Why atheists win arguments with Christians about God

On his blog yesterday Tony Jones published a piece explaining that these days his most significant reason for being a Christian is:

The vast, vast majority of my fellow human beings are theists. Globally, well over 95% of the human race professes belief in God. … Atheism is almost exclusively the purview of educated, white elites. … their [sic] are no atheists in the slums of Bangladesh, in the townships of South Africa, in the trash heaps of India.

At this point, I simply cannot abide severing myself from the rest of the world’s population, from 7 billion of my fellow human beings. I have enough respect for the collective wisdom of humanity to stand in solidarity with them in proclaiming that there is, indeed, a God.

Premier atheist blogger Hemant Mehta wasted no time penning a response so devastatingly searing you might want to don sunglasses and oven mitts before reading This May Be the Worst Argument Ever Made for Why You Should Believe in God, which wraps up with:

Jones believes in God because a bunch of statistics that he made up without doing any research show that a lot of people believe in some form of a higher power. Even though a lot of those people are polytheists, Muslim, and think Jones’ beliefs are completely ridiculous.

Therefore, Jesus.

Because logic.

“Because logic.”! What delightfully awesome writing.

While Jones’s post was almost spectacularly ill-advised, generally speaking an atheist arguing with a Christian is like this guy:

doing battle against this guy:

The atheist is simply better armed. And why is that? Because logic.

It’s logic that wins arguments. Nothing else. And a Christian employing logic to win the argument that God exists—let alone that the Christian one is the only god that exists—tends to be like a hang glider employing buckets of cement to help him fly. Not so much with the helpful.

That is not to say that there is no logically sound argument for Christianity to be made. At the risk of myself being Mehtaphied, I daresay that I have made such an argument, both in my blog post The Rational Genius of Christianity and my book Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang: Why I Do the Things I Do, by God (which I swear I just this minute saw that Amazon has on sale for $12.39, down from $15.00).

As a response to the human experience, Christianity isn’t one iota less logical than atheism. But the fact remains that the locus of the religious sentiment lies beyond (or, as I imagine Mehta would put it, fixedly below) the logical mind. In the final analysis the phenomenon of the human spirit communing with the eternal divine is not a thing which can be discussed. It begins where language ends.

As intense and radical as it is, the religious experience necessarily and inviolately remains an entirely subjective experience. As such its essence cannot be captured, communicated, delineated, or explicated. It is not transferrable. It is what it is. To attempt to make more of it by universalizing it is to degrade it. To argue for its preeminence is to render it fodder for rational humanists like Mehta, who has every right to drag kicking and screaming into the ring of rational discourse any bumptious Christian he chooses, and to there soundly thrash them before sending them off with their vestigial tail tucked between their legs.

As a Christian, I get to feel as Christian and God-centered as I want to or can. What I don’t get to do–or what I should steadfastly resist the (egotistical—always egotistical) temptation to do, because it’s not only a fool’s errand but an offensive fool’s errand–is try to insist or prove that what is real and true for me must also be real and true for everyone else. That category mistake—that effort to make something that is subjective objective—is how wars are begun.

As Christians we must hold God in our hearts, minds, and souls. And then we must do what all good people do: go out into the world, and be loving and respectful toward all—especially, and even particularly, to those who do not share our religious views. Let people argue, if they must—and certainly if we give them reason to—that we are illogical beings. In the end we are, and can good-naturedly resign ourselves to being, vulnerable to that charge. But let us never give anyone sound reason to argue that we are unkind, or less than thoughtful.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • mhelbert

    This exactly! I’m going to be posting on this very subject this week. The existence of ‘god’ is something that cannot be proven, (nor dis-proven), empirically. It is absolutely subjective. Thanx, John, for sharing this. I may link to this post when I get mine up.

  • JacobBe5

    The atheist position is the position of being unpersuaded. The Christian is to have adopted a Gnostic position based on incredibly bad evidence. One could even say unsupported claims.

    And it is not beyond logic, it does not begin where language ends, else you could not even express the concepts. Describe your perception of red, how does red look to you? That might be beyond language. But assertions of fact, such as “god exists”, or any of the multitude of alleged facts/events of Christianity, are not.

    Saying “God exists” is a factual assertion. To then say not only a god exists, but it is the only such entity, that it was born incarnate into a male body in the middle eastern region 2,000 years ago, lived a sinless life (meaning only it never violated it’s own sense of right and wrong), was crucified, died, and then rose from the dead three days later (generic Christianity) Is to make a series of incredibly improbable claims.

    To adopt these things as though proven, when they have not been, is far less logical than remaining unconvinced.

  • Fred Garvin

    Do religious “progressives” mind that their advocacy of gay rights is confined largely to the past two generations and held overwhelmingly by White/middle-upper middle class cultures with lots of education?
    Because they are.
    Or how about public radio/TV? Isn’t “NPR Land” already a code for Northwest European (Mainline) Protestants/Liberal Jews/lapsed-”Vatican II” Catholics with good jobs? Are they saying they should de-fund these shows because watching/supporting them is elitist?
    Or the environment? How many inner city kids have anything to do with the Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Club or kayaking or bike paths?
    What are the chances the Unitarians and Quakers will look around and say “Hey, we’re over 95% White and we’re grotesquely over-represented in upper middle class liberal professions and the “service” sector of government. Let’s all resign and go work at McDonalds and the local Jiffy Lube! Stop this elitism!”

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Sooooo … what was your point again, relative to this post?

      • Fred Garvin

        How does this “progressive” deal with other contradictions in the life of “progressives”; being an atheist as a white person in a developed country is hardly the only expression of difference between his life/opinions and the lives/opinions of non-whites in the developing world or poor non-white people here in the West.

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          You do realize that athiesm is not limited to rich white people who live in developed countries, do you? Disbelief of deity exists in every people group on the globe, and has always been that way.

          Tony Jones attempted to make the claim that athiesm is generally limited to white, highly educated elites. Its a highly faulty claim, which was the point of the many rebuttals he got over that claim, as well as some of his poor use of statistics.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      I’m progressive, supportive of gay rights, women’s rights, rights for immigrants, religious groups that are not Christian, care for the environment and the poor. I happen to be white, female, have not been able to complete a college education, live in the south, and have never earned more than $20 a year in any job I have held.

      So what the hell is your point again?

    • Sven2547

      It is neither hypocritical nor contradictory for people who lead privileged / fortunate lives to support charity and egalitarianism. It’s as simple as that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1026609730 Jim Balter

    ” the risk of myself being Mehtaphied”

    Your arguments are just generally irrational and idiotic, lacking the singularly stunning stupidity of Jones’s argumentum ad populum fallacy.

    If it’s true that God exists (and the chances are exactly even on that either way

    I’ll bet you think it doesn’t matter whether to switch doors in the Monty Hall problem, too.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Yikes, dude. Angry much?

  • Michael Brian Woywood

    I can’t add much to the discussion, but the two pictures were priceless.

  • Jill

    Oh goody, I do love these convos.

    This is the fun part for me– I don’t claim that I have anything more valuable because I have some broader beliefs that help me pause, elicit gratitude, and provide me with a framework of humility and empowerment.

    I register experiences around faith within my emotional center. Doesn’t mean there’s no logic to my faith, or my experiences. Doesn’t mean emotionally charged faith is invalid or ill-conceived. It simply means that I process my faith more broadly through a specific lens, likely how I’m built to be, and that requires me to be even more attentive to the extremes of emotionally centered beliefs. It’s part of my responsibility to my cobbled-together faith that I don’t become a know-it-all jackass, because if I’ve known anything it’s that I’ve only ever known what is good and right for me, and possibly a few kind ideas on what might help someone else in need.

    It’s sad really that so many in the Christian camp think that they know what atheists are lacking, when atheists have so much to teach Christians about Christian beliefs.

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

    Thanks, John — I think you’re making some good points here. If Christians admit their beliefs are subjective (“I just believe!”), it’s hard for me to refute that. I can only say I have no reason/evidence to believe. The problem is that a lot of Christians claim to have logical, evidence-based reasons for their beliefs… and pretty much all of it is easily refutable, just making it easier for my side.

    (Fwiw, my issue with Tony wasn’t so much that he believes in God because others do and they must have a good reason for it, but that he made factually untrue and unfair statements about atheists in the process. I disagree with the first part. But I get royally pissed off about the second part.)

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Hey! Hemant!

      Quick, everyone! Hide your Bibles!

      Ha, ha, ha.

      No, but seriously: I don’t see how anyone can reasonably argue that there’s anything intrinsically or even vaguely problematic with a person remaining unpersuaded that God exists. It’s like complaining that a person prefers doing math over hiking. Everybody’s got their thing—and a perfect right to their thing (as long, of course, as they’re not causing harm to others). I think we can all agree that knowing someone believes in God is hardly an indicator of their moral character.

      And yes, re: Tony’s … unfortunate reasonings. I can only guess that for some reason he momentarily forgot the venue in which he was operating, and so failed to realize that he was only one “Publish” button away from having the Internet rush in and summarily hand him his butt. But God knows I’ve posted enough stuff of my own that wasn’t exactly winning. And as surely as I like to think I’m clever and profound, I’ll certainly do so again.

      • Cori Wolvesbane

        I just want to say…. I prefer sitting around doing math over hiking… not an outdorsy person and would rather clean then step foot outside. :P

        • R Vogel

          I am sorry to inform you that according to the eminently logical and well reasoned beliefs of my Hikiism , you are going to torment. Repent!

    • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

      My husband and I saw a well known apologist named Josh McDowell speak at a church in FL last year. He pointed to the bible account, written by Christians, of Jesus fulfilling the prophecy as irrefutable proof of the veracity of Christianity. He presented his “argument” with all the fervor of a side show barker. I was thinking “this charlatan is spewing crap”. I could hear my Jewish husband rolling his eyes.

      Who buys that nonsense? Only those who already believe (in this case a sanctuary full of Fox News-watching geriatrics).

      All that to say: I smell you.

      But I think it’s a pretty narrow stripe of Christians who try to eliminate faith from our faith. Unfortunately, they tend to be that same vocal minority who often voice judgement and condemnation of anyone outside of their tribe. Unfortunately, their witness is my witness too.

      • Jill

        Smell ya later. ;P

  • Ton_Chrysoprase

    Seriously, I’d much rather be the second guy than some douchy bloke with gun and I doubt very much that some of the more extreme Christians actually understand when they have lost the argument.

    Be that as it may, the word you seem to be looking for is epistemology – it’s how we know what is true. You take a claim, subject it to scrutiny by testing and replicating it’s implications and if that works you accept it for a given amount of true. This is what 99% of your life is based on, all the stuff you want to work like cars, computers and such. Atheists tend to have a better understanding of that concept, while religious people try to appeal to it (miracles, answered prayers as proof of god, etc), whic so far has never worked well enough to produce conclusive evidence.

    You seem to get the latter point, but then you are trying to take the ball and go home. If you can’t claim that religion is true in the sense that you apply in any other situation, you create a special category of “subjective” truth. However there is no such thing as subjective truth. Things can only be true if they are open to other people’s experience, ie intersubjective. Something that is categorically only open to the experience of one person isn’t true and it isn’t even false.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      I stopped reading after “the word you seem to be looking for is epistomology.” Supercilious much?

      • Ton_Chrysoprase

        Apologies, English is not my first language and I sometimes get the nuance of figurative speech wrong. I meant to say that that is a more appropriate term than logic.

        But if tone trolling is your idea of a reasoned conversation, I regret that I spend the time on writing this.

  • Carolyn Ballard

    I was just reading an essay by the late Thomas Merton on the topic of faith and reason….a bit long but worth sharing. (from “Vision and Illusion”):
    “Faith, without depending on reason for the slightest shred of justification, nevefr contradicts reason and remains ever reasonable. Faith does not destroy reason, but fulfills it. Nevertheless, there must always remain a delicate balance between the two. Two extremes are to be avoided: credulity and skepticism, superstition and rationalism. If this balance is upset, if man relies too much on his five senses and on his reason when faith should be his teacher, then he enters into illusion. Or when, in defiance of reason, he gives the assent of his faith to a fallible authority, then too he falls into illusion. Reason is in fact the path to faith, and faith takes over when reason can say no more.”

  • Lance Schmidt

    I’m a former atheist who recently had a “Saul on the way to Damascus” run in with God that was so completely unexpected that I’m still trying to grasp that it actually happened as the experience continues to unfold. It was childhood and young adult experiences being reared in a particularly austere version of Christianity that propelled me into believing there was no God. My journey of faith, although sometimes faltering, is giving me a new insight into belief that I now realize eluded me both as a young Christian and as an atheist.

    While I’ve always had a keen interest in hearing other peoples’ arguments for or against God, I never had had much personal interest in participating in those arguments. What I have noticed and continue to notice is that many Christians do a very poor job of making arguments for God and faith. While their intent may be sincere, they often are so illogical and say such bizarre things that it makes me cringe and wonder if they really are that bereft of rational thought.

    I think where Christians have the potential to really shine is first by walking the walk and then being able to offer a simple, honest statement of faith…full stop.

    For me Christian life is about an intensely, personal subjective relationship with a presence and power both outside and inside myself. This presence serves as a friend, a comforter, a guide and at times a reprover which experienced all together shape my thoughts, desires and motives. By faith in spite of some real quaking doubts on some of the finer details, I accept that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and died for my transgressions, and when I partake of the Eucharist and sit and reflect in the silence I symbolically kneel at the foot of the cross which becomes my access point to stand in the most unworthy perfection in the presence of the purest Love which I know as God. That repeated experience with God encourages and motivates me to lead a quiet and humble life that strives to be a space where every person I encounter can feel safe, secure and loved just as they are with no qualifications.

    And folks, that’s about all I got. It’s not very intellectually stimulating or very deep, and I know it has a lot of holes and uncertainty but it’s a rewarding experience and I look forward to what lies ahead.

    • Jill

      Lance, I really really really like your comment. Really.

      “I think where Christians have the potential to really shine is first by walking the walk and then being able to offer a simple, honest statement of faith…full stop.” A faith like this is what makes me pause, and notice, and ask, and listen to the answers, and consider.

      • Sugarbush43

        I was going to quote that exact line. This has been my belief my entire life, either when I “believed” through indoctrination, when I questioned it all, and when I was enveloped in my faith. Just like Matthew 18:3, I was right all along when I was a child. Most of us are.

    • Matt

      Fantastic stuff, Lance. You and I have some very similar thoughts.

  • Sven2547

    It’s logic that wins arguments. Nothing else.

    Yes and no. Logic is crucial, but there is also something to be said for persuasiveness and tact.

    I reacted and commented to Tony’s post, not necessarily because of its shady reasoning, but because be basically spends a paragraph drawing a grotesque caricature of atheists as privileged ne’er-do-wells who are nowhere to be found in areas of poverty and need. It’s misinformed at best, and libel at worst.

    I’ve heard a million rationalizations for religious faith. Some are worse than others. But that’s none of my concern: everyone has their “reasons”. I wouldn’t have even commented if he had left atheism alone.

    Returning to the topic of persuasiveness and tact: Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is doing to “debate” Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis on the subject of creationism. Bill’s got science and logic on his side. Ken still has the advantage. Why? Because debating is a skill, and matters of science are poorly represented in Lincoln-style debates, whereas charisma, bluster, and a friendly audience often carry the day.

    • Andy

      …and you would be correct. Regardless of the fact that all the empirical evidence supported Bill’s side, some people claimed that Ham won the debate because he was a more polished debater. I disagree with them, personally. I admit Ham sounded persuasive, which is not surprising as he’s well-versed in debate, but every time I actually listened to what he was saying I would think, “he’s only about 2-3 steps above the Time Cube guy on the crackpot spectrum.”

  • FriendlySkeptic

    “what I should steadfastly resist…is try to insist or prove that what is real and true for me must also be real and true for everyone else.”

    But aren’t Christians required to proselytize? Aren’t those of us who don’t accept Jesus as our Lord & Savior bound for hell as per Mark 16:15-16, making it a bit uncaring (to say the least) if a Christian does not do her/his all to convert as many non-believers as possible? I get the impression from a lot of progressive Christians (I used to be one) that the answer to this conundrum is, “Don’t worry, God is love and he’ll sort it all out,” which leads right back to GOD DID IT as the answer to all logical problems with god-based religions.

    • R Vogel

      1. Every Christian does not believe in Hell.
      2. Even if you do believe in Hell, is making bad logical arguments the best way to proselytize?
      3. Has anyone, anywhere ever been convinced to believe in G*d, much less Christianity, with a logical argument?
      4. If you believe in a supreme reality such as G*d, believing that she will work it out doesn’t seem to be a big leap.

    • vj

      The Bible instructs Christians to make disciples, not converts… A disciple is someone who has come to faith in Christ by some means (at root, by the conviction of the Holy Spirit), and chooses thereafter to learn to follow increasingly in the Way of Christ. Christians should live out their faith according to their own convictions, trying to live out the instructions left for us by Jesus (basically, love God, love your neighbor). Love for neighbor is largely a matter of practicality, not spiritual coercion (which is what most attempts to ‘convert’ someone ultimately become) – Jesus tells us that when we love one another, people will see our love in action and be drawn to God; He doesn’t tell us to browbeat people into agreeing with our version of God.

    • CurtisMSP

      In short, no. Many Christians believe that the salvation provided by Jesus is for everyone, Christian as well as non-Christian. Exactly how that “salvation” is accomplished is a mystery, but the details about how it is accomplished in me need not be the same way it is accomplished in everyone else.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      No, no and no.

      Ask yourself this. Why would god make a horrific place that she purposely intended to send the majority of the humans that were made (because they didn’t fall into the “saved” category), a creation that was supposed to be the crowning achievement of all creation, a creation that was made in the image of themelf? So if the divine knew ahead of time that their creation was going to be such a collosial failure that most was going to have to be discarded, why should we even consider them a being of love, grace and mercy?

      So what are Christians…well all people, supposed to be doing? Doing what we can to live at peace with one another, learning ways to be respectful, kind, generous, finding ways on a personal level to connect with the divine in a means that makes sense to us, not because its how everyone should do it, but because that is how we “get” god.

      To go around “trying to save people from hell” is actually an effort in selfishness and pride. its getting notches on our christian belt, when we see a new convert in our churches, knowing the part we ourselves played, personally or collectively. It also is prideful to deem ourselves more holy, closer to the divine, righteous…etc. when we look at people not of our faith as inferiour to us because of, and only because of their way of doing God is not our way.
      Which is why we should not proselytize.

    • Keith Witty

      Mark should have ended at verse 9. That is where it originally ended before someone added to hundreds of years later. After that, the other gospels basically tack on Mark’s ending as well because they all used Mark as a reference.

  • R Vogel

    I read what I think may be the most poignant statement regarding the faith I have ever read the other day in a comment on another blog:

    It’s my understanding that the only way to grow the kingdom of God is to place others before Christianity.

  • CurtisMSP

    In terms of logical argument, yes, the atheist will always win. But in terms of living a fulfilled life, the Christian will always win. Because the atheist will never attain their goal of perfect logical coherency in their life, while the Christian realizes their goal of salvation by grace through faith every day.

    • R Vogel

      With all due respect, CurtisMSP, I think you just said that an Atheist cannot live as fulfilling a life as a Christian. If so, that is offensive, small-minded, and completely untrue. It is also ridiculously presumptuous that you think you know what the goal of an Atheist’s life is, and that it is somehow different than yours. I was raised in a Christian Church, attending Christian schools, and most of my family are still Christians. They live, on average, no more or less fulfilling lives than my atheist friends.
      You statement is as ignorant as saying someone who prefers Hip Hop Music can never be moved to the same degree as someone who listens to Classical Music.

      • Guest

        Leading with the “I’m offended” card is not helpful.

        In the context of a discussion, statements are indented as ideas laid out, fully open to response and critique, not as declarations of absolute fact.

        Perhaps you can describe in more detail the manners in which an atheist philosophy can co-exist with uncertainty and irrationality. That is the idea I am putting out for discussion.

        If you want to respond the the idea I laid out, go ahead. But responding with name-calling and personal attacks is hardly a thoughtful response.

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          name calling didn’t happen, merely a negative criticism of your views. Getting defensive about it helps nothing. The ideas you’ve presented will have to be made a whole lot stronger, as right now they appear just to be an opionion based on a lack of knowledge or understanding of people who are non-deist.

        • R Vogel

          I am not an Atheist, nor do I deem to speak for them. In fact I doubt there is one Atheist, any more than there is one Christian, one Buddhist, or one Muslim, who could speak for all them. When someone makes a presumption about what the aim of another person’s life is and declares that they cannot lead a fulfilling life based on that presumption, it should be offensive to everyone. Speak for yourself, about yourself. To say “I don’t believe I could live a fulfilling life as an Atheist” is fine. Saying “Atheists can’t lead as fulfilling of a life as me” is not. Not in civil and polite society anyway.

          • Vince

            You express it better than I could.

            I am an atheist, and while I favor logic and rationality, my drive in life is mostly around family, health, happiness and… well, video games :)

      • CurtisMSP

        I stated that the goal of an atheist is perfect logical coherency, because atheists always insist on perfect logical coherency in any conversation about religion.

        If perfect logical coherency is not one of the goals of the atheist philosophy, then how would you describe the goal of atheism?

        • Jill

          To my point above, boxing people into corners of (non-) belief serves no one. Atheism has nuances and subtleties, as to an expressed agenda or anything “insisted” upon, I would have to step aside to let a true atheist respond.

          But asking an atheist what the goal of the atheist philosophy is like asking why are there are considered to be about 41,000 denominations about one Jesus Christ.

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          Im a Christian, and prefer logical coherency, and if its perfect, even better.
          It not a goal of a belief system, because most understand that the illogical and the imperfect, the unknown and the incoherent most certainly exist. To be athiest, or agnostic simply means a defining the existance in a world without the need or desire for deity.

        • Brian Westley

          There’s no “goal” of atheism. It’s just a term for the absence of belief in gods. Atheists don’t have to be logical or coherent, for that matter. They just have to lack a belief in gods.

        • Dorfl

          If perfect logical coherency is not one of the goals of the atheist philosophy, then how would you describe the goal of atheism?

          I don’t know. How do you win a game of not-chess?

        • R Vogel

          I can’t speaks for atheists as a whole, but my impression is their goals are similar to mine: To lead happy, healthy, love-filled, and productive lives. They just do it without a G*d belief. I have a hard time believing other people can lead fulfilling lives without reading poetry, but I know they can because I see them do it every day. I try to corner strangers on the train and make them listen to me reciting poetry, knowing that if they only listened they would be richly rewarded. But it doesn’t seem to have the same affect on them, and they don’t seem to like it very much. I am being flippant, hopefully not offensive. My point is just because something adds richness to your life, doesn’t mean it does for everyone else. And because it adds richness to your life, doesn’t mean their lives are any less rich for the lack of it. They may just be fulfilled by something else. Like Mystery Novels (ewwwwwww….)

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      Hmmm…The only criteria for living a fulfilled life…and a fulfilled life means one that is vibrant, purposeful, interactive and meaningful…is being a Christian, and that only Christians have such a thing…
      Why does the word Balderdash keep echoing in my head?

      • CurtisMSP

        Of course, to answer if someone’s life is fulfilled, one would have to define what “fulfilled” means. In addition to vibrant, purposeful, interactive and meaningful, I would add the word “vulnerable” to the list — the ability to live along-side weakness, pain, and uncertainty.

        I did state Christians have such capacity, but I never stated *only* Christians have that capacity.

        But I do wonder how atheists deal with vulnerability and uncertainty. Any insight?

        • Jill

          It goes back to not putting anyone in a box based on labels, because there are happy, well-rounded atheists and angsty, snippy atheists. Kinda like any other group.

          For me the question to answer is how does *anyone* deal with vulnerability and uncertainty, because everyone answers that from their own point of view. I’d dare say there are a lot of correct answers among them.

        • Keith Witty

          I am an agnostic leaning atheist and when it comes to uncertainty and vulnerability I take it as it comes. It is part of the human experience, why should I deny it and attempt to place it upon something else, i.e. God? Life is full of doubt and uncertainty, why should I deny such an existence if to feel doubt is to feel human?

          And no one should ever be certain of God, it’s the exact same as being certain of anything else that has no evidence whatsoever. To believe is fine, whatever. But certainty can lead to troubling things and existential crises when all of a sudden certainty is shaken.

          I can think of my experience growing up as a fundamentalist Christian thinking that the Bible was the inerrant word of God. I put the entirety of my faith in God in the fact that the Bible was “perfect.” It was my proof and my certainty. When truly began to read it objectively in college, my world was turned upside down by Matthew 16:27-28. Jesus literally thought the world would end within the disciples lifetimes. Any apologists wanting to take that on, don’t bother. There is no convincing me. I spent months trying to make it say what I wanted it to say instead of what it actually says. After realizing that one mistake, I actually examined the others. I lost it all. A true existential crisis. What is the meaning of life? What is my existence if not for Christ? I ended up taking all my doubt upon myself and working through it and I am a better person for it and much happier than I ever was as a fundamentalist.

          I suppose you could call me a Christian who denies the divinity of Jesus and is agnostic towards God. I am so familiar with Jesus’s humanistic teachings, though, that I greatly respect the historical figure and still “follow” him, per se.

          So to conclude, doubt and uncertainty are something vital to the human existence. I wouldn’t dare absolve myself of them knowing the person they have had a part in making me.

          • DonRappe

            I find your self understanding to be much like my own. I find it necessary to reject every superstitious understanding of the faith that was once delivered to the saints. i also consider it important, as the person whose opinion seems to have instigated this little lecture by J. Shore did, which persons in history I am found aligned with.

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          Are atheists or anyone any less able to deal with vulnerability or uncertainty than Christians? Hardly.
          Vulnerability and uncertainty is a human thing. We can state the mantra “it’s in god’s hands” pray until we are hoarse, do every and single ritual we can come up with to attempt to give us a sense of security, but we will still be vulnerable and uncertain.
          Christians may find a way to be at peace with who and where they are, but they are just as prone to be worrisome and anxious. Buddhists, Sikhs, agnostics, atheists, Wiccans, etc. all have the same odds of inner security and peace, or the opposite, like anyone else.

    • de_la_Nae

      What?

    • lrfcowper

      In addition to the terrible caricature of atheism, you’ve also presented a rather self-centered goal for Christendom as well.

  • Carolyn Fitzpatrick

    I agree that the decision to be Christian is not a choice based on logic, and therefore there is no way for a Christian to win an argument validating their religious views. I do think that logic can and should be used by Christians to evaluate their actions and beliefs, to make sure that they are living out the central tenets of Christianity, and not blindly following dogma and demagogues. For example, I’m Christian, and I’ve had people tell me that I should have more babies even though I don’t think we can afford them, because if I believe hard enough then God will provide. That is crazy talk and I will stick with my one child, thank you. So while logic did not play a role in be becoming a Christian, it does play a big part in the kind of Christian that I become.

  • Bill Steffenhagen

    In discussing God or Faith with someone, the difficulty for me comes when that person posits the “relationship with God” thing. With Jesus? Maybe. But with God? Not so much. Short of getting knocked off one’s a..uh, donkey (or getting zapped in a janitor’s closet), how does one have a “relationship” with an otherwise abstract concept?

    It begs the question of anthropomorphizing God which, while seemingly the only way we can “understand” God, is nevertheless a preposterous notion. You know, “If horses had gods, they would look like horses.”

    So I’ve come to the place where I keep it simple. “God is Love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him/her.” 1 John 5:16. And to expand on that; “Love does no wrong to anyone. That’s why it satisfies all of God’s requirements. IT IS THE ONLY LAW YOU NEED.” (caps mine) Rom 13:10

    That is the simplicity of it that, I think, Jesus was trying to get across to us. All the rest merely clouds the issue and creates the confusion so ubiquitous in any discussions of religion.

    • adam

      And I believe that Jesus was just being Taoist.
      Love is actually the acceptance of the world as it is.
      Find the flow of life and go with it, with enjoyment, not fear.
      Love YOUR LIFE, it is after all the only one you have.
      Life is too short to concern one constantly about worry and fear.
      Unfortunately, Jesus is tied at the hip with Yahweh, who demonstrates the emotional immaturity of a 5 year old child throughout the OT. A lot of hate, anger and jealousy for an unchanging god.

  • Professor Schildwindde

    God was just used as a substitute for questions that couldn’t be answered, in the far past. Now these questions are answered by technology and science, yet people who are obiviously brainwashed cannot bring themselves to accept that God simply cannot exist. When they are questioned about God’s existence, they include something about God, for instance “It’s rude to draw or portray God so there are no photos or drawings of him.”. That’s the same as saying “There is a ghost behind which you can never see, but I know he exists.” or “There is a large cover hiding the contents of a nuclear bomb and the reason why I know is because I just know it is behind the cover.”. See, there is no visual or confirmed evidence to back up that God exists. What annoys me most is when people find what people like me say offensive, when in fact they themselves are manupilated, and brought up as a child to think and believe such a divine being exists. So there it is. DEAL WITH IT.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      Maybe they just see things from a different perspective from yourself. Maybe God is not that hard a concept to grasp, because it is well established that there are still a great many questions that yet lack answers. Maybe its perfectly fine for one person to reject the concept of divinity, and perfectly fine for another to reject the idea of a mono-deity, and others to reject the concept of a poly-deity, and for yet another to say, “You know?, I’m holding out on making that decision, I just don’t know.”

      So the question remains….Can you deal with that?

      • R Vogel

        NO! Technology and Science! And there are no drawings! Check. Mate! :)

      • Fred Garvin

        To what questions are the answers “Holy Trinity”; “Mohammad is the last prophet”; “Don’t eat bacon”; “Don’t drink alcohol”; “Ohm mani padme o”?

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          I grew up in a church that taught God was two seperate beings…yep polytheism, Others’ believe that God is just one being, others three, others somethings else. How one defines God is personal, what works for them offers no threat to how someone else sees things.

          Christians believe Jesus was, Muslims Mohammed, Buddhists feel there are more to some, as, if I remember correctly do some Jewish sects. Again, those are personal beliefs, holding no threat to the beliefs of another.

          Grew up being told that bacon was unclean and therefore not to be eaten. Other religions also believe that. Others have no problem with pork products. One doesn’t threaten the other, its merely what someone beliefs…For the record, I had bacon for breakfast.

          See a pattern yet?

          Some people honestly should avoid alcohol, my ex included who is an alcoholic and a mean bastard at that. Some abstain for personal reasons, some for religious, others for cultural ones. Others have no problem with all the variety of beverages available to them. I happen to be a fan of Chardonnay or a well made Cosmopolitan, but only on odd occasions.

