The Most Powerful Argument Against Christianity (2 of 3)

The Most Powerful Argument Against Christianity (2 of 3) August 11, 2016

problem of divine hiddenness Christianity atheismThe Problem of Divine Hiddenness, where God wants a relationship with us and knows that hell awaits those who don’t know him (but refuses to make his existence obvious), is the most powerful argument against Christianity.

We’ll continue our critique of a rebuttal of this argument by apologist Greg Koukl. (In part 1 we analyzed the free will response and the “Yeah, but that wouldn’t convince everyone” response).

What requests for evidence are reasonable?

Koukl said that the evidence people have today for God is “fully adequate.” He clarified his position this way:

[Doubting] Thomas had fully adequate evidence but then made the ridiculous request that I wouldn’t believe until I stick my finger into the nail holes…. That was really above and beyond what was really required.

Bullshit. Beyond a certain point, apologists’ making excuses for God just gets embarrassing.

So Thomas had clues indicating that his teacher had validated his claim to be the creator of the universe in human form, but it would be rude to check them out? Wouldn’t Thomas have been smart to firmly ground his evangelical message with solid answers to the questions skeptics would obviously ask about the facts of the resurrection? “How do you know it wasn’t a lookalike?” “Did you make sure it really was the same guy?”

I wonder if Koukl is this gullible in response to claims from other religions. Would he read the Book of Mormon without making the ridiculous request to see if its claims of horses and elephants in the New World held up? Would he accept that the “Hindu milk miracle,” where statues drank milk from spoons, was indeed a miracle, or would he make the ridiculous request to see if scientists have had a natural explanation?

Skeptical Thomas demanded strong evidence for an unbelievable claim. No apology is needed for this reasonable request. Gullible Greg makes quite a contrast. I wonder if, when he stands in Judgment, he’ll proudly say, “You can reuse my human brain because I hardly used it at all!”

In his quest to denigrate evidence, Koukl then said that if God appeared right in front of you, you wouldn’t go to God, you’d go to a psychiatrist.

Wow—that’s a great point! What does that tell you about the plausibility of the Christian message and the reasonableness of atheists’ demands for undeniable evidence?

Rhetorical tricks

Throughout his response, Koukl added an undercurrent of bluster. Every couple of minutes, he dropped in a confident, evidence-free, off-topic claim that his position was the right one:

I’ve seen what people have done with enormous evidence and how they’ve often rejected it.

My evidence for God is quite good, and I think it’s available to many people.

Atheism’s not even in the running for me because the problems are so much bigger than anything I face in Christianity.

There is so much evidence all over the world, and we’re constantly offering that kind of evidence as apologists…. We have lots to say, but for some people it just simply isn’t adequate, and I wonder why because the rational aspects (it seems to me) are certainly covered here. There must be something else going on in the minds of people who reject it.

He complains when non-Christians are given “enormous evidence” but reject it. I’m pretty familiar with Koukl’s work, and I’ve responded to much of it in this blog (for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). No well-informed atheist would be impressed by his tired, retread arguments.

I presume he wants to shift the conversation to his hand shadow figures rather than the topic at hand, God’s hiddenness, to which he has responded poorly. His argument has become, “Yeah, but Christianity is true, so it doesn’t matter that I can’t respond to this problem!”

Koukl again:

From where I sit, I think the evidence is absolutely overwhelming, and the problems with atheism are so much more massive than anyone can come up with for theism that there’s no contest between the two.

Yet again, this is stated without evidence, and our Problem of Divine Hiddenness alone defeats Christianity. If God wants a relationship, where is he? Christianity has promised too much, its god is a no-show, and Christianity is no longer a worldview candidate.

Thought experiment: God World

Koukl says that if God appeared to us now, some people would have a hard time believing. He imagines that people like me wouldn’t want to believe because we enjoy sinning so much, but Koukl’s thought experiment is flawed.

To see the problem, consider an Earth-like planet without natural disasters—let’s call it Gaia. If you visited Gaia and asked the people there to imagine tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and so on, many couldn’t. For them, a violent and capricious Nature would be inconceivable because the concept is completely foreign.

Now suppose that on this gentle planet natural disasters began to happen like they do in our world. An earthquake that kills 20,000 people? A tsunami that kills 200,000? Disasters that we think of as inevitable natural events would be to them unbelievable tragedies. They’re familiar to us but inconceivable to them.

New disasters on Gaia would be hard to accept, just like God suddenly appearing on Earth would be hard to accept. The lesson from the Earth vs. Gaia comparison is that natural disasters are easy to accept if they’re simply an ever-present part of reality. And God would be easy to accept if he were an ever-present part of our reality—if we lived in God World.

The lesson here can be seen from two viewpoints.

  • Telling people on Earth about God is like telling people on Gaia about natural disasters. The people of Gaia would have a hard time accepting the idea, and they’re justified in doing so. It’s a completely foreign idea without precedent.
  • Telling people on Earth about natural disasters is easy. We already know all about them. But convincing people on Earth about God is difficult. They’ll have a hard time accepting the idea, and they’re justified in doing so.

If Koukl wanted to preach the idea of natural disasters, Gaia is not the place to do it. And if he wants to preach the idea of God, Earth is not the place to do it. For each place, these are foreign concepts.

He wants it both ways. He wants to imagine God making his existence known but many people still not believing. He also wants to imagine that “the evidence [for God] is absolutely overwhelming.”

Concluded in part 3, where we discuss other apologists’ approach to this problem plus some unexpected weaknesses in the apologists’ position.

Man to pastor as he leaves church:
“Oh, I know He works in mysterious ways,
but if I worked that mysteriously I’d get fired.”
— Bob Mankoff cartoon

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • watcher_b

    There is this overwhelming NEED for there to be overwhelming evidence even if there isn’t. God can’t be all loving if it didn’t provide all the evidence necessary.

    Back in the day I followed a more Calvanistic thought process about God and evidence, that God does whatever the hell it wants and sends to hell who ever it wants. I think there is quite a bit of support for that in the bible as well (the whole potter and the clay analogy about how some are created for destruction… it is amazing how that passage is taken out of context by Christians!). I just had to redefine what “love” meant in the context of God since this loving God intentionally did not convince some people and sent them to hell.

    I still think this viewpoint is the least condescending as it doesn’t go up to someone and tell them what they REALLY think. It does not say “I don’t know you, but I assert you know there is a God but just don’t want to believe”. Don’t get me wrong, having to redefine love in order to claim that God is loving is still pretty screwed up.

    • Michael

      Out of curiosity, how do Calvinists define loving? Like you, I always thought Calvinism is a pretty consistent doctrine, but that baffled me.

      • watcher_b

        I always fell back on “whatever God did is loving by definition”. Usually the discussion is about “goodness” that “goodness” is also defined by “whatever God does”. But then the terms lose any meaning real quick.

        • Michael

          It mostly seems tautological to me too. If good is then simply God’s action, it’s no longer a meaningful thing to say God is good. Rather it’s circular and empty of content.

        • watcher_b

          YES! I’ve been trying to figure out how to technically describe why saying whatever God does is good is empty. It is a tautology!

        • It also makes nonsense of the dictionary. Look up the word “good.” Does it have any caveats for God’s actions? If not, then don’t use “good” to describe God’s actions.

        • Michael

          It seems like the right word.

        • Susan

          it’s no longer a meaningful thing to say God is good. Rather it’s circular and empty of content.

          Euthyphro’s dilemma addressed this a very long time ago.

          It has never been resolved. Theists pretend they can define (use tautologies) to resolve it but the nature of the dilemma is that they can’t.

        • Michael

          I agree.

  • Sastra

    The argument that “the evidence IS adequate” suffers from at least 2 other problems:
    1.) Even if the theists have an adequate response to what only looks like problems with theism, not everyone would have access to, or be capable of understanding, theological apologetics. An atheist unaware of apologetic solutions could still be honestly mistaken. A universe in which God made its existence much more clear and obvious would greatly reduce this number. So we’re back to square one.

    2.) Since when do people call adequately supported beliefs “a matter of faith?” Only in religion is it brought out with a song and dance. Otherwise, it’s pragmatic reliance, or an admitted uncertainty. Proudly proclaiming that something is a “faith” or needs “faith” is a bit of a red flag, then.

    For example, if someone asks “What’s the capitol of Wisconsin?” and someone else answers “It is a matter of my deepest faith and conviction that the capitol of Wisconsin is the city of Madison. I struggle hard sometimes to keep this faith in the face of so many skeptics, critics — and sometimes even my own fearful doubts — but my faith is still strong. Madison, definitely” … then that first person is going to get a map and check, methinks.

    • Kingasaurus

      —-Since when do people call adequately supported beliefs “a matter of faith?”—-

      Bingo. Was just about to post the same thing. It goes without saying that if the “evidence is adequate” than faith is unnecessary. They appeal to faith all the time, which betrays the fact that the evidence isn’t really adequate at all.

    • Raging Bee

      re: #2: It’s called grade-school subjectivism — a kid asserts something as fact, then, when his assertion is soundly refuted, he changes his mind and says it’s all a matter of opinion and everyone is entitled to his own opinion.

    • RichardSRussell

      Hi, Sue. I gaze about me, and it appears to my admittedly biased eye that Madison is still here. But that could just be my faith talking.

      • Sastra

        Who you gonna believe? Your lying eyes or … well, yes, your lying eyes.

    • uncle_greezy

      Great points here, Sastra. Adequately supported beliefs should not require faith. The evidence should speak for itself and exemplify the meaning of the word; it should be evident. If God was evident, no one would need faith. Take the sun for example. I know it exists, because I can experience it physically. There is evidence for it, and it is an evident phenomenon. I, for one, cannot say the same for any god.

      Theologians and apologists, of course, would tell me that we can experience God, and that we do experience God on a daily basis. They would suggest God is like radio waves, molecules, or atoms. We know they exist, but we cannot see them with the naked eye. Yet, there is no evidence– no truly empirical, scientific evidence– for the existence of God, while there is ample evidence for radio waves, molecules, and atoms. That argument is so tried that it is assumed to be true by those who want to believe. But, really, it’s a tired, nonsensical response.

      • MNb

        “They would suggest God is like radio waves, molecules, or atoms.”
        And here already things go wrong. We don’t need to talk about the Sun, radio waves, molecules or atoms using analogies.

  • MNb

    “For them, a violent and capricious Nature would be inconceivable because the concept is completely foreign.”
    There is empirical evidence for this. Just try to explain snow to an inhabitant of the Sahara who has never watched television, seen pictures, ie doesn’t have any reference.
    “Telling people on Earth about God is like telling people on Gaia about natural disasters.”
    Worse. It’s possible to make stuff that at least provisionally refers to natural disasters – pictures, movies etc. How are we going to do that with god? Even worse – if you’d give an inhabitant of Gaia a video of a tsunami
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5fKvN-RwKs
    he/she might start to speculate about supernatural agents.

  • Raging Bee

    [Doubting] Thomas had fully adequate evidence but then made the ridiculous request
    that I wouldn’t believe until I stick my finger into the nail holes….
    That was really above and beyond what was really required.

    If the demand was so unreasonable, why did Jesus comply with it?

    • Jack Baynes

      And the other disciples didn’t recognize him at first either. He must not have looked just like the Jesus before the ressurection, perfeclty reasonable to doubt that this is the same man (though I’m puzzled why Thomas thought the nail holes would be there…)

      • adam

        Jesus was quite a popular name back then,

        Probably just another Jesus…

        “Many people shared the name. Christ’s given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. (Jesus comes from the transliteration of Yeshua into Greek and then English.) Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus’ death.
        The name also appears 30 times in the Old Testament in reference to four separate characters—including a descendent of Aaron who helped to distribute offerings of grain (2 Chronicles 31:15) and a man who accompanied former captives of Nebuchadnezzar back to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:2).”

        http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2008/12/happy_birthday_dear_yeshua_happy_birthday_to_you.html

        • Robert, not Bob

          Maybe it was Jesus of Caesarea, son of the Chicken Stealer.

        • Michael Neville

          That answers the question I’ve had for years, how did a Middle Eastern Jew have a Hispanic first name.

        • adam

          But his biggest miracle is being a blue eye white guy Middle Eastern Jew.

      • Sophia Sadek

        Jesus probably disguised his appearance in order to avoid being re-arrested and nailed to the cross again.

        • Joe

          That raises a question: If the Romans re-captured him, would he keep resurrecting over and over again?

        • Sophia Sadek

          The Romans would probably award him with a high honor for pointing out a hole in their security system.

      • Mary mistook him for the gardener.

  • RichardSRussell

    Give Koukl what minimal credit he’s due. At least in saying “trust me”, he’s appealing to a better decision-making method than faith. A little better, depending on whom you’re proposing to trust. (Basic rule of thumb: Never trust anyone who says “Trust me.”)

    • Sophia Sadek

      Trust that they are probably not trustworthy.

    • Michael Neville

      (Basic rule of thumb: Never trust anyone who says “Trust me.”

      That’s similar to Nelson Algren’s Three Rules of Life:

      Never play cards with a man called Doc.
      Never eat at a place called Mom’s.
      Never sleep with someone whose troubles are worse than your own.

      • TheNuszAbides

        i heard a variant from an author whose name escapes: “Never sleep with someone you wouldn’t want to be.”

    • katiehippie

      “Get in the car, I’ll explain later!”

  • Raging Bee

    …Koukl then said that if God appeared right in front of you, you wouldn’t go to God, you’d go to a psychiatrist.

    Really? Has such an event ever been observed?

    • RichardSRussell

      Perhaps he’s thinking of the (to me perfectly cogent) observation “If you talk to God, you’re praying; if God talks to you, you’re schizophrenic.”
      —Thomas Szasz, psychologist

      • Kingasaurus

        Shakespeare knew the deal:

        GLENDOWER:
        I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

        HOTSPUR
        Why, so can I, or so can any man,
        But will they come when you do call for them?

        • Michael Neville

          That’s one of my favorite Shakespearean quotes.

      • Raging Bee

        No, I was asking if anyone had actually seen God appearing to someone, and that someone then going to a shrink.

      • Sophia Sadek

        Szasz was a professor of psychiatry. He had a license to practice medicine. That is not the case with psychologists.

        Having a direct line to the divine was considered a heresy punishable by burning at the stake during the middle ages. Today it is considered a form of psychosis punishable by a lifetime addiction to brain-damaging drugs. It is difficult to gauge which is worse.

        • RichardSRussell

          Slight edit: “Claiming to have a direct line to the divine …”. Not quite the same as actually having one.

          In return, thank you for the correction on Dr. Szasz’s actual profession, which I have incorporated into my Quotations database.

      • Michael

        Yeah, but Szasz used that as part of a claim that psychiatry was a fraud. He spent most of his life on that. Also, he was a psychiatrist, not a psychologist (big difference).

    • Joe

      What if god was my psychiatrist? Talk about a paradox!

      • TheNuszAbides

        y’know, i’ve never seen a photograph of Freud and Jesus in the same room …

        • Have you ever seen me and Superman in the same room?

          Just sayin’.

        • TheNuszAbides

          definitely more skeptical on that count. why the charitable investment group smokescreen when you can just heatvision all the world’s problems?

  • kraut2

    “There is so much evidence all over the world, and we’re constantly offering that kind of evidence as apologists…”

    Evidence for what?

    Argument from popularity?

    http://www.pewforum.org/files/2012/12/01_groups.png

  • Sastra

    The first time the Argument from Nonbelief/Divine Hiddenness really struck me was many years ago, when talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses. It had been their second or third visit (I’d asked them to come back, I was intrigued) and they told me that those who heard the JW message and turned it down were lost. I asked what would happen to those who, through no fault of their own, never heard the message. They happily informed me that all those people would be resurrected after death, see paradise, hear the Truth from Jesus himself — and THEN make their choice on whether to believe or not.

    But wait. Think — let’s say out of 100 people who hear the message from door-to-door missionaries, only one person becomes JW. The 99 are lost. But if all the missionaries stay home, then those 100 people will be presented with the claim after they know they died, know they’ve been resurrected, have seen paradise, and talked to Jesus. Wouldn’t that reverse the percentages? 99 people will accept that Jehovah’s Witnesses have the truth of God, and maybe one cranky skeptic wouldn’t. Right?

    I was told no: the percentages would remain the same. Anybody who rejected the truth when informed by a missionary would reject it under ANY conditions, no matter how clear, obvious, and undeniable. 99 lost, one saved.

    That’s when I realized that the problem was deeper than I thought. It wasn’t the way they thought about God; it’s the way they thought about people. I knew my own struggles would disappear under the afterlife-paradise condition. That evidence was overwhelming. How the hell could I think I was unique? Did the JW’s really believe other people — ordinary, intelligent, non-JWs — were that … stupid? Perverse? Inhuman? Because their own powers of persuasion were as good as it gets, apparently. At that moment, I knew I was out — because I caught them in a major error. Human beings are not cartoon props.

    Apologists who respond to the Argument from Divine Hiddenness with some variation of “naw, it would do no good to provide more evidence, the same people would still reject it no matter how powerful or convincing it was” remind me of that moment of realization with the JW’s. Ironically, I suspect that many of these theologians would understand my problem when applied to the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim.

    • Kingasaurus

      –“Human beings are not cartoon props”—–

      They are in the Bible. The problem comes when living and breathing humans insist they wouldn’t behave like the Bible says they will. Then the believer has to decide if the Bible is lying, or if the person disputing the Bible is lying.

      Since the Bible can’t lie (right?), it’s no contest.

      • Joe

        Almost as if the bible were for illustrative purposes only, and not as a literal documentation of history? No effort is needed to flesh out the characters when they are only a means to deliver your message. That goes for Jesus too, the main antagonist protagonist.

    • Charlie Johnson

      Thank you. This is one of the best comments I have ever read.

    • Jack Baynes

      I was told no: the percentages would remain the same. Anybody who rejected the truth when informed by a missionary would reject it under ANY conditions, no matter how clear, obvious, and undeniable. 99 lost, one saved.

      Even if that were for some strange reason true, that just makes the missionaries’ visit a complete waste of time, rather than counterproductive.

