What Would It Take to Make Me Believe in God?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, answers the question: What would it take to make me believe in God?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Buckley

    Excellent Video. I like these. On a tangent, I have found it exceptionally difficult to have conversations with religious believers on all matters of mundane topics. Ever since I accepted who I have always been – an atheist, I find it harder and harder to fake interest in people and conversations when no matter what happens in their lives, “It Was God’s Will”, “providence”, “God works in mysterious ways”. But because I have to work and feed the family and not be a knee-jerk reactionist, I find my self debating them in my head and eventually i have no idea what it was they were talking about. I usually try and cut off conversations with excuses, but I find my patience has worn thin.

  • corps_suk

    Evidence!

  • Mick

    I wouldn’t accept a miracle. No matter how spectacular it may be, I would just assume that I was hallucinating and never regard it as a miracle performed by god.

    So what would convince me that god exists?

    I’d start with the Millenium Prize Problems of the Clay Mathematics Institute. If some character told me he was god, I would ask for solutions to the problems and if the mathematicians were able to verify those solutions – well we could move on to the next test.

    The beauty of my plan is that there is no need for value judgements. After an apparent miracle has occurred we could still argue about what happened, how it happened, and who caused it to happen, but solutions to the Millenium Prize Problems can be instantly verified by mathematicians. There would be no doubt that something special had occurred.

    What would be god’s next test after solving the Millenium Prize Problems? I’d ask him to write down the password to my Google blog. (I’ll bet he won’t even get close)

    • ctcss

      “I’d start with the Millenium Prize Problems of the Clay Mathematics
      Institute. If some character told me he was god, I would ask for
      solutions to the problems and if the mathematicians were able to verify
      those solutions – well we could move on to the next test.”

      Then a sufficiently advanced alien species could wow you, right? How is this a useful test for God?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Well, exactly. That’s why it is a starting point. There is no ending point Any “evidence” for God that humans can comprehend could be performed by something less powerful than God. That’s one reason why “God” is not useful as a concept. The historical move toward monotheism has produced a trend of theistic escalation where, like gradeschoolers puffing up at one another, the end result is always “My god is bigger than your god to Infinity!” followed by “My god is bigger than your god to Infinity… plus one!

    • joey_in_NC

      I wouldn’t accept a miracle. No matter how spectacular it may be, I
      would just assume that I was hallucinating and never regard it as a
      miracle performed by god.

      And you have just pointed out the sheer close-mindedness of many atheists.

      • baal

        No Joey, he said that personal experience wouldn’t convince him. He’d like objective miracles.

      • Michael W Busch

        No. He has just observed that human brains are not perfectly reliable, for which there is ample evidence.

        And, no, it is not “close-mindedness” to require objective evidence for such an extraordinary claim as “Christian Bible god exists”.

        Solving the Clay problems by themselves wouldn’t be a good enough test for a god’s being all-knowing. I’d have it predict events that have already happened but have not yet entered our light-cone. Tell me where and when the next few hundred supernovae will be seen from Earth, and either you’re all-knowing or you have a faster-than-light device. Either way, we’d have something to talk about.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        And you have just pointed out that you aren’t familiar with the concept of hallucinations, and are covering for your ignorance with insults.

      • Matt D

        More closed minded than a poster, who clearly seeks out to slander Atheists, rather then debate them?

  • Jasper

    I don’t think anything could convince me… and that’s not due to be closed-minded.

    They’ve spent thousands of years modifying their god to be as purposely undemonstrable and unfalsifiable as possible… then have the audacity to ask me what it’d take the demonstrate a purposely undemonstrable thing? That’s your problem, not mine.

  • Travis Myers

    Asking what it would take to get me to believe in God is sort of like asking what it would take to get me to believe that the earth is flat. It’s not that I’m not open to evidence, it’s just that there is already so much evidence against the existence of an all powerful benevolent God, just like there is so much evidence against a flat earth. You would have to somehow erase all of the current evidence (existence of unnecessary suffering, contradictions and atrocities in the bible, etc.). The only type of god there could reasonably be any evidence for at all is an evil incompetent one.

    • Major Nav

      Exactly, I would need a labotomy.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        You’d need to have your lab excised? That’s a very appropriate typo. ;-)

        …unless you meant your Labrador Retriever.

    • Michael W Busch

      I usually phrase this as “there is no evidence for the existence of any gods, and evidence that excludes many currently-popular gods from existing”. Christian Bible god is right out; along with Allah and Vishnu and Zeus. Some sort of purely non-interventionist first-cause diety could exist, but there is no need for that hypothesis.

      You’re also touching on a linguistic shell game, that goes like this:

      1. [ first cause, argument from degrees, or other flawed reasoning that claims to show some god exists ].

      2. Therefore [ extremely specific god of a particular religious tradition ].

      This is a favorite and annoying tactic of a certain fraction of theologians, who conveniently gloss over the logical fallacy of going from [ there exists some member of class X ] to [ member Y of class X exists ] – which is independent of the flawed reasoning that anything in class X exists.

      • baal

        Or if we even granted WLC his Kalaam, WLC would still need to get from ‘a creator’ to “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912″

        • Michael W Busch

          Exactly. It’s a particularly annoying and deceptive tactic.

    • Mr. Wriggles

      Interesting analogy…what if you lived back in the middle ages? You’d have inevitiably come to the conclusion, based on the overwhelming evidence at the time (not to mention simple common sense), that the earth was indeed…flat. Even though the knowledge and proof of a round earth was already there at that time, you wouldn’t have found it because you wouldn’t have been looking for it. With regards to the existence of God, you haven’t searched for a thing.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        you wouldn’t have found it because you wouldn’t have been looking for it.

        Irony alert! You might wish to choose an example that does not remind people of the fact that misinformation about Earth found in the Bible made people not look for actual information for centuries, and even throw out accurate information predating their beliefs.

        With regards to the existence of God, you haven’t searched for a thing.

        That’s quite a dismissive, presumptuous, and ignorant judgment to make.

      • Michael W Busch

        You’d have inevitiably come to the conclusion, based on the overwhelming evidence at the time (not to mention simple common sense), that the earth was indeed…flat.

        You are wrong. Many people can and did do Eratosthenes’ experiment, in many different places and times. That the Earth is round was well-known in much of middle-ages Europe – a list of sources is provided here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spherical_Earth#Middle_Ages

        With regards to the existence of God, you haven’t searched for a thing.

        Saying that to this particular group of atheists is quite ironically mistaken, since most of us were raised in some form of religion, looked for the evidence of said religion’s claims and for those of other religions and learned that that evidence doesn’t exist.

        The demography on this is quite clear: atheistic Americans are more generally knowledgeable about the claims of religion than theistic Americans, because people who reject a religion usually do so because they realize that its claims are unsupported.

        • Pofarmer

          “Saying that to this particular group of atheists is quite ironic,
          since most of us were raised in some form of religion, looked for the
          evidence of said religion’s claims and for those of other religions and learned that that evidence doesn’t exist.

          The demography on this is quite clear: atheistic Americans are more
          generally knowledgeable about the claims of religion than theistic
          Americans, because people who reject a religion usually do so because
          they realize that its claims are unsupported.”

          That was exactly my path.

          • Michael W Busch

            Mine too – and it took me several years to go through the whole process.

            • Pofarmer

              It’s been about 3 years? maybe now, not sure. It’s probably been really only about a year I started doubting pretty much everything.

          • Robert

            Interesting. You seem to have the same attitude that some “Christians” have who think they have a corner on knowledge. Have you forgotten all the hundreds, thousands of doctors, lawyers, archeologists, professors, etc. who are practicing and outspoken Christians? Are they uninformed, lacking knowledge, brainwashed, or do we give them credit for being much more intelligent than most of us, and having been satisfied that their beliefs are based in fact? How could all these super intelligent people be fooling themselves? That’s a problem… They certainly know exactly what their religion is teaching.

        • Randay

          That wasn’t my path though I was taken to church until 16, went to Sunday “school”, did classes to be confirmed in the Lutheran church, and even went to a Billy Graham show.

