Atheist thought?

Fret not; there are rational atheists out there. I will be writing of my experience with one here shortly, Ebonmuse of Daylight Atheism, whose wedding I recently attended. Well…the reception, anyway.

The following drivel should not be attributed to rational atheists, or any of our skeptical friends who drive by the Areopagus from time to time. Y’all know you’re valued, so don’t take this personally. This is genuinely sophomoric thinking on display, which causes me to wonder why it’s trumpeted around the Internet so often. Believe it or not, the video claims 4 million views! I’ll provide some commentary on that as well, in good time. At any rate, here’s the supposed top ten questions that all intelligent Christians should answer. I’ve listed the questions below, along with a brief response for now. I’ll provide a post on each one in detail, though their desert is questionable…

Question #1: Why Won’t God Heal Amputees? (touted as “the most important question we can ask about God”)

Did you want him to contradict his own word? When He doesn’t want to, he doesn’t…and who says he doesn’t?

Question #2: Why are there so many starving children in our world?

Since there’s enough food in the world to feed everyone, perhaps we should locate blame with someone(s) other than God…just perhaps?

Question #3: Why does God demand the death of so many innocent people in the Bible?

There are no innocent people in the Bible. You would think that in any top ten list, all the questions would at least be logically coherent!

Question #4: Why does the Bible contain so much anti-scientific nonsense?

It doesn’t.

Question #5: Why is God such a huge proponent of slavery in the Bible?

He’s not.

Question #6: Why do bad things happen to good people?

They don’t. (see answer to question 3)

Question #7: Why didn’t any of Jesus’ miracles leave behind any evidence?

They did.

Question #8: How do we explain the fact that Jesus has never appeared to you?

Remember, don’t accuse the rational atheist of this stuff :)

Question #9: Why would Jesus want you to eat his body and drink his blood?

Isn’t the Bible clear about this? Just go read what it says…

Question #10: Why do Christians get divorced at the same rate as non-Christians?

Even one instance of this is troubling (not for the same reasons the question assumes), but does any real Christian have difficulty answering this question?

Yes, I told you they were weak, but they’re worth delving into for ancillary reasons, as I hope will be clear as we do so. See you soon…

30 comments

  1. shemaromans says:

    Are you joking about #1 being the most important question?

  2. NFQ says:

    I’m really looking forward to seeing your answers to these questions. It’s apparently easy for you to dismiss them all in short blurbs, but I think you (and your readers) will find that when you get into them in more depth, they are not so simple.

    To clarify #1 a bit. The Bible says a lot of different things about what God wants to do. In some places, you are right that it does say that prayer cannot change what God wants to do. But if that’s the case, why ever pray? God already knows what you want (because he’s omniscient) and he has already taken everybody’s wants and needs and best outcomes into account when designing his perfect plan. And what of all the places in the Bible where it says “Ask, and it shall be given to you” and the like? There are plenty of promises that whatever you pray for, if you are a Christian with a true heart, you will receive. If your argument is, “Ignore those parts of the Bible,” it is not a very compelling one.

    I was particularly amused by your “who says he doesn’t?” response under #1. Can you provide even one example of someone with amputated limbs having one spontaneously grow back over the stump?

  3. Paul says:

    May I jump in here for question #1? My wife witnessed her friend’s leg growing. The friend was born with polio (incurable) and invited my wife to a prayer meeting. During the prayer for healing, my wife opened her eyes to see her friend’s short leg growing.

    The friend went into the meeting wearing calipers on the one leg, which was approx. 4 to 5 inches shorter than the other. She wore a built-up shoe and needed crutches to walk. After the healing, she removed the shoe and calipers and ran out of the meeting. She was a resident at the YWCA with my wife, so many people witnessed her before and after.

    I think this qualifies as a reconstructive miracle because her leg grew and the atrophied muscles were rebuilt in a matter of seconds.

  4. MS Quixote says:

    “It’s apparently easy for you to dismiss them all in short blurbs,”

    It was, actually, easy. Thanks for noticing.

    “but I think you (and your readers) will find that when you get into them in more depth, they are not so simple.”

    NFQ, why would you make the unfounded leap that we are not familiar with these questions, and those like them? These are not even softballs; they’re tee-balls. I suspect the author knows this as well and I suspect his or her true aim is to engage the marginal Christian, but I’ll get around to that later. At any rate, I’ll pick up your concerns in the first post.

  5. MS Quixote says:

    Hey Paul,

    Jump in anytime, my friend. Great account, there. Thanks for sharing.