      • Sastra

        Yes; my argument to the JWs was that missionary work was counterproductive. Their rebuttal didn’t just bring out a problem with the way they thought about people. It also brought out a major problem with evangelism itself — though I didn’t realize that at the time.

        “Has anyone ever been saved by a missionary who would have been otherwise lost?”

        That sweet little question is a killer. If yes (and they usually want to jump eagerly on this option) — then salvation is often a matter of luck, dependent on Christians, not on someone’s willingness to accept God and God’s assurance that they will be provided a way. That’s usually not going to go over well. If no — then missionary work is some sort of performance art which never changes or effects the outcome. As you say, it’s a complete waste of time. Go ahead, sleep in. There’s a 100% guarantee that anyone whom you might have “converted” will be saved some other way.

        One problem always seems to lead to another …

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “One problem always seems to lead to another …”

          According to TV Tropes it sounds like the JWs provided you an example of a Voodoo Shark (the story behind that name is fucking hilarious!).

    • Then you have your William Lane Craig types who believe that miscarried and aborted babies also get a free pass to heaven since they never had a chance to reject the message. That actually makes abortion sound humane if the child goes straight heaven, never having to experience the hardships of this world, and it makes childbearing in general one of the most selfish things you can do.

      • Joe

        I’ve asked that same question many times to people who agree with Craig. The answer they gave took issue with man doing the abortion. The fact that the ‘baby’ goes to heaven and bypasses earthly suffering was irrelevant in that aspect. It was very inconsistent. Not to sidetrack this thread, but in reality (though they don’t realize it, and would never admit it if they did) is that the main religious opposition to abortion or euthanasia is that man is presuming to do what only god is permitted to do.

        Anyway, just thought I’d share that recent revelation here. Back to normal service.

        • T-Paine

          And that would ignore the whole Be Holy Because I’m Holy command from the christian god. Everything their god does is “holy”, then aborting fetuses would also be “holy”.

        • Joe

          They also say god doesn’t abort 3/4 of all conceptions, that’s just a natural consequence if sin. But then most will deny it’s possible for things to happen spontaneously without god’s input, like a miscarriage. In a creationists mind, things can’t just happen without god being involved somehow.

          I couldn’t hold those contradictions in my head at the same time without having a brain injury of some kind.

        • things can’t just happen without god being involved somehow.

          Except that if there’s blame involved, God doesn’t get any.

        • TheNuszAbides

          unaccountable = holy. talk about a loophole that evil proclivities can really sink their teeth into.

        • MNb

          “took issue with man doing the abortion”
          Except of course when god orders so:

          http://www.iep.utm.edu/divine-c/

          Then according to WLC the children and babies (whether born or unborn) are to be envied and the culprits to be pitied.

          http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites

          “the death of these children was actually their salvation”
          “The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.”
          I don’t feel like looking it up right now, but several leading nazis defended murdering jews in exactly the same way, even in the Nürnberg court.

        • Joe

          That’s exactly my point. They don’t have a problem with killing in and of itself. It’s killing without god’s command that is the true crime being committed.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “The answer they gave took issue with man doing the abortion.”

          Jesus can use anyone or anything he wants for his purposes/religious garbage-OFF

      • Andrea Yates drowned her five children to save them from Satan. WLC ought to make a special trip to congratulate her for her bravery in doing the right thing.

      • Rudy R

        And this logic coming from a trained philosopher. Just another example of religion fomenting cognitive dissonance.

    • T-Paine

      I was told no: the percentages would remain the same. Anybody who
      rejected the truth when informed by a missionary would reject it under
      ANY conditions, no matter how clear, obvious, and undeniable. 99 lost,
      one saved.

      I would’ve said this: I have a suitcase of 2 million dollars in cash with me right now. Do you believe me? If they asked where it is, then I would say it is with me right now. If they would say that they see no suitcase with me at all, then I would go your unbelieving eyes can’t see it without faith. You must have faith that I have a suitcase of 2 mil in cash with me right now. If they say along the lines that I don’t have a suitcase at all then I would say if you rejected me having a suitcase of 2 mil in cash because of no evidence, then you would reject the suitcase of 2 mil WITH evidence – no matter how clear, obvious, and undeniable that evidence is. You are blind to the truth.

      The absurdity of my argument is a mirror of their own.

      • Joe

        Of course, they would say “a suitcase is not god, so it can’t be invisible. Checkmate atheist!” When you think they have nothing to fall back on, there’s always special pleading.

    • Seems rather arrogant to say that if 1% (say) of the people converted due to JWs at the door, only 1% of the people would convert when they got the message from the lips of the Creator of the Universe himself. The JWs don’t give much weight to Jesus’s argumentation skills.

      • Sastra

        Heh, yes. IIrc I actually asked them “do you think you’re as persuasive as Jesus???”

        I don’t recall their specific answer, but I think it was along the lines of placing the burden on the inherent character of the person being preached to. You either were, or were not, open to God. The exact nature of the evidence is therefore irrelevant. Since questions about God seemed to me like rational questions requiring thought and deliberation, this sort of divisive mystical essentialism didn’t ring true. People aren’t really like that. Neither are questions.

        In fact, given that I had been “studying” with them a while and I wasn’t just eagerly lapping it up, I found their ‘explanation’ damned insulting.

  • Jack Baynes

    It’s like they think God could only appear once, and if everyone didn’t immediately believe in him he’d leave in a huff never to be seen again.

    Yeah, if I suddenly saw God in front of me, I’d probably disbelieve my eyes at first. I’d try to think of other explanations. But if God presented enough evidence, those other explanations would ultimately fail.

    • adam

      “It’s like they think God could only appear once, and if everyone didn’t
      immediately believe in him he’d leave in a huff never to be seen again”

      Well if you read the stories….

      It does act like a spoiled 5 year old throwing sand in the sand box.

    • Joe

      It would at least be a start. At the moment we have to choose to accept or reject nothing.

  • Sophia Sadek

    The doubting Thomas scene is even more interesting when considered from the perspective of the Gnostic story of Jesus not being crucified. The gospel story says that Thomas checked for wounds, but it does not say that Thomas found any wounds. If one of the students of Jesus had stood in for him, there would be no wounds to find. There is nothing in the scene with Thomas that disagrees with that scenario.

    • RichardSRussell

      I croggle that credulous Christians can read the story about the “resurrected” Jesus appearing to a couple of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, whereupon they strolled along chatting, and eventually having dinner, with this man whom they’d been hanging out with day and night for the last 3 years, and it wasn’t until after he’d left that one of them turned to the other and said “Hey, wasn’t that guy vaguely familiar?”.

      • Sophia Sadek

        If you had escaped a Roman crucifixion by the skin of your teeth, you’d go undercover as well.

        • RichardSRussell

          Especially if you didn’t have a clue as to which of your supposed “friends” had betrayed you. Of course, under those circumstances, you’d probably avoid those friends altogether, no?

        • Sophia Sadek

          Maybe that’s why he did not stick around for dessert.

        • Thought2Much

          Exactly. Why all the hiding? If Jesus were truly a resurrected demigod, he could have walked right up to Pontius Pilate and his staff and yelled, “Missed me, bitches!”

          And then he could have traveled to Rome and done the exact same thing to the Emperor.

          But he didn’t. Because he was just a regular human being, and the resurrection didn’t happen.

        • Sophia Sadek

          The Gnostics believed that even the crucifixion didn’t happen.

      • Kingasaurus

        Also, it’s clearly a sacrament in story form.

        So Jesus breaks the bread, disappears, and only then do the two guys recognize him.

        So he’s invisibly present in the breaking of the bread.

        Get t? GET IT??

        For crying out loud – it’s so loaded with symbolism, I honestly can’t imagine anyone reading it and thinking, “Yeah, this really happened.”
        If any story has the hallmarks of a made-up allegory, it’s that one.

        • RichardSRussell

          I suspect they may have been influenced by the other sacrament.

  • eric

    Koukl then said that if God appeared right in front of you, you wouldn’t go to God, you’d go to a psychiatrist.

    Four somewhat unrelated comments.

    1. Koukl’s is a somewhat intellectually dishonest representation of the ‘request for evidence’ argument. I don’t think anyone means “a singular secret visit” when they ask why God doesn’t provide evidence. They mean a reasonably reproducible and consistently available body of evidence. Really just a similar amount that we might demand of some ‘superhero’ claim; one you tube video of the claimant flying isn’t going to cut it. Show us that you can fly on command, under controlled conditions, then we’ll start to believe it. The same is true for God.

    2. According to the bible God himself clearly doesn’t mind providing this sort of ‘superhero level of evidence’ to humans, at least when he really wants to convince people he’s real. See Exodus 7:8 and the verses that follow. God literally orders Moses and Aaron to conduct a miracle-off with the priests of Egypt. Exodus 7 is the bronze age equivalent of “Hey Bob, I order you go take the James Randi challenge…nine times in a row, with nine different claims” and then ensuring Bob succeeded at each one.

    3. If the tenets of Christianity really were that obvious, and evidence for them is bulit into the empirical world, then the Christian theological concept of a new covenant goes right out the window. Jesus’ role as a messenger of a new truth goes right out the window. I thought a big part of Christian theology centered around the concept that Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection changed the metaphysical equation. But if the evidence for the truth of Christianity is built into things like mountains and DNA and stuff, then that can’t be true; he didn’t change anything. The new covenant could only be new if all the stuff existent before that point – which includes the features of the Earth, the animals living on it, and so on, didn’t reflect what that covenant was.

    4. If a God-claimant shows up, and we need to figure out how to test His claims to reasonable sufficiency, how do we figure out how to do that? How can we develop a test that will convince most reasonable humans of the claimant’s Godhood? Well, the answer to that is quite amusing. You ask the God-claimant to design the test for you. If the test they give you is methodologically flawed, you know the claimant isn’t the tri-omni God (because the claimant lacks omniscience). If they can’t come up with a test that satisfies most humans, you also know the claimant isn’t a tri-omni God (same thing: they lack omniscience). If they do develop an acceptable test methodology (i.e., that most humans would accept), but then fail it, they also aren’t God (lacks omnipotence). And if they come up with a testing methodology that fits the bill, and they pass the test, then most everyone will be convinced they are God, pretty much by definition of the request you gave them. 🙂

    • Joe

      For me, point 1.) illustrates the problem with the god concept, and why I doubt I’ll ever be convinced: How do we know that the person flying around doesn’t have some kind of anti-gravity device? If not, they might be ‘merely’ a super hero. Yes, it would be amazing and shocking to discover super beings exist, but does that automatically make them god? No. They could even be the devil!

      What can a being/entity do to convince me that they are THE omni-powerful creator god of the universe? Of my own free will, that is, because we already know he doesn’t control minds, because I don’t believe.

      • Giauz Ragnarock

        “They could even be the devil!”

        Christianity really does shoot itself in the foot claiming a super-powered deceiver is STILL ALIVE!

        • And it isn’t much of a story since they want to imagine that Satan is still around doing his shenanigans while God could destroy Satan in an instant (and Satan knows this).

          I guess everyone has a role to play in God’s great drama.

        • katiehippie

          One of my very first doubts was the story of Satan tempting Jesus in the desert. Of all people/beings, Satan would know what Jesus was capable of and it would be useless to try to get him to do anything he didn’t want to do. So it’s a really useless story.

        • And what sense does it make? I suppose the issue is the many faces of Satan through Christian history, but why would Satan be offering all of the earth to Jesus? Jesus created it all and is ruler of it all already.

          I’m thinking this is a palimpsest of an earlier story (Zoroastrian influence?) where this might make sense.

        • eric

          Well, Satan did rebel against an omnipotent God (at least according to the theology). So, (1) he knows of a way to win against tri-omni beings even if we can’t concieve of their being such a way, (2) he’s been ‘on tilt’ for thousands of years, or (3) he’s a sucker for lost causes.

      • eric

        How do we know that the person flying around doesn’t have some kind of
        anti-gravity device? If not, they might be ‘merely’ a super hero.

        Joe, re-read #4. The way you test whether a claimant is a superhero, a technologically advanced alien, or a God is you ask them to design a test that tells the difference between a superhero, a technologcially advanced alien, and a God, in a way that would be convincing to you. If they can’t design such a test, they aren’t God. 🙂

      • eric

        Incidentally, this “ask God to design the test of God” is really just a riff on the old logic puzzle of the two guards and two doors.

        Opening one door sets you free; opening the other door kills you. You get to ask one guard one question, and the only thing you know is that one of the guards lies and the other tells the truth. How do you figure out which door to open? The answer is something similar to my test. 🙂

    • Great points.

      But tell me more about #3. I’m not getting it. You’re saying that a Jesus-based covenant wouldn’t be necessary if the evidence were baked into reality itself?

      • MNb

        If I understand it correctly rather “baked into metaphysical reality” – which then affects our physical reality. The new covenant didn’t affect it hence wasn’t new.
        I’m not sure if this is a correct argument, but the famous tittle and iota quote seems to confirm it.

      • eric

        I’m saying that if evidence of the correctness of Christian thought is baked into 20,000 year-old rocks, then Jesus’ metaphysics was true 20,000 years ago. Thus, he could not have been altering metaphysics to a new state 2,000 years ago. At best, he was just telling people they had misunderstood everything so far.

        Which is a theological possibility, but AIUI it doesn’t accord with mainstream christian theology, because (again, AIUI), in mainstream Christian theology Jesus’ actions actually changed the way the universe worked; people who were in hell were freed from hell. Yahweh altered his covenent with humanity from Jews only to forgiveness and faith trumps all. If that latter view is correct, then the evidence of 20,000 year old rocks would point to Yahweh’s original covenant, not the new one, because that’s the one they were made under.

        • TheNuszAbides

          AIUI, nobody of any sect that swallows any/all of Paul’s narrative has a coherent explanation (let alone thinks one might be prudent) for the whole “Jesus only told one guy [telepathically] about the New Covenant” issue.

    • Sastra

      Regarding your #3, why couldn’t a Christian argue that the universe is evidence for God, but special revelation is necessary to allow us to understand that God further? It’s a progression of understanding first how the conditions are/were, and how and when they’ve changed. That seems to be a common stance, supported by Bible verses which condemn those who deny God by pointing to nature, but condemn those who reject Christianity by making reference to Jesus.

      As for #1/#4, I suspect a proper test would have to be a series of tests which make a cumulative case. Chip away at the theory of naturalism by, say, first establishing mind/brain dualism.

      • T-Paine

        For #3 it should be said that Christian apologists argue for not one but two different god concepts. When arguing atheists – the apologist would argue for the existence of a creator (Deism): They appeal to the creator by saying the evidence is all around, the universe itself speaks of a creator, the creator is logical and self-evident etc.

        Towards the end of the debate, the apologist would then appeal to the god of Christianity (Theism): It takes faith, I know that Yahweh exists because of the Holy Spirit, my intuition tells me that Jesus is God, you can’t get to God by natural means but through the supernatural power of faith etc.

        Notice that one god (Deist) can be appealed to by reason, logic, evidence, nature etc etc. And the other god (Theist) cannot be appealed to by reason, logic, evidence, nature but by faith alone.

        Thus the Christian apologist pulls the bait-and-switch by appealing to two different gods – The Deist god and the (Christian) Theist god.

        • Sastra

          Or might it be a case of basic God — and basic God plus revelation? God is self-evident, but that God is the Christian God is learned. The theist could make analogies to any situation where our understanding of a simple truth is enhanced by using methods other than just noting the obvious.Which would be most of them.

          I’m not saying this works, I’m just wondering if there’s necessarily two different God concepts here.

        • T-Paine

          Well it’s either a basic God with no revelation or a basic God with revelation. A god who’s existence is self-evident or a god who’s existence is not self-evident and must be learned. Apologists do argue for two different God concepts. Their tactic is to argue for a Deistic god and have the atheist opponent argue against it for the whole debate and at the end switch over to the Christian god (Theistic) and say that no evidence is sufficient must be on faith.

          I think one tactic is to get the apologist to admit that they’re not arguing for the Christian god – in that case, they are admitting that Christianity is false when they argue for the existence of a god – that is not depicted in the Bible. If I were their opponent, I would remind this to the Christians in the audience – that the apologist is defending the existence of a non-Christian god and saying that all evidence supports it’s existence. And that the apologist is arguing for the existence of what is, in the eyes of the Christian audience, a false idol.

        • Sastra

          I understand the tactic, but I still think there’s a third option here of a God whose existence is self-evident, but whose specific nature or character must be learned. After all, this is how we approach most things, including people.

          The apologists who goes from insisting that God’s existence is revealed by nature to the need for faith hasn’t so much switched gods as fallen back to a hopefully stronger position because they’re losing. That can kindly be pointed out. If they also start claiming that no evidence can lead one to conclude that God exists in the first place, then they’ve contradicted themselves. That can also be kindly pointed out.

          The Deistic god isn’t different than the Christian god because one is discovered through natural theology and the other is discovered by special revelation. It’s different because it has no additional special revelation. We stop there. The Christian God presumably has both — or can have both. Christians aren’t all together on that (as usual.). But I don’t think any of them would think that someone who realizes that God exists because of the design in nature or whatever couldn’t be on the path towards Christianity because they’ve got hold of a different god.

          Frankly, I think that an atheist changing a debate midstream from the existence of God to the existence of the Christian god by making the obvious point that proving that God exists isn’t the same as proving Christianity is true is ducking into the punch. It seems like they’re saying “okay, I’ll grant your arguments that some form of God exists … but now you’ve really got your work cut out for you!” No, the atheist conceded. Any theist who knows how to keep to the topic will kindly point that out.

          The “but the two gods are different” tactic isn’t going to succeed unless the atheist can successfully show why you can’t have a basic god without revelation … and the bells and whistles only after digging around some more. I don’t see how, because I don’t think that’s a logical contradiction.

        • T-Paine

          Apologists do perform the bate and switch.