          In spite of all that I never believed in the dogma. It made no sense to me. But I sure know the Bible, especially the bad parts which are almost everything. Also, I never had a clear idea of what god might be. It was just something that seemed important to my parents.

    • cryofly

      I remember that in the high school, I told someone that I will believe in the god(s) when it/they appear physically in front of me. Many of them gods have tried it and alas, they’ve failed to convince me of their existence. Now I am more into, “What would it take to convince someone that there is no such rubbish?”

      • Randay

        Yours is the appropriate question though I would put it differently. To a religious person, I would ask, “What would it take to make you not believe in a god?” You know, a supernatural imaginary friend, especially one that never acts like a friend.

    • C Peterson

      The only type of god there could reasonably be any evidence for at all is an evil incompetent one.

      Or a perfectly competent, moral one that doesn’t interfere. Basically, a god of deism, a simple creator.

      • DavidMHart

        I think you would have to be at least a bit immoral to create a universe like this one and decide not to interfere.

    • Rain

      Believers don’t even believe in God. Where are the experiments to figure out how the miracle thingy works? Nobody even knows what the hell a miracle thingy is. Nor do they care. They could care less. They don’t even ask the God questions themselves because they know it would be futile and they would look like idiots. Obviously they know their own selves are full of baloney.

    • K. C. Sunbeam

      Hardly.
      Complaining about the 3,500 year old Old Testament (for the millionth time) is like complaining about 3,500 year old understandings of physics.
      Earth is globular, I understand quantum physics, and there is a God.
      My website: http://shockedbytruth.jimdo.com

      • baal

        But god in his infinite power glory and wisdom only managed to display exactly as much knowledge in the bible as was available to late bronze age tribes in the mideast. This makes him look like he’s an imaginary character dreamed up around that time rather than the father of all the things.

        An actually existing god could have done a lot better. Like he could have put in the basics of the periodic table of the elements or something on how electricity or magnatism works. He could maybe have put in superior morality (like women are not livestock and slavery is not ok). He didn’t. Pick your area and the bible is shockingly limited give the majesty claimed for god/jesus/holy spirit.

        You also misunderstood the flat earth analogy.

      • Michael W Busch

        No, you do not understand quantum physics particularly well. Nor do you understand astrophysics, cosmological physics, general relativity, or astronomy well at all. I say this as a professional astronomer, and encourage you to read up on all of these things. You may start with Wikipedia and its sources.

        And no, you have not presented any evidence for your assertion that any god exists.

      • Randay

        First of all, the Old Testament was written about 600 BCE or later, so you are off by almost a thousand years. Secondly, understanding of physics changes with new discoveries. That is not the case with “holy” books which remain unchanged whatever the evidence that comes along. They are simply myths and only the ignorant or insane believe in them. Finally, what is the definition of a god? “Almighty” is vague and doesn’t define anything. How can Adam AND Eve be made in the image of god? God is a hermaphrodite with both male and female sexual organs?

        • K. C. Sunbeam

          Thank you gentlemen, for your replies. But I think there’s a misunderstanding here.
          I do NOT believe that the Bible is God-authored NOR “God-breathed.” Hence the chapter in my book: Is God a Paperback Writer?
          If this is clarified, then we can point/counterpoint on other thing.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    One of my usual responses: “If your god is omniscient, then he knows exactly why I’m not convinced by the flimsy “evidence” that theists present and what kind of evidence I would find convincing. If he’s omnipotent he would be able to send it. And if he were benevolent, he’d want me to know he existed, and would send the evidence I’d need. No such evidence has arrived, so either your god isn’t omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent, or he doesn’t exist at all.

    On a different note, if I personally experienced a miracle, I know that the probability of my having a mental problem is much higher than the probability that it was the work of some god. So any evidence I’d consider would have to be corroborated by an awful lot of people, not just me.

    • baal

      “probability of my having a mental problem”

      Among my other issues is boardline narcolepsy. When ‘reality’ is not working right for me, I assume I need to wake up. One symptom of narcolepsy is so called ‘hypnagogic illusions’ – an intrusion of dream into the conscious mind (usually but not always with sleep paralysis).

      • allein

        Sleep paralysis is the freakiest thing. It happened to me once in the middle of the night (during a particularly anxiety-prone period of my life). It did not, however, occur to me that something supernatural was happening.

        • Michael Harrison

          I once had a dream where I saw my grandmother, who had recently died. I determined it was a dream, rather than a haunting, because certain events happened after I thought they should happen.

          • allein

            I’ve noticed lately that when I’m concentrating on something I stick my tongue out just a little bit, which is something my grandmother used to do. The 12th anniversary of her death is this coming Monday. So I can go with her spirit is occupying me in some way, or…
            .
            (This is not something I normally catch myself doing, but I did it for a while after she died. I wonder if I really do it all the time and am only just noticing now because she’s on my mind, or if I only do it around this time of year and I just never noticed before. Brains are funny.)

      • Paula M Smolik

        borderline

        • baal

          You think I have full blown narcolepsy (or don’t have the symptoms I suggest)? What do you know about me that I don’t?

  • Patrick

    Of course even if Hemant started to believe in a “God” , it wouldn’t necessarily mean that such an entity existed. However the strongest argument (though flawed) for the belief is often “argument from personal revelation/epiphany” which the perception of “miracles ” is but one aspect. It’s like being in love, you are convinced that surely no one else has the same relationship you have , and whether that person is good for you or not, you cannot be convinced otherwise, till you perhaps are “over it”. “Disillusioned” in a real sense.
    One difference is that romantic attachment involves an actual real person as the object of belief , while religious belief does not, and in a way can be more persistent as the “love” may appear “unconditional”.

    • Patrick

      I should perhaps change “strongest argument” to “most convincing” argument. Convincing only though to the person making it.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    A very presumptuous question. The correct answer is, “which god”?

  • busterggi

    A fossilized Jesus in the Ordovician?

    • C Peterson

      It’s not that uncommon to find fossils in the wrong strata. This has occasionally led to scientific revelation. More often, it has been linked to error of some kind.

      Finding a fossilized Jesus would make the rational person consider far more likely options first- site contamination, experimental or interpretational error, deliberate hoax.

  • Baby_Raptor

    The “What evidence would convince you?” question is a fun one. It’s often used with the intent to convert.

    The problem is, even if you *could* prove to me that -insert deity of choice here- was real, that doesn’t mean I’d automatically fall to my knees and become devout. Said god would still have to be a being worthy of worship and servitude. At most all you’d have won was that yes, you did offer me undeniable proof that Deity X exists and I can now no longer say I don’t believe in them.

    • C Peterson

      There is a paradox here. A being “worthy of worship and servitude” would not require it, or even wish it. Indeed, such a being would probably find worship and servitude to be offensive.

      • baal

        I know I don’t want my children to worship me. If they did, I would wonder what I’m doing wrong or if they are playing a joke on me.

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          The same applies to religion. People making too big a display of piety are obviously up to something. One would assume that a deity would be at least as good as the typical parent at being on to that scam.

      • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

        Exactly. Why do all gods sound like third-world dictators in this regard?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Heh, like the paradox of public office: All the best candidates are people who don’t want the job.

      • Machintelligence

        such a being would probably find worship and servitude to be offensive.

        It was just such a line of reasoning that led me to atheism by age 13.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      For some value of “undeniable”, of course. Any evidence we can comprehend is still better explained by alien intelligences than by Yahweh. Q could easily convince Humanity that he was Jesus.

      • Michael W Busch

        I thought Q was the God of Lies. [ / DS9 reference ]

  • B-Lar

    I would be convinced if virtuous individuals gained bulletproof jedi superpowers as long as they remained virtuous in the eyes of god.

    Alternatively, I would also be convinced if every human simultaneously received the same telepathic message in their native tongue informing everyone that “This is just me, doing my regular thousand year check in to see that you guys are all doing OK. Leave your prayers after the beep.”