          Mantras are beautiful ways of focusing on something, rather like an oft repeated prayer. The one you mention has deep, rich and diverse meaning, rather like and oft repeated prayer. Some find help,and solace in mantras, others do not. Again, no threat there to be found.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Yeah, I don’t see why anyone would take offense to being called “obviously brainwashed.” Some people are just so sensitive.

      • Vince

        Tell someone afflicted with depressions that they are mentally sick will also offend them. But it doesn’t make it any less true.

        Offense is not a very good measuring stick for truth.

        • Shadsie

          Wrong.

          “someone afflicted with depressions” KNOWS that they are sick. Trust me. Been there. Known others. Whether or not they’ll admit it to *others* based upon the relative *social stigma* they face is another matter, but if someone is at the end of their rope with depression, it’s quite likely that they’ll not only not be offended when their loved ones notice, but will seek out help for themselves.

          Keep whatever views of religion and spirituality you want, but as soon as you attack or assume things about some of the most vunerable people in our world, prepare to deal with someone who’s been through Hell and had to admit to it and crawl their own way out calling you out on it.

        • Sugarbush43

          At some point, would you not find it more appealing to show compassion than to mock?

          • Vince

            Yes, of course. I have relative morality after all. I will not mock the beliefs of really old people, suicidal or brain damaged people.

            I will not refrain from mocking others tho. If you are a grown adult and are spouting idiotic drivel, /i will certainly point it out to you.

    • José Luis Porfírio

      What if God had nothing to do with knowledge? (Except perhaps knowledge of God.) Maybe it has more to do with trust. Its a word I’ve been convinced with time that is better than faith, because the latter has often been confused and used as blind belief in the utterances of tyrants and illuminated madmen. Either you trust the universe makes sense, you are important and Someone is looking out for you, or you don’t. Where does the knowledge and science part enters here?
      And, for a different take on the matter, who’s to say God hasn’t spoken to people when there are plenty of testimonies on the contrary throughout the millennia and in many cultures? Because they don’t stand up to the CURRENT concepts of evidence? There was “evidence” in the 19th Century that manmade objects heavier than air could not ever fly. That speeds of over 20Km/h would kill people. That gorillas were a myth invented by primitive people. Science is ever revisible. Its very arrogant to deny absolutely the experience of millions of people throughout history as “delusion”, as well as to make permanent assertions on the nature of the universe based on the current state of science alone.

      It seems I said much more than I intended. I hope I’m not boring you.

      • adam

        It is not a matter of ‘trust’ that the universe makes sense.

        It is the mind that makes sense of the universe that the mind observes.

        When the mind is clouded with superstitions that really DONT make sense, then there is disconnect from reality.

        Then there are the build in survival instincts, like believing the ‘teachers’ in society that cause the problems when the teachers are clouded by superstitions as well.

        It is not arrogant to deny the experiences of others reflect reality when you understand the chemical nature of the brain and how easily chemicals and conditions can alter ones view of reality.

        Who can deny those who experience ergot poisoning, sleep deprivation, extensive fasting, dehydration or DMT? No one can deny their experiences. But it is easy to dismiss those experience as not properly reflecting reality.

        • José Luis Porfírio

          Friend Adam, apples and oranges. Making sense of reality, especially physical reality, is what science is all about. Faith is another thing altogether.

          As for drugs, you’re absolutely right. Still, there are testimonies of drug users, especially hallucinogens, who garantee they see a sort of hyper-reality underlying what we commonly know. And me, myself, I’m medicated on anti-depressants in order to see and feel reality as a normal person. Without them my view of reality is anything but objective. Still, I need them to see it as “it is”, so to speak. Who is to say that drug users, sometimes, don’t see “more”?

          • adam

            Sorry, I don’t see where it is apples and oranges.
            It is all the perception of the mind.

            If there truly was something OBJECTIVE about it then everyone, including the drug users would see the same thing and they don’t.

            This ‘shamanic’ or ‘mystic’ experience that is related to brain chemistry.

            It is simply SPAG, Self Projected As God when these experiencers are claiming contact with an unchanging supernatural being who they believe will grant them eternal life – AFTER DEATH.

            It is this aspect that religions use as a tool of politics.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            It is all the perception of the mind.

            And just what is “mind”?

            Who is it that perceives “It” with it?

            Be careful in answering, if you want to play by the rules that the mysterious “you” has lain down.

          • adam

            Full Definition of MIND
            1
            : recollection, memory

            2
            a : the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons

            1brain noun ˈbrān

            : the organ of the body in the head that controls functions, movements, sensations, and thoughts

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            You will find a more thorough treatment of it in the Sanskrit literature.

            But, whatever satisfies.

          • adam

            Sorry, I haven’t looked at the Sanskrit literature in decades, so I have no idea what you are leading to.

            The dictionary is common to us all and would seem to be a good reference point.

    • lrfcowper

      At some point in the past, the universe– all the dimensions of space and time– came into existence. Relativity says time came into existence with space, i.e. before the Big Bang, as much as one can posit a “before” there was no time. One of the principles of our universe is cause and effect– for every event, there is a preceding cause. Was there a prime cause that created the universe? If so, this prime cause exists outside of the space time dimension that we inhabit. It cannot be studied except by observing the results of its actions– the universe that exists.

      Some people, upon observing the universe, conclude a prime cause exists. Some people do not. There is nothing inherently logical or illogical in either position.

      Among those who conclude there is a prime cause, some go further to concluding the prime cause is intelligent. Some do not. There is nothing inherently logical or illogical in either of position.

      Among those who conclude the prime cause is intelligent are those who believe the prime cause entered and/or interfered in human history. Some do not. There is nothing inherently logical or illogical in either position.

      Among those who conclude the prime cause has entered and/or interfered with human history are those who identify (a) certain religious tradition(s) as describing this interference. Others do not. There is nothing inherently logical or illogical in either position.

      Neither religious faith nor agnosticism nor atheism are logical positions. They are assumptions we make about the universe based on our own observations, the scientific facts we have to hand, ancient and modern accounts of eyewitnesses, the testimony of people we trust, all given different trustworthiness values by each person based on their own personality and life experiences. You simply cannot judge another person’s faith decisions by your own metric and assumptions of complete overlap of data. You can’t. And it’s as offensive to claim intellectual superiority over people of faith as it is for people of faith to claim moral superiority over those who remain unpersuaded.

      Both groups need to get their noses out of the air and treat their fellow human beings with decency and respect.

    • Sugarbush43

      Why is there such a great need to disprove God or make believers “see the light” or feel stupid? Why is there a need to chastise or condescend to others? I don’t care if someone shares the same beliefs as I. Why should I? You are you and I am me. I realize that there are fundamentalists who feel that they need to tell you that you are wrong and that you will go to hell. I am not one nor are most believers. It just seems that there are two classes in each camp – those who say “live and let live” and those who shout “you are wrong and I am right”. I’ll never understand the mentality of the latter with regards to believers and atheists.

      • Matthew Alton

        Read Sam Harris on the subject. Basically, he holds that the extremists are very dangerous to the proposition of continued human survival on this planet. There are jihadists, for example, who would happily cap off a hydrogen bomb in the middle of Tel Aviv. They would do this believing that Allah will be providing them virgins and shade trees in heaven. This is irrational according to Dr. Harris, and one of society’s goals should be to dissuade this sort of thinking and attendant behavior.

        You are quite correct to point out that very few religious people are extremists. Harris makes the case, however, that the moderate believers err by lending credence to the extremists’ views. I think he lays this out in “Letter to a Christian Nation.”

        I agree with Harris that we have a great responsibility to be intellectually honest with ourselves and others. I also agree that religious belief is in all cases delusion. Therefore, religion has to go. We’ve outgrown it.

  • Alexios

    I think that it is the famous “God of the gaps” that gets criticized more than anything else. The scientific notion of God not only is easily refutable, but I also don’t think it contributes much to our living. Many times I have wondered, if leading scientists like Hawking, Weinberg and Witten came out and announced “Guys, there is a God, we were able to find Him, but nothing else, no further information is possible”, how would that impact our lives?

    I feel inclined towards more the mystical side of Christianity, and totally agree with mr.Shore that it is a matter of personal experience to believe or not. Reading the writings of people like Pseudo-Areopagite, Meister Eckhart or st.Symeon the New Theologian, I get the impression that the scientific God never stood a chance.I don’t know how easier it was back then to believe in a God of the gaps and it’s true that people had less scientific knowledge than us today. But still, the discourse about God and nature’s laws was raging in early and especially medieval Christian philosophy and theology, and I imagine personal experience showed that nature’s laws were not violated that easily, so I can’t say if the more “literate” people chose to believe solely because of “lack of scientific evidence”.

    In any case, I feel that God should be an answer to a personal calling, not a way to conceptually and abstractly construct a theorem. I wonder, how many will criticize the “God is Love” as much as the “God of the gaps”?

    Peace
    Alexi

  • tanyam

    I suspect that Jones was doing a miniature, less nuanced version of this Richard Rodriguez’ interview: http://www.salon.com/2013/12/15/richard_rodriguez_new_atheism_has_a_distinctly_neo_colonial_aspect/

  • BigBadErik

    I’m going to go out on a limb here, because after years of meditation, I’m finally gathering my ideas on this argument.

    Neil de Grasse Tyson recently said that theists define God by that which we do not understand yet, and because of scientific advances, “God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance.”

    I get it. HOWEVER, Joseph Campbell, a great philosopher of the 20th century, said something to the effect that the universe, as science understands it, is far greater than the universe that was understood when the Bible was written.

    And in science, we are constantly discovering that the universe is far greater (and smaller, if you like quantum physics) than it was last week. On January 7th, the Hubble Telescope captured background galaxies more than 12 billion light years away. The “Frontier Fields”. Before that, we just saw “black” space.

    And Niels Bohr’s atom in 1922 is HUGE compared to a Higgs boson. The fundamental particles keep getting smaller and smaller.

    I don’t think God is in a receding pocket. I think God is in an EXPANDING pocket. The more we learn in science, the bigger the mystery gets.

    I have no “logic” to prove God exists. But I think there is a whole bunch of stuff that science will never explain or get to the bottom of. And the mystery keeps getting bigger and bigger.

    Is there a guy with a beard running all this? Please. Is God male? Please. Did the Biblical flood happen exactly the way it says in Genesis? Naah…

    I’m not even saying that there is a “presence”, a “sprit” that consciously guides the universe, in the way we define consciousness.

    But it’s all pretty arcane and unfathomable, and I think God is found in all that mystery. Or not found. Maybe just appreciated.

    And the feeling I get when Jimi Hendrix pops into the guitar solo 4 minutes into “Machine Gun” with Band of Gypsys? Ain’t no scientist, neurologist, or shrink gonna explain that one.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/science/wow-hubble-space-telescope-snaps-super-deep-view-universe-2D11876420

    • José Luis Porfírio

      Maybe Mr DeGrasse Tyson, whom I immensely respect, doesn’t know many theists and what they say and write about God. Its not about knowledge. It was NEVER about knowledge. Its all about relationship. About awe. About faith. About a faith that is neither certainty nor knowledge. It has more to do with trust, that there’s someone holding your hand on the other side. My €0,02 worth.

      • BigBadErik

        I totally understand your perspective, and to a great extent, I share it.

        Interesting…Oprah recently took a lot of heat from atheists over her assumption that they didn’t experience awe at the universe:

        http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/17/atheists-want-an-apology-from-oprah-over-her-on-air-revelation-about-non-believers/

        I think it would take a heart made of stone to look at the sky on a clear night or witness a perfect sunset and not feel anything.

        re: trust that someone is holding our hand on the other side…that’s exactly the sort of idea that confident atheists wouldn’t go for. I think faith is binary…either you have it or don’t. A great philosopher named Jesus said that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move mountains. Committed atheists, by definition, have none.

        But they, too, can move mountains :-)

        • José Luis Porfírio

          Friend Erik, I consider many of my atheist friends very good Christians… because they are good people! And they have very good reasons to distrust religions and religious people: we don’t have a spotless track record by any means.

          Sometimes I think that, when Jesus said “Who believes in me shall have eternal (A fully lived and complete) life”, he meant something more like “who believes that my message of justice is right and deserves following” than “who believes I’m God and gets down on their knees and prays”, a thing he never asked anyone to do.

          • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

            Jose, that’s a reinterpretation of the text that flies in the face of thousands of years of theology. The one fundamental aspect of Christianity since the last of the Catholic councils voted on the matter is the Divinity of Christ and his proclamation of being the only path to Heaven.

            As an atheist, I look at Christianity and any other faith-based tradition and ask this question: If your god cares more about whether I believe than it does how I live, it is not worthy of worship.

          • José Luis Porfírio

            I agree with you, and if there’s any sort of Hell, then God is a tyrant that deserves only to be revolted against. But I’m no longer a Catholic because of such doctrinal nonsense. Trinity? Virginity of Mary? Fiddlesticks and unimportant, and people were killed because of such dross. Things that are at most peripheral to the message of Jesus.
            I see Jesus as the path to heaven as being the path of the decent, empathetic human. Of any culture and belief. Above I already stated what I believe it is to follow Jesus and believe in him: Do as I do and love as I loved.

            Please take into account that what I’ve written in this and other threads is my own view and no-one else’s. Also, I’m here expressing it and not trying to convince anyone of anything.

          • My inside voice

            I appreciate the spirit in which you are rejecting dogma that you see as unnecessary. Kudos.

            I do have to take an issue with the idea that Jesus was a philosopher and that his philosophy was what makes him special. If you want to take the position that Jesus’ message was to love each other (which is a great message) as proof that he was a great (the greatest?) teacher, then you run into this problem:
            - Jesus said a lot of things, according to the only record we have of him, and a lot of it was terrible. I mean, really horrible. Never resist evil, reject your family if they don’t agree with you, etc.
            - other people have said to love one another before Jesus’ time and since, and nobody claims that they’re gods.

            If you are claiming that Jesus was special and divine, then I don’t see how you can pick and choose among the things he said. If he isn’t special and divine, then why have a religion dedicated to him?

          • lrfcowper

            I’ve read some folks who have argued that the texts that read “faith in Jesus/Christ” are better translated “Jesus’/Christ’s faith” — that we should practice the same faith standards that Jesus preached and lived, which is “Love God with all you’ve got” (basically) and its equivalent “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When you go and look at the parable of the sheep and the goats, it seems to fit– the “sheep” were elect not because they acknowledged a belief in Jesus, but because they practiced love of others, whereas the “goats” did not.

          • José Luis Porfírio

            Exactly my point!

      • Fred Garvin

        Why the two last names “DeGrasse Tyson”? Is he in the aristocracy? Or just trying to sound distinguished?

      • redscream5

        If that’s true, then why does the field of apologetics even EXIST?

    • Matthew Alton

      To redefine God as mystery contributes nothing. Mystery is mystery. Why do you require the notion of a god?

      • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

        The more Mystery the better. Nothing of what you call knowledge diminishes it in any way it is the very essence of the infinite.

        • adam

          And I would say that it is only the essence of an interpretation of the perceived perception of the idea of the infinite.

          Not all that unlike numbers, a type of sorting mechanism.

  • CG

    Tony’s particular argument may be good or bad in the grand scheme of formal debate

    But any declaration such as “based on logic an atheist will always win” is a preposterous and IMO an embarrassing statement for a theist to make. Just a glance at the arguments of the various youtube atheists will give credence to this.

    People can have illogical reasons for being theists or atheist and rational reasons for being either.

  • TheRealRandomFunction

    What I don’t get to do–or what I should steadfastly resist the (egotistical—always egotistical) temptation to do, because it’s not only a fool’s errand but an offensive fool’s errand–is try to insist or prove that what is real and true for me must also be real and true for everyone else.

    Isn’t this what sharing the Gospel does though?

    If things like heaven, hell, God, Jesus and Sin are real and true “for you” but not real and true for everyone else… why share the Gospel?

    • adam

      Political power, pure and simple

    • R Vogel

      Have you ever heard a song that really spoke to you, or read a poem that really moved you, or taken a picture of a sunset you thought was particularly beautiful and shared it with other people?

      • redscream5

        …and then told them that if they didn’t like the song they would experience an eternity of torture set up by the author of the song?

        • R Vogel

          That’s the silly part, right? I don’t believe in eternal torture, and I think there is a strong case to be made that it is neither biblical and certainly not logical (I love you, but I have to send you to eternal torment. What?!). Personally I am much more interested in how to make a better world, than what happens afterward. If there is something, then I’ll see you there (regardless of what you may or may not believe). I’m buying the first round!

        • Sugarbush43

          I don’t tell people, nor do I think, that they’re going to hell. I’m not at all focused on the idea of hell, because I believe if we’re living our lives in order to NOT go to hell, then we’ve missed the whole point and our intentions are not pure.

          However, I’m very curious as to why an atheist would have a problem with a person telling them they’re going to hell. If you are an atheist, then you don’t believe in eternal damnation or the One who would send you there. So, why does it offend or bother? I’m not attempting to be condescending, rather I truly am curious.

      • TheRealRandomFunction

        Sure. When I do so, if someone else thinks its also beautiful, great. If he/she doesn’t… well then I can’t really force them or argue them into believing that yes.. its beautiful.

        I suppose one could simply say / share the gospel story and then end it with “believe it or not its up to you and nothing will happen either way”… but this seems unbiblical to me. Jesus seemed rather concerned that people actually believe what he was saying, and not just that he thought up a bunch of nice things that he thought were neat.

        • R Vogel

          That’s the way I think of my faith. I think it offers something beautiful to the world so I share it when I have the opportunity (as opposed to ramming down people’s throat) If it speak to you, great! If not, then I would love to hear about what does – and then together let’s go make a better world.
          I certainly see why you would feel that way about Jesus, but I think Jesus was far more concerned about people loving each other and challenging the existing power structures of the day than enforcing ‘right belief.’ That has been, depressingly, the purview of his followers.

          • TheRealRandomFunction

            What do you make of the many times Jesus spoke about Hell and sin? If he was “far more concerned” about love and challenging existing power structures.. what of those times he spoke about Hell?

            If you think your faith offers something beautiful to the world, and part of your faith (at least) Biblically is Hell, how do you deal with people who don’t believe, who don’t accept. Do you really just say “That’s fine as long as we can go forth and do some good?” That seems like ignoring a significant part of Christianity.

          • R Vogel

            Without addressing each and every instance of Jesus’ use of Hell, I will just say I think there are many different ways to interpret what Jesus was trying to convey. It probably wouldn’t appeal to you, being an atheist, but there is a long tradition in the church of universalists who either deny the doctrine of hell altogether, or view it as something temporary, a place where the soul is purified. I think the Catholic doctrine of purgatory is something akin to that. I have no idea, and try to avoid speculating on such things.

            My faith does not include the doctrine of Hell, although much of Christianity does so I can’t blame anyone who views it as a hopeless contradiction. I think I would take as the core of my faith as “In as much as you have done it to the least of my brethren…” Jesus went around eating with ‘sinners’, healing the sick (whether figuratively or literally I don’t know), embracing the unclean, raising the dead, and challenging the political and religious elites of his day. He spoke a vision of G*d not as a wrathful judgmental prick (shamelessly borrowed from Nadia Bolz-Weber), but as a loving father. How does one reconcile the vision of the loving father from the story of the Prodigal Son to a vision of G*d tossing someone into eternal torment? As a father myself, I can’t.

            “That seems like ignoring a significant part of Christianity” Isn’t there a significant amount that really should be ignored? At least regarding the Christianity that I think we are talking about; the one the dominates in our culture. But there is a rich history and present of different conceptions of the story of the Incarnation and Atonement that bear very little resemblance to the religion that we both decry.
            So, if you live a life harming others will I stand against you, absolutely. Both because of my faith and as a human being. Even if you believe in a G*d. If you live in such a way as to have a meaningful life, working in your own way to make the world a better place, will I work with you? Absolutely. And your rejection of my vision of G*d for whatever personal reasons you have makes no difference. One of us will be right in the end. Since for neither of us does it require someone to go to eternal torment, it doesn’t really matter who.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            Actually the word that has often been translated to hell, often erroneously, is mentioned no more than about 54 times in the King James version 23 in the New testament, less so in more modern translations. The word often called hell, can also mean pit, or grave, which are two totally different things. Sin shows up about about 450 total, and it seems to be double the amount in the Old Testament over the new.

            Words like love..up to over 500 times, depending on translations, 160 to a little over 200, brother, an average of about 360.
            Fun little resource…http://www.christianbiblereference.org/faq_WordCount.htm

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          The Buddhists cultivate the practice of skilfull means.

          Timing is everything. Authenticity essential.

          Does it Catalyze?

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      What if for someone else the Gospel is something else? Like for me. I think the Gospel is God loves us infinitely. We are asked to love God back, and equally important, to love our neighbors as close to how God loves us as we can manage.
      heaven or hell, or sin, tend to be minor, or non-issues in comparison, from where I see it.

      • TheRealRandomFunction

        If the Gospel for something else is something else, doesn’t that mean that there are multiple Gospels?

        I seem to remember multiple Bible verses dealing with the thought of multiple Gospels. None were positive as I recall.

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          Actually there are four books in the bible, called the gospels, plural. The word gospel means the story and teachings of Jesus, as well as something regarded as true and implicity believed. So sure there is more than one.

          • TheRealRandomFunction

            There is more than one book in the Bible that we regard as the gospel yes.. but do you say that these books contradict? If they don’t contradict, merely support each other then there aren’t four gospels. Just the one.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            Of course they do. They are written by different people, with different focuses, telling different versions of a story that occurred several decades before they wrote it, and of a people that most likely never personally met.
            There is of course similarities and basic familiarity of themes, of which there is more than one, between the renderings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but there are significant differences as well.

            Think about how many times people have written books about the life of King Henry VIII there are. In just historical accounts, non-fictional ones there are hundreds, each trying to capture the life and the times of the famous king, each bringing individual perspectives, based on what the author was trying to portray.

            Does it mean that the reader of the gospels, needs to see only one meaning, or theme? Does it matter that the four books have some contradictions in their story lines? It depends on the reader, and what they are looking for.

          • TheRealRandomFunction

            Of course they do. They are written by different people, with different focuses, telling different versions of a story that occurred several decades before they wrote it, and of a people that most likely never personally met.

            If those four books truly represent “different gospels”, how do you treat verses like Galatians 1:8? Seems like an explicit case where one of the gospels must be “another gospel”.

            Does it mean that the reader of the gospels, needs to see only one meaning, or theme? Does it matter that the four books have some contradictions in their story lines? It depends on the reader, and what they are looking for.

            What if you are looking for the truth?

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            I read the letters of Paul as commentaries and opnions of a missionary. They give some insight into Jewish thought as well as the infant cult that would eventually be known as Christianity.. They offer true statements, wisdom based philosophy, honest opinions, and a personal viewpoint, as Paul was writing personal letters.

            To restrict the source of all truth to just the Bible is making truth too tiny to be of any real value. What csn be shown as true is all around us and is dependent on. what we are seking, why we are seeking it and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

          • TheRealRandomFunction

            To restrict the source of all truth to just the Bible is making truth too tiny to be of any real value.

            Did I say that?

            To restrict the source of all truth to just the Bible is making truth too tiny to be of any real value. What csn be shown as true is all around us and is dependent on. what we are seking, why we are seeking it and what we hope to do with that knowledge.

            So Christian truth is not objective, but based on the individual and their wants / needs / desires?

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            “So Christian truth is not objective, but based on the individual and their wants / needs / desires?”

            In so many, many ways, a resounding yes.

          • TheRealRandomFunction

            So for one person hell might very well exist.. and for another person it doesn’t? What should a third person believe then?

            Hell either exists or it doesn’t… sin is either something one needs to be concerned about.. or not. One may want to not be concerned about hell, but that doesn’t mean hell doesn’t exist.. any more than me wanting any other thing to not exist means that it doesn’t actually exist.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            For some people, hell doesn’t exist, for others it does, and for those that do, there is a interesting range of ideas of what hell is, who is supposedly so supposed to go, how long they are supposed to stay there. What it has to do with sin, also will vary quite widely.

            Whatever people need to make sense of the world, will be what they decide works for them or not. Whether or not you or I agree with them is moot. Personally, I navigate quite well with the quite firm belief that hell is a figment of man’s quite active and rather sadistic imagination.

          • TheRealRandomFunction

            Hell seems like an interesting place then. For most places, there existence (or lack thereof) doesn’t depend on what people think about them.

            I mean, people have lots of ideas and opinions about NYC. Some people like it. Some people don’t. No matter what people think about that city though, it exists quite independently to what people think about NYC.

            You may “navigate quite well” with the idea that Hell is a figment of man’s quite active imagination.. but why should your ability to navigate have any impact on Hell’s existence?

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            The NYC analogy is poor. It is a real tangible place. People have visited there, lived there, there are millions of eye witness accounts, centuries of history about the city and its interaction with other cities and the rest of the world, to attest to the fact that New York city is a place that few would deny of its existence.

            Hell has none of that. It has fantasy based poems written by people using only their imagination, art work based also on imagination, some legends about the underworld or afterlife by various cultures, and a few verses in religious texts, including the bible that may mean hell, may mean something else.

            See the difference? One is easily provable, by credible easily supported sources, the other lacks any such thing.

          • TheRealRandomFunction

            I see. So its not that to you, Hell doesn’t exist but to someone else it does. You don’t think Hell exists at all, period.. but if other people want to believe that it does that’s just.. “what they need to make sense of the world?”.

            Also, how do you deal with the fact that the same individual who spoke about loving your neighbor.. as far as I can tell really did seem to believe that Hell was a real place, damnation was possible.. and warned people about that fact?

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            I can see nothing that can convince me that the theory of hell is a reality in any shape, fashion or form, and trust me, I’ve tried to find it. I don’t see it in scripture at all.

            That is part of my belief system, a personal method of my navigating through life, attempting to follow the commandment of honoring the divine, while loving my neighbor.

            I am married to someone who has lived as a Southern Baptist all his life. His theological views and mine sharply differ. I don’t try to sway his beliefs in my direction. he tries, halfheartedly, to sway me, but I shoot him down repeatedly. I suspect he just thinks I’m sexy when I’m riled.

            Within three miles of my house there are four Baptist Churches, a Pentecostal, a couple of non denominations and a small Methodist. I work with and interact daily with people who’s views of hell are quite different than mine. That’s their religious views, not mine. I am in no way threatened or intimidated by that all. I am not going to insist anyone sees things my way. Yet I’ve had more than one person, consider me apostate, because I view the divine from outside the box. They can, if they wish…other people’s religious views about God or hell do not threaten or intimidate me. Other people’s views about how I do faith, do not threaten or intimidate me either. I simply just live my life as I feel best suits my beliefs.

          • TheRealRandomFunction

            I can see nothing that can convince me that the theory of hell is a reality in any shape, fashion or form, and trust me, I’ve tried to find it. I don’t see it in scripture at all.

            That’s fine, but why should I look at your inability to see it in scripture as being somehow authoritative, especially when so many people (who at least have reputations as well known theologians) do see it?

            It may be how you “navigate through life”.. but to me I’m more concerned with the question of “Does it exist?”

            I’m glad that you are “threatened”, but you didn’t deal with one of my questions. How do you deal with the fact that Jesus did speak about Hell, and seemed quite concerned that it was a real place that people could in fact go to?

            When you read Matthew 7:13, do you just think that Jesus was speaking metaphorically? That the “wide gate that leads to destruction” doesn’t refer to Hell at all?

          • Matthew Alton

            “I suspect he just thinks I’m sexy when I’m riled.”

            Ha! Nice! More truth is spoken in jest, my dear…

            My missus is a devout atheist just like me. I have to keep things interesting by shooting spitballs at her beloved cats. I have to be careful, though. She loves the cats more than me, and rightfully so.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            What if you are looking for the truth?

            Just open your eyes. Get your ego mapped out and out of the way. Practice unknowing. Regain your innocence.

          • Sugarbush43

            The fact that each individual human being will have their own feelings towards and beliefs in something is what, I believe, is being said here. My belief is that Jesus’s main and enduring message is Love. If we truly love, then we will spread “the word”. I know others who read the same texts as I, but think He was more focused on sin and judgment.

          • TheRealRandomFunction

            Are they both true? Are they both false? You may believe one thing.. but are you right?

  • asad123

    This discussion reminds me of my friend Andrew who, on being asked why he was a vegetarian, said, “For fun.” It sounds simple, but it’s a Zen-like simplicity. See if you say you do this for fun, it kills 90% of the arguments I might pose against it because I can’t pretend to know what’s fun for you. Similarly Mehta says if you say your faith is subjective, he has nowhere to argue with you. If you say, “I just like being Christian” or I say, “I just like being Muslim,” he can only argue aesthetics now. He could say Christianity or Islam is ugly or unpleasant but even that doesn’t undermine either faith. My mom likes to say “faith is a gift” and this ties in kind of beautifully. It’s something I find pretty. Maybe I can’t convince you to go out and “buy it” yourself. But at the very least, you’re not so puzzled by why I worship this way because you get that it brings me joy.

    • R Vogel

      De gustibus non est disputandum!

  • Anton

    The atheists I’ve met online are very intelligent and extremely argumentative. If Tony Jones didn’t exist, the acolytes of the New Atheists would have had to invent him.

    As a progressive Christian, I agree with the nonbelievers that our nation is seeped in religiosity and there needs to be limits. As they do, I deplore the sentimentalism and paranoia of American believers, and I think religious ideas shouldn’t be off limits to rational scrutiny.

    But if fundamentalists have brought the scorn of atheists on themselves with their bigotry and literalism, the atheists invite the same disdain with their rigid rationalism, their forthright scientism, and the way they dismiss subjective experience as delusion. They don’t appear to have done any significant study into theology or philosophy, and dismiss anything that isn’t cold, hard science as numbnuttery. For people who (rightly) accuse fundies of worshipping a monstrous God, nonbelievers are sort of obliged to show a little humanity themselves.

    • YesDavisIsMyFirstName

      As an atheist, I don’t believe we dismiss subjective experience at all, rather I would say we only dismiss any and all truth claims based on those subjective experiences. If you say “the religious experience… remains an entirely subjective experience. As such its essence cannot be captured, communicated, delineated, or explicated. It is not transferrable.” Stop trying to explain, delineate, communicate or transfer it!

      But if you do try to explain your particular experience and attribute it to the supernatural, we will question every nagging detail of it and if after we provide a more reasonable explanation for your experience you still insist that it is not of this world, the word delusion will get probably get thrown around. I personally don’t mean it as an insult, and rather dislike the term altogether, but it just happens to be the most accurate word to describe a stubborn adherence to a belief in spite of better evidence.

      • Anton

        Davis, you’ve been knocking low-hanging fruit off the digital tree for so long you’ve developed a set of assumptions that aren’t doing you any good here.

        I subscribe to the philosophy that we live in an absurd universe, and we use a lot of symbolic constructs to try to make sense of it. Empirical inquiry and religious belief are very different matters, but they’re both ways we keep absurdity at bay.