          (Beginning of debate)

          Christian: The evidence of God is all around us. The universe, life, the natural laws. These are self-evident of a creator who is God. [Cites Romans 1:19-20]

          (End of the debate)

          Christian: It all comes down to faith. I know that the Christian God exists is [not because of any evidence nor is the Christian God self evident, but] because of the burning feeling deep inside my chest [the witness of the holy spirit] even if all the evidence in the world would to point away from the Christian god, I will still believe he exists because I have [no evidence but] faith. Faith leads to the Christian god, and not evidence. [Please ignore the beginning of the debate where I argue that evidence points to God and the evidence is all around us.]

        • Sastra

          I suppose it’s possible, but I’ve never seen or heard of any Christian using both natural theology AND Faith Alone. If they use the first set of arguments, faith is brought in as an addition necessary for the leap into Christianity, perhaps. Of course, people who rush into apologetics on their own might contradict themselves left and right. I just wouldn’t try this tactic on someone with more sophistication, I think.

        • T-Paine

          This is exactly my point. They bring up a creator god whose existence is evidence-based and later claim that the christian god’s existence cannot be shown by evidence but by faith alone – Yet this is the thing: Is the Christian god the same god they were arguing for at the beginning? If so, then why do they argue in favor for evidence in the beginning and then at the end they argue in favor of faith alone? Either the Christian god can be pointed to by faith alone or it cannot.

          Faith is to believe despite evidence. With Evidence, faith is irrelevant. Why argue for evidence in the beginning only to contradict yourself by saying it is by faith alone? Evidence unnecessary? Wasn’t evidence necessary by the get-go?

          If they argue for a single concept of god then apologists would cancel out their own arguments – they wouldn’t if they were arguing for two different concepts of god, the one problem would be for the apologist’s opponent picking up on that.

          The bait-n-switch is successful because the two concepts have the same label which is “God”.

        • Susan

          The bait-n-switch is successful because the two concepts have the same label which is “God”.

          This is why it’s so important to ask them what they are claiming and how they can support it.

          “God” is the most weaselly world I know. It’s meaningless.

          It can mean anything they need it to.

          The reason they do what you’re describing is because they’re bluffing when they argue that all the evidence points to a creator. When that doesn’t pan out, they call “faith!”.

          Apologetics in a nutshell.

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t know of you followed any more of my back and forth with Jim the Scott but he’s terrible for that. He’s careful not to define anything that can be directly attacked, and now he’s on about whether concepts like logic are real or not. They’ll go to about any lengths to protect. Philosophy that is dead.

        • Susan

          I don’t know of you followed any more of my back and forth with Jim the Scott

          A little. Truth be told, I can barely stand looking any more

          The only difference between SteveK and BrandonV to me is that one of them runs a disqus site financed by Robert Spitzer’s people.

          he’s terrible for that.

          They all are.

        • Pofarmer

          Truth be told, I’m sick to death of Thomism and Aristotlean Metaphysics and the whole load of crap. The problem is, the conservative Catholics apparently didn’t get the memo that it died starting with Hume and they are pushing it again as part of their anti-gay agenda, among other things. It’s people citing complete nonsense thinking it’s “properly basic” philosophy.

        • Sastra

          I’m still not convinced there are two completely different concepts. It seems to me that it would be possible for a theist to argue that we can know that some sort of god exists via natural theology, but require faith in a special revelation for understanding that god’s specific nature.

          Consider an analogy with a “ghost.” We can figure out the house is haunted because items fly through the air, fog appears in the living room, and the walls drip blood. But only a seance with a ouija board tells us the ghost’s name is “Fred” and he haunts the home looking for his lost puppy. Are there 2 ghosts — a vague, generic one who haunts the house and a second one named “Fred?”

          There is no contradiction in using faith over the rough spots. Most theists are happy to do so, when and if they think it’s needed.

        • T-Paine

          I don’t agree that your analogy is apt. It’s more like this:

          Paranormal guy at the beginning: We know you’re house is haunted by a ghost because items go missing and end up in other rooms of the house where they shouldn’t be. Fog appears in the living room, unexplained sounds of footsteps, voices in empty rooms, cold spots – all of this is telltale evidence of a ghost – all of it points conclusively to a apparition haunting your house and ghosts can only be summoned through a seance or a Ouija board.

          Paranormal guy at the end: The reason I know that the ghost is Bloody Mary is because the folklore and legends surrounding her resonated within me and in my heart on a level that I couldn’t describe. Ethereal fog, unexplained sounds of footsteps, voices in empty rooms, and cold spots cannot point to the presence of Bloody Mary. She cannot be summoned by seances or Ouija boards but only by catoptromancy : by saying her name 3 times in a mirror inside a candle-lit room.

          Do you see the problems?

        • T-Paine

          I’ll make this short and sweet for all:

          Premise 1: The Creator god is one whose existence can be shown by evidence, reason, and logic. No faith required.
          Premise 2: The Christian god is one whose existence cannot be shown by evidence, reason, and logic but by faith alone.
          Conclusion: Therefore, the Creator god is not the Christian god.

          *Drops mic*

        • TheNuszAbides

          If they also start claiming that no evidence can lead one to
          conclude that God exists in the first place, then they’ve contradicted
          themselves.

          this was presumably a motivator for further developing the Satan element (whether consciously borrowing from e.g. Zoroastrianism or not) – “well, of *course* The Enemy wants you to have doubts!”

        • Are these “two different God concepts” mutually compatible, mutually compatible, or something more complicated?

        • adam

          Since they are diametrically opposed, to the rational they are mutually exclusive.

          To the ‘faith’ ful, they probably demonstration “God’s love” or some meaningless shite.

        • T-Paine

          One is a single Creator with no other known attributes other than creating the universe as we know it, the evidence for this god is the universe itself, life, and the natural laws. The other is a single Creator who is three persons in one (The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) , who created the universe, life, and the natural laws, who created Adam, Eve, the garden of Eden, revealed himself to a middle eastern shepherd named Abram, Moses, authored the Torah, became the god of the Jews, who also became his own son in 1st century Palestine to be sacrificed to redeem mankind and those who believe will have eternal life – all of this depicted in a religious book; and the evidence for this three-in-one god? None. This god must be taken on faith.

          So yeah, two different god concepts. Totally incompatible.

        • One is a single Creator with no other known attributes other than creating the universe as we know it, the evidence for this god is the universe itself, life, and the natural laws.

          While you say “single Creator”, the only real requirement seems to be an agreement in terms of what will be created. It might be important that this agreement manifests the coherence traditionally associated with a single mind planning things out—contrast this to the kind of contorted plans which committees often produce—but I don’t see a rationale for excluding Christianity’s trinue God from this concept of “single Creator”.

          So, I just don’t see the incompatibility you claim exists.

        • T-Paine

          Can you translate your post in English, please?

        • I’ll start with a question. Do you understand the difference between:

          (1) A cohesive plan, put together by a single person, where all the pieces work together excellently.
          (2) Plan-by-committee, where the whole thing will sometimes work, and frequently there will be aspects of the plan which clash with other aspects, either making the plan clunky or causing it to fail. The term ‘elegance’ is almost never associated with this method.

          ?

        • kraut2

          I have no clue in which industries you have been working, as teamwork is today’s standard almost everywhere.
          Maybe you run your own little workshop as the sole participant.
          Your cluelessness is apparent by the statement that plans by teams are clunky, which is simply another stupid statement nor related to any Industry I worked in, from Agriculture to Laboratories to Sales to installation of Heating systems etc.

        • You’re welcome to choose a term other than “plan-by-committee”, which targets not all cooperative human endeavors, but those where there is a distinct lack of unity over purpose or means, a lack of unity which results in the phenomena I’m trying to pick out. If you think there’s nothing to what I’ve said here (and you do seem to think that), then you should find the following to completely lack humor:

        • T-Paine

          I understand the words, but you’re not making sense.

        • Perhaps, or perhaps you fall so short of the actual Thomas Paine that additional effort on my part would be a waste of everyone’s time.

        • T-Paine

          You don’t win arguments by making them incoherent/incomprehensible. You know this, right?

        • Of course. I simply doubt that my (1) vs. (2) is nonsensical to your person of average intelligence.

        • T-Paine

          And I simply doubt you were being genuine to your points.

        • adam

          Why would he start now after months of the same conduct?

        • I have no idea what that means.

        • T-Paine

          I’m sorry to hear that.

        • adam

          “You don’t win arguments by making them incoherent/incomprehensible. You know this, right?”

          No, but that is not the goal, the goal is to create gaps for which his ‘God’ can hide in.

        • Michael Neville

          The King James Bible, considered a masterpiece of English literature, was written by committee.

        • Greg G.

          The original documents were written by many individuals so the canonized version of either testament was written by committee. The interpolations of the individual works means they were written by committee, too.

        • See my response to @kraut2:disqus.

        • Michael Neville

          Typical Luke Breuerism, give links that don’t answer the question. Are you so ignorant that you don’t know that the KJV was written by committee or are you so stupid that you don’t realize I was giving a counter example of your claim? I realize these choices are not mutually exclusive.

        • TheNuszAbides

          in Luke’s bubble that just indicates that there was a lower-than-average level of demonic interference.

        • adam

          “I’ll start with a question. ”

          The term ‘elegance’ is almost never associated with this method.

          Why not start with the answer to the question?

        • adam

          “Can you translate your post in English, please?”

          Why would he?
          It would only make it clear and indefensible.

          Without gaps in knowledge, Luke has no “God”

        • It sounds rather like the difference between what I could learn about a person without ever getting communication from him/her, whether directly or indirectly, and what would be added by said communication. But I don’t think I’d use the word ‘faith’ to describe successful communication. I might use the word ‘trust’.

        • T-Paine

          But I don’t think I’d use the word ‘faith’ to describe successful communication. I might use the word ‘trust’.

          A rose by any other name is still a rose.

        • T-Paine

          Only you.

        • Are you saying that “successful communication” is not required for anything you discussed in your comment?

        • T-Paine

          If “successful communication” mean playing games like you are doing then no, it isn’t.

        • Does the following qualify as “playing games”:

          LB: It sounds rather like the difference between what I could learn about a person without ever getting communication from him/her, whether directly or indirectly, and what would be added by said communication.

          ?

        • adam

          From you, yes, this is your typical tactic.

        • T-Paine

          Well, you do make one mean of a word salad. If word salads are your game.

        • Suppose you’re at a bar and you observe a woman. Since you’re too far away, you can’t hear anything said to her or anything she says. Now suppose you move closer so you can hear. Can you learn things now, which you could not have learned before?

          (Does the above paragraph qualify as “one mean of a word salad”?)

        • T-Paine

          Suppose I finally understood that you’ve deliberately took the subject off course by leading me down your rabbit hole – and I got out of it by ignoring your distracting gibberish and staying on subject?

          A god whose existence is evidence-based and not faith-based and a god whose existence is faith-based and not evidence-based are 2 different gods.

        • I don’t know what you mean by “faith-based” (there are simply too many different options), and it’s unclear whether “evidence-based” would encompass rational arguments for God’s existence. Nor is it clear that you have a category for God actually talking to people. It’s that last category which I tried to establish with:

          LB: Suppose you’re at a bar and you observe a woman. Since you’re too far away, you can’t hear anything said to her or anything she says. Now suppose you move closer so you can hear. Can you learn things now, which you could not have learned before?

        • T-Paine

          Faith-based as in God’s existence must be believed despite evidence and not because of evidence (evidence-based)

          I put God actually talking to people firmly in the faith-based section.

        • Wait, so if God communicates to people, that can only be known “despite evidence”?

        • T-Paine

          What is the evidence that God communicates with people?

        • TheNuszAbides

          that depends on your definition of “is”, but Luke’s not quite shameless enough to spell it out. [EDIT: according to my mere mortal’s interpretation of the manifestations of his brain-waves to which i seem to have access.]

        • adam

          “I don’t know what you mean by “faith-based” ”

          In context of the bible and it’s character “God”, it only makes sense to use the definition generated by this same character “God”

        • adam

          Word salads are his BEST game, and his BEST proof of his “God”

        • Susan

          Does the following qualify as “playing games”?

          Yes.

          It sounds rather like the difference between what I could learn about a person without ever getting
          communication

          Except that for all your comments, you haven’t shown this person exists. .

          and what would be added by said communication

          Added to what? By what communication?

          You could say the same thing about Picard.

          Also, the witch from Hansel and Gretel.

          Also, the Minotaur.

          You and I could argue about what motivates the Minotaur all day.

        • adam

          ” It sounds rather like the difference between what I could learn about a person without ever getting communication from him/her,….But I don’t think I’d use the word ‘faith’ to describe successful communication. I might use the word ‘trust’.”

          But of course, dishonesty is a demonstrated trait of yours.

  • Rudy R

    How does having a slightly higher level of cognitive skills than Ray Comfort qualify Koukl as an apologist?

    • MNb

      Since when is any level of cognitive skills required to call yourself an apologist?

      • Rudy R

        Christian apologists attempt to present a rational position to justify their belief, which usually includes a higher level of cognitive skills than someone that justifies their belief based solely on faith.

        • T-Paine

          More like a higher level of cognitive dissonance skills…

    • Sastra

      I suspect the label of “apologist” has more to do with quantity than quality. How much time and effort does the person spend on this? Is it a major part of their identity? Are they in the comments section — or writing the blog?

      “Theologian,” on the other hand, probably has a higher standard.

      • Rudy R

        My point being that Ray Comfort is not considered an apologist, by any stretch of the imagination, so how does Koukl, with his similar epistemology of Comfort, have any claims to the apologist moniker?

        • Sastra

          I didn’t know that Ray Comfort isn’t considered an ‘apologist.’ I think I’d count him as one, because he regularly ‘defends the faith’ against criticism by presenting arguments. BAD arguments, yes.But I don’t think that defines him out of the running.

          Maybe “apologist” is like “paranormalist.” I can imagine someone saying that a ghost hunting psychic with a popular tv show isn’t a “paranormalist.” And I can imagine myself saying that no, the qualifying standards aren’t really that high.

        • MNb

          “is not considered an apologist”
          By whom?

          https://carm.org/apologetics

          “Apologetics is the branch of Christianity that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith.”
          Exactly what Comfort and Koukl do.

          The only meaningful distinction I can think of is with philosophy of religion:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_religion

          of which apologetics is a part. However I’m not sure if that distinction is any relevant given the many same arguments both professional apologists and amateur apologists use.
          Like this:

          “Do you believe that book could’ve come about by accident?”

          This is nothing but another version of Paley’s False Watchmaker Analogy and also just a concrete version of The Fine Tuning Argument (the natural constants apparently couldn’t have come about by accident either).

          So until someone clarifies it for me I fail to see the difference and hence I would not know why I shouldn’t call Comfort and Koukl apologists like I call WL Craig (who calls himself a philosopher of religion ….) one. This analysis seems to confirm it.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2014/06/philosophy-of-religion-is-mostly-not-taken-seriously-in-mainstream-philosophy/

          Also note the last paragraph of this related blog post.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2012/04/from-the-archives-ignorance-comparing-dawkins-and-plantinga/

        • Interesting links, thanks.

      • TheNuszAbides

        “Theologian,” on the other hand, probably has a higher standard.

        and Sturgeon’s revelation applies as well to theology as to apologetics.

  • Michael

    It’s easy to imagine just such a “god world”. You find that in lots of fantasy stories. Atheists there would be totally irrational, indeed (and occasionally they make an appearance, usually for humorous purposes). The fact the world isn’t like this tells us something. However to be fair the gods in these stories usually aren’t supposedly “all good” but on a moral spectrum. That’s far more realistic though.

  • Otto

    A Perfect god would not need our acknowledgement.

    • It’s those little imperfections–like being a thin-skinned sadistic bastard–that keeps the relationship interesting.

    • Kodie

      Yeah, I don’t know why he would either. In part 1, I commented about how unlikely a deist god is: an intentional conscious creator that abandons his creation and doesn’t interact with it seems like any other god-idea to me, not as the merest philosophical concession that if a god exists, he must be that small and out of the way. On the other hand, in stories where god creates the earth and the stuff in it and the people, he gets meddlesome. I picture a lonely old man with a dollhouse, and he tells his dollies he’ll be right back, don’t eat that fruit, and he comes back to the room and he thinks the dolls moved. They didn’t, but he violently throws the dolls out the window. I mean, we get a story that they ate the fruit, but you know, god just sounds paranoid enough to let the rumor stand.

      In the “parenting” model a lot of Christians suggest, he’s really an annoying parent. Beyond the abusive example where he’s the daddy and we’re all the naughty children who can’t behave unless we’re threatened and submit to the parent, whom we’re supposed to trust implicitly even without reasons, I imagine it more like we’re adults now and he doesn’t trust us to make good decisions, and continues to nag, threaten and berate us – the kind of unhealthy parenting that puts a lot of people in therapy. When you’re a child, you don’t know what your parents know, and pretty much have no choice but to go along with their rules, but as you grow up, you start to realize everything your parents don’t know. There’s the adolescent phase where the opening appears and you might barge through it, still not knowing what you think you know, but by the time you’re an adult in a more settled way, you’re likely to have a lot of differences in opinion from your parents and the old-fashioned traditional way they do things, from politics to parenting, the culture has changed in many slight or drastic ways, and you no longer need their guidance. You figure it out, you make your own mistakes, you adjust. God just sounds like the kind of parent who won’t leave you the fuck alone or let you make your own life choices without telling you what an idiot you are. Christians like to remain children in god’s house, obeying silly traditions under the threat of hell, but then they bring their petty demands out into society, like the ass-kissing oldest sister mini-mod who have taken on the task to harass all the littler children to rein them in and obey the rules of an imaginary fucking house with an imaginary fucking father.

      While we don’t know everything there is to know, adhering to a strict moral list of rules doesn’t allow for accommodation and compromise, and we certainly can always improve, but not by going backwards, not by limiting ourselves as children who don’t know any better and mustn’t disobey or else – that’s superstition, that’s if you step on a crack, you break your mother’s back. We’re cool to go ahead and step on the cracks and see if that actually happens, and it doesn’t. Christians who try to use the bible or their church sermons to filter what’s going on in the world think it’s just turning to shit, the dark clouds are swarming, Jesus should be any day now. People are fornicating, gay couples are marrying and ? Nothing bad happened, but to them, these are the bad things that have happened. Nothing worse needs to happen, that’s the shit they’re afraid of happening has happened and creates vague bad things that happen and oh dear, when dad finds out he’s gonna be so mad!

