Faith in God without Fear of Science

I thought I would share the text of a response I gave to a question on Facebook about what led me to abandon young earth creationism, for those who may be interested:

In my case, it was actually my eagerness to read more on the topic that led me to happen across a book called Science and Creationism that was a collection of essays cataloguing false claims that were at the heart of young-earth creationism’s case. One that I still remember being particularly struck by was a claim some YECs continue to make even today, that the thickness of moon dust ought to be much larger if the Earth and moon are millions of years old. The book as whole, though, made a more fundamental point, which is that the actual scientific community is constantly seeking to learn, inevitably makes errors, and through its process catches them, while young-earth creationists will take old headlines, half truths, and pure speculations from any source they find them if they seem to support what they wish to believe, and will continue to circulate those even after scientists have shown them rather decisively to be incorrect. And later still, it became clear that theologically YEC does violence not only to science and reason but also to the Bible and theology.

My own view now is quite simply that it is no harder to believe in the createdness of human beings who have come about as a group through a process of evolution than it is to believe in the createdness of human beings who have come about individually through a process of sexual reproduction and embryonic development carried out by explicable natural processes. YEC complains (making a typical mistake of theirs) that evolution depicts us as ‘modified monkeys.’ Genesis depicts us as modified mud. What we are made from in no way detracts from the observable fact that we are beings capable of love, creativity, and so many other wonderful things. And so I have moved from the fearfulness of having to try to dismiss, reject, run from, and fear science (and biblical scholarship) to the view that God is best sought in conjunction with an overall search for truth, however that may require our theology to be rethought, rather than by resisting new discoveries, whether they be in the genome or in Babylonian archives or anywhere else. At the heart of it all is the recognition that as a human being I will always have more to learn, and collectively as human beings we will always have more to learn, and so the fear of changing our minds and rethinking our beliefs, as though we have it all figured out already, is not merely misguided, but inherently sinful. It places us in the position of thinking that we already know everything we need to and have no need to repent and change our minds, which sounds like a claim to divinity, but at the very least represents inappropriate human hubris. 

Of related interest on other blogs:

Chromosomes, DNA and human evolution

On Ken Ham and Dinosaurs Driving Cars

The Incredible Fragility of Young Earth Creationist Evangelicalism

Dismantling Answers in Genesis’ Worldwide Flood Myth Claims

Jerry Coyne on the Incompatibility of Science and Religion: Part 2

Christian Views of Creation

On Intelligent Design (which has come up in a conversation with a friend and colleague on Facebook):

Five Questions about Human Errors for Proponents of Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design as A/theological Blasphemy

Intelligent Design is neither design nor up to scratch

There was quite a bit of attention a while back to flat earth-ism (and the rocketeer who wanted to launch himself into the sky to prove the earth is flat, whether seriously or as a publicity stunt). We can be confident that the earth is round, and not because the Bible says it is a circle.

How to Reclaim the Literal Interpretation of the Bible

Finally, from Lars Cade on Facebook, this compilation of useful links:

Here is a survey which finds that the anti-scientific attitude of the modern American Church is the #3 reason people give for leaving:
Here are numerous additional testimonials of people who lost or nearly lost their faith over YECism:
Here are some Christian leaders warning against the evils of YECism:

 

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  • Al Cruise

    Great post. Working in outreach/care with the marginalized alongside other faiths, one thing has become clear. Spiritual experiences are not homogeneous. One persons experience does not mean everyone will have those experiences. Another persons lack of any kind of Divine experience, does not mean that nobody else experiences anything Spiritual/evidence of afterlife, in their lives. I have seen and heard amazing things in street Ministry. A good book to read is , Opening Heavens Door by Patricia Person. The evidence exists in the real world out on the street in ordinary lives in the day to day struggles of real life, not in academia. A lack of experiences does not mitigate the experiences of those who have them, anymore than saying ” I can’t paint a picture so neither could Leonardo da Vinci . “

    • John MacDonald

      There are no reasons to think experiences of the numinous, etc, are anything more than purely naturalistic phenomena. Call me when a known amputee regrows a limb, lol.