    By way of introduction, Paul Baines is a fellow writer, whose novel, “Alpha Redemption,” I believe, is set to publish through Splashdown Books on September 1, 2010…

    Writes under P.A. Baines, I think.

  6. MS Quixote says:

    “Are you joking about #1 being the most important question?”

    That’s what it said…

  7. NFQ says:

    MS Quixote: I made that “leap” because I talk about these types of issues a lot, and I read a lot of things written by Christians as well as the things written by other Christians that the first ones link me to when they can’t answer my questions themselves … and I haven’t heard compelling answers yet. Maybe you’re all just keeping the answers a secret, because you don’t want to spoil the game or something. I don’t know. Anyway, like I said, I look forward to seeing your answers to them.

    I don’t mean to say that I love all of these questions and think they’re perfect. I would have rephrased some of them, and one or two I think are probably misguided. But I do think in general that they touch on important issues. If you really want to say that everybody who has ever lived is inherently evil and guilty beginning from the moment they were born, and you can explain what framework of justice under which that makes sense — then fine. If you want to say that every statement about natural history in the Bible was literally true, despite the mountains of apparent scientific evidence to the contrary — then fine. But those are pretty gutsy statements to make, and ones that a lot of Christians don’t really want to face head-on. If you’re okay with believing in an omnipotent God who was for some reason helpless to stop all of humanity from being horrible sinners, and just has to punish all of us even though he really loves us very much — if you can still call that God omnipotent — then kudos to you, I guess.

    Paul: The leg growing thing is a very popular faith healing scam.

  8. MS Quixote says:

    Hey NFQ,

    Hold those thoughts until I post my first response :)

    Oh, yeah… We know all about the parlor tricks as well as the questions.

    Cheers.

  9. Paul says:

    NFQ,
    While I understand your scepticism, please understand:
    – The healing was not the focus of any attention, so was not “used” by the person at the front.
    – Only my wife saw her leg grow.
    – The woman had polio since birth.
    – Polio is incurable.
    – She was a well-known long-term resident at the YWCA.
    – People who knew her saw how much this healing impacted her life.
    This was definitely not a scam.

    Paul

  10. C.L. Dyck says:

    Hey Paul, my grandfather had polio and a permanent disability as a result. I understand what you’re saying — it’s not the usual leg-pulling scam. I once spoke with a physiotherapist friend (a Christian) about “miraculous leg lengthening,” and she finds that particular fad laughable. She said everyone’s legs are slightly different from each other, and all that’s going on is a minor hip adjustment. What you’re presenting is a different situation.

  11. Paul says:

    My chiropractor once mentioned something similar. He got me to lie flat on my back, then lifted my legs by my heels, showing how my feet were turned in at different angles and one leg was slightly longer by maybe a quarter inch. He reckoned most people have this problem and are basically unwittingly crippled. What my wife saw was a growth of between four and five inches. That’s about half the narrow side of a sheet of letter-sized paper.

  12. Daniel Browne says:

    Sorry to start off by being off-topic…

    I linked to this site from Quixote’s blog “European Swallow”. Quixote you are the first theist I have ever found online who actually made me think without making my blood boil, you have my respect. I’m new to philosophy and critical thinking so I am not anywhere close to being as knowledgeable and skillful as you are. I only allowed myself to start thinking when I recently decided to become an atheist, I have been brought up in a “teaching” heavy literal-Bible Christian environment, so I think I know quite a lot about Christianity. Is there a way I can subscribe to only your posts via RSS? I have no desire to read pages of Bible verses accommodating misogyny like those posted on the front page of this site.

    To be slightly more on topic, I would like to see a more thorough refutation of the questions above, your answers don’t seem as deeply considered as what I read on your old blog. I read every comment as well! You and those who commented are the kind of people I want to discuss issues with.

    Thanks for showing me that not all theists are unreasonable and bigoted. As a recent “de-convert” from Christianity I still have very strong emotions (approaching hatred) regarding fundamentalist religion.

  13. MS Quixote says:

    “without making my blood boil”

    Hey, Daniel. The honesty is appreciated, man, and in that everyone here will return the same respect in kind, I promise. However, I don’t know of any way to segregate an RSS feed, being the computer Neandertal I am. What I can say with regard to misogyny, though, is that at least two of us, including myself, are formally trained and steeped in feminism, and one expert resides here.

    “I would like to see a more thorough refutation of the questions above, your answers don’t seem as deeply considered as what I read on your old blog.”