    • Does God have Satan’s “acknowledgement”?

      • Kodie

        They’re both fictional characters. Comparing people who don’t believe in the figment of your imagination that you let rule over your life to a fictional character who acknowledges but rejects the figment of your imagination is really rude.

      • Thought2Much

        Who the fuck cares?

        • Based on the evidence: @disqus_K3l83uMZuy:disqus, @michaelneville:disqus, and @disqus_xYWVllyPLU:disqus. (Because we all know that @LukeBreuer:disqus doesn’t count.)

        • Michael Neville

          Of course Luke Breuer counts. Whenever we need an arrogant, pompous, pedantic, pretentious prig we can always count on Luke.

        • C’mon, surely you have more adjectives than that!

      • adam

        Satan…..lol…

      • adam

        In the story, Satan is the devil’s advocate, taking the opposing positions of the character “God” to demonstrate the contrast between the two positions being argued.

        And WINS!

      • Michael Neville

        Define “acknowledgement”.

        EDIT: According to the propaganda Satan and Yahweh are buddies. In Job Satan visits Yahweh, the two of them have a friendly conversation, and they make a bet that involves one of Yahweh’s favorite pastimes, fucking someone over.

        One thing to remember about Satan and Hell is the modern concepts of both owe much more to Dante and John Milton than to the Bible.

        • Define “acknowledgement”.

          I’m not the one who first used the term.

        • Michael Neville

          You used it. So what did you mean when you used acknowledgement?

        • I prefer not to choose the meaning of others’ sentences; that seems rude.

        • Michael Neville

          You used the word. Explain what you, that’s YOU Luke Breuer, meant when YOU used the word.

        • Sorry, that’s not how I roll. Perhaps you are unable to work with a word when you only kinda-know what it means; I find that skill remarkably helpful when trying to understand what others mean with their words instead of deciding for them.

        • adam

          “Sorry, that’s not how I roll.”

        • Michael Neville

          I missed this piece of Breuerish arrogance.

          Who, besides you, gives a fuck about how you “roll”? I asked you how YOU use a word because you are using it in a non-normal way. You and I went round and round on the definition of a word before. So it’s perfectly reasonable for me to ask you, you smug prig, how YOU are using the word “acknowledgement.” Is this concept too hard for your pompous, pretentious, bombastic mind to comprehend?

          Sorry, that was a rhetorical question. Of course the concept is too hard for you. You can’t smarm your way out of your refusal to answer a simple question so you’ll just ignore it.

        • Susan

          so you’ll just ignore it.

          Well, yes.

          Technically, Otto used the word acknowledgement first. But LB’s strategy is to skip the main point and send us down what seems to be an infinite labyrinth of rabbit holes rather than make a clear claim and support it with evidence.

          For instance, Luke is trying to steer things away from pure “belief” into “trust” which is what Luke imagines this so-far fictional character requires. But one can’t have “trust” in someone until they have reasonable grounds to believe that someone exists.

          It seems Luke would like to talk about anything but that.

          He has decided to punish me by not responding to my basic questions about what he’s claiming and how he can support it.

          I suggest that no one follow him down any of his rabbit holes until he can be clear about what he means by “God” and how he can show it exists.

          He is no longer a creationist but the tactics are the same.

          Demand absolute certainty from everyone else. Undermine it with cherry-picked points and never take responsibilty for your own position.

        • What does it tell the Christian that they can’t openly and honestly follow the argument and evidence where it leads?

          (It’s a trick question. It doesn’t tell them anything.)

        • I’m curious: if someone asks you, “Have you stopped beating your wife, yet?”, do you merely “follow the argument”, or do you question presuppositions?

          I’d also like you to indicate a single argument where I committed myself to it (by taking a stance), and then refused to follow it and the evidence. Surely you only make claims based on the evidence? Supposing you find an instance, we can then investigate whether my interlocutor (you or someone else) actually failed to fulfill some reasonable responsibility, giving me justification for suspending the discussion.

        • Michael Neville

          Demand absolute certainty from everyone else. Undermine it with cherry-picked points and never take responsibility for your own position.

          That’s an excellent summation of our Luke.

        • For instance, Luke is trying to steer things away from pure “belief” into “trust” which is what Luke imagines this so-far-fictional character requires. But one can’t have “trust” in someone until they have reasonable grounds to believe that someone exists.

          It seems Luke would like to talk about anything but that.

          Given that I’ve talked about “[mere] belief” numerous times on this page, you couldn’t be any more wrong with the last sentence I quoted.

          He is no longer a creationist but the tactics are the same.

          Demand absolute certainty from everyone else. Undermine it with cherry-picked points and never take responsibility for your own position.

          Can you show a single place I have demanded “absolute certainty” from someone?

          He has decided to punish me by not responding to my basic questions about what he’s claiming and how he can support it.

          Nope, I just have little interest in engaging with someone who so terribly misconstrues what I’ve said, and/or just makes shit up out of thin air about what I have or have not said. I’ve pointed out two examples of your nonsense in this very comment. Not only that, but you would appear to be a liar, given that you said a month ago, in reply to me: “I will not discuss you any more.”

        • Susan

          you would appear to be a liar, given that you said a month ago, in reply to me…

          I was waiting for that blue link.

          Luke, I’ve tried asking you questions more than once with no response.

          After a month, I gave up. I am talking about your methods, not YOU.

          Yes. You were talking about mere “belief” vs. “trust”.

          As I pointed out, trust in a person requires belief in that person’s existence.

          What is this person and what is your evidence for it?

        • Given that you cannot show where I “[d]emand absolute certainty” from anyone, I’m going to suggest that you are a liar—not “just asking [basic!] questions”.

        • Susan

          What is this person and what is your evidence for it?

        • Refusing to put words in others’ mouths is “arrogance”?

          Completely divorced from my conversation with @disqus_K3l83uMZuy:disqus, I can think of multiple definitions of “acknowledgment”. The thinnest definition would probably be akin to “message received”. I could also acknowledge someone’s presence, without it being more than surface-level respect. A beefier version involves honoring, as in “his sacrifice was acknowledged by his comrades”. The ultimate version is that of recognizing legitimate authority. I subsequently glanced at Merriam-Webster: acknowledge and the spectrum I’ve written seems legit.

          This wide variety of possible meanings is why I asked Otto for clarification in the first place. Were you really not aware that this variety existed? Because if you did, then surely you would see it as legit for me to ask Otto for clarification.

        • Michael Neville

          No, you insufferable prig, arrogance is brushing off a simple question with a sneer. If you weren’t so full of yourself you’d know this. And yet, when prodded, you could give a one paragraph answer that didn’t include links that had little or nothing to do with what you wrote.

        • You don’t like links to dictionaries when talking about the meanings of words?

        • Michael Neville

          No, asshole, let’s not rehash your failed attempt to redefine a common word to a secondary, unusual meaning because you wanted to blame me for your fuckup.

        • No, asshole, let’s not rehash your failed attempt to redefine a common word to a secondary, unusual meaning because you wanted to blame me for your fuckup.

          The underlined portion is a lie. I have challenged you on multiple occasions to produce any evidence whatsoever for it; what I’ve gotten back is technically defined as ‘bupkis’. Because I never did it.

          Didn’t they teach you not to lie in the Navy?

        • adam

      • Susan

        Does God have Satan’s “acknowledgement”?

        In the various christian stories, does Yahwehjesus have Satan’s acknowledgemnt that Yahwehjesus exists?

        For all of your comments, you have done nothing to move this past a story.

        Does Iago have Othello’s acknowledgement?

        Yes.

        What is “God?”

      • Otto

        Does God need it?

        • I’m not sure what you mean by “acknowledgement”. One might think that the following is a kind of “acknowledgement”:

          You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! (James 2:19)

          If you mean this version, then God would seem to neither “need” nor want our “acknowledgement”.

        • adam

          Of course an IMAGINARY character NEEDS believers to carry out their will in its name.

          What other power does an IMAGINARY ‘God’ have.

          And amazingly Gods die when their followers stop following.

        • Otto

          Then why is unbelief an unforgivable sin?

        • Where do you find that “unbelief [is] an unforgivable sin”?

        • Otto

          You mean besides what I was taught in Christian school?

        • The thing that confuses me is that mere belief doesn’t seem sufficient when one investigates passages such as Ja 2:19, Mt 7:21–23, Mt 21:28–32, and 2 Tim 3:1–5. And when I think of “unforgivable sin”, I think of Mark 3:22–30 and Mt 12:22–32, which don’t seem to be about mere belief [e.g. “in the existence of God”].

          What I can see God wanting is ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence for what and who he created. I don’t see how mere belief in the existence of God (which you may or may not meant with “acknowledgement”) would help this endeavor. However, I can see how trusting (pisteuō) God would be important for achieving this goal, like a child trusting his/her parents is important (ceteris paribus, of course).

        • Otto

          And yet ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence in and of themselves are not enough.

          Anyone can quote the Bible to support their theological position on the matter but generally speaking most Christian positions of faith require believing in God and specifically believing Jesus is God. I would call that requiring an acknowledgement.

        • And yet ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence in and of themselves are not enough.

          They require a source.

          Anyone can quote the Bible to support their theological position on the matter

          That doesn’t mean all positions are equally defensible. If you want to present a position, defend it. If you don’t, then make that clear.

          but generally speaking most Christian positions of faith require believing in God and specifically believing Jesus is God. I would call that requiring an acknowledgement.

          Trusting (pisteuō) God would be hard if you did not believe he exists. But belief in no way entails trust. Nor have you established any reason to think that God “need[s]” either our trust or our “acknowledgement”.

        • Otto

          The source is the person doing the action.

          “That doesn’t mean all positions are equally defensible.”

          If that is the case one should expect Christian thought to coalesce, yet what we see is just the opposite.

          Turning the blame for any issue back on humanity is what Christianity does best,

        • The source is the person doing the action.

          Is there any synchronization between what you call “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence” and what the next guy does? In science, scientists are convinced they are approaching something objective because a causal power outside of themselves causes their thoughts to converge. It’s not clear that your understanding allows this in matters of goodness and excellence. If the causal power is just the person, then the matter would seem to be 100% subjective. Indeed, the difference between “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence” and “ever-increasing levels of getting what I want” would seem to vanish.

          If that is the case one should expect Christian thought to coalesce, yet what we see is just the opposite.

          Turning the blame for any issue back on humanity is what Christianity does best,

          Both of these seem rather irrelevant to your “A Perfect god would not need our acknowledgement.” They’re interesting topics, but I’m wary of having too many threads going simultaneously.

        • Otto

          “In science, scientists are convinced they are approaching something objective because a causal power outside of themselves causes their thoughts to converge.

          It is not a causal power. In science that is called evidence.

          Again, funny how in religion there is NO convergence, only divergence. So what is it lacking? Evidence.

          “If the causal power is just the person, then the matter would seem to be 100% subjective.”

          Are the meaning of words subjective or objective?

          “Both of these seem rather irrelevant to your “A Perfect god would not need our acknowledgement.”

          The point I was making was your refutation of God needing acknowledgment using Bible quotes is nothing more than your subjective opinion. There are plenty of Bible verses that support my point but rolling those out would be pointless. Such an endeavor is as fruitless as a Catholic arguing with a Baptist, or a Pentecostal, or a Methodist, or a Lutheran, etc. etc. etc.

        • It is not a causal power. In science that is called evidence.

          Using the language of causal powers is quite legitimate. I’m actually not interested in debating this point—if you don’t want to posit it as a good way to speak, we can just axe this tangent and any dependent tangents.

          Again, funny how in religion there is NO convergence, only divergence. So what is it lacking? Evidence.

          Again, this is an interesting discussion but a tangent.

          Are the meaning of words subjective or objective?

          False dichotomy: they’re intersubjective.

          The point I was making was your refutation of God needing acknowledgment using Bible quotes is nothing more than your subjective opinion.

          I completely disagree; one cannot take a work of Shakespeare and make it say whatever you want. Neither can one do this with the Bible.

          There are plenty of Bible verses that support my point but rolling those out would be pointless.

          That’s a bluff if I ever saw one.

        • Otto

          “False dichotomy: they’re intersubjective.

          So why can’t the causal power of doing good for the sake of improving oneself be similar? Why does this have to be completely subjective or completely objective?

          “I completely disagree; one cannot take a work of Shakespeare and make it say whatever you want. Neither can one do this with the Bible.”

          And yet it is done everyday, in every way. You can no more demonstrate your interpretation is any more valid than those who disagree with you. You can come up with a good argument, so can they. It becomes nothing more than a Mexican stand off with Bibles.

          “That’s a bluff if I ever saw one.”

          “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:2-3

        • So why can’t the causal power of doing good for the sake of improving oneself be similar? Why does this have to be completely subjective or completely objective?

          Science reaches intersubjective consensus. Is that because it’s just a bunch of humans agreeing, or is there some causal power outside of (i) any individual humans; (ii) society, which causes that consensus, that convergence upon truth?

          And yet it is done everyday, in every way.

          Evidence, please. There is a difference between there being a great range of opinions, and being able to “make it say whatever you want”. If you want to see an example of a great variety of intepretations in science, glance at the the table of contents of Luciano L’Abate’s 2011 Paradigms in Theory Construction.

          You can no more demonstrate your interpretation is any more valid than those who disagree with you. You can come up with a good argument, so can they. It becomes nothing more than a Mexican stand off with Bibles.

          Apparently, you take a very low opinion of English class. To Kill a Mockingbird can be said to support the nobility of slavery, right? I wonder what you think of the interpretive job that judges have to do of law. Can they really get it to say arbitrarily many different things as well?

          What you are perhaps picking up is that religion has a major aspect of shaping humans, society, and the world. Unless everyone agrees on a kosmos—a pre-Galilean conception of reality where ought is fused with is—even 100% agreement on ‘the facts’ will allow great pluralism if there is no additional, non-evidential, convergence-causing causal power. But this applies to any project of humans living together, not just religion.

          “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:2-3

          How does that demonstrate (i) “need”; (ii) “acknowledgement”?

        • Otto

          “Science reaches intersubjective consensus. Is that because it’s just a bunch of humans agreeing, or is there some causal power outside of (i) any individual humans; (ii) society, which causes that consensus, that convergence upon truth?”

          What does that have to do with the question regarding the motivation for “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence”?

          “Evidence, please. There is a difference between there being a great range of opinions, and being able to “make it say whatever you want”.

          Regarding the widespread opinions and interpretations of the Bible maybe you would like to flesh out what that difference is exactly, and how you differentiate one from the other. Example: is slavery OK with God according to the Bible? There has been widespread opinion among Christians for literally centuries on that issue and both side can justify their view using the Bible.

          “How does that demonstrate (i) “need”; (ii) “acknowledgement”?”

          Re: ‘need’

          Would it make a difference if ‘need’ was replaced by ‘requires’? Or maybe ‘wants’… ‘orders’ …or ‘commands’? It doesn’t seem to me to make a difference.

          Re: Acknowledgement

          You don’t see an order to have no other god’s besides ‘God’, as an issue of acknowledgement? If it is not, what else could it be?

        • What does that have to do with the question regarding the motivation for “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence”?

          It has to do with whether “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence” is rooted in a causal power external to humans and society (like science is), or whether its root is nothing but humans and/or humans-in-society. Is the standard objective, or [inter]subjective? Science is objective.

          Example: is slavery OK with God according to the Bible?

          This doesn’t establish an infinite variety of defensible interpretations of the Bible (“make it say whatever you want”). If you want to say that people have disagreed on X, Y, and Z, that’s different.

          Would it make a difference if ‘need’ was replaced by ‘requires’? Or maybe ‘wants’… ‘orders’ …or ‘commands’? It doesn’t seem to me to make a difference.

          A ‘command’ is not necessarily a ‘need’. It is quite sensible to say that God ‘wants’ good things for the Israelites, but to describe that as God having some sort of psychological ‘need’ is quite the leap. It is appropriate for a “Perfect god” (interesting capitalization) to have desires for his/​her/​its creation; it is inappropriate for such a deity to have psychological ‘needs’. This is recognized by the doctrine of aseity.

          You don’t see an order to have no other god’s besides ‘God’, as an issue of acknowledgement? If it is not, what else could it be?

          Which deity (or deities) you worshiped back then wasn’t a matter of mere “acknowledgement”. It’s more like this:

              Early Israelites recognized themselves as a distinct social formation banded together in egalitarian tribal coalition from which imperialism and feudalism were to be categorically excluded. They experienced their own distinction as social actors who expelled alien authorities and struggled to prevent the development of centralized authority within their own community. They experienced this distinction in the form of belief in a deity who assured their success in this social enterprise. They expressed this distinction in cultic practices which were of a piece with the entire continuity of their revolutionary social action. They “took notice” of themselves as effective social actors supported and assured by their God. (The Tribes of Yahweh, 595)

          Different deity worshiped ⇒ different society formed.

        • Otto

          “It has to do with whether “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence” is rooted in a causal power external to humans and society (like science is), or whether its root is nothing but humans and/or humans-in-society.”

          This is pretty straight forward and easy. Science obtains its information from the external world and scientists use their senses get that information. What sense is used in discovering such a causal power external to humans? There isn’t one, so the only reasonable conclusion at this point is that the cause or motivation for “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence” isn’t external to humans.

          “If you want to say that people have disagreed on X, Y, and Z, that’s different.”

          You are missing the point. It isn’t that Christians disagree regarding their interpretations of what the Bible says, it is that none of them can objectively demonstrate that theirs is the correct interpretation. Whether verses are cherry picked to make their point or the Bible is looked at from the whole, radically different conclusions are derived and none of them can actually show they are in fact correct.

          “It is quite sensible to say that God ‘wants’ good things for the Israelites, but to describe that as God having some sort of psychological ‘need’ is quite the leap.”

          I don’t agree in that God ‘needs’ these things from us in order to withhold his wrath or to give his rewards.

