faith is messy–which is where God is found

As long as you can deal with life in universal abstractions, you can pretend that the usual binary way of thinking is true, but once you deal with a specific or concrete reality, it is always, without exception a mixture of darkness and light, death and life, good and bad, attractive and unattractive.

We who are trained in philosophy and theology have all kinds of trouble with that, because our preferred position is to deal with life in terms of abstractions and universals. We want it to be true “on paper” whether it is totally true in concrete situations is less important or even denied.

This is what the dualistic mind does because it does not know how to hold creative tensions. It actually confuses rigid thinking or black and white thinking with faith itself. In my opinion, faith is exactly the opposite—which is precisely why we call it “faith” and not logic.

The universal divine incarnation must always show itself in the specific, the concrete, the particular (as in Jesus), and it always refuses to be a mere abstraction. No one says this better than Christian Wiman: “If nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time ravaged self.”

When we start with big universal ideas, at the level of concepts and –isms, we too often stay there—and forever argue about theory, and making more “crucial distinctions.” At that level, the mind is totally in charge. It is then easy to think that “I love people” (but not any individual people). We defend universal principles of justice but would not actually live fully just lives ourselves. The universal usually just gives us a way out. The concrete gives us a way in!

Richard Rohr (from his Daily Meditations)

Adapted from A New Way of Seeing, a New Way of Being: Jesus and Paul
(CDMP3 download);
and Holding the Tension: The Power of Paradox, discs 1 and 3
(CDMP3 download);
and Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi , pp. 71-72

 

God is right here, always: thank you, incarnation; thank you, Eucharist
the gift of darkness (or, why being bored in church might be God telling you something)
God and true freedom
Eucharist: a wedding table decorated with a cross instead of a cake
  • Scott Skiles

    Gotta love Richard Rohr. Richared Rohr, Peter Enns, Frederick Buechner and the Psalms are my starting point most mornings.

  • Mark K

    Yes, I have often said it’s much easier to love my neighbors when they aren’t around.

  • Ross

    I’d have to say that “knowledge about God” is a very poor substitute for “knowledge of God”. Thankfully, regardless of our doctrinal/denominational allegiance/background/whatever we can come to a relationship with him and I have met so many who have and been blessed by them.

    If only the axiom that the “more I know, the more I realise I don’t know” was more common in the vocal elements of those who claim to follow Jesus, then maybe we’d be getting some ways ahead, rather than re-enforcing the darkness that the “knowledgable” seem to want to lead us further into.

  • patkelly03

    If anyone can provide a rational answer to the following simple question then I will concede your point that god is real:

    What makes the god(s) you learned to pray to anymore real than all the other gods you didn’t learn to pray to?

    The fact the faithful are universally unable to answer this question is undeniable proof that all religions with a long list of gods are nothing more or less than willful ignorance and superstition. There is no factual evidence whatsoever that has ever been brought forward that can support any rational or truthful conclusion that god(s) exist. Faith is the act of deceiving not only yourself, but others into accepting an illusionary dream that everyone knows deep inside is only that…… a dream.

    • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com Kristen Rosser

      Reply: nothing makes the god I learned to pray to more real than the other gods I didn’t learn to pray to. That’s because no human conception of God can approach the reality. But the limitation of human conceptions of God doesn’t disprove the God of reality.

      • patkelly03

        Nice attempt at trying to sound logical in defending a belief in gods. I note two glaring problems with your response. First if “nothing” makes the god you learned to pray to more real than all the other gods you never learned to pray to then you are effectively basing your beliefs on “nothing”. Since the conflicting stories behind religion could not all be true or have a foundation based on the same alleged series of events, your answer fails to offer up any explanation for what is behind all the other religions that worship deities other than the one you learned to believe in. In these respects you have essentially failed to answer the question.

        Second, you propose as evidence to support the validity of your beliefs in god the valueless proposition that since your beliefs cannot be disproven, they should for some unexplainable reason be rightfully considered as valid. The simple logic problem here is that no can prove a negative or prove that something does no exist. Before you suggest that I prove your god does not exist, I ask you to first prove that Santa does not exist. I look forward to your proof.

        You further misuse the word “reality” to describe what is clearly nothing more or less than a willful delusional fantasy. Your attempts to call god real does not have the power to turn fantasy into reality regardless how much prayer, love and devotion you might personally apply to your inability to rationally deal with your impending death.

        My advice to you is to wake up and get real. Stop pretending you are more than you are or that your life has more meaning than it does. Truth and honesty are two things you should value far more than faith. Without truth and honesty what is faith? Just a lie. No matter how you try and dress it up, it is still what it is… Just a lie.

        • Bex

          Hey Pat, why are you bothering yourself dealing with people who disagree with you and whom you think are way below your intellectual level? You have all the answers and no one will ever answer your question to your satisfaction, so publish your book and let it go. People who argue like a dog with a bone (no matter what they believe is correct) are terminally boring.

          • patkelly03

            People don’t like anyone challenging their delusions especially when those delusions are confronted head-on with common sense honed out of real world experience. I find attempts to argue in favor of ignorance fascinating. I am also acutely aware that the seeds of truth can easily take hold in minds that have been genetically programmed to tell the difference between fantasy and reality or dreams and the real world. Faith is a symptom of a sick and distorted mind looking to find the harmony it once knew before it failed to keep irrational notions from shifting it into a deluded existence.

            Whatever gave you the idea that the reason I write is to entertain or gain acceptance, attention or applause. I write for me and not you or anyone else. While I do posses an IQ in the 140s range, I am always on the lookout for other ideas that are superior to my own. And I also like to occasionally put my ideas and conclusions to the test to see if they can withstand other’s scrutiny. That is the true purpose behind my asking what makes the god(s) you learned to pray to any more real than all the other gods you never learned to pray to. Contrary to your statement I will accept any answer to this question that fits within the boundaries of truth and reality and offers a superior explanation to this question than the best one I have applied.

    • Andrew Dowling

      That human beings in different times and cultures have created their own stories and ways to express the transcendent isn’t proof that the transcendent doesn’t exist.

      Really across an incredible variety of religious traditions, you’ll find that what the old monks/wise men/prophets . . .the guys who go off into the wilderness and think about God all day . . what they devise the divine to be actually largely correlate with one another (God is found in works of love, mercy, selflessness etc.)

      • patkelly03

        The fact that it is impossible for anyone to prove a negative or prove that something does not exist is not proof of anything’s existence including what you refer to as “the transcendent. Contrary to your proposition, there is an enormous amount of credible psychological evidence that easily accounts for why humans are predisposed to develop beliefs in gods. The one I find most credible shows that the deep seemingly natural assumptions of not being alone stem from the first impressions laid down upon our brains of large, all powerful care givers we later come to know as parents. These strong initial impressions become the foundation upon which all other impressions are eventually added to. Of course it seems natural to believe you are not alone just as it also seems natural to seem that you will never cease to exist since the only thing you have or will ever experience is existence. However, none of this changes the reality we were born into or the unfathomable predicament the temporary nature of life places us in. In the final analysis it doesn’t matter how we feel things or how deeply we feel them. Reality will have its way with us no matter who we think we are or what embellishments we attempt to assign to our purpose.

        Finally, alleged gods can be found in all manner of alleged works from the most savage and barbaric on one side to the most noble and heroic on the other. Of course humanity attributes things to gods. It is a simple answer to things currently beyond our understanding.

        • Guest

          proving a negative: http://youtu.be/F13WE1YdsHI

          • patkelly03

            I watched your video and once again suggest that before I take on the burden of proving your particular god does not exist you should establish it is possible to do so by proving that Santa does not exist. Once again, you go first.

            The person in the video tries to give an authoritative answer by claiming he can prove things do not exist such as proving there are no muslims in the US senate. Well the list of US senators is a much smaller list than the one that would have to define virtually all of reality before one could surmise that god is not on that list. I am not saying that humanity is incapable of coming up with such a list sometime in the future but rather than we are presently far from being able to do so. The current list of reality is still infected with many items that will later be identified as ignorance and removed from the list. Gods, ghosts, spirits, demons and the like are still on the list even though we currently can account for the fact that all such things originated in the mind of men. Nevertheless, until we have the complete list of each and every element that makes up reality, no one is in any position to definitively prove that Casper the ghost is not part of the incomplete list anymore than we can prove the same thing about Allah, Jesus or Santa.

            One other element that should be considered here is the claim that it is possible to prove there are no muslims in the US senate is factually false. All you can prove is that there is no US senator willing to acknowledge that they pray to a god called Allah. And even if you somehow established with absolute certainty that there were no muslim senators, what does that have to do with proving that dark matter or flubber doesn’t exist. The point that it is not possible to prove a negative when it comes to proving gods do not exist remains a valid rational conclusion in spite of an attempt to claim the failure of anyone to disprove gods in any way establishes the truth of their existence.

            Finally, there is no real and tangible evidence that would meet the criteria of acceptability in any court of law that has ever been brought forward to be offered up as proof of anyone’s god(s). It is not irrational, in response to this glaring lack of evidence over a period of thousands of years of human history, to reasonably conclude that since no real evidence exists, there is no legitimate, rational or dare I say truthful basis for anyone to believe in any god no mater what that god’s particular name or how many people have come to worship him/she or it. If there was any truth to any of this where is the proof? Why have the alleged heavens remained silent? The answer is simple. For the same reason none of us has ever caught Santa coming down the chimney.

          • Guest

            Have you ever heard the one about straining out the gnat
            and swallowing the camel? No, I don’t suppose you have..

          • patkelly03

            Sorry but based upon your response or lack thereof, my post appears a bit beyond your ability to comprehend since it deals with concepts slightly more complex than camels or gnats. Unfortunately, I have neither the time or inclination to dumb things down to a level you might understand. On the other hand, if you don’t have anything to say, it is usually better if you just don’t say anything.

          • Guest

            Although it seems like English is not your first language,
            but I did understand your post. But you tell yourself whatever makes you feel better. By the way, the person in the video is Dr. William Lane Craig; maybe you’ve heard of him.

          • patkelly03

            There is no point in us comparing writing abilities except that if English is your first language you need an intense refresher course stat.

            I would be interested in hearing your idea of how not believing in god(s) would make anyone “feel better”. Obviously, I like the idea of not dying as much as the next guy so your attempt to explain why anyone would not willingly delude themselves into believing such nonsense seems a little misplaced.

            You appear to do a lot of projecting of your own thought processes upon others. For me it is not about what feels better but rather what is true. It seems what really separates us is not what we have learned to believe so much as the level of honesty and integrity that governs the acceptance of those ideas. In addition to being generally more intelligent, atheists tend to be more honest than their faithful counterparts. Though this may not make you feel good it is the truth.

            I’ve never heard of your Dr. William Lane Craig just like I never heard of Jim Jones, Jimmy Swaggart or countless other charlatans until the truth of who they really were and what they really stood for made the news. I have often wondered though why people such as you seem to seek out someone they can devote and follow like sheep to the slaughter. What in the world makes you believe that someone else’s ideas or conclusions have any more validity than your own? Do you actually believe your level of intelligence is so inferior?

          • Guest

            Dude seriously, you’re a basket case. I’m not even wasting my time on your silly rant. Get some therapy or whatever.

          • patkelly03

            Good answer to the question.,, NOT!

            You just keep right on deluding yourself and don’t forget to put that plate in your lower lip as you dance around fires with your fellow savages. It is an embarrassment to know that certain among us are not too bright, but even worse to know they chose to be that way.

          • Guest

            ​ ​

          • patkelly03

            Be afraid. Be very afraid because the truth has the power to force you to pull your head out of the sand no matter how comfortable you have become in the kneeling position. Grow-up idiot. You are no defender of gods. You are just another lost fool looking for someone, anyone to tell him he must be important.

          • Guest

            Ok then, you have a good session.

          • patkelly03

            Thanks I will… I was beginning to wonder what you looked like. Is that a Harley you’re riding there as you shuffle off to church to have a word or two with the creator of the universe? Perhaps that’s the reason your god created you… He has a great sense of humor. And what could be funnier than savages such as yourself actually believing not only that YOU are somehow special or important, but that anyone should take you or your fleeting beliefs seriously.

          • Guest

            No baby, your threats are ridiculous. You should try taking lessons from the local bully boys that pick on you. Ask them for some tips on how to properly intimidate people. Maybe when you graduate from middle school you can really be scary. Until then you’re just ineffectual. But congratulations on missing the point. Have fun living in your fantasy world,
            I’ve got things to do now, that’s how it is for adults. Adios.

          • patkelly03

            I’m thankfully not your baby and know nothing about what you appear to perceive as threats. Step back into the light of reality for a moment and share with us all how you were threatened. By the way, I would render a guess that I have been around a heck of a lot longer than you so if anyone is the adult here it would not appear to be you. Who are you? Are you just some kid playing on a computer whose daily life involves bullies and other teenage nonsense? How old do you really think I am and why do I get the impression your mother just told you to wash the dishes and go to bed?

          • Guest

            Oh, you’re a guy…LMFAO!!!!! Sure bud, whatever.

          • patkelly03

            Noticably absent:
            1 – Anything about yourself for others to scrutinize.
            2- Anything that might denote a sincere search for truth and reason.
            3 – Courage.

            4 – Any attempt to honestly try and answer the question at the beginning of this thread.

          • Guest

            Tell yourself that if it makes you feel better, I don’t mind.
            You need to have the last word, little puppy?
            You go ahead and have the last word.

          • MattB

            Guest, it seems that Pat here is not even willing to accept that God exists or that he himself might be wrong. He seems to be arguing in a circle. You’re right… there’s no use in arguing with someone who isn’t open to what the opposition has to say

          • Lars

            There’s an old saying: You can catch more gnats with honey than camels. I think it means that you can make your points better if you’re respectful, even if you consider some replies beneath a response. Just an opinion based on my own previous alienations. I don’t believe in God either but I do sense that most of the posters here are doing their best to reconcile questions about God and are far from dogmatic or ideologues and are happy to engage – all things that make this one of the best blogs on Patheos.

            I can’t dismiss out of hand that most of the world’s population believes in at least one deity, but that they believe in so many different ones – and that the one true deity hasn’t seen fit to disabuse us of all the others – gives me great pause. If there is indeed one true deity, my takeaway on its silence is that a personal knowledge of it just isn’t that crucial in the grand scheme. If your deity is inclusive, encourages you to be a better human, and offers personal peace, it’s hard to get too motivated to destroy that. I’m happy to give my reasons for believing otherwise but I don’t see the point in gloating when I’ve convinced a mom that she’ll never see her 12 year old daughter, who died of brain cancer, again. Even if I believe that to be the case, I can’t prove it and I’m not going to try.

          • patkelly03

            Here is a new saying Lars that has surely been said before. “It is a far far better thing I do to be open and honest with others than to treat anyone’s ignorance with respect.”