      • Al Cruise

        ” purely naturalistic phenomena.” That’s your subjective opinion. Your life experiences do not mitigate what is happening in others . Of course limbs don’t grow back, no where in this post does anyone suggest that.

        • John MacDonald

          You were talking about “evidence of afterlife,” which is silly because there is no such evidence.

          • Al Cruise

            Again that’s your subjective opinion. Many people are not numinous , they are in fact far from it. The evidence is out there in the lives of ordinary people. Tell me about your life experiences. What was your childhood like? What was your adolescent years like? Tell me about your Mother and Father. Are you married? If so how did your marriage go? Have children ? How is your relationship with them? How did you do financially/ career?

          • John MacDonald

            None of that personal information about me is relevant. There is no reason to conclude we ever encounter the supernatural in life. For instance, if I go to see my grandfather’s grave and discover the body is missing, I don’t infer that he was resurrected. Similarly, when my friend’s mom thought she heard the voice of her husband after he died, there is no reason to think anything was going on besides simple auditory hallucination. Inferring the supernatural is never warranted. It is like concluding invisible fairies are responsible for a falling ball rather than gravity.

          • Al Cruise

            “None of that personal information about me is relevant”. Lol, it’s very relevant. Your denials do not, change the facts and evidence in other peoples lives. Trump’s denial of Russian meddling in the election doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Here’s another parallel , I recently spoke with someone who felt hitting women on the rear , or groping their breasts , without consent was ok, and not sexual harassment, he felt it was, using your words, “purely naturalistic phenomena” regardless how uncomfortable it made the women feel . I bet there are many men who believe the same. As for just discounting things as hallucinations, many people, such as mothers and children ,have occurrences that happen between each other while being thousands of miles apart. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Denying it won’t change the truth, the evidence exists across all cultures and races.

          • John MacDonald

            I, like many secular people, have never encountered anything that couldn’t be explained in a purely naturalistic way. Even a skeptic on the level of Carrier once experienced what he thought was the TAO, although he later realized what he experienced could be accounted for in a purely naturalistic way. But, for the sake of argument, even if something unusual, idiosyncratic and inexplicable did happen, while this may be evidence in support of the supernatural, this wouldn’t be evidence in support of a “particular type” of the supernatural, such as the supposed Christian God.

          • Al Cruise

            What I am talking about is not seen through the lens of the ” Christian God ” . The evidence I speak about occurs across all cultures and faiths around the world. It occurred long before any concept of “Christian” was even thought about, written down, or taught.

          • John MacDonald

            The only evidence we have that has occurred across all cultures and faiths is the tendency of humans toward superstition (and all the things that go along with that – reading too much off of coincidences, hallucinations, etc).

          • Al Cruise

            That’s your subjective opinion based on your experiences and it does not change the truth that there is an afterlife as evidenced in other peoples lives.

          • John MacDonald

            Does a schizophrenic complaining invisible gremlins are harassing her constitute evidence of the existence of such leprechauns?

          • Al Cruise

            No. The people I am talking about are not schizophrenic. They are nurses, hospice workers, soldiers, Military Generals , doctors, all levels of education, cultures and race. etc. and many of them are not numinous. Your views are your own personal views and belong to yourself , and in no way change the truth and evidence of an afterlife.

          • John MacDonald

            You misunderstand the nature of schizophrenia. Psychologists/Psychiatrists do not view schizoprenia, schizo affective disorder, the manic phases of bipolar, and other conditions that result in delusional experiences such as thinking God is talking to them as a fundamentally different kind than “normal” minds. It is a difference of degree, not of kind. There is a continuum that ranges from just occasional unusual experiences focusing on coincidences, to full blown delusions all of the time. Delusional states that result in experiences of the numinous are, as far as we can tell, perfectly ordinary acts of the brain. This is why such experiences can be induced through the use of LSD, etc. Experiences of the numinous are perfectly explainable as spontaneous, creative acts of the brain, and so there is no need to appeal to the supernatural to explain them – just as we wouldn’t appeal to invisible fairies to explain a ball falling, when gravity provides a perfectly reasonable naturalistic explanation.

