God, Empiricism, & Atheist Demands for “Evidence”

God, Empiricism, & Atheist Demands for “Evidence” October 9, 2015

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How can an empirical spirit be directly empirically tested? It makes no sense. [public domain / Pixabay]

Brad Feaker:

I am an agnostic atheist. I leave open the possibility of evidence for a god, therefore I must be agnostic about such a beings existence.

But as for my belief? I could really care less about how you define your god. There is simply no reliable evidence for any of them, Catholic or Protestant.

So yes – I proportion my belief to the evidence. But I could be convinced to change my knowledge – should I ever be presented with concrete empirical evidence.

And again – this evidence should exist.

So I leave you with Delos McKown…

“The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.”

Why do you assume that empirical evidence is the only kind of indication that God exists? If indeed God [the Father] is a spirit (as we Christians believe), how in the world is it that empiricism (the study of matter) is trotted out as the only possible way by which His existence can be proven or indicated?

That makes no sense. Empiricism is not the only form of knowledge, in any event, and it doesn’t directly apply to God as we believe Him to be, because He (the Father) is an immaterial spirit.

But Jesus, Who is also God, was quite material, and He performed (empirically verifiable) miracles (blind men began to see; lame began to walk), and rose from the dead, which was an observable thing (i.e., when He appeared afterwards and ate fish, and people touched Him). That was quite along the lines of what you demand; yet atheists simply dismiss it as a fairy tale.

So when we give you what you ask for, it’s immediately dismissed: which is itself an irrational attitude: closed to possible empirical evidence, simply because it was 2,000 years ago, and because it was miraculous; because you guys, in your infinite wisdom, arbitrarily and dogmatically declare that miracles are impossible from the outset (something which is extremely difficult to absolutely prove).

Let me switch that around a bit for you and get your reaction.

“But Zoroaster, Who is also God, was quite material, and He performed (empirically verifiable) miracles (blind men began to see; lame began to walk), and rose from the dead, which was an observable thing (i.e., when He appeared afterwards and ate fish, and people touched Him).”

Neither of these claims are empirically verifiable.

And as I stated above – even if God is spirit, if he intervenes in the physical world, that intervention should be empirically detectable.

One example would be the efficacy of intercessory prayer. Another would be an undisputable case of a miraculous healing (as the prime example we atheists use – an amputee re-growing a missing limb spontaneously).

Yet when we look for those interventions – we come up empty. If you have not read it – check out the STEP study done by Harvard.

They are verifiable by the same standards of evidence that are accepted in courtrooms as legitimate eyewitness testimony. Or do you reject THAT method for arriving at the truth of disputed historical events, too?

I don’t know the story of Zoroaster, but according to Wikipedia, there is little manuscript evidence to attest to it: “Almost all Zoroastrian pseudepigrapha is now lost, and of the attested texts—with only one exception—only fragments have survived. . . . no one before Pliny refers to literature by ‘Zoroaster'”.

That can scarcely be compared to the huge amount of manuscript evidence for the NT: better than any other ancient document, and the mountain of archaeological verification of its accuracy.

There are tons of books about this topic. Go read some.

I glanced at the article about Zoroaster, and I don’t see that he claimed to be God (in the theistic sense) or that it is claimed that he rose from the dead.

If the NT is shown to be trustworthy as to history, it can be trusted to accurately convey Jesus’ words, too. To deny that, given all the evidence we know of, is simply prejudice and dogmatically / irrationally partisan skeptical polemics.

Not long ago many scholars denied that King David existed at all. Not anymore. Inscriptions have been found; his palace has been discovered in Jerusalem (I visited it last October). A city from his time (c. 1000 BC) west of Jerusalem has been uncovered. I stood there and collected pottery from it, that sits in my closet eight feet away from me as I type. I found lots of pottery from 1000 BC!

Many of the Muslim Palestinians today want to pretend that there never was a Jewish Temple; never was a City of David. They’re wrong, and irrational. Their view comes from prejudice, just as atheist views do, when they ignore plenty of hard evidence for Jesus, David, and other biblical figures.

They once said that Moses and Abraham lived before there was any writing. That’s all been blown away by archaeology. The pool of Siloam, where Jesus healed the blind man, was discovered just ten or so years ago. I was there, too. The pool of Bethesda has shown attributes that the Bible gives it.

