How Do You Decide What to Believe?

How Do You Decide What to Believe? January 25, 2019

For a clear and succinct discussion of what evidence is enough to support a claim, one good source is the observations of German philosopher Gotthold Lessing (1729–81). Lessing was a Christian, but he argued that history is insufficient support for religious truths.

He distinguished between the strength of the evidence and the consequences of belief.

We all believe that an Alexander lived who in a short time conquered almost all Asia. But who, on the basis of this belief, would risk anything of great permanent worth, the loss of which would be irreparable? Who, in consequence of this belief, would forswear forever all knowledge that conflicted with this belief? Certainly not I.

(Source: “On the Proof of the Spirit and of Power,” Gotthold Lessing, 1777)

There are thousands of similar instances of the imperfect history record. Consider our difficulty in knowing the details surrounding the Battle of Hastings (1066), a pivotal event to the English-speaking world. We have the Bayeux tapestry, but it presents a compelling case for the legitimacy of William the Conqueror’s possession of England from the winner’s standpoint. Arguments for the legitimacy of the defeated English monarchy were less likely to have been preserved.

Consider Marco Polo. Did he actually spend years in China as a confidante to Kublai Khan or did he just pick up fascinating tales on his travels and weave them into a story?

Did Plato make up Socrates as a literary device to illustrate his points? Was William Tell real? Was Ned Ludd? Robin Hood? King Arthur? Homer?

We want to understand history as correctly as possible, but none of these issues carry much weight. Any new evidence that changes the historical consensus might be newsworthy but would test the worldview of very few people.

The Christian challenge

A popular historical challenge by Christian apologists is to compare the record of Alexander the Great to that of Jesus. Jesus has a better historical argument on every point—there was less time from events to documentation, our copies of the gospels are better and more numerous than any documentation of Alexander, and Jesus is more recent. You accept our account of Alexander from history, my atheist friend? Then you should also accept the far better account of Jesus.

But this argument backfires. If we’re to adopt the best-evidenced claims, what about claims that are far better than those of Christianity? For example, Sathya Sai Baba, an Indian holy man who could raise the dead and be in two places at once, performed his miracles publicly until his death in 2011. Mormonism makes a far better historical case than Christianity (more). Thousands of people who claim to have not only seen UFOs but been abducted can be interviewed today (more).

If the reliability of the claims were actually important, Christians would sooner believe in Sai Baba, Mormonism, and UFO abductions. That they don’t shows that this is simply an argument of convenience, not one on which they built their worldview. And, of course, if this argument doesn’t support their beliefs, why should it convince an outsider?

We must also consider the magnitude of the claims. While details of the Alexander story are debatable, the basics are hard to reject. Twenty new cities named “Alexandria” appeared in times and places consistent with his supposed travels and conquests, and we have coins and statues with his name. Alexander was a military commander, and we know they exist. Historians scrub out any supernatural accretions to the Alexander story. By contrast, the Jesus story is nothing without its supernatural claims. Remove the supernatural from the Jesus story, and you have just the story of a man (more here).

Lessing’s ditch

Lessing makes the point with a metaphor that has become famous.

If no historical truth can be demonstrated, then nothing can be demonstrated by means of historical truths. That is: accidental truths of history can never become the proof of necessary truths of reason. . . . That, then, is the ugly, broad ditch which I cannot get across, however often and however earnestly I have tried to make the leap.

Lessing says that no history—whether the consensus view of historians or not—is sufficient to support the “necessary truths of reason,” which include religious truths.

If the consequences from a mistaken belief are minimal, then what the hell: Homer existed, and Marco Polo really was an important figure in Kublai Khan’s court. I might cross that ditch of historical evidence.

But if there are consequences—if it’s an issue on which I risk something valuable—that’s a ditch I won’t cross without good reason, and “Gee, it’d be nice to be on the other side” isn’t a good reason.

Continue: How Christian Apologists Teleport Across Lessing’s “Ugly, Broad Ditch”

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said.
“One can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the [White] Queen.
“When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many
as six impossible things before breakfast.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 02/14/15.)

Image from Mike Tungate, CC license

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  • Terry Firma

    Good post, enjoyed it.

    Something else that can’t be believed: the colors in that photo. I doubt that those plants in the mid-distance are blue, that the sky is violet, that even the sand has a purple hue that fits into this odd, amped color palette.

    Of course, like any other photographer, Mr. Tungate is entitled to mess around with his Photoshop settings as much as he likes. I just thought his photo an odd choice to illustrate the theme of looking for truth, unless the picture is presented as a reminder that not all is as it seems.

    • This photo isn’t particularly tightly connected with the theme of the post. Just eye candy.

      • WCB

        Needs more cute kittens.