          • Al Cruise

            I very much understand the nature of schizophrenia. I work in outreach with the least among-st us and have spent many years with people who suffer from it. Your views are your personal views and do not change the truth . Just like men who do not believe grabbing/touching a women’s body for their personal pleasure without consent is sexual assault. It is sexual; assault. The people I am referring to are not on LSD, many are not numinous. Evidence that occurs between two or even more people who are thousands of miles apart is not creative acts of the brain. You are perfectly fine to have your beliefs, however they do not change the truth. There is an afterlife.

          • John MacDonald

            Is there an afterlife for chickens? cockroaches? salmon? roses?

          • John MacDonald

            I mean, think about it, lol. Everyone agrees that there is a θεός or ground of beings. Contingent entities demand a non-contingent foundation. If we trace back the series of causes and effects to their origin, the original foundation cannot itself be caused. If we trace the current cosmological state of affairs back to The Big Bang, the question then becomes how the material that made up The Big Bang got there in the first place. Unless we want to fall into an infinite regress, the buck has to stop somewhere.

            But none of this implies that this θεός or ground has the attributes of a mind, let alone that we can communicate with this divine mind. You are basing your whole argument on something you dubiously call “evidence” that has to do with some “coincidence” between people that are far apart, but you won’t elaborate on what that evidence is. I don’t think you have any meaningful evidence, because if there was such evidence fundamentalists and apologists would be successfully using it in debates against secular folk. So go ahead: what is the nature of this evidence occurring over great distances?

          • Al Cruise

            “coincidence” Lol , I said previously ” mothers and children , have occurrences that happen between each other while being thousands of miles apart.” Your views are based on a particular path of science and that is totally fine. However your conclusions do not disprove the evidence of afterlife that other people from all cultures and races experience . Your views are based on your personal thoughts deriving from your life experiences/ environment you grew up in.

          • John MacDonald

            Why do you refuse to explain what your evidence is? Please explain what you mean by “mothers and children , have occurrences that happen between each other while being thousands of miles apart”? What are the occurrences? Of course there are going to be coincidences! There are, for instance, sometimes medical recoveries that doctors can’t explain. But this is to be expected with a planet of billions of people who have been around for hundreds of thousands of years.

          • Al Cruise

            Mothers who had a child die and become aware of the death at the same moment in time. This is just one example. People who comfort the dying have many other examples of experiences that are not singular to the dying individual but involve others who are in distant locations, who know the dying person . I understand you will call it coincidences. You are on a chosen path of science that fits your beliefs, and lack exposure to other parts of life in the real world where billions of people live their day to day lives. A case in point. A young man I met who was homeless, thought his only solution to his life experience was suicide. The first step was to get him professional help . The second step was to befriend him for life. In our first conversations the concept of being loved was a complete unknown to him, even after various explanations he believed being loved was a fairy tale that did not exist . Fast forward to today, after many of us were able to immerse him in the experience of being unconditionally loved over a period of time, he is now in a very different place today. How come you won’t answer the personal questions I asked you? You are the sum of your experiences, and you have fortified your beliefs out of that sum. If the contents of that sum, contain only a shallow and specific views based on a few mathematical equations , your beliefs will reflect that. They do not reflect the truth about life and death that billions of people experience through day to day living.

          • John MacDonald

            I’m not sure how a mother thinking something bad had happened to her child, and then the coincidence of a death of that child occurring around that time, constitutes proof of the afterlife? What about all those times that mother had the sense that something was wrong with her child and they turned out to be nothing? As I said, regarding humans, statistically we are talking about billions of people over 200 000 years, so unusual things are bound to happen. This is certainly no evidence of the after life, let alone God as some sort of a disembodied “mind-thing.” I’m not sure what your point of befriending the suicidal man has to do with whether there is a God or Afterlife or not. Dogs can be friendly and compassionate too, but there are evolutionary reasons for that. Your arguments for God and the Afterlife are completely unpersuasive, except perhaps to certain dogmatic theists who lap up any uncritical argument in support of their biases.