          Regarding your response to ‘acknowledgement’. That makes sense if the Commandment originated from the Israelites as a mechanism to create their society and instill cohesion, your response does not make sense if that Commandment originated from God. If it originated from God it is a command of acknowledgement.

        • This is pretty straight forward and easy. Science obtains its information from the external world and scientists use their senses get that information. What sense is used in discovering such a causal power external to humans? There isn’t one, so the only reasonable conclusion at this point is that the cause or motivation for “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence” isn’t external to humans.

          Suppose you’re right in all this. Then what is the difference between “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence” and “ever-increasing levels of getting what I want”? You can replace that ‘I’ with a ‘we’, as long as you note whether any humans are omitted from that ‘we’.

          It isn’t that Christians disagree regarding their interpretations of what the Bible says, it is that none of them can objectively demonstrate that theirs is the correct interpretation.

          If that were really a problem, then wouldn’t the diversity of entire research paradigms actively used by psychologists (Paradigms in Theory Construction) be a problem?

          Furthermore, you’ve ignored this crucial aspect:

          LB: What you are perhaps picking up is that religion has a major aspect of shaping humans, society, and the world. Unless everyone agrees on a kosmos—a pre-Galilean conception of reality where ought is fused with is—even 100% agreement on ‘the facts’ will allow great pluralism if there is no additional, non-evidential, convergence-causing causal power. But this applies to any project of humans living together, not just religion.

          If ‘objective’ agreement can only be had about what is and not what ought to be, then the property of religion you’ve described is in no way unique to religion.

          I don’t agree in that God ‘needs’ these things from us in order to withhold his wrath or to give his rewards.

          First, that’s a very contorted use of ‘needs’. Second, do you think it is wise for parents to give their children candy when they start stealing toys from each other?

          Regarding your response to ‘acknowledgement’. That makes sense if the Commandment originated from the Israelites as a mechanism to create their society and instill cohesion, your response does not make sense if that Commandment originated from God. If it originated from God it is a command of acknowledgement.

          As my excerpt of The Tribes of Yahweh made clear, having YHWH as its god would mean much more than mere “acknowledgement” to the Israelites. Reducing the matter to mere “acknowledgement” makes a mockery of Exodus 20:2–3.

        • Otto

          “Then what is the difference between “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence” and “ever-increasing levels of getting what I want”? You can replace that ‘I’ with a ‘we’, as long as you note whether any humans are omitted from that ‘we’.”

          I don’t think there is a difference but I don’t see that as a problem and I certainly don’t see it as a reason to think a cause external to humans exists. Do you?

          “If that were really a problem, then wouldn’t the diversity of entire research paradigms actively used by psychologists (Paradigms in Theory Construction) be a problem?”

          So your argument is that if I don’t view this as a problem in psychology I shouldn’t view it as a problem in Christianity? Is Psychology centered around one book as being communication from an immaterial being that has yet to be proven exists?

          Regardless, if you are saying psychology suffers from that problem, then that doesn’t mean it is not a problem for Christianity, it means it is a problem for both. At least psychology is studying something that can be demonstrated to exist. It is like comparing the study of human biology to the study of space aliens.

          “First, that’s a very contorted use of ‘needs’.”

          It is not contorted at all. God requiring our belief is petty.

          “Second, do you think it is wise for parents to give their children candy when they start stealing toys from each other?”

          The parent giving candy to a disobedient child is wrong because doing so shows the child that the parent approves of the behavior. Rewards and punishments in such a relationship is for behavior modification. In God’s case he isn’t trying to modify behavior with rewards and punishment, the reward and punishment is the end, not the means to the end. That is a terrible analogy.

          “Reducing the matter to mere “acknowledgement” makes a mockery of Exodus 20:2–3.”

          If the shoe fits….

        • LB: Suppose you’re right in all this. Then what is the difference between “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence” and “ever-increasing levels of getting what I want”? You can replace that ‘I’ with a ‘we’, as long as you note whether any humans are omitted from that ‘we’.

          O: I don’t think there is a difference but I don’t see that as a problem and I certainly don’t see it as a reason to think a cause external to humans exists. Do you?

          I think that making those two things identical results in a Nietzschean ‘will to power’ which is truth-agnostic and quite happy to exterminate/​oppress/​marginalize some portion of humankind.

          There are several ways I appear to differ from you on this matter. In no particular order, here are some which came to mind: (1) I can want things which are not good for me. (2) I may need to sacrifice for that which is good, with no guarantee that I will reap the rewards (e.g. soldiers in battle). (3) My desires may fall short of “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence”. (4) I wish to say that the pedophile wanting to molest children does not thereby make molesting children good.

          So your argument is that if I don’t view this as a problem in psychology I shouldn’t view it as a problem in Christianity? Is Psychology centered around one book as being communication from an immaterial being that has yet to be proven exists?

          Well, there’s something which can be said about research paradigms in psychology which cannot automatically be said of any given religion: they can progress, although this progress may only be so via standards internal to a given paradigm. In the philosophy of science, this idea of progress has been formalized; see Thagard’s #1 and #2.

          With the above clarification, I’ll offer a tentative “yes” to your first question. Your second question seems rather irrelevant to the matter.

          Regardless, if you are saying psychology suffers from that problem, then that doesn’t mean it is not a problem for Christianity, it means it is a problem for both.

          Ok, but there are at least two ways to understand “problem”: (A) fatal to the endeavor; (B) something we hope to overcome. If you will allow (B) for psychology, then you need to justify why Christianity isn’t also allowed (B).

          God requiring our belief is petty.

          The word ‘belief’ is almost certainly a misrepresentation of Ex 20:2–3; at best, it is a necessary but insufficient condition for ‘trust’, which is almost certainly a better understanding. For YHWH to require trust is akin to YHWH requiring that the Israelites drink from clean water instead of dirty water. To call that “petty” is perverse. YHWH wanting the best for the Israelites is not “petty”.

          O: I don’t agree in that God ‘needs’ these things from us in order to withhold his wrath or to give his rewards.

          LB: Second, do you think it is wise for parents to give their children candy when they start stealing toys from each other?

          O: The parent giving candy to a disobedient child is wrong because doing so shows the child that the parent approves of the behavior.

          So the parent ‘needs’ obedience from the child before [s]he will give candy to the child.

          In God’s case he isn’t trying to modify behavior with rewards and punishment, the reward and punishment is the end, not the means to the end.

          Do you mean… there are consequences to actions? Consequences based on whom or what you trust? This is just what the parent does but (i) real instead of artificial; (ii) writ large.

          If the shoe fits….

          Acknowledgement is compatible with hypocrisy. Therefore, acknowledgement cannot possibly be all that YHWH requires. However, it sure is nice to reduce what YHWH actually requires to acknowledgement, if your goal is to paint him as petty.

        • adam

          ” quite happy to exterminate/​oppress/​marginalize some portion of humankind.”

        • adam

          ” quite happy to exterminate/​oppress/​marginalize some portion of humankind.”.

        • Otto

          “I think that making those two things identical results in a Nietzschean
          ‘will to power’ which is truth-agnostic and quite happy to
          exterminate/​oppress/​marginalize some portion of humankind.”

          What you are doing is arguing from consequence, you don’t like what the implications of the conclusion is so you therefore assert your position is correct. Just because you want it to be so does not make it true. Additionally I don’t agree with your conclusion. Most people want peace and well being for themselves and the the people they care for, as a group most come to the conclusion that providing those things for others helps to secure them for ourselves. It doesn’t always work cleanly, but on the grand scale we as humans tend to move in the correct direction, though it takes time. History and the evidence supports that scenario, whereas there is no evidence people come to moral conclusions by an external source no matter how bad you want that to be the case.

          “Your second question seems rather irrelevant to the matter.”

          It is actually extremely relevant. Regardless of the theory in psychology they do not claim to have ultimate knowledge, they are trying to build models to best describe what is observed. Religion do claim ultimate knowledge of something that has not even been shown to be real, there is no evidence anything they claim is grounded in our shared reality.

          “If you will allow (B) for psychology, then you need to justify why Christianity isn’t also allowed (B).”

          It is very simple, Christianity has not shown itself to be even slightly reliable in the least to what it claims it is studying. It is like comparing quantum physics to the the study of magic pixies controlling quantum physics.

          “The word ‘belief’ is almost certainly a misrepresentation of Ex 20:2–3; at best, it is a necessary but insufficient condition for ‘trust'”

          Just the fact that it is a necessary condition is enough to make my point. Additionally this does not just apply to the Isrealites, now it applies to everyone (who has been exposed to Christianity). I think playing off that this only applied to the Isrealites is minimizing the situation to the point that it is a bit disingenuous.

          “Do you mean… there are consequences to actions? Consequences based on whom or what you trust? This is just what the parent does but (i) real instead of artificial; (ii) writ large.

          1) Belief is not an action.

          2) Punishing someone when the only point is pure punishment is ridiculous. It is not like after receiving this punishment from God the person will have a chance to change behavior. Infinite punishment for finite crimes is unethical.

          “However, it sure is nice to reduce what YHWH actually requires to acknowledgement, if your goal is to paint him as petty.”

          I never said it was just acknowledgment, but acknowledgment would have to come first before anything else could be followed, so it seems like it is a pretty key component. And if YHWH wants acknowledgment for our own good and well being, hiding seems antithetical to that supposed goal.

        • adam

          “First, that’s a very contorted use of ‘needs’. ”

          How so?

        • adam

          “This doesn’t establish an infinite variety of defensible interpretations of the Bible ”

          There arent even an infinite number of words in the bible,

          So?

        • Susan

          It has to do with whether “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence” is rooted in a causal power external to humans and society.

          Why a causal power? Why not just a referent? You have no evidence of any causal power and are just relying on our commonly conceded referents.

          This is why you bring up genocide and rape and ignore factory farming and habitat destruction.

          In my earliest days of trying to have exchanges with you, you implied that hundreds of millions of years of natural selection was justified because it eventually gave us science.

          What is “goodness” Luke?

        • By this point I think you’ve provided me enough material to better understand your original comment:

          O: A Perfect god would not need our acknowledgement.

          (1) We have that ‘need’ can be replaced by ‘requires’/​’wants’/​’orders’/​’commands’, per your “It doesn’t seem to me to make a difference.” I would say that the shift from ‘need’ → ‘commands’ represents a significant shift away from the idea that God has some pathetic psychological ‘need’. The connotation of ‘pathetic’ is one plausible reading of your original, terse statement.

          (2) You indicated that ‘acknowledgement’ being merely a “a necessary condition is enough to make my point.” This seems problematic, because it really does seem petty for God to merely want us to recognize his existence. If in fact God wants us to trust him because that trust is good for us, any sense of pettiness seems to dissipate.

          (3) You indicated that “ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence” = “ever-increasing levels of getting what I want”. This equality eliminates the possibility that our trusting God could be for our benefit. The result is that God cannot be good for us in any way which requires us to ‘acknowledge’ him.

          (4) The idea that ‘acknowledging’ God could possibly be good for us (even as a necessary condition to something else, like ‘trust’) is undermined by pluralism in ideas about God, a pluralism which is different from e.g. what we see in psychology research: “radically different conclusions are derived and none of them can actually show they are in fact correct.”

          To what extent do you agree with the above? Note that contrary to your opening claim—

          What you are doing is arguing from consequence, you don’t like what the implications of the conclusion is so you therefore assert your position is correct.

          —I’m quite open to your position being correct. The biggest problem, in my opinion, is how often positions like yours aren’t sharply distinguished from positions which require Christianity or something like it. For example, your “the correct direction” and Bob’s “the immorality of” are very easily misunderstood as statements about objective morality. If this 2008 Pew poll is still sufficiently valid, ~78% of American adults “believe there are absolute standards of right and wrong” (14). And I think we all know that it is more potent to speak in objective terms instead of subjective terms. “A is better than B” simply has more convincing power than “I like A better than B and you should too.” or “We like A better than B and we’ll make life uncomfortable for you if you don’t agree.”

          It is frequently said that Nietzsche saw more clearly than most what life without the Christian God would truly be like. Conversations like this one are preparing me to dig into Nietzsche and see how the language we use still containts vestiges of Christianity, and how folks like you and Bob are pushing to purge them—at least those reliant on God. If there is anything to Christianity, I think it will be more clear when our culture and society get rid of aspects it currently, illegitimately relies on. For example, perhaps Christianity fostered a trust which is now eroding (56% in 1968 → 33% in 2014 in America); maybe it would be good to explore what reality would be like without the kind of trust which can only exist with some belief in Christianity (or other belief system). My guess is that fear will replace (and already has done a lot of replacing) trust and the result will be really bad. But I could be totally wrong. Or perhaps a social life more rooted in what you would call ‘truth’ must deal with such a situation, instead of believing in fictions.

        • Otto

          “The connotation of ‘pathetic’ is one plausible reading of your original, terse statement.”

          I agree, though I don’t find any other use of the term any less pathetic for a God that is supposed to be all powerful and perfect, but can’t allow himself to get over our imperfections without our recognition.

          “If in fact God wants us to trust him because that trust is good for us, any sense of pettiness seems to dissipate.”

          Two problems with this.
          1) There is no evidence that trusting the God of the bible is any more good for us than trusting other deities, or not trusting any gods at all. Human nature succeeds and fails at the same rate regardless.
          2) Trust is earned, not demanded.

          “”A is better than B” simply has more convincing power than “I like A better than B and you should too.” or “We like A better than B and we’ll make life uncomfortable for you if you don’t agree.”

          Making a declaration that “A is better than B” may be more convincing to some, but it doesn’t make it true, nor does it make it objective in the sense that you are using that term.

          “maybe it would be good to explore what reality would be like without the kind of trust which can only exist with some belief in Christianity (or other belief system).”

          Funny how you claim that there is a kind of trust which can only exist with some belief in Christianity (or other belief system) and yet according to the same article you linked to, the area of the US that has the least trust is the area that is most religious, and specifically the most Christian.

          Additionally we can explore what reality looks like without the belief systems you claim provides “the
          kind of trust which can only exist with some belief in Christianity (or other belief system).” There are highly secular populations that seem to rank rather well on the happiness and contentment scale. The bottom line is that the correlation you are trying to draw between religious belief systems and happiness (and/or trust) does not seem to exist except in your mind.

        • I agree, though I don’t find any other use of the term any less pathetic for a God that is supposed to be all powerful and perfect, but can’t allow himself to get over our imperfections without our recognition.

          Would it be something very different from pathetic if God were actually trying to help us get over our imperfections? Could we be like an addict, perhaps right now refusing to believe we even have a problem, such that only by a “higher power” (read: causal power outside of ourselves) can we escape our rut?

          I realize, by the way, that you may well think that humans have plenty of resources and smarts to escape current and future dilemmas. It’s my general understanding that this stance well-characterized intellectuals and scientists at the turn of the twentieth century. WWI and WWII punctured their pretty little ideas about themselves, but something similar seems to have re-emerged in places (example).

          1) There is no evidence that trusting the God of the bible is any more good for us than trusting other deities, or not trusting any gods at all. Human nature succeeds and fails at the same rate regardless.
          2) Trust is earned, not demanded.

          1) Do you actually know of a systematic study demonstrating your point, or are you really just saying that you’ve never seen such evidence and when you’ve challenged Christians (or religionists of any sort) to provide it, they’ve failed? Have you encountered stuff like [1]? By the way, it’s difficult to understand your “human nature succeeds”, when there is no objective standard other than the species continuing to exist.
          2) There is much in the Bible which fully agrees with this. The Decalogue is addressed to a group of people YHWH had rescued from slavery. Your decontextualizing of it (“now it applies to everyone (who has been exposed to Christianity)”) obscures this fact.

          Making a declaration that “A is better than B” may be more convincing to some, but it doesn’t make it true, nor does it make it objective in the sense that you are using that term.

          No disagreement, here. But now that you know that objective-sounding language can mistakenly be psychologically stronger (among up to 78% of the population) than less ambiguous language, will you continue to use the objective-sounding language? I’m trying to figure out how many people use plausibly objective language on purpose, because it’s more potent than the ethical injunctions they can honestly ground. Probably most people just do it unwittingly, but I’d be interested in raising awareness, so that it can no longer be done unwittingly.

          Funny how you claim that there is a kind of trust which can only exist with some belief in Christianity (or other belief system) and yet according to the same article you linked to, the area of the US that has the least trust is the area that is most religious, and specifically the most Christian.

          Correlation ⇏ causation. The poorer parts are also more religious; is that because religion causes poverty?! Anyhow, my point was merely that trust (not ‘belief’, nor ‘acknowledgement’) is key to Christianity and I think many other religions. It will be very interesting to see what happens as religiosity decreases. Surely you think that the world will become better as religiosity decreases? One of the things I like to do online is get atheists to commit to predictions about the future, predictions which really test their beliefs about religion and human nature. It’s much harder to construct just-so stories this way.

          [1] N.B. Atheist James Lindsay recommended this book to me. Here’s a summary statement of a great deal of evidence:

              Serious defects that often stemmed from antireligious perspectives exist in many early studies of relationships between religion and psychopathology. The more modern view is that religion functions largely as a means of countering rather than contributing to psychopathology, though severe forms of unhealthy religion will probably have serious psychological and perhaps even physical consequences. In most instances, faith buttresses people’s sense of control and self-esteem, offers meanings that oppose anxiety, provides hope, sanctions socially facilitating behavior, enhances personal well-being, and promotes social integration. Probably the most hopeful sign is the increasing recognition by both clinicians and religionists of the potential benefits each group has to contribute. Awareness of the need for a spiritual perspective has opened new and more constructive possibilities for working with mentally disturbed individuals and resolving adaptive issues.
              A central theme throughout this book is that religion “works” because it offers people meaning and control, and brings them together with like-thinking others who provide social support. This theme is probably nowhere better represented than in the section of this chapter on how people use religious and spiritual resources to cope. Religious beliefs, experiences, and practices appear to constitute a system of meanings that can be applied to virtually every situation a person may encounter. People are loath to rely on chance. Fate and luck are poor referents for understanding, but religion in all its possible manifestations can fill the void of meaninglessness admirably. There is always a place for one’s God—simply watching, guiding, supporting, or actively solving a problem. In other words, when people need to gain a greater measure of control over life events, the deity is there to provide the help they require. (The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach, 476)

        • adam

          “Would it be something very different from pathetic if God were actually trying to help us get over our imperfections? ”

          You mean the imperfections created by said “God”?