            There is no legitimate reason to have or show respect for ignorance or superstitions in order to try and protect someone’s ego. I have too much respect for both you and me to waste both our times playing mind games with you. If more people where open and honest with each other, religion would have never advanced to the level of acceptance is has today. Though I will say, the resultant friction we see today as all the various sets of different religious beliefs rub up against one another is a clear sign that religion is not sustainable within an information based society. The same internet that brings us all together onto the same world stage is also the technology that has the power to extinguish the cancer of religion, superstition and all manner of ignorance from all of humanity. Religion can exist very nicely in an informational vacuum void of any countering opinions. Just as I am speaking to you now with a child’s message that the king has no cloths on, truth will ultimately concur ignorance wherever and whenever the two meet.

            You appear stuck in the old wives tale that religion will somehow tame the savage beast. There is no basis in fact for any such belief and the childish notion that being afraid of going to hell is somehow going to prevent anyone from misbehaving must surely have originated in the mind of a six year old. You may cower with regret and fear each time you play with yourself, but I am free from such ridiculous mortal sin concepts. The genetically endowed morality I follow is infinitely superior to anything dreamed up and written down by some idiots who lived thousands of years ago. I don’t need them to tell me the difference between right and wrong and anyone who feels they do is a sad reflection upon the human race.

            Finally, I question your assumption that ignorance is bliss or that believing a dead 12-year old daughter is dancing around picking daisies in heaven offers any real comfort to those who have lost a loved one. I would suggest that it is psychologically far more healthy to accept the finality and reality of death rather than attempt to delude one’s self into believing that you will all be together again at some big family reunion in the sky. It hurts to lose a loved one and truth and acceptance are the best consoler. Being honest feels good even when it forces one to confront harsh realities.

            Life goes on and the sooner the bereaved fully morn and reach that conclusion the better for them and everyone else who must continue living in the real world no matter what they think happens after anyone dies. I think far eastern cultures have it right where funerals are more like parties that bring extended families together not only to say goodbye, but more importantly to say hello and how have you been. Death is the painful consequence of life. I seriously doubt straining to delude one’s self that death is not really death does little if anything to reduce death’s pain on either the dying or those who must continue on. Once again, truth and honesty are always the best medicines to heal a wounded mind.

        • Andrew Dowling

          I’m not offering proof of God, but I can’t provide definitive proof just as you are unable to prove God does not exist. I understand the agnostic position (frankly I think every honest person of faith should be agnostic about some claims about the divine), but atheists tend to be dogmatic (the classic question “why is there something instead of nothing” is answered much more rationally by believing in some sort of primeval force than the gobblygook a diehard atheist would posit)

          Yes I’m well aware of the psychological reasons humans would want to believe in God. But you are left with a classic chicken and egg conundrum . . why do advanced mammals with our brains have this longing? Because there is something out there, or simply because we want to comfort ourselves with a delusion?
          Your constructions of ‘God’ are also incredibly Western-centric . .lots of cultures do not posit God as a “Daddy” figure nor believe in a traditional afterlife ie we get to be comforted knowing our souls go to a heaven.

          • patkelly03

            I was raised a Catholic and will likely never shed the effect that had upon me. You sound intelligent so I will attempt to respond in kind.

            To begin with you can forget any notions of purpose as it relates to human existence. The idea of purpose is a human construct in the exact same manner as gods. Ideas of beginnings and ends might also fit within this same very human construct that has no relevance whatsoever to the reality existing around us. Change is likely the only correct descriptor that defines what is actually going on around and with us though it would be interesting to attempt to apply this same notion to consciousness that surely appears to have connections to beginnings and ends. Yet the theory that information cannot be destroyed seems to imply no real end to consciousness though I sure would like to know what happened to the data that was erased from my hard drive beyond any level of retrievability.

            Your chicken or the egg question obviously exists within the realm of beginnings and ends. I personally do not buy the notion that the big bang represents something created from nothing. I think it might be far more likely that all the matter and energy contained within our know universe has always existed though it is totally alien to the human experience resolver to even imagine concepts beyond the realm of our experience. What would happen if you took static matter void of time that existed all at once effectively and then inserted the element of time. In short, what would happen if you put a googolplex of baseballs existing as a close to infinite number of slices of time and indeed baseballs all together into the same instant? Would that cause a bang and rapid expansion as all the atoms or strings attempted to occupy the same time and space? Perhaps and perhaps there is more to a black hole than just a very dense point of matter in freefall towards infinite density. Maybe what we are actually looking at when we look upon a black hole is not simply a lack of light coming towards us trapped by gravity, but rather a rip in time itself opening our universe to a different dimension our matter flows into.

            Forgive my free association exercise but I use it to suggest we have far to go before anyone can claim we are approaching any level where ignorance is behind us. About the only thing we can do from our current perspective is acknowledge the incredible stupidity of our species to the point that no one should take anything anyone says too seriously. We indeed have much to learn though at this juncture of a new energised flow of information on a global basis, it seems one might conclude that all the gods will finally be left behind in a dark chapter of human intelligence’s attempts to reconcile the temporary nature of its existence.

      • MattB

        And better yet, the fact that the one True God came down in the flesh and was crucified and resurrected for all mankind speaks a better resonance with my soul than any other argument for theism(Not saying that other arguments aren’t good). :)

    • cajaquarius

      [The fact the faithful are universally unable to answer this question is undeniable proof that all religions with a long list of gods are nothing more or less than willful ignorance and superstition.]

      Alternately, it could be that there is something more like an afterlife or a God or gods out there that we have an inbuilt desire to understand or know but simply can’t. Or maybe they are all right and it is like Discworld. Who knows? What is the point of having a p*ssing contest about it? What do you win if you are right?

      EDIT: Read further down so I suppose I should reveal stuff about me since you ask. I do believe in God and some sort of afterlife because I feel they are there (and because of a near death experience, but it is all intuition, not knowledge). I am well aware that the burden of proof is on me and I am equally well aware I cannot. Hence why I don’t argue about it. I feel there is something more to existence and I feel things will work out even if I do not fully understand the truth, fully, factually. Sort of like I can’t prove I am in love with another guy, factually – it is intuition. I just am.

      • patkelly03

        You ask in obvious wonderment; “What do you win if you are right?” I find your question itself indicative of a moral deficiency that lessens the value of whether something is true. The hell with reality! Why don’t we just have everyone wonder around talking to themselves and their fantasy friends in their own private fantasy worlds. What’s wrong with that you might ask? Well for starters we tend to call people who are uncontrollably disconnected from reality “crazy” and generally try and help them with drugs, counseling or other types of psychological intervention. And we do this because there is a general consensus that most people will lead happier and more productive lives in tune with reality and thereby much more in tune with others around them. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to apply the same standard when it come to a willful disconnect from reality such as yours, where you put more stake in how you feel about something than you do in the rational part of your mind that is constantly trying to get you back on the reality track by reminding you that 2 plus 2 equals 4, not 666. But somewhere alone the line you decided if it feels good, then that’s all you need. Case closed. Doors and eyes closed and the hell with the truth. Of course you stopped arguing about it. Why subject what you want to believe to rational scrutiny that might lead you to a different and dare I say more realistic conclusion?

        In a world where it is acceptable or even viewed as a positive character trait to believe in things that do not exist, aka being religious, we should not be too surprised when some feel called upon to force others to share their particular delusion. It is only a natural offshoot of the same elemental willingness to push reality aside for the sake of delusion. In such a world, no one should be too surprised when some decide to carry it to the extreme of rushing to spend the night with 72-virgins by flying a few planes into buildings.

        I truly feel sorry for you and hope you get the chance to at least wake-up the child in you who would certainly ask: “Are you crazy?” Now go and pray to your illusory god(s) and ask them for the strength to keep the child you once were quiet so you can maintain your love and faith in something someone even more foolish than you, once taught you to believe in.

        Hope that answers your question though you and I both know you stopped asking any real questions a long time ago.

        • Jason

          First of all patkelly, reading your posts over the past couple days sickens and disgusts me. You seem to be filled with such pride and arrogance. You come off like you KNOW all of the answers and everyone else who has come to different conclusions (than yours) are such complete imbeciles and delusional “crazies”. Perhaps you should go somewhere and simply learn to be nice. Learn to communicate in a way that isn’t so damned condescending and offensive. You are purposefully shutting people out that very likely have something to offer, but you will never receive, because you come off as such a dick! But I’m guessing you already knew all of that. After all, you do seem to know everything!

          Secondly, you do not KNOW if there is any super-intellect beyond nature and nor do theists. In fact, it’s really a 50/50 guess on everyone’s part. I think it’s 100% useless to look for “evidence” of super-nature within nature. For who knows what the evidence might even look like? If there is such a thing as a super intellect beyond nature, then perhaps the evidence is the rock in your back yard? Perhaps it’s the existence of planets, gravity, butterflies, poop, life or light? My point is, who the hell knows what the evidence would look like?

          Any evidence you, myself or anyone would say qualifies is simply a matter of your own mental constructs of what a super-intellect or God might be like. Looking for evidence and telling everyone that evidence of a super intellect is demanded and warranted for proper belief is just pissing in the wind. As I said, it’s a 50/50 proposition. We each take our pick and make this decision because of a host of reasons, but neither one (atheist or theist) is making the decision with any better reason or evidence for or against.

          At the end of the day, both atheists and theists are rational and irrational for their choice, because they’ve dropped off of the 50/50 slope and decided (based on their own cognitive understandings of what a super-nature might be like). I say both rational and irrational, because they’ve hopefully used their brains (rationally) to make their decision and yet, because it’s still a 50/50 proposition, they are also taking a leap into the irrational. They’ve slipped off the 50/50 slope into the abyss of the irrational. Oh no!!!!!

          In the end, (in my mind), either way is okay: Most atheists and theists, alike, are still in some sort of quest for truth. You just don’t have to be such a dick to those that have come to believe that the coin flip is tails (and not heads).

          • patkelly03

            Jason I find it interesting how on one hand you say that reading my posts sickens and disgusts you while on the other hand you say that you have nevertheless spent a few days reading them. I am flattered that you would do so though generally speaking I personally don’t bother to read much that disgusts me excepting the rare occurrence where I am trying to get some sense of the thought processes behind someone’s words.

            This may be a little above the paygrade of your intelligence but believe it or not, I don’t write what I write for any particular reader and certainly don’t write it with any purpose of gaining praise or acceptance. If what I write tends to insult you, you are probably right in your conclusion that this was exactly what I intended. I have no desire to treat anyone with kid gloves or worry about how what I say might affect their ego. If you or any group you may be part of strikes me as stupid, most of the time that is exactly what I will say though I may occasionally tone things down by suggesting you are not too smart. All I can suggest to you personally Jason is if the shoe fits wear it.

            I should also probably say that I have no real interest in deprogramming any cult members. That type of endeavor is way above my pay grade and though such an idyllic notion might be nice, I tend to like to stay within the boundaries of reality. In short, nothing I say or do is likely going to make any difference in anyone’s life. I have no delusions that overextend the power of the written word though I must admit it does occasionally plant a few seeds that occasionally tend to grow into flowers not because of anything I said so much as because of what the reader decides to listen to after.

            You strike me as a fairly young guy with a fairly inexperienced mind swimming in a sea of information you have yet to learn how to deal with. So you form your 50/50 hypothesis as what you think is a fair way to assess the variables. It isn’t and it will likely take you many years to come up with a better means of separating truth from fiction or real from unreal. You don’t live in a world of fairness where equality can be rightfully applied to a very unequal mess you just happened to be born into. Truth has nothing to do with flipping coins which is the fault in your misguided attempts to force your internal feel good interpretations upon an external world that could care less about you or how you happen to feel.

            You said; “you do not KNOW if there is any super-intellect “. May I suggest to you that you have no idea what I do or don’t know unless you recently slipped into my brain while I was sleeping. Nevertheless, if you will permit me to answer my owns supposition regarding super-intellect instead of having you do it for me… I do know that there is no super-intellect in the exact same way that I do know there is no Santa. Both propositions are identical and equal in my mind and I have no real emotional stake in either that might skew my findings. I require some form of real and tangible proof to support conclusions about the existence of anything ranging from what’s inside a black hole to what happens to one’s consciousness after their brain stops functioning. Regarding the last, all the evidence I have and I will say it is considerable, indicates that when the switch is turned off (no brain activity) we return to the nothingness from which we came. End of story. Another book closed. No new yet unread chapters to be fulfilled. No heavens or hells. No ghosts, spirits or fairies. None of anything that has its exclusive roots well planted in the human imagination.

            Sorry to be such a dick… No I take that back. I’m not at all sorry about that if it can help stop you from being such an idiot. LOL

          • Jason

            Pat I think disgust was a bit strong. It’s a little bit of disgust combined with entertainment value. It’s similar to the way one might feel when they are watching a show on TV where people are doing something completely ridiculous, but you can’t help but continue watching it. I find it fascinating that it looks as if you honestly feel that you are superior to others because of your intelligence quotient or perhaps how much you might “think” you know about one subject or another. Putting yourself so far above others really puts you in a spot of not being able to learn (and that’s very dangerous).

            I think we’d both agree that ignorance coupled with some weird forms of dogmatism can be very dangerous. Yet, I see in the words you write a strange form of dogmatism and extreme desire to proselytize and evangelize (“I must admit it does occasionally plant a few seeds that occasionally tend to grow into flowers”). This sounds eerily like an evangelist of some sort. It almost sounds remotely like some Christian scripture that I’ve heard before. Perhaps an atheist evangelist?

            Anyway, back to your understanding of why you believe there is no super-intellect. i understand what you mean by you equating the existence of a super-intellect (or even more basic, a super-nature) by equating the existence of Santa to the existence of a super-nature. But, this is just plain silly. We can ascribe all kinds of attributes to Santa. We believe he fly’s a sleigh pulled by reindeer and that he delivers gifts to all “good” children in the world overnight. But when it comes to a super nature, what kind of attributes can we ascribe? He? She? Good? Bad? Omniscient? Omnipresent? Smart? Dumb? White? Black? Based on your above answer, you seemed to have given super-nature the attributes of somehow letting one’s consciousness live on after brain death. I understand how you came up with that attribute being that you are writing on a Christian blog, but come on, that’s not what I’m saying. You are, once again, off in the land of giving attributes to this super-nature that you claim does not exist, because of the attributes you yourself ascribe, look for and don’t find. Sounds somewhat circular to me.

            Obviously super nature is simply something that exists outside of nature—outside of our observable natural world. That’s what I’m saying is 50/50. Does a super nature exist? This is 50/50 and there is no one on this planet that can lean the evidence one way or the other, because all we can discuss (from our human point of view thus far) is naturalistic evidence. But, once again, naturalistic evidence for what? What attributes of a super nature should we strive to find? In some sense, it’s almost meaningless.