          • Al Cruise

            “I,m not sure how a mother thinking something bad had happened to her child, and then the coincidence of a death of that child occurring around that time,” We are talking precise time and more than just feelings. Consciousness exists and communicates outside the body. Your beliefs are the sum of your experiences and that’s very evident in your answers. Why are you afraid to tell me about your personal history? Is it not very good? Do you have people who love you? For the record I am believer in science , my son has a degree in quantum physics and will be studying astrophysics in the UK this fall . We discuss these things regularly, and not all things that exist can be explained by the human mind.

          • John MacDonald

            (1) It’s basically meaningless to, in a general and vague way, “ask me about myself,” because there are so many different aspects to my Being that I could basically go on about it without end. What specifically do you want to know?

            (2) As for your point that “there are things that have yet to be scientifically explained,” in the way that is true it is trivial, in the way that is not trivial it’s unfounded. Of course there are things science is too young to explain. There will probably always be such things. I am not one for labeling logical fallacies when debating someone (e.g., straw man, etc) because I think doing that sounds pretentious, but you are clearly guilty of a “God of the Gaps” fallacy here. “God of the Gaps” is when there is a “gap” in scientific knowledge, and people fill that explanatory gap by inserting the supernatural into it. For example, the ancient Greeks did not know why the sun seemed to travel across the sky during the day, so they invented the idea the at god Helios dragged the sun across the sky in his chariot. The point is, a gap in scientific knowledge doesn’t mean it is appropriate to fill that gap with a supernatural explanation.

          • Al Cruise

            Here’s the irony that my son just pointed out. [He’s now reading your responses ] You are the one that is struggling with the term “God” Scurrying around with mental gymnastics trying to convince yourself your beliefs are true , by convincing everyone else that what you say is true. That’s why your on this blog to begin with. I have not used the term “God” , nor do I believe there is a supernatural. Things exist or they don’t. Some of the things that exist, interactions, processes, defy present day mathematics and are not understood. Physics is full of these things. Your whole arguments are based on your preoccupation with the term “God.”

          • John MacDonald

            Not at all. You are the one with the dogmatic assertion that there is an “afterlife,” without any evidence beside “coincidences” that wouldn’t hold up in any court given the sample size of billions of humans over a 200 000 year history, which statistically must produce such coincidences. The evidence points to the conclusion that we, like ants or any other “creatures (etymologically – ‘created thing’ -lol),” simply cease to be after we die. I’m not sure your son will be able to help your weak arguments here. His background in cosmology does not necessarily ready him to discuss Philosophy.

          • Al Cruise

            Philosophy is mostly subjective assumptions based on your life experiences and on how you prefer to see things and how you want to distinguish yourself because you are in fact , frighten by the fact you exist and don’t really understand why . Anything you want to disprove you can call “coincidences ” to keep yourself in an self imposed reassuring safe spot . Saying it’s all a fluke with no afterlife is a great safety blanket to clutch. Philosophy and truth are far from being synonymous . Many Philosophical theories are constantly being proven wrong. There is no Philosophical theory that disproves the afterlife. Physics and Philosophy are intertwined. As my son explains. The value of H bar is so precise that even a difference of an order of magnitude would prevent life as we know it and the Universe as a whole from perpetuating as it does. You can see this also in quantized energy states of any carbon based molecule, or even the binding energy of atomic carbon itself. Going even further the value for the fine structure constant and other coupling constants also share this precision. Numbers cannot lie. You can say this is all fluke , but with how perfect the fluke is , you can say this fluke is God. As for myself the evidence of afterlife exists in the experiences of death and dying among-st ordinary people which like consciousness, has no number to define it. I am not going to change your mind and neither will you change mine . Lets leave it here.