        • I was going to do a cat on a Roomba, but the best ones are all GIFs.

        • Greg G.

          How about a cucumber next to a cat food dish?

    • epicurus

      In the old days of film one could use color infrared film to get similar results, as well as black and white infrared which would turn the sky and water black, and gives vegetation a ghostly glow. It’s not the way the human eye saw things, but not really false I suppose, just lightwaves we couldn’t see.

  • Herald Newman

    If the consequences from a mistaken belief are minimal, then what the hell…

    Combine this with Pascal’s wager and you have a recipe for credulity. Christians simply fail to see the consequences of their belief in the supernatural, and the waste of their life that Christianity is.

    • Jim Jones

      Religious faith is wishful thinking.

      • TheNuszAbides

        Nothing more, nothing less.

  • skl

    Historians scrub out any supernatural accretions to the Alexander story.

    Not this one: https://www.ancient.eu/article/925/alexander-the-great-as-a-god/

    Nor this one: https://www.livius.org/articles/person/alexander-the-great/alexander-3.5-deification/

    Conversely, there may be historians who have scrubbed out any
    supernatural accretions to the Jesus story.

    In any case, history shows that many people have continued to worship Jesus, while few, if
    any, have continued to worship Alexander.

    But, as Lessing might say, to hell with history.

    • Your insightful analysis continues to amaze me.

      Show me the supernatural elements in the consensus historical summary of Alexander.

    • Greg G.

      Conversely, there may be historians who have scrubbed out any
      supernatural accretions to the Jesus story.

      Correct. That is the Minimal Jesus Theory. They remove the implausible parts and settle on a preacher/teacher from Galilee who developed a following and got killed. The epistles don’t support that Jesus however.

    • So what if they still worship Jesus? How does that make them right?

    • ildi

      In any case, history shows that many people have continued to worship Jesus, while few, if
      any, have continued to worship Alexander.

      But, as Lessing might say, to hell with history.

      So, what conclusion are you drawing? Don’t be shy…

    • Ignorant Amos

      You apparently don’t know the difference between historians reporting there was a claim to the supernatural, and historians supporting that claim to the supernatural as an historical event. Why does that not surprise me?

  • Lex Lata

    This aligns fairly well with Hume’s thoughts on miracles, and the fundamental inadequacy of testimonial support for them. Historical records, especially from antiquity, are riddled with accounts of deities, spirits, omens, prophecies, giants, dragons, signs, wonders, and miracles. Human beings are creative and credulous, gossipy and gregarious and gullible. We’re storytellers and dreamers, and it shows in our writings throughout the ages.

    Believing the biblical account of Samson slaying 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass while disbelieving that Gilgamesh defeated the monstrous Humbaba is a theological act, not an intellectually rigorous exercise in historiography or archaeology.

    • epeeist

      This aligns fairly well with Hume’s thoughts on miracles

      Hume, didn’t he say something like “A Wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.”?

      • Lex Lata

        Yes, that’s also from Of Miracles, section X in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. A worthwhile read for anyone interested in the epistemology of miracle claims.

        https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hume/david/h92e/chapter10.html

      • Michael Neville

        COMPLETELY OT:

        epeeist, because the Navy Exchange had it and upon your recommendation, I bought a bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail. Since it’s an Islay I was expecting peat and smoke. The nose was smoke. There was a pleasant taste of peat with hints of sherry but it was almost overwhelmed by the S*M*O*K*E. The finish was iodine and more smoke. I’ve never had such a smokey whisky before. I suspect it’ll be some time before I finish the bottle and it’s not a purchase I’ll repeat.

        • epeeist

          I suspect it’ll be some time before I finish the bottle

          Well if you don’t want it…

        • Kuno

          Sounds like a whisky for me.

    • I very much doubt a jawbone could withstand that, unless it was a +5 Vorpal.

  • Dr Sarah

    I completely agree with your main point. (I remember, as a child, being a bit mystified by the line of argument that runs ‘We have better historical evidence for Jesus than for Julius Caesar, so if we don’t believe in Jesus then we shouldn’t believe in Julius Caesar either.’ I mean, it wasn’t as though I was going to cry ‘No, no! Julius Caesar must be real and I cannot bear the thought of this not being so! If disbelieving in Jesus means disbelieving in Caesar, then of course I’ll have to believe in Jesus!’)

    However, it’s also worth noting that the claim about there being better historical evidence for Jesus than for Alexander the Great is also factually inaccurate (1). See https://celsus.blog/2013/08/24/another-case-of-apologetic-dishonesty-in-lee-strobels-the-case-for-christ/.

    (1) As, by the way, is the claim about better historical evidence for Jesus than for Caesar.