        We get some of our beliefs from personal revelation and others because we affirm the validity of a method of inquiry, but we can’t have certainty about any of them. We’re talking about symbols here, the way humans ascribe meaning to phenomena. I don’t think our beliefs should conflict with our knowledge of the universe, but I think we should be honest about the precarious nature of what we say we know about ourselves and the human experience.

        • Matthew Alton

          May I ask if you believe in the divinity of Christ? In my humble way I can only conceive of a single objective universe in which the proposition “Christ is the son of God” is either representative of reality or it is not. By your lights, sir, which is it?

          • Anton

            Matthew, I believe the “divinity of Christ” business is a symbolic matter, not a scientific one. Can you judge a symbol true or false?

            Do you believe that “every good boy deserves favor”? Where’s the evidence for that? How dare that piano tutor teach my kids such antiscientific rot?

          • Matthew Alton

            But what do my personal beliefs have to do with objective reality? Also, the notion that both religion and science are equivalent “symbolic systems” of some sort simply begs the question. If your position is that there is no objective reality then we may conclude our discussion by agreeing to disagree. Such a universe may not be absurd but it is certainly incomprehensible to me. If, however, we are adhering to the notion that there is a single objective reality then one of us is more in accord with reality than the other and our respective proximity to the truth of the matter can be discerned with enough effort. I mean by objective reality something akin to Wittgenstein’s “all that which is the case.” This is the universe of real hammers that cause real pain when dropped on real toes. Symbols and systems have a tendency to fly from the mind at such stimulus. Science prevails over religion because it treats of the real world. Religion posits an imaginary realm for which there is no evidence.

            Subjective experience is not the same order of phenomenon as objective consensus. If a person gives equal weight to these two qualitatively distinct things then such a person is in error. How can we possibly learn without constantly checking our subjective impulses against objective fact? Choosing to retain belief in subjective reality even when it is in direct conflict with objective reality is precisely where the religious mind goes astray. Objective reality must trump subjective experience. Enough LSD will convince my that I can fly by leaping from a tall building. The rest of the world will be left to clean up the mess on the street below if I choose to act on my belief.

            I wish your children well in their efforts to learn the piano. The world is always in need of the pacifying and soothing effects of beautiful music. The EGBDF mnemonic will serve them well in this limited context. Outside of the context it has no meaning. Kant’s a priori notion that “objects are extended in space”, however, will serve at all times. These two propositions are hardly comparable. So also with the childish notion of a creator god against the voluminous evidence of science. Surely any effort to place such disparate things on the same level is disingenuous.

            Peace.

          • Anton

            Science prevails over religion because it treats of the real world.

            Well, we don’t know whether there truly is a “real world,” or whether we just have confidence in the models we’ve constructed because they currently resist disconfirmation. Do you have any better way to ascertain “reality”?

            Choosing to retain belief in subjective reality even when it is in direct conflict with objective reality is precisely where the religious mind goes astray.

            I don’t necessarily think we should uphold the primacy of our subjective experience when it conflicts with less subjective modes of inquiry. But neither do I think we should dismiss all subjective experience as numbnuttery just because we think anything that’s not a scientific matter is just fantasy.

          • Matthew Alton

            “Well, we don’t know whether there truly is a ‘real world’”

            Pure sophistry. I was at some pains to define precisely what I meant by “real world” — Wittgenstein, &c. Again, I am concerned with the real world of hammers and toes. The one I presume we both live in. I’m afraid I wearied of pure ontology as a youngster. My younger self would be horrified at the hard headed relentless old realist I am today. Religion makes assertions about the world with hammers and toes in it. Religion teaches people to believe in divine intercession caused by prayer. Religion teaches people to kill those who do not believe the correct childish myths. Religion is a social disease. I was under the impression that you were defending it. I apologize if you were not.

            I do not dismiss subjective experience as “numbnuttery.” I place it within the context of scientific inquiry. The world was once inhabited and ruled by people who waged real war and killed and maimed and starved real people on the basis of what would now be called hallucinations and fevered dreams. The repudiation of such sources of information was true historical progress. Let us have our dreams and our visions and our flashes of insight. These are the stuff we are made of. Let’s not get carried away with the plausible importance of such things. We all have them. Beyond ourselves they mean nothing.

            Peace.

          • Anton

            “Well, we don’t know whether there truly is a ‘real world’”

            Pure sophistry.

            Like I said, Matthew, our views about how reality is are based on knowledge that derives from a method of inquiry. We may believe a hammer has just fallen on our toes because of sense experience, but we can’t claim that kind of certainty about the age of the universe or the development of life on Earth. We have good reason to believe that the Big Bang and evolution by natural selection are valid, but this reasoning is based on only an anecdotal familiarity with the evidence supporting these constructs.

            My younger self would be horrified at the hard headed relentless old realist I am today

            My younger self was a rigid rationalist who would likewise be horrified at the skeptical humanist I am today. I learned that scientism and reductionism are biases that trivialize human experience, and that there are important questions about the human condition that science can’t answer. Science gives us knowledge but no method for interpreting its meaning.

            Religion teaches people to kill those who do not believe the correct childish myths. Religion is a social disease.

            I would never deny that religion has been exploited for slaughter and domination. Religious people are still using religion to excuse divisive rhetoric and bigotry. However, even arch-atheist Sam Harris concedes in the “Experiments in Consciousness” chapter of The End of Faith that subjective experience —particularly the transformative experiences that mystics report— shouldn’t be so easily dismissed. There is a core to religion, apart from the dogma and institutional abuses, that appeals to our search for meaning and purpose in life.

            I do not dismiss subjective experience as “numbnuttery.” I place it within the context of scientific inquiry.

            And this way, you give yourself license to deride and trivialize it while seeming reasonable. Reducing human experience to neurochemical squirts, and explaining everything about human life as the vestiges of our evolutionary heritage, is textbook reductionism. It doesn’t actually tell us what it is to be human, it just uses scientific factoids to try and make us think we’re nothing but meat machines.

            Let us have our dreams and our visions and our flashes of insight. These are the stuff we are made of. Let’s not get carried away with the plausible importance of such things. We all have them. Beyond ourselves they mean nothing.

            Gosh, you’re really seeing reality as it is, um, except for what any of it means.

          • Matthew Alton

            Absolute epistemological certainty is impossible. This is trivially true. That we are constrained to deal in degrees of certainty is a fundamental precept of the scientific method. I, for one, have despaired of ever knowing anything. Encouragingly, the view from total ignorance is breathtaking.

            I may have given myself license to deride subjective experience but I can’t see where I’ve actually done it. If you would give an example I will examine it.

            As for meaning, I am a stock existentialist. The universe has no meaning independent of conscious entities like us. We are the sole creators and custodians of meaning. Meaning is itself purely subjective. I think we may be in agreement on this point.

            It is most interesting that we seem to be meeting each other on the road between realism and subjectivism, travelling in opposite directions. Bertrand Russell was a logician turned mystic. You’re in very good company.

            Perhaps I could understand your emphasis on subjective experience if you would give an example of how it should be employed as opposed to how it is employed or considered at present. I consider it critical to the advancement of humanity in general and science in particular. Flashes of insight are subjective and mysterious. They are not arrived at by degrees. They cannot be generated intentionally. They are the moments that I live for. Conveying the knowledge obtained by these flashes to others is the dull work of objectivity. Maybe we agree here too?

            Peace.

          • Anton

            As for meaning, I am a stock existentialist. The universe has no meaning independent of conscious entities like us. We are the sole creators and custodians of meaning. Meaning is itself purely subjective. I think we may be in agreement on this point.

            I suppose we are. I consider myself a Christian existentialist. However, I can’t help but wonder how existentialism jibes with the stale rationalism you otherwise affirm. I thought most existentialist thinkers defined our scientific knowledge as a mere subset of what we can consider true about the universe. We pretend we’re understanding “objective reality” just by forming testable models to represent it. It’s analogous to the religious concept of understanding transcendent reality through forming a symbology that objectifies it. In either case, we’re mistaking the map for the terrain.

            Thanks for clarifying what you mean about subjective experience. That’s something that deflated the scientism that once fascinated me. Human consciousness and subjective experience aren’t any less real just because empirical inquiry has had a difficult time modeling and studying them. The brain-as-biological-computer metaphor has really outlived its usefulness, and for a humanist like me, such mechanistic definitions of humanity only trivialize our potential.

          • lrfcowper

            “Religion posits an imaginary realm for which there is no evidence.”

            See, I would argue that religion posits an extradimensional reality with which we, with our space-time limitations, cannot properly interact or investigate.

            Picture a two-dimensional world full of two-dimensional beings that you, a three-dimensional being can observe and even interact with. Now, you can place your hand incredibly close to the surface of this world without being perceived. You can quite literally be closer to that little 2D being than any other 2D being in his existence and still remain unperceived. Does the fact that he cannot use his 2D science to study you mean you do not exist? If you were to somehow insert yourself into his plane of existence, you could do scientifically impossible things– be in two places at once, suddenly vanish, know what is happening elsewhere, etc. If an eyewitness to your insertion into 2D space were to claim you did these things, it is an obvious irrational claim that could logically be rejected by any 2D scientist in his world. Would that make them right?

            If a prime cause for the universe exists, because space and time came into existence simultaneously at the Big Bang, we know that prime cause would have to exist beyond the limitations of our four dimensions of space and time. The prime cause of the universe could be an electron’s breadth away from you and you could not perceive it. If it were to somehow enter into or interfere with our limited dimensions, it could do impossible, illogical, paradoxical things.

            To hold that the prime cause exists, is intelligent, entered our reality, and is recorded in eyewitness accounts in some religious writ, as best as the limits of human language and perception and the ravages of time and translation can allow, is an act of paradox– it is to accept that there is no logical, scientific way to know whether a transcendent prime cause exists, but to accept its existence anyway.

            It may be less paradoxical to argue that no prime cause exists, that the universe came into being with a first effect with no preceding extradimensional cause. I don’t know. I don’t choose to live in that worldview.

          • Matthew Alton

            “Picture a two-dimensional world full of two-dimensional beings that you, a three-dimensional being can observe and even interact with. ”

            Abbott’s Flatland. Lovely work. I once wrote a computer program that allowed users to manipulate a tesseract. The screen was actually a two dimensional shadow of a three dimensional shadow of a four dimensional object. I have also done tensor calculus problems and worked with Hilbert spaces in linear algebra classes. Higher dimensions. Got it. Okay, I’m picturing…

            “Does the fact that he cannot use his 2D science to study you mean you do not exist?”

            My 3D science cannot study unicorns and Flying Spaghetti Monsters. Does that mean that they do exist? Fallacy of the undistributed middle term.

            “If a prime cause for the universe exists, because space and time came into existence simultaneously at the Big Bang, we know that prime cause would have to exist beyond the limitations of our four dimensions of space and time.”

            Read Victor Stenger for a thorough debunking of this error in reasoning. He is a theoretical physicist. He understands the Standard Model.

            “To hold that the prime cause exists, is intelligent, entered our reality, and is recorded in eyewitness accounts in some religious writ… …is to accept that there is no logical, scientific way to know whether a transcendent prime cause exists, but to accept its existence anyway”

            These two things are anything but logically equivalent. I can rationally suppose that there is no comprehensible deterministic explanation for the events of the first moment of the universe without then concluding that an intelligent higher-dimensional being wished my 4D reality into existence. I prefer to simply admit that I do not know the answer to the problem. I’m okay with that. Your argument amounts to conflation, obfuscation, and non sequiturs.

            “I don’t choose to live in that worldview.”

            Do you care whether you’re right? Or are you more concerned with being comfortable with your worldview? On what basis other than rationality do you choose your worldview? Science is about fighting the tremendous human propensity for self-delusion. The science that you’re attempting to use to bolster your utterly unwarranted hypothesis was discovered by people who respect the facts as they arrive. If the facts disprove your hypothesis, then either your hypothesis must change to meet the new facts or the people who are still humbly looking for the real answers by valid means will ignore you.

            I’ve seen this convenient rapid shifting from pseudo-science to wishful thinking many times in the religious. Why bother postulating a higher-dimensional being? Precisely to create a gap for gods to inhabit. Rudimentary error.

            Peace.

          • lrfcowper

            I believe you have entirely misapprehended my intent. I am not attempting to logically prove the existence of God, but am in fact commenting on the paradoxical nature of faith. My thesis was NOT:
            - The prime cause is extradimensional.
            - God is extradimensional.
            - Therefore, God is the prime cause.

            It is instead:
            - The prime cause is extradimensional.
            - Extradimensional phenomena by their nature are outside the direct reach of scientific investigation.
            - God is posited to be the prime cause.
            - Therefore, anyone who chooses to believe in his existence has placed themselves in the paradoxical situation of believing in a thing which science itself says is outside the direct investigative ability of science.
            - Further conclusions, the intellectual calibre or delusional tendencies of a believer or non-believer cannot be discerned by the status of their belief or non-belief, but must be discerned through respectful, honest, and non-combative interaction with said person.

            As for your rather dismissive question as to the existence of the unicorn and the FSM, I was unaware that anyone had seriously posited their existence as the extradimensional prime cause of the universe.

            As for the question as to whether I care whether I am right, I would much rather be a loving positive force in people’s lives than be factually correct, but I would prefer to be both. I find the notion that the universe is logically consistent, humanly comprehensible and consequential to enhance my appreciation for the work of science to beat back the darkness of human ignorance and delusion. I appreciate knowing that there are rational laws, and that when apparently irrational things occur, that is an opportunity to fine-tune our understanding of the universe. My assumption that an intelligence is behind the universal laws and constants gives me a confident expectation that the universe will continue to be rational and comprehensible, that tomorrow the law of gravity will not fail, that time will not reverse itself, that I will not suddenly burst into flames in the middle of my living room far from an ignition source. I fully understand and appreciate that there are other worldviews that also account for a rational, comprehensible, consequential universe, and I would never suggest those other approaches are somehow less logical or internally consistent than my own, but I do find mine to be sufficiently internally consistent for my needs.

            Since the outcome of my worldview is to adopt the message of Jesus Christ to love others as I love myself, to do unto others as I would have done to me, to see to the needs of the oppressed and downtrodden, and to seek equality for all, regardless of race, religion, class, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other classification, if I am wrong, then I will have been wrong in the best way possible, by being more loving, giving, and gracious than I needed to be.

            And, ultimately, I’m okay with that.

          • Matthew Alton

            I firmly believe that we can and should be good to one another. Altruism promotes synergy and I want to live in a civilized society full of cooperation and sympathy and mercy. I believe that altruism is the way to go based exclusively on the merits of the argument. I have no need of myths and threats of eternal damnation. I choose altruism on a rational basis. Jesus did not invent it. The golden rule was originally (and more correctly and sensibly) formulated in the negative in the Talmud a thousand years earlier — Those things which are hateful to you, do them not unto others.

            Christopher Hitchens used to ask for one example of a good deed that a religious believer could do that an atheist could not. Give one example of a good deed that you can do, by virtue of your faith, that I cannot do due to my utter lack of faith. Anything? Anything at all?

            I am foursquare behind your dedication to universal cooperation, altruism, and neighbor loving. I am probably a better Christian in practice than most professed Christians are. I just don’t believe in things that are obviously made up. Snakes and donkeys do not talk. A king named Herod never ordered the deaths of all the male babies. No ark. No virgin birth. No resurrection. This drivel weakens the very important message of altruism by polluting it with obsolete nonsense. Let’s just be good for goodness’ sake. Hell, Santa is a better moral guide than Jesus for my money.

            You have frankly admitted that you believe in gods because it makes you feel safer in an otherwise chaotic universe. You have admitted that finding scientific truth is not your top priority. You assume that gods are somehow logically necessary to your virtues. They aren’t Gods do not exist. Your goodness and your evil are your own. Own them.

            Peace.

          • Matthew Alton

            “As for your rather dismissive question as to the existence of the unicorn and the FSM, I was unaware that anyone had seriously posited their existence as the extradimensional prime cause of the universe.”

            The relevant point is that unicorns, the FSM, and God do not exist. They are precisely the same in that they do not exist. They are figments of the human imagination. Claims made about their respective metaphysical natures and magical powers are completely beside the point.

          • Matthew Alton

            “- The prime cause is extradimensional.”
            A pure assumption. I have already cited Stenger as a legitimate authority on the subject. Read God: The Failed Hypothesis” and speak to his refutation. If you choose to pretend that your gods are extradimensional, um, okay. Please don’t pretend that this is in any way indicated by modern cosmology. The uninitiated are confused enough already.

            “- Extradimensional phenomena by their nature are outside the direct reach of scientific investigation.”

            Really? But they can, when it’s convenient, influence matter, space, time, and energy? That makes them testable. Formal studies of interventionist prayer, for example, indicate that it has no effect on the real world. You want to make sure your pet myths are science-proof but that they have a real effect in the real world when you need them to. It’s all or nothing.

            “- God is posited to be the prime cause.”

            Why? Because it makes you feel good to do so, right? Your god’s name is Yahweh. He was the war deity of an iron age tribe. Yahweh is a mysogynistic, genocidal, egomaniacal psychopath. I like to posit the FSM. He is delicious and really cool. Thinking about the FSM makes me feel better than thinking about Yahweh. Yeah, the super duper extradimensional being is definitely made of pasta. I say we kill all the unbelievers!

            “- Therefore, anyone who chooses to believe in his existence has placed themselves in the paradoxical situation of believing in a thing which science itself says is outside the direct investigative ability of science.”

            We cannot choose to believe anything. I can’t decide to believe in gods or garden fairies and then just believe in them like I believe in turnips and wing nuts. I can really really want to believe in gods. I can really truly believe that believing in gods would be a good thing if I could just pull it off somehow. But I can’t possibly actually believe in gods. They are not plausible. There is no evidence for their existence.

            “- Further conclusions, the intellectual calibre or delusional tendencies of a believer or non-believer cannot be discerned by the status of their belief or non-belief, but must be discerned through respectful, honest, and non-combative interaction with said person.”

            Faith is bad. Belief in things not in evidence is foolish and dishonest. Read Sam Harris and speak to his arguments. Then we will be having a substantive conversation.

            Peace.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            And you know for a fact that there is no prime cause?

            Impressive!

            If this is not what you said, and you do actually believe that there is a prime cause, then who is being dishonest?

            However…I suppose that you will say, that since you don’t know for sure if there is a prime cause, then a prime cause does not exist.

            This of course is not as impressive as knowing for a fact that there is no prime cause.

            So why all the attitude?

          • Matthew Alton

            “And you know for a fact that there is no prime cause?”

            No. I make no such claim.

            “If this is not what you said, and you do actually believe that there is a prime cause, then who is being dishonest?”

            I allow for the possibility of a causal event which somehow precipitated the Big Bang. As I have been at some pains to point out, modern cosmology would consider such an event nonsensical precisely because the notion of causality implies the presence of time. In order for an event to have caused another event, the causal event must have preceded its effect IN TIME. But there is no “before the BIg Bang” in the Standard Model. Time itself is posited in the theory to have started with the Big Bang.

            So in order to provide a “cause” for the Big Bang we would have to revise the tenets of the theory in a drastic way. My point was that modern cosmology in no way implies a god. We can wave our metaphysical wand and speak vacuously of a magical being who exists outside of space and time but this would be to indulge in wishful thinking. This would be as dramatic a departure from rationality as we could possibly make.

            “However…I suppose that you will say, that since you don’t know for sure if there is a prime cause, then a prime cause does not exist.”

            Why would anyone suppose that I would utter such blather? I don’t know if there is any meaning to the notion of a prime cause. There may very well be a prime cause of some strange nature. There may not. I have no idea. And neither do you. I do not pretend to know anything with absolute certainty. Such asinine claims are the purview of the religious.

            If there was a prime cause, was it the effect of an act of consciousness? Couldn’t a potential prime cause be just another insensate event of nature? That would be much simpler. To jump straight to a magical sky friend is, again, simply wishful thinking. The religious mind, it would seem, simply cannot comprehend what is meant by the term “unwarranted hypothesis.” Rational people do not claim to have disproved the existence of the unreal. We bear no burden of disproof. You are making claims not in evidence. Is there a prime cause? Yes? Prove it.

            To pretend that cosmology somehow bolsters the belief in gods is completely dishonest. To ignore the findings of science when they disprove your claims and then to try to pervert the findings of science to the service of your delusions is patently hypocritical.

            For the record, I’m not trying in this forum to convert the true believers. One might as well read Plato to a watermelon. Frankly, I doubt whether deeply religious people can understand properly what I’m saying. I have no evidence that I’m being comprehended here. Religiosity has been demonstrated to vary inversely with native intelligence. I’m leaving a record for the rational people among the undecided.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Bravo! A joy to read.

            It will of course not be acknowledged by Mr. Alton. He hasn’t acknowledged any of the fine articulation he himself has invoked.

            It may be that his unicorn fixation has gotten the better of him. But who am I to say?

          • lrfcowper

            Also, “Science prevails over religion because it treats of the real world,” is sort of a circular argument, isn’t it? I mean, science, by definition, deals with phenomena that can be observed, modeled, and tested. The unspoken assumption of your statement is that what deals with phenomena that can be observed, modeled, and tested is superior to that which deals with other things, therefore, science is superior. It would be like me arguing that the kitchen is superior to the living room because it treats with the preparation of delicious food. But that is only so if your objective is the acquisition of delicious food. If your objective is the enjoyment of the latest episode of Psych with your family, the kitchen loses its superiority. The only thing a statement like “This thing which deals with these concerns is superior to this other thing which deals with different concerns,” accomplishes is exposing your preferences and biases.

          • Matthew Alton

            The argument is non-circular precisely because there is nothing outside the real world in evidence. To insist on the existence of an utterly unobservable realm which, were it to be perceivable, would somehow magically prove your argument is the very epitome of begging the question. I’ll put it more prosaically. Science deals with all that is known to exist. Religion deals with myth and delusion. I conclude that science is superior, full stop.

            Get yourself a nasty case of cancer. Watch yourself go straight to medical science for a cure. The priest might comfort you by ladling on the drivel, but the surgeon and the radiologist will make you well again. Therefore they are superior to the priest. The priest will take credit for everything by claiming that God acted through the practitioners. This is a hideous lie. The practitioners cure atheists all the time. Religion is merely failed science. Real science succeeds.

            Peace.

          • lrfcowper

            That the extradimensional realm cannot be tested by science does not imply that there is no basis for belief beyond delusion. That’s like saying that if a body has been prematurely cremated such that it cannot be tested for the presence of poison that it is irrational and delusional to believe the person was murdered.

            I’ve got a dear aunt dying of a nasty case of cancer, so thanks for bringing that up. The doctor has given her six months to live. None of the treatments are working anymore. Yet, he calls her his miracle patient, because he figured she had six months to live about ten years ago. Science has been wonderful to her, has given her ten years she would not have had, but it has not done so on its own. Ask any oncologist and they will tell you that there’s an inner strength, a will to live, a vigor drawn from the support of family and friends and the community that is as determinative of survival as the course of treatment. She’s still fighting, but not to live. Now she’s fighting to set her affairs in order. Her husband my uncle is suffering from dementia. He can’t handle the household finances, shopping, taxes. He sometimes gets lost going places he’s been to hundreds of times. He gets angry and frustrated with himself. She knows she’s leaving him, and so she’s gathering her strength to make sure he’s okay when she’s gone. Her strength is an ineffable quality. Her calm in the face of death is completely irrational. Her love for my uncle is immeasurable. But just because I can’t put those things under a microscope doesn’t mean I’m delusional to posit they exist.

            Also, I’m not sure you understand Christian thinking regarding healing if you think belief in God is required to get well. That’s sort of like assuming your car won’t start if you deny the existence of Henry Ford.

          • Matthew Alton

            “That the extradimensional realm cannot be tested by science does not imply that there is no basis for belief beyond delusion. That’s like saying that if a body has been prematurely cremated such that it cannot be tested for the presence of poison that it is irrational and delusional to believe the person was murdered.”

            Well, let’s see. This body was the remains of a documented, witnessed, actual person, right? With dental records and a birth certificate, maybe some grieving friends and family, right? There is no question that there was a person to begin with, correct? We can actually check cremains for evidence of poison — flame test, mass spectrometry… But let’s assume that the ashes are dispersed at sea. No physical evidence. I am, we agree, fully capable of conjecturing that the decedent was murdered.

            Trouble is, your burden in this argument is called an existence proof. To correct your analogy let’s assume that you are arrested for the murder of a person who has no birth certificate, no dental records, school registrations, friends, family, absolutely no evidence that he ever existed at all. Some people claim that he existed because thinking about him makes them feel good. None of them claim to have met him personally. They know he existed because a very popular book says so. Oh, and he speaks to them “in their hearts” sometimes. Your lawyer would quickly be citing a thing called habeas corpus. To wit: prove that there was a body in the first place. I am guessing that your defense strategy would make perfect sense to you at that point.

            Axiomatically assuming the existence of the very thing you’re trying to prove exists is called “begging the question” It is a form of circular reasoning.

            Peace.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Science deals with all that is known to exist. Religion deals with myth and delusion. I conclude that science is superior, full stop.

            This statement was made by a fool not a scientist.

        • YesDavisIsMyFirstName

          Can you articulate for me what those assumptions might be? I’m very open to correcting something where I misspoke.
          And I may just need to be more specific.
          Also can you clarify “We get some of our beliefs from personal revelation”? Are you referring so simple inspiration or something akin to supernatural revelation.

          • Anton

            Can you articulate for me what those assumptions might be? I’m very open to correcting something where I misspoke.

            Well, you said, “you say…” and then put a lot of verbiage in quotation marks that I neither said nor believe. Then you talked about the way I attribute my experience to the supernatural, even though I’ve never said anything about the supernatural. I’m fine with your criticizing people who do and say such things. It’s just that I’d rather be taken to task for things I’ve actually said.

            Also can you clarify “We get some of our beliefs from personal revelation”? Are you referring so simple inspiration or something akin to supernatural revelation.

            I don’t believe in supernatural revelation, so I guess I’d say that people believe certain things because of some intuitive reasoning. This goes for believers and nonbelievers alike: the way we interpret feelings or events isn’t based upon deductive syllogisms. Whether we feel that events validate our belief in intent and agency, or whether we feel that they reinforce our belief in randomness and the mechanistic workings of the universe, that’s something that derives from our beliefs, and not the other way around.

          • YesDavisIsMyFirstName

            I Apologize, I should have separated the comments, The text I quoted came from the blog post above :/

    • redscream5

      “They don’t appear to have done any significant study into theology or philosophy”

      Speak for yourself… there are many of us that have attended Seminary before choosing atheism. As for the claim that the average atheist is less versed in philosophy than the average theist… I can only shake my head and chuckle. You know not of what you speak. All we have is philosophy.

      • Anton

        As for the claim that the average atheist is less versed in philosophy than the average theist… I can only shake my head and chuckle. You know not of what you speak.

        That’s not exactly what I said. I would never say that the average believer is well versed in theology or philosophy either. I’ve had discussions with very intelligent nonbelievers, but they seem stuck in their Junior Scientist smocks, demanding we show empirical proof of matters that aren’t scientific. If someone doesn’t realize that evidence and facts are only valid in a certain context, then they’re not very philosophically sophisticated.

        And faith versus reason is another of the online-slapfight oversimplifications that I wish wasn’t so prevalent. I understand that a lot of believers online are pretty simple souls, and they may be overstepping their bounds by getting into scientific subjects they don’t understand (I personally have no problem with the unguided species evolution model Dennett affirms). But the notion that religious belief survives simply because people are willfully deluding themselves is an incoherent conspiracy theory that ranks up there with the 9/11 Inside Job.

        • adam

          But the notion that religious belief survives simply because people are willfully deluding themselves is an incoherent conspiracy theory that ranks up there with the 9/11 Inside Job.
          Not at all, politics are very powerful and when you start indoctrinating people as soon as they are born, it becomes easier to create a following.
          Play on fear and easier still.
          Fear is perhaps the most powerful motivating force.
          And not just fear of death, but fear of dying.
          Convince people what the ‘spirit world’ will torture them forever if they don’t play along, and then bear that out with a history of real murdering and torturing the ‘heretics’ by the representatives and it becomes even easier.
          Try and elect a President of the United States who will not say that they are a ‘believer’.
          Propaganda is used because it is so effective.
          Religion is a political tool.

    • R Vogel

      Have you read any of Karen Armstrong’s works? [History of G*d, Battle for G*d, Case for G*d] This sounds similar to her discussion of mythos and logos as alternate way of knowing, and how the victory of logos in the west ha led to both New Atheism and Religious Fundamentalism (flip sides of the same coin).

  • Geoff Templer

    It would me a mistake to believe that because atheists don’t follow a religion, or believe that any gods exist (to the point of believing that gods don’t exist) they can’t experience spirituality; that overwhelming sense of awe at something which is so difficult to communicate. Some of us stare up at the night sky, enraptured with the innumerable points of light of far-off suns and galaxies, some of us find it in the intricacies of mathematical equations, and some of us find it in humanity as we see people dedicate their lives to the betterment of others in entirely observable ways, such as by developing medical techniques, or expressing an idea through a medium such as music. The perspective that all that all that exists is a happy coincidence rather than a carefully considered set of actions and consequences doesn’t take away from the way we feel about what we perceive.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      I don’t think anyone would (and certainly I have not) suggest that atheists are incapable of … being enraptured.

      • adam

        Of course atheist have the same brain structure and chemistry.

        There are a number of things associated with the ‘shamanic’ or mystic experience, like a sense of awe or connectiveness that can be induced a number of ways.

        The traditional ones like meditation, controlled breathing, fasting and stress can induce this experience. It is also very easily obtained by chemicals such as DMT.

        Of course ‘smaller’ versions of this happen all the time, when sensing the ‘awe’ of the universe, life and life changing moments.

        The difference is whether it is INTERPRETED through the lens of the modern sciences of chemistry, anatomy and psychology or thru the lens of some (typically ancient) culture and symbology as whether the experiencer finds themselves at the center of their experience or some outside entity at the center of their experience.

        If the god experience was objective and universal, one would expect all who have it would experience the same ‘god’.

        The reality is that each experience it according to their ‘culture’, i.e. Christians see Jesus, Catholics see Jesus and Mary, Hindus see Shiva, Native Americans see Native American gods and scientists see science. It is all Self-Projection, as it comes through our minds it can be nothing else.

        The real question is which one BESTS reflects the reality that we ALL share.

        • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

          The main difference I see between a believer and a non-believer (in most instances but not all) is this:

          A believer looks at the stars and answers a mystery with another mystery.

          A non-believer looks at the stars and searchs for an answer to the mystery without resorting to other mysteries.

