Why faith?

Just in case you didn’t know, a few weeks ago I arrived at a decision that I would no longer call myself a Christian. I wrote a long, angry, ill-timed article about it which I won’t link here as I don’t wish to offend any more people. I am sure that you can find it if you really want to read it.

My decision might have seemed like an ill-informed snap decision to many. It wasn’t. I have been forming opinions in this direction for perhaps two years, with elements from further back. Some recent events were the final trigger that set off all that had been building up and I made my choice.

It has been pointed out to me that a lot of my reasons for not being a Christian are actually only reasons to reject organised religion. Well yes. I am particularly scathing of many things done by the Catholic church, and I stopped being a Catholic several years ago and started attending an Elim church. Many bad things are done by protestant Christians too. I know that Christians of all types have done good things, usually without any other motive but too often there are bad things carried along with that. Particular ideas, expectations and judgements that all but negate the good stuff. I won’t even go into the stuff done by morons like Westborough Baptist Church or Abortion Clinic protesters. I don’t think they are even Christians by any definition except their own.

Leaving aside my rejection of religion itself, what about God? I said in my earlier article that I would remain agnostic and open to persuasion rather than become an atheist. That is the problem though. Persuasion. To be persuaded, I need evidence, and Christianity is designed around not giving me any. I don’t dispute that Jesus existed. There is plenty of historical evidence for that. What I find so frustrating is the insistence that I must rely on faith alone and that I shouldn’t need evidence.

Some people at this point would point at Lewis’s trilemma as evidence. It really isn’t, I can assure you. Here is what C.S. Lewis said:

“Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable.”

I have often seen the above quote paraphrased as “Jesus was either mad, bad, or God.” I see no reason to pick God out of those answers.

Faith is a virtue. Why?

Johns gospel tells us about Thomas who was not with the other disciples when Jesus first visited them after his death, and refused to believe it without evidence. Chapter 20 verse 29 goes on to say “Then Jesus told him: Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I do not understand the logic here. Why is it better to have faith without evidence? It seems to me like a recipe for believing anything and everything.

I cannot bring myself to believe in God without evidence. As I said a few months ago in when I wrote about skepticism, I am critical of those things that are harmful and are without reason or logic or even counter to such ideas. Scientology, homeopathy, promotion of anti-vaccine ideas, denying climate change, and more. But how can I criticise all those and not be critical of faith in God? All we have to go on are some historical figures and a lot of feelings and personal revelation. Very strong personal revelation, but still personal and can’t be replicated in controlled observed conditions.

If God is real and wants us to know about him and to worship him, why doesn’t he show himself to us today? And I mean physical manifestation, not personal revelation. Two thousand years is a long time to go without new evidence, and it’s long enough to cast doubt on the reliability of old evidence. So why faith? What is wrong with evidence?

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

55 thoughts on “Why faith?”

  1. “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” – Seneca (ca. 4 BC –AD 65)

    Think that pretty much sums up my opinion of _organised_ religion. The whole reason is that’s its a lot easier to control a population if you can start them down the line of believing things that have no evidence or proof. Put it this way, it’s going to be a whole lot easier to get people to go to war if a) they think they have a deity on their side rather than because some bigwig who isn’t even going to get near the fighting said so and b) if/when they die, they’ll go somewhere nice rather than just ceasing to exist.

    If you want to believe in something, be that some sort of all-powerful deity, or that there are faires at the bottom of your garden then so be it as far as i’m concerned. The moment whatever you believe starts harming yourself or others (phsyically, mentally or in any other way) is when it becomes a problem.

    There is nothing wrong with evidence, or wanting it. Just because someone may someday say “look, here’s the maths that prove God exists” it doesn’t suddenly mean every Christian is going to say “oh, well that invalidates my entire reason for being a Christian. I only did it because it couldn’t be proved.” and stop. If anything I imagine it’d increase the uptake 🙂

    Interesting article on the historical Jesus here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_Jesus (wikipedia so take with as much sodium as you feel necessary)

    1. I definitely agree with you that religion is often used by the powerful to coerce people into doing disagreeable things. I think it is really a separate issue from wanting evidence for religion, although I suppose if people wanted evidence then they might not be religious for rulers to abuse.

      1. Not being a believer in any way, shape or form it would be out of my remit to comment on the wanting evidence thing. However, from my experience with Christians (limited though it is) I think that wanting evidence is almost going to be seen as offensive to them.

        It seems to almost be a badge of honour that they believe things without evidence. Beth asked me once what it was I believed in, almost as though to not believe in anything was in some way a bad thing so I just said “science I guess” which she seemed to accept.

        1. i aree with rob 🙂 Have to admit, I know my freinds over in the USA would be THRILLEd to hear me say I beeive, that I accept Christ as my own personal saviour etc etc. It would make them very happy, but they wouldn’t want me to say it without it being true at all

  2. Hi Steve

    “To be persuaded, I need evidence, and Christianity is designed around not giving me any”

    I’m not sure that’s true. My beef with atheists is often that they say there is “no evidence”. This is not true, as I’m sure you would agree: there is some evidence, and you can take it or leave it. The problem with evidence is that it can often be influenced by your preconceptions and experiences to start with, but in my opinion the evidence and the case for Christianity is compelling.

    Check out Reasonable Faith (crossing my fingers that HTML works…). Of particular interest to you I think would be the section ‘Popular articles’ -> ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, which contains lots of information about the historical Christ.

    Regarding Lewis’ trilemma, I think the problem with claiming Jesus as either bad or mad you’re going against the grain with what we know from the gospels. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel has a chapter on this, an interview with a Christian psychologist for example.

    I suppose ultimately all I’m saying is that to say there is ‘no evidence’ for Christianity is overstating the case. I think Christianity being true is the best explanation for the evidence that we do have, and I think it’s perfectly rational to believe that.

    Obviously opinions may differ, but that’s mine 🙂

    By the way – I read Anne-Marie’s comment on your previous post the other day. I just wanted to say I hope I didn’t come across as too harsh and uncaring in either that comment or this one… I agree 100% with everything she put (she’s much better at putting that stuff across than me!) but it’s just in my nature to respond to things like this in a much more emotionally disconnected way. Obviously I still care about you as a friend! Right, too much emotion, I think I’d better go and do something manly, like start, um, making dinner. Yeah.

    1. Your comments are definitely appreciated, Phill. And believe me, I know that this subject is horribly emotional for all involved. My biggest regret is causing negative emotions and pain in others by changing my beliefs.

      I suppose ultimately the difference in your conclusions and mine is the weighting that we have attached to various pieces of evidence, although as I have not studied theology and you have I suppose you may be aware of more of it too. I will spend some time reading the links you have given me. (It’s not like I have much else on while stuck in bed!)

      1. Gah, had a reply all done and it decided not to post it… Oh well, i’ll try and write it again

        “My biggest regret is causing negative emotions and pain in others by changing my beliefs.”

        Would you have continued living a lie (or “lack of belief” if lie is a bit strong) if you’d known in advance the pain and emotions that it would have caused for people?

        Do you really think that your friends and family would have wanted you to live like that just for their sake? Ok, so maybe it could have been handled a bit smoother, but you have obviously had this brewing for quite some time and all it needed was a trigger to set it all off.