    • Heck, Alexander has more than twenty cities named after him, which date to the correct time to match up with his conquests.

      With Jesus, no coins, no busts, no books from him, no nothin’. And yet, for some reason, questioning the historical Jesus gets some apologists extra cranky.

      • And if I’m not wrong there’re more accounts of Alexander’s life and existence scattered over a large area than just one.

        • Pofarmer

          There are actually govt documents from those he conquered and law that he instituted. Theres just no comparison.

      • im-skeptical

        There are actual biographies, unlike the gospels. We know who wrote them, and perhaps more importantly, we know what sources they used – sources that go back to the time of Alexander. They have far more historical value than the gospels.

      • Jim Jones

        Glycon is better attested, esp. since we have a book that savagely criticizes his existence, i.e. the best possible evidence.

        Jesus? Nothing like that.

      • skl

        Heck, Alexander has more than twenty cities named after him, which date to the
        correct time to match up with his conquests.
        With Jesus, no coins, no busts, no books from him, no nothin’. And yet, for some
        reason, questioning the historical Jesus gets some apologists extra cranky.

        Heck, Jesus Christ didn’t have any cities named after him
        contemporaneously, because he didn’t conquer or set out to conquer any.
        (Although many centuries later many cities would be named after him and his
        followers.)

        And true, no one made any contemporaneous coins or busts of him. These gods were
        luckier: https://www.forumancientcoins.com/dougsmith/gods.html

        • Pofarmer

          There’a not even any grafitti about him from the correct time. Theres literally nothing.

        • Phil

          Well the Romans were pretty strict when it came to graffiti artists. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIAdHEwiAy8

        • TheNuszAbides

          “People called Romanes, they go to the house?”

        • ThaneOfDrones

          The case for Julius Caesar is even better than that for Alexander.

          Books written by Julius Caesar? check.
          Writings between Caesar and his friends? check.
          Writings by Caesar’s enemies? check.
          Coins minted during his reign? check.
          Salad named after him? check.

        • Greg G.

          Method of being born is named for him? check.

        • ThaneOfDrones

          (The Caesar salad is actually named for a different Caesar, but the other points are all valid and why should I be serious when you consider the opposition?)

        • Pofarmer

          Heretic.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          I think the person who, allegedly, fed thousands with a couple of handfuls of food, made water into wine and rose from the dead surrounded by zombies might have just made more of a splash in history than being completely ignored outside his own PR department

    • skl

      One of the last paragraphs of your hyperlinked article reads

      Through earlier source collections, such
      as the variorum that Powell discusses,
      therefore, the gap between Alexander’s first historians (who wrote during and
      shortly after his lifetime) could be bridged to later authors like Plutarch and
      Arrian, who wrote several hundred years later.

      What’s unclear to me is why historians of Alexander would rely
      on Plutarch and Arrian when they have the variorum and “Alexander’s
      first historians (who wrote during and shortly after his lifetime)”.

      • Pofarmer

        It’s actually pretty simple if you actually care to learn. Look it up, figure it out.

        • ildi

          Ah, but skl is not here to learn but to snark.

  • Jemolk

    I’d say that I have sufficient reason to say Plato didn’t invent Socrates as a literary device since we also have the writings of Xenophon, another student of Socrates, and the plays of Aristophanes, who was, uh, definitively and unambiguously not a fan. Would I stake anything on it? Hell no. Terrible idea. So why would someone stake their identity itself on the existence of someone for whom we may actually have LESS evidence for than the accounts of three independent contemporaneous authors themselves known by name? Sounds to me like a recipe for disaster.

    • RichardSRussell

      If you bet your immortal soul on such a proposition are you really risking anything at all, let alone anything valuable?

  • WCB

    It is trivially obvious the gospel tall tales of Jesus and his activities are contradictory, unreliable and anonymous. They are tall tales, not history. The predicted coming of the perfect world, the kingdom of God Jesus told all that would happen in that day and age, did not occur as prophesied. Christians as promised, do not get big miracle working abilities, cure the sick, handle snakes with impunity, et al. The gospels are not a trustworthy revelation of God/Jesus. The supposed trustworthy revelations of Paul have some problematic claims that have God not being as the Bible claims, just, fair, merciful and compassionate. Romans 9, God the Great Potter who makes some vessels of honor, some vessels of dishonor, hated by God and doomed makes no sense. If God makes Jane a saint, one of the elect, and John, not elect and damned arbitrarily as Paul claims, God is not fair, just , merciful or compassionate. This cannot be a true revelation as it is self contradictory and obviously poorly thought out religious nonsense.