          One can look at the universe in all its magnificent, terrible grandeur and feel awe without ascribing supernatural or metaphysical properties to it. It simply means accepting reality on its terms rather than imposing our wishes on reality.

          • lrfcowper

            Can not one look at the stars and both appreciate the knowledge they have provided us, seek answers to the questions that remain, AND stand in awe of their mystery? Why assume that the believer never seeks out facts or that the nonbeliever is incapable of appreciating the mystery as much as the facts. I can look at the stars and shiver at the thought that I am looking back in time and still contemplate on the mind that formed them. They are not exclusive experiences.

          • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

            “I am looking back in time and still contemplate on the mind that formed them.”

            This statement more than anything exemplifies the difference between a believer and a non-believer. The assumption has already been made before the search begins that there is an intelligence behind all of this.

            My assumption about believers not seeking out answers comes from numerous encounters over the years with believers who are simply comfortable remaining ignorant behind the mystery “God Did It”, which has zero explantory power.

            One can stand and admire the mysteries of the universe without resorting to the nebulous, unfalsifible notion of a deity, especially considering the teeming mass of deities attributed to have created the universe.

          • Anton

            One can stand and admire the mysteries of the universe without resorting to the nebulous, unfalsifible notion of a deity

            Sure you can. And you can trivialize human experience without invoking a Big Magic Guy to make us feel powerless and guilty too.

            According to scientific research, after all, humanity is only a trivial accident among the rest in the development of life on this podunk planet. We are what we are because of our evolutionary heritage. Even the awe we feel in contemplating the mysteries of the universe is just the result of neurochemistry.

            The realist in me is all for coming to terms with what empirical inquiry tells us about where humanity came from. But the humanist in me believes that our lives mean something, and that humans have done their most extraordinary things when they have believed that.

          • adam

            Of course, our lives mean something when we or our culture apply meaning to them.

            If you are implying that meaning comes from outside our own creation, then where does that meaning come from?

          • Steve Greene

            If the universe is “pitilessly indifferent” to human lives, then the lives of humans are meaningless to humans. If our thoughts, emotions, and feelings are the products of neurochemistry, then they are meaningless. <– This is a good example of the non sequiturs typical of religious rhetoric.

          • adam

            It is magnificent.
            And made even more so by knowing more about it.

    • redscream5

      I’ve no idea why you would want to attach the term “spiritual” to something that has nothing to do with spirits.

  • VorJack

    Every time I see that second picture I think of the opening verse of DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak”

    “I saw a man with tat on his big fat belly
    It wriggled around like marmalade jelly
    It took me a while to catch what it said
    Cause I had to match the rhythm
    Of his belly with my head
    ‘Jesus Saves’ is what it raved in a typical tattoo green
    He stood on a box in the middle of the city
    And claimed he had a dream”

    I’ve had that song stuck in my head all morning thanks to you. There will be a reckoning for this, Shore.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Har! So my mission is accomplished.

      bwahahahahahahahahahaha!

  • Matthew Alton

    As a person with Asperger’s syndrome raised in an intensely religious and conservative family I have tried for decades to make sense of Christian apologetics. I can give a long list of material I found helpful in coming to my conclusions if anyone wishes.

    At the very heart of the matter is the psychological predisposition of religious people to grant supreme authority to emotions. The religious mind defers to its own emotional responses in all matters. This is usually combined with a marked lack of curiosity about the world. Argue evolution with a staunch creationist and you will find that your counterpoint invariably amounts to “I hate evolution because I find the proposition of being in any way related to lower life forms insulting and infuriating.” Further discussion will always indicate in your opponent a complete ignorance of biology in general, and evolution theory in particular. Any suggestion you provide to alleviate this grave shortcoming will be stridently refused on the grounds that any reading of secular science materials would pollute the creationist’s mind in some fashion, or, in the alternative, make him angry. It will not matter to your opponent that one must have a grasp of the facts of a subject in order to form any opinion on it whatever. Such people are, for all practical purposes, completely ignorant and quite determined to remain so.

    Occasionally, one encounters a more sophisticated Christian. Mr. Shore would appear to belong to this category. I believe that the predisposition to religious modes of behavior is genetically determined. When this genetic component is present in combination with native intelligence and affability we invariably encounter the psychological mechanism of compartmentalization at work. The mind simply segregates propositions into compartments. There is no communication between the compartments at all. Thus scientific propositions are subject to investigation and refutation where religious propositions are simply accepted without question. This is what I expect, with reason, to find as I investigate Mr. Shore’s argument. His presentation will, I anticipate, be more subtle than the norm. His arguments will be more nuanced. But the argumentative fallacies will be quite familiar. I will read his book and find out.

    Peace.

    • Anton

      At the very heart of the matter is the psychological predisposition of
      religious people to grant supreme authority to emotions. The religious
      mind defers to its own emotional responses in all matters. This is
      usually combined with a marked lack of curiosity about the world.

      Okay, but there’s the opposite problem among nonbelievers who try to frame every question as a scientific problem. This kind of atheist defers to the scientific method in all matters. This is usually combined with a marked lack of empathy and a rigid refusal to consider the symbolic meaning of religious language.

      • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

        Considering that religious speakers often cannot decide what is considering symbolic and what is considered literal, you have to give atheists a break for sticking to one definitive track, especially one with a history of providing accurate information.

        • Anton

          Actually, the scientific method has historically only provided less inaccurate information. If we’re under the impression that our descendents won’t pity our ignorance the same way we pity that of our ancestors, perhaps we’re not being honest with ourselves.

          And I wasn’t criticizing the scientific method, I was just questioning whether it’s being improperly applied to matters that aren’t scientific in the first place. After all, just because a hammer is a handy tool doesn’t mean every problem is a nail. I’m sorry to have suggested that maybe science isn’t the final arbiter of all questions forever, as the dogma currently decrees.

          • Matthew Alton

            “Actually, the scientific method has historically only provided less inaccurate information. If we’re under the impression that our descendents won’t pity our ignorance the same way we pity that of our ancestors, perhaps we’re not being honest with ourselves.”

            Scientific progress is asymptotic. Science cannot prove, only disprove. Sufficiently removed in time the worldview of any age appears preposterous. Kind of like the 2000-year old middle-eastern one that, for some bizarre reason, persists in an age where people really should be beyond believing in the war god Yahweh and his magical boat full of animals.

            I will bet you that 2000 years hence we will not have disproved evolution or relativity or quantum mechanics. If we manage to proceed contiguously on our current technological path (an eventuality constantly imperiled by the religious) we will have improved upon our current theories. As with relativity and Newtonian mechanics, better theories may subsume and extend our current models but I am confident that the Standard Model will not be shown to be incorrect, only incomplete. We are perpetually refining our knowledge but do you honestly think we will wholly reject any of our current basic tenets completely?

            The argument (and it is quite ancient) runs something like, “See, our current understanding of the world will eventually be viewed as innocent childish nonsense, therefore Jesus!”

            The flat-earth iron age “understanding” of reality has not been refined, it has been refuted. Epileptic fits are not caused by demon possession. They just aren’t. Hallucinations and fever dreams are not divine revelations. They’re just not. The human sensorium can be caused to malfunction in the lab. An afternoon of LSD and strobe lights will illustrate my point, and in wonderfully subjective fashion! You will be the only one communing with God, but science will have predicted it would happen.

            Will it really turn out 2000 years hence that there is no cause and effect between the brain and the mind? My neurologist friend would like to hear all about it.

            Peace.

          • Anton

            Epileptic fits are not caused by demon possession. They just aren’t.

            Did you go off your meds or something? The obvious has just taken out a restraining order against you for belaboring it all fucking day.

          • Matthew Alton

            Sorry, old chap. You’re quite right. I am persistent to a fault. We’ll leave it here, eh?

            Peace.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            In earlier comments you relegated “compartmentalization” to the realm of the religious.

            but….

            As regards the full spectrum of human “sensorium”; what is empiricism if not extreme compartmentalization?

            example…

            Matthew Alton – Scientific progress is asymptotic. Science cannot prove, only disprove.

            And yet, no contemplation of God can avoid an encounter with infinitude. The “ineffable”.

            Do you expect that science will disprove infinity?

            As regards “prayer” and “cause and effect”; one must first explain self awareness in relation to infinity.

            No matter what stages of flat-worldian speculation humans have passed through, in either realm, theological or empirical, absolute reality is unchanged.

            The “first 10^-29 seconds of time” remains with us as the singularity of Now.

            And before that, the Void of undifferentiated potentiality. Still present as the Entirety. Infinite. Ineffable.

            Paradox.

            The maturing of both, theology and science, leads to this. Both in understanding and experience.

            The foundation of both, understanding and experience, is self awareness. The foundation of self awareness is infinite potentiality. Awareness. The emergent characteristic of infinitude.

            The sum of the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

            This is God.

            Who is Man?

          • Matthew Alton

            “As regards the full spectrum of human “sensorium”; what is empiricism if not extreme compartmentalization?”

            The empirical discipline subjects all truth propositions to the same scrutiny and mode of analysis. Empiricism recognizes no special categories of knowledge which are exempt from the scientific method. This method is a concerted effort to mitigate the vast human capacity for self delusion. Compartmentalization is a systemic error in reasoning. It amounts to the irrational practice of psychologically segregating one’s reasonably held beliefs from one’s articles of faith, i.e., from one’s irrational beliefs. The irrational beliefs are thus protected from logic, reason, and the attendant disproof. A skeptical mind following the tenets of empiricism cannot be said to compartmentalize religious assertions or any others for that matter. We simply state that, insofar as religious assertions are testable, they have proven to be false. Insofar as they are not testable they lie outside the scope of our method. They are in the realm of unicorns and garden fairies. They are claims without evidence. Conveniently unfalsifiable propositions amounting to unwarranted hypotheses.

            “And yet no contemplation of God can avoid an encounter with infinitude. The ‘ineffable’.”

            Unless, of course, your god simply does not exist. In this case any contemplation of an omniscient, omnipotent, being of pure goodness reduces to a purely academic exercise in generating precisely the species of paradoxes that we have before us. My system of inquiry does not lead to paradox. Therefore it is, while not necessarily true, also not necessarily false. The nature Christian god, at least as I was introduced to it, leads directly to paradox. Therefore it is necessarily false. See Wikipedia “The Problem of Evil.”

            Incidentally, there is a body of work in modern theology based upon the highly controversial notion of a finite god. Certain theologians would appear to have no trouble contemplating their deity without reference to infinity. This does tend to eliminate some very thorny problems. Your god may simply be too weak to eliminate evil, for instance. That would at least lend some plausibility to the claim that he requires our help and money.

            “Do you expect that science will disprove infinity?”

            No. Infinity is a purely mathematical construct. Its utility lies in the summation of convergent series. Infinity is probably the least well understood concept in modern scientific thought, much overblown by the uninitiated. Before I am obliged to associate infinity with a supreme being, I must be obliged to admit that the being exists. Such a being is not in evidence. I have no good reason to posit a god hypothesis.

            “The ‘first 10^-29 seconds of time’ remains with us as the singularity of Now.”

            What can this possibly mean? The use of the term “singularity” here is apparently not consistent with the cosmological definition. A singularity in the real scientific world is the thing that Stephen Hawking just questioned the existence of last week. He used math to make his case. I understood it. What you are doing is jargonizing and being vague.

            “And before that, the Void of undifferentiated potentiality. Still present as the entirety. Infinite. Ineffable”

            Claimed on the basis of what evidence? There is always so much suspiciously convenient hopping back and forth between pseudo-science and mysticism in these arguments. If you wish to be scientific then you should acknowledge that scientists assert that the notion of a “before” occurring prior to the big bang is meaningless. In the standard model, time itself is postulated to have come into being with the big bang. The “void of undifferentiated potentiality” is, from a scientific standpoint, pure unfounded — and incoherent — conjecture. Unless you have some math…

            “Paradox.”

            Is precisely what is used to disprove hypotheses. One disproves a thesis by demonstrating that it cannot be simultaneously true in the same universe of discourse as a proposition accepted as fact, or as an axiom. This is the definition of paradox. Two statements that cannot both be true. The sole utility of paradox in logical argument lies in its power of disproof. Paradox and mystery are not reasons to believe something. Quite the opposite. They are reasons to disbelieve it.

            At base these debates are always between a person who simply believes in a supreme being without evidence and one who does not. I claim that the sole reason that the belief in a supreme being is held is purely emotional. You believe, or claim to, because it makes you feel good to do so. Many people claim to believe in gods even though they can’t actually manage it in fact. These people believe in believing. They don’t really believe in the archaic nonsense of religion, but they do believe that they should believe it. They are usually indoctrinated to associate doubt with guilt and inadequacy so they make up all sorts of convoluted frameworks to get themselves lost in. This is evil and counterproductive. Doubt is the basis of all knowledge and progress. Faith is the acceptance of unproven propositions. Unproven propositions are unacceptable in a rational world.

          • Anton

            Empiricism recognizes no special categories of knowledge which are exempt from the scientific method.

            No, methodological naturalism declares that it’s irrelevant whether all that exists is empirical or whether the empirical is a mere subset of what exists. The viability of the scientific method is based on this built-in limitation. Anything that’s not empirical, therefore, is indeed exempt from the scientific method.

            Faith is the acceptance of unproven propositions. Unproven propositions are unacceptable in a rational world.

            Unproven and unprovable propositions are everywhere in a rational world. Do you believe you will one day die? Where is your evidence?

            Since we’re talking about emotional attachments to beliefs, I’ll express a hunch that the hyper-rationalism you espouse is just as much an emotional belief as religious belief is. You flatter yourself that you base all your beliefs on hard evidence. You consider yourself superior to people whose beliefs differ from yours. And you pretend you’ve made sense of our absurd human condition by your attachment to a totalizing narrative.

            A faith, in other words.

          • Matthew Alton

            And, being exempt from the scientific method, it cannot be knowledge. I am not speaking of all things but of our knowledge of all things. If a god is in no way falsifiable by me, then for any conceivable purpose it does not exist for me. That which I am ontologically prohibited from experiencing is unreal by definition. I deal in objective reality. I am prepared to provisionally accept authoritative claims of direct or indirect evidence of a god. None are in evidence.

            Extraordinary claims, i.e., the existence of gods, require extraordinary evidence. That which is claimed without evidence may be dismissed without reason.

            Your method admits of facts not in evidence. Mine does not. I am satisfied with the incremental and eternally imperfect world of scientific inquiry. You are not. The disparity may be purely idiosyncratic. At any rate, I respectfully see no way forward.

            I sincerely wish you the very best of fortune in your search. Philosophers make progress too. I am only a scientist.

          • Anton

            I deal in objective reality.

            No you don’t. You deal with empirical models that have been constructed to represent reality. And since you can’t know how accurately your models correspond to reality without a theoretical model of reality, you’re just confident in the consistency and coherence of your approach. You’ve decided that fetishizing things like facts and evidence make you sound grown up.

            Extraordinary claims, i.e., the existence of gods, require extraordinary evidence. That which is claimed without evidence may be dismissed without reason.

            Do you think it makes you sound more open-minded and rational to regurgitate sound bites from your chosen prophets like they’re items of holy dogma?

            Your method admits of facts not in evidence. Mine does not. I am satisfied with the incremental and eternally imperfect world of scientific inquiry. You are not.

            You aren’t privy to any of the facts of empirical evidential inquiry, and raw data requires interpretation to be meaningful anyway. You’re not engaging in rational inquiry, you’re playing a philosophical dress-up game.

          • Matthew Alton

            I’ll tell you what. If you would be kind enough to state your thesis in clear and simple terms, I will give it due consideration. Let’s start from scratch. I am under the impression that this page is concerned with the reasons that atheists win arguments with Christians. If it has become something else I will bow out.

            At any rate, I admit that I am a mere scientist with an interest in philosophy. I freely admit that I cannot understand what you are talking about. I will be happy to try again.

            My understanding of Christianity is that Christians profess to believe that Jesus Christ was a real person who was also the direct descendant of a supreme being. Christ’s mother Mary conceived him without access to human sperm cells. Christ walked the earth performing miracles such as the transformation of water into wine and causing the blind to see by rubbing dust on afflicted eyeballs. Christ was tortured to death but came back from the dead and ascended bodily to heaven.

            This is what I learned in Christian Sunday school. This is what I was expected to accept as fact and profess to believe throughout my adult life. A parable about Thomas purported to teach me that skepticism about religious matters was a dire sin. That is what I got from it anyway. If I was good and loved Jesus then I would go up to heaven when I died. If not I would suffer horribly in hell for all eternity. This is Christian doctrine as I learned it from Christians. It had rather a profound effect on my early life.

            I ultimately rejected Christianity wholesale as a mass of preposterous myth, but perhaps I was too hasty. It does not follow from the assumption that Christianity is false that there are indeed no gods, for instance. I would not like to be roasting in hell over a non-sequitur.

            Let’s analyze.

            Now, as far as I can tell, in order for Jesus to be the son of a god, there must be a god the father. Just like the Greek demi-gods. If there is no Zeus, then no Perseus. Or at least Perseus was at best just a regular mortal who managed to get himself swathed in myth over a period of centuries.

            So. The argument seems to have two components. First we must establish that there is indeed a god. Then we must make a connection between the god and the person Jesus Christ. If this proves impossible then we might begin by simply disproving, or at least rendering improbable, some or all of the other religions. Buddhism, say. Or Hinduism. That one is polytheistic. It cannot possibly be simultaneously true with Christianity, right? At most one of these religions is a correct description of the universe we inhabit. If we can knock out some of the competing ancient accounts of reality, we will have cleared a better path for Jesus.

            Let’s do this. I will admit, for the sake of furthering an argument that seems to be well into the weeds right now, of the existence of a supreme being. Let’s say it’s Yahweh, the Christian god. We will have to confess that this god was actually plagiarized from the Jewish books but that does not stop him from being real.

            Okay. How do we begin to make the god -> Christ connection? I ask this question in all seriousness. The forum is about Christians winning arguments with atheists. I can’t see another way to get this done.

            Once we have the god -> Jesus connection we’ll circle back around and do the existence of god proof.

            I think I have angered and alienated Anton, and he seems to have disavowed belief in the more embarrassingly silly parts of the Christian narrative in earlier posts, so if anybody else would like to help out, that would be well.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            I liked this post. However, you have not actually won the debate.

            What you have managed, is to stay true, as far as I can tell, to your method, but are applying it “outside” of it’s scope.

            The following is an excerpt from your response to my post above. It was part of your refutation of my use of compartmentalization in regards to empiricism.

            Matthew Alton – Insofar as they are not testable they lie outside the scope of our method.

            If there is an “outside”, then it satisfies my sense of the term “compartmentalization”. And I will stress the use of “my sense of”.

            They are in the realm of unicorns and garden fairies. They are claims without evidence.

            I will ignore the demeaning intention evident in your choice of associations. It’s probably not very scientific. What really interests me is:

            Conveniently unfalsifiable propositions amounting to unwarranted hypotheses.

            Again, with the limitations!

            Admitting the “imperfection” of science, you still wish to apply it to debunking the imperfection you find in religious beliefs. Lumping together the entire human inquiry into the meaning of existence. You dump it into the category of “unwarranted hypotheses”.

            I will leave it to Anton and other capable advocates from this site to help you understand how they understand Jesus.

            What I want to point out is that there is an artificial limit inhibiting your ability to “get” the God thing. It can be illustrated by a comparison of how you and I use the term “infinity”.

            For you, it is the mathematical construct. Used to describe infinite sets of numbers. Of which there are many.

            To me, this is the “finite” version of infinity. It only has meaning in its relationship to all the other infinities..

            When I talk of the infinitude of God. I am talking about the “infinite” infinity. The Singularity.

            As for the Entirety, if your method can not get it’s head around it, try your common sense.

            Humans have Intuition for a purpose. Just like emotions as well as reason.

            So I will repeat:

            As regards the full spectrum of human “sensorium”; what is empiricism if not extreme compartmentalization?

          • Matthew Alton

            I am having difficulty understanding the various claims made about the god. Either the god is entirely outside of the realm of empirical experience or “he” is not. If the god is a denizen of a strictly, utterly, and entirely “spiritual” or “higher-dimensional” or “symbolic” realm — one which DOES NOT PHYSICALLY INTERACT with empirical reality then, yes, by all means, the god is completely beyond the scope of scientific inquiry. The god cannot be measured or observed or tested or falsified. Full stop. Religious people are now free to posit a dualist nature to human organisms and say things like, “I can talk with God in my heart” and such like. All communication occurs via the “soul” which is incorporeal and also beyond the reach of mere science. The individual is entirely within his rights to make claims about events which he experiences in isolation, i.e. “in his head” or “in his own heart.” These are ENTIRELY SUBJECTIVE EVENTS. I am not obliged to believe that these events, internal voices from gods and such, prove anything or are indeed occurring at all. It is my prerogative to assume that what is occurring is better explained by wishful thinking or mental defect. But I freely admit that I cannot disprove the claims empirically, even if I can (and do) ignore them rationally.

            Christians, however, do not make purely subjective claims, do they? Christians claim that their god intercedes on their behalf by somehow reaching into the empirical realm and INTERACTING WITH IT. Examples of such claimed interaction abound in the Christian Bible. I cited several “miracles” above. The transformation of water into wine, for example, would require the recombination and reconstitution of hydrogen and oxygen molecules as well as the introduction of a great deal of carbon, not to mention the complex organic solids in aqueous solution… The point of the claim, explicitly made in the Bible, is that all of this was accomplished MAGICALLY. There is no mention of Christ having caused the required chemical reactions, fermentation, etc. He was not reported as having purchased a quantity of grapes… This is a claim which is, IN PRINCIPLE TESTABLE. The claim is clearly made that, were I present at the event, I would have been able to test the water, observe the instantaneous and magical transformation, test the resultant wine and acquire STRONG EVIDENCE of the verity of a true miracle. The burden of disproof would then correctly be upon me. All evidence of this particular magical event is, of course, supposed to be lost in the mists of time, so let’s look at some more contemporary material.

            Let’s take careful notice of the fact that the production of one single well-documented miracle would prove that miracles exist. That’s all that is required.

            I leave it to the reader to scour FaceBook, say, for today’s voluminous batch of claimed intercessions. Lets filter the “Mom found her cat! Praise God!” variety and look at just the “Granny’s cancer is in remission! Praise be!” variety. A god, it is clearly claimed, has caused Granny’s tumor cells to stop multiplying more quickly than her chemotherapy can kill them off. The cancer cells are reduced in the aggregate. A god did this. This is a physical, empirically measurable, FALSIFIABLE claim. It just is. The god managed, in this instance at any rate, to escape the misty realm of symbols and fractal dimensions just long enough to alter the normal physics and biochemistry governing the progress of Granny’s disease. And he did it because of people praying to him and begging him for his help. And because the prayers came from good solid Christians, he saw fit to go ahead and spare Granny, at least for the time being. Please CORRECT ME IF I AM WRONG ABOUT THE NATURE OF THESE CLAIMS.

            So no, I am not compartmentalizing anything at all, even by your very different albeit admissible definition of the term.

            Here comes the point.

            If intercessory prayer were effective then its effects would necessarily be detectable in statistical studies of Christian versus non-Christian cancer patients, for instance. There would just plain simply have to be MORE CHRISTIAN RECOVERIES from the disease. There are not. There is, in point of fact, no credible evidence of the efficacy of prayer at all. Does this prove that there are no gods? Of course not. But were are talking about Christians here, not deists. Christians are a far more specific category of claimant with far more specific claims about the real actual world that I inhabit as a human being and investigate as a scientist.

            Daniel Dennett does a very good job of pointing out this deft dancing that believers do in this matter of the purported interaction of gods with the corporeal world. The god is beyond our senses, beyond comprehension, beyond time and space itself. When it is convenient. But the god works real miracles in real lives every day. When it is convenient. He manages to do all of this in just such as way as to render direct evidence of himself, and the effects of his actions, completely undetectable. How very convenient.

            The very real fact barreling down on the Christian apologist is that gods are removed by Occam’s razor. There are much better, much simpler explanations for physical phenomena than there were 2000 years ago. Modern explanations do not require the irrational acceptance of paradox. They do not defy common sense. They do not conflict with obvious facts. They fit nicely together in the simplest way possible. The introduction of a god hypothesis multiplies assumptions. Silly assumptions at that. Magical assumptions. Gods are obsolete. They served their purpose for illiterate iron age shepherds and their uninformed ilk. The purpose is better served by science and reason now. The gods are old and tired. Let them die.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Na,.. not buying it. Actually I had to quit reading.

            Lot of rhetoric no soul.

            Very Crystalline in structure.

            Not like water. Not like light.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Actually, my take would be that you’ve turned science into a disease.

            Not cool. We’ve got enough flat-worldian fundamentalism of the usual kind already.

          • Matthew Alton

            I have no soul. Souls do not exist. Aesthetics have no place in formal argumentation. We can make no progress in this matter. Let us cease.

            You seem a very kind and gentle fellow. Let’s find a common place and be happy there for a moment.

            I do like beautiful things. There is a YouTube video of Yo Yo Ma playing Bach’s Cello Suite #1. A masterful performance of a masterful piece of music played on a masterfully fashioned instrument. I get tears in my eyes every single time I listen to it. Reading the more rapturous passages in Whitman’s Leaves of Grass has the same effect. I feel an immense welling in my chest which is very difficult to contain. Some sort of yearning it is. Or some great insight that I can only just bear to receive. I say without shame or hesitation that I passionately love great art and great artists. To contribute a thing of beauty to the world is to be divine and radiant. Beauty and harmony and peace are our highest goals. Would you agree?

            Walt Whitman said of analytical people like me, “gentlemen, first honors to you always.” This is most kind but I must insist upon sharing all honors with the artists and ascetics and true friends and simple folk who make the world so much more bearable by their acts of kindness and generosity. They create such beauty whether it be intentional or inadvertent. To share intimate moments with those who have what Walt called “beauty of person” is the greatest honor we can achieve in this life. This I believe.

            I have no point to make here. You just seem like the sort of person who buoys others up. I depend on people like you. It would be wrong to repay this by harshing your buzz.

            Peace.

          • Matthew Alton

            “For you, it is the mathematical construct. Used to describe infinite sets of numbers. Of which there are many.”

            Yes. There are an infinite number of such sets. Interestingly, some orders of infinity are more “dense” than others. There is provably, for example, no one-to-one mapping between the set of real numbers and the set of integers. Jorge Cantor was a genius. No question. The statements you are trying to make are probably better, or at least more concisely, expressed in mathematical terms. You can’t know until you try, though.

            “To me, this is the ‘finite’ version of infinity. It only has meaning in its relationship to all the other infinities..”

            The relationship of the finite version of infinity has meaning only in relationship to all of the other infinities. The other finite infinities? You play quite loosely with terms, sir, but, um, okay.

            I would suggest a reading of Cantor. At least a popular account. The subject is better understood than you might suspect.

            “When I talk of the infinitude of God. I am talking about the ‘infinite’ infinity. The Singularity.”

            I can only guess that you are saying that your god is actually everything and that everything is your god? But this is pantheism. Christians preach a personal god, distinct from his creation. This interpretation is not my assumption. They are quite explicit in this doctrine.

            Your definition of the term “singularity” seems to depart from convention with the same haste as did “infinity” and “compartmentalization.” I don’t know what you mean.

            What is Singularity and why do you believe in it? Do you claim to have some personal experience of infinity, sorry, “finite infinity”? Do you claim to have had some experience of “infinite infinity”? With my own decidedly finite human capacity, I doubt strenuously that I could distinguish between the two. I’m pretty certain that I could not directly and completely experience either finite infinity or infinite infinity. I’m going to guess that I would run out of comprehension very early into the experience and wind up having beheld only a very small sample of the infinity in question. Then I would be overwhelmed. I am forced to conclude that any sufficiently large finite specimen would be indistinguishable from an infinite one. The night sky for instance, looks plausibly infinite to me. Indeed we as a species held the universe to be infinite until the time when my own grandmother was a young girl. Then we decided that it was finite but unbounded — another math term that means something very subtle and specific. We compared out sensory data to our best (again mathematical) description and chucked the sensory data. The universe’s ability to confound us at every turn is one of its most endearing qualities.

            “As for the Entirety, if your method can not get it’s head around it, try your common sense.”

            I’m hoping that you’re using the conventional sense of the term “entirety” here. If so, you are indeed a pantheist. God and the universe are equivalent? Otherwise, no, I can’t get my head around it. If you are redefining another common term, the practice is becoming tedious. An expansion of vocabulary might be in order.

            “Humans have Intuition for a purpose. Just like emotions as well as reason.”

            Yes. Intuition is probably central to human consciousness. Intuition is what we are forced to use in the absence of facts. It helps us make guesses. As a scientist I must eventually make a hypothesis if I am to discover something as yet not known. Then I test my hypothesis. If it is not disproved, then I might be right. If it is disproved then I am definitely wrong. Intuition must defer to fact. This simple insight got us out of the dark ages. To defer to intuition in defiance of plain facts of experience is to indulge in magical thinking. This is an obsolete mode, inappropriate to the modern world.

          • Steve Greene

            “Unproven and unprovable propositions are everywhere in a rational world. Do you believe you will one day die? Where is your evidence?”

            No evidence that everyone dies.

            It’s arguments like that which make the anti-epistemology of religious rhetoric so amusing.

          • Anton

            No evidence that everyone dies.

            Well, do you have such evidence?

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            As we have no people walking around that has outlived everyone else, I’m going with the everybody dies route.

          • Anton

            I fully agree. But this belief is based on a valid course of reasoning, not evidence in the strict sense. I will die someday is a very reasonable assertion, it’s just not provable.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            Maybe I’m just wierd, but when evidence points to something, I lean toward the evidence. Reasoning for me is a means to try to find evidence, and a lack thereof is just using reason to make assumptions. I have no problems with lacking the answers, but I also know that the answers, when found, can easily be other than what my assumptions have long held.

          • Matthew Alton

            “Maybe I’m just wierd, but when evidence points to something, I lean toward the evidence.”

            Eminently reasonable. For you a cigar.

            And you’re not weird. I’m weird.

          • Steve Greene

            ‘There is no evidence that everyone dies. Believing that you will die is merely based on faith. The idea that people die is nothing more than a subjective belief based on faith.’

            Please do keep demonstrating the absurd nature of religious argumentation. I’m loving it.

          • Anton

            ‘There is no evidence that everyone dies. Believing that you will die is merely based on faith. The idea that people die is nothing more than a subjective belief based on faith.’

            Please do keep demonstrating the absurd nature of religious argumentation. I’m loving it.

            Steve, I never said any of the things you put in quotation marks there. If you have to rely on misrepresentation of my position, it speaks volumes about your ability to discuss things in a civil, reasonable way.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            I can’t help but think, that if there is no evidence that everybody dies, than the mortary business is the world’s longest running scam.