          • John MacDonald

            My point about the afterlife was very simple. You said that a parent having the feeling her child had died around the time her child far away actually had died was evidence of the afterlife. As I said, this claim is extremely problematic. Consider this analogy: While it is ridiculous/ludicrous to think you will win a national lottery by buying a hundred tickets, it is perfectly reasonable to think someone might win it considering the size of the ticket buying population we are talking about. In this way, while it is ridiculous to think you will have an unexpected monition of your faraway son’s death around the time of his actual death, it is perfectly reasonable that this would have happened to people in history considering we are talking about many billions of humans over a period of 200 000 years.

          • John MacDonald

            And regarding your son’s unphilosophical argument that the universal constants are specifically fine tuned for life, see a meta-analysis (as I said, τὰ μετὰ τὰ φυσικὰ) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CQ8BVYLX5s&t=64s

          • Al Cruise

            ” His background in cosmology does not necessarily ready him to discuss Philosophy.” My son says with this comment you have really exposed yourself. How the Universe is put together has everything to do with why the Universe was put together. You are either scared of physics or very arrogant about your perceptions of yourself.

          • John MacDonald

            There is a difference between having a background in Physics, and a background in The Philosophy of Physics. Similarly, having a Science background does not mean you are well versed in Philosophy of Science.

          • Al Cruise

            Your Philosophy which is based on your fear of dying is nothing more than pseudo religion, comparable to right wing evangelicalism. Your views are all your subjective opinions and not based on facts. You are the sum of your personal experiences. At the end of the day your experiences and opinions have no relevance in the experiences of other people.

          • Nick G

            You are full of arrogant assertions about your interlocuter. What you have not produced is any actual evidence for an afterlife.

          • John MacDonald

            When I refer to θεός (ie, “Ground”), I do not have in mind “God” in the average, everyday sense that people usually have. I don’t believe there is reason to think this Ground has the attributes of a “Mind” or that it fine-tuned the universe for life to exist or anything like that. Rather, I have in mind something similar to what Dr. McGrath characterized in the comment section of the “Conflict Among Fallible Humans” thread. Dr McGrath wrote: “For those who hold to the longstanding philosophical view that God denotes that which exists by definition and serves as the ground of existence of all contingent beings, it is pure nonsense to deny the existence of God, since that amounts to saying that nothing exists. ” I’m not sure how all of this, to use your words, is “nothing more than pseudo religion, comparable to right wing evangelicalism.”

            Maybe you could clarify how me being a Theoretical Agnostic (it’s always “possible” that an anthropomorphic God in the average, everyday sense exists) and A Pragmatic Atheist (I live my life “as though” there is no such God) equates to religious fundamentalism? I don’t believe there is a loving, caring, personal God who watches over us and has a plan for our lives, for if that was the case there wouldn’t be 4 year olds dying of cancer. That isn’t love. This leaves open the possibility that there is another type of anthropomorphic God, but one that is impotent to stop suffering, indifferent to suffering, insane, etc.

            I’m not sure why you think I have a fear of death. As it was said in Woody Allen’s ‘Hannah and Her Sisters,’ “Either I’ll be unconscious or I won’t – who knows.” Death is philosophically interesting because the way we comport ourselves toward death can have a profound effects on our life (as Plato pointed out). For instance, I have mentioned before that I had a friend who thought she was going to be tortured in hell for all eternity because she had an abortion. This so profoundly weighed on her she actually did research on what kind of effect committing suicide would have on her family. Heidegger pointed out in “Being and Time” that in everyday existence we have an inauthentic comportment toward death, meaning we live “as though” the next moment won’t be denied us – even though it very well could.

          • Al Cruise

            Are you Richard Carrier?

          • Al Cruise

            Philosophy is a construct of the human mind, and at the end of the day
            is irrelevant . Numbers exist without humans. Numbers don’t lie, they say there is a God.

          • John MacDonald

            I agree that if we trace our current state of affairs backward in terms of the chain of causes and effects, we need to posit an “un-caused something” to avoid an infinite regress. As Dr. McGrath says, otherwise there wouldn’t be anything at all. What I disagree with is that we need to characterize this “un-caused something” as having the attributes of a mind, or being responsible for fine tuning the constants of the universe so as to make life possible.