    As far as religion goes, especially Christianity, I believe there is no God or true God based religion because religion is obviously, incoherent, logically self contradictory, and obviously false. I believe what I believe because logic tells me religion based on any sort of God seems to be utterly false when carefully examined. Religion’s proponents are not capable of making a coherent and believable case for their religion.

    • al kimeea

      The KCA is a fave among sophisticated apologists. Presented in a neutral frame, it falls apart as a reason for accepting the xian deity – the one obviously intended – when it is pointed out the argument encompasses all deities, anywhere, leaving a large amount of work to be done to arrive at Jebus.

      This uncomfortable fact often results in a chorus of crickets.

  • RichardSRussell

    “It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” —W. K. Clifford (1845–1879), “The Ethics of Belief” (1879)

    “No Discourse whatsoever can End in absolute Knowledge of Fact.” —Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), English philosopher, mathematician, and linguist, Leviathan (1651)

    “Acceptance without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western religion; rejection without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western science.” —Gary Zukav (1942- ), American author

    • skl

      “No Discourse whatsoever can End in absolute Knowledge of Fact.” —Thomas Hobbes

      Maybe then we should dismiss Hobbes’ declaration.

      • Illithid

        Or we could just not hold it absolutely.

        • skl

          Absolutely!

      • RichardSRussell

        Why?

  • I wouldn’t say there is no way to do this, but as you said they’re inconsistent on the standard.

  • As an aside, even if there was a historical Jesus, which I’m quite sure to have existed or at the very least some kernel of truth, that would NOT mean the supernatural stuff described in the Gospels was real at all (there’s no evidence of things as thatthat zo apocalypse or the Sun going black) That is something most apologists ignore.

    In all likelihood, not only what really happened was much more mundane than what the Gospels want us to believe but also has been lost to the ages.

    • al kimeea

      Faith may provide cover for the supernatural aspects, but learning that Jebus is just Francis Wuppermann pulls the curtains down on doG’s morality play, ending yet another mythology involving deities.

      Mundane Jebus puts the salvation industry at risk. Unfortunately for VatiCorp et al, what info we haven’t lost does point to this ordinary, average guy. At least indirectly. IIRC, we have references to xians and their strange little cult, but no direct mention of an apocalyptic preacher resembling Jebus either miraculous or mundane.

      It may be that we find more information on the early days of the cult, but I’d be surprised if it confirmed the zombies unless it was from a believer or another copy of some scrap of the BuyBull. Having 25,001 copies of ‘The Killer Angels’ makes the book no less fictional. There are plenty of copies of Koranic nonsense, another ignored bit of info. I would not find 25,000,000 copies of either holey text convincing.

      Confirmation of an ordinary, average Jesus reveals nothing other than the fictional quality of the “history” which resulted in some brutal history when deemed useful by those authorities in power.

      • You do not need to go as far away. No Original Sin = quite less useful Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross -the main reason besides uber-literalism why Fundies consider evolution BS-

        Not that it made much sense, anyway, given the mess that the Original Sin idea is, to begin with.

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    My thought here is, it’s not just the amount of evidence for an assertion, but how ordinary or *extra*-ordinary the assertion(s) is / are.

    • al kimeea

      Ya, claiming you have a Pug is one thing. Gonna be a wee leery of claiming to have made a useful perpetual motion machine. With magnets… Still waiting, BTW.

  • epicurus

    Great post. Of all the approaches used by apologists, this one for me has always been the most irritating.

    • Doubting Thomas

      “You know what would convince people that don’t believe in magic that magic is real? Magic words!!”

  • If you would seek the Lord with as much fervency as you do in opposing Him, you would find God and all the questions of your heart would be answered.

    You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. ~Jeremiah 29:13

    • Lex Lata

      My guess is that you won’t persuade many atheists with Bible quotes. But who knows? Maybe you’ve got better quotes than all the other apologists.

      Having said that, I indeed applaud your choice of scripture. It’s not a bad articulation of the motivated reasoning required to sustain any belief in gods, spirits, and other transcendent entities.

      • MR

        The irony for me is that Jeremiah 29:13 is precisely how I lost my faith.

    • ildi
      • Greg G.

        Bible reading plan: Chronicles genealogies.
        You: Please let me read Leviticus.

    • Thanks4AllTheFish

      I’m not a seeker but I do appreciate those throughout the millennia who were/are. Unsurprisingly, so far their seeking has yielded zero gods.

      So one has to ask oneself; if all this seeking for thousands of years hasn’t turned up even one god of any flavor, perhaps, much like those who seek ghosts, bigfoot, and other imaginary things, it is time to accept reality for what it is? Imagine what we could do if we spent as much time loving, caring, helping, learning, creating and understanding as we do praying, worshiping, quoting scripture, tithing, admonishing and judging.