          • Steve Greene

            Pardon me. My bad. Obviously I should not have used single quotes to use implicative dialogue as a writing technique. I guess that means you also did not write “Unproven and unprovable propositions are everywhere in a rational world. Do you believe you will one day die? Where is your evidence?”

          • Anton

            That’s what I wrote. Can you prove that you will one day die? Is there scientific evidence that supports this belief? Or do we believe it through a valid process of reasoning, not because of proof?

          • Steve Greene

            My bad – I did not realize you were stating an argument based on equivocating between mathematical/logical “proof” and the colloquial sense of “proof” in the context of scientific evidence. As usual, your argument falls completely flat in terms of trying to justify the irrational nature of religious faith in the context of reality claims. In other words, more red herring.

          • Anton

            My bad – I did not realize you were stating an argument based on equivocating between mathematical/logical “proof” and the colloquial sense of “proof” in the context of scientific evidence.

            I’ve asked several times whether you have scientific evidence that proves that you will one day die. Can you prove it?

            As usual, your argument falls completely flat in terms of trying to justify the irrational nature of religious faith in the context of reality claims.

            That’s not what I was trying to do. All I meant to demonstrate is that we hold many beliefs that are very reasonable and plausible as well as unprovable or unproven.

            In other words, more red herring.

            There is less than zero doubt that Steve declares victory on any pretext that strikes his fancy. Congrats.

          • Steve Greene

            “That’s not what I was trying to do. All I meant to demonstrate is that we hold many beliefs that are very reasonable and plausible as well as unprovable or unproven.”

            In other words, your reply was entirely red herring in the context of replying to what Matthew Alton was pointing out. Which is exactly what I thought, and exactly what I was pointing out. Thank you for, finally, acknowledging this.

          • Anton

            Um, no, Steve, you were pointing out that I think death is a matter of faith. Which I don’t.

            I’m done with this now.

          • Matthew Alton

            Again, the Anton specimen cannot understand that science is not in the business of “proving” things. We are in the business of eliminating all but the most plausible hypotheses.

            Here we go:

            “Do you believe that your grandchildren, as yet unborn, will be mammals?”

            “Yes, certainly.”

            “But they may be fish or reptiles. Can you PROVE that they will be mammals.”

            “I don’t think that’s possible until they are actually conceived. Mammals tend to give live birth to mammals, though. I’m not aware of an exception to the rule. It is a basic assumption in the livestock industry…”

            “But you can’t PROVE it! You must believe it on FAITH!”

            “I assume it until the grandkids are actually born. If they’re fish I will have to revise my, um, entire understanding of nature.”

            “HA! You’re a man of faith just like me! Therefore JEEZIS! Quod Erat Demonstrandum! Checkmate atheist!”

            “Wait. Doesn’t the Bible say that each animal shall bring forth young according to its own kind?”

            “Okay. You got me there. Your grandkids will be mammals for sure. What about death, though? Do you believe you’re going to die?”

            Rinse and repeat.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            death is a matter of faith?
            Anyone else scratching their head over this?

          • Steve Greene

            Anton wrote “Unproven and unprovable propositions are everywhere in a rational world. Do you believe you will one day die? Where is your evidence?”

            But apparently he does not actually intend this to mean that he really does think that death is a matter of faith, despite the fact that that is exactly what he implied.

            You are quite correct that incoherent arguments leave people scratching their heads.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            It is your statements that are having me scratch my head.

          • Steve Greene

            I’m not the one who said that death is a matter of faith. Clearly you have not paid attention to the thread of the discussion, and thus the exact context of what I wrote.

          • Anton

            I’m not the one who said that death is a matter of faith.

            Neither am I.

          • Matthew Alton

            Or it could be head lice. I shave my head as a precaution.

            What, pray, do you find perplexing?

          • Matthew Alton

            The truly ironic part of this is that rational people only believe in the verity (correspondence to observable reality) of a claim in proportion to the evidence for it. When we weigh the evidence in favor of the eventual death of an organism against the evidence of an instance of immortality we are compelled by reason to assign a high probability of death. This very high probability is critically different from the sort of divine certainty that we are erroneously assumed to be claiming.

            You and I really do believe, with excellent reason, that we will die one sad day. I think it would be fair to say that we believe in our own mortality to a moral certainty. It’s the best we can do. Mr. Anton, I would guess — and I must guess since he never seems to state anything in the affirmative — does not believe that he is going to die.

            This is as preposterous as it appears. We are honestly and truly engaged in debate with a person who is accusing us of an irrational belief in our own mortality.

            We do not claim 100% certainty in this matter or any other. We can’t. We’re fallible humans. Certainty is not our fate. Science is, of course, a way of minimizing uncertainty in a very uncertain world.

            Religious people project their own thought patterns onto our arguments. Notice how we are constantly being accused of claiming to have disproved God and what not. We claim nothing of the sort. The religious mind cannot seem to grasp the fact that we are not peddling certainty. We have none. Neither do they. They seem to believe, however, that they are in possession of absolute facts and that they can be certain of them. They perceive our claims as being the same species of unsubstantiated axiom that they purvey. Their articles of faith are beyond question. They (probably unconsciously) assume that we operate the same way. I doubt that they can ever understand what we’re saying.

          • Anton

            This is as preposterous as it appears. We are honestly and truly engaged in debate with a person who is accusing us of an irrational belief in our own mortality.

            In fact I was saying the exact opposite.

            How amusing that you have done away with imaginary gods and now can only conquer imaginary arguments.

          • Matthew Alton

            Let’s not quibble. I define the word “faith” to mean “belief without sufficient reason.” I have said this many times in this forum. You said, “The belief that you will die is merely based on faith.”

            Faith = irrationality in my world.

            Nevertheless, if I am to understand you properly, you are now saying that by stating that “the belief that you will die is merely based on faith” you meant to convey, “belief that you will die is not merely based on faith.” Or perhaps you include faith, counter to the common idiom, in the realm of the rational. In this case we will need a new term for “beliefs held in the absence of evidence, or in spite of disproof by a preponderance of evidence.” I can think of a few.

            I did point out the necessity of guessing at your theses. It would serve us well if you would just enumerate your core beliefs in plain language. Then I wouldn’t have to guess and you wouldn’t have to correct me every time.

            What is it that you, as a Christian, believe?

          • Matthew Alton

            Of course our belief in our own mortality is not an article of faith. It is an inductive hypothesis based upon observation.

            Certain linguistic anthropologists speculate that religion is a memetic pathology that reassigns neurological pathways in the reasoning centers of the brain. This interferes with critical thinking skills.

            The specimen Anton, for instance, cannot categorically separate the statement, “Jesus Christ was born of a virgin” from one like “all men must die.” Stage four cognitive atrophy.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            I resisted inserting myself into your conversation with Mr. Alton. It would have detracted from quality of the dialogue.

            I have however made an offering of my own take on things below. In case you are interested.

          • DonRappe

            It seems more likely that demon possession is caused by fits.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            I am highly dubious if such a thing like demon possession even exists.

          • Kevin Osborne

            We live in system and every part of the system influences every other part of the system, or more accurately, works like a cog within. It is a machine, a functioning process that takes place in the now yet allows time for the individual. To say one part or another of the system does not exist is to choose to not see part of it. We all make that choice not to see because our personal view of the entirety is limited. To attempt it all scatters focus and makes one less conscious.
            Relativity, the mind, and God all have different definitions for each individual, but all exist as fungible somethings. What do you want to see? is the constant.

          • Matthew Alton

            “To say one part or another of the system does not exist is to choose to not see part of it.”

            To say that a nonexistent part of the system exists is to indulge in delusion. Your burden here is to prove the existence of a god. I assure you that I am not obstinately choosing not to see the gods. I don’t see any gods for the same reason that I don’t see any unicorns. They don’t exist.

            “Relativity, the mind, and God all have different definitions for each individual”

            There is no question that Relativity exists. It is a universally accessible artifact. It has a single, well delineated definition. If your definition of Relativity diverges from the intended one, then it is simply incorrect. As for the existence of minds distinct from my own, the preponderance of evidence compels me to assign them a very high probability of existing. God is a delusion. These are three very different things.

            We are each entitled to our own opinions. We are not each entitled to our own facts.

          • Kevin Osborne

            Let’s say we are part of an operating system. One can use the system without understanding all of it. One’s freedom to move around in the system is determined by knowing where things are, or by being willing to accept that everything is real within the system. With both ideas there are limitations, but the second has more potential. God as awareness, as creation, as existence, is part of that potential. There is no reason to believe that the God totality exists that I am aware of. However one can experiment with freedom.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Kevin is giving you an improved definition of God. Your definition diverges from it. Is it therefore incorrect?

          • Matthew Alton

            The Christian god Yahweh does not exist. All available evidence points convincingly to the assertion that he is a myth. Creating ad hoc definitions him is not going to change that.

            Christianity is nothing if not a collection of absolutist dogmas. Does it strike anyone else as specious that Kevin is resorting to relativism here?

            By the bye, do Christian apologists ever address the points made by the opposition?

          • DonRappe

            “The Christian god Yahweh does not exist. All available evidence points convincingly to the assertion that he is a myth. Creating ad hoc definitions him is not going to change that.” That’s just what Pharaoh thought!

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            There is the definition of an apple and there is the apple itself.

            I am not interested in a short circuited debate about the existence of the apple if my opponent is talking about the definition of the apple.

            If you get my point you should acknowledge it.

            I am not a Christian apologist. Are they any different than proselytizing atheists.? If you are referring to other participants in this conversation, I suspect they are having the same problem that I am having. And then, there is your disrespect. It invalidates your arguments right out of the gate.

            My interest is in the contemplation of God in co-operation with the process of enlightenment. I would be happy to teach you what I mean by this up to the limits of my own understanding.

            As for Kevin. What on earth do you mean by “resorting” to relativism? If your ears are full of wax, is it his fault you cannot hear?

          • Matthew Alton

            I acknowledge that your are interested in the definition of a god without reference to the existence of the god. You seem to be saying that the contemplation of this definition aids you in your efforts to become enlightened. I wish you the very best of luck in this.

            For my part I am interested strictly in the actual existence of the god. Beyond providing material for fantasy or hypothetical reasoning, the god definitions are useless to me.

            We are on two completely different missions.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            It is time to let it be. I am sorry if to have been harsh on several occasions.

          • Matthew Alton

            I ask your forgiveness as well.

            Peace be upon you.

          • Kevin Osborne

            I am not a Christian, FYI. My experience of a larger Awareness came outside that metaphor. Belief as acceptance is idiotic, my opinion. Faith, however, makes absolute sense. Einstein had it, also Galileo, Newton, and those who plumb the depths of navigational science. All they accept is that there is more.
            So do I.

          • Kevin Osborne

            Thank you for defending my honor, Mr. McKay. I am not a Christian, FYI, but am certain that the Christian God exists in its ultimate form, which is at least complete understanding.
            In tracking down the larger system within this realm of God one sees that absolutism rules the day. We each are absolute and have no master.
            Therefore a reasonable rule is never expect a person who is certain he is human to understand the absolute any more than to understand that the bell tolls for thee.
            It will toll, nevertheless, but who hears that harmony?

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            In Yoga it is Kaivaliya (aloneness of being).

            This exercise of engagement via writing is as much for my benefit as it is for anyone else.

            I once heard a Zen master analogized the function of Sangha (congregation) as the stirring of boiled potatoes in a big pot so that they peeled themselves.

            Much like these debates.

            If someone wanders into the room, the lessons are tailored for them. Absolutely. All imperfection only seemingly so.

          • Kevin Osborne

            Thank you for the reference to Kaivaliya. I hadn’t heard of it, but Wiki had a nice description. The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain ends in this state. He wrote himself into an awareness, an experience any serious writer has likely shared..
            I did not intend to be critical of your comments, FYI. Where intellectual baggage supplants the train, my interest fails.

          • Kevin Osborne

            It appears that there are no absolute facts, which is to say, no stand alone truths absent observation of them.
            Your definition of relativity, or God, or anything in this place includes your personal observation of it. That observation may have a written definition but must also allow for your personal viewpoint.
            Try knowing something without seeing it. Seeing is the definition of knowing, of understanding, which are relative to one’s perspective of the object at hand.
            The place from where one views determines one’s general reality. Since we all view from a different spot, there is no absolute reality or viewpoint no matter how universal the theme addressed.
            Not wishing to see God will produce a Godless reality. Not wishing to see relativity in all its facets will produce a relativity-less reality, which is that of most of mankind.
            There is no right or wrong to it nor any reason to notice God or anything else. The point of this place is absolute freedom for the participant.
            To see more, however, is freeing. If one wishes to go that road.

          • Matthew Alton

            “It appears that there are no absolute facts, which is to say, no stand alone truths absent observation of them. ”

            I disagree. I see no reason to abandon the simplest explanation which meets the observed facts. This is the explanation that posits a single, independent objective reality which is quite indifferent to our interpretations. This is the reality we are forced to contend with whether we like it or not. This is the reality for grown-ups.

            “Not wishing to see God will produce a Godless reality. Not wishing to see relativity in all its facets will produce a relativity-less reality, which is that of most of mankind.”

            Preposterous. Not wishing to see relativity is simple denial or ignoring of reality. Relativity is an objective aspect of reality. It doesn’t care in the least whether we prefer to “see” it. It just objectively exists.

            Try your hypothesis out by creating a world for yourself without the color blue, or without birds. The best you can do is to become hypnotized into denying the existence of these things. They will still exist, though. When you are attacked by a blue Canadian goose in a parking lot in your blueless birdless reality, you can swear that you are under assault by invisible harpies if you like. The rest of us will bemusedly watch the goose attacking you. We’ll capture the whole episode on video and put it on YouTube. The goose will be there and so will you and the simplest explanation for what will be going on is that you are yelling about harpies while you are being attacked by a goose. A real one at that. Really real. Everybody watching on YouTube will agree. You’ll be completely alone in your assessment of reality. This sort of thing happens all the time. It’s called insanity.

            Or will the goose have created a reality with you in it? How would that work? Would you be able to see the goose if he created his universe with you in it even if your reality does not include the goose? What? Our miraculous powers of observation-creation don’t apply to geese? Where do our powers end? Could it be that our powers of reality creation only apply to things for which there is no objective evidence? Could it possibly be that our magic powers of reality creation are limited to things that may very possibly, in fact, be made up? Imaginary? Unreal?

            But that would mean that there is no possible distinction between our magic powers and simple wishful thinking. That would mean that when we are magically creating a god by deciding to “see” one, we are really only pretending.

            Pure relativism, while being very useful for the purposes of self delusion, is intellectually incoherent. Period.

          • Kevin Osborne

            The simplest explanation is that God exists as full awareness and full creation. Otherwise a good deal is left unexplained, if one examines the larger field.
            Humans tend to see a very small part of the entire universe, and only select wavelengths of even that part. Yet the reach of mankind as a whole, in art, technology, science, goes well beyond that view, when taken as a whole.
            Take the entire universe as a whole, and what is a logical explanation? That there are thousands, or millions, of people who have my viewpoint of this place, discovered in nearly exactly the same manner, is worth examination for the student.
            If one is happy and fully formed, I think it is a fool’s errand to look further. But then why be here, with the commotion?
            By the way the existence of gravity and failure by science to find its true source is an interesting study.

          • Matthew Alton

            The simplest explanation is that God exists as full awareness and full creation.

            No, it isn’t. To stipulate the existence of an entity or phenomenon not in evidence in order to explain entities or phenomena in evidence is to needlessly complicate the issue. “The Universe” is a less complex, i.e. simpler, entity than the aggregate “The Universe and god(s).” Plain and simple. The contemplation of the “Universe and god(s)” model makes you feel better than does the alternative. It’s really just that simple. Your insistence on searching for gods is purely emotional. There is no rational component in it. There is no reason to posit the existence of gods. It does not help. It does not further the search for truth. It simplifies nothing. It complicates everything. It is an archaic vestige of the pre-scientific age.

            As for the “God exists as full awareness and full creation” business, we keep going round the mulberry bush, don’t we? I ask whether you believe in a god separate from the god’s creation and you ignore the question and trot out another round of mystical sounding obfuscation peppered with a pinch of pseudo-science to give it a patina of respectability. Point blank, if this god of yours is identical with everything then how are you not a garden variety pantheist? Pantheists are not Christians. Christians are not pantheists. These are disjoint sets.

            Otherwise a good deal is left unexplained, if one examines the larger field.

            More is left unexplained by the assertion of the existence of gods than is left unexplained by the assumption that gods do not exist. I must account only for the observable universe. You must also explain where your gods came from. This simple infinite regress has managed to escape the comprehension of god believers for millennia. Where did your god come from? What made it?

            Humans tend to see a very small part of the entire universe, and only select wavelengths of even that part. Yet the reach of mankind in art, technology, science, goes well beyond that view, when taken as a whole.

            Yup. Know how we found out about the electromagnetic spectrum? Science did it. Religion did not help. It was just science all by itself. Science has given us computers and cars and jet planes and polio vaccines and … What has religion given us? Techniques to comfort ourselves with delusions. Psychological parlor tricks. Religion is worse than useless and false. It is counterproductive.

            … there are thousands, or millions, of people who have my viewpoint of this place, discovered in nearly exactly the same manner, is worth examination for the student.

            Yes. It is perfect material for the study of mass delusion. Honestly, your beliefs are true because lots of other people hold them? Every Catholic in the world believed that the earth was flat while the Vatican told them to believe it. They all arrived at this gem of verity by exactly the same path. Did that make is true? If popularity is any indication of the truth of a religion then we should note that Christians constitute a minority of the world’s people. Do you “logically” stop believing in it now? Or will you just ignore your own argument and blithely continue believing?

            You keep using the word “logically” as though you were making a reasoned case. You do realize that, at most, one of the worlds religions is correct, right? No two of them agree on much of anything. The number of correct religions is therefore logically either zero or one. Zero is simpler by far. Religion is failed science.

            If one is happy and fully formed, I think it is a fool’s errand to look further.

            This captures the essence of the religious mind concisely. You’re all done. You have your answers because you started with them. I, on the other hand, will never stop learning, seeking, questioning, researching, investigating, and sharing my findings with others. This is my way of life. I love it. I hope never to stop until I die. To stop learning and developing the mind is to be effectively dead at any rate.

            By the way the existence of gravity and failure by science to find its true source is an interesting study.

            Gravitation is one of the fundamental forces of nature. It is accounted for in the Theory of General Relativity as a curvature in a four-dimensional space-time continuum. The action of gravitation is predicted by the mathematics of the tensor field. It is quite well understood. The “explanation” is a model of elegance. You simply do not know what you’re talking about.

          • Kevin Osborne

            Most of the scientific community, it appears, is less certain about gravity than you are. Perhaps you should write up your findings and send them in.

            My meaning about being “fully formed” refers to someone who is satisfied with life at present. Things are in balance, and since it doesn’t matter if God exists to the individual, poking around is only likely to upset the apple cart.
            You, for example, are happy in your life and don’t need anything further except to keep on present course, or so you appear to be saying.
            Insofar as God is concerned, read All the King’s Men. There is a description of God as separation that will be acceptable for your purposes, I believe.

          • Matthew Alton

            Most of the scientific community, it appears, is less certain about gravity than you are.

            What specifically are you talking about? Most of the scientific community disagrees with Einstein on space-time curvature? We have not yet detected the graviton at CERN? What can you possibly mean? I’m very interested to know.

          • DonRappe

            I’m pretty sure Euclid’s physics text elements are based on flat earth thinking and have not been refuted yet.

            If I lived in a world composed of earth, water, air and fire, in that order, there is plenty of verification that everything seeks its proper place, earth falling through water, fire rising through air, etcetera. But why don’t I sense the earth falling? Applying the scientific logic of cause and effect, I may theorize that it is supported at its four corners by four great tortoises (or elephants). Later, I may come to believe that the world is composed of leptons and quarks finding their proper place by following geodesic trajectories through curved spacetime. Everything is supported by some almost inconceivable Pauli principle. What these views have in common is that both are scientific and both are based on mythic symbols. (leptons and quarks are mythic creatures.) Another thing they have in common is that neither has anything to do with religious faith.

          • Matthew Alton

            “I’m pretty sure Euclid’s physics text elements are based on flat earth thinking and have not been refuted yet.”

            Um. I think you’re conflating Euclid’s Elements, a purely mathematical work, with Aristotle’s elements from his Physics. If so, you omitted ether.

            One cannot speak meaningfully of refuting Aristotle’s quaint worldview. Except the flat earth part. That has indeed been completely refuted.

            Aristotle’s model was a coherent description of the universe. The model has been replaced by successively more accurate models over the centuries. This is how science works. It perpetually corrects itself.

            As for all the vague symbol talk, I do not accept the assertion that the Pauli Exclusion Principle is a mythical symbol. It is a description of the attributes of matter expressed succinctly in a set of algebraic matrices. The utility of the principle is manifest. I assume that it can be used to predict the outcomes of experiments not yet performed precisely because it has been used many times over 80 years or so to predict the outcomes of experiments that have been performed. It has been correct to a phenomenal degree of accuracy every single time. When it ceases to have this predictive power it will cease to have utility and it will be discarded. If it proves less accurate or more cumbersome than a new model then it will be replaced.

            God, on the other hand, (if we are still on topic) has no such predictive power. Even as a symbol God only introduces more complexity into the universe than He eliminates. He multiplies assumptions, explains nothing in a manner satisfactory to a modern mind, and is contradictory to all available evidence to boot. Occam’s Razor removes him. Bye, God!

          • DonRappe

            Your distinction between physics and pure mathematics in ancient times is worth a good chuckle. The particular facts laid out in Aristotle’s writings on the philosophy of nature are not so important as the fact that in doing so he invented a new field of knowledge which today we call “science”. The elements from Euclid’s school is, and is meant to be, a study of natural space. It is so fine that it is the forerunner of what today we call pure mathematics, but it is in fact a theoretical study of physical space. I assume you can tell that matrices and algebra are concerned with symbols, so I suppose you may be objecting to my description of them as “mythic”, not “mythical”. Mythos is what the Greeks called certain of their stories about things that were unseen. “Particles”, after all, have been known to be non-existent for almost 100 years now. Yet these symbols are useful for dealing with the reality towards which they point. The fact that you are not interested in the reality towards which the symbol “God” points, has no effect upon its usefulness to some of us.

          • Matthew Alton

            “… you are not interested in the reality towards which the symbol ‘God’ points, has no effect upon its usefulness to some of us.”

            Oh, but I am interested in the reality to which the “God” symbol points! Where is it?

          • DonRappe

            Now you are beginning to ask the right kind of question. I wish you well on your quest.

          • Matthew Alton

            You’re not going to tell me where it is? Come on. Be nice. Tell me where the reality toward which the God symbol points is. Please?

          • Matthew Alton

            “And I wasn’t criticizing the scientific method, I was just questioning whether it’s being improperly applied to matters that aren’t scientific in the first place.”

            Religious people claim that their ineffable, incorporeal gods influence the real world of atoms and void. They make this claim all the time. This is a patently scientific claim. The claim is made that prayer works. Begging a god or gods for favors may get them granted. Failure to beg will not. What is the point of intercessionist prayer otherwise?

            At some point in the process your god has to get his aetherial, magical, other-dimensional hands dirty by actually reaching into the real world (the one that is indeed studied by science), and violating the normal flow of cause and effect. That is where he opens himself to scientific inquiry. Either it happens or it does not. No more hiding in other dimensions and the first 10^-29 seconds of time.

            Religious apologists like to have it both ways. God can’t be checked or tested because he is not of this world. But he causes changes in it all the time. Either he interacts with it or he does not. Interactions are testable. Thus far they have failed to manifest.

            Peace.

          • Anton

            Religious people claim that their ineffable, incorporeal gods influence the real world of atoms and void. They make this claim all the time. This is a patently scientific claim. The claim is made that prayer works.

            And I never made either of these claims. If there’s anyone who likes to have it both ways, it’s the guy who’s hectoring and insulting me for the things you think I should believe.

      • Matthew Alton

        The scientific method, imperfect as it is, is the most effective system of investigation ever devised. It is as far as we as a species have gotten. “Symbolism” is sufficiently vague as to be meaningless. If symbolic reasoning (whatever that might be) is capable of making truth claims about our universe then make them. If these claims are testable we will test them. Otherwise, being outside the realm of shared experience and not following from proven methods of reasoning, the subjects of these claims do not exist by definition.

        Smart people manage to “believe” dumb things because they are skilled at creating vague, convoluted places in which the dumb things might possibly hold true. It is the tension between the intelligence of a smart person and his emotional need to believe in nonsense that causes this. Such tension has produced a vast body of fractally complex, if intellectually puerile, literature over the centuries. God’s hiding in there somewhere, in the big swirling mystery vortex that realists just can’t grasp, poor things. God is, you know, symbolic and extradimensional and stuff. He provides his special children with personal revelations about REAL reality. Not that silly verifiable pablum that mere science likes.

        Peace.

        • Anton

          The scientific method, imperfect as it is, is the most effective system of investigation ever devised. It is as far as we as a species have gotten.

          It’s a tool, not a method for validating our philosophical prejudices.

          “Symbolism” is sufficiently vague as to be meaningless. If symbolic reasoning (whatever that might be) is capable of making truth claims about our universe then make them. If these claims are testable we will test them. Otherwise, being outside the realm of shared experience and not following from proven methods of reasoning, the subjects of these claims do not exist by definition.

          Uh, yeah, that’s what symbolism means, a thing that represents a concept in order to make the complex comprehensible to Homo Sap. Isn’t the term species a symbol of something that doesn’t technically exist in our world, but is nevertheless a useful concept for understanding the complexity of biology?

          Smart people manage to “believe” dumb things because they are skilled at creating vague, convoluted places in which the dumb things might possibly hold true. It is the tension between the intelligence of a smart person and his emotional need to believe in nonsense that causes this. Such tension has produced a vast body of fractally complex, if intellectually puerile, literature over the centuries.

          Well, it certainly beats the emotional need to condescend to and insult people because you think their beliefs aren’t as macho and truthy as yours. And if you’re dismissing all theology and metaphysics as “intellectually puerile,” I’m just going to sit here and shake my head in amazement.

          God’s hiding in there somewhere, in the big swirling mystery vortex that realists just can’t grasp, poor things. God is, you know, symbolic and extradimensional and stuff. He provides his special children with personal revelations about REAL reality. Not that silly verifiable pablum that mere science likes.

          And like I said before, the problem is your insistence that things aren’t real unless they’re empirically verifiable. If you think that symbolic constructs are by definition invalid, then you’ve already trashed the entire edifice of empirical inquiry. And if you think that the human search for meaning is all fairy tales, then I guess you’re no stranger to dumb beliefs yourself.

        • DonRappe

          I would question whether you have a very accurate idea of how smart people think.

          • Matthew Alton

            I found the explanatory power of the last chapter of Michael Shermer’s “Why People Believe Weird Things” most useful. It addresses the phenomenon of bizarre beliefs obstinately held by otherwise highly intelligent people. My comments are owing to Dr. Shermer. I stand by them.

    • lrfcowper

      What you are describing as “the religious mind” is, in fact, the fundamentalist mind. Most Christians throughout human history and in the world today are not fundamentalists. They do not reject evolution or other scientific inquiry. In fact, many of the most brilliant scientific minds upon whose works our modern science and technology are built were men and women of faith who investigated the world in order to better understand the nature and person of God.

  • My inside voice

    In the spirit of debate, I say:

    Christianity isn’t just about awe and wonder, though. It is an actual religion with a particular set of beliefs. Vicarious redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus (just to pick one obvious example) is fundamental to the belief system, and has real implications for how one should live in the world. For those who claim to have really thought about their beliefs and chosen Christianity as a result, It’s not being honest to just hand-wave that all away and say it’s about “communing with the divine”.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Right. And who has done that? Where do you see this “waving away”?

      • My inside voice

        In fairness, I see it stated most clearly in the comments in this thread, but also in your post above where you say that Christianity isn’t about logic, but about “communion with the divine” (“As a response to the human experience…”). Respectfully, that sounds to me as like giving yourself an “out” in the case your logical arguments fail.

        Christianity makes particular claims about the world that go beyond the subjective experience (as you state in your linked post). Some of these ideas (IMHO) have a difficult time standing up to logical scrutiny. In your linked article (“the rational genius…”) you put the necessity of a human sacrifice to an invisible god in-line to a logical argument about the nature of human experience, for example. Is that an idea which should be argued logically (as you say in that post), or is Jesus’ sacrifice a matter of subjective experience, not to be debated rationally (as you seem to be saying in this article)?

  • DonRappe

    I come away from this thread with the memory that someone seemed to think that Christianity and Taoism should be somehow incompatible. What’s that all about? Didn’t the divine figure of Jesus say “I am the Tao and the Truth and the Life.”? Weren’t the first Christians called followers of the Tao, before they were called Christians? Or is it so important whether the word be expressed in Chinese or Greek? What does it mean when the living embodiment of the Tao says: “No one comes to the Father, except by me.”? Does this mean all non-Taoists will go to hell? Just asking.

    • adam

      I tend to believe like you that the philosophy of Jesus is Taoistic.

      But Taoism makes for a VERY poor political party, which is what Christianity was turned into very early on. (Jesus started a political movement to help to poor and disfranchised, that was turned into the state political party and still is to a VERY great degree to this day.)
      But try and convince a Taoist that slavery is acceptable, or that they should suffer in this life to be rewarded in the next and you see the dilemma.

      But a religion that states persecution is a GREAT thing and you should celebrate it BECAUSE it means god is on YOUR side, are easy to abuse and manipulate.

      So of course NO political party want criticism, especially from within, and they don’t want anyone to believe that anyone or anything OUTISIDE the political party can do the ‘proper’ things to save your eternal life (well at least the life AFTER your own death). This explains you quote, no one can get to the truth except through THIS political party.

      And of course, there is ONLY one unforgivable sin:
      Bad mouthing the political party. (Blasphemy)
      That makes it self protecting again critical reasoning.

      Hell?

      Remember:
      “God loves you sooo much, that he created hell, just in case you don’t love him back”.

      My sister married an abusive man, pretty much like this, 5 years after divorcing him for abuse and he is still trying to torture her.

      • DonRappe

        I’m sorry to hear about your sister..

    • My inside voice

      Christianity makes particular claims, which people seem very eager to ignore. An invisible god demands a blood sacrifice as the wages of sin. Jesus was tortured to death to answer this demand for all people. This is not a concept consistent with Taoism, and you can’t subtract it from Christianity and still have Christianity.

      • DonRappe

        you seem to be quite an authority on Christianity!

        • My inside voice

          You don’t need to be an authority on trees to know they’re made of wood. All I did was state what is the basic tenet of Christianity: Jesus died as payment for your sins. If you don’t believe that, you need to do at least a little explaining as to how what you believe can be called Christianity if it rejects the actual teachings of Christ.

          Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of Taoism. All I’m saying is that it’s not consistent with the nicene creed (of which I am not a fan).

          I just think it’s important to use the right words for things.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            Hmm. I’m a Christian, and I don’t feel that supposed basic tenet fits my personal idea of what Christianity is all about.. And I know that there will be others who agree with me, and others who will not. Maybe because what Christianity is all about is not so narrowly defined.

          • My inside voice

            Christianity, to my understanding is roughly described by the Nicene Creed. There are a range of beliefs, of course. What are the fundamental elements of Christianity in your opinion?

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            “love the Lord god with all your heart, soul and might, and your neighbor as yourself.”

            That is the foundation of my faith. God loves me, well all of us, and I should be grateful, in fact I find it easy to exude gratitude when I stop and think for just a moment how rich my life is. Because of that love, and because of my understanding that I am divinely loved and so is everyone else, it behooves me to at least attempt to love with the same expansive quality as God. I can’t of course, being a mere mortal, but I believe it is important.

            As for examples on how to do such a thing properlly, all I have to do is look to the examples of Jesus, how he threw aside social norms, how he interacted with others using compassion, communication, and generosity. He touched, he wept, he laughed, he conversed, he comforted, he healed, he taught, he defended. I believe his death was for many reasons, political, of course, symbolically, as many believe, a symbol of sacrifice for sin common in the culture of that day, that we have adopted, and personal, to show us that god is willing to give everything to us, even life itself, if it brings hope, comfort and healing.

            Yes, I believe Jesus is divine, Jesus and God are one in the same. I, of course can’t prove it.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            I would say that you can prove it.

            Jesus and God are one and the same. As are we. Though, we are a tangled mess of confused identity. Jesus knows that he is God 100%.

            Crucifixion is what the world does to us. He passes through unfazed. Shows us how by his own being.

            If not divine, what then? A meaningless bag of chemicals?

          • Steve Greene

            “If not divine, what then? A meaningless bag of chemicals?”

            Otherwise known as: False dichotomy.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            What is false about it? We haven’t really come to any consensus about the term “divine” yet.

          • Steve Greene

            Are you trying to say you’ve never heard of the fallacy of false dichotomy? Seriously?

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            So then, “divine” or “sacred” represent a sufficiently acceptable and possible quality

            But…

            I have wrongly placed this in exclusive opposition to “meaninglessness”?

            My apologies. But we are obviously playing this game by different rules. I thought it made sense. At least to my satisfaction.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            I suppose I could have substituted “meaningful”; But from what I gather from these conversations, even this quality can not be considered to apply; The reality that science describes, being devoid of it.

            However, since I am not bound by such, I will acknowledge the grandeur of it ALL, in words of my choice.

          • Steve Greene

            “I have wrongly placed this in exclusive opposition to ‘meaninglessness’?”

            Correct. It’s a very similar argument as the often heard argument made by many Christians (in opposition to atheism) that ‘If there is no God, then there is no morality’, which is also a false dichotomy.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Correct. It’s a very similar argument as the often heard argument made by many Christians (in opposition to atheism) that ‘If there is no God, then there is no morality’, which is also a false dichotomy.

            Of course I haven’t said that though. There must also be a term for this kind of sideways association? Perhaps non-sequitur. But then I would only be guessing.

            I suppose I will have to be more careful. This kind of parsing makes it hard to wax poetic.

            Can I assume then, that you have allowed the validity of concepts like divine and sacred? I was sure that you would say they were meaningless.

          • Steve Greene

            In fact, you can use a logic calculus on meaningless statements. I will take an example from Michael Martin again, in this case, an example of using logic with statements that are both meaningful and meaningless:

            If God is gluberfied, then this rose is red.

            This rose is red.

            Therefore, God is gluberfied.

            Note that in terms of logic, this argument is fallacious (the fallacy of the converse, aka the fallacy of “affirming the consequent”). Note also that while “this rose is red” is a meaningful statement, the statement “God is gluberfied” is meaningless.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Gonna be a hard sell in Topeka. But if you are satisfied, who am I to quibble? I’ve already wasted enough of your time.

          • Matthew Alton

            If it helps, I believe that our worthy opponents are followers of Paul Tillich, as thoroughgoing an obscurantist as ever rationalized a belief in the absurd. It’s pretty apparent that these good fellows are not, um, traditionally educated. Our trifling world of falsifiable propositions is of no importance to them at all. They inhabit a realm of symbols which symbolize pretty much anything you want them to, as long as it’s all about Jesus.

            Christians lose arguments to atheists, it would appear, because they do not trouble themselves with a basic familiarity with logic and formal argumentation.

          • Steve Greene

            I have recently been reading a discussion of “meaningfulness” in language by Michael Martin, in which he discusses the concept of verifiability. He refers to discussion by Kai Nielsen, saying that “Nielsen maintains that in order to be factually meaningful, religious propositions ‘must be confirmable or infirmable in principle by nonreligious, straightforward, empirical statements.’ He holds that a statement is not confirmable or infirmable ‘unless at least some conceivable, empirically determinate state of affairs would count against its truth and some at least conceivable, empirically determinate state of affairs would count for its truth.’”

            The problem with so much religious rhetoric, as you point out, is precisely that it does not actually mean anything in terms of reality. This perhaps explains why it is generally vague, ambiguous, and nebulous, at least when it is not merely unintelligible. I think this arises out of the religious faith mentality/attitude that it’s okay (even a virtue) to use words however you like, as long as you are doing it (in your own mind) ‘for the greater glory of God’, so you can make up anything you like, because it’s for a good cause.

          • Matthew Alton

            Indeed. There has been a great deal of nonsense in this thread about “finite infinities” and “non-empirical realities” and such like. The chief occupational hazard of the charlatan is the chance encounter with the honest expert. Some of us value intellectual integrity more highly than ecstatic rhapsodizing.

            There is a YouTube video of a debate between Michael Shermer and Sam Harris on one side against Deepak Chopra and some equally silly person on the other. Unfortunately for Chopra the venue was Stanford University. Chopra carelessly allowed himself to lapse into one of his hallmark screeds wherein he blathered a great deal of malarkey to do with how quantum mechanics proves that we are all connected in the great Uber-soul or whatever. During the question & answer segment one of Stanford’s professors of theoretical physics, himself a collaborator with Stephen Hawking, told Chopra that he was completely full of shit. Somebody has to hold these gurus responsible lest the gullible public conflate them with serious, forthright thinkers.

          • Matthew Alton
          • My inside voice

            It just seems to me that you’re not following that belief in Jesus’ divinity to its logical conclusion. Let me ask you this: if Jesus was God Himself speaking in the sermon on the mount (presumably the most widely-heard of his actual words), what do you make of his instruction in Matthew 5:39-40? “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

          • Kevin Osborne

            Belief relies on a closed viewpoint. That is the bond shared by the agronomist Christian and Atheist, thus why they know each other so well. Understanding requires looking beyond. Be Jesus, not the tainted field.

          • Steve Greene

            Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

            If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.

            If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

            Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

            All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.

            Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.

            ——————————–

            Of course, there is no doubt that Christians in the 21st century, in order to try to maintain the Christian religion at all in the face of the growing awareness of the nature of Christian theology being obviously based on primitive religious superstitions, must jettison core Christian doctrines to evolve so as to try to hold on to any relevance. But if you have to throw out such fundamental components of the religion (throwing out the Old Testament and major portions of the New Testament) in the process, then, really, what’s the point?

          • DonRappe

            “the right words” You seem to have taken the point of my snarky comment. I’m old and slow, so it takes me awhile, but you deserve a reply, since you seem to be engaging in actual thought. The nicene creed is a fine reworking of the ancient hero story. A champion comes down from above, performs mighty works to save us from danger, and then returns to his real home. It is a fine story and it has a context. It attempts to reconcile the teachings of and about Jesus with the imperial religion of the Roman empire. It is not an adequate definition of Christianity, although it is used that way so frequently, you are not to be faulted for so taking it. I am a mathematician, so I can be pretty critical of attempts at definition. Just looking at extreme cases shows it doesn’t work. It excludes not only Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but, on a technicality, the whole Eastern church which does not accept the filioque. I am not a fan of making a big deal of the term “Christian”. Many of us define ourselves by trying to follow What the New Testament calls “the way”. When Jesus was asked a theological question in a confrontational manner, he responded with the story of the Good Samaritan. Who was neighbor to the man who fell among thieves? Two of the candidates were religiously trained people.

            Charles Darwin’s mother was a unitarian. This meant that she did not turn her face to the altar when the nicene creed was read or recited. She and all the Unitarians attended the same Anglican church as everyone else. Darwin certainly considered her to be a Christian. When in his age, he could not reconcile the naive Christian theology he had studied as a young man with his mature critical judgement, he quit attending services, although he took his family. He walked and communed with nature at this time. He remained on as official treasurer of his Anglican parish, a responsible position. It is possible he thought he was no longer Christian. I disagree. I think he was a christian from the day he was baptized to the day he died. I agree with Darwin’s thinking about the origin of species, but not with his old fashioned theology. Religious thinking or theology also evolves. I believe it is consistent with christianity to reject every superstitious interpretation of the faith that was once delivered to the saints.

          • My inside voice

            And we have come to the point of the article we’re commenting on, I think. The point of the entire New Testament, and the content of Jesus’ words, is that you will remain outside the kingdom of god forever unless you accept the vicarious redemption of your sins in the torture and death of Jesus (Mark 16:16, John 3:36, Matthew 26:28, Romans 5:12, and I could go on and on). The bible is literally the only source of information about Jesus, so I don’t see how you can say you accept that Jesus is god, but you don’t accept everything he says in the bible. Listen to what you’re saying: You accept Jesus is *god himself* because the miraculous stories as written in the bible sound plausible, but you aren’t going to accept the details of the doctrine as he (the creator of the universe!) describes them in those very same stories because it doesn’t quite fit with what you think sounds reasonable.

            It’s very frustrating for me when people speak this way. The only conclusion I can draw is that you are not being honest, either with me, or with yourself, or both.

          • DonRappe

            I’m sorry that you are frustrated. You may not realize that when you use an expression like “the point of the entire New Testament” , you betray an ignorance of what the New Testament is and what its purpose is. I’m not going to try to fill you in, in a few sentences, in something you can get a degree in without mastering. But, at a minimum, you must realize you are talking about a collection of writings which were written at different times and in different contexts for different purposes. I feel that you may have ingested some intellectual codswallop from some less than fully educated source.

          • My inside voice

            Or perhaps I have a degree in comparative religion, spent most of my life as a Christian, and was only slightly exaggerating for effect. Jesus’ own words (as conveyed by the new testament writers), and those of Paul in the Acts and Letters, spent a great deal of time speaking about man’s sinful nature and the redemptive power of Jesus’ blood sacrifice. The ad hominim was an artful dodge, but you can’t escape the burden of your argument that way. CS Lewis said it best: either Jesus was god, a madman, or something worse. If you don’t accept his teachings (vicarious redemption), then you clearly don’t believe he was a god. So what of the other two options do you choose?

            I think you may be the source of some intellectual codswallop yourself.

          • DonRappe

            I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you with an ad hominem. I didn’t know you were intentionally exaggerating and thought you were as uninformed about the character of the NT as your words made you seem. I don’t think you realize that you are confusing things you learned while a Christian with the actual content of the NT. That’s not unusual and not a sin. Neither of us are scholars of the subject. I will interpret your offering of the false alternative as an actual question about my beliefs on the relation between Jesus and God.

            The first thing to notice about the statement that “Jesus is God” is that it is very far from self evident what a statement like that could mean. It is likely that most, perhaps all, of the NT writers had never heard a statement like that. Thus, they offer little help with it. Clearly, no Christians, then or now, believe that Jesus is a god (as you say), with the possible exception of modern day Mormons. It is also relevant that the atonement of God and man in Christ Jesus is an interpretation of some parts of the NT and not a specific NT teaching in itself. The notion of what the statement means is a part of Christian theology; I believe there are as many Christian theologies as there are Christians. (like snow flakes, they may look alike) I believe the trinitarian belief that Jesus is God, which was adopted after the NT was written, is purposed to show how we can be praying to Jesus and still worshipping the God of Israel. While important, it is far from the most important of Christian teachings. The most important teaching, in my opinion, is that God and people have entered into an agreement (covenant): God will be our god and we shall be his people.

            My personal belief is that Rabbi Jesus Josephson of Nazareth is become the center of the divine figure The Lord Jesus Christ. This Figure, along with the figures of the Father and the Holy Spirit, all equally represent the God of Israel. Clearly, other Christians may differ.

            I would add to the above that I personally reject every superstitious interpretation of the faith that was once delivered to the saints. If you know of any, :) please do not impute them to me.

          • My inside voice

            Thank you for the thoughtful response.

            You have misunderstood at least one important part of what I said, and also confused me by something you said.

            My confusion: What do you mean when you say you believe that “Jesus is God”, but that he is not “a god”? There doesn’t appear to be any meaningful distinction between saying that he is God (a particular god) and saying that he is a god (in general). Jesus is the same as Yahweh, Yahweh is a god, Jesus is a god. I presume I’m missing some theological subtlety?

            What I said (perhaps not clearly enough): I think that Christians everywhere (with some exceptions as you say) purport to believe that Jesus is “one” with Yahweh, that is to say, God.

            And yet… they don’t behave as if they believe that, in the sense that they quite obviously, and en masse, reject clear and relatively easy to follow instructions he has given (Matthew 5:39-40 is a good example), or reject fundamental doctrine that is embedded throughout the bible itself, such as vicarious redemption.

          • DonRappe

            There is a difference between a god and the god. It is not a small one. The Islamic name Allah means THE God. The question of which teachings are fundamental will certainly vary from person to person. An expression such as vicarious redemption seems to me to raise more questions than it answers. If you really want a teaching which is embedded through the whole bible,you will not find one more prevalent than the teaching of the covenant with God.

          • My inside voice

            Not to get distracted from my main point, which you have not addressed: If Jesus is THE God, and the bible is the only account of him in the world, then how do you ignore a fundamental teaching like vicarious redemption? As I said in an earlier post, you can’t just hand-wave that away. The only account of Jesus that exists is the story of him dying on the cross to save the world from sin. Theologians and apologists from Aquinas to CS Lewis (and every theologian I have ever met), seem to agree that is what the story is about. Perhaps you have some novel interpretation of the story?

            I ask this because I’m genuinely curious about how you can simultaneously accept the bible while rejecting what it says. It seems to me that many Christians do this, and (respectfully) it seems that is what you are doing now.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            My confusion: What do you mean when you say you believe that “Jesus is God”, but that he is not “a god”? There doesn’t appear to be any meaningful distinction between saying that he is God (a particular god) and saying that he is a god (in general). Jesus is the same as Yahweh, Yahweh is a god, Jesus is a god. I presume I’m missing some theological subtlety?

            The term “a god” indicates one of many.

            The term “God” indicates the entirety. The infinitude of singularity.

            Of course these are only words, and our personal inner visualizations are going to be approximate.

            The absolute reality however, is everything and nothing.

            Existence and the potential to exist.

            Knowable, not through the abstractions of mind and personality, but through being. i.e. Christ, Atman, Tao or Buddha nature. Why would it matter what you call it? Resolving to it, all doubt is gone.

          • My inside voice

            It seems the more we talk, the farther away from understanding we get. Are you saying that God is not a god? When Yahweh says that he is “a jealous god” or “a loving god” what does that mean? What does it mean when you say that he/it is “everything and nothing”? Are you a pantheist, then? What does that make Jesus?

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            I had to look up “pantheist”. I’ve usually used monist.

            My background is Yoga, Vedanta, Zen, Sufism, Kabbalah etc.

            At this point, when I contemplate Jesus, it is in terms of these influences. So I don’t spend a lot of time investing in the religious ornamentation and speculation accruing to him.

            Ditto for Yahweh.

            Reason and Inspiration dictate that God is All. Nothing is not God. Contemplation of which is the contemplation of infinitude, both as potential and, as potential expressed.

            If God is All, then the self awareness that I experience, is a clue to the nature of God. If I experience this self awareness as something other than the entirety, it must be only a “trick of the light” so to speak. Something other than it seems; Not to be taken at face value.

            All the threads of enquiry mentioned above, provide plenty of testimony and confirmation of the possibility, and even inevitability, of “enlightenment”. i.e. cognitive absorption with the primordial Self Awareness that is God. This is how I interpret Jesus as Christ. What the multitudes do with it is not important to me. Dualistic speculation will offer all kinds storylines; Some helpful and some not. But consider that the source of these storylines, partakes of the nature of God. Compare it to the genius evident in the dreaming mind. Humble respect is due.

            As for God being Love; Consider this in the context of what I have just said. In the Sanskrit it is the “Ananda” of SatChidAnanda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss).

          • Kevin Osborne

            That was fun to read.

          • My inside voice

            So, this is what I am to understand: Objective reason, and your personal inspiration, have led you to a clear and obvious conclusion about the nature of reality, of God, of human experience, and the purpose of life itself. That conclusion is correct, you know, so any experience you have, or argument you are presented with that is not consistent with that conclusion must be a “trick of the light” and therefore not to be accepted at face value, but needs to be interpreted in the light of your absolute truth.

            Taking this approach, you have found there are bits and pieces of nearly every religious tradition that can be interpreted as supporting your ideas, and you feel comfortable taking those and throwing everything else away.

            I’m not sure what “genius evident in the dreaming mind” means, so I will assume it is poetic.

            You conclude with the idea that Christian love, as expressed by Paul to the Corinthians, and the idea of Bliss, as expressed in the Vedic/Hindu traditions, are are the same thing.

            Back in the 80′s I had an aunt who would go on like this after she’d had a glass of wine or two. It’s just new age narcissism to say that you understand Sufism better than the Sufis or Hinduism better than the Hindus, or Christianity better than the writers of the new testament.

            I’m sure you feel I have not done the genius of your thinking full justice and discounted the value of your personal inspiration (if we can’t see god, it must be because god is everything!) that underpins this worldview, probably because of some tragic shortcoming on my part. We’re going to need to agree to disagree, I think.

        • Steve Greene

          “You seem to be quite an authority on Christianity!”

          Well, let’s see… “My inside voice” refers to “god demands a blood sacrifice as the wages of sin” – which, of course, is standard Christian theology, straight out of the Bible. He writes, “Jesus was tortured to death to answer this demand for all people.” Apparently you’ve never read the letters of Paul in the New Testament, which form the basis of Christian theology.

          If you want to run away from Christian theology and talk about something else, by all means try it – but don’t try to use silly remarks trying to pretend Christian theology isn’t what it is, that the New Testament and what it says doesn’t exist, and that the history of Christian theology doesn’t contain what “My inside voice” pointed out. Indeed, your prevarication makes one wonder what red herring agenda you are seeking to try to employ a remark based on such an obvious denial of reality.

  • lymis

    Personally, I get frustrated with both sides of this – at least the loudest voices on each side, who keep making sweeping claims about what their side can and cannot prove.

    The consensus among a certain kind of atheist is that they do indeed have things like science and logic on their side, and then proceed to display the most atrocious lack of either. It’s like that heavily armed soldier in your picture taking careful aim at his own feet.

    Science doesn’t prove anything in the sense that some of these knee-jerk loudmouth atheists claim, and it certainly has done no such thing as disprove the existence of God, though it has definitely done some pretty serious shredding of some of the claims people make about God and how God runs things.

    I know enough about science and enough about religion to know that most of the people having the most visible public arguments are really bad representatives of either.

    Most arguments I’ve seen are not about religion or God, but about ridiculously simplistic, often straw-man arguments about what “all” religious people supposedly believe – which isn’t helped by the people vehemently claiming to believe the most absurd things.

    It’s like claiming that electricity doesn’t exist because your grandmother can’t explain in detail how a hydroelectric plant works. Pointing out stupid arguments based on her claims may show very valid holes in her understanding of electricity, but it usually has no bearing on whether the electricity exists, or, frankly, on her ability to plug in appliances and operate light switches. You can have the most ridiculous notions of how power gets to your wall socket without being a hazard around the home.

    Most of these arguments aren’t about God, but about human’s theories about God, and they’re rarely about science, but about poorly educated people’s claims about what science is for.

    Ofen, NEITHER side is right, so who “wins” the badly framed argument is usually immaterial.

    Yes, religious people make claims about God that are really unsupportable using logic and science, because they are subjective and about personal experience. But atheists also make claims about science and the lack of a God that are really insupportable because lack of proof is only that – lack of proof. It is not proof of nonexistence.

    But atheists are generally better prepared to point out the holes in someone else’s theology on its own terms than the average religious person is able to point out the logical and scientific flaws in an atheist’s argument.

    There are people on both sides who make serious and valid claims that are essentially fully supportable within their own frame of reference and field of influence. They don’t however, tend to be the ones who get into these sorts of arguments. Which is sad, because they would be the ones with the most to contribute to them.

    • Jill

      I always believed the stork brought us electricity. ;)

      • lrfcowper

        It’s eels in the power lines.

  • happy

    is try to insist or prove that what is real and true for me must also be real and true for everyone else

    Jesus and Paul and a bunch of others thought differently. Which is why it’s so freaking hilarious reading religious articles and watching them trip and stumble and obfuscate over their own religion. It’s a laugh a minute.

  • Sugarbush43

    I know I might come off as Ms. Kumbaya, but why must we all argue and debate over this? OK, debate is fine. But, fighting and arguing? I just don’t understand it. Why does it matter to any individual what, why, or how someone else believes? To me, those who get involved in such arguments are what they hate – people who force their beliefs onto others. It happens on both “sides”, even though I don’t agree with the idea of “sides”. I think “sides” is what causes so much turmoil, anger, and hate in this world. I’m on the side of my atheist brothers and sisters just as I’m on the side of my “believer” brothers and sisters.

    One of my brothers recently became an atheist. He gets offended if you say he “chose to be an atheist” or “became an atheist”. He will only accept “KNOWS that there is no god.” He has been aggressively rude and condescending to those in his family who have faith in God. Including his wife. He sees the world as being against him now, which is funny since, as soon as he made this revelation, he took an offensive stance. It seems to suddenly be his life’s mission to “convert” everyone he encounters. He also abhors those who do the same in the name of God and try to “convert”. He is what he hates and he cannot see it through his anger-filled eyes. He is an example of those who choose to participate in these arguments. There are people like him in all camps of this fight. None are right, because treating each other in a negative way is not right.

    • Anton

      Religion has a lot to answer for, and I fully understand the nonbeliever’s insistence that religious belief be kept separate from public policy. The way religion gets used to excuse discrimination and push pseudoscience is something everyone should deplore, believers and nonbelievers alike. I also think atheists are correct in wanting society to acknowledge the validity of nonbelief; so many atheists are humanists that I see them as potential allies in creating a fairer, more equitable society.

      But your brother is a good example how atheism can just be the flip side of the fundamentalist coin. Blogs and message boards are just full of nonbelievers infatuated with their own intellectual and moral superiority, who fetishize facts and evidence and lay claim to the scientific method as proof that religion is folly, and who think that the world will only be a better place when people (other people, naturally) abandon their false beliefs and think just like they do.

      And it’s distressing to see how seldom these folks display humanistic attitudes. We’re just evolved primates, they say, our joys and passions are just neurochemistry, and anyone who asserts that humans are more than just that may as well be singing about fairies and angels. In that case, what’s the point of creating a more just society? Why should we care about human endeavor at all? Have we cast off the chains of the religious dogma that has dehumanized us for centuries just to live in a high-tech prison where we can be dehumanized by our corporate overlords?

      • Jill

        LOVE this comment.

        • Jill

          And your avatar, Anton.

          • Anton

            Thanks, Jill. The facepalm has so many uses online.

      • Lance Schmidt

        I really like the first two paragraphs of your post. Fundamentalism is a structural mind set that is not the sole domain of religious thought. For over a decade I believed I had found freedom from fundamental Christian thought through atheism, but in retrospect although my beliefs had changed I was just as fundamentally atheist as I had been Christian.

        Although today I am a Christian, I must say that I’m struggling a bit with your last paragraph. Even as a fundamentalist atheist I never understood the argument that some believers put forth that if there is no God then there is no call to be moral or just. I’m not very theologically or logically advanced, but for me it’s very basic: I feel joyous, happy, fulfilled and loved when people show me kindness, love, tolerance, respect and fairness, so I want them to have that same experience by treating them the same way. To me that’s a self-evident truth of the human experience that does not change whether faith or God is absent or present. I would even go so far as to say that I started to discover a higher morality and call to goodness when I was an atheist and believed this life was all we got versus my years in fundamental Christianity where it was all about authoritarianism, legalism, dogma and judgement. Maybe I just misunderstand what you are trying to say?

        • Anton

          Even as a fundamentalist atheist I never understood the argument that some believers put forth that if there is no God then there is no call to be moral or just.

          No, no, no. I never said atheism prevents people from being moral. What I was criticizing was the reductionism of the scientific perspective. As a humanist, I don’t think we are just the wigglings & jigglings of atoms, and I don’t think our joys and passions are just squirts of neurochemicals. That kind of rhetoric is so anti-humanistic it makes me cringe.

          • My inside voice

            Actually you said: “if we’re just evolved primates… In that case, what’s the point of creating a more just society? Why should we care about human endeavor at all?”

            There are plenty of reasons to care about justice and the achievements of humanity without believing in the supernatural. That you can’t think of any seems a tragic failure of imagination.

          • Anton

            There are plenty of reasons to care about justice and the achievements of humanity without believing in the supernatural.

            Sure, but you need a humanistic basis for doing so, and that’s just as unscientific as the supernatural. Science just teaches us we’re bags of biochemicals. There’s no scientific basis for human rights, or anything that ennobles humanity and life on Earth.

          • Sheillabear

            What standard are you using to establish your points?

          • adam

            Deception most likely.

            He can’t reveal his real motives as they are unsupportable.

            But by denigrating ‘science’ he can propagandize the alternative indirectly.

            There seems to be a lot of this anti-”scientism” type propaganda around.
            Creationism and ID are the same technique.
            Political propaganda.

          • Matthew Alton

            He can’t reveal his real motives as they are unsupportable.

            Ding! Ding! Ding! For you also a cigar, sir!

            Insofar as our worthy god-credulous opponents make affirmative statements, they are vague to the point of meaninglessness. Insofar as they are not vague they are mere negations or dismissals without supporting evidence of our garden variety skeptical, scientific position.

            We all know how useless and unreliable science, sorry, scientism is. Let’s chuck it in favor of blind faith in a humongous logical contradiction. Because of good reasons (which are NOT merely that it makes us feel good) that cannot be explained to mere non-believers.

            No recipe for a 2nd Dark Age there!

          • My inside voice

            No, it doesn’t. That may be what you learned from it but that is not “just” what science teaches. Human beings, and the societies and cultures they create are incredibly complex systems (not “bags”).

            If you’re going to make the claim that concepts like “suffering” and “health” have no basis in measurable reality, then it is you that has no foundation for human rights or anything ennobling. You seem to be saying that your ideas of right and wrong are not based fundamentally in your own reasoning, but on the arbitrary interpretation of chicken bones, or unquestioning obedience to the voices in your head (or the heads of others). In that world view, literally anything can be “good”, including something that would cause the majority of all humans in history to suffer maximally for all eternity, while a minority experience unending bliss. You’re outsourcing your morality, and apparently outsourcing to the imaginary bronze-age tyrant of the OT.

            I should add that any argument that says that Yahweh decided, arbitrarily, to change what is right and wrong after the OT is only making my point for me. If I heard a voice in my head telling me to kill my child for it’s own pleasure, *even if I knew for a fact it was the very creator of the universe*, I wouldn’t do it, because it would be wrong, whether in 2014 AD or 2014 BC. Why is wrong? Because it increases suffering in the world, arbitrarily. How can any concept of right and wrong that is not grounded in the experience of real (not imaginary) people be trusted?

          • Anton

            If you’re going to make the claim that concepts like “suffering” and “health” have no basis in measurable reality, then it is you that has no foundation for human rights or anything ennobling.

            That’s not the claim I made. Sure, suffering and health refer to physical, measurable phenomena. But the notion that human suffering is bad, or that human health is good, isn’t a scientific matter. It depends on a humanistic sentiment that we have.

            You seem to be saying that your ideas of right and wrong are not based fundamentally in your own reasoning, but on the arbitrary interpretation of chicken bones, or unquestioning obedience to the voices in your head(or the heads of others).

            No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Are you sure you’re not hearing voices?

            I should add that any argument that says that Yahweh decided, arbitrarily, to change what is right and wrong after the OT is only making my point for me.

            Well then, it’s a good thing you made the argument, since no one else here did.

            Is this a private discussion you’re having with yourself, or can I join in?

          • My inside voice

            That virtually all humans everywhere innately value and desire well-being and avoid suffering seems an obvious, observable, measurable phenomenon, and hardly unscientific.

            But if you think I’m mischaracterizing your position, please tell me clearly: How do *you* determine what is right and wrong?

          • Anton

            That virtually all humans everywhere innately value and desire well-being and avoid suffering seems an obvious, observable, measurable phenomenon, and hardly unscientific.

            You’re mixing up two different things here. It’s no doubt possible to poll people and find out that most folks like health and dislike suffering. That doesn’t make the notions that health is good and suffering is bad scientific concepts. Our belief that people deserve health and not suffering derives from humanistic philosophy, not scientific study.

            How do *you* determine what is right and wrong?

            That’s a personal matter, based on a lot of considerations of moral principles applied to real-life contexts. But the answer is, not from the Bible, and not from scientific research. How about you?

          • Sheillabear

            You’re being a douchebag, don’t characterize someone else’s position if you’re not going to man up and provide your own position on the matter. What underpins your moral philosophy?

          • My inside voice

            I don’t think he’s going to tell us. Thanks for trying, though. :-)

          • Matthew Alton

            I don’t think he’s going to tell us. Thanks for trying, though. :-)

            Ding! Ding! Ding! For you a cigar, sir!

            I have been through several traversals of our friend Anton’s argumentative Mobius strip. I’ve begged and pleaded with him for a statement of position. He’ll have none if it.

            I’m tellin’ ya! The man is hoarding the great secrets of the universe for himself! Downright un-Christian of him if you ask me!

          • My inside voice

            You think about it. But it’s not the Bible or Science! Thanks for adding so much value to the conversation. Sheillabear is right.

            Disappointing, but I get it: It’s safer to parse language in other people’s posts than subject your own ideas to scrutiny. Doesn’t make much of a conversation, though.

            FWIW, I think you’re confused about what is at issue. Asking why suffering is undesirable is a tautology. What is good about goodness?

