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciation

    but don’t stop there if you’re honestly interested in evidence rather than just supporting your belief in spite of it.
    but

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Karen,
    I didn’t say that a witness account is very good evidence, I simply asserted that it is evidence.

  • tim

    AJ,

    Accounts at the time argument: What are your reasons for this criteria. When were the accounts of Julius Caesar recorded, when were the accounts of Nero recorded, when was the battle of Troy recorded. When were the accounts of Alexander the Great recorded. Are these accounts recorded at the time of the action. Can you actually posit that the standard of history at the time was to record the events as they happened? Show me the evidence for this proposition.

    AJ, if you flew today, and I had reliable witnesses, and record, I would give it serious consideration. Especially if your witnesses were willing to die for their testimony.

    Other mythological figures: Long discussion. Mythology in one time and place does not alter evidence for the events of a different time and place. Historical events have dramatic differences than mythological stories. I think experts in myths would agree that the historicity of the gospels does not follow typical mythological format.

    I hate to sound redundant but evidence is the basis for the veracity of Christ’s claims.

    Reason is logic applied to data. With the claim: it is wrong to torture innocent children for fun. Can you reflect and give good reasons why this is true? Is it up for grabs? I can think of sound reasoning for this truth claim and reach greater certainty than I can regarding the electron theory of the atom.

    Please give me detail of my great leaps of Faith, and provide your evidence, or is this “just your opinion”?

  • Mriana

    :lol: I had a bake potato for dinner tonight. With butter and cheese. :D

    In all seriousness guys 1. an apple is a poor excuse for a deity and bad for evolution for that matter. 2. A virus would work better to explain evolution, or even ID if you know how to work it. 3. (and this might work for either side in the end) Ruach is Hebrew for wind of God. It is/was not external, but emerged from within the world and was understood to be the ground, the life-giving force. Nephesh is Hebrew for breath, God’s breath. Nephesh was later translated into soul or spirit. Turn nephesh into oxygen and you might be able to run with something to make some sort of point- esp on the Christian side. The virus you can really run with, esp with evolution. Think about it for a bit and you might come up with something that I can’t sit here and poke hole in it. ;) Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Ahhh… Intelligent Design. Got to love it. This diagram explains how the religious apologists modify the scientific method to suit their purposes.

  • AJ

    Tim,

    Last time i checked, Julius Caesar didn’t cure the sick, feed thousands with crumbs, fly, become a zombie, or have any magical powers at all.

    AJ, if you flew today, and I had reliable witnesses, and record, I would give it serious consideration. Especially if your witnesses were willing to die for their testimony.

    What’s your standard for a reliable witness? If you would rely on witnesses for that, and not just for the sake of this argument, I question your judgement. Wouldn’t a more logical explanation be that the witnesses were mistaken, or lying? Willingness to die doesn’t add any weight to their testimony, plenty of people are willing to die for other gods.

    Other mythological figures: Long discussion. Mythology in one time and place does not alter evidence for the events of a different time and place. Historical events have dramatic differences than mythological stories. I think experts in myths would agree that the historicity of the gospels does not follow typical mythological format.

    I disagree, there are examples of similar myths. I believe the argument against them used by some is that “the devil made them to fool us”. Which is outstanding, I have nothing to add.

    Reason is logic applied to data. With the claim: it is wrong to torture innocent children for fun. Can you reflect and give good reasons why this is true? Is it up for grabs? I can think of sound reasoning for this truth claim and reach greater certainty than I can regarding the electron theory of the atom.

    You’re not going to answer my question on how you would reason this, and you’re not going to answer what reasoning puts Christianity above other beliefs. I’m not going to respond if after making the claims you did, are not going to attempt an explanation when questioned more than once on the matter.

  • Jen

    Good point. Wouldn’t it hold up in a court of law as evidence?

    It could never be the only piece of evidence, though. There are a lot of cases where the person is going free because DNA evidence proves that eyewitnesses were wrong.

  • HM

    Welp, I just saw the funniest religion-related thing ever:

    http://kotaku.com/345854/christian-animal-racing-hell

    have fun with this guys.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    It could never be the only piece of evidence, though. There are a lot of cases where the person is going free because DNA evidence proves that eyewitnesses were wrong.

    But in the absence of the DNA or other solid evidence, the eyewitness testimony is all they have to go by. Especially if there is more than one.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it proves the truth. The court of law is not science, I know. I was strictly pointing out the fact that evidence can mean different things to different people. Does it have to be the same when it comes to spiritual matters? I doubt if there will ever be a satisfying evidence that everyone can accept. God and proof beyond doubt just do not go together. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

  • Claire

    Definitions (next to God, and the human soul) are the most important nonphysical things in existence. The word is all powerful, so to speak.