        1. i aree with rob 🙂 Have to admit, I know my freinds over in the USA would be THRILLEd to hear me say I beeive, that I accept Christ as my own personal saviour etc etc. It would make them very happy, but they wouldn’t want me to say it without it being true at all

      1. I went through a phase a little while ago where I was reading quite a lot of atheist blogs (Common Sense Atheism being one). I still do read from time to time. My reasoning is, I think Christianity should stand up to the harshest criticism. That’s not to say you should be able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything happened, but just that if something is claimed to happen there should at least be no solid counter-evidence. So, for example, regarding the historical Jesus, I think the four gospels are evidence for Jesus. There are a few references to him in other historians as well (Tacitus and Josephus). There’s no evidence that would run counter to Jesus having existed, i.e. the gospels for the most part match up pretty well with history and archaeology that we know from other sources. Therefore I feel confident in asserting that Jesus existed and said and did what the Bible says he said and did.

        In general the case against runs along the lines of “what are the probabilities?” I think most atheists would probably say, what Jesus said and did is so unlikely that any other explanation would be more likely than it being true. I don’t agree with that, but that is the gist of most of the argument against the Bible: it’s unlikely. A lot of what you think is likely or unlikely depends on the presuppositions you start.

        Anyway, um, this could get rather long (sorry, like I said, it’s an area I’m quite interested in although I think I ended up coming down on the other side of the decision that you have), but I’ll leave that there for the minute.

        Regarding your question of faith – I think it is true that Jesus says blessed are those who have not seen. I don’t think that means that we should leave our brains at the door though. Faith doesn’t exist in a vacuum. For example, scientists might have faith that a certain theory is correct – the evidence points them that way, possibly even strongly, but at the same time you can only ever have faith and believe that is the best explanation of the evidence you have at the moment.

        Besides, Jesus’ words are addressed to Thomas – who had heard the same evidence that the other disciples had, and still not believed. In other words, if anyone had enough evidence to believe, it should have been him along with the other disciples! But yet he still did not believe. I think really Jesus is rebuking Thomas for doubting despite the fact that he had good reason to believe. It wasn’t the fact that faith itself, in that sense of believing without any evidence, was a virtue.

        Sorry if that all sounds rather convoluted. I don’t have all the answers, and I’d hate to appear like that (or that I was trying to sound like that!) but this really is something I’ve struggled with too recently so these are just my disorganised thoughts!

        1. “Therefore I feel confident in asserting that Jesus existed and said and did what the Bible says he said and did.”

          This is the problem I have. There may be independent evidence for the existence of someone resembling the biblical Jesus (most of which is still hotly debated in historical circles as far as I know as a lot of the evidence comes from the same kind of sources that claimed Atlantis exists) but there is still a massive logical leap between “Jesus as a person who may or may not have existed in the past” to “Jesus who performed all these miracles and was the direct descendant of a deity”

          You say that Christianity should be able to stand up to the harshest criticism, yet you are willing to accept that “the gospels for the most part match up pretty well with history and archaeology that we know from other sources.” means that the whole thing is absolutely true. That doesn’t strike me as the “harshest criticism”. For example, nobody has ever explained the garden of eden story to me, that Adam and Eve are the original humans and we’re all descended from them. Fair enough, apart from the whole massively inbred, not enough unique DNA to sustain a planetary population thing but we’ll ignore that for the moment. But it then goes on to say that they had two sons Cain and Abel. Sooo, where did the rest of us come from? There’s three blokes and one woman… There’s a whole bunch of other stuff that doesn’t add up in there but i’m at work so I don’t have time right now to look it up. I think there is a Skeptics Annotated Bible around somewhere (google will find it) with lots more.

          1. Most “thinking” Christians will say that they don’t take the first part of Genesis literally, many will even tell you that they believe in evolution, but as a process that God set in motion. That is certainly the explanation that I used to adopt.

          2. Honest question, if people don’t take Genesis literally why do they still take the rest of it to be absolutely true? At what point do you stop and say “you know, we’re ignoring, modifying or not taking literally so much of this book that why are we even listening to the rest of it?”

            I’m quite happy to take the bible as a series of stories that pretty much add up to “be cool to everyone and awesome stuff will happen” which is an excellent sentiment that more people in this world should take to heart.

            I think the world’s opinion is coloured far too much by the more extreme end of the fan club unfortunately, which gives the rest of the Christians a bad name. It’s a bit like Richard Dawkins for the atheists. He’s an ok guy, but he does talk some absolute rubbish sometimes. The problem is he’s one of the loud ones (and has even been described as the atheist leader!)

          3. Hi Rob,

            but there is still a massive logical leap between “Jesus as a person who may or may not have existed in the past” to “Jesus who performed all these miracles and was the direct descendant of a deity”

            It’s not a massive logical leap if what Jesus did what he is recorded as saying and doing. As far as I am concerned, the best, most rational explanation is that the whole thing is true. That explains everything. I think other explanations that people come up with from time to time don’t explain everything satisfactorily for me.

            You can argue round in round in circles about this however so I’m not going to labour the point 🙂

            In terms of the garden of Eden story, this is something I’ve looked into quite a bit too – I read a book called “Rebuilding the Matrix” by Denis Alexander. He is a scientist (a biologist) and believes in evolution. At the time I was a creationist, but that book changed my mind. I think it’s eminently possible to believe in both science and Christianity 100%.

            I am aware of the Skeptics Annotated Bible, and I have looked at it, but generally the contradictions and absurdities they highlight annoy me because it’s as if they haven’t even tried to understand it. I wrote a blog post on a similar kind of subject here.

          4. I have to agree with Rob on -“but there is still a massive logical leap between “Jesus as a person who may or may not have existed in the past” to “Jesus who performed all these miracles and was the direct descendant of a deity””-
            Rob and myself exist (well I’m PRETTY sure about that) but already there are stories about us that bare no relation to events in our life. We didn’t lie, we didn’t exaggerate it’s other people who got over excited about some anecdote from our lives and then proceeded to exaggerate without realising it. Basically Chinese rumours.

  3. I found this on http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/content/who-were-twelve

    Thomas was his Hebrew name and Didymus was his Greek name. At times he was called Judas. Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us nothing about Thomas except his name. However, John defines him more clearly in his Gospel. Thomas appeared in the raising of Lazarus (John 11:2-16), in the Upper Room (John 14:1-6) where he wanted to know how to know the way where Jesus was going. In John 20:25, we see him saying unless he sees the nailprints in Jesus’ hand and the gash of the spear in His side he will not believe. That’s why Thomas became known as Doubting Thomas.

    Thomas became certain by doubting. By nature, he was a pessimist. He was a bewildered man. Yet, he was a man of courage. He was a man who could not believe until he had seen. He was a man of devotion and of faith. When Jesus rose, he came back and invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail prints in his hands and in his side. Here, we see Thomas making the greatest confession of faith, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas’ doubts were transformed into faith. Thomas was always like a little child. His first reaction was not to do what he was told to do and not to believe what he was asked to believe. The good news to him was always too good to be true. By this very fact Thomas’ faith became great, intense and convincing.

    I have other comments but for now I’ll just mention that since your post at Christmas, I have found and bought the book Why Does Being a Christian Have to be So Hard? http://amzn.to/hicx4I

    Also, sorry I haven’t come to visit you yet, it’s been a bit busy here.