          How PATHETIC…

        • Otto

          “Would it be something very different from pathetic if God were actually trying to help us get over our imperfections”

          There is a huge difference between imperfections and addiction. There is no reason to believe that is what God is doing and there is no evidence that in order to overcome addictions that those that are addicted have to get help (or actually get help) outside of humanity.

          “I realize, by the way, that you may well think that humans have plenty of resources and smarts to escape current and future dilemmas.”

          It is not that I necessarily think humans have plenty of resources and smarts to overcome current and future problems, it is that I do not see us having anything else to rely on, whether they will be enough I don’t know, time will tell.

          “1) Do you actually know of a systematic study demonstrating your point”

          There may not be on meta study demonstrating my point, but there are plenty of studies and examples that show belief in god’s are not necessarily helpful. Many hugely religious areas have the same problems other areas have, whether the criteria is crime, happiness, well being, etc. religious belief has not been shown to have the positive effect you are claiming.

          “By the way, it’s difficult to understand your “human nature succeeds”, when there is no objective standard other than the species continuing to exist.”

          Really? There is no evidence that human’s are empathetic and care for each other? Isn’t that a type of success? Isn’t the fact that most humans live in relative peace with each other success? Isn’t the fact that we are healthier generally than previous generations success? No longer is slavery acceptable to most people, no longer is the subjugation of women acceptable. Despite the Christian theme that everything is getting worse there is plenty of evidence that that is not the case. And exactly what more would you want for success than our continued existence?

          “will you continue to use the objective-sounding language?

          There is more than one definition of ‘objective’ than the narrow one you are promoting. If certain goal(s) are agreed upon either consciously or unconsciously by a group, certain actions can objectively be said to be superior to others. I retain my right to use objective sounding language as long as i can reasonably argue certain behaviors are better than others for the attainment of those goals.

          Now let’s flip it to you. Are YOU going to stop using objective sounding language if all you can point to is your opinion about what God approves of and what God does not approve of, which is by all reasonable argument LESS objective than what I hold to?

          “Anyhow, my point was merely that trust (not ‘belief’, nor ‘acknowledgement’) is key to Christianity and I think many other religions.”

          So you are backing off your implication that the erosion of trust as cited in your link is somehow connected to religious belief? You should, there does not seem to be any connection despite your backhanded attempt at connecting them.

          “Surely you think that the world will become better as religiousity decreases?”

          My point isn’t that the world will be better, my point is that the claims of religions like Christianity that the world will be worse without their mythology is false. I do however think the more that human thinking comports to the reality we share and not to the magical thinking that promotes things like ‘salvation and morality lie outside of humanity’, the better off we will be in the long run. History supports that conclusion. The more we rejected the ideas that sickness (both mental and physical) were caused by demons and/or the wrath of God(s), the more we were able to ascertain the truth of the problems and deal with them in a functional way.

          As to your book quote:

          If I can convince myself that I have a million dollars buried in my backyard I will feel more secure and well off, that does not make it a good idea.

          If people want to find personal contentment and meaning in religion I have no problem with that, it is their life and they can spend it as they choose. When they claim however that their religious belief is part of our shared reality and I should take their religious belief seriously, I am gonna need more than their say so and I will push back when they attempt to do so, like when you claim that the source of morality exists outside of human (and specifically is your God).

          I spoke with a person I had never met the other day, he continually made comments that implied Christians were more trustworthy and moral. It is his right to believe that, it is my right to point out there is no reason to think his belief is correct.

        • There is a huge difference between imperfections and addiction.

          Sure. Addiction is simply a very helpful scenario because: (i) it undeniably exists; (ii) sometimes, the only way to escape it is via outside help.

          There is no reason to believe that is what God is doing and there is no evidence that in order to overcome addictions that those that are addicted have to get help (or actually get help) outside of humanity.

          What would constitute “reason to believe” and “evidence”? I’ve repeatedly talked about matters like this with a number of atheists online and I cannot recall ever getting a compelling answer to my question. At most I get suggestions for miracles which don’t seem to serve the goal of theosis in any way; indeed, they tend to be suggestions which would keep humans in an immature state.

          It is not that I necessarily think humans have plenty of resources and smarts to overcome current and future problems, it is that I do not see us having anything else to rely on, whether they will be enough I don’t know, time will tell.

          It’s definitely possible that we don’t have anything, or anyone, else to rely on. But how could we be wrong in that? After all, humans are known to shut out options, both through ignorance and through arrogance, stubbornness, and pride. The Confederates made their ‘cornerstone’ (language used of Jesus) “the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man”; could we have done something as bad, as self-blinding?

          Really? There is no evidence that human’s are empathetic and care for each other? Isn’t that a type of success? […] And exactly what more would you want for success than our continued existence?

          By some people’s measures it is a type of success; I’m not so sure that Nietzsche would call it ‘success’. He certainly wouldn’t call the increase in peace ‘success’. And yet, I’m pretty sure Nietzsche wanted the human race to continue existing. He was actually concerned about The Last Man, which the Wiki article interprets as “the goal that Western civilization has apparently set for itself”. In The Minimal Self (1984), Christopher Lasch talks about a survivalism gripping the US, which is aided by “emotional disengagement” (98). We have articles like Why (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs; how does ‘success’ get defined as corporations become more powerful in comparison to governments?

          Are YOU going to stop using objective sounding language if all you can point to is your opinion about what God approves of and what God does not approve of, which is by all reasonable argument LESS objective than what I hold to?

          I’m not sure I use objective-sounding language in the way I am characterizing as questionable. I’ve tried to become quite conscious of those who attempt to (intentionally or not:) subversively push their norms on others, and I try not to do that thing. You’re welcome to point out where I fall short of this standard.

          So you are backing off your implication that the erosion of trust as cited in your link is somehow connected to religious belief? You should, there does not seem to be any connection despite your backhanded attempt at connecting them.

          What you interpret as “backhanded attempt” was not intended as such. Maybe you’re right; maybe Christianity offers nothing particularly special in the trust-department. As I said, eviscerating Christianity from culture, and perhaps all other religion, will help us understand what it contributed, if anything.

          I do however think the more that human thinking comports to the reality we share and not to the magical thinking that promotes things like ‘salvation and morality lie outside of humanity’, the better off we will be in the long run. History supports that conclusion.

          A curious statement, given how close we came to nuclear self-annihilation and how close we may be coming to catastrophic climate change which could claim 10s, 100s, or even 1000s of millions of human lives. A great deal of that could be attributed to a focus on increasing our power over reality without paying nearly enough attention to human character. I do not think it is at all random that religion tends to put a lot of focus on developing good character. You know, the thing that neither Clinton nor Trump have.

          As to your book quote:

          If I can convince myself that I have a million dollars buried in my backyard I will feel more secure and well off, that does not make it a good idea.

          Sure, but you said the following:

          O: 1) There is no evidence that trusting the God of the bible is any more good for us than trusting other deities, or not trusting any gods at all. Human nature succeeds and fails at the same rate regardless.

          That statement doesn’t seem predicated upon reasonableness of belief (based, of course, on someone’s definition of ‘reasonableness’); it seems focused on results of belief. And the evidence I presented is that the results of religious belief are positive. Would you perhaps like to rephrase your 1) to be less ambiguous, such that it is clearly 100% consistent with the evidence I presented?

        • Otto

          “Sure. Addiction is simply a very helpful scenario because: (i) it
          undeniably exists; (ii) sometimes, the only way to escape it is via outside help.”

          But you are comparing the ‘addiction’ problems of some people to a whole group. You are asserting that humanity itself is needing help, not just certain individuals. And you are claiming humanity can only get that help from outside of itself.

          “What would constitute “reason to believe” and “evidence”? I’ve repeatedly talked about matters like this with a number of atheists online and I cannot recall ever getting a compelling answer to my question.”

          Yeah and I always find it interesting that the definitions of common terms and usages like “reason to believe” and “evidence” are never asked for or questioned in normal conversations, but when I engage with a theist they never seem to understand what they mean, then we spend an inordinate amount of time quibbling over them.

          The bottom line is that when someone claims knowledge about God’s motives I am not going to just accept their say so.

          “I said, eviscerating Christianity from culture, and perhaps all other religion, will help us understand what it contributed, if anything.”

          And as I said, we can look at societies that have little religion in them, like Noway, Sweden, Japan, and see if they are suffering with the issues you think could happen sans religious belief. From what little I have seen they seem to be getting along rather well.

          “I do not think it is at all random that religion tends to put a lot of focus on developing good character.”

          For as much focus as they put into it, the results are less than impressive.

          “And the evidence I presented is that the results of religious belief are positive.”

          And the result of my belief that I have a million dollars buried in my back yard would be positive as well, and would hold true as long as that belief could be sustained. That is also one of the benefits of having a belief that is un-falsifiable, those are much easier to sustain.

        • You are asserting that humanity itself is needing help, not just certain individuals. And you are claiming humanity can only get that help from outside of itself.

          I do think that is the case, but in this conversation, I’m more interested in understanding what it would take for someone like you to be rationally convinced of the above. Doesn’t it seem wise to develop a sensitivity to when the current methods of solving problems aren’t working? One can then survey alternatives and if no good alternatives can be found, then the conclusion would be that some option not currently being thought of by humans is required.

          Yeah and I always find it interesting that the definitions of common terms and usages like “reason to believe” and “evidence” are never asked for or questioned in normal conversations, but when I engage with a theist they never seem to understand what they mean, then we spend an inordinate amount of time quibbling over them.

          Apparently you don’t have a good answer yet, since you dropped this block of text in instead of an answer.

          The bottom line is that when someone claims knowledge about God’s motives I am not going to just accept their say so.

          I’m pleased to hear this.

          And as I said, we can look at societies that have little religion in them, like Noway, Sweden, Japan, and see if they are suffering with the issues you think could happen sans religious belief. From what little I have seen they seem to be getting along rather well.

          Japan is on the brink of demographic collapse, so I’m not sure you want to include it. Norway and Sweden are better examples of thriving, largely secular countries. But I’m not aware of any demonstrations of any causal claims about religion when it comes to those two countries. I just hear about correlations. There are a great number of factors which determine how much a country thrives.

          For as much focus as they put into it, the results are less than impressive.

          Upon what evidence do you make this judgment?

          And the result of my belief that I have a million dollars buried in my back yard would be positive as well, and would hold true as long as that belief could be sustained. That is also one of the benefits of having a belief that is un-falsifiable, those are much easier to sustain.

          Ok, so “it works” isn’t sufficient. We also need it to be true? But what is the difference between “it works” and “it’s true”? Does science just work—as those pushing Constructive Empiricism claim—or is it also true, or headed toward what is true?

        • Otto

          “Doesn’t it seem wise to develop a sensitivity to when the current methods of solving problems aren’t working?”

          Yes, it absolutely does, and that is why I personally stopped seeking ‘answers’ through religion. That is why humanity has moved on from blaming disease and sickness on demons and God being angry. What you are doing is no different than monks scourging themselves in the middle ages to appease God. Magical thinking isn’t going to solve our problems even if you think there is no other answer.

          “Apparently you don’t have a good answer yet, since you dropped this block of text in instead of an answer.”

          Apparently you need hand holding to understand terms like ‘evidence’ and ‘reasonableness’.

          The level of evidence and reasonableness to accept a claim is proportional to how extraordinary the claim being made is. In this case you are claiming (or are asking me to accept the proposition) of what the motivation of God is. Since that is a pretty extraordinary claim (I am not sure there could be any other claim more extraordinary) the level of evidence and reasonableness is extremely high. In a court of law ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ in order to secure a conviction is said to be 90% and above. Because of the nature of your claim I would put the level at 99.9%.

          “Japan is on the brink of demographic collapse, so I’m not sure you want to include it. Norway and Sweden are better examples of thriving, largely secular countries.But I’m not aware of any demonstrations of any causal claims about religion when it comes to those two countries. I just hear about correlations.”

          First, my point was that we don’t have to wait (as you said) to examine societies whose populations are secular. Second I have no problem using Japan because there is nothing to indicate that the problems they are having is connected to a lack of religion. You are the one making the assertion that belief on a higher power equates to higher levels of trust in a society and is therefore more stable. In Norway and Sweden we have societies that are secular and yet have high levels of trust, they are valid data points against your assertions.

          “Upon what evidence do you make this judgment?

          My claim is that people behave on par regardless of religious belief or non-belief. Are you saying religion succeeds better at developing character than other non-religious methods? If so where is your evidence? For as much focus as you claim that they put on it, the difference should be night and day. In fact it should be plainly obvious.

          “Ok, so “it works” isn’t sufficient. We also need it to be true?”

          Yeah some people actually care about what is true to the extent that any truth can be known. You slip back and forth between what you claim is true and what you claim ‘works’ almost imperceptibly. You start by claiming the source of morality is outside of humanity and then you attempt to ‘prove’ it by claiming that believing it works. I am pointing out that believing something and getting results from that belief does not point to the belief being necessarily true. Then you turn around and ask “we also need it to be true?” Yeah, if you are making the claim that something is true it is important whether it is actually true or not… not just whether believing it has positive mental effects on the person holding the belief.

        • What you are doing is no different than monks scourging themselves in the middle ages to appease God. Magical thinking isn’t going to solve our problems even if you think there is no other answer.

          What, precisely, am I doing which you would characterize as “magical thinking”?

          Apparently you need hand holding to understand terms like ‘evidence’ and ‘reasonableness’.

          Nope. What I understand is that people can have understandings of those terms which work well in some domains and terribly in others.

          The level of evidence and reasonableness to accept a claim is proportional to how extraordinary the claim being made is.

          Ok, so let’s back up to the time before a single observation about reality has been made. What is extraordinary and what is ordinary, at that time point? If you want a voice other than mine (which you might think is religiously deranged), you could check out the Psychology Today article Do Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence?. His subtitle is fun: “Politically incorrect claims require impossible evidence”.

          In this case you are claiming (or are asking me to accept the proposition) of what the motivation of God is.

          Ahh, I took you to be talking about “evidence that God causes anything”. As regards God’s motivation, I’m not really asking you to believe that is his motivation, so much as to consider what would happen and how things would seem if that were his motivation.

          First, my point was that we don’t have to wait (as you said) to examine societies whose populations are secular.

          There are multiple problems with this. First, I am interested in causation, not just correlation. Second, I’m also relatively unimpressed that two small countries with severe winters, well-isolated from poor immigrants, with very homogeneous populations, do well as secular nations. Third, there’s still a lot of religious belief in Norway and Sweden. I think it would be enlightening to know what happens when religion is thoroughly eviscerated from a nation, not just removed from governance according to some definition. And it would be especially interesting when enough military and political power exists in such a situation—where neither the elite nor the populace (if it’s a democracy) are religious, even in private.

          You are the one making the assertion that belief on a higher power equates to higher levels of trust in a society and is therefore more stable.

          This is a pretty bad characterization of what I actually said.

          Yeah some people actually care about what is true to the extent that any truth can be known.

          I do as well. It just wasn’t clear whether you cared about truth and “it works” or just “it works” when you said:

          O: 1) There is no evidence that trusting the God of the bible is any more good for us than trusting other deities, or not trusting any gods at all. Human nature succeeds and fails at the same rate regardless.

          Can you step back from meaning which was originally private to you and observe any possible ambiguity in what you said? I’d also like an answer to my next question:

          LB: But what is the difference between “it works” and “it’s true”?

          I have some thoughts on this, but since you’re making such a big deal about this, surely you have some of your own as well.

        • Otto

          “What, precisely, am I doing which you would characterize as “magical thinking”?”

          Suggesting that the answers to our problems are in a God, if only we would trust first.

          “”Politically incorrect claims require impossible evidence”.”

          With many religious claims (like your claim that the source of morality comes from outside humanity, from god), the evidence is impossible because the claim is non-falsifiable. If I claim I have a dragon in my garage but you are not allowed to look, should you just believe me? How much evidence would you require to reasonably believe my claim that invisible pixies live in my garden and help my flowers grow? Would it be enough to show that my flowers are beautiful but both my neighbors can’t grow theirs?

          The article seems to be addressing problems in the scientific community where there are differing standards for the doing of science. Extrapolating that to include religious claims that can’t even come close to presenting basic evidence for the claims is more than a bit of a stretch.

          “I’m not really asking you to believe that is his motivation, so much as to consider what would happen and how things would seem if that were his motivation.”

          Well if I accept the premise then yes, that conclusion could be reasonable. The point is why should I accept the premise? The conclusion then becomes moot.

          “First, I am interested in causation, not just correlation.”

          I have a hard time believing that when you make a claim that the country is losing trust, you infer that the reason is tied to the country losing religious belief (trust), and the citation you provide not only does not make that connection, the evidence it presents contradicts your claim.

          “Second, I’m also relatively unimpressed that two small countries with severe winters, well-isolated from poor immigrants, with very homogeneous populations, do well as secular nations.”

          So you are saying it doesn’t have that much to do with whether God actually exists, or whether what a belief is true, it is more about bringing cohesion to desperate groups within a population.

          “I think it would be enlightening to know what happens when religion is thoroughly eviscerated from a nation”

          It would be interesting but I do not see that happening. We still have people that believe the earth is flat and a huge amount that think the earth is less than 10,000 years old. Humans have too much propensity to accept answers through faulty reasoning to get rid of religion and other nonsense. Higher intelligence can be easily used to to fool ourselves into rationalizing our fallacious conclusions.

          (watch from the 30 min mark)

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MFAvH8m8aI

          “This is a pretty bad characterization of what I actually said.”

          Yes I have noticed you work hard to carefully imply possible connections without actually making a concrete claim so you can then plausibly deny you made a claim, like you did with the premise of God’s motivation above. You attempt to get others to accept a conclusion as being reasonable from a faulty premise. I experienced that quite often in the religious culture I was raised in.