    Neither should be to difficult for an omnipotent, omniscient organism.

  • joey_in_NC

    You need a miracle?

    What about free will? Don’t we all experience moral agency/responsibility? Try to explain those things through naturalism. You can’t, which is why so many prominent atheists/naturalists, instead of recognizing this “miracle” we all experience virtually every moment of our lives, would rather claim that these things are merely illusions.

    How intellectually dishonest the opinions of these atheists are, considering they blame/fault god-believers for believing what they do, yet through their own belief in the non-existence of free will, they should realize that theists have absolutely no control over these beliefs. Just like a car has no choice breaking down in the highway. Would you really blame/fault a car?

    But then one can return the argument by pointing out that these atheists have no choice but to blame/fault these god-believers. Sure, we can go on and on about how everyone has no choice about anything. The ultimate conclusion is that all of existence is entirely absurd.

    If this is how atheists want to imagine their universe, so be it. I’d rather believe in rationality.

    • baal

      “Free will” is the RCCs handwaving distraction to get around the problem of evil*. Far from being a miracle, it begs the question. Absent an all powerful god who created the universe, why assume you need an out from that being controlling every thing too (and why would that be nice of it to give us a loophole?).

      I’m aware of the ‘we are all robots’ version of no-free-will but that’s not the flavor joey is tasting.

      • joey_in_NC

        What other no-free-will flavor is out there?

        • baal

          we are robots

          There is a philosophical masturbation version of ‘free will’ that suggests we’re nothing more than complex robots based on chemistry and physics. As such, we’re lacking in free will as the words are commonly used by the non-evangelicals. Sam Harris talks at length about it. I’m down with Dan Dennet’s view on the matter (google freewill + dennet to see that).

          • joey_in_NC

            Daniel Dennet subscribes to a compatibilist version of free will. Through compatibilism, one can essentially argue that just about anything has free will, even inanimate objects. Absurdness still reigns.

            • baal

              I agree with Harris that we’re not as ‘free’ as we think we are but I find little utility from the entire ‘free will’ debate (Dennet’s ‘bait and switch’ dismissal of the concept. I can ignore it entirely and life my life without it. That life living includes having a naturalistic view on the mind (it arises out of the complex interactions in our brain). ‘free will’ is an attractive shiny toy but needs to be set aside after playing with it and it shouldn’t thus be the basis for any of your decision making.

              • joey_in_NC

                I can ignore it entirely and life my life without it.

                But that ultimately wouldn’t be your choice.

                …needs to be set aside after playing with it and it shouldn’t thus be the basis for any of your decision making.

                Again, we don’t have the choice whether to believe in free will or not, assuming it doesn’t exist.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Well, we are robots. Even if we had souls, they’d be robots. It’s just pointless to pursue life as if we are, since the system is necessarily inescapable. It’s worth a philosophical footnote, but ultimately is just as frivolous as asking, “Are we living in a simulation?”

            • joey_in_NC

              Well, we are robots. Even if we had souls, they’d be robots.

              How would our souls, if they exist, must necessarily be robots?

              It’s just pointless to pursue life as if we are…

              Finally an atheist who recognizes the pointlessness/absurdness of life without human freedom.

              It’s worth a philosophical footnote, but ultimately is just as frivolous as asking, “Are we living in a simulation?”

              We might as well consider all our lives as mere simulations, where we’re merely floating pockets of consciousness and the ones in full control of the simulation (including all our actions and thoughts) are the mindless physical laws of nature.

    • Michael Harrison

      Philosophy 101: define your terms. What do you mean by free will? I use the phrase to describe an individual’s ability to gauge what is in that individual’s best interests, and alter its behavior to achieve such ends; this is completely possible in a purely deterministic universe, or in the quantum-chaotic world we live in, since the law of large numbers means that on a large enough scale, we can treat the world as roughly deterministic. Feedback is a powerful thing.

      • joey_in_NC

        But all this “gauging” and “altering” that we supposedly do…are we the fundamental initiators of such actions, are do we do these things simply because that is what physics has compelled us to do? For me, free will is the former. The latter still leads to an absurd universe.

        A computer can “gauge” and “alter” its behavior as well, based on its programming. Would you say that the computer has free will?

        • Michael Harrison

          Implicit in my definition is an adaptability that far outstrips anything current computers have, so I would say no, computers don’t. However, give them a few decades.

          • joey_in_NC

            So after a few decades when these computers eventually get this “adaptability”, would these computers then have free will?

            • Michael Harrison

              Dude, you’re talking to someone who grew up on science fiction. I’m hoping for it.

    • viaten

      “Try to explain those things through naturalism. You can’t, …”, but you can’t leave it at that. You have to provide an “explanation” that conveniently “explains” everything that you want explaining for.

      • joey_in_NC

        It doesn’t have to be “everything”. Free will is especially important because, like I said previously, we experience that we have this freedom to make choices essentially every single moment of our lives.

        • viaten

          Not everything, everything you want an explanation for. And in some cases, explained things you want to have a divine explanation for.

          “Free will” isn’t miraculous, it’s a puzzling, yet remarkable, phenomena to many people who don’t know what to make of it but find it suited to a divine explanation. But free will along with consciousness is just a emergent phenomena that maps to something going on in our brains. It’s more than “mere illusion” but not something like the kind of thing you trying to make it out to be.

    • Michael W Busch

      What about free will? Don’t we all experience moral agency/responsibility? Try to explain those things through naturalism. You can’t.

      You are wrong. “Free will” and humans acting as moral agents are both emergent properties of certain self-organizing physical systems: our brains (this is pretty easy to demonstrate with certain neuroactive drugs – dose me with IV sodium thiopental and I will rapidly – although temporarily – have no freedom to choose my actions or much ability to reason ). Humans being responsible for their actions is a combination of behaviors that were selected for over the course of human evolution and those that have more recently been favorable for the welfare of human cultures.

      And who said atheists don’t believe in free will? Some do, and some don’t. And not believing in free will is not the same thing as not holding people responsible for their actions.

      Your arguments are quite stale.

      • joey_in_NC

        And not believing in free will is not the same thing as not holding people responsible for their actions.

        If free will doesn’t exist, then how can we truly be morally responsible for our actions, in the sense that one can be blamed for what we do or believe?

        • Michael W Busch

          Because holding people responsible for their actions changes the distribution of people’s future behaviors and of the consequences of those actions, in ways that are good for everyone (assuming things have been set up properly). If you are “truly morally responsible” for your actions is irrelevant. That you are held to be so is what matters.

          Again, this is nothing new.

          • joey_in_NC

            But we don’t have the choice to hold people responsible for their actions, correct? If we do, then that is the result of physics. If we don’t, then that too is the result of physics.

            The absurdness never ends.

            • Michael W Busch

              No, it does end – it ends when you realize that if people “really” have free will or not is irrelevant. What matters is that they appear to do so.

              And, yes, that is the result of physics. Everything that happens is physics.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      “Free Will” as you understand it is trivial to disprove:

      Brain damage prevents unfettered decision-making.

      So does mental illness, no matter how slight.

      So does physical illness, no matter how slight.

      So does pain.

      So does upbringing.

      So do hormones.

      So do emotions.

      So does believing in God.

      So does possessing anything less than perfect knowledge.

      So does anything less than chemically neutral biology.

      QED.

      —————-

      The universe doesn’t care about yours or anyone else’s opinion of it. That you think your opinion of it is relevant to how it works only tells us that your arguments are grounded entirely in what you WANT, rather than what IS according to all the tools available to us, scientifically or philosophically.

      As for the rest, if you don’t grasp those things philosophically, it’s because your ignorance of them has stunted your “free will”. Enjoy your status as an oddly pissy automaton.

      • joey_in_NC

        That you think your opinion of it is relevant to how it works only tells
        us that your arguments are grounded entirely in what you WANT…

        True, my belief that we can all choose to be rational is what I WANT. No different than the arguments of atheists reasoning that God doesn’t exist because they WANT to have a God that doesn’t allow evil in this world.