    1. Was that book particularly recommended to you? Or would you recommend it?

      Also, don’t worry about not visiting. I have been so exhausted that it has been far easier to type than to speak. So much so that I have had to use google talk within the house sometimes.

      1. Sorry Steve I wasn’t very clear as it was late when I posted.

        I found it in a bookshop in Worcester, it is by Peter Golding and it focuses almost entirely on Hebrews chapter 12. I do recommend it even though I’ve not finished it yet as I have three books on the go.

        Also, my point about Thomas would be that just like the rest of the disciples, it was by grace he was saved/reconciled to God. Not by asking for proof, or by earning it through being clever.

        It was also by grace that the tax collector Matthew and the zealot Simon (if not a terrorist by their standards at least a fervent protester) who would attacked and possibly killed Matthew for working for the Romans – it was by grace these were saved too.

        Anyway, as usual these responses are to you specifically as I’m not going to get into a flame war with anyone else as much as I’d love to respond. Take care.

        Oh and the plugin looks like it’s working pretty well, though you might wan’t to work on skinning a little now lol. 🙂

  4. “If God is real and wants us to know about him and to worship him, why doesn’t he show himself to us today?”

    That’s a good question and one that I have thought about as well.

    Let’s face it. God is supposedly the most powerful being in the Universe, and he allegedly created the Earth (so we know he has unsurpassed material and physical manifestation/creation powers, right ?)

    On that alone, it should be pretty easy then for the fella to make some unarguable appearances in person to settle the “does he, doesn’t he?” exist dilemma.

    According to some, when perhaps a young child succumbs to a terminal illness, or some other horrific disaster befalls the undeserved, it can apparently be “God’s Will”.

    In the next breath, others say “He gave man free will” and hence he won’t “directly materialise”, as that would prejudice man’s belief”.

    Yet, it’s ok to snatch the odd child here and there, have a disaster over there, and play, well, literally “God” with our lives.

    That either makes WW2 a complete godly cock up when he took his eye off the ball, or the sickest joke of a malignant entity yet.

    If I created a planet, seeded it with my creations and whatever (Basically playing Populous for real), how I step back from the job when the work is done, says a lot of things about me as a Deity.

    1. I finish the job, don’t tell anyone I exist, and move on to the next planet. [Builder Deity]

    2. I finish the job, then hang around. I let people know I exist. (Need to be recognised ?). Some people don’t work the way I expect them (Adam / Eve), so I have a major hissy fit and call the whole experiment off. My understudy arrives to sort it out, but they kill him. Oh well. I’ll just hang around and play with the simulation for my own entertainment. [Unhappy Deity, bordering on the Sociopathic]

    3. I finish the job, because I’ve like, you know, always really really wanted my own world, with animals and people and grass and stuff and things to play with, just like all the other Deities have in the 1st year of SuperEntity school. We do this because we live forever, and let’s be honest, floating in space, within nothing to do, would test the patience and sanity of anyone. However, one of the other Deities has messed it up and keeps baiting my people, and now they keep fighting. It’s a full time job sorting it out. [Super Control Deity]

    There’s probably many more analogies I could write here.

    It’s the whole “I created everything from nothing” approach that requires the greatest faith, because I really cannot see a need to do so in the first place.

    A super-powerful entity, who has no need for anything, expends time and effort to create something that he/she/it doesn’t need in the first place.

    Now that can only lead us down a few possibilities.

    1. The Deity is heedless of being wasteful and created us on a whim to test his raw fertile power. This essentially places Earth and Humanity as the equivalent result of a cosmic one night stand.

    2. The Deity was bored and wanted something to do. This places Earth and Humanity as the equivalent of clicking the “Feeling lucky?” button in Google. A giant cosmic burp.

    3. The Deity wanted a bit of company in the nothingness of the void. I’d have settled for a Mrs God myself, but hey, if God wanted his own version of interactive TV, who am I to argue ? This places Earth and Humanity as the equivalent of a conjured plaything to amuse the whims of the creator.

    4. It’s all a load of old baloney.

    Faith, to me, is asking me to accept without evidence, seemingly miraculous events.

    If I was to perform some of my sleight of hand tricks on Neolithic Neanderthals, they’d believe me when I said it was magic. At a magician’s convention, it’s a different story. The Neanderthals need belief to make it work for them. The magician’s don’t need belief, because their science informs them how it’s done.

    You may have heard. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” which was popularized by Carl Sagan, the Astronomer.

    The origins of the saying can perhaps be found in Hume’s Maxim:

    “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish…”

    I’ve just realised the time, but here is a link to more on Hume’s Maxim and some really thought provoking comments after it.
    Hoping your pains soothe for as long as they can,
    Harvey

    http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2008/01/extraordinary-c.html

  5. The subject of faith is a mixed one. I think the term Faith means different things to different people. I believe in the concept of evolution, but is that the same Faith as creationists. Scientists (and their groupies) have constantly updated their theories to fit with he evidence at hand. Some of Darwinian evolution has been discarded as we observe and learn more about the world around us. It’s the same with other science theories We had Belief that an atom was a solid point charge of protons (and their neutron mates) with electrons whizzing around it. Then someone sat down did some thinking and realised that if this theory were true we’d all glow blue and explode. So scientists looked at this idea, pondered, observed more and found a new theory to fit the observed facts. No-one got burnt to the stake, no-one got kicked out. (And before I get flamed i KNOW heretics aren’t burnt any more). If someone comes along in science and points out a hole in the thinking then the establishment looks at the issue and double checks it’s theroeis, observes more and then decided if the criticisms have validity. From talking with some religious friends their faith seams a little less fluid, it’s what they hold as truth, but a scientist knows his faith (little F) in a theory is a temporary thing, that it must shift if we observe new evidence that contradicts it.

    1. ‘If someone comes along in science and points out a hole in the thinking then the establishment looks at the issue and double checks it’s theroeis, observes more and then decided if the criticisms have validity.’

      Well, the process is not as smooth as all that, but it’s the general idea.
      Unfortunately, some research results turn out to be biased in favour of the people paying for the research.

      1. that’s why I preferred the old days of research being done at uni for the sake of research. I’ll never forget the first day of my Chemistry degree. “If something doesn’t make sense then ask us about it, some of the greatest discovereise have were made because a student raised his and and said i don’t get it”

  6. Hi. I have several comment but rather than replying to each point as it cropped up, I’m hoping I can do all at the same time and not confuse myself!!! Sorry if that ruins the flow of the conversations!

    latentexistence – ‘If God is real and wants us to know about him and to worship him, why doesn’t he show himself to us today? And I mean physical manifestation, not personal revelation.’
    Please can you define what you mean by ‘physical manifestation’ and ‘personal revelation’? Just to make sure I know exactly how you are defining those terms. But I would like to answer that!

    Phill – ‘I think it is true that Jesus says blessed are those who have not seen. I don’t think that means that we should leave our brains at the door though. Faith doesn’t exist in a vacuum.’
    We should definately not leave our brains at the door. What is the point in God creating brains and then telling us we can’t use them?????? That we should have only faith?!!!