On and on and on. But it’s easy for atheists who don’t know anything about any of these details, to trot out some supposed analogy that (so we are told) “refutes” the evidence about Jesus and early Christianity.

There is plenty of documented evidence of observably (medically / scientifically) verifiable miraculous cures. Atheists simply ignore it. There are many books about this. Or you could check out the records at Lourdes, where Mary appeared. They have a long record of many hundreds of cures: all verified by medical science.

There are incorruptible saints. They exist. One can go see them. When various saints’ graves were opened up, their bodies had not corrupted. That’s either a true, verifiable fact or it is not, and all these people are a bunch of liars, and every incorrupt body is fake (mummified or something).

We can go wherever the evidence takes us (with a true, open-minded scientifically curious approach), but you can’t because you dogmatically rule out all possibility of the miraculous from the outset.

Yet you have to explain away each and every documented miraculous healing.

Nothing is ever sufficient to convince most skeptics because they are too dogmatic and prejudiced.

This is explained in the Bible itself, from Jesus:

Luke 16:30-31 (RSV) And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ [31] He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'”

And so it is today. Jesus did rise from the dead, but people refuse to believe it, because of their irrational prior hostile predispositions.

There are plenty of good books about the solid historical arguments backing up Jesus’ Resurrection, by Gary Habermas, Michael Licona, William Lane Craig, Frank Morison, and others.

Go read them if you are truly open to being convinced.

You can go after one purported miracle that may in fact not have been such. It doesn’t wipe out the hundreds of verified accounts. But it’s the game that atheists and other skeptics of miracles always play: the basic fallacy of “disprove one; justify skepticism towards all reports.”

That’s why I usually don’t bother even arguing these things, because it’s always the same.

You won’t be convinced in the near future. But I gave it a shot. Others are reading, too. That’s the beauty of public dialogues.

Remission of cancer? Happens more than people think. And to people besides Christians. Those ‘incorruptible’ bodies of saints? Ever been subjected to a scientific inquiry? How do we know they were not preserved by artificial means?

Nothing will convince you. As I said, I don’t spend much time on stuff like this. Those who are interested will go read books that delve into all this stuff. You’ve sealed yourself into a sealed box that no evidence can penetrate. You just sit in there and say “nope . . .nope . . . nope . . . ”

You’ve read every purported account of a miracle and explained all of ’em away as fairy tales, no evidence whatever, a pack of lies . . . Gotcha.

As to the incorruptibles, well we know that many saints were simply buried without being mummified. Many years later the bodies were dug up and found to be incorrupt. That ain’t natural. This was found to be the case 25 years after death, for Medgar Evers, the civil rights activist (and non-Catholic).

Our local Detroit saint-to-be, Ven. Fr. Solanus Casey, was found to be incorrupt 30 years after his death.

But you can always say that some snickering, cynical idiot snuck into the funeral home and did the mummification routine (in every case), so gullible Catholics would be duped into believing in a miracle when in fact it was a hoax.

You always have the ready answer. You’re a modern-day Doubting Thomas. Even he shut up after he met the risen Jesus and felt the wound in His side.

But were they ever the subject of a scientific inquiry? We have recovered quite a few naturally mummified bodies – some much older that your saints. Have they been examined or not? Or has the Church refused to allow a scientific examination? 

Maybe if Jesus could be convinced to show up in the modern age all this discussion would be moot. Yet he remains conspicuously absent :) And you already know about the similarities between the invisible and the non-existent!

Yes, I’m sure that in at least some cases when the bodies were exhumed (I suspect, much more than just a few), they were examined by a scientist or doctor. The Church is very meticulous in verification, and rightly very skeptical until such verification takes place.

If Jesus “showed up,” He would be doubted by people like you, just as He was when He rose from the dead back when. The Jews who didn’t believe simply went right to alternate theories (hoax, stolen body). None of those are plausible or hold any water under scrutiny.

But the mere presence of a miracle is not enough for some excessively skeptical minds to be convinced. They are capable of always “explaining it away” somehow.

When the Pharisees who opposed Jesus witnessed His miracles, even they couldn’t blithely dismiss them, so they started saying that He cast out demons by Beelzebub (i.e., a Satanic rather than divine miracle); to which Jesus said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

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