            How would we even know what super nature looks like or how it might behave to ascribe attributes to it? As I said, there might be evidence of a super nature in your backyard, but you haven’t a clue. Don’t even say that you do have a clue and that you know for a fact that the rock in your backyard is not evidence of a super nature. It could, very well, be evidence of the existence of super nature, but you simply don’t “know” it. We can play a game by ascribing attributes to a super-nature and then looking for evidence in our natural world, but that seems kind-a silly.

            Now, with all of that said, “what I believe” is that we can look at all of material reality (at least the little bit that we currently know) and hopefully (with a little bit of humility—if there is any left in you) we can all agree that material reality seems to be pretty damned weird, strange, unbelievable, believable, dangerous, wild, fascinating and downright AWESOME! Full of potential for rich discovery, new questions and elusive answers. Just please, please, please don’t go on saying that there is no super nature, because you have figured it all out and “KNOW” you are right! That’s complete BS!

            You have come off the 50/50 slope and entered the realm of irrational. But look, I’m honestly not condemning you for that. I’m simply saying that we all have components of rationality and irrationality. We all have beliefs. That’s okay. We take what we can. We each digest what we can and we move off the mountain in one direction. It looks like you’ve moved off the mountain towards atheism and I understand why. However, I also understand why many other people have moved off the mountain towards theism. Either way, it’s a 50/50 bet. One way is towards “truth” (as you mention above) and one way is not. However, the choice is ultimately irrational and I honestly feel that’s a big part of being human. We have the ability to make rational and irrational choices and we do so all the time. One way or another, we typically all make the choice.

          • patkelly03

            Allow me to quickly correct a couple of your misconceptions about me. First, I happened upon this blog totally by chance and after winding up various conversations will likely never return. I am not a regular on any blog since I have neither time nor patience for such things. Second, you should not draw anything from my reference to planting informational seeds as having any relationship to evangelical proselytizing. I am thinking specifically about the internet and how good ideas propagate across the internet while bad ideas usually tend to get filtered out through lack of repetition.

            You seem to spend a lot of time trying to make some point that any god would be a virtual unknown while the comparative Santa I suggested would not and could not be equated with similar degrees of unknown. I’m not sure what you are attempting to say by this though I do not agree with your general premise that gods and santas are like comparing apples and oranges. I see the comparison as consisting of two equally unreal imaginary characters neither of whose nonexistence could ever be totally proven. Once again, no one can prove a negative without first definitively defining all possible explanations.

            I suspect the real problem you have with my comparing gods to santas is that you don’t like the idea of anyone suggesting something you have concluded is very real, could ever be justifiably seen in the same light as something most adults understand does not actually exist such as Santa. Obviously you don’t go around challenging others to prove that Santa doesn’t exist since you already have that understanding. Where I tend to rub you wrong is when I make it clear that I hold the same understanding you have about santa to an understanding about gods. I see your gods in the exact same light as you see santa and you find this highly offensive and suggest anyone who would dare hold such an opinion must think he has superior intelligence and knows everything.

            What you fail to comprehend is that my view of god is precisely equal to your view of santa. What’s more, my view of god as not existing is every bit as rational as your view of santa not existing.

            As previously noted I also do not agree with your 50 – 50 split analysis regarding the chance that gods exist. I would suggest to you that a more accurate number would likely be way way down far below one percent somewhere within the infinity between zero and 1. I arrive at this number by taking into account all the possible things that might exist without any current real and tangible concrete proof of their existence. That in itself would be a very big number approaching infinity and don’t forget that each one of these unproven elements would have an equal chance of existence as god. I am not really sure how you arrived at your flip of the coin analysis but you need to look a bit deeper into math related to probabilities before you start putting forward numbers that don’t add up. Math is an exact science that you should probably stay away from in any attempts to argue in favor of the existence of gods. I find it ironic that you would suggest that it is me who is irrational for coming off your 50/50 slope as you put it. Your numbers are every bit as irrational as the conclusions you appear to suggest they prove.

            Finally, you attempt to argue that because we do not know everything we should always keep an open mind and try not to exclude anything. And yet, in practice you do not observe your own model as you easily assert that you have reached the rational conclusion that santa does not exist even thought you can’t prove that with 100% certainty. Your claims are inconsistent and you fail to hold yourself to the same standard you insist I should be held to. Where is the rationality in that?

            I do not claim to be smarter than you though that is a distinct possibility. What I do claim is that my conclusions are more rationally sound than yours regarding the existence of gods. I say both gods and santas do not really exist. You say santa does not exist but there is good reason to believe that god does exist. Sort of an around about way of saying you believe god does exist without putting all your cards on the table. While my view is unbiased and consistent, your view is biased and inconsistent. Therefor I must logically conclude that my view is superior to yours because it is very likely more accurate.

          • Jason

            You don’t rub me wrong when you make it clear that you hold the same understanding about Santa as you do about gods or super-nature. I understand why you like to use that example and I see the analogy. You do rub me wrong when you use these snide remarks masked in philosophical rebuttal (or blatant insults) about my intelligence. For this, I will continue calling you a dick and if what you continue to type is in the same vein, then you’ll still be a dick in my mind. It’s painfully obvious that you like to use Santa in your comparisons to belittle others. You also seem to like the “plates in lips” phrase to belittle others as well. You love to use comparisons like this, because it makes you feel superior (that seems to be a very common theme with you).

            In all seriousness, just quit insulting my intelligence and everyone elses that you’ve responded to thus far (plates in lips and the like). This has nothing to do with kid gloves (I’ve heard that before). That’s just your excuse to be condescending. I’ll tell you what, I’ll make you a deal: You quit insulting my intelligence and I’ll quit calling you a dick. You haven’t the slightest clue in hell how intelligent I am and you certainly don’t have a clue in hell how educated I am (I’m guessing more so than you on both accounts).

            You mention that I’m attempting to argue that because we do not know everything we should always keep an open mind and try not to exclude anything. I surely didn’t say that and you’ve obviously missed my point (which doesn’t surprise me).

            Now look, I am a practical guy and in all honestly, I’d just like to eliminate the intellectual maneuvering and the “onus is on you” and “I can’t prove a negative” responses. This is really just mental gymnastics from which no one seriously benefits. You can hide behind philosophical straw men for as long as you’d like, but I’d rather you just come right out and defend yourself. The “onus is on you to provide evidence” and “I can’t prove a negative” are simply folk logic excuses when it comes to discussions about the existence of God and (once again) please quit insulting me (and everyone else) by using them.

            So, now I ask you to simply be honest with me and yourself and come right out and give us good reasons for your atheism (I’m not asking for evidence—mind you—I’m asking for reasons). Stop trying to win arguments to feel better about yourself and your position. Just forget about argumentation for a while and let’s talk like normal human beings. Seriously!!!!! Why are you an atheist? If you don’t like that question, then let’s try: Why are you a materialist? I hope your answer isn’t something like “because there is no good evidence for the existence of god or gods” or “I am a materialist because matter/energy is all there is”. I’m just asking you now to be dead honest with me. If you must insist on saying that there is no good evidence, then tell me why you are looking for the evidence you seek? What attributes have you attached to a super-nature that make you seek the evidence you seek? After all, in order for an atheist to conclude that no Gods exist, he/she must have given that God (or super nature) some sort of attribute (at some point) to blow it out of the water with evidence to the contrary. Right?????

          • patkelly03

            How about this deal Jason? I’ll continue to be up front and honest with you and you’ll start trying to do the same not only with me but with yourself. By all means please keep calling me a dick if doing so adequately reflects what you feel. We all could benefit from honest feedback now and then even if it takes the form of someone pointing out our stupidity. How does that sound?

            How would you respond to a group of native savages who gave you a plate and gestured that you should insert it into your lower lip? Would you be a “nice” guy and show “good” manners by bending over backwards to make sure you did not insult their egos by saying what you really think? Or would you tell them that putting plates in your lower lip will not increase this season’s harvest and in fact will result in serious infections that will probably kill several members of the tribe?

            You seem to have a different view of life than me Jason where you see it as some sort of ego game where everyone is required to follow strict cultural rules placing stringent limits on acceptable speech. As you propose, if I agree not to be up front with you and chose my words carefully so I am sure nothing I say will offend you, you will agree not to use bad words against me. Exactly who are you Jason? Am I talking to a grown-up or some overly sensitive kid who believes if someone calls him a girl he is no longer a boy? Is your ego so delicate when it comes to defending your faith, or do you just not like anyone confronting you with the hard cold facts that you are indeed rather stupid and ignorant or at least acting that way?

            I have to ask why you would wonder why I would maintain an open mind and entertain any new rational evidence supporting the existence of god(s)? I think the reason you have trouble understanding this is because open mindedness is not part of the mental processes that you use in drawing conclusions about the real world. For one thing, being openminded directly opposes faith. You can’t be openminded and also maintain a high level of faith at the same time because they involve totally different mental constructs. And yes, I believe that anyone who would willingly give up being openminded for the sake of faith is stupid just as I would explain to anyone I came across who was kneeling on the sand with their head stuck in the ground.

            I would welcome with open arms any real and tangible evidence you could point me to that proved beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of god and/or a continuation of life after death. This open-mindedness on my part does not in any way take away from or diminish the validity of my current conclusions about whether gods really exists. In fact, if anything it strengthens those conclusions by the very fact that I am open to countering evidence that I have obviously not found.

            Now let’s take a look at the other side of this coin that looks squarely at you. In spite of the fact you have had the opportunity to show me why your conclusions about the existence of god are superior to my nonexistent conclusions, instead of trying to prove your point, you have only tried to show me what is wrong with my conclusions rather than what is right about yours. Bottom line here is that you already know your belief in a creator is irrational, stupid and indefensible since instead of focusing in on rationally valid reasons that support your beliefs you are forced to try and turn the spotlight off of you as your only means of defense. You don’t have any valid arguments supporting your beliefs because if you did you certainly would have brought the forward by now. And once again, that’s why you are so sensitive to my calling you stupid and foolish because you have likely reached the same conclusion.

            I agree it is pointless to try and make sense with you on the issue on which of us has the burden of proof. Your claim that I should come up to you after you say you have a diamond in your hand and prove you don’t is obviously absurd especially when you refuse to open your hand and show me the diamond. If you do have a diamond in your hand then I must ask why won’t you show it to me? I want to see it too. But since you continue to refuse to open your hand for everyone to see, you leave me with only one common sense conclusion. You’re lying. You don’t have a diamond in your hand and you know it.

            This brings us to an even bigger and more important question. What is this game you are playing by trying to convince me you are rich and special because you claim you have a diamond. Are you trying to make up for some deficiency you have that makes you go out of your way to try and prove you are richer and more special than me (e.g. You’re going to heaven.)? Do you think in your wildest dreams that I am so stupid that I will actually start believing you do have a diamond in your hand if you won’t and indeed can’t show it to me for no other reason than the fact I also like the idea of not dying and going to heaven? Prove your god exists and stop your ridiculous, stupid, childish attempts to claim if I can’t prove you don’t have a diamond in your hand without you opening your hand, then I must concede the argument because the only rational conclusion left must be that you do have a diamond. Keep dreaming my friend… Keep dreaming.

            Allow me to suggest yet another reason why developing make believe relationships with fantasy gods is harmful. Loving a god is a poor substitute for directing that love onto another human being where it rightfully belongs. People can return love while mythical gods can’t. You can talk to people and they will talk back to you. You can share and interact with people and they will share and interact back with you. You can be intimate with another person and know the joy of responding to intimacy directed back at you. Try any of these things with a teddy bear, fantasy friend or lover and I can assure you the experience will be far from fulfilling. As I said, people who direct love onto fantasy gods more likely than not do so because they have failed in their attempts to find a real person they can share that degree of intimacy with. That’s too bad and I feel sorry for those who have resigned themselves to accepting a fantasy over the reality they might find if they never gave up on looking. The love we seek and indeed need will never be found within the myths of religion no matter how good they may have become at snaring the hopeless into false hope. Religion is a scam perpetrated on humans by humans. It has nothing to do with gods.

            Finally Jason, answering your question about why I am an atheist is easy. I don’t believe in anything without some rational reason to support the belief. Now you answer the question I asked at the very beginning of this conversation. Why are the god(s) you learned to believe in any more real than all the other gods you didn’t learn to believe in? Go for it Jason! Let’s see some of that honesty you spoke of in your last post.

          • Jason

            So the “super
            nature” you identified in your last post is the concept of whether or not
            consciousness somehow “lives on” after brain death. I couldn’t agree
            more with you that there doesn’t seem to be any very compelling evidence for that
            possibility. In my mind, the probability that consciousness somehow continues
            to exist after brain death is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 0% to
            5% (you prefer somewhere between 0% to 1%–that works too).

            It seems like
            you’ve done some research on near death experiences. I applaud you for that! I
            too have read several books on the subject, listened to a few speeches and
            periodically track one of the latest experiments on the subject
            (http://www.nourfoundation.com/events/Beyond-the-Mind-Body-Problem/The-Human-Consciousness-Project/the-AWARE-study.html).
            It’s an interesting phenomenon, that’s for sure. I liken it to other things
            like Lucid Dreaming (which is also quite fascinating). If you’ve never tried Lucid
            Dreaming, I recommend you give it a shot. It’s pretty damned amazing! The
            exploration of consciousness is incredibly bizarre, but interesting and
            rewarding. It fact, with the whole craziness of Quantum Mechanics, it seems
            like more and more physicists are starting to postulate that our universe (at its
            most basic level) acts more like some sort of universal consciousness. I don’t
            get it and I won’t pretend that I do, but the concept is interesting
            none-the-less.

            You say that you
            are an atheist because you don’t believe in anything without some sort of
            rational reason to support the belief. Paaaalllleeeeaaaaassseeee! We both know (I hope we both know) that there
            are no humans on the planet that only hold beliefs based entirely on rational
            reasons to support such beliefs (that is unless you are Spock-hell, you might
            be).

            As far as your
            final question as to why are the god(s) I learned to believe in any more real
            than all the other gods I didn’t learn to believe in. I’m not 100% sure how to
            approach that question, but because you’ve been kind enough to answer my
            question as to why you are an atheist, I’ll attempt to answer yours.

            I believe (once
            again) that the possibility that there is a super-intellect beyond nature is a
            50/50 proposition. Notice that I didn’t say “heaven” or “life
            after death” or some sort of “universal consciousness”, but
            rather a “super-intellect”. I’ve noticed that you like to slip in all
            kinds of attributes and qualities to describe the super natural along the way
            (I’m guessing to trip people up), but let’s just stick to the notion that I’ve
            just put forth (a super intellect that is beyond nature). Now, once again (this
            is getting old), the reason I say it’s 50/50 is because there seems to be very
            good warrant for the universe (as a whole) being some sort of “put up
            job”, while at the same time, there seems to be good warrant to believe
            that it is 100% natural.