      • And, if you’re determined to find support for this in the NT, helping the needy is very much what Jesus was into.

        • al kimeea

          Yep, socialist #1. Pretty sure Jebus mentions giving everything to the poor in Luke. Twice. I know, I know. Metaphors.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      Or, if you wish to find God you could look under the sofa cushions.

    • WCB

      So do we find the truth and God in the Bible? The Quran? Book of Mormon? The Vedas? What are we to make of a Bible that proclaims God is good, perfect, yet commanded murders, genocides and massacres? A God that is supposedly, fair, just, merciful and compassionate but arbitrarily decides from the begining of time who shall be the elect and the none elect? hardens the hearts of the Jews not to believe in Jesus? Romans 11. arbitrarily decides to create some vessels of honor, some vessels of dishonor, Romans 9, God the Great Potter? The problem with your God is that in the Bible God is not a coherent, rational, reasonable claim worth taking seriously.

    • No, I doubt it.

      You should talk to some of the ex-Christians I’ve heard who spoke about their last months as a Christian, when they begged God to reveal himself as they desperately clung to any clues to the truth of their familiar beliefs.

      Uh, no, God doesn’t reveal himself just because you ask nicely.

      • You are speaking of people who “claim to have been a Christian at one time,” but now no longer believe because they have been educated? The premise is a fallacy. Jesus addressed these individuals in detail.

        My point Bob, is that I have followed you for a number of years. You are a brilliant man with a great gift for research and writing. If you had devoted the same amount of time, effort, and desire to prove that Jesus and the New Testament narratives which describe Him, are true, you would have ended up on a different road.

        A person can say that they don’t believe the narratives of Jesus that are in the New Testament are true, that is everyone’s right. However, no one can say with any validity that the narratives of the New Testament which survive today in nearly 25,000 manuscript copies, are not valid evidence.

        Every facet of the New Testament narratives, meets or exceeds the criteria to validate authentic events of history. I have used the accepted criteria for validating authentic historical events in applying these to the New Testament. It passes and exceeds these requirements. There is absolutely no proof anywhere that the events recorded in the extant New Testament Manuscript copies are not telling the truth.

        • Michael Neville

          So the No True Scotsman fallacy raises its head again. Most of us regulars were real, honest-to-God, genuine Christians of one or another flavor at earlier parts of our lives. We believed, often quite fervently, and ceased to believe when we examined the evidence, or lack thereof, for the existence of your or any other gods (you do realize there’s more gods than the one you particularly like).

          Upon close examination we discovered the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, was a collection of myths, fables and lies with little relationship with reality. There is no evidence for Jesus other than the Bible and no reason to believe the Bible is telling the truth. If you want us to believe otherwise then give us reason to discard our atheism. Pointing at the obviously unhistorical Bible and crying “HISTORICAL” doesn’t cut it.

        • You are speaking of people who “claim to have been a Christian at one time,” but now no longer believe because they have been educated? The premise is a fallacy. Jesus addressed these individuals in detail.

          What Jesus said is off topic. I’m talking about Christians, every bit as devoted and as educated as you, desperate to do as they were instructed by their faith but seeing it slip away despite their pleas. Don’t tell me that they weren’t as Christian as you or as desperate to hold onto their faith as you.

          Just to be clear, though, that doesn’t describe me. I was raised Christian, but my departure from the faith was slow, painless, and imperceptible.

          You are a brilliant man with a great gift for research and writing. If you had devoted the same amount of time, effort, and desire to prove that Jesus and the New Testament narratives which describe Him, are true, you would have ended up on a different road.

          Thank you for the compliment, but I have spent a decade searching for the best Christian argument (we’re talking intellectual arguments here, not emotional). I’ve come up empty, and I’ve written about my discoveries in this blog.

          Maybe you’re saying that if I went on an emotional journey, I might well have found Jesus? You might be right, but I have no interest in such a journey, just like you have no interest in spending a few years walking the walk of a Mormon or Scientologist or Bahai.

          no one can say with any validity that the narratives of the New Testament which survive today in nearly 25,000 manuscript copies, are not valid evidence.

          Sure, they’re evidence. They’re just poor evidence.

          Every facet of the New Testament narratives, meets or exceeds the criteria to validate authentic events of history.

          Uh, no, and you know why. The supernatural stories in the biographies of Augustus Caesar or Alexander are scrubbed out of history! Yes, those tales are part of the record; no, those tales didn’t really happen.

          I have used the accepted criteria for validating authentic historical events in applying these to the New Testament. It passes and exceeds these requirements.

          Ever wonder why religious books are in the library’s Religion section and not the History section?

          There is absolutely no proof anywhere that the events recorded in the extant New Testament Manuscript copies are not telling the truth.