    You’re exactly right. Those are one-liners I threw out on the cuff, and I’ve been delinquent in producing the post-per-question I promised (sorry NFQ). Book deadline, mainly, has swallowed my blogging time. I’ll see if I can get motivated…

    “Thanks for showing me that not all theists are unreasonable and bigoted.”

    No problem, and likewise: thanks for reinforcing my experience that many atheists are reasonable and non-bigoted, and that we can talk without everyone hating each other!

    “As a recent “de-convert” from Christianity I still have very strong emotions (approaching hatred) regarding fundamentalist religion.”

    I realize it’s none of my business (so don’t feel pressured to respond), and I’m not asking in an attempt to “re-convert” you: was it a specific event, traumatic perhaps, that drives this near hatred, or a more general thing like you lost faith and decided a great deal of your time had been wasted?

    At any rate, there’s no need for any hatred around here, from either side, and you’re welcome even in your dissent.

    Cheers.

  14. Allow me to extend a welcome as well, Daniel. I’m Cat, one of the well-steeped-feminism types.

    “you are the first theist I have ever found online who actually made me think without making my blood boil”

    Well, I’m biased on the basis of friendship, but I’ll tell you this is about my favourite blog to interact with. In any case, I think it’s cool of you to drop by and say that. I’m a literary associate of Quixote’s, and I happen to know stuff like that makes a difference to his day.

    Glad you’re getting into critical thinking. It’s fun stuff, and nobody here is going to smack you for practicing your skillset. Enjoy.

    Quixote:

    “I’ll see if I can get motivated…”

    Yah, mule!! 😀

  15. shema says:

    “Glad you’re getting into critical thinking. It’s fun stuff, and nobody here is going to smack you for practicing your skillset.”

    True! Everyone fears the Members Only jacket…

  16. There’s a members’ jacket? Why didn’t I get mine? Do I get style options? (Let me guess: black, and leather.) Where’s the order form? It better be as free as my advice is!…Do you do hats? I like hats better than jackets.

    😀

    How’re the Horns this weekend, girl?

  17. shema says:

    Read the Comments Policy. :) …and I’m not touching the hat question!

    The Horns made us smile. Not only did they win, but they beat an opponent that needed beating. Plus, it was the ninth time in ten years that they have beaten them. Good on ’em. :)

  18. MS Quixote says:

    “There’s a members’ jacket? Why didn’t I get mine? Do I get style options? (Let me guess: black, and leather.) Where’s the order form? It better be as free as my advice is!…Do you do hats? I like hats better than jackets.”

    My eyes have never seen a more beautiful sight… :)

  19. David James says:

    It looks to me as if the last comment was done back in October and only one blog entry since this one, so I was kind of wondering when the answers would be expanded on? I would like to see the extent of what Marc would say once he puts the details in.

  20. Cat says:

    All in good time, I’m sure. Last I heard, that Quixote varmint was crazy busy.

  21. Karla says:

    Hi there. It’s been a while since I’ve been truly active in the blogosphere. I’m trying to get back into the swing of things and revitalize my blog a bit. Nice post. Just wanted to say hello.

    On the healing question by atheist, it is interesting to me that they do not seem to go check out all the healing reports going on these days. I can point them to so many ministries where healing is taking place continually, such as Bethel Church in Redding, California. If I were an atheist and heard that people are getting out of wheel chairs and broken bones are getting healed and people are being healed of cancer, I think I’d go check it out for myself and see if just maybe there is some real Jesus power happening.

  22. StevenW says:

    I found this site through Ebon Musings. I am an atheist and really appreciate the response that Marc gave to “The Theist’s Guide to Converting Atheists” on the Ebon Musing site. If there is a direct blog post on this site that would be best to respond to that response, I’d like to know it.

    Now Karla poses, “On the healing question by atheist, it is interesting to me that they do not seem to go check out all the healing reports going on these days. I can point them to so many ministries where healing is taking place continually, such as Bethel Church in Redding, California.”

    I’d like to give my answer to that. First, I’m not located near the place in question nor can I easily relocate for the purpose of research. But, if I were able to relocate I am sure that I would come across a similar problem that many atheists have when researching supernatural phenomenon. Either not enough factual information exists to reach a conclusion, or the factual information disproves it. However, by the time the one supernatural phenomenon has been disproved, multiple other claims have risen to take it’s place. Atheists as a whole can’t research all reports of healing because we don’t have the time to do so.

    The problem is complicated because many atheists, myself included, must have factual information and not just personal testimony. I can’t accept a claim as valid just because someone said so.