            I’m not looking
            specifically at anything within material reality (like Life, Consciousness,
            Quantum Mechanics, etc, etc). Rather, I prefer to step back and attempt to take
            a holistic view of material reality (in its entirety—like anyone can really
            do that) and with my feeble mind (yours is far superior I’m sure), I can only
            think of one relevant 50/50 question: Is this whole ball of wax (the
            “Matrix” in which we live) 100% attributable to naturalistic forces
            or not? That’s the quintessential (age old) question-is it not? Dawkins likes to pretend that it’s a useless
            question, but that’s just plain stupid. I believe he has trouble getting his
            head out of his ass and can’t help but look at this question with his “a
            priori” bias that “no super intellect exists”. But the simple question
            remains and the way I see it: It’s 50/50.

            There is more than
            enough warrant to justify my rational belief that this seems to be a “put
            up” job and as such, it (very well) could be the result of some weird ass
            super intellect (beyond nature). Also, as I just said, there is enough warrant
            to justify your positive assertion that it is 100% “Turtles all the way
            down”. But the only evidence you
            can ultimately give to your “positive assertion” of “Turtles all
            the way down” is that science keeps uncovering more and more naturalistic
            explanations for the way material reality works. The argument I’ve heard many times in the
            past is: “Science has worked thus far,
            so why not continue trusting that it will eventually reveal the answers we all
            seek”. After all, it keeps revealing old
            religious and superstitious beliefs for what they are (thank God): fallacious
            and down-right wrong. But come on, that’s what science is supposed to do. It
            uses methodological naturalism to do its job, which dictates that we constantly
            strive for and look for answers 100% within the natural/observable world and I
            am 110% all for that! However, it’s certainly not good evidence for your
            positive assertion of Materialism/Naturalism. After all, what justifies
            good EVIDENCE or PROOF of your positive assertion of materialism? You are
            in the same boat as I am! Prove it! As you say all over the place. Prove to me that materialism is right!

            With all of that
            said. I ask you politely to spare me from trying to say that the universe is actually
            simple and stupid and just full of “pitiless indifference”. Beyond its “pitiless indifference”
            (which seems quite true), it is also vastly complex and unbelievably
            strange-The depths of which we’ve barely penetrated. Also, please do not go
            into any diatribe as to how you know everything by expounding on the behavior
            of leptons or how you understand the full dynamics of photons and how your
            understanding of consciousness closes the book on the matter. I probably won’t
            read it and if I do, I’ll just laugh at its entertainment value.

            Also, please spare
            me from the drudgery of calling me a “God of the gaps” violator,
            because any atheist (worth his/her salt) who makes that claim has the finger
            pointing right back at them with the “fill-in-the-blank of the gaps”
            fallacy. After all, the declaration from science about how this awesome
            material existence came to be is: “WE DON’T KNOW”. In other words,
            don’t assume you know and don’t go filling in the gap with anything (at this
            point) other than “I don’t know”.

            So the real,
            rational answer is 50/50! I slide down
            the slope and propose it’s a super intellect. You slide down the slope and
            propose its 100% nature. We are both just as irrational as one another! I’m (at least) willing to admit it.

            So being that you
            are probably out of time (as you alluded to in an earlier post), maybe it’s
            best that you mount up on your fire breathing dragon, grab the left hand of
            your pet flying spaghetti monster and head on out to your celestial teapot for
            a bit more of that rationality sauce. Oh yeah, don’t forget to take the staff
            of “onus is on everyone else” along for the ride. Dick!­

          • patkelly03

            Just a quick tech tip for you Jason. When you copy and paste your post onto a board always select “paste as plain text” so it formats correctly.

            Your attempt to answer my question about why the god you learned to pray to is any more real than all the other gods you didn’t learn to pray to seemed like something one might hear on Fox News. In short, you did not answer that simple question with a like simple answer but instead slipped and spun your way around something you simply have no rational answer to. That’s fine because I never expected you to answer it anyway and only put it out there on the off chance that it might cause people like you to stop and ask yourselves, why you can’t answer a simple question about something you believe so strongly in.

            The question forces you to consider something you know is obviously true or the fact of other sets of religious beliefs that directly oppose what you learned to believe. You’re a bright guy and I am sure you could easily come up with many reasons why other religions are false religions along with how and why they came to exist. But you don’t want to go there. That’s a door you don’t want to open because like I said before, it exposes the glaring faults in your own set of beliefs. OK, I think we’ve beat this horse to death enough now and should move on.

            I note that you have nothing to say about my diamond in the hand analogy though I am impressed by what appears to be your evolving acknowledgment that there is a good chance what you learned to believe is wrong. You still have a long way to go before you can cut all the emotional strings that tie you to your god notions. But if and when you finally do, I suspect you will stop using your 50-50 analogy to claim belief in god is equally rational to not believing in something without real and tangible evidence. Here is another way of looking at the god vs. no god proposition that may help you sift through all the irrational clutter being born into a world filled with religion as imprinted upon you.

            Let’s assume for a moment that you are a seasoned detective just called out to a crime scene. You have the body on the floor (bible, koran, torah etc.) and now it is your job to find out who wrote it. So as you start looking for evidence, you find fingerprints all over the various scriptures. You quickly piece together a clear unambiguous motive (fear of death, all powerful parental imprinting in early childhood, etc.) and you finally go out and arrest your suspect (theists who turn out to have a long police record of writing countless other scriptures throughout history). Now when you get to court, the defense attempts to obscure the validity of the hard evidence you brought to trial proving who wrote the scriptures by suggesting there is a reason to believe a god wrote the scriptures in spite of all that evidence. In their argument the defense claims no one can ever be 100% certain the defendant is the author because the prosecution has been unable to disprove their claim that a god must have the exact same fingerprint as the defendant with an equal motive to write the scripture. The prosecution argues the jury does not have to be 100% certain to reach a conclusion based upon the evidence but only certain beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury comes back with a guilty on all counts verdict showing theists wrote all the scriptures and tried to pass it off as being written by a fantasy nonexistent god(s).

            Let’s stick with this a moment and switch things around a bit. In this version theists dial 911 claiming a murder has been committed. When the police arrive they are led into the dinning room where the tearful theists point to a stop on the floor and say he’s been murdered. The police, somewhat confused look down and see nothing. But the theists adamantly claim a murder has taken place and insist the police should arrest someone based not upon evidence, but merely their claim that the murder cannot be disproven with 100% certainty. Perhaps someone moved the body, etc. etc. etc.

            Detectives ask; “What is the victim’s name?” All the various theists answer at the same time with so many different names that the police are forced to have them all line up and say the name one after another. Several days later after the police record thousands upon thousands of names they ask how there could possibly be so many victims without even a single body. The police ask what the exact address is and start packing up their gear as soon as one of the theists says; “666 Cult Street.”

            You are obviously a smart guy Jason though you have yet to even begin to understand the many advantages of not being a religious savage who dances around sacrificial fires. Think things like “freedom” or free-thinker. These are good concepts that define not only the most basic of rights but the very core of ownership and control over your life. Why anyone would agree to march in step with someone else whom they have come to depend upon for doing their thinking for them is beyond me. The mind is a terrible thing to waste. It’s like going through life with your eyes only half open.

            You have no idea what you are missing because only a truly free mind is capable of seeing the real world that religion tries so hard to obscure. Imagine going through life without having to feel guilty about who and what you really are. With that heaven burden removed from our shoulders it feels wonderful to find yourself part of existence each day with endless possibilities about how one might find bits of fun, wonderment and joy. It’s the same type of natural human free spirit we admire so much in children. The one we all used to have until we were infected with so much human garbage passed down from thousands of generations who had justifiable reasons for not knowing any better. We should know better. There is simply no excuse to hang on to past ignorance. We’re supposed to be intelligent. High time we started acting that way. Aint that right savages?

          • Jason

            Great response patkelly! Loved reading it and it makes me think. Our discussion over the past several days has been enlightening, fun, entertaining, educational and difficult. Thanks for taking the time to honestly interact.

            Respect!

            PS-Thanks for the tech tip! I pasted from Word, hit submit and immediately thought “Damnit. This looks like crap”.

          • patkelly03

            Back at you Jason… I too have greatly enjoyed our stimulating exchanges and thank you for so elegantly expressing your views. Perhaps we will be so fortunate as to cross each other’s paths someday. If and when that ever happens I’m buying the first round, coffee or what have you. Hope you find everything you’re looking for Jason. PK

  • patkelly03

    Sorry Peter but the fact you nor anyone else has been able to answer the question I posed to support the rationality of your religious beliefs makes one undeniable point. You simply cannot support any belief in god(s) with real world proof and the reason that real world proof doesn’t exist is blatantly obvious. There is no proof of anyone’s god(s) for the simple reason that there are no gods. This rational understanding could not be more obvious no matter how you and others try and spin your way into fame, wealth and fortune.

    • Daniel Fisher

      I wonder if I might respectfully ask… what, exactly, would be convincing proof to you that the god of the Bible (or any other for that matter) really existed?

      Also, may I humbly suggest that your conclusion that “there are no gods” seems to this reader to be as dogmatic and unprovable as what you perceive to be the position of the theists you are challenging?

      • patkelly03

        Show me where the bible describes a black hole or anything else that was not known to science at the time its very human authors put pen to paper. Is this too much to ask?

        Explain why scripture supposedly representing the word of an all knowing deity is filled with errors and false ideas that clearly represent the state of human knowledge at the time those words were written down. Is this too much to ask?

        Where are the miracles? Why do all the alleged miracles somehow escape credible witnesses, cellphone or other pictorial evidence or front page news around the world? Why haven’t I seen even a feather rise up and contradict the laws of gravity as a breaking news story on CNN? Why are the gods silent in the face of catastrophes that break every element of human morality? Where is the justice, the mercy, the compassion, the love and all the other nonexistence elements within a totally indifferent cosmos? Why is it that a child could come up with far better existence scenario for humanity than one supposedly modeled by divine perfection? Why is perfection itself totally absent from a universe void of any fingerprint of an alleged perfect being?

        There is no perfection in nature or anywhere else and if there ever was, change itself would cease to exist. What we see all around us is only imperfection striving to improve on past mistakes. There is no need for or reason for the involvement of anyone’s gods in the creation of imperfection incapable of ever obtaining true perfection.

        Explain to me how all of the alleged evidence about god(s) always without fail just happens to all too conveniently fall within a range of legal or rational uncertainty. What possible reason would any creator of heaven and earth have to play hide-n-seek with its alleged creation? Why would a creator, create anything for the purpose of any sort of test or tests where that creator already knows the outcome? Such a premise does not even rise to the level of a game or contain even the most rudimentary elements of purpose. There can be no purpose to put anyone to a test where the outcome of the test is already known and according to the latest scientific theory already set in time.

        Explain why all scripture representing all religions throughout human history uniformly follows the exact same basic stories that speak to human fears, ignorance and superstition rather than supernatural elements of anything unknown to humanity.

        And finally for those bright enough to understand, where is there a place or even a reason for a creator within something that was not created? If we can explain the elements of human consciousness and how it is possible to create a self-aware human consciousness on computers or other platforms, what possible relation does any of this have to gods? If nothing was created outside or inside the reality within which we came to exist, what rational basis does anyone have to insist human superstition has a legitimate connection to the real world?

        • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

          patkelly03,
          You say:
          “What we see all around us is only imperfection striving to improve on past mistakes.”
          What is “imperfection” and how does it “strive to improve” things?
          You seem to be attributing actual agency to an abstraction, which itself is the antithesis of another abstraction you claim is absolutely not evident, i.e. “There is no evidence of perfection in nature or anywhere else.”
          You might also be able to explain further what you mean when you attribute existence to the abstraction change, i.e. “There is no perfection in nature or anywhere else and if there ever was, change itself would cease to exist.”

          • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

            I mean, if imperfection STRIVES then you’ve made it the subject of an intentional act, with implicit sentience.

            The germ of god-making, right there.

          • patkelly03

            Imprefection strives to bring things into balance just as gravity strives to hold you and I to the surface of the earth. Neither evidences any form of supernatural being behind such events no matter what the faithful try and use to justify their god beliefs as being something other than ignorance and superstition.

          • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

            Gravity strives too? Let’s see, in patkelly’s cosmos Imperfection, Gravity, and Evolution (“getting as close to perfection as possible”) all strive teleologically, which implies intention, which implies sentience.

            And does the sun also strive to warm us, patkelly?

            You’re conjuring gods left, right, and centre…

          • Guest

            “Perfection by definition would be that which is perfect or without imperfections.”

            (Sharp intake of breath)

          • Jason

            Not that anyone will read this, because this discussion seems to have simmered down, but, I’d like to simply say that when someone says the “burden of proof” for the existence of God lies upon this or that person, it drives me insane.

            To my knowledge, the “burden of proof” is a rather subtle thing in philosophy and is not always so “cut and dry”. In essence, the burden of proof ultimately lies on anyone making a claim. In matters such as the existence of God, the burden of proof lies on both parties (or neither parties). It really depends on the individuals involved in the debate. Here is a neat link that explains “burden of proof” (http://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/678/does-a-negative-claimant-have-a-burden-of-proof).

            Bottom line: Throwing around phrases such as “the burden of proof is on you because you are blah blah blah” are neither helpful or intelligent. To me, this just seem to be insecurities about one’s own position coming to the surface.

          • patkelly03

            Are your attempts to try and read something into what I am saying by your rather childish use of implications the best you have to offer to defeat my logic? Shallow Grant. Real shallow. Clearly I misjudged the level of your, well let’s say advancement, by assuming someone further down your family tree had decided long ago to stop putting plates in their lower lip. If they did, you appear to have picked them up again and may even be going for the record of the biggest plate in your tribe. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back if it makes you feel better.

          • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

            Logic? Where? I’m still waiting on definitions of “Perfection” and “Imperfection” from you that aren’t completely circular:

            You:
            “Perfection by definition would be that which is perfect or without imperfections.”

            (Sharp intake of breath)

            And exactly what do you have against plate-wearing, patkelly? That doesn’t sound very rational of you, at all; rather petulant, actually, prejudiced even.

          • patkelly03

            Plates tend to distort lips just as religion tends to distort minds. Why am I not surprised that you wouldn’t see that?

          • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

            Why would you assume that I’m religious?

          • patkelly03

            For the same reason that you are afraid to say anything about yourself or put the truth about what you really believe on the table for others to scrutinize and comment on. You live in a fragile, self-deluded world where honesty is the worst policy. You’re so busy trying to appear wise and worldly by critiquing others that you forgot to critique yourself. Either that or you would never dare attempt such an endeavour for fear of what you might find. Or is it fear of what you won’t find that keeps you so shielded and afraid?

          • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

            patkelly, I’m neither Christian, nor theist, nor even agnostic.

            And you’re getting rather ad hominem, I have to say.

          • patkelly03

            What’s your problem Grant? Stop telling me and everyone else what you aren’t and start being up front and say what you are. You may like to try and entice me into playing What’s My Line with you but I’ll pass on the offer. I never really liked the show anyway.

          • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

            On the contrary, I’ve read you quite carefully. In a reply to Andrew Dowling below, you write:

            “To begin with you can forget any notions of purpose as it relates to human existence. The idea of purpose is a human construct in the exact same manner as gods.”

            Yet in your comments to me you attribute teleological “striving” – i.e. purpose – to Imperfection, Gravity, and Evolution.

            So, according to your own “logic”, telos is merely epiphenomenal, yet you ascribe it to a series of “striving” abstractions, thereby rendering them god-like, and all the while decrying the notion of gods!

            You’ve shown yourself to be a polytheist-in-denial.

          • patkelly03

            You still insist upon continued attempts to critique my ideas while refusing to put your own on the table. Did someone suggest you are the scholar teaching how to impress others by using rarely used words? In a discussion such as this, if you don’t have anything of your own to contribute it is best for you to remain silent. Here let me help you:

            1 – Do you believe in god and if so why?
            2 – Where did your beliefs come from or originate?
            3 – What makes the god you learned to pray to anymore real than all the other gods you never learned to pray to?
            4 – Are you a retired attorney who thinks he is answering interrogatories in a civil damage action where you are not only liable but guilty?

          • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

            The substance of questions 1-3 I’ve addressed in a comment below, but I’ll make it simpler for you: I don’t believe in god, end of story.

            You know what you can do with 4.

          • patkelly03

            Then you and I share a fundamental understanding about the nonexistence of gods and I applaud you for doing your own thinking that led you to an intellectually superior conclusion within a world where such conclusions have yet to become the norm… I take it you don’t like lawyers.

            I’ll draw this to a close by wishing you and everyone else here the best. Hope you all find what you are looking for or that you at least have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.

          • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

            No, patkelly, judging by the way you’ve conducted yourself on this meta, I share no “understanding” with you at all.

          • patkelly03

            Grow-up Grant and stop acting like a childish ass. You are not the teacher here and in no position to judge anyone’s conduct other than your own.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Judging by his responses I don’t think he understands your argument . . .

          • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

            Apparently, my making it puts me on a par with some form of Untermensch.

          • patkelly03

            You ask: What is “imperfection” and how does it “strive to improve” things?

            Perfection by definition would be that which is perfect or without imperfections. Imperfection is that which is less than perfection or has yet to obtain a perfect balance within reality. Evolution is a process of striving to get as close to perfection as possible. e.g. A car that only get 10 miles per gallon is less perfect than one that get 20-mpg.

            What I am trying to explain to you is that the concept of god itself is an abstraction that exceeds the boundaries of fact. One of the most important reasons why we can reasonably extrapolate that gods do not actually exist is that the god abstraction obviously is directly connected to the human imagination where neither facts or reality place reasonable restraints on such abstractions. Since we can fully account for gods via the connection to the human imagination there is no reason to attempt to force reality upon what is clearly and definitively only a human fantasy.

            Perfection would appear to entail perfect harmony. Would heaven be a place void of pain and sorrow; void of ambition, competition and quests to succeed where others had failed? Would heaven be a place where there was never any need to try and improve things; a place void of trial and error; a place without anger and hate; a place of endless blissful peace and tranquility where all needs were instantly fulfilled if those needs ever reached the point of expression upon an angelic entity?

            Once again, there is no such thing as perfection or gods that could not stand being improved upon. Did god make a mistake when creating an imperfect humanity and placing it in an imperfect world? Would any god be imperfect? Could any god be imperfect?

            Do we really need perfect gods to account for an imperfect, ever changing cosmos? Logic, science and common sense all answer with a resounding NO!!!

          • MattB

            are you deist?

          • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

            No.

          • MattB

            What is your position?

          • http://batman-news.com Grant Hayes

            Seated, slightly hunched screenward.

          • MattB

            Lol…Mine is seated back in my leather chair:)

        • MattB

          But how does this disprove that God exists Or that Jesus was raised from the dead? These all seem to be “Red herrings” if you ask me

          • patkelly03

            Go before any court in the world and try and prove a case where after putting forth no evidence in support of your claim you rest your case and proclaim let’s see if you can disprove my claim. The onus is upon you to establish the validity of your claim that god(s) exist rather than upon me to show you are not being entirely truthful. Prove to me that Santa doesn’t exist first then I will take on your challenge of proving the same about your god(s). And a very good place to start in putting forward you case is to answer the question I asked earlier that no one seem able to answer:

            What makes the god(s) you learned to believe in any more real than all the other gods you never learned to believe in?

            I’ll have to make this short since I am also conversing with a muslim fool on another board arguing that allah is the real god we should all be praying to. I should put the two of you together and let you battle it out. Jesus vs. Allah in the fight of the century! Now that’s a comic book we all might enjoy reading.

          • MattB

            The Onus is upon the both of us if you’re claiming that there is no God. You’re making a positive assertion that you know for a fact that God doesn’t exist. That requires just as much burden of proof just like God does exist.

            Jesus is God because he not only claimed to be God but proved to be God through his death and resurrection which is based on historical evidence.

          • Lars

            No one’s going to be happy here until God definitively proves his existence by defying physics on the record. Making the earth stand still if only for a couple of minutes ought to do it. At that point I might become a believer, but trusting him is something else altogether. ;-) But until that happens, he will remain a teapot orbiting Venus.

            Your interpretation of the evidence, and most everyone else’s here, leads you to believe in God, but pat’s (and mine, and presumably Grant’s) interpretation leads to the opposite conclusion. As a street-corner Pentecostal in my younger days, I’ve had my fill of evangelizing and have no interest in converting anyone to my position, no matter how frustrated I may get with other positions. It’s just not worth the time and energy. Having a relatively rational discussion about those positions however can be both interesting and enlightening. That’s probably one of the main reasons I hang out here occasionally. Lots of smart, thoughtful people (on both sides) happy to make their case, plus I want to make sure I haven’t missed anything in my long slog to secular humanism.

            pat has a lot of good points but, man, a sense of humor and a little magnanimity would sure go a long way in making them heard. I have no idea what my IQ is nor do I care to know. Whatever it is though, it can’t be high enough to excuse me from being a jerk (which I regret to say I’ve been).

          • MattB

            Hello Lars,

            I’m not sure I find your argument very convincing. All an atheist would have to do is show that God is logically incoherent in order for him to not exist. Pointing to an absence of evidence isn’t necessarily evidence of absence. An absence of evidence is only evidence of absence if and only if we know the kind of expectations for the existence of God.

            The reason why I’m a Christian is not because of subjective emotions or feelings, but because of objective evidence. God has revealed himself through his son, Jesus of Nazareth via his death and resurrection from the dead, which are both based on historical evidences. This in turn verifies Jesus’ claims and his miracles as proof that he’s God.

            I agree that believers and non-believers should and can have a rational discussion. I certainly don’t think you’re stupid or dumb. I believe you’re a rational human being.

          • Lars

            Matt, that’s fantastic, actually! If I had convinced you that easily, I would seriously have to question your integrity! (insert winky emoticon) I’m not a biblical scholar or a scientist and most of my philosophy has been downloaded via iTunes. Still, I enjoy having a cigar and bourbon on the porch in the evening and wondering ‘what if?’

            What if Jesus had waited a couple of thousand years to be born? What if he was walking on water on CNN? What if Fox News had covered the mass exodus of graves after the crucifixion? Or Al Jazeera the ascension? Would I believe then? I’d like to think so. Those are the kinds of things that, when covered and described by multiple sources, get your attention and would continue to do so on YouTube for generations to come. I don’t know that these are unreasonable expectations, given God’s frequent interactions with humanity in the Old Testament.

            Whether things happened the way the Gospels describe them has become less important to me in light of the arc of history. Science, with detours to be sure, seems to travels in a more or less straight line of understanding. But religion is all over the place and continues to fragment. The variety of blogs here on Patheos bear this out in astonishing detail. Perhaps we don’t have too little evidence of God, but too much! If so, that would help explain why, like politics, truth is usually local as well.

          • MattB

            Hello Lars, and thank you for these kind comments.

            The Fantastic thing about Jesus’ resurrection is that there is a very good amount of historical datum to confirm it. Jesus burial by Joesph of Arimethea for example is independently attest in 5 sources. As well as Jesus’ tomb being found empty and his disciples having appearances of him after his death. Most scholars agree with the burial/tomb story and virtually all agree with the appearances of Jesus after his death to the disciples and skeptics, as well as them coming to believe in Jesus as the Risen Christ despite the contrary.

          • Daniel Fisher

            Jesus’ resurrection on CNN? Well, if so, then sure, practically the entire world would probably “believe” in him in one sense – and if all Jesus wanted was intellectual assent, devoid of worship, devotion, commitment, etc., then it probably would have worked great.

            However, the common theme throughout the OT and NT is that God wants more than such empty intellectual assent. Very few people throughout the biblical history are suggested to have witnessed the miracles, and even for those who did, the miracle certainly didn’t always create devotion; witness Pharaoh, some of those who knew of Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus, the citizens of Jericho, etc., not even to mention Jesus’ own refusal to those who asked for a sign, suggesting that “a wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign…”

            Kierkegaard makes the excellent point that a miracle only gets one’s attention – it doesn’t make someone believe in the full “fides” sense of believe. Once the miracle has gotten your attention, he said, you still must choose to either believe or to be offended.

            i.e., at some point the investigation into God must become fides quaerens intellectum.

          • Lars

            Hi Daniel. If practically the whole world believed in Jesus’ resurrection, that would be a good thing, right? And why would that belief necessarily be devoid of worship or commitment? I’m not seeing how those things and intellectual assent are mutually exclusive unless the message accompanying the miracle is problematic.

            Nor do I fully understand the idea that God wants more than ‘empty intellectual assent’ because those things don’t seem to go together. If I can intellectually affirm there’s a God then that affirmation should have some substance. If not, then I haven’t really understood anything about God and would have, if anything, an anti-intellectual assent. An assent that may have been inherited, or maybe a result of peer pressure, but basically still pretty empty.

            If God merely wanted worship, devotion, and commitment, I have to wonder why he didn’t just stop at dogs and call it good. Why push the envelope by creating humans and cats? To be honest, the worship angle has always felt odd and unconvincing to me. It seems narcissistic and shallow and, frankly, kind of needy. Qualities I have a hard time reconciling with the concept of God.

          • patkelly03

            No one has to prove anything about something that doesn’t exist except perhaps to some degree account for why humans have a predisposition to believe in things that do not exist. To fulfill that obligation I offer only one piece of undisputable evidence to substantiate my claim there is no rational or common sense reason to reach a conclusion that gods exist within the real world beyond the realm of the human imagination. We often speak of this tangible and noteworthy evidence as a flawed though useful attempt by those who came before us to record the details of the world they were born into. In modern times it is commonly referred to as… history.

            Using any form of evidence you are able to present to substantiate your claims that gods exist, explain how religions that follow different sets of scripture than your own came to exist. How do you account for your fellow human beings believing in false, nonexistent gods?

            And if there is reasonable and justifiable evidence to support your religious beliefs then why are you so insistent that I prove you wrong before you are even willing to put the very evidence on the table you insist I can’t prove is wrong. What are you afraid of? What are you trying to hide and who are you trying to fool? Certainly not me.

            So what’s left to explain your obvious reluctance to show the whole world why there is something more to your beliefs than delusion and wishful thinking? If you are not trying to convince me then you must be trying to convince a much more critical critic who knows exactly what is behind your beliefs. If you ever succeed at convincing yourself why you are justified in putting plates in your lower lip and dancing around sacrificial fires, I for one would be very interested in hearing what you came up with. Please, take a few minutes and tell us all what makes you any less ignorant and delusional when it comes to religion that all your fellow humans who pray to a different god than the one you learned to worship?

            Any answers enclosed within an honest and sincere attempt to explain yourself will be welcome. Attempts to site other’s writings in their attempts to answer the same question won’t carry nearly the same weight as what comes out of your mind. Prove what you have come to believe and stop suggesting those beliefs are valid for no other reason than they cannot be disproven. That’s no evidence at all and you would be laughed out of any courtroom if that was the extent of what you brought forward to sustain your claim.

          • MattB

            The reason why I believe in Jesus is because of who he claimed and proved to be. If that’s the case, then that means every other religion is false.

            You seem to have this notion that you don’t have prove the non-existence of God. However, if you claim that God doesn’t exist(which you repeatedly have) then you need to give an argument or revidence for his non-existence and not just merely assert it

          • patkelly03

            Well Matt, that’s a mighty big “if” you speak of and it would seem something one would hardly want to use as a guide to help determine how they live their life.

            Perhaps I missed something in your statement as you put forward the notion that since Jesus proved he was god all other religions must be false. Perhaps you just forgot to say exactly what “proof” establishes your conclusion. Then before anyone can even remind you to share your proof with us so we can all decide for ourselves if it is good enough to merit becoming a Christian, you attempt to turn the spotlight shinning brightly on you over to me as if its my turn to say something. But the ball is squarely in your court and simply claiming I cannot prove you wrong does absolutely nothing to substantiate either that Jesus is god or that all other religions are false. All your unwillingness to put some real and tangible evidence where your mouth is says is that you don’t really know why you came to believe what you do and that’s good enough for you. Well it may be good enough for you but it’s not good enough for me. It carries the very pungent and stale odor of falseness and ignorance about it without any of the sweet freshness that usually accompanies the truth.

            What’s more I have already disproven your claims that gods actually exist by showing where it first came from and how it developed into the religious business model you have become a customer of. History clearly evidences the true origin of all religions and science establishes the motivational factors behind the predisposition of people to believe in things that do not exist. Religion itself has been fully explained and accounted for. There are no unexplained elements those who share your susceptibility would like to believe evidences all manner of gods, ghosts, devils angels, evil spirits, dragons fairies and so on. We fully know where your beliefs came from even if you have yet to develop the courage to be honest enough with yourself to face the truth. We also know why those beliefs require a high level of what you term as “faith” or the willingness to believe in something for no other reason than because you wish it was true.

            Wish all you want but know that all the while you are doing so life in the real world continues to pass you by. And having existed in both worlds I can tell you with some authority that living in the real world is by far more rewarding that trying to live a lie. For your own sake Matt, I hope you wake up and smell the coffee before it’s too late.