    Tim, from this it seems that you regard definitions as next door to holy. Your definition of ‘definition’ is so far out of the mainstream that it makes it difficult to discuss with you. It seems stuck in the mode of prescriptive linguistics, which dictates there is one correct way, rather than descriptive linguistics, which describes how language is actually used. More simply, if you define things in such a way that you are using a word differently from everyone else, communication stops. Check out a dictionary sometime and you will find multiple definitions for many words, and those change constantly, depending on how people use them – something so easily mutable is hardly all powerful.

    definitions such as the definition of evidence because that definition determines what you allow in to your thinking which leads to your determination of what is true

    Wow, that was quite a blast from the past – this is the first time I have come across anyone touting linguistic determinism or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis for years. Sorry, nope, language does not confine our thoughts. George Orwell got a good book out of the idea, though.

    An interesting observation about lengthening Finch beaks, for example, is that they revert back to short beaks when the environmental changes so dictate. Perhaps these “garbage” genomes are kind of a library of possible adaptive scripts for a given specie in order to “evolve” within limits.

    I did say that there was old code involved (such as earlier beak types, as you mentioned), but that doesn’t indicate a designer. It’s just leftover code from an earlier evolutionary trial. No, much of what’s there is true garbage. And that doesn’t even begin to address the harmful genetic codes that result in such things as Huntingdon’s chorea or Marfan syndrome. Any designer who included those would have been either incompetent or just mean.

    Accounts at the time argument: What are your reasons for this criteria. When were the accounts of Julius Caesar recorded, when were the accounts of Nero recorded, when was the battle of Troy recorded. When were the accounts of Alexander the Great recorded. Are these accounts recorded at the time of the action. Can you actually posit that the standard of history at the time was to record the events as they happened?

    Ok, you can’t possibly be serious about this. History at that time had no standards. People wrote down not only what they knew, but also what they thought they knew, what they heard, what was generally believed to be true, and seldom distinguished between them, which makes what they wrote highly unreliable. Modern historians, who do have standards and methodology, always try to find primary sources, and even then they don’t blindly accept them. So when someone asks for a source actually written at the time, that is a completely legitimate request.

  • Mriana

    I’m not saying that it proves the truth. The court of law is not science, I know. I was strictly pointing out the fact that evidence can mean different things to different people. Does it have to be the same when it comes to spiritual matters? I doubt if there will ever be a satisfying evidence that everyone can accept. God and proof beyond doubt just do not go together. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

    Linda, sometimes you have to use better evidence though. I was telling my Church of Christ friend about this thread last night and even she was wondering why you all were using an apple. An apple just doesn’t work whether you are trying to prove the existance of God, show Evolution or ID, or what have you. Such a thing as evidence would even be laughed out in court. Besides that, where on Earth are you going to get DNA for an invisible deity? Are you going to use that godhead on Star Trek The Next Generation which floated out in space and nodded his head like a silly old man? Or are you going to take that giant hand that held the Enterprise in TOS episode titled “Who Mourns for Adonis”. Even Kirk defeated Apollo in that episode and showed him to be nothing more than a silly old projection. Which is a shame because Carolyn, the Ancient Myths specialist, fell in love with the projection.

    The point is, no matter what example you use, it’s nothing but a projection, possibly of yourself, what you wish you could be, or what you want something else to be- in Carolyn’s case, what she wish a man could be, which was a male rescuer that would provide her every want and need. The fact is, she had the potential to do it herself, with the help of her comrades. The problem was that she had to see it for herself or her and her friends would end up slaves (goatherders in Kirk’s words) to a primitive creation that had no more substance than a hologram.

    Yes, this is just TV, but Gene used the media to deliver a message to the masses and the basic message was the human potential to use science and reason to solve most of their problems, not rely on some invisible supernatural being that would just hold society back as slaves to their own imagination. Such things can and often does hold society back and a good example today would be how the Religious Reich wants to keep women from getting various health care needs and keep scientists from discovering possible cures with stem cells because they believe it’s against Zeus’s wishes. :roll:

    Whether you believe in a deity or not is unimportant, IMO. It’s what you do, act, and live life that really matters. Robert Price in his book “Reason Driven Life” says to live like there is no God and what he means is, there isn’t any invisible force that is going to do anything for us, we have to do it ourselves and let go of that invisible parental figure; stand on our own two feet like independent adults, regardless if we think there is a god or not. You’re not going to be striked down dead with a lightening bolt if you do, but you might find a change for the better because you are striving to do things for yourself (with or without help from your friends) and without begging for “daddy” to do it for you- no insult intended.