    I think that may be one key areas where atheists and theists differ. Many theists I know base their belief on their personal experiences with their god. As an atheist, I don’t accept personal experiences but objective facts. I can’t talk to one of my friends regarding her theism and my atheism because she gets upset when I can’t accept her personal testimony. We have come to an impasse when it comes to discussions of that nature.

  23. MS says:

    Hey Steven,

    Hope things are well with you.

    The remains of that discussion can be found here: http://europeanswallow.blogspot.com/

    How often all conversations between atheists and theists end in impasse, eh? Seems to be the nature of things, and that’s one reason I took a break from writing this blog.

    I agree with you that your friend should not be upset with you. I wouldn’t expect you to believe my personal testimony; however, I think the basis you set forth for your disbelief–at least as you’ve described it–is incoherent. And, in that, I would disagree with you. Here’s why…

    “The problem is complicated because many atheists, myself included, must have factual information and not just personal testimony. I can’t accept a claim as valid just because someone said so.”

    Setting aside pedanticism over validity and soundness, and discussions of true facts, certainly, you detect the self-refuting nature of this assertion. For instance, I’ve never met you, but I believe your testimony here. I believe without reservation that you find this line of reasoning, and your own testimony thereto, persuasive, and that moreover, I should believe it.

    But the problem is much wider than that; namely, you don’t even believe this to be true. It’s trivially false, in fact. Do you expect your Boss to give you the day off when you phone in with a headache, or do you expect her to fire you because you cannot provide factual information that your head hurts excessively, preventing you from working? Do you believe that Alexander the Great lived? Should I believe you if you tell me the sunset this morning was beautiful to you? Do you just not talk all day?! Have you ever thought deeply about how someone could be convicted in a court of law on the strength of DNA evidence alone without testimonial evidence?

    Testimonial information is considered warranted knowledge if true and obtained from a warranted source. This much should be relatively uncontroversial. I mean, if what you’re claiming here is true, then upwards of ninety percent of what you know will not constitute knowledge. So, go call an elder family member and tell him or her you can’t accept all those baby stories they told you about yourself. :)

    Hence, what I think you really mean–and forgive me for being presumptuous–is that certain testimonial evidence is not convincing for you or does not rise to the level of sufficient evidence in your view on matters akin to belief in God. With that I take no exception. Nonetheless, it does create an uncomfortable position for you if you continue to deny testimonial evidence outright. For then, by this reasoning, it seems your testimony of unbelief, and in this case unbelief based on the claimed insufficiency of testimony, may be called into question along similar lines. There perhaps may be a deficiency in your cognitive function (please do not equate with “stupid” here, but as epistemic proper function) or you may be repressing testimonial evidence ala Paul’s argument in Romans 1.

    Hear me well; I’m not accusing you of this, but the moment you throw out testimonial evidence as insufficient, your testimony is then suspect on identical grounds, obviously. To sum, then, it is an objective fact that testimonial evidence can be valid, and as a professing atheist, you’ve bound yourself to accepting objective fact. I know this about you on the basis of your testimony above. :)

    “Either not enough factual information exists to reach a conclusion, or the factual information disproves it.”

    This is my experience as well, generally speaking…

    “Atheists as a whole can’t research all reports of healing because we don’t have the time to do so.”

    Excellent. So we’re agreed that statements such as “there is no evidence for God” are irrational.

    All in all, thanks for the comment, Steven. As far as I know this is your first trip around here, so let me say in all sincerity that we welcome everyone regardless of whether they are atheist, theist, whatever. Well, most everyone. Fanatic religious suicide cult leaders? Not really welcome. But you are, and you’re welcome to criticize whatever you deem appropriate and agree in like manner.