    Rob Norman – ‘Adam and Eve are the original humans and we’re all descended from them. Fair enough, apart from the whole massively inbred, not enough unique DNA to sustain a planetary population thing but we’ll ignore that for the moment. But it then goes on to say that they had two sons Cain and Abel. Sooo, where did the rest of us come from?’
    When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. – Genesis 5 v 3-4.
    I’m not saying I agree or disagree that all people come from Adam and Eve… simply that the Bible does say a little more. Seth I think was the third child after of the first two, one died and the other was banished… who incidentally found a family from somewhere!!! My Bible knowledge is really not what it should be!!

    hkintheuk – ‘A super-powerful entity, who has no need for anything, expends time and effort to create something that he/she/it doesn’t need in the first place.’
    hkintheuk – ‘Faith, to me, is asking me to accept without evidence, seemingly miraculous events.’
    God does not need people in that sense.

    Dean Allen Jones – ‘From talking with some religious friends their faith seams a little less fluid, it’s what they hold as truth, but a scientist knows his faith (little F) in a theory is a temporary thing, that it must shift if we observe new evidence that contradicts it.’ – Dean Allen Jones

    the main bit from me:
    Faith – yes there is an element of believing something you perhaps do not have full proof of but that’s not the only thing. When you know about something but do not know every detail there is an element of faith like it or not, even with science. Are we asked Biblically to believe in God with nothing to base our belief on… is perhaps the most important question?!!

    The big question is: what is Christianity all about?
    The answer is relationship. Christians have a relationship with a living God. The point here being that relationship is two way conversation. It is very easy to live in society, particularly ones where there is little persecution as such, and forget to have that relationship, forget to invest time in talking and listening – and I’m equally at fault of this too. It is easy to simply stop hearing God speaking to you. It is easy to forget the relationship you had in the past. It is easy to forget the miracles you have seen, to forget the answers to prayer you have had, to forget the moments when God has touched your life. And when all that happens you are simply left with not a lot really… a Christianity that is in fact fairly worthless. Without God in the equation, faith is pointless, Christianity is a dead religion, and good deeds are simply only that.

    Sometimes horribly bad things happen in life. But God does not stop you from having a piss and moan at him, cos at least you’re saying something!!

    Also God is quite happy for you to ask him to show himself to you. In the Bible Thomas is not the only one that needed some proof. Gideon heard God speaking to him… and thought he couldn’t possibly be hearing right that he the least of his tribe should go and do this job – so he tested God by putting out a sheep fleece.
    ‘ When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” ‘ Judges 6 v 12-13
    Gideon in fact was asking the exact same sort of questions… where’s the proof!!!
    so he asks God to get dew on the fleece but not the floor in the morning, which happens. Then he asks God to get dew on the ground but none on the fleece, which again happens.

    In the New Testament… it say that in the last days we will do even greater things than Jesus did while he was on earth and carrying out his ministry, which was only over a few years! I think the difference is we are reluctant to go up to people and say ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, get up and walk’. But I don’t doubt that God could still do it. The question is… if you saw or experienced a miracle like that would it be enough to prove to you that God existed?

    Bum… I was supposed to be writing an assignment today for Uni… but the morning seems to have disappeared!! Laters.

  7. Sorry Dean I didn’t type what I was going to in response to the message I picked out from your message!
    All too often Christians become stuck in their ways unwilling to hear new information which would change their viewpoint. Even unwilling to hear it direct from God. Too often Christians hold onto people’s opinions of God’s… following strictly ideas that may not have been entirely Godly in the first place. Forgive us, please!!!!!!!!!! We are human, we make mistakes!!! Yes we should be more fluid in some senses, prepared to take on board new ideas and see if they fit with what we know of God, but that generally takes more time than people wish to give so instead they stick to their old ideas cos it’s what they know. We should listen to God more than people though! We should see a bigger picture! But as I said Christianity has to a greater extent become quite stagnant in this country, washed out, the luke warm type that was warmed about in Revelation. My prayer is that God would move in mighty ways, that we would see miracles everywhere proving the power and existence of God!

    On that note… have you ever noticed how most people came to recogise who Jesus was because they experienced a miracle in their lives… notice how little that happens now. Think that says it all really. Christians now expect to bring non-chritains to church and they will be instantly converted without having to do anything but the reality is they should be the catalyst for God healing those people as their way of meeting him!!!! In healing I do not always mean physical, but also emotional!

  8. Oh Steve. Obviously I’m really concerned for you. Both in terms of losing your faith, and because thinking about such things could drive you (almost literally) insane. Take care of yourself, eh? How’s your wife doing?On the subject of evidence, if all the things in the New Testament are absolutely 100% literally true and happened exactly as reported, then the evidence we actually have is pretty much what you’d expect. There might be a couple of specific caveats, but basically that statement holds true. Of course there are all kinds of criticisms you can level at the text, but you can level worse criticisms at most newspapers – it doesn’t mean they’re not reporting things that actually happened.On “faith” and “belief”, I think we have to be a little careful with the language. It seems obvious to me that it meant something at least slightly different when written than now. Back then, someone who simply did not believe in “a god” at all would be quite rare. In the UK in 2011, while atheism is probably still a minority “belief”, it’s hardly uncommon. When 1st century Christians talked about believing in Jesus, they didn’t mean believing that he exists – that would clearly be a silly concept to discuss when they’d _seen_ him – they meant believing _in_ him – believing what he said. More like how you might believe in David Cameron than how you might believe in the Tooth Fairy. (two really inappropriate examples there to make you smile, or grimace). Similarly, I think that when the Old Testament talks about believing in God (though it’s not usually in those terms), and also about faith in something you can’t see or understand, it’s _mostly_ (not always) not talking about believing that God exists – that’s mostly taken as a given – it’s believing in his word, and trusting in him even when life makes no sense.So I _think_ that the doubts that the Bible tells people to fight with faith aren’t so much “does god exist”, but “are these things I’ve been told about god really true, or is his character quite different from the fierce yet just and caring one described in the Bible”? Or something like that.Of course if you don’t believe God exists, or don’t believe Jesus existed or was who he said he was, then you’re stuck at stage one, and you do need some kind of faith or belief or something to get past that – but not necessarily every passage in the Bible is talking about _that_ kind of faith/belief.Why didn’t God keep appearing to people in pretty-much-incontrovertible ways, like in the time of Moses? Why didn’t he (doesn’t he) do that up until the present time? I don’t know. But maybe he wanted us (the human race) to grow up. Maybe as we grow up, there’s no incontrovertible way left – we’d just blame the Americans, or NASA, or Aliens. It seems that, whatever the strength of the evidence, on the fringes people always have a choice in what they believe.Thinking about our recent discussions, I am 100% certain of one thing: politics isn’t a substitute. Politics isn’t the (or even an) answer.This isn’t necessarily directed at you… You can try to fight for things if you want; if you define yourself by that fight, and you succeed, then you’ll be a hero – to yourself and maybe to others – though it may not bring the peace that you expect. If you define yourself by that fight and fail, you’ll be broken. The same goes for defining yourself by your work, fame, looks, etc etc but I’m sure you’re heard all this before – it’s the “hole inside” in the Why Jesus book – but lots of people destroy themselves trying to fill that hole in other ways. Be careful.Cheers,David.

    1. The hole inside argument is interesting. I have always tended to have an obsessive personality; I often get very into something for 2 – 6 months and then move on to the next thing. So is my current obsession with fighting government cuts simply filly the hole inside? I don’t really think so since I am genuinely upset by what is happening and I suspect I would have been fighting anyway.