          “Can you step back from meaning which was originally private to you and observe any possible ambiguity in what you said?”

          I am not sure I understand the question but my point was trusting God and trusting secular forms of morality have not been shown to be significantly different in their effectiveness. I saw a documentary that touched on some of the things we have talked about here the other night you might be interested in called “(Dis)Honesty – The Truth About Lies” on Netflix. In it they present a number of studies they did to test honesty. In one they found that people tend to be more honest if right before the experiment they read the 10 Commandments, BUT they also found that worked equally well if they read an honor code that was secular in nature, which goes to my point that taking the religious aspect out did not change things (though that was not what they were specifically testing).

          “But what is the difference between “it works” and “it’s true”?”

          Showing something works speaks to its effectiveness, showing it is true speaks to why it is effective.

          As an example people have known for centuries that putting maggots in an open wound helps the wound to heal (it is effective). We did not know until much more recently that the reason it is effective is that maggots feed on dead flesh and leave healthy flesh alone. The dead flesh is what bacteria thrive on that causes infections like gangrene, when the effectiveness was discovered no one had any idea what bacteria was (the truth of the effectiveness).

        • Greg G.

          If I claim I have a dragon in my garage but you are not allowed to look, should you just believe me?

          If you show your dragon to someone, it might startle him and nobody wants to live with a startled dragon.

          http://members.ziggo.nl/emiel.kaper/FarSide/farside%20'Don't%20be%20alarmed%20folks.%20He's%20completely%20harmless%20unless%20something%20startless%20him.’.jpg
          Don’t be alarmed folks. He’s completely harmless unless something startles him.

        • Reminds me of the dance number in Young Frankenstein.

          https://i.ytimg.com/vi/w1FLZPFI3jc/hqdefault.jpg

        • Suggesting that the answers to our problems are in a God, if only we would trust first.

          As opposed to what happening “first“? Getting evidence where fact is 100% sundered from value? Is the idea that we could sort of check God out, like you’d check out a potential romantic partner? If you like what you see you might start trusting him, otherwise you’d just walk away? While you might accuse me of creating a straw man/​caricature, I’m just not sure of a more realistic scenario. We can chalk that up to my broken-by-religion mind, and someone with a less broken mind can suggest a better scenario, one that is concrete, not abstract (abstract = not clearly possible).

          With many religious claims (like your claim that the source of morality comes from outside humanity, from god), the evidence is impossible because the claim is non-falsifiable.

          If God actually designed us and reality, surely he could communicate claims about the designing which can be found by us to match reality, whether actual or potential. This situation is in no way analogous to your dragon or invisible pixies.

          The article seems to be addressing problems in the scientific community where there are differing standards for the doing of science.

          That’s only a decent construal if you equate “differing standards for the doing of science” and “what counts as extraordinary depends entirely on what you know and believe”. However, I doubt many people would immediately consider those two things to be equatable.

          O: A Perfect god would not need our acknowledgement.

          LB: The connotation of ‘pathetic’ is one plausible reading of your original, terse statement.

          O: I agree, though I don’t find any other use of the term any less pathetic for a God that is supposed to be all powerful and perfect, but can’t allow himself to get over our imperfections without our recognition.

          LB: Would it be something very different from pathetic if God were actually trying to help us get over our imperfections? Could we be like an addict, perhaps right now refusing to believe we even have a problem, such that only by a “higher power” (read: causal power outside of ourselves) can we escape our rut?

          O: There is no reason to believe that is what God is doing and there is no evidence that in order to overcome addictions that those that are addicted have to get help (or actually get help) outside of humanity.

          […]

          LB: As regards God’s motivation, I’m not really asking you to believe that is his motivation, so much as to consider what would happen and how things would seem if that were his motivation.

          O: Well if I accept the premise then yes, that conclusion could be reasonable. The point is why should I accept the premise? The conclusion then becomes moot.

          I’m not sure what conclusion you’re talking about. (I’ve provided some context to help with that.) Why should you accept the premise? First, I think history provides us with copious evidence of people not wanting to do what it takes to get out of their rut until significant misery arrives. Second, the Bible also testifies to this pattern, and indicates that God hides his face from the people until they’re truly ready to repent. The scenario seems reasonable to me; does it not seem reasonable to you?

          I have a hard time believing that when you make a claim that the country is losing trust, you infer that the reason is tied to the country losing religious belief (trust), and the citation you provide not only does not make that connection, the evidence it presents contradicts your claim.

          You don’t know how to evaluate evidence if you think these data contradict what I said. Religion isn’t the only causal factor to whether Americans believe they can trust each other.

          So you are saying it doesn’t have that much to do with whether God actually exists, or whether what a belief is true, it is more about bringing cohesion to desperate groups within a population.

          Nope, I’m saying there are multiple causal factors which need to be analyzed carefully before causal claims are made.

          We still have people that believe the earth is flat […]

          I’m pretty sure they’re irrelevant in just about every way that matters. If you have to add the relevant qualification to my thoroughly eviscerated, go for it.

          Yes I have noticed you work hard to carefully imply possible connections without actually making a concrete claim so you can then plausibly deny you made a claim, like you did with the premise of God’s motivation above. You attempt to get others to accept a conclusion as being reasonable from a faulty premise. I experienced that quite often in the religious culture I was raised in.

          And you think this kind of lay-psychoanalyzing advances… what, exactly?

          I am not sure I understand the question but my point was trusting God and trusting secular forms of morality have not been shown to be significantly different in their effectiveness.

          Effectiveness is a truth-agnostic measure, and yet when I produce evidence of effectiveness (not truth), you wave it aside because you don’t think it’s true.

          I saw a documentary that touched on some of the things we have talked about here the other night you might be interested in called “(Dis)Honesty – The Truth About Lies” on Netflix. In it they present a number of studies they did to test honesty. In one they found that people tend to be more honest if right before the experiment they read the 10 Commandments, BUT they also found that worked equally well if they read an honor code that was secular in nature, which goes to my point that taking the religious aspect out did not change things (though that was not what they were specifically testing).

          That’s fine (it also explains the insistence on repetition in Deut 6:7–9), but the evidence I produced was not ethical behavior but psychological health.

          Showing something works speaks to its effectiveness, showing how it is true speaks to why it is effective.

          But just-so stories can be psychologically satisfying examples of “how”. It would seem that one needs something in addition, such as “further fruitfulness”. You see this requirement at Demarcation problem § Thagard. One could say that “truth leads to further truth”.

        • Otto

          “If God actually designed us and reality, surely he could communicate claims about the designing which can be found by us to match reality, whether actual or potential.”

          Surely he could…funny how that doesn’t happen.

          “This situation is in no way analogous to
          your dragon or invisible pixies.”

          The situation is completely analogous because in both cases there is no way to differentiate between the supernatural cause and a non-supernatural cause. Both are baseless conclusions.

          “I’m not sure what conclusion you’re talking about.”

          I was referring to your claim about God’s possible motivation given your premise. Accept the premise and the motivation is plausible, however there is no reason to accept the premise or to give that premise anymore weight than another premise that is not as generous.

          “Religion isn’t the only causal factor to whether Americans believe they can trust each other.”

          Religion doesn’t seem to help at all given that study.

          “Nope, I’m saying there are multiple causal factors which need to be analyzed carefully before causal claims are made.”

          The first step would be to determine what are, and are not, actual causal factors. For instance we would need to determine whether belief alone can account for the causes and not just assume that a cause comes from outside humanity because of the effect.

          “And you think this kind of lay-psychoanalyzing advances… what, exactly?”

          Deconstructing that flaw in your style of argumentation is not ‘lay-psychoanalizing’, it is merely pointing the problem I have with that kind of rhetoric.

          “Effectiveness is a truth-agnostic measure, and yet when I produce evidence of effectiveness (not truth), you wave it aside because you don’t think it’s true.”

          That is because in the evidence that I have seen you produce i do not agree points in the direction you claim it does. It reminds me of Craig’s use of Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin’s theorem about the beginning of the universe and when those scientists are asked about Craig’s conclusions regarding their work they say he gets it wrong.

          “One could say that “truth leads to further truth”.”

          Except when it doesn’t like in the case of religious claims of objective morality or the claim that God exists. In those cases a ‘truth’ is asserted and no further truth ever comes from them.

        • O: With many religious claims (like your claim that the source of morality comes from outside humanity, from god), the evidence is impossible because the claim is non-falsifiable.

          LB: If God actually designed us and reality, surely he could communicate claims about the designing which can be found by us to match reality, whether actual or potential. This situation is in no way analogous to your dragon or invisible pixies.

          O: Surely he could…funny how that doesn’t happen.

          You’ve moved the goalposts, from “non-falsifiable”“doesn’t happen”. I would be interested in what would constitute evidence of “does happen”. What I’m suspicious of is that nothing could possibly qualify. For example, suppose that there is a reading of the Bible which offers a massive correction to psychology or sociology, the result of which produces a significant increase in human thriving. My guess is that you wouldn’t actually consider this corroboration of any notion that God exists and has been in causal contact with humans. But perhaps I’m wrong. One of my purposes here is to know if there are any reasonable standards of success, or whether you would actually be able to explain away any conceivable situation as naturalistic.

          The situation is completely analogous because in both cases there is no way to differentiate between the supernatural cause and a non-supernatural cause.

          If this is true, then “the cause is non-supernatural” becomes unfalsifiable. That would move the conversation to a metaphysical plane, which I’m not sure you actually want to do.

          Accept the premise and the motivation is plausible, however there is no reason to accept the premise or to give that premise anymore weight than another premise that is not as generous.

          What is “generous” about the premise I have advanced? Again, are you not aware of humans entering modes where they don’t want to admit they’re wrong and in need of help, until it hurts badly enough?

          Religion doesn’t seem to help at all given that study.

          The study does not give us data to know either way. A simple state-by-state comparison doesn’t tell you anything about causation; one must undertake the appropriate scientific steps to identify causation. If you still aren’t convinced, feel free to make a rigorous, deductive argument, from what is explicitly stated in the study to some causal conclusion about what religion does. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to punch holes in any such argument you attempt, but I could be wrong.

          For instance we would need to determine whether belief alone can account for the causes and not just assume that a cause comes from outside humanity because of the effect.

          I’m not “just assum[ing]”. I’m trying to discover what would possibly qualify as a “cause [that] comes from outside humanity”. What I’m suspicious of is that the very way of evaluation you and many other atheists employ actually prohibits such a cause from possibly being the most plausible explanation.

          Deconstructing that flaw in your style of argumentation is not ‘lay-psychoanalizing’, it is merely pointing the problem I have with that kind of rhetoric.

          You might have a point in what I allegedly leave as a plausible but not necessary interpretation if we were arguing in an environment dominated by Christians. But we aren’t. The environment is dominated by atheists, and for the most part, hostile atheists. (You are a pleasant exception.) Tactics such as the one you presented would be beyond stupid for me to employ, here. As it stands, I don’t think it’s worth the effort for me to carefully guard my words to you from any possible bad interpretation—it would result in more words than I already use. We could just refuse to interpret each others words according to such devious motives.

          That is because in the evidence that I have seen you produce i do not agree points in the direction you claim it does.

          Do you see me as making claims about truth or [mere] effectiveness, on this particular issue? Feel free to revisit My excerpt from The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach. I would be quite happy to talk about how one would account for various different accountings for the effectiveness which seems empirically indisputable.

          LB: One could say that “truth leads to further truth”.

          O: Except when it doesn’t like in the case of religious claims of objective morality or the claim that God exists. In those cases a ‘truth’ is asserted and no further truth ever comes from them.

          I’m skeptical of religious claims where “no further truth ever comes from them”.

        • Otto

          You’ve moved the goalposts, from “non-falsifiable” → “doesn’t happen”.

          No I haven’t. Those are 2 different claims. Claim 1) God created the universe. Claim 2) God communicates with us. Claim 1 is non-falsifiable. Claim 2 is not non-falsifiable but to this point there is no indication it has actually happened. Sure, there are plenty of people that claim they have communicated with god(s), yet there is no verifiable information that has ever been claimed to have come from a god that we did not already have. You ever notice that every piece of God communication has to go through a human being as a middle man?

          One of my purposes here is to know if there are any reasonable standards
          of success, or whether you would actually be able to explain away any
          conceivable situation as naturalistic.

          It could at least start with communication that did not require man as the mouthpiece. Then it could include information that human’s are not capable of having at the time, but are able to get later. That would be a start. Like how about if Jesus explained the issue of germs and what could be done to mitigate the spread of disease? An all powerful god could communicate with us in such a way that the message was crystal clear and the source was beyond argument.

          What is “generous” about the premise I have advanced?

          Making the assumption that the only motivations possible are benevolent and spinning everything to fit that conclusion.

          The study does not give us data to know either way.

          Then why did you cite it as if it supported your position that religion promotes trust in a nation? You are the one that held this study up as if it had relevance to your point, not me.

          What I’m suspicious of is that the very way of evaluation you and many
          other atheists employ actually prohibits such a cause from possibly
          being the most plausible explanation.

          What we are suspicious of is you and other theists start with the conclusion you want to be true and work to fit any piece of evidence to fit that conclusion, much like a young earth creationist does.

          I’m skeptical of religious claims where “no further truth ever comes from them”.

          Science is far from perfect but one thing has been demonstrated, over time a consensus is formed, science knowledge converges because the evidence overwhelmingly points in one direction, as an example Evolution is confirmed from a wide variety of science disciplines, Geology, biology, genetics, ect.

          We see nothing like that with religious claims, in fact we see the opposite. What passes for religious ‘knowledge’ diverges because the ‘evidence’ that such knowledge rests on is vacant.

        • Claim 1) God created the universe. Claim 2) God communicates with us. Claim 1 is non-falsifiable. Claim 2 is not non-falsifiable but to this point there is no indication it has actually happened.

          How is it falsifiable that I wrote some given piece of software, but not that God created reality? Now, I take your Claim 1) to be analogous to “the source of morality comes from outside humanity, from god”. The idea would be that “[God] could communicate claims about the designing which can be found by us to match reality, whether actual or potential”, without actually having designed us. Right? This entity ‘God’ could just be a super-intelligent alien who has understood us much better than we do, even though he had nothing to do with our creation. The important difference, of course, is that we can rationalize ways to doubt such an alien-God, while there are fewer ways to doubt a creator-God. That seems to be the difference at play, but correct me if I’m wrong.

          Sure, there are plenty of people that claim they have communicated with god(s), yet there is no verifiable information that has ever been claimed to have come from a god that we did not already have. You ever notice that every piece of God communication has to go through a human being as a middle man?

          First, I suggest you carefully distinguish between “unfalsifiable” and “unfalsified”. Second, the Bible specifically has plenty of instances where there is no human being as middle man, both in the OT and NT. What we should probably talk about is how one would know someone is getting communication from God, vs. some other source. We might start by keying of of telepathy as portrayed in Star Trek, which seems like a distinctly weaker form of communication than what one would ostensibly get from God. But perhaps the very way you understand reality precludes God from ever being the most likely source of any given communication?

          It could at least start with communication that did not require man as the mouthpiece.

          That’s an abstract description which could be unsatisfiable, except in a degenerate form: the communication came from an alien more powerful than humans.

          Like how about if Jesus explained the issue of germs and what could be done to mitigate the spread of disease?

          He could have done that. Would there then have been no Holocaust? The premise you are working on via this question is that more power over reality will lead to more goodness for humanity. But that is not at all necessarily true; the powerful have a habit of oppressing the less powerful. Merely increasing the power differential could easily make the situation for humanity worse.

          An all powerful god could communicate with us in such a way that the message was crystal clear and the source was beyond argument.

          I’ve run across this claim before. How can I properly test whether it is coherent, especially when we take into account things we value about life, such as personal autonomy? You also must be able to defend propositions such as “What I want could have zero effect on how I perceive”, which is quite opposed to what we know about humans. It’s not clear that it is even possible for the perception and comprehension aspect of the mind to be sufficiently divorced from the willing aspect of the mind, for your claim to be realizable without turning humans into robots. As to certainty about the source, would this be something rationally understandable or just an inviolable ‘feeling’ that all have? If the former, how exactly would that rationally work?

          Making the assumption that the only motivations possible are benevolent and spinning everything to fit that conclusion.

          I’m quite happy to explore alternative assumptions. There is a reason I not infrequently mention the Star Trek TNG episode Devil’s Due and V (2009 TV series) in discussions like this. Perhaps the uncomfortable thing about my “generous [premise]” is that when I see something wrong “out there”, I have to figure out whether perhaps the wrong is actually “in here”. In my experience, people much prefer understanding the wrong as being “out there”. In order to excuse yourself from taking the requisite action to actually rectify a situation, you can either blame other people, or you can blame the design (or lack thereof) of the universe. My understanding precludes such possibilities, making a greater demand on me. If God as I understand him does not exist, I’m an irrational masochist and should probably be pitied. If he does, and has provided the resources for fixing what is broke, then there is a standard of which I can culpably fall short.

          Then why did you cite it as if it supported your position that religion promotes trust in a nation?

          The study demonstrates that trust in the US drastically eroding. The idea that religion could foster unity, which I think is related to ‘trust’, can be found here:

              Well into the twentieth century, when the term religion appeared in U.S. jurisprudence, it was considered a unitive, not a divisive force. What legal scholar Frederick Gedicks calls “religious communitarianism” held sway. Religion was considered to be one of the principal binding forces that held a civilized society together.
              By the 1940s, however, U.S. jurisprudence regarding religion had begun to shift to what Gedicks calls a “secular individualist” discourse, in which the inherent divisiveness of religion is highlighted. (The Myth of Religious Violence, 183–184)

          We can also consult the various explanations for the rise of religion as fostering unity among people-groups larger than tribes. The idea that religion can foster trust is not a very strange idea. Just look at how few people would elect an atheist president in the US—surely this is because of how many use religious belief as a factor in determining whether to trust another person.

          I really don’t know why you’re making a big deal out of all of this. Are you deeply opposed to the very possibility that religion could foster trust that is quite good for a nation?