          OK, let’s go with that. I have no need to make that argument. You realize that, don’t you? The burden of proof is yours. Don’t pretend that it’s mine, thank you.

        • MR

          You are speaking of people who “claim to have been a Christian at one time,” but now no longer believe because they have been educated? The premise is a fallacy. Jesus addressed these individuals in detail.

          I think people who read this who are struggling with their faith will find this insulting.

          You are a brilliant man with a great gift for research and writing. If you had devoted the same amount of time, effort, and desire to prove that Jesus and the New Testament narratives which describe Him, are true, you would have ended up on a different road.

          As brilliant as Bob is, considering that no one has ever proven the narratives true, this come across as nothing but hollow ego stroking. Someone who spends as much time, effort and desire to prove that Buddha and the narratives which describe him are true, would likely have ended up on a different road, too. That’s what indoctrinated people do, not people who are trying to find out actual truth. These are the words that a cult leader might use.

          There is absolutely no proof anywhere that the events recorded in the extant New Testament Manuscript copies are not telling the truth.

          More words that a cult leader or conspiracy theorist would use. “You can’t prove what I say isn’t true!” That’s a sad statement when you’re trying to prove the existence of a being that supposedly loves us and wants us to know him. We shouldn’t be speculating on if he exists at all. I don’t know of a single person, theist or atheist alike, who wouldn’t want to know for cert-certain if God actually existed. I don’t believe he exists, but I’d certainly want to know if he did. Do you want to know if he doesn’t?

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          There are no true Christians, because Jesus never revealed himself to anybody – not even to you.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          wow, zero to Scotsman in record time, give the man a sandwich

          One does not set out to prove a thing true, one starts with a question and sets out to follow the evidence and accept the results, if you already know the ‘Truth’, why are you bothering to ask questions?

        • MR

          He’s following Bob for years, but doesn’t know these basics. You get the feeling someone is being disingenuous?

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          thought i had seem the name before, this would not be the first atheist blog to get some religious blowhard who just comes in to say something stupid but won’t go away

        • MR

          He’s here to promote his material, not to have honest dialog. Why would anyone care what he’s published when he’s showing himself to be so disingenuous right up front? It boggles my mind. Apologetic charlatans. How do you even call yourself Christian when you base yourself in deceit?

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          well to be fair apologists can’t have an honest conversation, given the first step of such a conversation would have them admitting that everything they are about to say is at best misleading and most of time out right lies

        • epeeist

          well to be fair apologists can’t have an honest conversation

          Given that they start from a conclusion then this is obviously true.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          touche

        • TheNuszAbides

          Sadly, shibboleths actually work, at least to the point of reinforcing some people’s lazy thinking and/or motivated reasoning.

        • Max Doubt

          “You are speaking of people who “claim to have been a Christian at one time,”…”

          Anyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian. Of course it’s a tautology, but self-identification as a Christian is the only thing all Christians have in common.

          Oh, and the No-True-Scotsman is like a beginner’s fallacy, a grade school level failure. If you try to show your gods are real, you will fail, but at least you should try to fail better than a kid. Up your game, guy.

        • Lex Lata

          Let’s put the Gospels aside for the moment. Is it your position that the accounts of miracles in the Old Testament, such as the wonders associated with Moses, or Joshua stopping the sun in the sky for a day with his prayers at Gibeon, are also historically accurate?

        • Kevin K

          There is absolutely no proof anywhere that the events recorded in the extant New Testament Manuscript copies are not telling the truth.

          FIFY.

        • Otto

          However, no one can say with any validity that the narratives of the New Testament which survive today in nearly 25,000 manuscript copies, are not valid evidence.

          I can.

          Every facet of the New Testament narratives, meets or exceeds the criteria to validate authentic events of history.

          Give me the name of one person that lived at the time of Jesus and personally documented anything he did…you can’t.

          Which one of these events are considered ‘history’ by anyone not inside the Christian faith?
          * The Virgin birth
          *Changing water to wine
          *Walking on water
          *Magically healing people
          *Magically producing lots of food from very little food
          *The temptation of Jesus by Satan
          *The resurrection

          This stuff isn’t considered history…except by people such as yourself, much like Mormons consider Joseph Smith translating golden plates history…but no one else does.

    • Michael Neville

      I don’t oppose your god. I just don’t think he’s anything but a figment of your imagination.

    • Max Doubt

      “If you would seek the Lord with as much fervency as you do in opposing Him, you would find God and all the questions of your heart would be answered.”