  9. Firstly Steve, I doubt thinking about these things will drive you insane. On the contrary, to consider such questions – and to consider them rationally – is about as ‘sane’ as one can get.

    In a sense it is difficult for me to relate to your predicament, because it was always just inherently obvious to me that the notion of God was false; my parents were asked to stop taking me to sunday school when I was very young because I asked too many questions and wouldn’t accept anything they said which didn’t add up.

    I agree with what the first commenter said. I don’t think religious people DO want proof God exists at all. It seems to me that believers see virtue in blindly accepting something ‘on faith’ which flies in the face of all science and reason, when in all other areas of life you would consider someone who did so at best naive, and at worst a fool. With proof, all of us would believe in God, and the faithful would no longer be able to point to their faith as a crypto-virtue. It would take all the fun out.

    Phil says there is ‘some evidence’. This is a semantic or logical misunderstanding, perhaps both. Evidence is absolute, by definition. You either have evidence to prove the truthfulness of a claim or you don’t. Something which ‘suggests’ something might be true is not evidence. A book is not evidence. If it were all murderers would simply write a book saying they didn’t do it and present it to court (OJ got it the wrong way round) and you certainly cannot use a script to affirm claims made within itself (I am literally stunned when Christians reference the Bible to affirm Gods existence). Phil also says the Bible is evidence of Jesus, and that there is no evidence suggesting he doesn’t exist. Well, if a book written by man mentioning Jesus is ‘evidence’, then every book not mentioning him is evidence he didn’t exist. The very nature of evidence is that it is irrefutable! With such loose reasoning it is easy to see why someone would accept flimsy ideas. No offence Phil, but you are applying alternate meaning to words and blurring lines. Personally I think Jesus may well have existed, but it really doesn’t matter at all.

    Phil also says; (I’m not picking on Phil, but he does make some of the standard religious arguments so his comments serve well to deconstruct the anti-logic)

    “It’s not a massive logical leap if what Jesus did what he is recorded as saying and doing. As far as I am concerned, the best, most rational explanation is that the whole thing is true. That explains everything. I think other explanations that people come up with from time to time don’t explain everything satisfactorily for me.”

    This is circular thinking. ‘Believing Jesus did the crazy magic stuff isn’t a huge leap if you believe the book saying he did crazy magic stuff’, is essentially what he has said, and he’s right, but it proves nothing other than that he isn’t thinking rationally – which is pretty much a prerequisite for believing religious propaganda. He even cements it; “the best, most rational explanation is that the whole thing is true. That explains everything”. Well yes, anyone can invent a self-explanatory logic. Filmmakers do it all the time, but it says nothing about what is really true.

    Phil also says; “I think other explanations that people come up with from time to time don’t explain everything satisfactorily for me.” Personally, I have never heard anyone claim to have all the answers, or offer a definitive explanation for life and the universe other than religious people. If you want a complete theory for everything, then yes, one of the many religions is your only option. But what about just accepting that we don’t know, and may never know? If Phil was talking about an explanation for why Jesus features so heavily in ancient text, rather than for life and the universes, then there are many credible theories for who he may have been which don’t require you to postpone your faculties of reason. After all, historians now doubt Socrates ever really existed, and he didn’t even do magic!

    In relation to Christianity seeming to rely on faith; this is both a necessity – due to the fact God doesn’t exist so there can be no evidence for it – and a cheap trick. Convince people that part of the game is accepting it without evidence so God knows you are a ‘good Christian soldier’ and you have people where you want them. It is a fantastically clever reverse Catch-22. You just factor into the story that the story cannot be proven, and must instead be ‘believed’ and you tie up all the loose ends.

    Atheism as religion

    To say atheism is a religion is disingenuous. All Christians are atheist about Allah, or Thor, or any of the other 3000 odd Gods recorded through history. Atheists just go one God further. All atheism is, is the rejection of an idea someone had – and some people believe to be true – that there IS a God. I make no distinctions between the way I don’t believe in unicorns, fairies or Santa Claus and the way I don’t believe in God. The only difference is we all grow out of believing in the others where as some of us don’t with God. Technically, I can’t say 100% God does not exist, just as I can’t say unicorns definitely don’t exist, because as Descartes realised long ago, the fact that our dreams appear real to us means we cannot fully trust our sense of reality, a la The Matrix.

    Why Christianity?

    One thing that cannot be denied is that whichever way you look at it, the majority of people on Earth have got it wrong as only one religion can be true due to their contradictions and claims of absolutism. If you were born in Indonesia, you would be Muslim. If you were born in Dublin you would most likely be Catholic, and if you were born in Salt Lake City you would most likely be a Mormon (don’t get me started on how obviously fraudulent that one is!). This in itself seems to throw the whole idea that any organised religion withholds truths pertaining to God or the universe into serious doubt.

    Why ask why?

    For me, the entire notion of pondering the existence of a God is back to front, or as Socrates would say; ‘begging the question’. There is absolutely no reason there need be a God, but by pondering whether one exists you instantly assume that life must have some meaning, which in turn suggests there must be more to our existence. It is obvious to me that the idea of God is a symptom of human beings fear of our mortality, or unwillingness to accept that there is no meaning to life other than the meaning we ourselves apply to the world around us. It is an unsavoury thought to some, but for me it is perfectly fine that there is no greater meaning to life than what we ourselves perceive.

    Creator God – a non-explanation

    The idea that God created everything is flawed. If God created everything, who or what created God? You could, I suppose, postulate another God who created our God, and perhaps even another who created our God’s creator, but then you have an infinite regress that takes you no closer to explaining anything. We started with a mysterious universe to explain and now we have an infinite amount of Gods. They are just needless imagined complications, as is the one God some people believe in.

    Omnipotence fallacy

    Also, omnipotence is a logical impossibility, this is why; Can God create a rock to heavy for himself to lift? He can do anything, right? So he must be able to create said rock, but then, if he can do anything, he must be able to lift it. But that would mean he is unable to create a rock he cannot lift, meaning he has limitations and is not omnipotent, by definition.

    I hope some of that is useful to you. The last thing I would say is that a Godless life need not be empty, and can be a rich, happy and meaningful life. I am fascinated by the universe, and what might, or might not be. As we discover more the space we inhabit just becomes a more mysterious and awe inspiring place. Things like the double slit experiment, astronomy, and evolution fascinate me. I find a lot of religious people think atheism takes all the wonder out of life, but to me it is the exact opposite. I can’t imagine anything more dull than believing in a book which gives a shoddy account of the way things are, riddled with loose morals, and then proclaims; ‘The end. Everything is now explained’. Postulating a life beyond this ones seems greedy to me, but I can understand why it is evocative to some people. I just think it is a bit like rushing through a cheeseburger without stopping to taste it because you can’t wait for the pizza you are having after. Slow down. Look what is under the salad, is that cheese? And gherkin? Boy this burger is good! Who needs pizza?!

    1. Hi Steven, I know your comment wasn’t aimed at me directly but as you picked up on a few of the things I said I thought I’d comment!

      I don’t understand what you are saying about evidence. Courts may acquit someone on the basis of ‘insufficient evidence’. Something that ‘suggests something is true’ is surely evidence? I’m aware that we’re probably working with different definitions here though.