          • MattB

            The historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection are the burial, the empty tomb, the apperances of Jesus to his disciples after his death. The Vast majority agree with the burial/empty tomb. Virtually all agree with the appearances of Jesus to his followers. Jesus also claimed to be God and thought of himself as Israel’s God from the OT. Since that’s true, then that means that every other religion in the world is false. All

            Second, you’ve been claiming the whole time that God doesn’t exist. The burden of proof then is not only on me, but also you, to prove the non-existence of God. You merely can’t assume that he doesn’t exist and shift the burden of proof on to me. The question is: are you making a truth claim? If so, then that requires justification. If not, then you admit your version of atheism is merely just a psyhological belief.

          • patkelly03

            Excuse my French but what a load of crap. Are you kidding me??? Each of your following statements is blatantly false:

            1 – “The historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection are the burial, the empty tomb, the appearances of Jesus to his disciples after his death.”

            Says who? You failed to cite any credible historical source of evidence and even if you had the most it could possibly be is something someone wrote down that at best directly conflicts with what others wrote down during the same period. You really expect me to believe a claim that an empty tomb proves something or that claims anyone came back to life written a couple of thousands of years ago by someone who had a direct stake in promoting belief in a particular fantasy god should be taken seriously?

            2 – “Virtually all agree with the appearances of Jesus to his followers.”

            Virtually all? I think you overlooked a few billion Muslims or Hindus who would be very offended by your attempt to include them into your virtually all analysis. You don’t get out much do you? It your TV stuck on some religious channel? Did you ever hear of the internet?

            3 – “Jesus also claimed to be God and thought of himself as Israel’s God from the OT. Since that’s true, then that means that every other religion in the world is false. All”

            “Since that’s true…” Says who? You? Based upon your willingness to make claimes you couldn’t possibly hope to sustain with anything even approaching real world proof, why should anyone believe you? Boy you are one seriously deluded cult member aren’t you?

            You’ve proved nothing. You’ve wasted my time with some attempt to claim you are an honest person willing to engage in an honest discussion. You’re not honest or anything even close to it. You’re a charlatan, a cheat, a liar and void of any sense of morality. You couldn’t have morality because you are too busy playing head games where you actually think some big daddy in the sky is watching you right now and thinking what a faithful, loyal idiot I’ve created. He gets 10 extra gold points for defending me. Now where did I put that big book so I can write it down?

            Shame on you Matt for pretending to be a normal intelligent human being. Time for you to go line up behind all the other sheep who are also too lazy to use the brain they were born with to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. If I told you that I was Jesus and had come back to save you would you believe me? If so let me know and I send you my address so you can fire off a couple of hundred dollars out to me stat. Or you can just send it to god, 666 Cult Street, c/o Santa, The North Pole.

            Tell me, can you really look yourself in the mirror with a straight face and keep from laughing? Perhaps I should send you $200.

          • MattB

            1-http://www.reasonablefaith.org/jesus-resurrection http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/southeastern_theological_review/minimal-facts-methodology_08-02-2012.htm

            2- I was talking about historians and new testament scholars

            3- Says Jesus himself. Look at the Synoptics, Paul’s epistles the entire New Testament.

            Wow, so you use ad-hominem instead of addressing the arguments? And yet, you call me dishonest…..??

          • Lars

            Matt, I doubt if there’s much daylight between me and pat but I am really proud of you for not backing down and for refusing to be bullied. This blog can be a pretty good approximation of the real world and some exchanges will require a thick skin and a vigorous, valid defense. Hang in there and remember to ‘stay classy’!

          • MattB

            Thanks! Lars,

            It seems that pat is a bully to everyone who disagrees with him. I, for one, will not stand for this kind of behavior.

          • patkelly03

            I don’t own a bible you claim I should be reading to find truth. As I said before I use something far more intelligent and authoritative… MY BRAIN! Oh and I should probably be sure and tell you that I don’t own a koran, torah or any other fiction based oversized comic book like all the ignorant and uncivilized savages who still roam the earth looking for eternity. Does it hurt you Matt when you slide that plate into your lower lip and jump around trying to convince yourself that others must admire you? Sorry but there is simply nothing to admire in either ignorance or willful stupidity. Grow a brain will ya?

          • MattB

            So you’re not open to the historical evidence that historians agree upon?

          • patkelly03

            I am very open to such evidence but please don’t try and suggest that anything written in the bible falls under the heading of historical evidence that historians agree upon. If you are looking for that kind of evidence the very last place you want to look is within anyone’s scriptures. Unless of course, you were looking for the evidence of what all scripture actually proves which has absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s alleged gods. That is that all scripture can be used as Exhibit “A” to prove not only the level of humanity’s ignorance at the time they were written, but also the incredible gullibility of humans to buy lemons from just your average used care salesman…

            Would you have forced your wife and kids to drink the glass of poison just handed to you by Jim Jones? Did you send a check into Jimmy Swaggart in response to his tearful heartfelt pleas for money to help defer the outrageous cost of prostitutes? I mean where did you ever get the idea your life was not fulfilled unless you were worshiping something?

            Can’t you just accept that all you are is “Dust In the Wind” (Kansas) meaning there is no purpose or importance to your existence? Is there no shred or honesty or decency left in you that would permit you to “Imagine” and indeed hope for a world with no religion (John Lennon)? Don’t you know that “A Change Is Gonna Come” (Sam Cooke) and no amount of misplaced love and devotion by you or anyone else has the power to stop progress and the inevitable societal advancement beyond superstition based religion? Don’t you realize that if we were not spending so much time fighting and killing each other in a deluded quest to dominate the world with the religion we learned to believe in that we would have the time to give and receive “More Love” (Kim Karnes)? We were all born to love each other, not waste that love on imaginary gods in the sky.

            There, I have provided you with the emotional level communication people like you rely upon so heavily to understand the world around you. Search YouTube for the songs. I suggest you listen to the music and try as hard as you can to free your mind and just go with it. Try to reestablish contact with the real you. That’s the one you probably gave up on and abandoned long ago. Perhaps looking at yourself in the mirror while you listen will help. Try and make eye contact… And if it happens; I mean if it really happens and you notice the glimmer of a tear, you’re back Matt! Say hi to yourself for me. We’ve all missed you. WELCOME BACK TO THE REAL WORLD!!!

            Good luck. From the level of your apparent indoctrination and resultant delusional thinking, you’re certainly gonna need it.

          • MattB

            The New Testament was not the “New Testament” in the ancient world. The NT wasn’t even canonized till 3rd or 4th century AD. The Books of the New Testament are greek documents that are written about a historical figure, whom historians not only agree that he existed, but that certain things can be recovered about his life and death. 3 of the 4 facts I mentioned are agreed upon by scholars, with the 4th fact agreed upon by the vast majority of New Testament scholars. I highly suggest you research the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection with an open mind, instead of being a bully on this blog post

          • patkelly03

            Boy you live in a real powder-puff world don’t you? One where you easily accept any concepts you can use to support your conclusions that you of all people have arrived at the correct understandings that tells you its people like me who need to wake up and smell the coffee. Here are a few facts and dare I say rational understandings that say you’ve got it exactly backwards.

            It’s not me who believes that one particular god out of tens of thousands of alleged gods down through the ages brought forth a particular set of writings written to help you save your soul. A selected group of writings selectively pulled out of a much, much bigger group of writings written and rewritten by numerous named, unnamed and pseudonym authors. A selection of wildly imaginary stories containing claims of fantastic miracles all stitched together into a single book some claim provides the definitive answers to the same set of basic questions that have haunted human brains for countless centuries. It’s not me who claims to have the definitive instruction manual and guidebook to the human condition. It’s you.

            Anyone who reads the bible, the koran, the torah or whathaveyou with a critical view that does not assume before you even start reading the first word that you are reading the word of god, would come away with the blatantly obvious conclusion that what you are actually reading is humanity’s past attempts to put rhyme and reason to its existence. Interesting reading perhaps but certainly not anything any rationally thinking person would want to live their lives by. In this regard, I can reword my original question just for you because you believe you are one of the special and choses ones:

            What makes the bible any more divine or holy than all the other contradictory religious scriptures allegedly put forth by a different god or gods?

            Your claim that the bible is what it claims to be because historians agree about its accuracy does not even rise to the level of a half-truth. There is no credible evidence written or otherwise that supports claims that Moses with a little help from above parted the Red Sea or that Noah built an arc large enough to hold two or more of all living things a few thousand years ago. Actually, on the arc claim it would take something in the order of 6-Nimitz class aircraft carriers to take on that job not including support vessels carrying food and water along with housing several thousand staff necessary to handle feeding and removing waste from all the animals.

            How can you account for the fact that you selectively disregard the factual inconsistencies in the arc story stitched into your so called holy book? You can’t, but that fact does not appear to bother you too much. You simply put that off to one side with a quick superficial analysis that if a god wanted to fit all living creatures into the arc, he could take care of all the resultant logistics problems with a few simple miracles that would not even begin to task the capabilities of an all powerful, all knowing god. And as you quickly move on to the next verse or capture in your alleged holy book, the irrationality of the whole arc story does not even flicker to life in your faithfully deluded mind.

            For me, it is but one of thousands of irrational inconsistencies that shout out the obvious fact that all these stories came from a rather limited and indeed highly ignorant human intellect representative not of an all knowing god, but rather the level of scientific advancement during the time the obvious real authour of that story lived. They had no idea of how many living creatures inhabited a planet they had not yet even begun to explore let alone the little detail they thought that planet was flat and at the center of the universe

            Think about it for a moment. Why would an all knowing god arrive at a situation where he apparently misjudged something necessitating him to kill everything off on a global level and reboot the start of humanity? And what’s with all the arc flood problems he would have to intervene in such as shrinking the animal kingdom down to a size that it would fit into the arc. Why not just snap his fingers and start fresh without giving off appearances his powers where also restrained by the forces of nature which he had to manipulate into a global flood to accomplish his wish. Nevermind little details like where all the water came from or went to after the flood.

            The flawed and ignorant human minds you have attempted to breath authority into because certain people read enough books that someone handed them a degree that titled them historians or scholars, fails to overcome the fact that all those books they read were just filled with errors. Add to that the title of “religious” scholars and you set yourself up for even bigger misrepresentations of the facts. Facts born out of the additional tainting element that such people already believe in fairies before they crossed the threshold into any institution of higher learning. It like the blind leading the blind or in this case the religiously delusional familiarizing themselves with the earlier works of the religiously delusional. But none of this concerns you and you want to force all these round objects through the same square holes in your box of beliefs. And by the way, the consensus among historians you speak of involves people who can’t even agree upon whether Jesus was married and had children.

            I want you to know that if I was so disposed, I could sit down and write a far more accurate instruction manual or guidebook to the human mind. And I’m not the only one who could do this. Far from it. I’ve been around the block enough times to have stitched enough of the puzzle pieces together that a rational composite picture begins to emerge that explains most of the very same hows and whys the bible attempt to answer. One of the essential chapters in any such modern day guidebook would be “Thinking Your Way Out of Religion”. This would be an essential part or prerequisite for anyone’s journey to finding the real answers to all our most basic questions.

            Like I said before, show me where the bible talks about black holes or anything, anything at all that could not have been known at the time it was written and you will have accomplished your god given directive of converting me back to Christianity. If you want to do god’s bidding then bring forth the evidence you calim sustains your faith.

            And as you gather your thoughts about how you could possibly convince someone smarter and wiser than yourself that you have the superior set of beliefs, try and remember that you are not dealing with someone who is a stranger to religion. I been there and done that. I read your bible many times. I have prayed and gone to church many, many times. I went to Catholic school. I even considered becoming a priest at one point. So as you reach into your bag of tricks you’ll have to dig way, way down to come up with something new that I have not already heard and answered many, many times before.

            Not that I really care, but my hope for you and others like you is that as you reach into the bag of tricks you use to sustain your beliefs, one day you will open your eyes and realize that bag doesn’t actually have much in it. Then if you are half as smart as you think you are, and also half as honest, you will begin asking yourself; “Is that all there is?” Nothing much but a few smatterings of puzzle pieces that don’t even come close to fitting together.

          • MattB

            I can tell you’re not willing to look at the evidence that historians agree upon, regarding Jesus’ resurrection. If that’s the case, then this conversation is pretty much useless to a close-minded individual like yourself, who instead shifts the burden of proof on others and when pressed offers none for his position.

          • patkelly03

            I’ve already read the bible and taken a look at the so-called evidence you falsely claim historians agree upon. The fact you would repeatedly assert the blatantly false claim that historians agree that Jesus rose from the dead clearly establishes your own close mindedness not mine.

            You flatter yourself if you think I am wasting my time writing for you. No my friend, you are a lost cause and are condemned to go to your grave still pretending to believe you are not really going to die but will be saved by the particular fantasy god you learned to believe in. Talking to you is like trying to reason with the groups of hijackers eggar to have sex with a harem of virgins as they fly planes into the world trade center. There is no reasoning with such people who have already made up their minds that what THEY learned to believe must be correct because THEY feel it so strongly in their gut.

            Now you and I would both surely agree that those guts have been pulverized out of existence and that not one of these guys is dipping their genitalia into virgins as we speak. We can only speculate about whether they were able to retain their delusions right up to the last seconds as they chanted god is great or whether the rational part of their brain had the final say of unthinkable regret when it asked; “What have you done you stupid fool?”

            When you think of those people and how strongly they believed in something that wasn’t true, you are unable to realize that you share the exact same immoral and dishonest pathology. You tell yourself that you are a good and righteous person but though you might fool yourself there are many of us out here that you don’t fool. We know who you are and what you stand for even if you don’t. And none of it is good or beneficial to the humanity you were born into.

            You are a disappointment as is the way you have chosen to live your life. You are a charlatan, a quack, a cheat, a fraud and an imposter all rolled into one. You wouldn’t know truth if someone hit you over the head with it. None of this is meant to shame or belittle you because such realizations are far beyond your ability to accept about yourself no matter how obvious the evidence.

            Finally, as a means to once and for all remove your false claims that historians agree about the bible from the debate table, I will leave the room and let someone else try and point your twisted mind in a rational direction. If you can stand a bit of truth without shaking and melting away like the witch of the west in the story of OZ, watch this. Who knows… you just might learn a thing or two about what historians really say about the accuracy of your beloved bible:

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

          • MattB

            So if you know what historians agree regarding what happened to Jesus after his death, then you should know most agree with the burial,and empty tomb Virtually all scholars agree on the appearances to his disciples as well as skeptics. But judging by your mornoic series of comments, I can tell you’ve neither researched these facts and resort to absurd irreleveant arguements to try and throw me off.

          • patkelly03

            I’m not trying to throw you off Matt. You’ve already accomplish that small feat easily by yourself without any help from me.