          You are the one that held this study up as if it had relevance to your point, not me.

          Yes, because the difference between ‘belief’ and ‘trust’ is huge. Your original, one-sentence comment seemed to presume no important difference, and I think that is a major mistake. It radically distorts Christianity, and probably many other religions, as well. If you are more interested in what is true than what you want, you will be saddened when you distort things, and you will attempt to rectify those distortions.

          What we are suspicious of is you and other theists start with the conclusion you want to be true and work to fit any piece of evidence to fit that conclusion, much like a young earth creationist does.

          Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha, you think I want Christianity to be true. More lay-psychoanalyzing. I could retort that you want atheism to be true so you can have all sorts of immoral sex and stuff, but that’d be as stupid. Christianity makes my life harder, not easier. Here’s an example. Many atheists I’ve encountered don’t seem particularly interested in modeling my thinking well, to my satisfaction. In contrast, I think it is a sin for me to fail to model their thinking as well as I can. (I could explain why.) I am obligated to try harder, and this includes all the consequent risks that come from exposing my understanding in ways that allow the atheist to portray me as stupid and thus socially marginalize me. I am sure you know all about presenting only a carefully selected aspect of yourself or your thinking, a selection which is maximally immune to penetrating criticism.

          Science is far from perfect but one thing has been demonstrated, over time a consensus is formed, science knowledge converges because the evidence overwhelmingly points in one direction, as an example Evolution is confirmed from a wide variety of science disciplines, Geology, biology, genetics, etc.

          We see nothing like that with religious claims, in fact we see the opposite. What passes for religious ‘knowledge’ diverges because the ‘evidence’ that such knowledge rests on is vacant.

          Can you show me any such convergence in sociology, psychology, political science, economics, etc.? Here’s a claim from 1998 which points toward “no”:

              There are several reasons why the contemporary social sciences make the idea of the person stand on its own, without social attributes or moral principles. Emptying the theoretical person of values and emotions is an atheoretical move. We shall see how it is a strategy to avoid threats to objectivity. But in effect it creates an unarticulated space whence theorizing is expelled and there are no words for saying what is going on. No wonder it is difficult for anthropologists to say what they know about other ideas on the nature of persons and other definitions of well-being and poverty. The path of their argument is closed. No one wants to hear about alternative theories of the person, because a theory of persons tends to be heavily prejudiced. It is insulting to be told that your idea about persons is flawed. It is like being told you have misunderstood human beings and morality, too. The context of this argument is always adversarial. (Missing Persons: A Critique of the Personhood in the Social Sciences, 10)

          Not only is this a “no”, but it’s a “We’re not even trying.” The lack of convergence you cite is in no way unique to religion, although it is greater in religion because it must deal with more than the entire set of matters addressed by the human sciences. The difference is that one’s understanding of the ontology of human being transgresses the sacred fact–value dichotomy, while discoveries in the hard sciences don’t at all, and discoveries in the biological sciences allow a great deal of wiggle-room.

          You can argue from the above some sort of postmodern thesis that so much to do with humans is purely socially constructed, that there simply isn’t a whole lot to actually discover. You could argue that we shouldn’t expect to find anything remotely as elaborate as Christianity (or many other well-developed religions) to be true. We find something like this in psychologist Kenneth Gergen’s Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge. But there’s an alternative: that there is a preferred-by-the-design-of-nature way for humans and society to develop, which has been revealed to us and which will show itself to be ‘better’, if we’re willing to try it. We could discuss whether it is reasonable for 2000 years to not be enough time to find and settle on this way.

        • MNb

          “How is it falsifiable that I wrote some given piece of software,”
          You can’t think of a test that refutes the claim that LB wrote some given piece of software?

          “but not that God created reality?”
          but you can think of a test that refutes the claim that your god created reality?

          “Can you show me any such convergence in sociology, psychology, political science, economics, etc.?”
          Excellent combination of a strawman and cherry picking. Otto didn’t claim that all branches of science display such convergence; nor is that required for his argument. Plus psychology indeed demonstrates such convergence. Many old schools since long have been dismissed; nobody disputes anymore that emotions play an important role in decision making. I am not familiar with developments in politicology lately, but sociology and economics have been heavily criticized for not being capable of settling disputes. The core of that criticism is exactly the same: lack of methodological rigor.
          So understood properly this question of yours actually reinforces what Otto writes.

        • adam

          “while there are fewer ways to doubt a creator-God.”

          Nope, actually more….

        • adam

          “We could discuss whether it is reasonable for 2000 years to not be enough time to find and settle on this way.”

          Well lets see some 40 BILLION people have lived and died, a testament to Jesus’s FAILURE

        • adam

          “The lack of convergence you cite is in no way unique to religion, although it is greater in religion because it must deal with more than the entire set of matters addressed by the human sciences. ”

          Not even close, it ONLY has to deal with the Bible.

        • adam

          ” I think it is a sin for me to fail to model their thinking as well as I can.”

          Hell you cant even model your own thinking based on truth, you have to use links that dont claim what you claim and you have to be deceptive.

          But look at the bright side, YOUR Jesus didnt die for nothing.

          He died for you inability to be honest and forthright.

        • Otto

          How is it falsifiable that I wrote some given piece of software, but not that God created reality?

          We can start from the basic point of demonstrating whether or not you actually exist, now do that with God.

          Regarding the rest of that paragraph: I do not follow your line of thinking, and I do not agree we would have less of a reason to doubt a creator god.

          Second, the Bible specifically has plenty of instances where there is no human being as middle man, both in the OT and NT.

          Really!!!??? Can you point to the parts where God himself put pen to paper and cut out the middle man…? Because I am not aware that any such thing ever happened. Do tell.

          What we should probably talk about is how one would know someone is getting communication from God, vs. some other source.

          Ahh…back to a middle man now.

          He could have done that. Would there then have been no Holocaust? The premise you are working on via this question is that more power over reality will lead to more goodness for humanity.

          Holocaust? What does the Holocaust have to do with germ theory?

          What it may have done is helped mitigate plagues due to disease. But really my point is that Jesus could have told us something about our shared reality that we did not already know that could have been confirmed, information that at the time we in no way could have known (but that we would later discover is correct). In other words, objective information that was yet to be discovered about the universe.

          Merely increasing the power differential could easily make the situation for humanity worse.

          That is a really nice rationalization there…lol.

          It’s not clear that it is even possible for the perception and
          comprehension aspect of the mind to be sufficiently divorced from the
          willing aspect of the mind, for your claim to be realizable without
          turning humans into robots.

          So basically you are using the ‘free will’ argument. That argument is terrible. It is nothing more than a weak rationalization like the one I referred to above. Name another situation where having concrete knowledge of something violates our free will.

          I’m quite happy to explore alternative assumptions…

          That whole paragraph tells me nothing about how you made such a determination about the benevolence of your God other than you tend to look at any problem in such issues as being potentially your fault. Since you know humans are flawed and in your mind God is perfect, God always comes out on top. That appears to me as being nothing more than circular.

          The study demonstrates that trust in the US drastically eroding. The idea that religion could foster unity, which I think is related to ‘trust’, can be found here:

          Yes religion can foster unity within a religion. And water is wet. None of that shows that the lack of trust in the report you cited is tied to a lack of religion as you implied it does.

          Just look at how few people would elect an atheist president in the US—surely this is because of how many use religious belief as a factor in determining whether to trust another person.

          Yeah I am sure it has nothing to do with how the religious (and their religions) have systematically vilified non-believers and have fallaciously painted such people as lacking morals, despite the many studies that show the contrary.

          I really don’t know why you’re making a big deal out of all of this. Are you deeply opposed to the very possibility that religion could foster trust that is quite good for a nation?

          I am making a big deal out of it because you made a connection between religion and trust in this country that I have yet to see is valid. In other words I think you are full of shit with regards to this claim.

          Additionally trust in a country is not always a positive thing whether it is fostered by religion or something else. The people of Japan and Germany had a lot of trust in 1939.

          Yes, because the difference between ‘belief’ and ‘trust’ is huge. Your original, one-sentence comment seemed to presume no important difference, and I think that is a major mistake.

          My original one sentence comment did not address this one way or another. YOU submitted that God was talking about ‘trust’ and not ‘belief’. To me that sounds like another rationalization to help you with your conclusion.

          It radically distorts Christianity, and probably many other religions, as well.

          Hmmm….where would I get such a notion having been educated and and raised in a heavily Christian culture and schools? Your issue is with Christian culture and teaching itself. Your time would be better spent educating the leaders of your own tribe. I am not the one who has distorted this issue, and even though you disagree ultimately this is just your opinion regarding Christian theology among Christians, one of many.

          Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha, you think I want Christianity to be true.

          The use of confirmation bias is not typically a conscious choice.

        • We can start from the basic point of demonstrating whether or not you actually exist, now do that with God.

          That doesn’t work, because to establish the existence of X is to establish causal powers associated with X. And yet you’ve seemingly undermined any way to assign causal powers to God, such that this assignment would be better than any alternative. It just seems patently absurd that it’s falsifiable that I wrote some piece of software, yet unfalsifiable that God created the universe.

          Regarding the rest of that paragraph: I do not follow your line of thinking […]

          Both the designer of a machine and someone who has fully grokked the machine will be able to tell you verifiable facts about the machine. Likewise, even if God has communicated all sorts of facts about human nature—e.g. what you find at Milgram experiment § Results—it would not guarantee that he created us.

          O: Sure, there are plenty of people that claim they have communicated with god(s), yet there is no verifiable information that has ever been claimed to have come from a god that we did not already have. You ever notice that every piece of God communication has to go through a human being as a middle man?

          LB: First, I suggest you carefully distinguish between “unfalsifiable” and “unfalsified”. Second, the Bible specifically has plenty of instances where there is no human being as middle man, both in the OT and NT. What we should probably talk about is how one would know someone is getting communication from God, vs. some other source. We might start by keying of of telepathy as portrayed in Star Trek, which seems like a distinctly weaker form of communication than what one would ostensibly get from God. But perhaps the very way you understand reality precludes God from ever being the most likely source of any given communication?

          O: Really!!!??? Can you point to the parts where God himself put pen to paper and cut out the middle man…? Because I am not aware that any such thing ever happened. Do tell.

          I will note that you ignored my “First”. As to the “Second”, you are welcome to set forth reasonable standards for your “verifiable”. I didn’t mean to talk about verbal plenary inspiration.

          LB: What we should probably talk about is how one would know someone is getting communication from God, vs. some other source.

          O: Ahh…back to a middle man now.

          See my edit-in-self-quote—that should remove your objection? There is the obvious dualism here between you subjectively knowing if you’re in contact with God, vs. a scientist being able to examine you and establish that you’re in contact with God. Ostensibly, we’d be interested in both of these things.

          Holocaust? What does the Holocaust have to do with germ theory?

          The prevention of the Holocaust would have saved millions of lives, as would an earlier knowledge of germ theory.

          But really my point is that Jesus could have told us something about our shared reality that we did not already know that could have been confirmed, information that at the time we in no way could have known (but that we would later discover is correct). In other words, objective information that was yet to be discovered about the universe.

          Giving us more power to bend reality to our wills is not necessarily a recipe for enhancing the thriving of all human beings. Unless you want to say that the Prime Directive is a terrible idea or that “God could do it successfully”? There is this conceit among moderns that what we lack is knowledge, where ‘knowledge’ means “gives us more power over reality”. Either this conceit is unfalsifiable, or it can be falsified and I claim, has been falsified: see the 2012-02-05 Huffington Post article, We Already Grow Enough Food For 10 Billion People — and Still Can’t End Hunger.

          O: An all powerful god could communicate with us in such a way that the message was crystal clear and the source was beyond argument.

          LB: I’ve run across this claim before. How can I properly test whether it is coherent, especially when we take into account things we value about life, such as personal autonomy? You also must be able to defend propositions such as “What I want could have zero effect on how I perceive”, which is quite opposed to what we know about humans. It’s not clear that it is even possible for the perception and comprehension aspect of the mind to be sufficiently divorced from the willing aspect of the mind, for your claim to be realizable without turning humans into robots. As to certainty about the source, would this be something rationally understandable or just an inviolable ‘feeling’ that all have? If the former, how exactly would that rationally work?

          O: So basically you are using the ‘free will’ argument. That argument is terrible. It is nothing more than a weak rationalization like the one I referred to above. Name another situation where having concrete knowledge of something violates our free will.

          I’ve built and programmed quadcopters. They have no free will; they do exactly what I programmed them to do (which, *ahem*, is not always what I intended them to do). I consider the software to correspond to the quadcopter’s ‘knowledge’. It must act on that ‘knowledge’. What is it that you add to the quadcopter such that it all of a sudden has ‘free will’ and thus is no longer forced to do what I programmed it to do? I want to see what you mean by ‘free will’—that’s your term, not mine.

          Another way to get at this is to ask what happened that allowed Adam and Eve to disobey YHWH in the Garden of Eden. After all, if they received “crystal clear” communication which they knew to be from the “all powerful god”, then was their decision just pure irrationality?

          O: Making the assumption that the only motivations possible are benevolent and spinning everything to fit that conclusion.

          LB: I’m quite happy to explore alternative assumptions.

          O: That whole paragraph tells me nothing about how you made such a determination about the benevolence of your God other than you tend to look at any problem in such issues as being potentially your fault. Since you know humans are flawed and in your mind God is perfect, God always comes out on top. That appears to me as being nothing more than circular.

          First, have I refuted your “only motivations possible” claim, or do you stand by it? As to your question of “how”, that’s a big question: how does one, with fatally flawed judgment, rationally choose to trust a better source of judgment? Is that ‘rationally’ even possible?

          My original one sentence comment did not address this one way or another. YOU submitted that God was talking about ‘trust’ and not ‘belief’. To me that sounds like another rationalization to help you with your conclusion.

          Upon what resources are you drawing to cal that a “rationalization”? Have you explored the best scholarly understanding of what pistis and pisteuō probably meant to inhabitants of Palestine and Greece in the first and second centuries, AD?

          Hmmm….where would I get such a notion having been educated and and raised in a heavily Christian culture and schools? Your issue is with Christian culture and teaching itself. Your time would be better spent educating the leaders of your own tribe. I am not the one who has distorted this issue, and even though you disagree, ultimately this is just your opinion regarding Christian theology among Christians, one of many.

          The term ‘distortion’ has a normative sense, but also a descriptive sense. What I said is objectively verifiable in the descriptive sense. You could claim that it was actually a good transformation of Christianity, but your opening comment clearly derogated Christianity-as-you’ve-experienced-it. What we could do is try and cluster different kinds of Christianity and examine the causal powers of each cluster. 2 Tim 3:1–5 suggests what we might find in doing so.

          As to how my time would be better spent, I’m not sure I agree. I’ve developed a decent amount of expertise in talking to atheists (verified by a number of atheists, both IRL and online) about Christianity; to change focus as you indicate would be to squander most of that effort. But I’ll make you a deal. Find me a discussion partner online who is a Christian and thinks that pistis and pisteuō are better translated ‘belief’ than ‘trust’. I’ll try to convince that person [s]he is incorrect.

          The use of confirmation bias is not typically a conscious choice.

          That sounds like a rationalization. You accuse me of wanting Christianity to be true, I say that this is false, and you engage in more psychoanalyzing to discredit my claims. You’re welcome to engage in this line of thinking, but you’d be no better than the theist who says you’re an atheist because you want to sin.

        • adam

          ” Doesn’t it seem wise to develop a sensitivity to when the current methods of solving problems aren’t working? ”

          Yep, after all, religion has only served to divide people, primitive tribalism, based on ignorance and a hyperactive agency detection system.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Yeah and I always find it interesting that the definitions of common
          terms and usages like “reason to believe” and “evidence” are never asked
          for or questioned in normal conversations,

          here’s hoping that frankly addressing colossal edifices of unfalsifiables and wishful/image-obsessed rationalizations becomes more and more ‘normal’.

        • Kodie

          It’s pretty pathetic that grown-ups need to believe a supernatural force that can save them, and overlook and underestimate their own power and the power of other people to support them in their efforts. You have invented an argument that god sets it up this way on purpose, and leave people flailing for help without helping them because he labels them “stubborn” or “rebellious”. Grow up, there’s no god.

        • adam

          “Science reaches intersubjective consensus.”

          You mean, of course, of the FACTS

          Religion DIVIDES consensus

          Of course by fiction.

        • MNb

          “Using the language of causal powers is quite legitimate.”
          Perhaps. I’m not interested in that discussion either.
          I just point out that I have never seen any scientist (whether from the natural sciences, the humanities or the social sciences) using that term.
          I wrote that before reading your link; sure enough it’s a philosophical text about science, not a scientific text.
          It doesn’t mean the term must be rejected. It would be handy if you’d define it though. What’s according to you the difference between cause and causal power, for instance?

        • adam

          “I completely disagree; one cannot take a work of Shakespeare and make it
          say whatever you want. Neither can one do this with the Bible.”

          Because Shakespeare is KNOWN fiction, it’s the people who deny the fiction of the bible that are the CAUSE of the problem.

        • MNb

          “They require a source.”
          That source is not necessarily some immaterial/ supernatural/ transcendental entity.

          “Nor have you established any reason to think that God “need[s]” either our trust or our “acknowledgement”.”
          You’re moving the goal posts.
          Otto wrote about “what most christian positions of faith require”, not what your god is supposed to need.

        • Myna A.

          What I can see God wanting is ever-increasing levels of goodness and excellence for what and who he created.

          You can see? The very nature of that statement speaks volumes of the god-echo inside your own head.

          However, I can see how trusting…God would be important for achieving this goal, like a child trusting his/her parents is important.

          That is a weak analogy. The child’s parent is presumably a tangible presence in that child’s life, and even then human foibles and prejudices eventually get in the way of full and/or lasting trust. Human beings grow out of childhood into (hopefully) a world of deeper reasoning and comprehension.

    • T-Paine

      A perfect god wouldn’t need. Period.

  • Kevin K

    So much evidence…the best evidence. And never actually proffering any.

    Sounds positively Trumplike.