      “Well, if a book written by man mentioning Jesus is ‘evidence’, then every book not mentioning him is evidence he didn’t exist” What I meant was, what we know of the Bible matches up with what we know from other sources. There aren’t many references to Jesus from extra-Biblical sources but in general the history and archaeology confirms it.

      Phil also says; “I think other explanations that people come up with from time to time don’t explain everything satisfactorily for me.” Personally, I have never heard anyone claim to have all the answers, or offer a definitive explanation for life and the universe other than religious people.

      What I meant was, the idea that Christianity is true makes the best sense of the facts that we do have. I’m not talking about an explanation for the entire universe (although I think Christianity offers the best explanation of that too – but I would never claim to understand everything). This includes the historical elements of the Bible, and what we know of the early church and how it spread. It’s a cumulative case. But I think other explanations are not satisfactory, that’s all I meant.

      Anyway I think I’ve written far too much in these comments already, sorry for that.

      1. “I don’t understand what you are saying about evidence. Courts may acquit someone on the basis of ‘insufficient evidence’. Something that ‘suggests something is true’ is surely evidence?”

        Hmm, ok i’ll try and give an example of why that should never, ever be considered evidence. I could quite easily write a document claiming that someone is a criminal. Should that be considered evidence? No, of course not without some other proof of a crime having been committed by this person. It may cause an investigation, but it should never be considered evidence on it’s own.

        You seem to be happy to take the bible as evidence that Jesus was more than just a man purely on it’s say-so. I see this as exactly the same as accepting that the someone I accused of being a criminal is true simply because there is other evidence that that someone merely exists.

        I agree that it deserves investigation purely on the basis of the document in question, and that is what the historians are trying to do, but all they have found so far is some documents showing that he may have existed.

        1. Hi Rob, I think Kathy has kind of responded to your question in her post but I’ll respond here anyway 🙂 As Kathy said, I see evidence as more like a jigsaw puzzle. Proof doesn’t exist outside of mathematics.

          I think you are massively understating the case for the gospels. Sure, you can’t just automatically trust them blindly. But I think if you start with an open mind and look into the history, the theology, the fulfilment of prophecy, the way that the early church prospered despite martyrdom and other heavy persecution etc, all points towards the fact that it is true.

          William Lane Craig makes a very good historical case for the resurrection, you can find one summary of it here (registration required unfortunately). His case rests on four facts:

          #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea
          #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers
          #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead
          #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary

          (See the article above for an expansion of each of those points).

          He often debates atheists, I would suggest you look him up on YouTube as well, he would be worth watching.

          1. Well, I certainly don’t have the time, enthusiasm for the subject or knowledge to debate against someone like William Lane Craig (just spent an hour reviewing his work, and it is impressive) but in the interests of ongoing debate and covering both sides i’ll leave this transcript of a debate between William and a Craig Ehrman

            http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/craig-ehrman.pdf

            I’m still only halfway through it so I have no idea what the outcome is, but like many theological debates I imagine it’ll be “inconclusive” 🙂

    2. ‘To say atheism is a religion is disingenuous. All Christians are atheist about Allah, or Thor, or any of the other 3000 odd Gods recorded through history. Atheists just go one God further. All atheism is, is the rejection of an idea someone had – and some people believe to be true – that there IS a God.’

      Christians are monotheist – if they believe anything about Allah, or Thor, etc. then it will be that those entities are not God. They may well have existed or do exist. They may be supernatural. They may be humanity anthromorphisising an natural phenonenom. (Humans are good at anthromorphisising, we do it to everything.)

      If the atheist position says that there is not a God, would it see entities such as Allah and Thor as non existent, or not Gods?

      Surely the default position in absense of acceptable evidence is agnosticism.

      1. “If the atheist position says that there is not a God, would it see entities such as Allah and Thor as non existent, or not Gods?”

        For me, non-existent. I do not think that God, Allah, Thor or any of the other 3,000 or so deities that have been identified throughout the years exist.

        “Surely the default position in absense of acceptable evidence is agnosticism.”

        Yes, that is the only possible logical and rational position to take in the absence of any evidence to either side. Atheism requires just as much belief (or non-belief in this case) as Theism.

        Personally i’m agnostic but leaning towards atheist in that, given how much we know about how the universe works and how much we’re discovering constantly about the workings of everything, he’s running out of places to hide and I haven’t seen any evidence of him yet.

        I know that a lot of Christians would say “can’t see the wood for the trees” and point at nature as being evidence, but to be honest I just don’t buy that. Why complicate things with a deity? The explanation of the universe is the big bang and evolution. Hundreds of years ago, i’d have been threatened and killed by religious folk for even suggesting those claims. Now, with so much evidence, even most Christians accept that Genesis is not to be taken literally (certain areas of America excepted) and that the theory of evolution is the right explanation, yet they still just say “Yup, that’s ‘cos God set it in motion”.

    3. Steven, your analogy of a criminal writing a book to get them of a murder charge does not work… the New Testament which documents the life of Jesus was written by other people not himself, and by several of them. So it would be like the murderer convincing other people to write a book saying he did not do it after he was dead!!
      Yes there is a slight problem with saying that the Bible is evidence of itself. The Old Testament is accepted by Christians and Jews, and the New Testament has many parts which link back to the Old Testament showing that the things predicted before were fulfilled in Jesus. Yes that is not evidence either. However, the New Testament is all about a living relationship with God, with the Spirit of God in your life – relationship as I mentioned before being a two-way communication between you and God. That relationship and experience is what for many Christians is the required evidence for the Bible’s truth.
      The historical information from other sources, other than the Bible, might be few and far between but do they actually state that Jesus was not who he claimed to be? Do they deny what he did? Or do they simply state he existed? The point I am making is that if you do not believe the Bible… and therefore you do not accept that Jesus was who he said he was and did not do the things written about him… then why is he even documented… he’s a nobody if he didn’t do what he said he did, some random bloke who was crucified!! Are other random crucifed people also written about in these historical documents?

      As to proof/evidence has to prove or not prove, there is not middle ground… imagine evidence is a jigsaw with say 100 pieces. Lets say you have 50 pieces of the puzzle… the puzzle is clearly not complete… but I think there is a judgment call that each person has to make for themselves as to whether the pieces of evidence they have before them equate to one picture or another. For many Christians who have a relationship it is like having an additional 10 pieces for them personally so their picture is clearly more complete. I believe there is in that sense much middle ground. The point is that everyone is given the opportunity to make up their minds what the picture shows and what they are going to do with that information.

      Steven – ‘In relation to Christianity seeming to rely on faith; this is both a necessity – due to the fact God doesn’t exist so there can be no evidence for it – and a cheap trick. Convince people that part of the game is accepting it without evidence so God knows you are a ‘good Christian soldier’ and you have people where you want them. It is a fantastically clever reverse Catch-22. You just factor into the story that the story cannot be proven, and must instead be ‘believed’ and you tie up all the loose ends.’
      So now we have some evidence in front of us, our pieces of jigsaw…
      You point out… there is ‘no evidence that God exists’ but then there is also no evidence that he does not exist either. So that of itself is not a very convincing argument.
      If I believed purely on faith… I would have given up a long time ago… faith can only take you so far down a road. The point is that I have seen God perform miracles, I have experienced him in my life, I have seen him answer my prayers. Are all those things just part of my imagination… well I suppose that possibility exists. However, my experience tells me what I in parts believe by faith is backed up by a host of other things which are not faith (not made-up cheap tricks).
      I’d like to ask you a question if God turned up on earth today, dressed and looking like a person, performed miracles and said he was God… would you believe him? I suspect the answer if probably not… if you start from the belief that there is no God… then when one turns up why would you believe he is who he says he is and not just some very clever magician???!!!!