            Language becomes problematic when we try to characterize God/Being/Ground, because language is adept at characterizing the Being of beings, not Being by itself. For instance, if we consider a chair, we can describe its essential “What-Being” (brown, hard, etc.), and its existential “How-Being” (badly positioned, etc.). But characterizing the Being of beings is not helpful in characterizing Being (Being is not badly positioned, etc.). We seem to be left with apophatic description or negative theology (e.g., un-caused), which I think is a fruitful path to Being.

            Of course, it is possible that there is an afterlife, or a creator “God/mind,” but I don’t think there is any reason to think so.

          • John MacDonald

            Two other thoughts:

            (1) Regarding your assertion that the numbers are bare facts that prove there is a God, I would counter this by saying the numbers are always subject to interpretation, and we can have a perfectly naturalistic interpretation of the numbers that doesn’t imply a God as a creator who fine tuned the universe to support life. A naturalistic explanation is always preferable to a divine one (we wouldn’t explain gravity by appealing to magical fairies, for instance). For instance, Wikipedia points out that:

            Mark Colyvan, Jay Garfield and Graham Priest (2005) have argued that a theistic explanation for fine tuning is faulted due to fallacious probabilistic reasoning.

            Mathematician Michael Ikeda and astronomer William H. Jefferys have argued that the anthropic principle and selection effect are not properly taken into account in the fine tuning argument for a designer, and that in taking them into account, fine tuning does not support the designer hypothesis. Philosopher of science Elliott Sober makes a similar argument.

            Physicist Robert L. Park has also criticized the theistic interpretation of fine-tuning:

            “If the universe was designed for life, it must be said that it is a shockingly inefficient design. There are vast reaches of the universe in which life as we know it is clearly impossible: gravitational forces would be crushing, or radiation levels are too high for complex molecules to exist, or temperatures would make the formation of stable chemical bonds impossible… Fine-tuned for life? It would make more sense to ask why God designed a universe so inhospitable to life.”

            Victor Stenger argues that “The fine-tuning argument and other recent intelligent design arguments are modern versions of God-of-the-gaps reasoning, where a God is deemed necessary whenever science has not fully explained some phenomenon”. Stenger argues that science may provide an explanation if a Theory of Everything is formulated, which he says may reveal connections between the physical constants. A change in one physical constant may be compensated by a change in another, suggesting that the apparent fine-tuning of the universe is a fallacy because, in hypothesizing the apparent fine-tuning, it is mistaken to vary one physical parameter while keeping the others constant.

            (2) I think Homer’s tragic view of the afterlife is best characterized by his thoughts on Achilles when he says: “Life-giving earth has buried them” and details how Achilles, a great hero of the Iliad, would rather “live working as a wage-labourer for hire by some other man, one who had no land and not much in the way of livelihood, than lord it over all the wasted dead” (Homer, Odyssey,11.380, 624-28). As historian Jacob Burckhardt once observed, the Greeks were more unhappy than most people realize. Given this, it is not odd they later invented a rosy notion of the after life, given what a negative impact a pessimistic view of the afterlife can have on people.

            As I said, I personally don’t believe in the afterlife. Just as ants, trout, chickens. etc. don’t go on to an afterlife, we probably don’t either. Most of what people call the soul/self is clearly not eternal, but can be destroyed by such things as traumatic brain injury, while leaving the person alive in a “vegetable state,” which suggests that the brain is all there is, and there is no “soul” over and above that.

          • Al Cruise

            I will not change your mind , you will not change my mind, let’s leave it there. If you are right you will never know. If i am right everyone will know.

          • John MacDonald

            All right. It was nice chatting with you. I hope with all my heart that you are right and I am wrong. Your scenario is enviable, to say the least, when compared to mine. I can only concede philosopher Bertrand Russell’s point. When agnostic Russell was asked what he would say if he found himself before God upon his death, Russell said he would simply point out: “You didn’t give me enough evidence.”

          • Lark62

            How the Universe is put together has everything to do with why the Universe was put together.

            Nice deepity. On one level, “how” and “why” are the same thing. In which case the sentence is merely redundant.