        …rather than what IS according to all the tools available to us, scientifically or philosophically.

        Sicentifically, I agree that free will can’t exist (or at least doesn’t make sense). Philosophically, of course it can be argued that free will exists.

        • TCC

          No different than the arguments of atheists reasoning that God doesn’t exist because they WANT to have a God that doesn’t allow evil in this world.

          This is an incredibly dishonest strawman of the argument from evil, which doesn’t disprove any deity but a certain kind of deity (depending on which way you take the disjunct).

          • joey_in_NC

            This is an incredibly dishonest strawman of the argument from evil, which doesn’t disprove any deity but a certain kind of deity (depending on which way you take the disjunct).

            Okay…

            So the argument from evil only disproves that there doesn’t exist the kind of God that doesn’t allow the existence of evil. So what? That obviously isn’t the God of Christianity or most other religions. So what’s the point of the argument?

            Rather, the real point of the argument is to discourage the belief in God since we supposedly would WANT a God that doesn’t allow evil.

            • TCC

              It’s pretty clear that you don’t understand the argument from evil, since you have again gravely mischaracterized it. The argument from evil attacks certain attributes typically ascribed to deities (including by Christianity), namely omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence, as being incompatible with evil and each other. For instance, you could have an omnipotent, omniscient deity that could be compatible with evil, but omnibenevolence is straight out. (In fact, the attempts at theodicy are simply ways of minimizing the damage here.)

  • Jim Jones

    > What it would take to get me to believe in God …

    Bend a few photons from the sun and write a clear message on the moon once every 100 years or so. And offer evidence that it wasn’t done by space aliens or the like as a joke.

    A being that can create a universe should be able to do more than make an oil stain on a cement wall somewhere, and then rely on pareidolia to ‘communicate’ with us.

    OR

    Show me Euler’s Identity in the bible and explain how we all missed it for two millennia.

    • baal

      Imagine if you were a god and your sole means of communication was via paraidolic images.

      • Michael Harrison

        I read a story like that once, about the bureau in charge of the shapes clouds make.One of them wanted to send a message to a kid on earth, so stole a stamp and snuck a recognizable message through. Got in major trouble.

      • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

        That’s a pretty pathetic sort of a god. I could see Terry Pratchett doing a book on one like that.

  • Steve UK

    Nothing, zero, zilch, nada, all the evidence in the world wouldn’t make me believe.

    • Michael W Busch

      Are you disputing the use of “believe” versus “know”, or are you actually asserting that reality doesn’t matter? The first makes sense, the second would be profoundly disappointing

      Or were you simply joking?

    • Blacksheep

      Makes no sense. That’s not even scientific.

  • Major Nav

    Why did you choose “believe”? Belief and faith are required only when there is no solid evidence or an absence of verifiable “truth”. All the religions in the world are believing in the supernatural without proof, that’s no feat.
    Better question may be: What would it take for me to “know” there is a “God”?
    Even if I was convinced there is a supernatural entity, which one is it and how would I or should I worship it. Just because I watched my friends amputated leg grow back, that is still not evidence of who/what caused it and what I should do now.
    BTW, the “miracles” of the catholic church are not based upon an unexplainable event. They are based upon how many converts were created by the event or the persons actions.

    • Jasper

      ” Belief and faith are required only when there is no solid evidence or an absence of verifiable “truth”. ”

      Belief is accepting a claim as true, simply put. You can believe something based on sufficient evidence or not. Without evidence, belief becomes faith. There’s nothing wrong with “belief” inherently. Knowledge is demonstrably true belief.

      • Major Nav

        Not quite.

        Webster says:
        Belief: conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence

        Faith: something that is believed especially with strong conviction

        Knowledge: the fact or condition of being aware of something

        To convert faith, belief, and disbelief into knowledge, I have to become aware of its existence.

        • Jasper

          Generally speaking, if you want to know what these words should mean, you should look into epistemology and philosophy, not a dictionary. Dictionaries don’t dictate which definitions are correct. They describe how it’s used, even if the definitions people are using are bastardized demented versions of the words.

          Re: Belief – this is close enough to what I said, but my point is that Major Nav was surrendering the word to the religious, who have co-opted it to be equivalent to “faith”. The word “belief” is perfectly legitimately used to mean “accept a claim as true”.

          Re: Faith – I swear I’ve recorded something like 11 definitions of this word, as used by various people. You’ve apparently arbitrarily chosen one of the definitions above the others. Why did you choose Webster’s definition #3 over #2 (“firm belief in something for which there is no proof”)?

          In terms of a relevant definition, this one is more meaningful towards theological discussions, particularly when it’s the Biblical view, such as Hebrews 11:1, or pretty much any time Jesus chews out someone because they didn’t just have faith in him and wanted evidence.

          Re: Knowledge – Curiously, you arbitrarily chose one definition over the others, again. Why not this one? “a : the sum of what is known : the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind”

          In terms of a useful definition in the context of epistemology, it’s the only one that makes sense. Your definition would have someone’s schizophrenic delusions as “knowledge”… which has no use in terms defining what’s true.

          To convert faith, belief and disbelief into knowledge, it also must be demonstrably true.

          • Major Nav

            Wow, that was pathetic.
            My definition are the closest to the epistemologic definition and so is my original discussion.
            Belief is the acceptance that something is true. But that belief does not make it true.
            Whereas something that is known cannot be false.
            Then you just rewrite my conclusion. What is your point?
            Any comments on the second half of my original argument?

            • TCC

              Just…stop. The argumentum ad dictionarium is tiring, especially when you use your definitions so dishonestly.

              • Major Nav

                Okay, published Professor of Epistomology, what are your definitions? I’m not being dishonest when I use published definitions.

                • TCC

                  You know how dictionaries often have multiple entries? There’s a reason for that.

                  More to the point, though, go here and read definition 1b). Be sure to compare it to Jasper’s definition above as well.

                • Major Nav

                  Again, what is your point? That definition supports my point as well. Epistomoligically speaking, Believing or accepting something as true does not make it true.

                  Beliefs can be fatal. Thousands of mothers believe vaccinations cause autism. No proof or truth to the claims of a bubble-headed blonde, she even admits it is just a feeling. And yet thousands of children are dead as a result.

                  Belief or Faith is irrelevant to what is.

                  The point of my article: When you have your proof that a supernatural entity truly exists, what do you do about it? Bow down? Start an all new religion? Make up some new rules on how to please this entity? Start a new line of science to study the entity and its properties? Can you communicate with it? Does it even care what you do? Are there multiple entities? Etc… etc…etc

                • TCC

                  You’ve not even arguing against what Jasper said, then. Let me break it down for you:

                  I know that my hair is brown. Because knowledge is a subset of belief, I also believe that my hair is brown.

                  Belief without justification is faith; belief with justification is knowledge. Jasper’s point about equivocating faith and belief stands.

                • Major Nav

                  No, Plato argues that knowledge is a subset of belief AND truth. Where belief and truth overlap there is some knowledge, not all of it, but some of it. Only where you come to the proper conclusions.
                  Once a belief becomes a known by encountering truth/proof, you can stop calling it a belief.
                  This is the atheists dilemma. You can’t prove a negative, you can only believe there are no supernatural beings. But on the other hand, the believers/faithful aren’t producing any verifiable truths/proofs either, yet.

                • TCC

                  You are simply wrong that beliefs stop being beliefs once they are sufficiently justified, both as a matter of epistemology and of general usage. You are also unsurprisingly wrong about atheism, so I don’t see much point in engaging you further.

                • Major Nav

                  Winning!

  • Tainda

    The Chiefs winning the Superbowl.

    • JET

      The Cubs winning the World Series.

      • Michael W Busch

        Anytime in the last 100 years?

    • Spuddie

      Alison Brie and Karen Gillan fighting over which one gets to marry me.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Going an entire day without a family member putting their wet shower towel on top of my dry one.