      Steven – ‘The idea that God created everything is flawed. If God created everything, who or what created God?’
      If there is a God who has the ability to create the Universe, he is mightier than I can imagine or even consider… why would he need something to create him?
      Let us consider the alternative… how do you create something out of nothing? Yes I understand that infinitely small bits (sorry no technical sciencey definitions!) could create vast energy and things could happen from that… however where did those infinately small bits come from? Were they created?

      Steven – ‘Also, omnipotence is a logical impossibility, this is why; Can God create a rock to heavy for himself to lift? He can do anything, right? So he must be able to create said rock, but then, if he can do anything, he must be able to lift it. But that would mean he is unable to create a rock he cannot lift, meaning he has limitations and is not omnipotent, by definition.’
      God cannot create something that is impossible for him to do because he created it. I don’t see that makes God any less powerful. The point is not whether something bigger than our imagination that would fill the entire universe is possible…. the point is that in your life all things are possible for God. There is only one limitation… God cannot force you to become a Christian because he designed you to make choices. I do not believe that makes him any less powerful either. He could, I believe, make a mountain jump, reveal himself to you, make time stand still. I will not limit his capabilities. If God revealed himself to you today… you would still have to make a choice whether or not you accepted that you had just met God, you would still not be forced to believe something you did not believe. Your beliefs might have changed now you had some outstanding ‘evidence’ but you would still not have been forced.

      Yes there is a lot of wonder to be had in the universe no matter what you believe…. but for me I work on the prinicple that my pieces of jigsaw give me a way of life that I feel I need to follow…. and if there is no God have I lost anything in believing there is one?? If I die and there is nothing after, well I’ll be dead and that will be that, I won’t exactly be able to debate it from the grave!!!! If on the other hand there is a God and I have chosen to ignore him, reject him, say he does not exist and I am wrong… the consequences of that truly are far greater!!!!!!!

      One last point… I do not believe that any human mind is capable of explaining everything… especially not my own. There simply is too much here!!! But that does not mean we shouldn’t have a go at trying to make sense of what we do and don’t know!!!

      1. I’ll try and tackle these in order.

        “…he’s a nobody if he didn’t do what he said he did, some random bloke who was crucified!! ”

        Nope, he’s not a nobody. Assuming for a moment that the historical person Jesus did exist then he was by no means a nobody. He was a fairly major force trying to change the way things were done two thousand years ago. He had multiple followers who all thought he was fantastic and wrote about him. The problem is that not all of it may be true. Some may be based on real-life events that actually happened and some may be Chinese whispers. As my good friend Dean pointed out in another comment, both he and I have been independently told stories of these two amazing guys who did unbelievable things by complete strangers only to realise that these stories were about us and, yes they were based on real-life events but distorted out of all proportion. Our trip to China had Dean defeating an entire team of Chinese martial arts experts. Didn’t happen, but he did manage to hold his own against a 14 year old kid longer than anyone else in the group. That story got blown out of all proportion as it was told to different people. Also, there is no reason to think that his followers wouldn’t have exaggerated things to make it seem more fantastic for the people of the time, after all i’m sure you must have told someone only the good parts about one of your friends, maybe suggesting them for a job, and missed out facts that may have caused them to not get the job? I’m not saying lying, but merely stating the positives only.

        “The point is that everyone is given the opportunity to make up their minds what the picture shows and what they are going to do with that information.”

        The brain is extremely good at filling in information which isn’t there but it is more than capable of getting it very wrong. That’s why optical illusions work so well.

        “there is ‘no evidence that God exists’ but then there is also no evidence that he does not exist either.”

        That is a false argument i’m afraid. There is absolutely no proof that I don’t have a mad scientists underground lair under my house. There is no proof that unicorns don’t exist. I could go on for quite some time but I think you get the picture. The point is that the burden of proof is on the people saying “this is true”.

        “if God turned up on earth today, dressed and looking like a person, performed miracles and said he was God… would you believe him?”

        Difficult one to answer, I think the only way i’d buy it is if he did something that we know to be physically impossible within the laws of our universe, such as travel faster than light for example. If he just showed up and did a few card tricks then I think i’d be a doubter 🙂

        “Let us consider the alternative… how do you create something out of nothing?”

        Ok, so where did your God come from? Did he always just exist? In which case, why couldn’t you accept that there was always something around which then created the universe? I believe current scientific thinking is that there are around 12 dimensions to our reality rather than just the usual 3 that we can perceive, so i’m happy with the idea that the 3 dimensions that we live in were created by a coming together of forces outside of our current knowledge. I suspect some people choose to call it God, but what happens when we learn enough to discover what that something is and maybe harness it? But that’s a discussion for a different topic. I think the point of this is that your definition of God is a moving target that is always “whatever we cannot understand”. Two thousand years ago i’m pretty sure that things like earthquakes, volcanoes, thunder and lightning were all considered to be God’s work, but now we know what makes the geological and meteorological processess tick so they are no longer mysterious.

        “God cannot create something that is impossible for him to do because he created it.”

        Yes he can, that’s the whole point of the argument. We ask God to create a rock he cannot lift. Either one of two things happen, 1) He cannot create the rock because he cannot create something that he cannot then lift (badly worded, I know) or 2) He can create the rock but then cannot lift it. Either way there is something he cannot do and therefore not omnipotent.

    4. You said “In a sense it is difficult for me to relate to your predicament” – which I suspect is why you can say “I doubt thinking about these things will drive you insane”. Your experience was “it was always just inherently obvious to me that the notion of God was false”, and that was the end of it. For whatever reason, you’ve never actually wondered about the truth of it – you’re never really “not known”, you’ve always just “known”.

      That’s not how everyone approaches it. Some people can appreciate the arguments and “evidence” for, as well as the arguments and “evidence” against. That’s a really big deal, because it’s a really big question!

      I’m not sure that all your own arguments are logical and self consistent, even before you pit them against Christianity or religion of whatever – and it’s interesting that you don’t spot that.

      A point worth remembering is that many Christians have thought though far trickier points than the ones you’ve raised, and they’re still Christians.

      When _I_ used to find that “it was always just inherently obvious to me that the notion of God was false” (I’d just have said “made up”), I used to assume that Christians were actually a bit thick – they hadn’t really thought it through – if they had a rational brain like mine, they’d see it was all a fairy story.

      But then I began to look into it more closely – partly fascinated by their own delusion. Partly surprised at how normal and in some cases smart some Christians seemed to be.

      Long story short – I became a Christian. Rational thought intact. I got a degree in Physics, and another in Engineering, as a Christian. Brain still working.

      FWIW a huge part of the area I worked on during my PhD (psychoacoustics) involved understanding the placebo effect, and creating double-blind trials which completely remove it.