  • Shauna

    Karen said,

    January 17, 2008 at 9:20 am

    I have a variant on the ones Hemant has been handing out that say “Atheists are Friendly” that I wear everyday. No one really notices but I really like wearing it.

    Are those available for sale, Shauna? I’d love to get one.

    -Karen, we aren’t selling them but I think we have a couple of extras if you want one. Just email me: shauna.moerke@gmail.com

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    Jeff: “Change occurs trans-generation. If people are taking their kids to church a bit less than their parents took them, then atheism as a trans-generational movement will gain traction. ”

    I love it. Religious Darwinism. He’s right though. My hyper-religious parents shunned the actual church going because the churches were not religious enough for them. The actual result in the children is that we are not church goers at all. And in some case believers. We inherited the trait and…

  • tim

    AJ said:

    What’s your standard for a reliable witness? If you would rely on witnesses for that, and not just for the sake of this argument, I question your judgement. Wouldn’t a more logical explanation be that the witnesses were mistaken, or lying? Willingness to die doesn’t add any weight to their testimony, plenty of people are willing to die for other gods.

    Tim’s response: The testimony of reliable witnesses is a valid source of evidence for what happened. It would be highly irregular if multiple (11) eyewitnesses were lying when the remainder of their lives were largely spent in different places, without collaboration. To lie and die for a lie is insane. The probability of all lying and willing to die for the lie is highly unlikely. They could be mistaken. Again, this seems most unlikely, if the gospel and account in Acts have reliability (which I’m sure you believe to be highly unlikely). There are very few examples (in fact, I know of none) that a multitude of eyewitnesses have had the same misperception or hallucination of the raw data.

    AJ says:
    I disagree, there are examples of similar myths.

    Tim’s response: I think if you look closely,a typical myth is not at all like the case presented in the Gospels. A Myth is typically “letter and picture perfect”. There are no discrepancies. They are truly beyond belief. The Gospels,on the other hand, have inconsistencies. A Myth would never have women discovering the empty tomb in the context of the time. The footprints of a Myth are not present in the Gospels.

    Claire said:
    Tim, from this it seems that you regard definitions as next door to holy. Your definition of ‘definition’ is so far out of the mainstream that it makes it difficult to discuss with you. It seems stuck in the mode of prescriptive linguistics, which dictates there is one correct way, rather than descriptive linguistics, which describes how language is actually used. More simply, if you define things in such a way that you are using a word differently from everyone else, communication stops.

    Tim says: In all due respect, you seem to be catching “Richard’s disease”. You are saying my definition of definition is wrong because it says I think mine is the correct one which makes it false because it must be descriptive. Then you turn around and say your’s is the correct one. Seems like another Richardism…..it’s ok for Claire to be absolutely correct in her definition about definitions but not Tim. Also, if you are following AJ’s line about his “ability to fly” his basic definition about reality and what is possible leads most certainly to his most fundamental “control beliefs”. That is he would never allow into his realm of thinking that the notion that a person could fly is possible. He probably would never believe in ghosts, spirits, the soul, demons, etc…and that’s OK, but his control beliefs are based on his definitions, my dear. So, I would maintain that definitions are indeed important and are next to Holy (never thought of it in those terms, but thanks!)

  • Claire

    Tim, you don’t seem to be able to comprehend very well. What I said was that there is no one correct definition for any word, and that definitions are a matter of consensus. That you could get out of that that only “my definitions” are correct says to me that you were looking to deliberately misunderstand it.

    And yes, I did notice the little “my dear” near the end, a nice example of the condescension is the traditional last refuge of the jackass. And you started out so polite…..

  • Claire

    Tine said:

    There are very few examples (in fact, I know of none) that a multitude of eyewitnesses have had the same misperception or hallucination of the raw data.

    I don’t know where you get your information, but eyewitness testimony is often highly unreliable, and a big factor in that is that memory is highly unreliable.

    From this site: A recent study (Wells, et al, 1998) examined the first 40 cases where DNA exonerated wrongfully convicted people. In 90% of the cases, mistaken eyewitness identification played a major role. In one case, 5 separate witnesses identified the defendant.

    Or this quote, from a New York Times article: “In recent years many states and cities have moved to overhaul lineups, as DNA evidence has exposed nearly 200 wrongful convictions, three-quarters of them resulting primarily from bad eyewitness identification.”

    Then there’s this article on how easy it is to create false memories.

    If you didn’t know about these counter examples to your claim, it’s because you didn’t look – that was less than 10 minutes research on the internet to find those and many many more examples.