            How I tripped on the sidewalk? I tripped over my own feet.
            Why I tripped on the sidewalk? I tripped over my own feet.

            If on the other hand, you are trying to ascribe some deep meaning to “Why”, that assumes facts not in evidence.

            How I tripped on the sidewalk? I tripped over my own feet.
            Why I tripped on the sidewalk? The Great and Powerful Oz thought it was a good idea. Or – I was listening to You’re So Vain by Carly Simon and my subconscious decided to teach me a lesson. Or – The public works department left a crack in the sidewalk because it’s a conspiracy and they are out to get me.

            In this case, “why” can be anything, and there is nothing to support that any answer is better than any other.

            How the universe came together – atoms and particles are physical things that behave in predictable ways.
            Why the universe came together – atoms and particles are physical things that behave in predictable ways.

            There is no “why” beyond that, unless you personally choose to find meaning in the Great and Powerful Oz, subconscious action, conspiracy theories or whatever else floats your boat.

          • Lark62

            Mothers who had a child die and become aware of the death at the same moment in time. This is just one example.

            These are anecdotes. Anecdotes are not data.

            Example – Mothers tend to think about their children, a lot. Mothers tend to quietly worry about the safety of their children, a lot. Mothers don’t think about or remember these thoughts after the fact, they are just normal, boring, forgettable thoughts. Unless, of course, they hear tragic news about their child. Then they remember “Oh, I was just thinking about Johnnie and worrying about him.” This is not supernatural.

          • Al Cruise

            Strawman argument. I do not believe in the supernatural , things exist or they don’t. You are not those mothers so your opinion is irrelevant . Most people who outright deny the afterlife are struggling with the following issues, feeling they lack relevance with their family, friends, co-workers, etc and in almost all cases, struggle with depression. You are the sum of your experiences.

          • Nick G

            The opinion of the mother is only relevant to the question of whether such events actually occur if they can produce evidence others can verify that they did indeed become aware of the death at the moment it happened. You have produced no cases where this is true.

          • Al Cruise

            As James McGrath pointed out in another post, this parallel ….. “And finally, I recommend reading Kate Marvel’s article in Scientific American on why she won’t debate science. In it she emphasizes that “once you put facts about the world up for debate, you’ve already lost.” She also says, “Climate denial is like bad science fiction: there’s no internal logic, the characters aren’t compelling, and you can see the scary things coming from miles away,” among other things.”…… My evidence is based on hundreds people who work with the dying, many times there is second , third and fourth hand collaboration at the times of these moments. You have already discounted everything as coincidence/ hallucinations beforehand. No evidence will change your mind. I have worked in outreach for over forty years , I deal with identical behavior in people suffering with depression, no amount of logic, reason and facts can make them feel good about themselves, it takes professional intervention, and sometimes that even fails and suicide becomes the end result. Their is no point in me debating with you.

          • John MacDonald

            If someone was ever able to produce incontrovertible evidence of the afterlife, it would be front page news. Al Cruise offers coincidence and hearsay.

          • John MacDonald

            Yes. The whole thing is just uncritical superstition. The idea that, following Al Cruise’s point of view, a child’s soul, upon dying, cast a magic spell alerting her mother of her death, is no different than claiming it is reasonable to believe Jesus cast a magic spell multiplying loaves and fishes, or that a god cast a magic spell resurrecting the crucified Jesus.

  • Thanks for all the urls on this topic.

  • vmelkon

    I like the article but perhaps you should discuss the science and show that science has logical answers. For example, this thing about the depth of dust on the moon. If I give you a cylinder, perhaps made of iron and it is hallow. One end is open. First, I put a piece of rock inside and it falls to the bottom of the cylinder. Then, I dump in some salt. Let’s say 10 cm of salt covers the rock. Now, I give you a bar of iron and you have to try to smask the rock.
    As you keep smashing the bar in the tube, you will find that all your energy goes to the salt and gets converted to heat. Not much force reaches the rock below.