    Cheers…

  24. StevenW says:

    Thank you MS for your welcome. It is indeed the first blog post that I have responded to here.
    “I wouldn’t expect you to believe my personal testimony; however, I think the basis you set forth for your disbelief–at least as you’ve described it–is incoherent. And, in that, I would disagree with you. Here’s why…”
    I apologize for not being exact in my definition of personal testimony. It is true that I do accept testimonial evidence from reliable sources. It is also true that I consider that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Do I accept the earth is round, yes…even though I haven’t seen it for myself. Do I accept string theory is valid…I don’t think enough evidence has been submitted to convince me.
    In most cases I consider both the source, the claim, and the knowledge of the source in relation to the claim when testimony is presented. For example, I don’t trust biologists talking about climate change.
    “Excellent. So we’re agreed that statements such as “there is no evidence for God” are irrational.”
    I often get tripped up over the definition of things. In this case, I may need further definition of the word evidence. If the definition includes both positive, as proof, and negative, as disproof, of the existance for the Christian god, then I would say we are in agreement that there could be “evidence for God”. However, we would have to further clarify what is accepted as evidence.
    As I explained in my previous comment, I can’t accept another’s personal testimony of the existence of a god. The simple reason I can’t is because I did not experience what they did, and experiences are often subjective, as witnesses to emotional events have shown. While I may think that there is a logical explanation for what the person has described, I can neither test my theory nor the person’s testimony. Since it is untestable, I don’t think it’s a viable form of evidence.
    This may pose a problem when it comes to many things that believers consider as evidence for the existence of a god. Miracles only seem to happen once, which means they are usually untestable. Holy artifacts are often not permitted to be tested or the tests are restricted to preserve the artifact. Holy books in and of themselves can’t be accepted. The books have been changed and translated in numerous ways and depend on “interpretation” unless the person believes in the literal words in the book.
    I will admit that I have now become biased to look for a naturalistic explanation to almost any situation. This includes responding with “I don’t know” when I can’t explain something but think that a natural explanation may eventually be discovered or may currently exist outside of my own knowledge base.

  25. MS says:

    Hey Steven,

    Just because I’m about to respond with focus on our differences, doesn’t mean I don’t find your comments commendable in many of its particulars. I do…

    “It is true that I do accept testimonial evidence from reliable sources.”

    No wonder your friend gets upset with you. :)

    “It is also true that I consider that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    You ought not give yourself over to silly propositions. Carl Sagan was very intelligent, but this was not his most shining intellectual moment. In fact, it’s outright worthy of ridicule, since it’s gained so much traction among the internet atheist community.

    Claims require evidence. Full stop. The type of evidence that supports the claim of receiving a royal flush is no different than that supporting the claim of receiving two pair. There either is evidence for a claim, or not, and appeals to extraordinarity are rhetorical smokescreens.

    Again, in actuality, the majority of what we count as knowledge does not require evidence at all, nor can any be provided for it. The examples I provided in my last comment should suffice, but if not, please provide evidence for the existence of the dream you had last night. For me, you will offer your personal testimony, for yourself, it will be known without evidence.

    “I can’t accept another’s personal testimony of the existence of a god. The simple reason I can’t is because I did not experience what they did, and experiences are often subjective, as witnesses to emotional events have shown. While I may think that there is a logical explanation for what the person has described, I can neither test my theory nor the person’s testimony.

    What I hear you saying, as I previously indicated, is that you accept their testimony as a recounting of an experienced phenomenon, but you cannot be sure, based on your frame of reference, as to what the phenomenon actually is or was. I take no exception to that. However, the idea you attempt to tack on to it is deeply flawed:

    “Since it is untestable, I don’t think it’s a viable form of evidence.”

    As with extraordinarity, it’s odd to see such a soundly refuted and universally discarded philosophic thought gain so much traction within the thought community it appears you frequent. The verificationist principle, logical positivism, etc., were virtually abandoned decades ago by thinkers of all stripes. If you followed this principle consistently–IOW, in all areas except where it is convenient for your disbelief in God–you would be forced to deny upwards of ninety percent of what you rightly call knowledge. Belief in other minds? Untestable. Belief in your dream last night? Untestable. Belief in your memories? Untestable. Belief in the proposition that untestable propositions are not viable forms of evidence…untestable.

    It seems to me the atheist and the theist have equal and damning faults here. We far too easily accept trivially false propositions without due skepticism when they support our underlying desires for belief or non-belief. I readily admit it on the theist side, but since you’re on the opposite side, I’ll highlight yours. There are the two I’ve noted above, and, once accepted, they lead almost inexorably to the following:

    “I will admit that I have now become biased to look for a naturalistic explanation to almost any situation.”

    This: http://www.marcschooley.com/blog/?p=469

    Or, to look at it another way, “I have philosophically blocked myself from the greater part of knowledge I can have in life, and especially that which makes me as human greater than the manner in which matter and physical forces function.” Doesn’t it trouble you at all to realize that Naturalism is not testable, but theism is? That Naturalism can never be known to be true–is genuinely unknowable–but that theism has the potential to be known and proven?

  26. StevenW says:

    Marc,
    Thanks again for this discussion. As much as atheists and theists may argue about differences, I think it is important to try to see the thoughts and motivations that account for those differences. It may be selfish, but it helps me to understand myself better. I would hope it provides an equal benefit to others as well. I apologize if my response tends to be a little long, but I wanted to keep as much communication going as possible on all the aspects you mention.