      • Tainda

        ACK! My daughter learned from a young age where her wet towels go. Lessons from an OCD mother lol

  • C Peterson

    What would it take to make me believe in God? I honestly can’t think of anything. If this God itself came down and stood in front of me, I’d have to assume I was insane (of course, that same insanity might make me “believe”).

    But to believe in a god? That might well be possible. After all, the Universe could have an intelligent creator. As long as it didn’t claim to be eternal, omni-anything, merely an intelligent lifeform with advanced science, I don’t see the problem.

    • viaten

      I think believers wouldn’t really count that as a god, certainly not a “one and only” god. It has to have an infinite nature, “infinitely” different from a finite god no matter how powerful.

      • C Peterson

        I’m sure you’re right. “Believers” aren’t likely to be satisfied by a god that could actually exist, they only want one that is impossible: a personal god that hears what is in their mind, answers prayers, makes demands of them.

        A believable god would, of course, be finite. It wouldn’t ask for worship. It wouldn’t care about individuals. It probably wouldn’t interfere at all with what it had created.

        • viaten

          Yes. Earthly life could have been created by super intelligent aliens who, like with the “Star Trek” prime directive, are maybe hidden, non interfering observers, at least for now.

          • baal

            I strongly doubt such aliens. They’d need inconceivable (literally not conceivable) amounts of energy to make the trip from any other planet. Also, they (like god) chose the really long evolution route to do it? The only semi rational sci-fi method that solves the method and time issues is the black obelisk.

            • viaten

              I doubt it too. It’s just the most likely finite scenario I could think of if finite beings made life on Earth, let alone the Earth itself, more likely than some finite “god-like” being with limited creating power. But it still seems that it would take something infinite and beyond the natural world to make even a small amount of matter or energy where there wasn’t any (setting aside all the quantum “something from nothing” stuff).

            • C Peterson

              Personally, I wasn’t imaging aliens who came to Earth and created humans, or even created the Earth. I’m thinking of aliens who created the entire Universe, and exist outside it. True creators in the god-like sense. Supernatural, even, to the extent that they might not operate under the natural laws of our universe (but completely a part of nature in a larger context, even if it’s a context forever beyond our ability to observe it).

        • Kodie

          The only plausible “gods” I can imagine is the kind where the universe is, at best, a petri dish, and at worst, maybe a neglected bathtub. I can believe we are as small to something as some things are to us, that are still alive, and probably unaware of us. And yet, all I have to do is get off my ass sometimes and solve the problem with bleach.

          That is, human theists tend to think of themselves as wretched scum, as mildew is, at the mercy of a wrathful and neat god. That the mildew in my tub thinks I am listening to their prayers and have special plans for the devout among them, is ludicrous. Maybe god is especially untidy and the big bleach hurricanes come when god’s mother-in-law called and said she is on the way over.

          Mostly I think if it were explained that the universe was actually very tiny to something much, much larger, I would not rush that idea out the door as quickly as I think I would a god who just made the universe and then stepped out to get a pack of smokes and never came back. Although the big answer to the big question of “why” is that it’s unknowable, I can’t relate to a god who would bother to do that. I think that is an implausible invention as a god who intervenes. The only thing that makes sense for a god we can’t see is that it’s beyond our scope. That doesn’t mean it lives in a different realm – I still live in the same realm as mildew.

          In reality, we arose to life on a planet that happens to support life. It is not as if this habitat is made for us – it’s dangerous and not exactly friendly for humans unless we figure out how to do so. We weren’t born for winter weather, for example. A planet that could sustain life would sustain life. It is not like a terrarium where you put certain plants in it, a snail, maybe, or whatever. It is more like forgetting your half-full coffee mug on your desk at work over the weekend. The germs all over your phone and your keyboard notwithstanding, not every environment is suitable for life. Life would have to start on Jupiter in order to adapt to the environment – do you think it could? Mostly, I just think how there’s a storm on Jupiter all the time and it doesn’t ruin my day at all.

  • viaten

    Nothing could make my finite, rational (I assume) mind believe in an infinite being, like God is supposed to be. I could believe in only a finite being, possibly very powerful, to the extent I could comprehend its power. How could I conclude a being has an infinite quality based on finite observations or finite experiences in my mind that could be technology produced or elaborate deception? If anything, I would have to be “made” or “forced” to “just know” in such a way that I could not reject it, something I would consider quite different from a religious belief. If I can’t comprehend rejecting it, it can’t be a religious belief.

    But I can understand some people “concluding” there has to be an infinite being just because how could a finite being or power come into existence by itself, let alone having always existed. It seems a non believer is being asked, “At what point of greatness would would you conclude a power, finite in appearance, must really be infinite?”

    • Michael Harrison

      Leopold Kronecker, a critic of the notion of infinity, has a famous quote: God made the integers, all the rest is the work of man.

      • viaten

        I’d refine that. God made the natural numbers (and I’m not sure about zero), man all the rest. Somewhat like “Computer hardware just does basic arithmetic. The rest is programming.”

  • ganner

    I think there’s almost nothing that could make me believe. I think the only sorts of gods that don’t completely contradict everything we know about the world are the sort of deistic gods that are completely unfalsifiable and completely irrelevant to the functioning of our world and our society. Any vision I had I’d have to believe more likely to be hallucination than an appearance of a god. People’s visions across the world and across time are simply too contradictory and too convenient in fitting the religion common at that place and time. Anything “miraculous” obviously seen to the whole world has to be at least as likely to be the work of a more highly advanced alien civilization than to be the work of a god. I think it is obvious to me, though, that the specific gods described by human religions are fictional.

    • R2D3

      You wrote: “Any vision I had I’d have to believe more likely to be hallucination than an appearance of a god.”

      Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the Triune God does exist, and Jesus himself appeared to you. If you conjecture that your response would be to brush it off as a halluncination, dream, etc., then it just shows how close minded you are. Your mind is already made up that God doesn’t exist!

      Similarly, on the subject of origins, why is it that evolution is the one thing that skeptics aren’t skeptical about???

  • advancedatheist

    A god still doesn’t necessarily solve the problems theists want it to solve. Basically theists assume that their god exists for their convenience. But what if their god created human life without any meaning, purpose, afterlife or moral absolutes?

  • Narmonmit
    • Michael Harrison

      I read over it. “If Christians opinions are illogical, then they should not be trusted in any part of what they think” — where do you get that? An essay that has had a major impact on my opinion of false beliefs is An Ill Wind in Tortuca, over at Panda’s Thumb: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2010/01/an-ill-wind-in.html — basically, everyone has something we’re irrational about. What is important is how honest we are about our irrational beliefs.

      Edit: I would like to point out that this is *not* a summary of the essay, or even an accurate description of what the writer was trying to say. It is, however, what I came to realize from reading the essay.

      • 3lemenope

        Exactly.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    I stole this from Matt Dillahunty: (I’m paraphrasing but I think I have the gist of it) An all-knowing deity would know what evidence is required for me to believe and be capable of providing it.

    • Patrick

      Yes but we know the religious often use the very lack of evidence as somehow “God testing our faith”. If so we might then ask “why does this deity appear to reveal itself to some and not others” They would say “God moves in mysterious ways” ie seemingly inconsistent/beyond our comprehension.”
      Because they’ve run out of answers.

      • Pofarmer

        Yep, along with, “Gods time is not our time.” etc, etc, ad infinitum. The first evidence there is a problem with a “theory” God in this case, is that the theory is unfalsifiable.

  • JET

    “What would it take to make me believe in God?”
    My brain working entirely differently than it does right now. I can’t think of any miraculous occurrence that my current brain wouldn’t try to rationalize as something explainable that just hasn’t yet been explained. It would be easier for me to accept that Earth was an alien-controlled petri dish than for me to believe that there was a triple-O god.
    But something makes brains of believers work differently. If I could discover what this was (without succumbing to it myself), I would write a book, become rich, and possibly win the Nobel Prize.