  • swbarnes2

    Here is a survey which finds that the anti-scientific attitude of the modern American Church is the #3 reason people give for leaving:

    I think you should be really suspicious of a survey like this where the answer “I just don’t believe any of it is true” doesn’t come up. I guess that not all the respondents are atheists, but a lot of them probably are, and that’s the answer they would give. One has to wonder if it just wasn’t given as an option, in which case, people might be using “the church is anti-science” as a proxy for that. It’s undoubtedly true that many churches are anti-science, but a person who really believed would find a less anti-science church. But as evangelicals like to gloat, those kinds of churches are declining fast. People aren’t making that jump.

    • It’s hard to tell from this report what the actual survey questions were; but here is a more recent report (Jan 2018) from the same group (Barna), stating that in Generation Z (born between 1999 and 2015), self reported atheists are double that of the general population.

      Barna is a religious survey group, and so their reports are written from that perspective. Whatever the numbers show, they’ll usually try to put a church-focused spin on in it. Even so, they cannot hide the precipitous drop in religious participation that’s been accelerating in recent decades.

      I am one who left a conservative church and am now, basically, an atheist. I did try progressively more liberal churches before leaving entirely (though, admittedly, I never landed on James McGrath’s style of panentheism). I was born in ’65, which makes me Generation X, I suppose.

      • Mr. James Parson

        One of problems with measuring atheism is who to include and not include. Some of the criteria could include

        1. People who call themselves atheists (OK that is easy)
        2. People who call themselves agnostics
        3. People who call themselves Christians as a cultural norm
        4. People who just go to church to keep the peace
        5. People who don’t go to church but call themselves Christian
        6. People who are just not afraid of hell anymore
        7. People who just don’t donate any money to any church
        8. People who just don’t think about it.
        9. People who go to church because they are too bored think of anything else to do
        10. People who go to church because it inflates their deflated ego.

        These are just people I know. I am sure there are other categories.

        • Ummm … I tend to only include #1 (those who call themselves atheists) – it’s not clear to me how any of the remaining number would qualify. The 2018 Barna survey I mentioned only counted self-described atheists. I’m not sure that any other category makes sense.

          • Mr. James Parson

            People don’t become atheists in one step. They tend to come out piece by piece. In many parts of the country/world they can’t come out at all. There is a social consequence to being an out atheist. People loose their families; they lose their friends; they lose their jobs. There are people who end up with nothing after they come out as atheists. A teenager, who cannot support his or herself may be better off lying than being truthful.

            For these reasons, a lot of them just hide it from the outside world. They even hide it from themselves. It is just safer. Not everyone wants to deal with that negativity. The fear is real. That is why narrow definition is not the only useful one.

          • All true, but I still would not call someone an atheist unless they adopt the label themselves. There are many who have fallen away from any sort of religious belief, but still don’t like the label of atheist for any number of reasons.

            Are there people who consider themselves atheists, but hide the fact? Sure, I was one myself for awhile. But that hardly includes everyone in your 2-10 list.

  • Tom

    I cannot remember a time when I did not question the Biblical stories of creation (and all the others along with it) and look to the Scientific story as making more sense and in league with my experience of life. In my earliest memories of Sunday school, I remember silently scoffing at the stories. After many years of struggle with this while watching Scientists work with new information to test and modify their theories, while the Religious fiercely stood firm on a story that just didn’t work – well the rational mind won and the Bible withered. When I entered Seminary, the Scholars who taught me, showed me a way to believe in the Bible and ignited a passion for its stories in their entirety – through investigating the author and the socio-cultural influences under which the writings occurred, the deep translational challenges and world views that put us on the same footing with the authors as we would aliens from another world. But the discipline in which I was Seminary-trained, brought much of the Scientific method to my faith and offered me a new view at the book that didn’t make any damn sense anyway, and, suddenly, I was falling down a rabbit hole of mystery, fact, questions and a deepening faith that science and religion, together, have brought me.
    I wonder often at the nature of reality and play deeply with the idea that all stories, views are amazing stories that are true, proper and just, each in their own right. Can we develop a love for “story”, embrace it as poetry and appreciate the beauty in them all?