    “You ought not give yourself over to silly propositions. Carl Sagan was very intelligent, but this was not his most shining intellectual moment. In fact, it’s outright worthy of ridicule, since it’s gained so much traction among the internet atheist community.”

    I disagree, although I think it may be how one interprets what Carl said. I take his quote to mean that the more something appears to be out of line with current understanding than the amount of proof a person requires to accept it will be greater. It does not mean that the proof itself has to be extraordinary.

    To use an example, at one time the majority of the civilized world thought the earth was flat. At such a time, someone telling you the earth was round would have likely been laughed off. As ways were devised to prove the earth was round, people began to accept it. The likelihood of the person accepting it depended on the amount of proof the person required to accept it. It is now less likely to accept the world is flat than accept the world is round because of the amount of proof that exists indicating the roundness of the world, however there still may be people that choose to believe the earth is flat regardless of existing evidence.

    “The examples I provided in my last comment should suffice, but if not, please provide evidence for the existence of the dream you had last night. For me, you will offer your personal testimony, for yourself, it will be known without evidence.”

    I want to discuss this further. Dreams are a good example for use as they have limited ways that I would accept their existence. I would argue, however, that I do have evidence of their existence due to the memory in my brain after waking from a dream. Now, my memory could be in error, but as far as I can tell it is accurate. You likely would accept my personal testimony of my dream because you yourself experience dreams and so accept that people can have dreams. It would be harder for you to understand or accept my testimony if you do not experience dreams. You may accept it easier if you have found me to be a truthful person, which in itself requires evidence that I have been truthful or at least not a liar. Otherwise you may accept that people dream from other individuals you have found to be truthful. In either case the evidence has built up over your lifetime and through interactions with other people. Little pieces of proof that overall lend weight to my statement that I had a dream last night.

    Now, if I were to tell you what my dream was about, there would be absolutely no way for you to verify my claim. You would either accept or reject it based on how truthful you considered me to be and how likely you think I am joking with you. It is for that reason that the content of the dream can’t be accepted as testimonial evidence and the same reason that I don’t consider personal testimony of a god.

    Here are some other reasons that I discount personal testimony from other individuals about a god. Other atheists may or may not share them.

    First, as we have grown up, we have been told of many things such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny that we then have found to be imaginary. Since the beings of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny have now been falsified, why would a god be different? This is especially relevant as it usually is someone who we trust implicitly that tells us not only of a god but of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny so our trust in them may begin to be in doubt.

    Second, our brains can be tricked. Optical illusions exist that prove it for sight, but the same occurs for other senses as well. This means that what a person thinks they may have sensed may not actually be what happened. This is what I eluded to when I was talking about witnesses to emotional events. It is often the case that witnesses experience slightly different, and sometimes conflicting, versions of an event.

    Third, memories are elastic. This means that given the proper motivations we will change our memories to fit with what we have been told. I do believe this is one reason why testimony while under hypnosis is not accepted in court; however I could be mistaken about it not being allowed.

    Fourth, many theists have talked about the importance in a personal relationship with their god. That means that I should take my own personal experience of experiencing a god over another’s personal experience. Since I have not had an experience with a god, either the god wants me to be an atheist or personal experience shouldn’t be the defining factor to base my belief on.

    Finally, most gods require a corresponding belief in an afterlife which implies an important choice. If I believe in a god, but it is not the true god, many religions believe that I would be tormented for an eternity after I die. Therefore it is very important that I weigh my decision carefully and make absolutely sure that I am correct which means I need to vet all evidence appropriately.

    “The verificationist principle, logical positivism, etc., were virtually abandoned decades ago by thinkers of all stripes.”

    Here I was thinking that testing is still a vital part of sound science. Unless you are arguing that scientists are not thinkers. 😉
    If however you mean philosophers exclusively, I would have no clue. I don’t have enough experience with philosophy to confirm or deny your claim. I will have to research verificationism and logical positivism, but it is my opinion, and my opinion only, that I am talking about empiricism.

    “If you followed this principle consistently–IOW, in all areas except where it is convenient for your disbelief in God–you would be forced to deny upwards of ninety percent of what you rightly call knowledge.”

    I think we have a miscommunication or I wasn’t clear enough in my description. Hopefully, my responses in this comment have clarified things.

    “Belief in other minds? Untestable. Belief in your dream last night? Untestable. Belief in your memories? Untestable. Belief in the proposition that untestable propositions are not viable forms of evidence…untestable.”