  • tim

    Claire,
    Sorry about the term, “my dear”. It was a derogatory reference and I apologize.

    But,I would like to try to elicit an understanding on the matter. You are saying that there “”is no ONE correct definition for any word including the word “definition”, and that definitions are a matter of consensus””.

    Let me try to clarify what I mean. You are saying there is no one correct definition of “definition” and then you give me the ONE AND ONLY “correct” definition of the word definition–i.e. that it is absolutely a matter of consensus…..

    Again, please forgive me about the “my dear”.

  • Claire

    Tim – apology accepted, and in turn I also apologize for the ‘jackass’ remark. The nice thing about people who apologize so readily when called on things, as you did, is that you do encourage the rest of us to live up to your example.

    I am not saying that consensus is the full and only definition of ‘definition’, I am saying that without that characteristic as one part of the definition, there can be no communication. We have to be able to agree on a definition for the purposes of a conversation, even if it isn’t the only one true definition, because if we have to get everybody to agree on the one true definition before we can have the conversation, then the conversation is never going to happen. So, yes, I am rejecting the view that definitions embody the whole truth about the thing being defined, to whatever extent that is a part of your definition, because that way impedes communication.

  • tim

    While I’m at it—-I apologize to Richard. Referring to self-refutation as “Richard’s disease” was diminutive. Please accept my apology.

  • tim

    Claire,

    Thank you, and apology accepted. You have a point that communication really breaks down when we get to hung up on thinking “I” can know “the exact way things are”. In my marriage, I have learned exactly what you are saying, so I think you have a very valid perspective.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    “When a person’s last response was Saumensch or Saukerl or Arschloch, you knew you had them beaten. ”

    The Book Thief

  • Richard Wade

    Hi guys, sorry I’ve been gone so long. I’ve had a busy week showing kids the wonders of the universe and turning them all into non-cynical, open-minded skeptics. Hoohoohohohahahaha!

    Tim, I haven’t heard the the old “The validity of empiricism cannot be demonstrated empirically” routine for at least…three weeks. To which we could add, “The validity of faith cannot be demonstrated by faith alone,” and “The validity of pure argument cannot be demonstrated by pure argument alone (including this one)” oh let’s just jump all the way to “The validity of neither the concept of existence nor the concept of nonexistence can be demonstrated by neither anything that exists nor anything that does not exist.” So now that we have obliterated all foundation assumptions for any viewpoint of any kind and stand on the precipice of solipsistic, nihilistic, quark soup never-never nirvana, let’s step back and acknowledge that we still use empirical knowledge anyway. A lot.

    Hang on, I’m not creating a straw man by characterizing your argument in an absurdly extreme way, although sometimes I feel a little hay fever around you. ;)

    I don’t assert that empirical knowledge is the only way to know something any more than your “it’s self-refuting” argument implies that you completely reject empirical ways of investigating things. At least I hope you don’t. It’s really useful when you need to walk across a busy street. I once asked my Baptist brother if instead of looking both ways when he crossed a busy street did he just close his eyes, say “Praise the Lord” and step into the street? He replied with all seriousness (I swear he did) “Well that’s what I should do but my faith isn’t strong enough.” After I picked my chin up off the floor I said “Oookay, well I love you so I’m frankly glad your faith isn’t strong enough.”

    I’m simply saying that the definition that you seem to use for the word “evidence” is too loose and too inclusive to be useful in a conversation like this. Inside the privacy of your own mind it might work fine. It seems to mean anything at all that leads you to a conclusion, including any object, argument, thought, sentence, word, idea, notion, hunch, dream or sensation, no matter how irrelevant, how vague, how tenuous or how fleeting it may be. In other words if you use it to reach a conclusion then everything and anything is evidence, which to me means nothing is evidence.

    You talk about reasons that you believe something. Now that word could be used to hold all that stuff, and I would not differ with you at all. As I said I respect your personal reasons you believe. I just object to using the word “evidence” to include thoughts about thoughts, talk about talk, assertions about assertions and claims about claims. Those may be some of your reasons for a conclusion but evidence is that vulgar, mundane, physical stuff that gets you safely across the street.

    I think we may go around endlessly with this because as I discovered with another Christian whom I very much respect, we have a different orientation about this: If I’m not mistaken, you see evidence as what leads you to truth. I see evidence as what convinces me of a claim.

  • Richard Wade

    Oh and no problem about the “Richard’s disease” thing. You’re a decent person and this is a challenging forum. It was kind of funny. I’ve been called a lot worse than diseased. Why, once I was called an appeaser. I didn’t get out of bed for a week.


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