    • Michael Harrison

      The phenomenon of epiphany, linked by some experiments to the temporal lobe, is often used to distinguish the religious from non, but I think that approach is premature. I say this because I once had an epiphany, but instead of God, it was an anthropomorphized mathematics–I had this notion that the logic connecting reality together was somehow self-aware, and inside us all. The big difference between me and a religious person is that, although I found the experience incredibly moving, I was fully aware that it was completely an artifact of my brain’s wiring.

      TL;DR: it might be more difficult than it initially appears to describe behaviorally what distinguishes skeptics from believers.

  • Matt D

    How about Disqus working 100% of the time, and all trolls vanishing from every Atheist blog. That’s a good start.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Jesus, Matt, we’re just asking for evidence of God here, not miracles.

      • Matt D

        Then I guess God’s outta luck, cause nothing short of dazzling me with impossible miracles will work. Of course, I’d still not worship the bastard even if this occured, since I don’t have a soft spot for literal monsters.

    • JET

      Frank/Fred not showing up in 3… 2… 1…

      • Matt D

        Good, because dealing with that mistrustful jerk, Baal, is enough for me.

  • Mr. Wriggles

    It’s a trick question. If you are confident enough to stick with the logic that God doesn’t exist, then you can ignore all proof of God, even personal experiences of miracles because you believe that your own logic will always trump your five senses. This reminds me of those silly ancient Greek philosophers (not of the Plato/Aristotle variety) who spun their heads around with their intricate thinking systems while ignoring the characteristics of the physical world that surrounded them. These fools have contributed absolutely nothing to our world today.
    No doubt, there is physical proof of phenomena that can’t be explained by science. When you look at them IN THE CONTEXT of when and where they occured–in prayer services, religious gatherings, times of need or trouble–it’s not that big of a leap to say that these occurrences come from the God that these witnesses are praying to. Now if you are content with explaining away these occurrences without taking a good hard look at the evidence and the investigations surrounding them, then consider yourself an equal to those silly philosphers of ancient Greece.

    • Michael Harrison

      “physical proof of phenomena that can’t be explained by science.”

      Certainly there are, but the examples I can think of are due to having too little information to go on (e.g., the Wow! signal and the Bloop). Name one phenomenon that is rather well documented, yet confounds modern science.

      Edit: And as it turns out, a bit of googling has shown me the Bloop does have a plausible explanation, as it is consistent with the sound signature of large ice chunks breaking apart.

    • Michael W Busch

      No doubt, there is physical proof of phenomena that can’t be explained by science.

      No. There is physical proof of phenomena that science does not currently explain. Not the same thing. Saying “we don’t understand X, therefore god” is a logical fallacy.

      When you look at them IN THE CONTEXT of when and where they occurred–in prayer services, religious gatherings, times of need or trouble–it’s not that big of a leap to say that these occurrences come from the God that these witnesses are praying to.

      Bullshit. That is going from “sometimes people’s brains do unusual things” (for things that are entirely subjective) or “sometimes unlikely things happen” (for things that are objective physical events, but which are unlikely only in the sense that one given person winning the lottery is improbable but someone somewhere winning the lottery is almost certain) to “my particular version of god exists”. That is a logical fallacy, and inadmissible.

      Also: people have similar experiences and similar claimed results regardless of if they pray to Christian Bible god, or to Allah, or to Vishnu, or to the bodhisattva of compassion. Mutually contradicting god claims, same results. And none of the results that are observed require a god’s existence – just that people attribute some events to a god.

      So the evidence then comes down to this: there is nothing to say that any gods exist, but people doing certain activities experience things they interpret as due to their particular invented deity.

      if you are content with explaining away these occurrences without taking a good hard look at the evidence and the investigations surrounding them,

      We have done that looking, and all evidence to date has been lacking. If you think otherwise, go find some new evidence and take James Randi’s 1.3 million USD.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      If you’re going to keep putting the cart before the horse, thus implicitly claiming to be telepathic and know what atheists are “really” thinking, you aren’t going to get very far here.

      Yes, it is a big leap. We have tremendous documentation of heavily witnessed “supernatural” occurrences being false. In fact, every such case that can be scientifically studied has proven to have an everyday explanation. Your position is like claiming that ball lightning must be caused by will-o-the-wisps because we can’t trap it in the sky, but yet people have seen it.

      Surely you aren’t of the opinion that ideas that didn’t hold up weren’t contributions. Here:

      http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/07/31/edison-lot-results/

      The actual problem is that people aren’t good at letting go of ideas that don’t work outside of science, like conspiracy theories, political ideologies, economic theories, and, yes, disproven supernatural occurrences.

  • Bdole

    The very fact that this is even a question…
    The biggest, baddest Mutha’ in the universe, should not require belief. If he exists, he should be such an inexorable, everpresent reality that you can’t even avoid him, much less NOT believe in him.
    I don’t remember who, but someone here said something to this effect: Apologetics is strong evidence your god ain’t real.

  • Anna

    It would be helpful to have actual evidence, not a bunch of assertions made by human beings who were taught to believe in the supernatural.

  • Smiles

    Great work, another thoughtful submission to the (never ending?) conversation. Your answer to the question is (appropriately) quite friendly…my reply would be more along the lines of…”If god exists, let him hear me, and strike me down now…”

  • CommentMaker

    Maybe if you looked all of the absolute miracles of the Bible and calculated the ratio of people who experienced miracles with those who didn’t you would have a better understanding that Jesus did not perform miracles 100% of the time. You will never have what you want. The problem with reasoning and logic is that it is extremely flawed in the Christian religion. God does not have to respond to you. He is free.

    • Michael W Busch

      There are no “absolute miracles of the Bible”. There simply are a bunch of texts that people wrote, many of which are deliberate forgeries and all of which were written long after the events they describe are supposed to have happened, which include claims that miracles occurred – without providing any other evidence in any form of those miracles having happened. And we have quite abundant evidence that those miracles either did not happen or could not have happened.

      So the null hypothesis the various versions of the Christian god need to be tested against is this: a particular group of people said things and were wrong. This is an a priori likely claim (people are wrong about things all the time), and all of the evidence is consistent with it. You have to provide sufficiently compelling evidence that your particular god claim or any god claim is a better explanation for than that null hypothesis – and so far, no one has found any such evidence (which is why many people are atheists).

      The problem with reasoning and logic is that it is extremely flawed in the Christian religion. God does not have to respond to you. He is free.

      What a convenient out for you having to provide evidence.

      But even saying that does nothing to show that Christianity is true. The texts that go into the Bible variously claim supernatural powers that the Christian god is supposed to regularly demonstrate. We’re not asking for a god to respond to every request for a demonstration. We’re asking for adequate evidence that such a miraculous event has ever happened – and so far, there is no such evidence.

      You can reinvent your version of god until it becomes a purely non-interventionist one, but then you are advocating a form of deism and not Christianity. And that form of deism necessarily leads to functional atheism, because a god that never interacts with the universe in any way is by definition indistinguishable from a god that doesn’t exist.

  • Tobias2772

    Tangible evidence.

  • Derrik Pates

    I’d need something incontrovertible. Like the stars in the night sky spelling out “I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD” in multiple languages. Something that can’t easily be faked, and something that is clear and direct. If god is all powerful, that shouldn’t be too much to ask for, should it?

    • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

      That would do it for me. The messages should also make it clear which version of God He is as well as good illustrations of what we should be doing with our sexual parts. :) And the messages and illustrations should not be static but changing. Best if they were in conversation form with an oracle here on Earth where questions (for all to see) can be asked and then the stars re-align in several languages (or in the language of which the question was asked) to answer the question. Should that be too much to ask the supposed creator if all time, space, and matter? That would be a much more effective means of communication than these old second-hand bible stories and an occational likeness on a burnt piece of toast. :)

  • Kat Dean

    I love your videos. Not only because you simplify the arguments (sometimes I fear my explanation of my beliefs will be too complex as that is how I tend to think), but also because you come off as so approachable. Both, I think, are important if any sense is ever going to be talked into these people. And I, personally, need to get better at that. Plus, you’re just stinkin’ adorable! Great work.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Thank you! That means a lot :)

  • Mr. Wriggles

    “…and if it happens somewhere else [other than my personal
    experience] then let’s get some on-the-record proof…”
    “…what Christians tend to offer are anecdotes, not evidence…”

    I’m 100% in agreement.
    If
    only every Christian wasn’t so superstitious or naïve, and wasn’t so
    ready to declare as a miracle anything that can be explained by the laws
    of probability and physics, then they would have a much better time
    communicating with atheists. But not all Christians are like that,
    obviously. Still, there are many who are willing to think in the exact
    same way that you do (ie—be skeptical, question all assumptions, use
    sound logic, and utilize all scientific tools available). With that in
    mind, let’s sift through all the garbage on Youtube and the rest of the
    Internet to find something that is worth our time.