    I could provide ways to test consciousness and memory verification if you so require, so I don’t consider them untestable. I think I have provided enough about dreams as well as how to test them already to explain the existence of them as well. If you can provide something untestable that I would agree is a viable form of evidence, then we have proven that untestable things can be used as a viable form of evidence and I will alter my opinion of it accordingly. Otherwise, if you can’t come up with any example that proves your case, I will keep my opinion. Thus my opinion, which I think you may have paraphrased incorrectly, is testable.

    If the specific reasoning for this line of argument is my indications that miracles are usually untestable, it is often due to lack of information related to the miracle in question and the limit of personal testimony as the only evidence. I have explained previously why I think personal testimony can be suspect.

    “It seems to me the atheist and the theist have equal and damning faults here…once accepted, they lead almost inexorably to the following:”

    While I wouldn’t call it damning, I will agree that people as a whole aren’t often skeptical of their own opinions and thoughts. I do find it a bit problematic that you seem to indicate I am overly skeptical of evidence as a fault due to my lack of skepticism toward it.

    “Or, to look at it another way, “I have philosophically blocked myself from the greater part of knowledge I can have in life””

    I’m confused as to what greater part of knowledge you are suggesting I am blocking myself from. I am willing to look at evidence for supernatural phenomenon whether that is ghosts, gods, or astral travel. I have researched them in the past and was not convinced, but I am open to further evidence.

    Why I should think I am “as a human greater than matter and physical forces” because of a god? That I consider myself alive and furthermore conscious already provide ways to pride myself for my enviable position should I require. But I can also respect the amazingly weak force called gravity that so affects the universe and creates such wonders like black holes and white dwarf stars.

    “Doesn’t it trouble you at all to realize that Naturalism is not testable, but theism is?”

    I find the opposite to be true. Naturalism is tested on a regular basis, both internally and externally. Internally by scientists who actively seek out additional knowledge which ends up dismantling old thoughts to build new ones. Externally by theists who often use logical processes to try to refute naturalism.

    Theism to me isn’t testable, it is a personal choice. A person chooses to be a theist of a certain religion, denomination, or sect because it feels right. Because theism has at its core the requirement of faith, no evidence should sway a believer nor should lack of evidence concern one. Nothing I say, no evidence I submit, should change your belief in your religion. If it does, then it supposedly is your weakness and not the “truth” of the religion.

    That being said, numerous people change to a different religion, and some theists become atheist. The only explanation I have come up with that fits is that religion is a personal choice based on the needs of the individual and doesn’t have any bearing on the supposed objective truth of it.

    “That Naturalism can never be known to be true–is genuinely unknowable–but that theism has the potential to be known and proven?”

    I am not troubled that the theories and laws that make up a naturalistic viewpoint can never be 100% certain; actually it is a comfort to me. It means that we as humans can always learn more. Knowing that there are things I do not know is more humbling to me than accepting that I am at the mercy of an unknowable entity.

    I’m unsure that theism can be proved, if I was certain it could be I’d be a theist. I am more confident that I can disprove most theists’ version of a god. I don’t actively try to since, as I implied above, each theist’s religion is unique to them and the process is often an effort in futility.

  27. MS says:

    “It does not mean that the proof itself has to be extraordinary.”

    Good, so it seems obvious then that the phrase extraordinary evidence is mere rhetoric. Proof is proof…IOW, it may have been extraordinary in the early 20th century to claim that peoples inhabited the new world centuries earlier than archeologists had previously thought possible. However, the sort of proof that demonstrated such was not any different than the kind of evidence possessed of other ancient cultures, except, crucially, that there was significantly less of it. Hence, the phrase is mere inflammatory rhetoric with no connection to substantive discussion or accurate logical discourse.

    “To use an example”

    Bad example. The ancient world knew the earth was not flat.

    “I would argue, however, that I do have evidence of their existence due to the memory in my brain after waking from a dream.”

    Of course you would, Steven. That’s why I chose your dream as an example. The salient point is that you have no evidence to set forth for the dream you had last night. All you can give me is your personal testimony. And, be careful to note the example also requires you to accept belief in your dream’s existence on a non-evidential basis. Just like your memories. Just like your enjoyment of your favorite color and the pain of a headache. Not to mention that 1+1=2, as well as all your sensory data, generally.

    “Now, if I were to tell you what my dream was about, there would be absolutely no way for you to verify my claim.”

    You are missing the point here. The problem is not that I can’t verify it, which, true enough, I cannot. The point I am making is that you cannot verify it either. :)

    Once you get a firm grasp of that, we can dicsuss further…

    “Since the beings of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny have now been falsified, why would a god be different?”

    Do you not see the non sequitur? I would never say that since spontaneous generation has now been falsified as a scientific theory, why would evolution be different.