          • Anton

            Hey, MIV, sorry I couldn’t offer you that comprehensive treatise on my complex ethical system which you demanded. You’ll have to wait for the Kindle edition!

            And I’ll continue to assert that you’re the one who’s confused. The notions of suffering and goodness are neither religious nor scientific matters, that’s all. We need that nonreligious, unscientific concept of humanism to organize factoids about brain states and physical data into a framework for human endeavor.

          • My inside voice

            I see. Anton’s Humanism(tm) contains all of the bootstrapping one needs to get from the bleak nihilism of science to enlightenment. You can’t tell me about it because it’s too complicated.

            Let me know when “Treatise on Humansim” is published. I look forward to reading the amazon reviews.

          • Anton

            You can’t tell me about it because it’s too complicated.

            That was irony, my friend. If you think everyone has a personal complex ethical construct that they must share with you when you order them to divulge it, you’re kidding yourself.

            It’s been fun!

          • My inside voice

            So this thread starts with your critique of someone else’s ethical construct, and ends with your claiming privilege of not engaging in discussion about your own. Yes, that’s truly ironic! I’ll forward the thread to Alanis.

          • Anton

            So this thread starts with your critique of someone else’s ethical construct, and ends with your claiming privilege of not engaging in discussion about your own.

            No, I started out making a case for humanism, and I denied that there’s any simple answer to the question, “how do *you* determine what is right and wrong?” I’m actually not hiding anything from you, my friend, I just don’t have a better answer handy than the one you found so inadequate.

          • Matthew Alton

            Uh-oh. They’re catching on! I knew this would happen.

            For the record, the pattern is:

            Skeptic: Affirmative statement.

            Anton: Negation of affirmative statement.

            Skeptic: Direct response to negation.

            Anton: Accusation that Skeptic misquoted, misconstrued, or misunderstood negation.

            Skeptic: Request for clarification of negation.

            Anton: Redirect to negation of Skeptic’s utterly incomplete worldview. Mere science is a trifling fragment of real reality.

            Skeptic: How so?

            Anton: Deflect. Obscure. Empiricism is a mere tool.

            Skeptic: I’m really confused. What do you believe, anyway?

            Anton: It’s way too complicated. I’m keeping it for myself.

            Rinse and repeat.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Actually, here is the quote from start to finish:

            Anton – We’re just evolved primates, they say, our joys and passions are just neurochemistry, and anyone who asserts that humans are more than just that may as well be singing about fairies and angels. In that case, what’s the point of creating a more just society? Why should we care about human endeavor at all?

            How many times must we hear that belief in God is equivalent to belief in unicorns? I don’t care if there are people for whom that might be true; there is no fidelity to truth in it’s recitation.

            The atheist jihad seems to be about attacking the bottom rung of a ladder that represents the entire arc of human expression.

            I would suggest first seeing where we have been; Then extend our experience, with your own.

            The enquiry needs empiricism without the nihilism; The mastery of which, will reveal that using the term “supernatural”, to explain anything, is for kindergartners. Someone of your capacity should be well beyond that, but you squander your time, bullying your inner child.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            And just to be clear. I feel that you have completely missed your opportunity to learn from Anton.

          • My inside voice

            and to be clear: I feel that you and Anton both have missed the opportunity to engage with sincerity. It seems to me that you assert the superiority of your position not on it’s own merits, but by claiming any other position must be nihilist by definition.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            My point was only that what we are: stardust, forged in the cosmic furnaces, arranged into the awesome complexity of living systems over billions of years, is enough.

            I actually don’t argue with this. And don’t see a contradiction.

            Why do we need to be more than that to be worth something to you?

            I wish I hadn’t come off as attacking you personally. My guess is that we are both starting to generalize and are talking to an aggregate of previous conversations.

            I learned a new term yesterday at a symposium on consciousness. “The Hard Problem“.

            I also learned that the Buddha did not address the Singularity, just that there is no self.

            I only differ in how I would say this. Preferring to emphasize the illusory nature of the personal sense of self. And tracing reality to it’s prototype.

            The Buddha not referencing the Singularity, is understandable; By it’s nature, it can not be described. And doing so, may excite an attachment to “God”, which would delay liberation from the wheel of death and rebirth.

            I am “attached” to the quest for “God” awareness. At some point, when this attachment has served it’s purpose, I will leave it behind. But for now, it is my “Path”, and fills the days with purpose.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            My inside voice – Well, I’m still asking, and I still haven’t heard. If you believe in something that makes us more than primates, and it’s not supernatural, then what is it? You can assume “supernatural” is an insult if you like, but I meant it to be descriptive not pejorative; that what you are talking about is not measurable in any way in this universe. Are you saying that what you believe (a “seamless connection to god”?) is measurable in some way in this universe?

            Supernatural indicates to me: Something outside of nature. I’m saying that the Entirety is nature; Including its origin in the infinitum of singularity. I say “seamless” because, when is is taken as a whole. That is what it means.

            From my understanding, the way to measure this is to step out of the finite and know it as it is.

            Kevin Osborne, (the one someone labeled a relativist), has offered suggestions that might help: – Just hear me say it, while holding your own view. – Thus approaching the “freedom” to be found, in seeing everything as true.

          • My inside voice

            How often must we hear that lack of a belief in god, or a soul (or whatever it is that you think makes us not “just” evolved primates) sucks out of life any reason for creating a just society or caring about human endeavor? You dismiss anyone who doesn’t believe in your whatever-it-is as a nihilist, and then descend into outrage and insult when I say what you believe sounds like the supernatural and ask you to explain it.

            Well, I’m still asking, and I still haven’t heard. If you believe in something that makes us more than primates, and it’s not supernatural, then what is it? You can assume “supernatural” is an insult if you like, but I meant it to be descriptive not pejorative; that what you are talking about is not measurable in any way in this universe. Are you saying that what you believe (a “seamless connection to god”?) is measurable in some way in this universe?

            And what the hell do you know about my inner child? For all of your flowery language, you still resort to an attack on my character without addressing the substance of my remarks in any way. Disappointing.

            My point was only that what we are: stardust, forged in the cosmic furnaces, arranged into the awesome complexity of living systems over billions of years, is enough. Why do we need to be more than that to be worth something to you?

          • Matthew Alton

            How many times must we hear that belief in God is equivalent to belief in unicorns?

            Many, many times. This is because we atheists hold that both gods and unicorns belong to precisely the same category: Things which do not exist. As such there is no useful distinction between them. Therefore belief in one is logically equivalent to belief in the other. Lumping gods into the same loaf with unicorns and leprechauns only sounds demeaning to people conditioned to believe that gods are real and great and mighty and glorious. Leprechaun-believing atheists might have the same reaction for slightly different reasons.

            It helps when you get your head around the fact that atheists really truly repudiate gods in exactly the same way that we repudiate all of the other non-existent things. We’re being perfectly consistent and forthright. Any insult perceived is purely imaginary on the part on the god (or leprechaun) believer.

            Actually, the unicorn is a far more plausible entity than the god. Given the sheer biodiversity present on our planet, the “improbable” platypus, the narwhal, &c., I would be surprised but delighted to discover that the unicorn myth has a basis in fact. A living or fossilized unicorn specimen would be most interesting indeed. The first thing we scientists would have to do is to re-categorize the unicorn. Fair is fair. If you exist then you are categorically better than gods. You get a promotion. Gods don’t exist at all.

            God is the one demeaning the unicorn in our grouping — gods are orders of magnitude less plausible. The Almighty is lucky to get the publicity.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            I really don’t have a problem if you don’t factor gods into your thought processes.

            But when you say:”Gods don’t exist at all”. You are making a positive statement about gods. This indicates to me that you actually dwell quite extensively on the subject.

            It makes me wonder if in the guise of convincing others to give up their beliefs, it is not your own that you hope to crush.

          • Matthew Alton

            It makes me wonder if in the guise of convincing others to give up their beliefs, it is not your own that you hope to crush.

            Ha! No, as the leading authority on my own thought processes I assure you that I do not grapple with any nagging god-belief. You’re certainly entitled to doubt my motives. I encourage everyone to question authority.

            I have encountered this “You only care so much about the subject because you really do believe in God. You’re just mad at Him right now.” tactic many times. I imagine that it is a projection of the doubts of believers onto an atheistic mentality that they cannot understand.

            I will explain the skeptical mind for the record.

            As I have written elsewhere in this thread, for most of my life I simply ignored the subject of religions and deities because it was not interesting. I preferred to study advanced mathematics, theoretical physics, chess, and computer science. These things were very challenging and deep. Lies and fantasies do not persist in these pursuits. A faulty mathematical proof can be disproved. An incorrect hypothesis can be falsified by experiment. A weak move leads to defeat. A defective program crashes.

            The student of any of these disciplines must develop her analytical skills to an extremely high degree. The mind acquires the attribute of rigor. This rigor permeates the entire life of the student.

            After 9/11 a number of thinkers began to articulate the notion that religion was in fact not benign. They held that religion is actually a great social evil, and that we should strive to eliminate it from our midst before it destroys us all. I studied the arguments of these thinkers carefully and concluded that they were sound. I took up the cause in my small way as a matter of conscience.

            Whereas I once simply ignored religious propaganda I now engage it and oppose it in an effort to minimize its malignant effect upon our society. I believe that I am doing my part to improve the world. If you can convince me that this is not the case I will cease and desist.

            To clarify, I harbor no hope of de-converting you, Mr. McKay. You seem to be a strongly molded religious ecstatic. This attribute is probably genetically determined. Such folk are highly prone to fixation upon the mystical elements of the religions of their native societies. Do you doubt that, had you been born in India into a devout Hindu family, you would be a Hindu mystic today?

            Religious ecstatics and theological obscurantists (Hi, Anton!) are, in and of themselves, harmless at worst. I can’t alter your thinking at any rate. This is not my goal. I am writing these words for the benefit of the intelligent but undecided young people who will read this record. To leave capable, unformed minds exclusively in the hands of the devout would be a sin against Humanity.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Whatever it is that you specialize in, it does not seem to protect you from arrogance.

            Also, you continue to fixate on religion, without understanding that “religion” does not equate to “God”.

            Will you burn books, and erase history?

            Once your friends, and what youth you manage to derail or reroute, are running things, will they euthanize the malingering fetishists?

            Who will tell the Hopi that their dances do not hold the universe together?

            Why does it not occur to you that your aspergers may leave you short on compassion, empathy and imagination? Unable to pursue higher forms of theological exploration?

            Or is it such a useful trait, that there are plans in place to start selecting for it?

            What the world needs, is a renaissance of enlightened comprehension, not a wasteland of facts.

            Religion informed by science. Not foolishly replaced by it.

            Is string theory yesterdays news? Shouldn’t you wait for the whole story to unfold?

          • Matthew Alton

            Whatever it is that you specialize in, it does not seem to protect you from arrogance.

            Occupational hazard. The Pope does claim against evidence to be infallible. That strikes me as perhaps even more arrogant.

            Also, you continue to fixate on religion, without understanding that “religion” does not equate to “God”.

            Gods are a subset of the larger category of delusions. Religion is socially sanctioned mass delusion. Religion has traditionally been given a pass in intellectual discourse. Religion has convinced society that it is not polite to discuss religious beliefs. This immunity from rational analysis has allowed religion to fester and form insular sub-societies that secretly or overtly practice such horrors as pedophilia, genital mutilation, and suicide bombing.

            Religious people claim to receive instruction from supernatural entities such as gods. Without their gods, religions amount to social control — psychological manipulation via fear, guilt, anxiety, peer pressure. Religion is evil. No gods, no basis for religion. Gods are evil.

            Steven Weinberg:

            “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

            Amen.

            Will you burn books, and erase history?

            Once your friends, and what youth you manage to derail or reroute, are running things, will they euthanize the malingering fetishists?

            Why would you assume that I would do such horrible things? I would rather stop the Catholic Church from systematically cultivating and propagating child abuse. I would rather convince Muslims to stop blowing themselves up in crowded streets in Tel Aviv. I would like to help people in sub-Saharan Africa without preventing them from using condoms. I would rather help fundamentalist Christians understand that we must take care of our planet. On and on, but I am fighting organized religion on all fronts.

            Who will tell the Hopi that their dances do not hold the universe together?

            Our energies are far better expended elsewhere. The Hopi have no power, exert no influence, and seem to do no real evil. I say leave them alone.

            Why does it not occur to you that your aspergers may leave you short on compassion, empathy and imagination? Unable to pursue higher forms of theological exploration?

            Believe me, sir, I am acutely aware of the shortcomings bestowed by the syndrome. I would never send an Aspie on a PR mission among the emotional simpletons of the earth. We need more Bill Nyes and Neil deGrasse Tysons in this fight.

            I specialize in tormenting addle-brained mystics, pseudo-intellectuals, and theological obscurantists. These people make religion look respectable to the shallow public. I feel that they should be held accountable.

            What the world needs, is a renaissance of enlightened comprehension, not a wasteland of facts.

            I agree in principle to the desirability of a renaissance of enlightened comprehension. How on earth, though, is religion supposed to help us in this pursuit?

            Recall that the Renaissance marked the beginning of the end of the cultural and intellectual stranglehold that the Catholic Church had on western society. Renaissance physicians had to defy prohibition by the Church and risk death in order to dissect human bodies. The Church was busy burning Giordano Bruno at the stake for the heresy of stating that the earth orbited the sun. Religion was, it would seem, squarely opposed to anything like comprehension, was it not? It remains so. Religion learns nothing. It is malignant.

            Human anatomy and celestial mechanics are mere facts, of course, but without them whence cometh comprehension? Religion was violently opposed to facts. How is that good?

            Why does religion flourish in the midst of ignorance? Conversely, why does religion decline among the educated? If it does indeed possess profound truths, why has religion always violently opposed scrutiny?

            Religion informed by science. Not foolishly replaced by it.

            Religion correctly re-categorized by science as myth and relegated to the dustbin of history.

            Is string theory yesterdays news? Shouldn’t you wait for the whole story to unfold?

            I have great confidence in the ability of the universe to provide us with endless chapters in the Great Story. I hope the whole story will never unfold. I hope it goes on forever. I share your distaste for stale facts. Let’s have new mysteries to investigate. Just please, can we stop pretending to already have the answers? People are getting hurt.

          • Andy

            You need a hobby.

          • Matthew Alton

            I’ll stick with this one, thanks.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Steven Weinberg – “Religion is an insult to human dignity.”

            Only the degraded examples that you are reacting to.

            The Hopi have no power, exert no influence, and seem to do no real evil. I say leave them alone.

            But what about their “dignity”?

            I specialize in tormenting addle-brained mystics, pseudo-intellectuals, and theological obscurantists. These people make religion look respectable to the shallow public. I feel that they should be held accountable.

            No offense taken.

            I agree in principle to the desirability of a renaissance of enlightened comprehension. How on earth, though, is religion supposed to help us in this pursuit?

            None of the “Paths” in your litany are examples of the comprehension that I refer to. Your list is an extreme subset of “religions”. The behaviors represent corruption and ignorance. (more accurate labels than the misuse of the term “religion”)

            “Religion learns nothing. It is malignant.”

            (Not worth commenting on.)

            I have great confidence in the ability of the universe to provide us with endless chapters in the Great Story. I hope the whole story will never unfold. I hope it goes on forever. I share your distaste for stale facts. Let’s have new mysteries to investigate.

            If only this was the lead in to your essays. It is what I mean by “religion informed by science”.

            You are not an atheist; or if so, it is not really the motivation of the writings presented here. You are an antitheist and this is all politics.

            Politics is the root of delusion.

          • Matthew Alton

            You are not an atheist; or if so, it is not really the motivation of the writings presented here. You are an antitheist and this is all politics.

            I am an atheist in the sense that I recognize no gods. I assume, based upon available evidence, that we are given one life, and that when it is over we cease completely to exist. I also hope that this is the case. Having given the matter considerable thought, I conclude that the only desirable “afterlife” is oblivion.

            While I am here I will try to live the best way I can. I have no ultimate answers. I have no reason to assume that ultimate answers exist. At any rate I do not require them.

            From what I can divine from your writings here I would estimate that your thinking far more closely resembles philosophy than religion. This is consistent with Eastern traditions where our categories seem not to be so useful.

            The notions of “God as everything”, “God as the ultimate superset”, “God as awareness” do not approximate the Christian God Yahweh. Such utterly all-encompassing terms have no meaning for me. Yahweh and Allah are the ones doing the real damage in this world.

            The political sphere is largely where the conflict between religion and rationality is played out. It is the way things get done. Texas School Boards, for example, try to foist creationist gibberish onto children in the public education system via political means. They must be combated with politics and legislation.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Philosophy or not, it arises from the same impulse as all religion. However, like every phenomena in the universe, it is subject to evolutionary pressures. Being of the realm of mind; these pressures include reason, intuition, imagination, emotion, sensory awareness, memory, desire. In other words, the entire human being.

            The word Universe means the totality. We don’t get to declare what that means. To set limits based on our personal inclination, just limits what we will know.

            First rule is that the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Emergence.

            I call it God because that is what my ancestors called it. Imperfect approximation is the name of the game at all stages. What matters, is the will to know with more fidelity. This drives evolution.

            If your version of science lacks the ability to accommodate the study of totality, then you need to pass the ball to your intuitive brethren. They can pass it back to you when you prove ready to resume the quest.

            Politics is samsara. The actions, attitudes and desires that arise from it, are of the nature of sin. The true meaning of this “western” term, is the ignorance of our non-separation from all that is.

            We humans are greater than the sum of our parts; in exact correspondence to our source.

          • Matthew Alton

            If your version of science lacks the ability to accommodate the study of totality, then you need to pass the ball to your intuitive brethren. They can pass it back to you when you prove ready to resume the quest.

            There really is no “my version” of science. There’s just science.

            As to the “study of totality”, I would imagine that this refers to yet another nebulous, subjective thing that cannot be properly handled by anyone not sitting in a sweat lodge in a deep yogic trance. I would further conjecture that, whatever it is, it has never actually produced anything.

            Once your “totality study” can produce something like an AIDS vaccine, or a sustainable alternative energy source, or indeed anything at all of any use to the world at large, the scientific community will pay you some attention. Until then I think we’ll just keep plodding along.

            When you become seriously ill or injured, you will turn to us for help. Medical science is your best bet. That’s because we actually produce results.

            Here’s a question. If you do indeed have something of great value to share with the human race, why can’t I obtain the slightest notion of what it is? What is it? How can something so ineffably true be so unable to manifest any indication of its own existence? Why is there not even so much as indirect evidence that the great truth even exists at all? Why can’t you just tell me what the Big Wonderful Thing is?

            Is it unreasonable for me to assume that the Absolute Truth might somehow correspond to reality in such a way as to appear plausible?

          • Andy

            Evidence != proof. There is plenty of evidence both in favor and opposed. You can dismiss or uphold any of that as you see fit in order to justify your position.

          • Matthew Alton

            There is plenty of evidence both in favor and opposed.

            Are you speaking of objective evidence in favor of the existence of gods? You have some? Pray, what is it?

            The argument from skepticism claims no proof of the non-existence of gods. In fact, we assert that it is impossible to prove a negative.

            We are making no claims at all. You are. You are claiming that gods exist. We are asking for evidence of this. It’s really that simple.

            You can dismiss or uphold any of that as you see fit in order to justify your position.

            Not if I’m a scientist. If you have scientifically admissible evidence of the existence of gods, then I would have to account for the evidence. If the evidence you presented was overwhelming I would have to admit that it was conclusive and accept the existence of gods, at least until a better theory arose. That’s how it works.

          • Andy

            I have no desire to engage in this debate. I am not trying to convince you of anything. I don’t give a shit what you believe, or don’t. I’m sure you have done enough research and thinking to satisfy yourself.

            I have no interest in recounting every single theological argument ever made just to humor you. You probably take issue with most or all of them. Again, I don’t care. I’m not out to convert anyone.

          • Matthew Alton

            So, no evidence and no arguments and no desire to produce either. Very well, you are dismissed from the debate.

            Next!

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            I’m wrapping it up as well.

            I have given you plenty of suggestions, references and clues.

            All that is required is alert awareness and an earnest heart.

            We call it beginners mind.

            Practice for a year and then look me up. We can try again.

          • Matthew Alton

            Practice for a year and then look me up. We can try again.

            Until then may you walk in peace, my friend. And may serenity and harmony travel with you. I wish this in all sincerity.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            It’s as simple as looking beyond the end of your own nose.

            In both directions.

          • Steve Greene

            “I call it God…”

            And that’s the problem. For example, you can use the term “universe” to refer to “everything that exists and has ever existed and ever will exist”, or you can use “universe” to refer to our observable universe and, presumably, the extended part of our universe that is not observable due to being beyond the “bubble limit” of the speed of light and the expansion of space over time. In the latter case we could be discussing the concept of what caused the universe (what produced the “Big Bang” in the Big Bang cosmological model) and we can speculate about the concept of a quantum field as the ground of all existence and call it “God” – but this is redundant, and also misleading because of all the corrupt baggage that is connected with the term “God” in human religious myths and traditions.

            In regard to “the study of totality”, science has unequivocally established its vast superiority over the thoughts of mystics on the mountains (or itinerant preachers on the Sea of Galilee or the deserts of Arabia). This does not mean there are not limits. It just shows that science is the way to expand the boundaries in regard to “the will to know with more fidelity” – which has also by the way shown how the claims of mystics are false or meaningless in their claims to know things beyond the limits.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            …we can speculate about the concept of a quantum field as the ground of all existence and call it “God” – but this is redundant, and also misleading because of all the corrupt baggage that is connected with the term “God” in human religious myths and traditions.

            You are not allowed to dismiss the non-corrupt contributions.

            I am pretty sure that you are not even aware of what you are dismissing.

            In regard to “the study of totality”, science has unequivocally established its vast superiority over the thoughts of mystics on the mountains (or itinerant preachers on the Sea of Galilee or the deserts of Arabia)

            Nonsense.

            For one thing the “thoughts” of a successful mystic is not what we are talking about.

            Direct experience is the fidelity that I refer to. This is “Our original face before our parents met”, “Tao”, “Christ”, “Buddha nature”.

            Nothing that I have said rules out the usefulness of science.

            But, as long as it rules out the testimony of the mountain top sage, it is stuck with flat landian perception and results.

            If your problem is with Abrahamic religions, or even just religion, then that is what you should be talking about. Not chiding me for my choice of words.

          • Steve Greene

            “You are not allowed to dismiss the non-corrupt contributions. I am pretty sure that you are not even aware of what you are dismissing.”

            Sure. Like I’ve never read anything by, say, Lee Smolin or Paul Davies or Sam Harris. Not. (Notice the double negative.)

            “…as long as it rules out the testimony of the mountain top sage, it is stuck with flat landian perception and results.”

            Sure. Throwing out bogus nonsense generated by snake oil salesman and discourses by careless thinkers permeated with meaningless metaphorical equivocations and muddlement relegates us to “flat-landian perception and results”. Sorry if I don’t buy that argument.

            Religion is certainly a good example of the epistemologically corrupt rhetoric I’m talking about, but it is also certainly not the only example.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            “Lee Smolin or Paul Davies or Sam Harris.”

            Not sure who these guys are. So we still haven’t reached any kind of mutual understanding. And, by the tone of your response, I’ll assume that this would not be your agenda anyway.

          • adam

            Direct experience is the fidelity that I refer to. This is “Our original face before our parents met”, “Tao”, “Christ”, “Buddha nature”.

            Which direct experience are you talking about.
            Consciousness or the Shamanic Experience?
            Or perhaps just emotional?

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            The process is a continuum until it’s not.

            If there is a residue of egoic attachment, there will be a shadow of otherness.

            With otherness there is experience. The play of Karma. Relativity.

            At every stage, including writing in this blog, there is the potential to serve the process of evolution.

            Evolution in the sense of Self Discovery. Enlightenment.

            There is also the opportunity to slip back into a static orbit around the familiar turf of the personal.

            For some this may be love, for others the wonders of quantum mechanics.

            No problems except for the need to master cause and effect.

            However, don’t forget, it is an enquiry into the infinitude of singularity using the only means available. Our own being.

          • adam

            However, don’t forget, it is an enquiry into the infinitude of singularity using the only means available. Our own being.

            Yes, our own self created singularity our own observations of our own being.
            This is all chemical in nature and can be induced chemically or physically.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            This is all chemical in nature and can be induced chemically or physically.

            I knew you were going to say that. Not sure why it matters.

            Think more archetypally.

            Look for underlying structure and universal principles.

          • adam

            Symbolically it is interpreted as the shamanic or mystic experience. Described in any number of ways by various cultures. Most likely the source of the idea of ‘heaven’ and probably ‘hell’ as well in our culture, and the inspirational goal of almost all religions.

            The underlying structure is the brain, it’s chemical makeup at the time, the individuals cultural experience, expectation and state of mind at the time.

            If there are universal principles it would seem to be that these experiences are available to all and we should be discussing this in context, not be wielded as a tool of political power.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Why think more archetypically?

            Who is it that experiences the experience?

            What is the prototype of Self?

            Is Self awareness a universal principle?

            The underlying structure is the brain, it’s chemical makeup at the time, the individuals cultural experience, expectation and state of mind at the time.

            Is the brain and it’s temporal state not a component of Universe?

            If there are universal principles it would seem to be that these experiences are available to all and we should be discussing this in context, not be wielded as a tool of political power

            Good points.

            Just as not all are made for the life of a “scientist”, most are not dedicated to “Enlightenment” .

            So there is no shortage of human endeavor to amuse and frighten us.

            The wheel will continue to be turned until it isn’t.

          • adam

            “What is the prototype of Self?

            Is Self awareness a universal principle?”

            THAT is the problem, isn’t it.

            The Self as a part of the universe or subservient to ‘authority’?

            Isn’t it the ‘church’ who tries to redefine Self as part of their political party?

            “Just as not all are made for the life of a “scientist”, most are not dedicated to “Enlightenment” .
            That is because truly, one depends on the other.
            Otherwise the churches and charlatans use it to deceive and bilk the masses.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Regarding Self; My inspiration has gravitated towards One Self, echoed throughout the hall of mirrors.

            If I claim ownership, then I am part of the dilemma. My actions reinforcing the same confusion in others.

            Issues of authority and politics, as part of that situation, are increasingly taken with a grain of salt.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          I feel joyous, happy, fulfilled and loved when people show me kindness, love, tolerance, respect and fairness, so I want them to have that same experience by treating them the same way. To me that’s a self-evident truth of the human experience that does not change whether faith or God is absent or present.

          What you describe is innate because our seamless connection to God is innate.

          Whether we participate with awareness or not does not change the Truth of it.

          But awareness makes it grow stronger.

          I would even go so far as to say that I started to discover a higher morality and call to goodness when I was an atheist and believed this life was all we got versus my years in fundamental Christianity where it was all about authoritarianism, legalism, dogma and judgement.

          Yes, this is atheism as virtuous precursor to enlightenment.

          However, remaining ego bound, and proprietary, without the awakening to God, is just death.

          With your help, I’m writing this for the sake of Matthew Alton, Steve Greene and others. Someone did the same for me 40 some years ago.

          Thank you.

          • Kevin Osborne

            I really LOVE your “seamless connection to God” above. That is wonderful and enlightening. Thank you!

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Thank you for highlighting it.

      • R Vogel

        We’re just evolved primates, they say, our joys and passions are just neurochemistry

        Yet, ironically, many vehemently reject any adaptive evolutionary explanation for religion or religious belief. It is the only virtually universal trait in humanity that has no value.

    • Kevin Osborne

      He is probably trying to figure things out and this is a step in his process. If the “God” position is not working to satisfy his requirements, then maybe taking an “anti” God position will work.
      That sort of shift has been written about a gazillion times, by Tolstoy, Twain, Robert Penn Warren, in the wonderful The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, on and on. It as a central theme of mankind and we see it playing out on these pages as well.
      Another way to operate is to understand everything as it is, even while in the process of having positions. Notice that you are understanding how this place works for you, which is also understanding your place within.
      When that is solved, the God position becomes irrelevant.

  • R Vogel

    Hey John, vorjack over at Unreasonable Faith blog was critiquing your ‘Rational Genius of Christianity’ piece and asserted that you made a logical leap from the premise of belief in G*d to belief in Christian G*d. I pointed out that both in the comments of the piece and in your tenets of Unfundamentalist Christians you don’t assert Christianity as the only logical structure for belief. He, however, quotes you piece where it said “If you start with the reality of God, then the story of Jesus Christ follows, as inevitably and naturally as can be.” I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind commenting on that. Have I gotten you views wrong, or are we both misunderstanding the quote?

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      R Vogel: The statement, “If you start with the reality of God, then the story of Jesus Christ follows, as inevitably and naturally as can be” is not logically incompatible with the statement, “Christianity is not the only ‘logical structure for belief.’” The first statement, in other words, claims no exclusivity. I may be on a river that I know is heading for the ocean. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think other rivers also lead to the ocean.

      • R Vogel

        Thanks for the clarification. I’m not sure I understand the metaphor (is G*d the ocean? if so isn’t the flow in the wrong direction?), but I think I understand your position.

  • Robert McHenry

    I am a theist… but I find pretty much all religions to be kind of silly. I used to be an atheist… until I understood that I was arguing against christian theology… which was too easy… but while my arguments were great at demolishing the christian belief system, they did not satisfy the basis question…

    why life?

    Life, existence, self reflection, awareness are inexplicable. Me being aware of me… is amazing and inconceivable. The synchronistic happenstance of my existence… has been… a bit of a miracle. To me, Life is the miracle.

    Atheism… like all the other religions… have a tendency to reduce the miracle of life into a tidy little package that we can control. It is there, like other belief systems, to comfort us and to protect us from the unfathomable complexity that is life… existence… they all can help us on the path… they are road maps… mapping out a version of reality… giving us a system of responses… but they are not reality… people to often confuse the road map for the road.

    So, I am a theist… (which I think is different than an agnostic)… I believe with my full heart that there is something out there… I have no question about that… and I have gathered flowers from many of the great traditions… (world religions, mythologies, science, history)… my road map… on how to live a more thoughtful, peaceful, kind, mindful, open, strong, passionate and vital life… I need to remember this more…

    • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

      This is a way worthy of our times. Full of grace. Thank you.

    • Matthew Alton

      Atheism… like all the other religions…

      Dead wrong. Atheist is emphatically and categorically NOT A RELIGION. It is the absence of belief in gods. Period.

      Do you believe in unicorns? No? Then you are an aunicornist. Is this a religion?

      My position: I haven’t got the slightest idea what the big answers are. And neither do the religious. They just like to pretend.

      • Robert McHenry

        Hi… wow… I guess I should have said “Atheists and all other systems of belief that profess to have an understanding of the ultimate nature of reality”…. but I short handed it…. Oh well.