    In the first clip, the speaker is presenting
    two miracles, one happening in Bolivia and the other happening in
    Buenos Aires. You can
    start watching at the 3:00 mark.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz9L2EYjjsc

    The
    second clip also talks about the “miracle” in Buenos Aires, told from a
    different speaker from a different angle, but none the less, arriving
    at the same conclusions.

    http://www.youtube.co/watch?v=APz1v8oz1msfeature=player_embedded#at=31

    Obviously,
    I don’t expect anyone to be converted by these clips, but they should
    give you hope that not all Christians are raving fanatics looking for
    moral superiority over the rest of the world. Better yet, isn’t it
    comforting to know that members of this particular faith, Catholicism
    (who by the way are the original Christians), have formally documented
    scientific investigations and procedures that seek not to prove
    miracles, but try to DISPROVE them?

    • Derrik Pates

      Like the “miracle” that Mother Teresa is being credited with by the Catholic Church to pave the way to her being proclaimed Saint Teresa? The one where even the husband admitted that it wasn’t a miracle, but medicine – right up until the Catholic Church handed him a fat check, at which point he started toeing the party line? They’re not as committed to truth as they want you to think they are.

  • R2D3

    http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=7430.10;imode

    The Bethsaida Miracle by D. Keith Mano, National Review, 21 April 1997.

    [snip]

    And the blind man (in what I had always considered a poetic image) replied to Jesus, “I see men as trees, walking.”

    That is not a poetic image. It is a clinical description. Like Virgil, the Bethsaida blind man can now see, but he cannot yet make sense of what he is seeing. Tree and man run together, as did trunk and tree-top for Virgil. (Both men could see movement because, according to Sacks, motion and color are inherent in the brain; they need not be learned or relearned.) All this, moreover, is not surprising to Jesus. He knows, it would seem, that a newly healed blind man has neither depth perception nor the ability to synthesize shape and form. The blind man’s brain must first be recalibrated: must be taught (in one miraculous instant) what you and I have known since childhood — how to see.

    So Jesus heals the blind man for a second time. “After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.”

    As far as I can judge, this is irrefutable evidence that a miracle did occur at Bethsaida. Back in 30 A.D. the blind did not often receive sight: there were few, if any, eye surgeons and seldom a decent miracle-worker. No shill in the crowd could have faked it all by pretending to be blind — because only someone recently given his sight would see “men as trees, walking,” would see the Cubist jumble that Virgil told Oliver Sacks about. A faker, not knowing about post-blind syndrome, would have reported that Jesus had given him perfect vision.

    • TCC

      Irrefutable evidence? Only if you have incredibly low standards of evidence (and are presuming the story to be authentic).

    • Michael W Busch

      No, someone saying something in a text written about 1940 years ago is not evidence for a miracle – particularly since it is most likely an invention by the author of the gospel of Mark (who was not actually the character of Mark the apostle) or his sources, since it doesn’t appear in any independent documents.

      And yes, saying people “look like trees walking around” is entirely consistent with poetic allegory. A human who was actually recovering from blindness would have different, more complex, and more varied forms of visual agnosia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_agnosia ).

      And, no, the general idea that a person who had never seen before would not understand how to interpret visual information is not some supernatural insight that no one would have invented. It’s been considered as a thought experiment since far before the Gospel of Mark was written. You may consider Plato’s Cave, which pre-dates the gospel by a few centuries and is plausible for the author of Mark or his sources to have been exposed to – or they may have had that idea entirely independently of any source except their own brains.

      Your mistake is assuming that the null hypothesis is “this was a shill”. The null hypothesis is “the author of Mark or his sources made the whole thing up” (which need not imply deliberate lying – stories tend to grow in the telling). The evidence is entirely consistent with the latter, and prior evidence is that somebody making something up is a very probable event and somebody suspending the laws of physics is a very unlikely one. Result: there was no miracle here.

      Do not make the mistake of assuming your conclusion.

      • R2D3

        “And, no, the general idea that a person who had never seen before would not understand how to interpret visual information is not some supernatural insight that no one would have invented.”

        Where in Mark’s gospel does he state the blind man had never seen before Jesus healed him?

        And how would a person blind from birth know what a tree looked like?

        If the story in Mark’s gospel was fiction, isn’t it more likely he (or whomever wrote Mark–I say it WAS Mark) would have said Jesus restored the man’s vision instantly, not in two separate steps?

        How would a first century man (Mark) know about post-blind syndrome?

        • Michael W Busch

          Where in Mark’s gospel does he state the blind man had never seen before Jesus healed him?

          It doesn’t. But that is irrelevant to the point – it would apply to someone who had been blind for a very long time as well (although the agnosia that results from such blindness, unless onset is early in childhood, is likely to be different in various ways). Your attempt at derailing is noted and forestalled.

          And how would a person blind from birth know what a tree looked like?

          Touch. Hearing. Description. Nor is that at all relevant here, since the null hypothesis is that someone made up the story. Its being internally inconsistent merely indicates that there was not good editing involved.

          How would a first century man know about post-blind syndrome?

          As I explained already, that insight is not a difficult thing to come up with independently – nor is it necessary for the author of Mark or his sources to have done so. Again, I refer you to the example of Plato’s Cave. And, also again, the description in the text gives nothing equivalent or specific to actual visual agnosia.

          If the story in Mark’s gospel was fiction, isn’t it more likely he would have said Jesus restored the man’s vision instantly, not in two separate steps?

          Once again you are asking the wrong question in an attempt to sneak in an assumption of your preferred conclusion. Here is the correct way to approach the problem:

          We have a text (this part of Mark), which says “Jesus did X”. What is the most likely explanation for that text having been written? For simplicity, consider the two main hypothesis as “the writer of Mark or his sources made up the story” or “Jesus performed the miracle as stated”.

          Then Bayes’ Theorem ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes_theorem ) gives this:

          Probability ( Jesus performed this miracle given that we have only this text describing it ) = [ Probability (we have only this text given that the miracle happened ) * Probability ( this particular miracle happened based on all prior experience besides the text ) ] / [ Probability (we have only this text given that the miracle happened ) *
          Probability ( this particular miracle happened based on all prior experience besides the text ) + Probability (we have only this text given the writer or his sources made up the story ) * Probability ( the writer or his sources made up the story based on all prior experience besides the text ) ]

          Note the italicized block. It doesn’t matter by itself that the probability we would get this particular text given that the story is made up is relatively low, as long as it is still high enough compared to the very low prior probability that this particular miracle occurred.

          And, to finish up the illustration:

          Let Probability (we have only this text given that the miracle happened ) = 0.5 – this is far higher than the much lower values we can assign to some of the other miracle claims associated with the character of Jesus, because the claimed miracle was localized and relatively minor. But shifting it around wouldn’t things too much.

          Probability ( this particular miracle happened based on all prior experience besides the text ) is, conservatively, 0.5.

          Now, do the math:

          Probability ( Jesus performed this miracle given that we have only this text describing it ) = ( 0.5 * < 0.000001 ) / ( 0.5 * 0.5 ) < 0.00001.

          In other words, the probability that this particular miracle claim is correct is less than one part in a hundred thousand. And you should go and learn about how to properly use statistical inference.