            Historians do not agree or even come close to agreeing on what happened to Jesus after his death. Since the basic premise you claim underpins both your arguments with me and the whole of your religious beliefs is false, why do you insist upon pretending there is some legitimacy to your claims? You want me to accept your Jesus arose from the dead fairytale just because you have some crazy notion that historians agree with you? They don’t and I’ve already established that with credible evidence that seems to go in one of your ears and out the other without making contact with what is supposed to exist in between.

            Next you’ll want me to argue with you over whether the earth is only 6,000 years old or whether intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory. If all you really want to do is play games then why don’t you challenge me to a game of chess or something? Then there will not be any arguments over who won…

            On second thought, given your propensity towards delusion and fabrication I think I’ll pass, since even after I said “check mate” you would still insist you won because that’s what the bible tells you. But the truth is you can never win since you keep trying to move the pieces across the board using just your faith, mysticism and oohga-booga.

            One has to wonder at the shallow, wanting personalities drawn to discussion boards not to discuss, but rather to preach. What are you trying to prove and who are you trying to fool? Didn’t you ever consider opening your own church franchise or starting your own religion and writing your own version of holy scripture? I hear it’s a pretty good business to get into. What are you waiting for? If you’re any good at all, you’ll have long lines of fools just waiting to fill your collection plates with money.

            Since you have no logical conclusions you yourself have reached that can stand by themselves without relying upon what someone else said or worse yet what you claim someone else said; then I agree that it seems pointless to continue our exchange. When all your opponent has left to argue is “he said/she said” then you can be pretty sure they have conceded that logic has once again defeated faith as it always has and indeed always will.

          • MattB

            No. You’re lying to me. I’ve cited you credible facts and websites that historians have written peer-reviewed journals/articles confirming that their colleagues agree on most things. It seems that you’re avoiding the real evidence and instead resorting to ad-hominem type arguments. If you can’t actually argue like an intellectual human being, then I think you and I both know that your just a troll or that you honestly don’t care about the evidence.

          • patkelly03

            Keep dreaming dreamer…

          • MattB

            Are you finished babbling like an idiot yet?

          • patkelly03

            Coming from you I’ll take being called an idiot as the highest form of compliment you can muster. Anything less would fail to show the level of your frustration at not being able to advance any arguments to support your fantasies. Don’t feel too bad. If I was attempting to argue your view of the world, I would probably sound almost as unsophisticated and ridiculous as you.

            You indeed have much to learn about the real world you poor ignorant savage. Unfortunately, none of that learning can even start until you take you head out of the sand and begin focusing on something a bit more representative of truth and reality than your book of magic and strange tales.

            Try attending a mosque for awhile where you can recite the koran over and over and over. That might just wake you up to the fact of what the bible really represents. And none of it is good. Who knows, if you have any rationalism left after dipping what’s left of your small feeble mind into the koran, you just might come away with a broader sense of reality that provides you with new insights into the fact that two plus two actually equals four. Better yet you might develop a sense of morality that would enable you to tell the difference between the truth and a lie.

            You failed to answer my original question for the obvious reason that you couldn’t and instead tried to change the subject to hide your inability to sustain any of your beliefs with rational logic. Since you failed that task, yes I am done with you. You’ll have to wait for the next naive fool to come along. Perhaps you’ll have better luck suckering them into providing you with the opportunity to convince yourself that others think you are cleaver, well educated and of superior intelligence to anyone who dares to question your belief in Zeus.

          • peteenns

            Boys, I’ve a bit preoccupied this week and haven’t kept up with your comments, but this back and forth needs to come to an end now, as in immediately. No one is going to “win” and it’s not remotely productive. Any further comments here will be deleted.

          • patkelly03

            peteenns: Allow me to express my appreciation for the opportunity to freely state what’s on my mind even though you and the majority of your viewers surely hold very different views. Such freedoms have become a rare commodity on the internet today where most discussion boards have strict limitations that censor out countering views to the extent that real discussion gets lost in a sea of supportive views.

            The world is filled with different and often conflicting views which in our times have begun slipping out of isolationist pockets around the globe and onto the world stage for everyone to see. We are very fortunate to be part of generations that the future will surely judge by our ability to assimilate the far greater majority of all these different views into the best humanity has to offer. We are laying the foundations for tomorrow’s accepted understandings like no other generation before us. For that we are indeed privileged and it is websites like Patheos that can proudly proclaim they participated vigorously, with open eyes in the search for truth.

            Congratulations to you all and good luck in your quest.

            Pat Kelly

        • Daniel Fisher

          At least one thing to consider is the alternative – if you are going to argue for a world without any god of any sort, you simultaneously have to embrace the idea that all human morality, goodness, creativity, brilliance, works of beauty and art, love, compassion, justice, honor, affection, poetry, and all the other “elements of human consciousness” are random results of the evolutionary process, no significantly different a mosquito’s instinct to bite. I think many of us simply believe or embrace that all these traits of humanity are more than the result of filtered random mutations.

          In short, I do not find hydrogen to be a sufficient explanation for nuclear submarines, Mozart’s “Requiem,” or “The complete works of William Shakespeare.’ Hence the beginning of a journey to look beyond the confines of nature for a more adequate explanation.

          • patkelly03

            Daniel I welcome the opportunity to try and explain something that is a common misperception supporting conclusions that a supernatural intelligence must be behind levels of complexity within the known universe that appear to exceed human intelligence. What you are actually asking is for someone to explain the elements of complexity to you. E.g. How can totally unique new information arise from the composite of old seemingly unrelated information? I want you to know that one could easily write a book trying to answer your question so my answer will surely fail to pull it all together with the fidelity it rightfully deserves. But I will give it my best shot. Here goes…

            I’ll take the easiest first. How can we account for human morality?

            Humans evolved into social animals where survival depended upon being part of a group. If you got lost or separated from the group that usually meant you would not survive too long. One of the necessary elements to being part of the group was being accepted by the other groups members with some sort of social status that helped determine your place in the group. Though this may have begun as merely who was the strongest or sexiest, it eventually expanded to include other attributes the group valued. So, as children we learned the importance of gaining the acceptance and approval of others as opposed to their rejection.

            What we refer to as morality today such as not stealing or killing others stems from our fear of being rejected by the group for behaving in a way that undermines the needs of the group as opposed to the needs of the individual. In short, be a good boy or you will be punished. That little voice in the back of our head telling us right from wrong is the same voice telling us what behaviors we learned the group will and will not accept. This also ties in with reward and punishment aka pleasure and pain.

            The reason we tend not to kill others is because we are afraid of how the group will respond and what will happen to us as a result of our behavior which arises both from what we learn in childhood and genetic predispositions that have been hard wired into us. Morality and concepts of right and wrong existed long before anyone ever suggested there might be a god up in the sky who wants us to be good. Morality was here first and existed very nicely without any need for threats of heaven and hell. We know this is true because if it wasn’t none of us would be here now discussing it. A final point is that humans are not the only species that behaves in ways one might attribute to morality or doing things that benefit others even at the expense of your own needs.

            Ok now let’s move on to something a little harder. What is consciousness and how do you explain it without some necessary connection to the supernatural?

            During the early 80s’ I spent over a year involved in a programming project where the goal was to find a way to store data that mimicked the processes within human memory. To make a long story short, one of the elements we came up against was that to understand how the brain’s memory worked we also needed to answer some basic questions about how consciousness worked. One of the interesting things about computer programming and math is that you can emulate virtually anything in computer code. It is never a matter of can it be done, but always a matter of can we figure out how to do it. OK so let me tell you some of what we discovered during this project:

            1 – Exactly what is consciousness?
            Consciousness is not a thing or something you can touch, hold in your hand or put in a bottle. It does not exist in a physical sense so much as it exists as a series of informational events over time. Consciousness has more in common with a bolt of lightning than the brain someone removes from a corpse. It is an event. It is a happening or it happens as a stream or flow of information. Though consciousness we experience uses electricity as the primary means to carry information, there is no reason to assume electricity is a necessary component of consciousness.

            Note: It is difficult to conceptualize consciousness because it is more like a song than a baseball.

            Consciousness in its most rudimentary or basic form can be found throughout nature. e.g. A leaf that changes its orientation to better face the sun is effectively aware of the light coming from the sun to the point that it responds or reacts to that light. The leaf as part of a closed system that contains all the elements involved in its response to sunlight meets the definition of what we call consciousness. It is conscious.

            The Human Brain could rightfully be described as the “platform” upon which consciousness springs into existence or springs to life as some might say. The biologically influenced or controlled machinery that affects and determines exactly how consciousness manifests itself not only determines the content of consciousness or what’s in the data stream, but also what data takes precedence over other data in reaching conscious awareness.

            Self Awareness in a loop or circular data stream that sits on top of numerous other loops or data streams that selectively decides which sub data streams to pay attention to. e.g. Am I going to watch TV or move my gaze towards the area of my skin that just felt itchy?

            Memory is the process of storing parts of the conscious data stream so those parts can be recalled later. If our memory stored all the elements of the conscious data stream, we would probably have trouble telling the difference from present and past. Memory data streams are stored with weighted values designed to decay over time. e.g. If the first time I met you I slapped you in the face that experience would receive a greater weighting value than if I just said hello and shook your hand. Therefore, it would take longer to forget unless several other people you just met also slapped you in the face in which case its weighted value would be diluted by the existence of other similar memories.

            Consciousness Programming is a set of rules or instruction set programs that governs how the system responds to external and internal stimuli. These rules or programs are a necessary component of consciousness which could not exist without them. The most fundamental rule or the rule beneath all other rules is the one that says “seek pleasure/avoid pain”. This is the motivation behind all life which causes or results in action. All life forms contain some level of consciousness though only more complex brains contain the circuitry necessary to sustain self-awareness.

            I hope I have given you enough basic information about what is behind your experience of consciousness to enable you to extrapolate beyond the overly simplistic examples to something far more complex such as what looks back at you from the mirror each morning. The main point in all of this is that there is no great mystery to consciousness which will soon become very apparent in the next 20-years or so when computers begin asking us if they can stay up beyond their bedtime. Prepare yourself for a whole different way of understanding exactly what makes you tick which is fast approaching. Obviously, when we create conscious self-aware computers, your question of how can you explain such things without evoking the involvement of gods will become a bit moot.

            Now onto you very good question of how you get from hydrogen to submarines.

            This is already way way too long so I will have to be quick. How could a quantum computer decode all the passwords on the entire internet in less than a second unless a god somewhere was providing all the answers? We don’t need to understand everything in order to understand that what we don’t know does not rise to the level of intelligent design. One thing we can be certain of is that future generations will look back upon us and our simpleminded questions and wonder at how we could have been so ignorant that we would automatically assume that if we don’t have the answer to something then god did it. The earth is not flat nor is it at the center of the universe nor is it only 6000 years old. You can extrapolate out from there and find far more rational answer to all the things you admittedly do not understand without resorting to mysticism, gods, ghosts and magic.

          • Daniel Fisher

            Wow, I appreciate the detailed response – I’ll read through and need to give further thought to give you an adequate response to all you were kind enough to write – but let me initially respond to one thing: I fully understand the basic theory about how morality evolved, basically, a herd instinct developed because our ancestors that were nice and played well together were selected against those that didn’t. But that was not exactly my point…

            That is, once we’ve discovered that this is “all” morality is, then we should simultaneously understand that it is just another trait that Darwinistic evolutionary process put into our genes, and realize that if it is inconvenient then we can drop it just like any other vestigial instinct or structure – there would be no reason to refrain from theft, murder, etc., if we truly believed we would not be caught and punished by society, once we believed that morality is “just” an inhereted instinct, just like any other we can choose to listen to or no. In other words, once we recognize where our concepts of “right and wrong” came from, we recognize that they are a DELUSION. A *useful* delusion, to be sure, one that helped our ancestors survive, etc., but we must recognize that they are a delusion – there really is no such thing as “right and wrong,” they were just inherited concepts, that did NOT correspond to any truth in the world, that nonetheless were useful to our ancestors’ survival.

            However, I believe that justice is a real thing we genuinely owe to each other – I should refrain from murdering someone because I owe this to every person, not simply because society disapproves. If I knew, with 100% guarantee, that I could murder someone inconvenient to me without being caught, I would still owe it to them not to murder them; not because of the consequences, but because it is objectively, absolutely, “wrong” to do so.

            Or, put another way, if this is just an evolved instinct, then there is no way whatsoever to judge between competing moralities – Nazi morality is just as legitimate as anyone else’s, if we believe that morality is just this evolved instinct; all our horror and being indignant about what the Nazis did is just an instinct that, however useful, is not telling us anything “true”. We might claim that Nazi morality is inconvenient, distasteful, or various other things, but we cannot say they were “wrong” for what they did, when we embrace the idea that morality itself is just a useful instinct that tells us nothing about truth or reality.

            However, for those of us who cannot help but believe that there is more to morality than that – who believe that what the Nazis did was, in truth, in an absolute sense, an “evil” in contrast to altruism or compassion, the Darwinistic sense of an evolved social instinct is inadequate to explain that kind of absolute morality.

            I, however, firmly believe morality to be more than that, that Hitler’s actions and that of his supporters was genuinely, in the most absolute sense, “wrong,” not simply inconvenient, distasteful, etc., but genuinely, objectively, absolutely, “wrong.” And THIS judgment requires more than the Darwinistic model can provide.

            You may have to explain your last point to me further (About hydrogen given enough time & energy becoming submarines)…. it sounds like you’re acknowledging that there is currently no legitimate explanation in a naturalistic framework; but even though a theistic model may better seem to fit the facts, you’d prefer to embrace the naturalistic model in the hope that a natural solution may some day be discovered, rather than to explore the possibility of God’s existence? Please correct me if I’m not following exactly.

            I’ll have to chew on your other writings to give it adequate thought – again, thanks for the lengthy and well-thought response.

          • patkelly03

            Allow me to summarize our opposing positions on the issue of whether human morality evidences some level of supernatural involvement. You claim that the fact of morality evidences god(s) as well as the existence of extraterrestrial forces of good and evil while my view is we can already fully account for morality without necessitating the supposed involvement of any alleged divine creator.

            To begin with, your view necessitates seeing humanity as a sort of glob of evolutionary protoplasm void of not only any sense of morality but also void of any need to act morally in response to others and the world around us. According to your understanding, we are affected by and exposed to external, totally disconnected forces that influence our actions into either moral (good, right, etc.) or immoral (bad, evil, wrong etc.) behaviors.