    “This means that what a person thinks they may have sensed may not actually be what happened.”

    And thus you’ve fatally undercut your own skepticism.

    “This means that given the proper motivations we will change our memories to fit with what we have been told.”

    Excellent point, and one I alluded to in my last comment. Problem is, it’s not a point in either of our favor. You have desires and motivations for unbelief, I’m certain, just as I do for belief.

    “Fourth”

    See point three…

    “Here I was thinking that testing is still a vital part of sound science.”

    I am intimately involved with sound science on a daily basis. You? But my comment was not about sound science, it was with regard to your comment that if it’s not testable, it’s not evidence.

    “I am talking about empiricism”

    Which type of empiricism? Ah, good, but you still have your own undercutting defeater to deal with: “This means that what a person thinks they may have sensed may not actually be what happened”

    “I’m confused as to what greater part of knowledge you are suggesting I am blocking myself from.”

    I don’t think you do in your real life, which you seem to leave behind when you pursue philosophy. Do you love the sight of a beautiful sunset? Probably so, which is different than understanding how light refracts through the atmosphere. Extrapolate that a million different ways in your personal experience and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    “That I consider myself alive and furthermore conscious already provide ways to pride myself for my enviable position should I require.”

    Right, because you check you Naturalism at the door and act as though there is more to you than the actions of physical particles and forces.

    “Naturalism is tested on a regular basis, both internally and externally.”

    True enough, Naturalism is falsifiable. I should have made that clear to be fair. But I also should have made that clear because it proves my point. One of Naturalism’s denials, theism, can falsify it. Thus, theism is theoretically knowable. Naturalism, on the other hand, can never be known. It lacks the power to disclose itself, and if you die and it’s true, you won’t know it. The closest you could come to knowing it is by some form of inductive proof.

    It should be obvious that theism has the potential to prove itslef this way. After all, the hiddeness of God objection relies on it. :)

  28. Allallt says:

    I actually want to take a moment and defend what you see as bad questions directed at Christianity. I won’t, for now, argue with the fact that you fail to actually give a substantiated answer, just that the questions (some at least) are more potent that you seem to be letting on. There not arguments I would choose to lead with personally, but here’s a word in the defence of most of them:

    Question #1: Why Won’t God Heal Amputees? (touted as “the most important question we can ask about God”)
    I’ve never known this as the most important question. But put the healing of amputees in some sort of context. There are animals (like starfish and many types of reptile) that can re-grow limbs, yet humans–apparently God’s favourite species, we are responsible for all other animals–cannot do the same thing and are not, even occasionally, bestowed the blessing of having amputation undone.

    Question #2: Why are there so many starving children in our world?
    Does God fail to be benevolent or to be omnipotent. He’s under no responsibility to be either of those things, but for there to be starving people on the earth there is clearly a lack of any one sentience possessing both benevolence and omnipotence.

    Question #3: Why does God demand the death of so many innocent people in the Bible?
    Like, for example, every first born son of Egypt. Or all the new borns at the time of Noah’s flood.

    Question #4: Why does the Bible contain so much anti-scientific nonsense?
    Witches.

    Question #5: Why is God such a huge proponent of slavery in the Bible?
    To say, God doesn’t condemn His people’s act of slavery, only to say don’t beat them to death. He allows the purchase of other people.

    Question #6: Why do bad things happen to good people?
    Job. Job should be all I have to say on the issue.

    Question #7: Why didn’t any of Jesus’ miracles leave behind any evidence?
    Here you’ll just have to present the evidence. I’m going to add the stipulation ‘good’; good evidence. I don’t want any of this “It’s in the Book” reasoning.

    Question #8: How do we explain the fact that Jesus has never appeared to you?
    This one I don’t understand. I’m not defending this one.

    Question #9: Why would Jesus want you to eat his body and drink his blood?
    Actually, the Bible isn’t clear about this. Not that I’ve found anyway. Maybe a Chapter and verse would help me.

    Question #10: Why do Christians get divorced at the same rate as non-Christians?
    This is asked in the context of Christianity being a moral grounding, and framework in which people can live their lives. This question is placed in response to a very particular claim that some Christians make. And in the context of that claim, it’s a good question.

  29. MS says:

    Hey All,

    Thanks for dropping by. You’re right…I never got around to answering these in any detail. Laziness, mainly, and lots of other stuff to do. I suppose since I keep getting some interest in these, I should get off dead-center and do what I said I was going to do.

  30. […] due to a vicious cycle of stupid conversations in which both sides are entirely culpable (vide here and […]

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