        As a non-atheist and as a non-religious person, I find the fundamentalism of both positions to be kind of silly. Both seem to insist that they “know” the ultimate meaning of it all. Religions profess to know the mind of god… and atheists insist that there is no god… so therefore no mind of god.

        While I am sure religions don’t know the mind of god… I am also pretty sure that I don’t know if there is no mind of god at all. This has nothing to do with scripture, with my religious background… it has to do with awe… and this awe lead to my big question…

        And here I will badly paraphrase Douglass Adams to render it…. My big question is “What is the meaning of life, the universe and everything?”…. (and I am pretty sure the answer of “42″ was a wonderful example of brit humor re: the futility of the question, I love british humor almost as much as I love futile questions)….

        I think the problem that the neo-media-atheists are having is… their endless battle over scripture… for me, this battle sucks the life out of atheism… and makes them not atheists but… the anti-scripture. Which is fine… but seems to me to miss the point… they have become the party of “no”… which does nothing to help people (me included) understand the experience of life.
        And this is the real point… I don’t know about you… but every single day… I experience my existence as a miracle… I experience all the drama and silliness, the pettiness and awe of my little life… as a miracle… from the movement of my hands across a key board to singing and butt dancing as I drive home… all of it… I am endlessly amazed by the fact of life and self reflective life to boot… to me… existence is amazing, precious and unexplainable.

        I say this from a “scientific” perspective… knowing that self reflective life on this planet needed so many pieces to occur… more than I can list here… but here are a few…. the formation of the moon, plate tectonics, the increased size of the iron core of our planet, the electro-magnetic shield… and all of this happening in the goldie locks zone of the solar system… which is itself located in the goldie locks zone of our galaxy… all of these plus a zillion other led to the formation of us…

        Pure chance… maybe, but…

        But then there are all the weird, synchronistic things that have happened in my life…. Am I only a pattern seeking life form… maybe, but.

        And it that “maybe, but” that helped shift me from an atheist to a theist (not agnostic). I don’t know what is going on in the universe… why life is… nor what is the meaning of it all…

        But I am sure that it all has meaning… that it all has purpose… it is all too beautiful not to…

        So while I understand that atheism is what it is… none belief in a god or gods… for me… it does nothing at all to satisfy my personal experience of my life and my experience of the world, the universe and everything… (including quantum mechanics, string theory, the inflation theory, etc).

        As for unicorns… I do believe in them…. and they are called Narwhals and live in the sea.
        Last point… I work in the mental health feild… and we do lots of behavioral therapies… the one that rarely works is replacing a bad behavior with no behavior. Replacing something with nothing just doesn’t work for most people.

        • Matthew Alton

          Atheists and all other systems of belief that profess to have an understanding of the ultimate nature of reality

          Not to pick nits, but this is a very important point. I gather that you are using the atheist/agnostic/believer scheme wherein atheists make a positive claim to know that gods do not exist in the same way that believers claim to know that gods do exist. In this scheme I would be an agnostic. Dawkins and most modern atheists, myself included, do not make this positive claim. We find the term “agnostic”, however, too weak to convey our position. We use the term “atheist” to mean simply “without gods”. Atheism is merely a lack of belief in gods, that’s it. We find the proposition that gods exist to be on a par with the proposition that centaurs exist — negligibly probable. So, in the modern sense of the term you might be one of us! You tell me.

          The debate as it is framed by the so-called “Four Horsemen” of neo-atheism — Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett — goes more to the point of whether religion is a force for good or evil in the world. They claim that it is evil. They each make a reasoned case that religion is an unserviceable substitute for the uniformly applied modality of reason.

          The modern atheistic position is pretty well summed up here:

          http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2008/05/10-reasons-you-should-never-have-a-religion/

          See YouTube for videos of the various debates between the horsemen and believers.

          I would be interested in hearing a case for actual Christianity. The fellows on the pro-god side in this thread refuse to engage in an honest way about Christian doctrine and the heinous practices of Christian institutions. They prefer to wax mystical and ladle on the usual esoteric and hopelessly vague re-definitions of god ad hoc.

          My apologies for the terse reply earlier. I do tend to come off as harsh and dismissive. It is a personal failing

          Peace.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Experience cannot be easily shared because one is sharing the time stream-too much complexity. One can occupy an immediate viewpoint held by another but to do so one must be willing to “cross over to the other side”. Since conversion tactics tend to operate one way, this may be seen as a betrayal of self. One thinks one must become the other idea instead of just understanding it.
    A mutual sharing of ideas, of viewpoints is much more fun. Try to find it on this earth, and as, the dread pirate Roberts states, “be prepared for disappointment”. The truth is yours to find, alone, likely because it is your truth.

    • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

      Yes! Good. Fully ripened wisdom.

  • Matthew Alton

    My tentative conclusion is that atheists win arguments with Christians because atheists are right. It’s quite easy to win an argument against theses which are incoherent and self-contradictory. It helps that the objective evidence is all on the side of the atheists, too. One of the Christians in the discussions below tried to convince me that objective evidence was, if not irrelevant, then at least inconclusive. Wow. Let that one sink in.

    Anyway, the correct answer is that the Christians are wrong. Their myths are obviously false. Snakes and donkeys don’t speak. Dead people don’t pop back to life and float bodily up to heaven. Adults in the 21st century should not believe that these things have ever occurred or will ever occur. Period. If you get yourself into a debate with serious people and are on the affirmative side of such nonsensical things you must expect to be refuted and dismissed.

    Atheists, remember to be very careful. You are going to be accused of being flippant and sarcastic and demeaning. It is not possible to plainly state the beliefs of the Christians without some of them suddenly but temporarily realizing that the beliefs are patently silly. But for them the beliefs are true by definition so they can’t possibly be silly. It must be you. The Christians will think you’re making fun of them. I’m not kidding. Your merely mentioning the fact that the Christians assert that a naked lady was tricked into eating an apple by a talking garden snake will get you a rebuke. Keep your cool. After a few exchanges the Christian will either cease to reply or let fly with a string of ad hominem attacks. Never fails. Then someone has “won” I suppose. The identity of the winner will depend on who you ask. Move on at this point. Read some Carl Sagan. Walk the dog.

    Next question.

    • Anton

      Matthew is a welcome change from all the civil discussion around here.

      • Matthew Alton

        Anton: “Did you go off your meds or something? The obvious has just taken out a restraining order against you for belaboring it all fucking day.”

        Like this?

        • Anton

          Sure, Matthew, a tu quoque will do, if you want to make it sound like you’re justified in slinging flamebait around the board. What I said about your medication goes double for your irrelevant rants about our “myths.”

          • Matthew Alton

            This forum seems too slow sometimes. I would genuinely enjoy sharing a good bottle or two of wine with you some evening. I would not predict a conversion in either direction but I would surely learn interesting things and I think we would both laugh a lot.

            There is a seminary in my neighborhood, and a Cajun-themed bar and restaurant. I have spent many evenings in the bar jousting with the seminary students as we all get into our cups. It’s great good fun and we all enjoy ourselves. Nobody convinces anybody to alter any core beliefs but then nobody harbors such hopes at the outset. After our matches the lads (they’re all male so far) head back to their world of theology and scripture. I return to my accustomed atheistic routine of rapine and cannibalism. Both parties refreshed and restored.

            When I try to reproduce the atmosphere of these evenings in this type of forum it doesn’t work. I’ll stick to the bar.

            Peace.

          • Anton

            Really, Matthew? You think it’s good fun to make puerile pronouncements like “Christians are wrong. Their myths are obviously false.”

            You must be a real wild man at the pub.

          • Matthew Alton

            Is there some other olive branch short of abject conversion to Christianity that you would be willing to accept, sir? I could only fake the conversion, I’m afraid. So that one is out. Heaven knows Christianity is rife with hypocrisy as it is.

            Our discourse ceased to be productive some while back. We must now agree to disagree and have done with it. As a mythical person once said, “Blessed are the peace makers.”

            Peace be upon you.

    • Craig Woodhouse

      You seem to have already decided not only on a clear winner no matter the players, but also how simple it is to defeat the Christians. Especially when they are always unaware that they have in fact lost.

      Although,I am confused since your argument revolves around the assumption of all Christians’ unwavering belief in literal interpretations of their text book.

      I was wondering if you had a question I could perhaps take a stab at that may in fact “cook my noodle” and have me slinging insults like a naked boy with some string and pebbles at your gigantic brain?

      • Matthew Alton

        …I am confused since your argument revolves around the assumption of all Christians’ unwavering belief in literal interpretations of their text book.

        What’s left after we discard literal interpretation? We all get to kill each other over the correct metaphorical reading of the Bible? Historically speaking, the answer seems to be yes.

        How about we just cut out all of the mystical supernatural mythical bullshit and just tackle moral and ethical problems in realistic terms like adults? What say we just admit that we don’t have a clue as to why we exist or what we are supposed to do about it? How about we stop pretending that we have any input whatsoever from gods on the matter of how to be decent human beings? Maybe we should stare the cold hard facts (the ones in evidence) in the face and use them to take on the tough problems we face without any more comforting childish delusions? Noodle cooked?

        • Craig Woodhouse

          Uh, but the killing continues while the Americans build nearly 30 bases to protect “their” oil fields. As for the bible, it has been through many translations and dare I say manipulated at times for the benefit of the theological beliefs of the editor at the time. “red into and read out of it is the key”.

          Mystical, supernatural AND mythical bullshit. Why would you be so angry for a start and what exactly do you mean by moral and ethical problems and tackling them like adults? Do you have said guide or are they all in dispute or worse manipulated in government by the lobbyists for Big smoke, Big booze and Big pharmaceutical? What makes you think you have freedom of choice especially when you have given up the pursuit of WHY YOU EXIST AT ALL?

          Maybe you “should” continue your validation of bullying students down the pub with your childish delusions of “no one can prove anything so why bother?”

          You have developed a sense of good VS evil but this has come from “evidence” you say? Is killing another human for their stuff not just evolution, are we being marketed to or is there maybe something else at play?

          Any more noodles on ofer?

          • Matthew Alton

            What does any of this disjointed raving have to do with whether gods exist? Men do evil things. We have deep unsolved philosophical questions. Corporations are up to no good. I try unsuccessfully to un-delude seminary students. So what? Gods exist because I’m an asshole? Help me divine your point(s) please whatever it or they may be. I am but an ignorant and wayward heathen too stubborn to tolerate fairy tales.

  • Steve Greene

    Spirituality is a subjective experience. And just to use words in a clarifying manner in my post here, allow me to arbitrarily define “religion” as ideas about reality that people impose on spirituality – which then allows me, quite deliberately, to use the words “spirituality” and “religion” carefully and articulate the distinction I mean to point out and discuss. Atheists do not argue in opposition to spirituality or subjective experience. What atheists argue against, in terms of logic (reason and critical thinking) and considerations of evidence (epistemology), are the reality claims stated or implied by religious believers (of whatever religious stripe).

    Awe is a subjective experience. Love is a subjective experience. The claim that the human spirit (the human mind) is the product of a supernatural spirit created by the Bible God, is not a subjective experience. The claim that the Bible God created the universe, is not a subjective experience. The claim that the Bible God miraculously impregnated a human female and imbued the body of the fetus with himself, is not a subjective experience. The claim that you are actually having a relationship with Jesus Christ (who died two thousand years ago) is an empirical claim, not a subjective experience – it is the imposition of manifestations of the imagination based on religious traditions on top of subjective experiences. Awe and love and the like are aspects of human spirituality. These various claims about reality are not subjective experience but are religious claims based on religious traditions and, as reality claims, are subject to logic and evidentiary considerations. When you say “Christian”, for example, you are not merely referring to subjective experiences, but are making specific reality claims which go beyond that, and you are not talking merely about spirituality but about religious beliefs based on religious doctrines.

    Now, there is less than zero doubt that in our culture with relatively advanced education and usage of science there has been a great deal of cognitive dissonance between the claims of religious belief and the fact that they not only find no support upon scientific investigation but that, worse, religious beliefs keep getting falsified outright. No credible scientific evidence of a supernatural human soul (and all evidence points to the human mind and spirit being the product of a human brain and body system), and no credible scientific evidence of disembodied human spirits (aka, ghosts). No credible scientific evidence of the power of prayer as anything more than positive thinking and placebo effect (prayer which, by the way, is shared by religious beliefs of various religious stripes with differing gods and differing religious beliefs). No credible scientific evidence of supernatural powers granted by a god (faith healing is a crock, Benny Hinn is a fraud) or genuine supernatural miracles (indeed, to the contrary, any miracle claim that is actually investigated carefully, scientifically, is found to be false claims based on superficial observations heavily colored by religious superstition). In the case of Christian beliefs in particular, no credible scientific evidence of the very idea that the Bible (either New Testament or Old Testament) has anything to do with any actual god, and all sorts of evidence pointing to the fact that it was written solely by men based on their own religious traditions of their own particular religious cultures – so much so that today Christians (“progressive” Christians, rather, not fundamentalist Christians) argue for and want us to believe that even though we should recognize the nature of the literature for what it is – religious myth – the Bible is somehow magically the “divine truth” given to us by a god to teach us “spiritual truth” and not to teach us any truth in regard to ideas implied in terms of scientific discoveries about reality. Which, of course, is an incoherent argument.

    In the context of the subject, acknowledging the fact that religious belief is “entirely subjective” is thus both a false argument (because religious beliefs in fact imply various claims about reality which are not subjective) and an incoherent argument (because most of the “spiritual truths” are typically not actually about human spirituality but about religious beliefs, and without any grounding in reality they have no basis for being declared as “truths” in the first place) at the same time. In regard to human spirituality, and to the wisdom of various behaviors in the context of human interactions and human society, Christian religious belief certainly has no evidence of any god-inspired truths, and no evidence of any god-ordered monopoly according to a divine order based on the by-definition vastly superior knowledge and wisdom of a god (omniscience).

    The subjectivity of human spirituality does not imply that spirituality is *wholly* divorced from reality, nor does it imply that expressed sentiments based on spirituality are *wholly* divorced from logical and empirical constraints (especially when such sentiments are drenched in the language of the doctrines of religious traditions). Claiming that Christian belief is “entirely subjective” does not make it so, and this is just one of the many reasons why Christian belief is many iotas less logical than the recognition of the fallacious nature of religious belief by atheists.

    • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

      Of course experiments arising from such a clutter of preconception are inconclusive.

      How do you compensate for clueless snobbery when designing them?

      • Steve Greene

        I do always laugh when believers in reality-free religious myths try to self-project their inconclusive clutter of religious preconceptions based on the clueless snobbery of pretending that their very human fabrications are no less than ideas they received from the mind of a god – their cluelessness including, of course, an inordinate difficulty with comprehending how scientific research is deliberately designed to *test* hypotheses against relevant real world evidence and to subject results and conclusions to the critical scrutiny of other scientists who do work in the same fields of research, not to mention failing to grasp how fundamentally different from religious faith this is precisely because of this.

        There’s a great video of Richard Dawkin’s discussing this specific point that I recommend in the context of this discussion:

        Richard Dawkins – If Science Worked Like Religion
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHD41EcXjE0

        The satirical nature of such a claim is obvious when you see it (which is why we laugh at Dawkin’s joke) – and yet this joke is exactly what you have promoted as an argument to be taken seriously.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          You deflected pretty predictably.

          Did you say you actually work in science? Perhaps it wasn’t fair to assume you had designed the experiments in question.

          • Steve Greene

            I notice you deflected very predictably and completely ignored how scientific research is actually done, and then employed an irrelevant ad hominem deliberately for red herring purposes. Nice show.

          • Matthew Alton

            I work in science. Mr. Greene is correct on all counts.

            Could you perhaps clarify what is meant by the alleged “snobbery” of the scientific experiments in question? We might start with the experiments which investigate the efficacy of interventionist prayer. These are easily reviewed. If there is indeed some prejudicial error in methodology in these experiments, or any others for that matter, I can assure you that the designers of the experiments in question will be extremely interested in knowing what it is. Many people would be truly grateful to you if you could share the specifics of your claims with us. This is how science works.

            Honestly, if you could please cite with specificity any error at all in any scientific experiment whatsoever, I can help you to be heard by the relevant researchers.

  • DonRappe

    I like that picture of me in your post. I owe to my wife the idea of using my red bandanna as a jock strap.

  • Jeff Creighton

    People are either in good moods or bad moods, they either pay attention to reality or they go off in their own little world and do not hear the truths. Religion is simply the oldest form of psychology, and all psychology whether they realize it of not is the study of the spirit. How can someone say that reality does not exist? It is right in front of them! If an Athiest won, it is simply because they talked to a Christian who did not understand the teachings. Which is common, for few understand.

  • Jeff Mo

    I had to chuckle a little @ “I daresay that I have made such an argument.”

    You’re in good company, John Shore.

  • Jeff Mo

    I think you got one thing right: “As intense and radical as it is, the religious experience necessarily and inviolately remains an entirely subjective experience.” That doesn’t prevent billions of theists from talking about it, though, or strongly asserting objective aspects of their ineffable imaginations.

  • Jeff Mo

    And by the way, noting that religious experience is entirely subjective contradicts your unsupported claims about religion being logical. Logic is not entirely subjective, though individual attempts at using it can be partially subjective. Just like the scientific method, our advances in theories of logic focus on those things which are demonstrably objective, and we approach that ideal as best we can, being fallible human beings.

    Religion is quite at the other end of the subjectivity/objectivity spectrum.

  • ronymattar

    What logic are you talking about? the logic that says everything was created from simply…. “NOTHING”?? and all this universe was build precisely like that “Just by chance??”
    There are so many questions not answered by the most respectful physicians in the world!… And guess what? If you read well About Christianity you will discover many things you never thought about…
    I’m not writing this reply to criticize you, I respect your point of view, I’m gonna tell you why there are lots of atheists especially former Christians atheists, it’s just because we are not living as God taught us to live and treat each other, and not judge others…
    If we as Christians are living by our Lord’s teachings you would see God, I never discuss Christianity as a challenge to prove we are right, because it is not up to me to show you God, He knows how to let each one of experience the life with Him.
    But I challenge all the scientists to prove that the universe was born from nothing! Then let us talk about logic…
    Thank you

    • David_Smith

      He’s working from the “logic” of ad hominem, fallacious reasoning, and delusional chauvinism.

    • JSloan

      “But I challenge all the scientists to prove that the universe was born from nothing!”

      Look up the book “A Universe From Nothing” by Lawrence Krauss.

    • Bones

      I think we need to be honest and say we can’t prove there is a God.

      And it doesn’t matter.

      • WilmRoget

        Nor can atheists prove that there is no God. The problem, the intrinsic fraud in atheism, it that through its followers, it demands proof from people of faith, while it simply cannot ever prove its own position.

        • Bones

          A bit hard to prove a negative though. And the onus is on the one saying you MUST believe…or else.

          I think if God was really concerned about people believing in Him for their own welfare, He’d have made it a lot more obvious.

          Fact is He’s becoming more and more mysterious.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            The older I get, the more mysterious God gets to me. I find myself repeatedly realizing how little I understand about God, and how, ironically, I’m perfectly fine with that.

            Its kinda like. “I know there is a God…I think…Is there?…if so…than what, how, who….where?…there!…oh, wait…that was—God…or was it?”

          • BarbaraR

            Quite. Whenever someone says they are completely convinced about their stance re God and that they have never doubted His word – I know that’s someone living off rancid intellectual fat.

          • WilmRoget

            “A bit hard to prove a negative though.”

            So it is usually a good idea not to assert a negative as fact, and an even better idea not to demand proof from those asserting the positive.

            The onus falls on the one making a claim, anyone making a claim. People of faith have an onus to prove their claim, and atheists/agnostics/disbelievers have the onus to prove their claim.

            Atheism is based on a fundamental bias “you folks have to prove our claim, we don’t”.

          • Bones

            My understanding of God keeps changing and is certainly not what it was 10, 5 or 1 year ago.

            I’m quite atheistic now to the evangelical God.

            What ever God is He isn’t like that.

            I’m starting to subscribe to the negative (apophatic) theology of the Orthodox.

            We can only know God by what God isn’t ie God isn’t evil, God isn’t man or woman or bound by the laws of the universe or a control freak.

          • WilmRoget

            “I’m quite atheistic now to the evangelical God.”

            On a cranky day, I might say that a great many evangelicals are atheistic to the living God described in the Bible and revealed in the creation.

            We can know God through our experiences of God, up to the limit of what our finite selves can know anything. But then, not a one of can fully ‘know’ our own planet, every nook and cranny, every leaf and whisker. But we can know as many details and principles about our planet as will fit in our heads.

          • Daniel Munoz

            Can you prove there are no fairies?… if not, then you cannot ever state that there are no fairies, as you have to prove your claim.

            Simply put, whoever has the biggest claim has the burden of proof… If you say that you know that a being which is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent really exists, then I will ask you to prove it.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            My two year old granddaughter has a favorite movie about her older sister’s favorite character. Tinker belle. She watches that movie every chance she gets. I’ve seen the movie with all those fairies, so they must be real!

          • BarbaraR

            That’s good enough for me.

          • Andy

            I agree with your paragraph about the onuses. I don’t agree with your last paragraph in general, though I have known some who take that position.

        • Chris I.

          Atheism has no followers. Atheism is a single position on a single issue.
          Atheists lack belief in god(s).
          And even though I don’t categorize myself as anything, I can understand that Christians are desperate to shift the burden of proof onto atheists. There’s nothing brave or honorable about that.

    • Khedra B Graham

      Hello everyone I want to share a live testimony on how Dr Alex was able to bring my husband back to me, myself and my husband were on a serious breakup, even before then we were always quarreling fighting and doing different ungodly act..
      My husband packed his things out of the house and we had to live in different area, despite all this I was looking for a way to re_unite with my husband, not until I met Dr Alex the great spell caster who was able to bring my husband back home, Dr Alex cast a love spell for me, and after some time I started seen results about the spell….
      Today my family is back again and we are happy living fine and healthy, with Dr Alex all my dream came through in re_uniting my marriage, friends in case you need the help of Dr Alex kindly mail him on( solutionhelpcentre@gmail.com ) or call him on +2347036013351, Sir I will forever recommend you!…,.

  • James

    You Western atheists are actually outraged by Western Christians that at least HAVE some sense of logical thinking, but what can I tell you as an Oriental atheist?
    My experience with the full-blown retarded faggots Greek Orthodoxs and my illogical parents in general are astounding. They simply shit on logic because they are retarded. If you were in my horrible position I think because you Western Atheists have a million times more intelligence and logical thinking you would have done it better. Here is an example of a conversation where my dumbass father ignores logic:
    -Why you turned on the water/house heat?
    -I didn’t do it.
    -Who did it? Me? I did it? You are in the house.
    - I don’t know, but I didn’t. Do you have evidence I did?
    - Evidence and bullshit. You did it.
    -Nope because simply evidence can’t be bullshit since evidence are a characteristic of logic and BULLSHIT are a characteristic of paranoia. Simply you don’t know what logic is. What you applied is a contradiction.
    - Vre leave those bullshit I say. If you knew logic you would have known to love your family.

    Draw your conclusions and tell me how to counter with comebacks that shit. The moronic fuck seems of unbeatable stupidity. I want to CRASH that stupidity to the ground with logical reasoning.

    • Bones

      Ummmm. Leave home.

  • http://www.bibletalking.com/ Oneil Salmon

    Evolutionists debunk evolutions; watch the horrible scene here: http://www.shoutitall.com/2014/06/must-watch-evolutionists-debunk.html

  • Vineeth Philip

    “in the trash heaps of India”

    ok atheists do exist in India, I’m an Atheist and other atheists can be found here, granted we’re a very small minority to the point o not even being known to anyone

    also trash heaps ? I live in Ernakulam (city) ands middle class so don’t try to say I’m in the trash !!!!!

    • James Walker

      exactly the kind of point that should be made about the Tony Jones’ of the internet. his comment was patronizing, smug and very, very American-centric.

      as a Christian, I would far rather associate with conscientious atheists (regardless of their nation of origin) than with shallow-minded self-styled “Christians” like Tony.

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

        Same here.

        • Andy

          Me three.

      • WilmRoget

        How can you associate with what does not exist?

  • WilmRoget

    “The atheist is simply better armed. And why is that? Because logic.”

    No. Sorry, I’ve been debating atheists extensively, and real logic is rarely a component of their arguments.

    The main reason many Christians lose in debate with atheists is failure to address the nature of atheism – it is a prejudice. Conservative Christians cannot bring that up, because they promote so many prejudices of their own.

    Atheism is a mechanism by which people in a group attempt to elevate their perceived social status above that of other people by denigrating those other people. This is the same mechanism at work in racism, homophobia and anti-gay theology, in sectarian disputes, ethnic prejudices, sexism, etc.

    One need only compare the way atheism is articulated, uniformly, across the internet, with the way homophobia/anti-gay theology is articulate, or racism is and even more so how it was articulated – and the parallel is extreme.

    Logic dictates that when something produces the same results regardless of who it is directed at, most likely the same process or mechanism is involved.

    Logic also dictates that a position based on absence of evidence does not disprove or supersede a position based on evidence. Yes, a vast majority of atheists dismiss the experiential evidence of people of faith, their experiences of the Divine, out of hand. That dismissal is not logical. Such atheists then proceed to use their own subjective, experiential evidence to support their claims, and this is simply fraudulent, a demonstration of bias.

    If you want to win arguments with atheists, begin by recognizing that it is not based on logic, but on bias and ego.

    • Lausten North

      Wow

    • Marisa Totten

      As an atheist, I do not dismiss your experiential evidence, per se. I simply label it as not observable by me, and therefore insufficient when entered as “evidence” if it’s designed to cause me to believe what you believe. If all you’re doing is saying it is why you believe, fine. If, however, you’re using it to persuade me to believe, it easily dismissed.

    • diagnosedADHD

      Atheist speaking up. I am atheist not because I want to fit into a group and fuck around with religious folks. I am atheist because I am unconvinced about the existence of god. That is all. We do not have secret meetings. I do not agree with antagonizing anyone based on a certain aspect of them. However, if that person is influencing my life or the lives of the people around me in a negative way, I will speak up; examples: sex before marriage, birth control, gay rights, secularism. There are many variations to atheism, and i do admit that there are some that are quite bigoted towards religious folk. I am not one of them, and so aren’t most other atheists. Don’t generalize. It can and does lead to irrational hate.

      • jason bladzinski

        Thank you. Not a single atheist has denounced the behaviour of theists as a whole here. However, Wilm quickly insults all atheists in one shot as selfish, immoral idiots. Why don’t the religious realize that such unfounded attacks do nothing but prove our points for us, and shows the ignorance of their observations. It’s true, believers hate more than atheists do. It seems to come with the territory as beliefs are so hard to change, but ideas are much more malleable. As atheists we deal in ideas, and we progress much faster for them.

    • jason bladzinski

      Why is it that the religious are so much more inclined to degrade others than atheists are? You have made a presumptuous, arrogant , prejudice tirade against all atheists! How can you make a judgement against a multitude of people you have never met? Is what you have written fair? What data do you have to prove your claim that you state as fact? I am quite hurt by your accusations, as an atheist I always try to live the most moral, ethical, emphatic life I can. I am sad that dispite all my hard work in this area, that I have not helped to cause atheists to be perceived as what we are, people.

  • jmanngod

    pretty sure the reason atheists win these discussions is because they are correct and you are wrong. Show evidence of a god or let it rest.

  • Dr. George Lisjak

    Atheists
    & Satanists

    Atheists and Satanists relinquish their Constitutional
    rights for the following reason:

    The US Declaration of Independence states that people “are
    endowed by their Creator (God) certain unalienable rights, among them life,
    liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

    The Declaration of Independence is the preamble to the
    Constitution. It is the philosophical basis of law in the United States of America.

    Since atheists do not believe in God, and Satanists are against God (their Creator), both
    atheists and satanists give up (forfeit) their Constitutional rights, and are
    not protected by them, since they are endowed (granted) by God.

    God grants them free will.

    • BarbaraR

      And you created a Disqus account to share this tidbit with us…why?

    • Guy Norred

      Actually the Constitution has its own separate preamble, but what this has to do with the color of a caraway seed, I fail to follow.

    • Andy

      This has no place here, and is wrong anyway. The first amendment guarantees equal protection to everyone, regardless of their beliefs.

      • jason bladzinski

        Thank you Andy. A sane and logical argument. I think of Dr. George’s statement as that of an evil bigot. It’s really terrible and shocking for someone to claim that. Very arrogant to write that unfounded translation he wrote.

    • Jeff Preuss

      If one doesn’t believe in God, then one isn’t beholden to calling Him their Creator. That statement is merely saying that the men who wrote the Declaration believed our Creator to grant ALL these people certain unalienable rights, which applies even to those who may not believe in the same Creator or a Creator at all.

      Sooooo, logic fail?

    • Marisa Totten

      “Creator” is a necessarily generic word, designed to allow the reader to insert into that word the meaning he/she chooses. We know this because the 1st amendment.

    • jason bladzinski

      Wrong. You see, there is also an element of the constitution that separates church and state, essentially nullifying your claim. Neither is it actually worded in that document that Satanists and atheists are exempt from those rights. Unless it specifically makes that statement, than your argument is void. I would even venture to say that atheisim as a concept wasn’t really identified at the time of the constitution, therefore couldn’t and wasn’t addressed in that document. Finally, the constitution has a clause known as “the elastic clause”, which is the true greatness of the document. Unlike the various writers of the Bible, the authors if the constitution recognized that the world would change technologically and culturally in ways they could never perceive. To combat the instance of certain elements of the constitution from becoming obsolete, this clause allows the constitution to be repaired, and updated to prevent oppression of people by concepts that are no longer accurate. Not having atheists as members of American society at the time does not mean they are excluded, they are as anyone, even Satanists, are citizens of this nation and are equally to any and all humankind and as citizens of the nation. You would condone treating atheists as lesser members of this society and not worthy of the same rights as theists, and that is just than a little more scary. The other flaw in your logic is obvious. What about those that are Hindus, any other religion that does not worship the god of the judeo-christian-islamic religions? Are they also void of these rights?

  • Khedra B Graham

    Hello everyone I want to share a live testimony on how Dr Alex was able to bring my husband back to me, myself and my husband were on a serious breakup, even before then we were always quarreling fighting and doing different ungodly act..
    My husband packed his things out of the house and we had to live in different area, despite all this I was looking for a way to re_unite with my husband, not until I met Dr Alex the great spell caster who was able to bring my husband back home, Dr Alex cast a love spell for me, and after some time I started seen results about the spell….
    Today my family is back again and we are happy living fine and healthy, with Dr Alex all my dream came through in re_uniting my marriage, friends in case you need the help of Dr Alex kindly mail him on( solutionhelpcentre@gmail.com ) or call him on +2347036013351, Sir I will forever recommend you!………..


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