      Why would anyone seek a god which is, for all practical purposes, completely powerless? Think about it. Outside the imaginations of those who believe, there is nothing a god can do that I can’t do, and many things I can do that those gods clearly can’t. Don’t believe me? I’m available for a contest pretty much anytime anywhere. Get your god to show up and I’ll kick its sorry weakling ass. Funny how in all my years nobody’s god is willing to accept this challenge. Is your god a chickenshit coward… or maybe it’s you?

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/018d9075880fa729e0a61595800a6b259c3a2af784920b918da65f10a38caecc.png

    • RichardSRussell

      Yeah, and if you drink enuf, that gal down at the end of the bar starts looking mighty good, too. Of course, that would be booze, not the Kool-Aid you’ve been specializing in.

    • Greg G.

      If you would seek the Lord with as much fervency as you do in opposing Him, you would find God and all the questions of your heart would be answered.

      You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. ~Jeremiah 29:13

      I tried all that very much. It didn’t work. What I found was that Christians believe for poor reasons and almost anything is good enough for them to believe.

      I don’t oppose God, I oppose those pretenders who try to impose their pretensions on everybody else.

    • RichardSRussell

      “Billy, I’ve got a bright, shiny, new 10-speed bike for you, and if you seek it with lots of fervency, it’s all yours!”

      “Gee, thanks, Dad!”

      So Pop has stashed the bike in Moscow, and no matter how hard little Billy looks for it, no matter how fervently he seeks, no matter how much time he wastes, he ain’t never gonna find it, is he? Kind of a dick move on the part of Bill Senior, doncha think? A parent who had even a little bit of love for the kid would just give him the bike instead of playing such a cruel, heartless trick on him.

    • sandy

      Seriously, why would I want to search for the God of the bible who, if you actually read the bible, is an evil blood thirsty prick. I challenge you to read the Old Testament, do your due diligence and ask yourself how I or anyone can reconcile or condone the evil God does. I think Dan barker says it best.

      “Anyone who claims to admire and worship the biblical God has either abandoned all sense of moral judgment or has never actually read the Old Testament. Since most believers are good people, I prefer to assume the latter. I think the world would be a much better place if people would actually read the book. A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh, said: “The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief — call it what you will — than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counterattractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course.”

      Before we can cure an illness we have to diagnose it. Please, let’s read the Old Testament, and then excise the cancer from our lives.”

    • Kevin K

      “I do not like green eggs and ham,
      I do not like them, Sam-I-am.” — Dr. Seuss.

      I like my completely unrelated quotation better.

      • Terry Firma

        You know how Green Eggs and Ham ends, right? With the character who spends the entire book professing that he doesn’t like the dish discovering that actually, he loves it.

        • Greg G.

          I do not like Green Eggs and Spam. I’d eat the eggs, though.

        • Kevin K

          Gotta admit the latest commercials I’ve seen for SPAM make it look damned delicious.

        • Greg G.

          Spam is OK but green meat products put me off.

    • Terry Firma

      We don’t “oppose the Lord” any more than we oppose unicorns and Bigfoot, Robert.

      • Although, we do oppose some of the “Lord’s” followers.

      • Phil

        Well I think unicorns are pointless.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. ~Jeremiah 29:13

      So god has convincing evidence but reserves it for those who already believe? That seems decidedly unhelpful, no? Particularly given what is supposedly on the line?

    • Joe

      Can’t you just point us in the general direction?

    • Phil

      If you sought real truth with as much fervency as your fantasy, you would be a much better, nicer human being. ~Phil 29:01

      • Greg G.

        ~Phil 29:01

        ISWYDT

      • MR

        Nice, Phil.

      • epicurus

        Inspired, inerrant, and authoritative.

        • TheNuszAbides

          and Phil-breathed! or at least Phil-typed …

    • Doubting Thomas

      Why would I have to seek something that is supposed to be everywhere?

    • Siltch77

      Why should a human being seek out God? We too busy trying to stay alive amidst the struggle that existence, usually is. Actually. Your God created this damn predicament in the first place, yet we’re expected to go seek after him with all our heart and might-like he’s got shit he can offer us? Pssst. There’s more value in a wet expired food stamp, than anything YHWH the desert God can offer us.

      He’s a fucking bum, even if he does really exist! And you’re a pussy for bowing down to such a maniacal despot! I get it, gotta suck that cosmic cock and hope you’ll be able to save your ass from extinction and live blissful singing fucking hymns to Jesus. Fuck that. I’d rather be a King in Hell, than a fucking servant in heaven!

      Only a pussy would worship the Biblical God. I’ve excised that fear of YHWH years ago and am a better and more stable person, for it.

      While you’re just another a fucking pussy, who’s terrified of the great wizard of OZ. On a side note- There’s nothing like ripping scriptures outta the good book and rolling a fatty with em!