            In your view, life itself is designed and purposed to be a test of how we chose to respond to these external forces of good and evil. The test being that if we don’t give in to the temptation of evil and chose good behavior over bad that we will eventually be rewarded by spending the rest of eternity in heavenly bliss. And as an extra incentive to help make sure we all make the right choice, this alleged all loving creator who is supposed to have put us into this “chose wisely” predicament in the first place also included the threat and promise that if we make the “wrong” or immoral choice, we will spend all the rest of that same eternity in unthinkable pain, sorrow and agony as punishment and retribution.

            When you stop and think about it, your view indicates a rather deep level of interwoven logic that would be necessary to enable anyone with above average intelligence to paint all the components necessary to sustain the god story. In other words, you can’t accept the premise that there is nothing more to morality than what we see in human behavior because if you did it would eliminate any legitimate reason or need for god(s).

            You have no choice but to agree that at least some level of morality comes from god in order to sustain the core concepts of good vs. evil which underpin not only your particular faith, but indeed most others as well. In fact, the good vs. evil story can be traced back far further then before anyone first imagined any living entities in the sky. This good luck vs. bad luck came first, long before anyone extrapolated the idea that some third unseen party might be affecting outcomes. This unseen third party idea later evolved into concepts of how we might befriend such an entity in order to have our new imaginary friend add the weight of its finger to our side of the good luck scale. And then “bingo” (pun intended), you had a literal explosion onto the world stage of many stories about our new imaginary friends that all eventually fell within the general concept of RELIGION.

            Now I would never be so arrogant as to question the morality of a god who created the universe, but what I would easily question is the existence of such a being based in part upon the rationality of the stories behind such a belief. Let’s use your “morality came from god” argument as the perfect example of where the logic for the whole story begins to fail and fall apart. Here is one of dare I say many simple questions that challenges your notions of good vs. evil designed into creation by a creator:

            Where is the morality in creating anything including a conscious self-aware entity so it can spend all of eternity in excruciating agony?

            That equates to intentionally inflicting pain by choice which according to your own supposedly god given standards of morality fits squarely into the definition of “immoral”. In fact, we even have a psychological definition for such behavior that uses the term psychopath or one unable to appreciate or have empathy towards other’s pain. How does this square with “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? I don’t know about you, but I would certainly never be so mean spirited and cruel to cause anyone pain even for a moment without some obvious reason to do so such as the pain is ultimately in their own best interests. Allow me to suggest that eternal pain falls way outside that definition and speaks to things like psychopaths in their most extreme form by anyone’s measure.

            Now let’s dig even deeper to further explore heavenly morality. Why would a loving and indeed moral god create evil in the first place? Having gone to Catholic school, I’ve already heard the standard attempts to answer such questions that fail miserably. All the way from we should wonder at the level of wisdom of a divine creator whose knowledge and reasons far exceed anything the human mind could ever hope to comprehend, to you must have faith. Well I’m sorry but my mind cannot and will not be stopped from reaching rather obvious conclusions that easily answer such questions. I am not so invested in what truths the answers might reveal that I would accept the sort of mind numbing gibberish specifically designed to prevent people from thinking too much and asking highly relevant questions that deserve better than “you just have to have faith”. And, I’ll put my questions above faith any day of the week because they are honest questions deserving honest answers.

            That’s one of the major problems I have will all religions. None of them provides honest answers. It’s all about having the faith to believe in something without reasonable common sense proof to sustain such beliefs. Oh and one more thing… It’s all about parting susceptible humans from their hard earned cash by selling the prospect of eternal life. And from the level of opulence well enshrined within religious institutions is would appear that business is pretty good.

          • patkelly03

            Daniel I wanted to address some of your specific comments that appeared to me to quickly slide in various concepts.without any rational foundations or explanations showing how you arrived at those understandings.

            You said:
            I fully understand the basic theory about how morality evolved, basically, a herd instinct developed because our ancestors that were nice and played well together were selected against those that didn’t. But that was not exactly my point…
            That is, once we’ve discovered that this is “all” morality is, then we should simultaneously understand that it is just another trait that Darwinistic evolutionary process put into our genes, and realize that if it is inconvenient then we can drop it just like any other vestigial instinct or structure – there would be no reason to refrain from theft, murder, etc., if we truly believed we would not be caught and punished by society, once we believed that morality is “just” an inhereted instinct, just like any other we can choose to listen to or no.

            My response:
            You seem to be suggesting that the “Darwinistic evolutionary processes put into our genes” has little if any real effect upon our behavior and that if we find such genetic predispositions inconvenient, all we have to do is simply “drop it just like any other vestigial instinct” I don’t agree. See if you can teach a true psychopath empathy to the same degree you can a more “normal” person. Try dropping one inconvenient sexual orientation for another one that is more acceptable to the society you were raised in. Try telling a warm and nurturing mother to drop their desire to protect and nurture their children.

            The fact we possess some instincts that could rightfully be called vestigial instincts by no means equates to your apparent claim that we should view all our instincts as vestigial instincts. Are you trying to suggest that within today’s society there is no real evolutionary need not to steal from or murder our fellow human beings? Are you claiming we have outgrown such moralities? Are you trying to claim we have outgrown our needs to interact socially because a few among us prefer not to venture out from their tightly locked apartments? Just try and feed your family without restaurants or supermarkets etc. etc. etc.

            So contrary to your analogy of the moralistic instincts that are both genetically and socially firmly implanted into the control mechanisms behind all our current and indeed future behavior, no one posses the power to just “drop” there effect upon us at will. In reality there is little free will when it comes to all the complex elements that come together to result in our behavior.

            Now I want to tell you that I have been fascinated for a long time by how a lot of human behavior seems to be tied to two opposing patterns we have come to identify with the labels liberal and conservative. I’m as liberal as you can get and I have a lot of trouble understanding the processes by which conservatives are able to form opinions that to me seem totally irrational as if they came from, well let’s just say an immature mind. They seem to have a lot of difficulties following much of a trail of logic that involves more than just a few steps and seem to fill in this gap by constantly seeking emotional input in place of cold indifferent concrete evidence.

            Now I don’t want to go too deeply into this except to say that science has already established that there are physical differences in the brain that they have been able to associate with being either conservative or liberal. They have also found that brains of psychopaths share far more physical similarities with conservatives than their liberal counterparts. I mention all of this to show the importance role evolution and its resultant brain structures play in our behavior. Clearly the idea you try and put forward that suggests anyone has the ability to drop how evolution influences their behavior is way outside current scientific fact.

            No one should assume the processes of evolution are done with us and the fact of the physical differences in our brains shows that process is far from over. The general pattern seems to point us away from violence and other antisocial attributes that were once as you say very necessary. On that we agree.

            You said:
            However, for those of us who cannot help but believe that there is more to morality than that – who believe that what the Nazis did was, in truth, in an absolute sense, an “evil” in contrast to altruism or compassion, the Darwinistic sense of an evolved social instinct is inadequate to explain that kind of absolute morality.

            My response:
            You’ve lost me. You have said nothing that even comes close to establishing any connection between truth and evil.

            Please explain why you think the Darwinistic sense of an evolved social instinct is inadequate to explain either Hitler’s behavior or the behavior of a soldier who throws himself on a grenade to save his friends. All behavior can be traced back to the most fundamental elements in nature and evolution that dictates exactly why a leaf turns itself into the sun. It’s the exact same reason you will instinctively jump out of the way of a speeding car or jump into its path if doing so saves the life of your child. It’s simply who we have evolved into and what we and countless others have been doing for eons before anyone even heard of the 10 commandments.

            The genetic morality implanted into us over thousands and indeed millions of years is far superior in scope and function than any fleeting attempt to play god with some wild idea humans possessed the wisdom to pen the guidebook to the human mind before they even knew where lightening came from.

          • patkelly03

            OK Daniel this is the last of my attempt to answer your very very broad question…

            So how do we get from hydrogen to a submarine or how can you make a submarine out of hydrogen? This question essentially asks the most fundamental of all questions that tasks the human mind’s curiosity. What is life and where did it come from? It also poses other even more basis questions that must be answered first, such as why do natural elements have a tendency to become more complex. What if any force drives this move towards increased complexity?

            Let’s start by examining the system within which all this including ourselves exists that we have come to call the universe. One can look at a small rock floating in empty space and easily get the impression that the rock is static in nature or just sitting there. That would be a mistake since nothing in the known universe could be described as static. Everything is constantly changing and in motion. In other words, the reality around us is naturally alive with constant motion and change within the constant dance between the interaction of matter and energy. This can be easily seen within the bubbling froth that defines the quantum level far smaller than atoms though even atoms are constantly in motion.

            So the human construct of concepts like inert or stable are actually false concepts since there actually is no such state in reality. The cold rock we pick up and hold in our hand is not static but rather filled with the constant motion of atoms and the like far beyond our ability to see. Nevertheless, this is the true world around us. It’s alive in a sense and things are always in flux and ever changing. Nothing is static.

            If you look at reality from this more accurate perception, life is not really anything that is created from nothing or from a state of non-life. It is simply another transition step up the latter of complexity. In other words, the universe itself from which life constantly evolves is already a living machine driven to become more complex through the constant interaction of ever growing new elements arising from the interaction of older elements. Mix helium, hydrogen, gravity, dark matter, dark energy and other yet undefined elements together within the big mixing bowls of suns and black holes and after adding in a sprinkling of incomprehensible durations of time, you eventually wind up with everything from oxygen and iron to diamonds and gold. Oh and one more thing eventually pops out of this bubbling cosmic soup. Humans.

            So how do you transition from a grain of sand to a self-replicating self-aware biological machine? What force causes the grain of sand to evolve from a grain of sand into something so far beyond a grain of sand that it walks and runs upon grains of sand? Once again, what makes this so hard to understand is our misconceptions about sand. There is no external force needed to push it forward into higher levels of complexity. That force is already there as an integral basic component of every grain of sand. It’s already moving and interacting within a world that is also moving and interacting with it. The occasional bolt of lightning does wonders in mixing things up with almost an infinite number of possible outcomes.

            Evolution does not begin or end with the element of biological life. It is a process that has always been present since time itself as elements interact with one another to form combined more complex elements. One of the natural outcomes within the ever pulsating machinery of the universe is that given enough time interacting with itself, it would eventually happen upon the chance ability to manufacture the simplest of machines far simpler than plants. Machines that eventually happen upon the mechanisms necessary to make copies of themselves. Once that threshold was crossed, the evolutionary machinery enfolded into what we like to call life, exponentially accelerated evolution by lessening the time necessary for trial and error to manifest itself into survival of the fittest.

            So get over your ideas of a cold, dark, dead universe because that’s not the one you were born into. The universe in every sense of the word is just as alive as you are and is teaming with life far beyond anything ever dreamed up by the human imagination. And who knows, the universe may even already know how to reproduce itself.

            So, just as man’s knowledge and intelligence has evolved in complexity to take it from understanding fire to building submarines, so too does the universe itself also continue to evolve. Will it ever reach a point where things can’t become more complex due to forces of increasing expansion that eventually rip everything apart causing all interaction to grind to a halt? Perhaps. Who knows and frankly, who cares?

          • MattB

            Exactly! Morals come from a moral-law giver(God), who is the absolute moral perfection of what it means to be “good”, and without God, there would be no moral standard or moral law that is objective and unchanging.

    • MattB

      Your argument is circular. Your presupposition is that God does not exist and yet your argument is basically that it is impossible to prove God’s existence.

      • patkelly03

        My argument is that it is impossible to prove the existence of something that doesn’t exist no matter how you try and spin it.

        • John

          That isn’t an argument, that is a truism. You might try something like:
          1) Presupposition – that for which I cannot see evidence does not exist
          2) Declarative – I can see no evidence for any divine being(s)
          3) Conclusion – Divine beings do not exist

          Unfortunately, this is significantly more complex and requires quite a bit more, and more careful, thinking than you provide here. It is a pretty challenging thesis, which many (Sartre and Camus, for example) ultimately found to be every bit as subjective as religion. I personally think it would be a good project for you to take seriously, but I think you may find that many people are turned off by shallow thoughts wrapped in outrage.

        • MattB

          Right, and my point is that your objection is circular. Your conclusion is your assumption: That God can’t exist and that it is impossible to prove the existence of God. This is simply false. One can make an argument for or against God.

  • Tim

    This article reminds me of a quote I heard one time (can’t remember who said it): “A theological discussion is a great place to hide from an encounter with the living God”.

    • James

      And another useful phrase we hear from time to time, “the scandal of the particular.”

  • guvner

    assumptions: using my mental dictionary, my personal perspective

    I must admit (and appreciate) the entertainment value of observing an intelligent concrete/linear thinker engaged in a written discussion with an intelligent global/conceptual thinker – each using a different mental dictionary. The stress/tension felt by both parties, and their reaction to it, is predictable and just entertaining. One might (just might) be able to understand or take the perspective of the other, but the resulting stress/tension is just unbearable. That stress/tension often resembles anger. I would guess that, in our history, physical violence, or flight, resolved many such conflicts. “Blog comments” add a third option.

    Keep it up! But, we know the urge to change someone’s mind is just too irresistible.

  • Jeff Y

    This is very good from Rohr. As one who preaches/teaches in an inner-city setting – mostly with homeless or those in drug/alcohol rehab as well as other ministries/servants who differ significantly from me on a theological level – I’ve found Rohr’s comments to be quite true and relevant. Many churches (esp. exclusive/closed conservative ones) easily hold their perspectives firmly because they are all the same people and only interact with others from a distance. When you get to the concrete, and experience people different from you, you come to see the ‘black and white’ answers you thought were obvious simply are not so obvious.

    This is also something that can happen on a different level: interaction with writers & theologians who differ from one. This helps us see the world through a different lens and can soften – or at least poke a few holes in – some of our hardened positions.

  • noel

    Some on Mormondiscussions.com said this about you “That quote is not from Peter Enns and it is a stretch to call him a
    “progressive Christian”, for while he is not a raving fundamentalist
    when it comes to how Christians should approach the Bible, he is
    nevertheless a plain old conservative evangelical.” Where do you fit in the evangelical spectrum?

    • Carlos Bovell

      @disqus_086wDH54fy:disqus

      That would depend on what it means to be “a plain old conservative evangelical” and what it means to be a “progressive Christian” as well as on the context of the question being asked. (Can evangelicals even qualify as progressive Christians or is it only possible for them to be plain old conservative ones?) And given the quote you provide, the labels don’t appear all that helpful because they deflect attention away from what Pete has actually been trying to do in his work and on this blog.

      But in the end it would be up to you and your discussion group to take a quick look at, say, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology or Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism and judge for yourself where (if anywhere) Pete Enns might fit on the spectrum.

      Grace and peace,
      Carlos

      • Lars

        Good points, Carlos. A spectrum is in the eye of the beholder. And if you’re not at either end, do you even exist?? If you exist, are you relevant? This blog seems to say ‘yes’ to both. Certainty may be more reassuring, but, to me, it’s also a lot less interesting.


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