          (or whomever wrote Mark–I say it WAS Mark)

          Your continuing to assert a falsehood does not make it so. Mark was written by an unknown Koine-Greek-speaking author c. 70 AD, who was drawing upon a pre-existing and diverse set of teachings from some of the many groups that can be called “early Christianity”. The gospel itself does not claim to have been written by the character to which later tradition attributes it; that tradition was an invention dating to the 2nd century CE. Either stop lying, or go and learn the actual history as well as it is currently understood: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Mark#Composition_and_setting .

          And since I begin to repeat myself, I am done.

  • TCC

    My answer to this has long been: “I’m sure that something would, so why don’t you just give me your best evidence, and I’ll see what I think.”

    • R2D3

      One of the best evidences for the existence of God–the Triune God–is that we live in a Tri-Universe.

      http://www.icr.org/article/2590/

      [snip]

      Consider: The created universe is actually a tri-universe of Space, Matter, and Time, each permeating and representing the whole. However, the universe is not partly composed of space, partly of matter, and partly of time (like, for example, the three sides of a triangle). A trinity is not a trio or a triad, but a tri-unity, with each part comprising the whole, yet all three required to make the whole. Thus, the universe is all Space, all Time, and all Matter (including energy as a form of matter); in fact, many scientists speak of it as a Space-Matter-Time continuum.

      • Kodie

        That’s not evidence of a god, that’s just you noticing a pattern and making it fit with your preconceived notion of a god who conveniently has been invented to arrive at that number. A cake is made of flour, sugar, and eggs, is made one of all 3 parts, therefore, god. A remote control has 3 parts – buttons, batteries, and a transmitter. A window has 3 parts – inside, outside and glass. You can find that anything will fit your criteria if you really want it to. If 3 is your favorite number, I’m sure you can see it everywhere, still not evidence of god. It’s called confirmation bias.

        You never stop to think the triune god was invented to fit this pattern, you just assume that it’s real because everything else you want fits its pattern. Circular argument.

        • R2D3

          Yeah, it’s just coincidence we live in a Tri-Universe. Ha!

          Well if you don’t accept that as evidence, what about all the archaeological evidence for various Near-East tribes and places that skeptics said were mythological–until archaeological evidence was unearthed!
          Skeptics used to say that tribes such as the Hittites and Philistines never existed. Ditto for places such as Sodom and Gomorrah.

          Sodom and Gomorrah. The Ebla Tablets

          http://www.formerthings.com/ebla_tablets.htm

          http://christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-a007.html

          • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

            It is quite a leep from confirming that Sodom existed to saying that Jesus rose from the dead.

            • R2D3

              The point I was making was that before the science of archaeology developed, many of the ancient Near-Eastern tribes and places were only mentioned in the Bible. Some even doubted people such as Pontius Pilate existed, until the Pilate Stone was unearthed in June, 1961. Jesus (Yeshua) was a real person as well, although one cannot PROVE he rose from the dead.

              Dr. Paul L. Maier, retired professor of ancient history (Western Michigan University) said on March 30, 2004: “And you realize that 99.9% of scholars across the world will acknowledge that Jesus is an historical person. They may not say that Jesus is the Son of God, but they will say there was an historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth. But [author] Tom [Harpur] has very grave doubts about this, so he claims. Now that floored me right there, because we have copious evidence for Jesus’ existence. If you don’t like the Gospels, go to the Roman historian, Tacitus, who talks about the great fire of Rome and how Nero got blamed for it. To save himself, he blames the Christians. This Roman historian says that the Christians are named for a Christus, who was crucified by one of our governors, Pontius Pilate. What more do you need? That quote alone would establish the historicity of Jesus. Suetonius mentions Christ in connection with a riot of those for or against Jesus across the Tiber in Rome. Pliny the Younger, Governor of Asia Minor, says that these Christians get up early on Sunday morning and “sing hymns to Christ as to a God.” The Jewish rabbinic traditions mention Jesus of Nazareth in their own language. What more do we need of witnesses? Josephus mentions Jesus twice. I want to point out that Christian faith is based upon fact and not on fiction. The problem nowadays is that so many people are trying to turn fiction into fact.”

          • Kodie

            Why is it more of a coincidence that the universe appears to match your god’s description, and not that god is deemed to have a certain number because then it can match the universe? There is a dynamic of “3″ things and it’s pretty common, but that is not evidence of god, it’s not really evidence of anything except you pick out all the instances of 3 to conclude god’s presence; he has already been assigned the number 3, so that’s why you go looking for 3 everywhere else.

            New York City is real, therefore Spiderman is real.

          • sTv0

            Sodom? Really? Gomorrah? They really existed? Ho-lee Cow! It is *always* amusing that xTians bring up Sodom and Gomorrah as evidence of the existence of their deity….yet none of them like to continue the discussion about those mythical cities when said discussion turns to what Lot’s daughters did *after* the cities were destroyed. Fucked Lot. That’s what they did. Fucked their Dear Old Drunken Dad. Yep. Incest. Right there in that thar Bye-bul. And it’s okay, cause gawd sanctioned it. Yep.

            • R2D3

              Sodom and Gomorrah were NOT mythical cities, and neither were the other Cities of the Plain: Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar

              http://www.formerthings.com/ebla_tablets.htm

              *
              Where in Genesis 19 does it state God sanctioned Lot’s daughters to have sex with Lot?

              http://www.equip.org/articles/killing-the-canaanites/

              Later Lot’s own daughters get him drunk to have sex with him and so even Dawkins, in a surprising moment of moral clarity, writes, “If this dysfunctional family was the best Sodom had to offer by way of morals, some might begin to feel a certain sympathy with God and his judicial brimstone.”28

              • sTv0

                Please. Go and read your holy book. There you will find the atheism you seek. Thanks.

      • TCC

        Hahaha. Thanks for the laugh, buddy.

      • DavidMHart

        If and only if you choose to carve up reality that way. Do you have any good evidence that that is how modern cosmologists actually divide things up? Citation needed. One could just as easily say we live in a universe whose substrate is space-time, which is unevenly suffused with matter-energy – a diune universe. Would that mean the Manichaeans, with their dual deities, are right?

  • R2D3

    Frank Peretti–The Chair
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ny3GBVbh8hg

    http://compass.org/store/products/-The-Chair-%28Our-most%252drequested-title%21%29-%252d-Frank-Peretti.html

    Part 1

    http://www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.aspx?ID=%7B6EBAC0EF-20EF-4A2C-8120-2D5C570F6FC7%7D

    Part 2

    http://www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.aspx?ID=%7B85863D1E-183D-4E80-B99B-A255FBA0571F%7D

    Frank Peretti ‘Goo to You by the Way of the Zoo’

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAGrU9DYa2I

    “Kids, welcome to Biology 101. We’re gonna learn lots of fun things in this class. We’re gonna learn how…we’re gonna cut up frogs, and we’re gonna pick flowers, and we’re gonna learn about pistils and stamens and all kinds of fun things, but the first thing you need to know, boys and girls, above all else, is that ‘You are an accident!’. You have absolutely no reason for being here! There is no meaning, no purpose to your life! You’re nothing but a meaningless conglomeration of molecules that came together purely by chance billions and billions of years ago! All the dust and the gas and the galaxy floated around for who knows how long, and they bumped into each other and they said, ‘I know. Let’s be organic!’ So they became organic. And they became little, little gooey, slimey things, you know, swimming around in the primordial soup, and they finally grew little feet, and they crawled up on the land, and they grew fur and feathers and became higher forms of life, and finally became, you know, a monkey, then the monkey developed into an ape, then the ape decided to shave, so he shaved, and became what you are today! It’s, you know, from goo to you by way of the zoo! As such we really don’t have any reason for being here. Your existence is pointless. The universe won’t mind a bit when you die. And when you die, you just become so much compost [Riiiiiing!] Oh, okay, class dismissed. Head on down the hall now, kids, down to that new class we’re starting this week on self-esteem!” –an excerpt from “What We Believe”, a presentation Frank Peretti gave at the Steeling the Mind of America conference (Vale, Colorado, 1997.)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X