Why I Don’t Believe (Series Index)

Why I Don’t Believe (Series Index) September 27, 2010


I’ve used this blog to pick at some parts of religion that I find off-putting (usually on a political level), but I haven’t spent that much time explaining why I don’t believe in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, etc, etc, etc.

The other week, I was in a long conversation with a student proselytizing for a Christian group on campus.  It made me think more deeply about what my most basic, factual objections to Christianity are (which are distinct from objections I have to its moral teachings).  Since the tagline to this blog is still “A geeky atheist picks fights with her Catholic boyfriend,” it’s obvious I didn’t find his objections compelling.

This week, I’d like to put them before you and see what you have to say about them.  Posts on this topic start tomorrow.  Links in the list below will go live once the corresponding post is up.

  1. Contradictory Conversions
  2. The Problems of Historical Evidence
  3. The Fifth Postulate Problem

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  • Have you ever discussed the miraculous history of the Catholic Church with your boyfriend? That is how I converted. I can only guess this history is ignored because religious debates in America often only ever involve Evangelical Christians, and they have an anti-Catholic bias that predisposes them to deny post-Apostolic miracles.Here is one such miracle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbg_dhI4XCsThe man in the video, Dr. Castanon, is a former atheist who converted to the Catholic Church as a result of investigating a 1998 Eucharistic miracle at Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is also a neuroscientist and psychologist. In the video, he discusses the findings of the aforementioned investigation. There is more information available, but the video is a good primer.With such information available, I don't know how any honest and interested seeker would not at least form a rational response. That is what I set out to do, and I became Catholic. I set out to falsify, but I ended up verifying.Anyway, that's my 2 cents.

  • Brian, I refer you to the post about transubstantiation:http://www.unequally-yoked.com/2011/02/is-it-so-hard-not-to-desecrate.htmlPlease repost your comment there as an "I told you so" to the people there who said I was building a strawman argument and that real Catholics don't believe what you believe. (Itself a No True Scotsman fallacy!)

  • Hmm. As far as I can tell, I *do* think you have the Catholic teaching misunderstood. Yes, we Catholics believe that the Eucharist literally becomes the body and blood, soul and divinity of the Lord, but excepting miraculous cases such as the one at Buenos Aires, there is no physical change in the composition (or the "accidents") of the bread and wine. There is, however, a supernatural or miraculous change.The No True Scotsman "fallacy" is not really fallacy. If it is, it would only be informal. Since there is a definite criteria to being a Catholic (e.g., accepting the teachings of the CC), one can apply that criteria and determine if someone is a "true" Catholic or not. There is not really a definite criteria for being a Scotsman. Incidentally, you have a case above where the Host was scientifically examined, and DNA was found which was found to be human. What do you make of it?

  • It isn't and it wasn't. Or if it was it was a fraud.Now, if you make the claim it's real – and you apparently do – then all I ask is for it to be repeatable.When someone wins the lottery (odds of millions to one against) I don't assume they somehow knew the numbers that were coming, I simply assume luck, or at the extreme, cheating. If you want to convince me something else is going on make it repeatable and independently verifiable.Incidentally, if you claim the DNA is human, and therefore Jesus', what would you make of someone who tried to clone it? Would the resulting human be Jesus? Or divine in any way? Would there be something Holy about the Y chromosome since that could only have come from the Holy Spirit and hence be part of God…

  • "Now, if you make the claim it's real – and you apparently do – then all I ask is for it to be repeatable."The problem with this is that you are creating a rather arbitrary criterion of proof. There is no formula that can produce repeatable miraculous results- that is kind of why a miracle is a miracle. So to ask for some kind of experiment to yield "repeatable" results really reflects a misunderstanding on your part, and, if I may say so, a rather naive criterion of warrant. After all, a scientific claim really isn't being put forward, but a historical one. Did this miraculous event happen? I set out to see if it did (actually, this one is just one of many), and I found that it did. I find it incredulous that any honest seeker would dismiss it with no rational basis or inquiry (i.e., "It isn't and it wasn't. Or if it was it was a fraud."). I think your dismissal is more psychologically-based than anything rational. And not that I am insulting you – I would probably distrust a non-Catholic miraculous claim. What constitutes "evidence sufficient for belief" will always be relative to one's prior convictions. And your metaphysical commitments (materialism?) probably affect your judgment very much. All I can do is point out that you are smuggling in your bias and ask you to suspend it in the interest of fair inquiry. All that being said, there have been many, many Eucharistic miracles throughout the history of the Church – might a sufficient pool of repeated results? The confluence of attestation and scientific investigation alone significantly increases epistemic warrant.One thing that I hope some atheists see, though, is that it can no longer be said that believers cannot rationally support the faith they profess (that was never true to begin with, even without the miraculous testimony, but I digress). Atheists are within their epistemic rights to deny the miracle since they are not ready or willing to concede the entire belief system of the Catholic Church. But they should be able to see how someone, on the other hand, can reasonably affirm the miracle . I doubt this will improve relations, but I hope it does.

    • Darren

      You say that you investigated and were convinced. I grew up in a miracle heavy environment, and after leaving the church have found that simple questions are all that is needed to show them false.
      I also happen to work in the pharmaceutical industry, in the Quality Assurance field, and we are held to pretty specific requirements as to our own claims.
      The sample was taken to a lab in California… Which lab. Name, address, contact person. Who received the samples. Who tested them. Under what procedures were they tested. Where are the original results. How was the testing itself validated, by this we mean, how do we know that a positive result is really positive, and how do we know a negative is a negative. The results were left ventricle. Does the test distinguish between left and right? Between cardiac and skeletal muscle?
      Where are the original samples.
      Just so you know, I am not picking on Catholics. I drive my wife nuts with here alternative medicine claims the same as this. Seem like, if we hold the manufacture of Aspirin to this standard, it is fair to hold religion to at least as high a standard…

  • @March Hare – repeatability is expected of natural events, not supernatural ones. If God performs a miracle today but doesn't perform one tomorrow, you still have a miracle to explain.

  • Dave, then explain transubstantiation – it is believed to be almost infinitely repeatable.Brian, when you see a million fakes and frauds then someone comes along with a tale that defies belief (if you'll pardon the expression) and then claim that this one really is true then pardon me while I yawn and scratch my sceptical behind.The guy went to a doctor to have the tissue checked and this one specialist, the only one mid who does this, could somehow tell from the tissue that the person it belonged to had been tortured before death… ZZZZZzzzzz….No, you just can't. All you can tell is whether the heart muscle had been stressed near to death and, strangely enough, most actually have. Not that there is any reliable proof of what happened to the Eucharist, what formed on it, how that was transported, how it was tested, what the DNA was – gee, let's see if it's at least of Middle Eastern descent… Nah, why do that when you have faith.Brian, you have no rational belief to profess the faith you do – the only single possible reason that is justifiable, in the face of NO objective evidence, is personal revelation. Which is fine but cannot convince anyone else and that should make people a bit less sure about their own revelation.