      The mental trauma I suffered for fucking DECADES, due to the mind altering Cult I got sucked into as a Kid (Didn’t really have a choice), all that pain and grief it caused me!

      Fuck your God and Fuck you too. Have a great evening.

    • Otto

      Hogwash…I could tell you I have, and list all the efforts associated with it…and then you would just proceed to tell me how I have done it all wrong. If Jesus was God and wanted to be found he wouldn’t need you to speak for him.

    • Damien Priestly

      No, many here already were Christians, Jews or in other religious denominations before becoming atheists. God never made any contact, just like any God never made contact with you. There is no reason to believe a deity(s) exist.

      If you want have a dialog here, fine, but you should consider avoiding insulting people’s intelligence.

    • Siltch77

      Why does God play these dumb little games with us humans? He knows we’re busy and most of us; at least, are caught up in this struggle to survive just so we can wake up and do the same crap all over again, tomorrow. God hasn’t a clue on what it is and means to be a human, yet he demands that I waste my time seeking him? He’s the one that literally created (in 6 days correct) this mess we’re in. He sucks. He’s like that asshole boss who seems to be exempt from any type of accountability or deadline, yet he heaps all his work and crap on you; expecting you to be punctual and productive. My self respect won’t allow me to go searching after a being who I find nothing but contempt for! Even if he does hold the keys to immortality! Personally, I’d rather be extinct, than live under the rule of that despot for all eternity. Don’t get me wrong, it saddens me that I have to depart from my loved ones, one day and death does scare me at times, too. But I can’t bow down to a being like that! He’s the worst of all beings (if he does in fact exist) and just another fuck in absolute power, who takes advantage of and abuses it, on the regular. Nope. I’m done with the limited amount of time I have, and don’t need to go searching for YHWH, Hashem, Jesus, or ALLAH. I’ve got more important shit to do with my time!

    • Chuck Johnson

      Atheism does not consist of opposing God.
      Atheism consists of understanding that God is a fictional character and a human invention.

    • C_Alan_Nault

      You forgot to present any evidence that your god exists.

    • Gord O’Mitey

      Oh no! I don’t want you provokin’ people into seekin’ for Me, eh. I need a quiet life nowadays. I’m not gettin’ any younger, you know. There’s more than enough folks now tryin’ to send Me their feckin’ prayers.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “How Do You Decide What to Believe?”

    When someone makes a claim:

    1) examine exactly what is being claimed
    2) determine if the claim is an easily understood mundane claim & whether believing it or not will make any difference in your life

    3) if it is not an easily understood mundane claim ( in other words,they have made a fantastic claim),have the person making the claim define exactly what they are claiming & have them present evidence that proves or supports the claim
    4) if they can present no evidence for their fantastic claim dismiss the claim as nonsense

    As examples:

    1) someone claims they ate chicken for lunch
    2) you KNOW what chicken is,you KNOW what lunch is,and you KNOW people do eat chicken…. there is no reason to not believe the claim,but whether you believe it or not will make no difference

    Example 2:

    1) someone claims a theistic god exist
    2) if this is true,believing or not believing it will impact your life ( or afterlife)
    3) have the claimant clearly define the god & present evidence for the existence of the god.if the claimant is unable to define the god,it is impossible for the claimant to present evidence for the god…

    …a definition that employs arguments from ignorance ( ie: if god didn’t create everything,what did?),presuppositions ( ie: everything that exists had to have a cause, so god has to exist to cause the universe), special pleading ( ie: everything that exists had to have a cause EXCEPT for god), or unproven claims ( ie: god exists in a realm outside of space and time)

    4) if they have not defined god clearly and have no evidence for the existence of god,the claim can be dismissed

    • 1) someone claims they ate chicken for lunch
      2) you KNOW what chicken is,you KNOW what lunch is,and you KNOW people do eat chicken…. there is no reason to not believe the claim,but whether you believe it or not will make no difference

      Sounds good, thought I’d add one more thing: you accept the claim in proportion to how much is riding on it. So if the chicken question is key evidence in a murder trial, you’d need to do more than just say, “Sure, I understand that eating chicken for lunch is comment, so I’ll go with that.”

      Of course, in the god case, very much is riding on that. (Contrast that with Julius Caesar or Alexander–I don’t much care if some key facts of their lives are overturned by historians. It’s very different for Jesus.)

      • C_Alan_Nault

        “Contrast that with Julius Caesar or Alexander–I don’t much care if some key facts of their lives are overturned by historians. It’s very different for Jesus.”

        For one thing, the Biblical Jesus ( the Jesus that was the result of a virgin birth, had his birth heralded by a star, performed miracles such as raising the dead, and was resurrected after his death– according to the Bible, Jesus was the 7th dead person to be returned to life) has not been proven to have existed.