      Anyway, you’ve had far better answers here than mine, and I’ve got work to do, but I just wanted to scare you 😉 – I was like you 20 years ago. I’m not now – and that’s by thinking and learning and knowing a lot more, not a lot less.

      Cheers,
      David.

      1. I would love to hear what finally convinced you. As far as I can tell, at some point you still have to make the leap to “there is a being out there who created everything, listens to us but refuses to provide any concrete proof of his existence in any way, shape or form”.

      2. Sorry for the double post, but it’s a different question, honest 🙂

        I’d also like to know why you picked Christianity? Out of all the religions in the world, that was the only one that you decided rationally was true? If so, what is your opinion of them? Do you consider them to still be “deluded” until they decide they’re wrong and you’re right?

        My wife is Christian, but i’m an agnostic (leaning towards atheism) and a friend once said to her “If we were to suddenly become religious, what makes you think we’d pick yours?”

  10. Hi, Steve. Hope you’re OK. Spending too much time with things going round your head over and over again can be very frustrating and tends to send me towards “head explosion” moments. I’ve discovered since going part-time and having more space in the working week can sometimes be a hindrance was well as an advantage. Make sure you look after yourself and your wife. Hope she’s OK, too.I’d really like to echo David’s comments, especially the “hole inside” stuff. It will get filled with something (phone scams, usually, in my case). Who you define yourself as, the things that are important to you, will fill that space. Make sure they are fulfilling. Must catch up with you both soon,Stuartx

  11. Sorry I am not replying very much here. I am reading all the comments, but I don’t have the energy to think through all of my responses. All the comments are appreciated though.

  12. I have edited a couple of posts to remove my wifes name at her request. I would ask you not to mention her by name, due to the wide and varied audience of this blog.

  13. Phil

    ‘Evidence’ when used in a court of law has a slightly different meaning to the way scientist would use it. If I say ‘show me evidence of God’ I’m asking for something irrefutable. The Bible is no more evidence for the existence of Jesus or God than Great Expectations is for Pip having been a real boy.

    William Lane-Craig (I’ve watched him in many debates) is an awful advocate of Christianity. He continually resorts to Cartesian thinking and as soon as the going gets tough, just invokes the supernatural to get him out of trouble. ANY idea that includes an element of the supernatural is disprovable by definition. A theory being disprovable doesn’t lend it credit, it discredits it. If I propose something which can be easily proven or disproven, say that, if I drop a brick it will fall to the ground, this makes it a potentially credible theory, as it could have not behaved as I claimed. If I propose instead, that life on Earth and Earth itself was created by a colony of robots in another dimension, who have always existed, it is not at all credible because there is no way to test it. As it happens it is just as credible and not too dissimilar to Christianity’s explanation.

    Lane-Craig mostly argues ‘God of the gaps’ which is simply saying ‘it must be God’ whenever there is a gap in our knowledge or understanding. This is why Christianity has had to perform so many climb-downs over the years as Science has revealed its vapidity. By far the best advocate of God is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. He does just about as much as is possible when flogging a dead horse. I recommend his semi-recent debate with Christopher Hitchens.

    TheGirlNextDoor

    Regarding agnosticism being the only intelligent position to adopt: this is a HUGE misconception. Agnostic DOES NOT mean ‘don’t know’ as so many people wrongly believe. It means ‘believe it is unknowable’ which is as much a statement of fact as saying God definitely does, or doesn’t exist. There is no way for us to know at this point if the question ‘is there a God’ can be known for certain, so agnosticism is actually an intellectually redundant position to take. It is impossible to prove the absence of anything, which is why I am not an atheist. I am an anti-theist. As I said before, unicorns, fairies and the Loch Ness Monster are equally as disprovable as God, but I don’t believe in them either.

    Kathy Miller

    All this talk of the Bible being any kind of evidence at all is, to be honest, redundant. What of the books that didn’t make it in? The constant contradictions? The fact that much of it is borrowed from earlier myths? Unless you look at it having already made your mind up, the Bible is quite obviously a work of fiction. As a 7 year old I was convinced that the Bible was nonsense, but I can imagine that if you are indoctrinated from a young age (my parents only wanted to expose me to it, rather than forcibly indoctrinate me) then you become literally brainwashed into believing it. The emotional blackmail is so strong, threats so scary, and promised rewards so great that it must be hard to actually open your mind to the idea this might be a sick lie. So I commend you for having been able to, Steve. Human beings have believed far stranger things, albeit usually due to the intoxication of faith; flat Earth, geocentrism, witches.

    If the Bible really were the word of God, or even his thoughts recorded by humans, would there really be such talk of genocide? The Bible is quite simply, not very moral, which in itself should be a big hint that it has nothing to do with any God. Would the story of a prophet of God being born of a virgin have been told countless times before it is in the Bible were it a work of non-fiction? Isn’t it a little strange that the Bible as we know it was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine?

    As for a ‘two way relationship with God’ being evidence. What to say? This is just empty rhetoric. I’d love you to define this ‘relationship’ for me, and I suspect after analysis it might turn out to be wholly ‘one way’. Has God ever spoken to you? Has he sent you a message? I have certainly never had anything I would define as a ‘relationship’ with anyone I have never seen, spoken to, or received some form of communication from. If you think you have seen God, or heard him speak to you, I’d urge you to see a doctor, because hallucinations and hearing voices are certainly not healthy. But I imagine you have not seen, or heard ‘God’. So I’m intrigued as to what this relationship consists of, if it is anything other than imagined.
    Even Mother Theresa wrote to the Vatican as she was dying that she felt nothing, received nothing from God, and was ‘faithless’. So I’d be surprised if God was busying himself with you when he had no time for her. No offence meant.

    You say;

    “The historical information from other sources, other than the Bible, might be few and far between but do they actually state that Jesus was not who he claimed to be? Do they deny what he did? Or do they simply state he existed? The point I am making is that if you do not believe the Bible… and therefore you do not accept that Jesus was who he said he was and did not do the things written about him… then why is he even documented… he’s a nobody if he didn’t do what he said he did, some random bloke who was crucified!! Are other random crucifed people also written about in these historical documents?”

    There are many, many possible explanations for why Jesus was so widely written about, all of them more credible and likely than that he was God’s son. Remember, every argument you make for Jesus can be made equally well by Muslims for Mohammed, so why don’t you believe them? The most obvious explanation is that the entire thing, testaments old and new, were works of propagandist fiction designed to aid the controlling of people. If so they worked just a treat. The Old Testament predicted a second coming, so that sets things up nicely for when you need a new boost to controlling people who, lets not forget, were mostly illiterate, innumerate, and would have an IQ of somewhere around 50 by todays standards. Alternatively, Jesus may have been simply a convincing crazy man. Mohammed really did exist, and was most likely a crazed epileptic. Jesus may have been some kind of early magician who was able to bedazzle people with trickry and convince them he had magic power. Personally I prefer the idea that Jesus was a leader of men, a moral revolutionary whose story was later embellished and corrupted. Someone like Martin Luther King, say.

    Re your jigsaw analogy. No, you don’t have any pieces of the jigsaw, except those science has provided. You have someone (someone who has already proved to be wrong, a liar even, in what he has said about several of the corner pieces) telling you they have seen the complete jigsaw and what it depicts, and that the jigsaw can walk, talk and do many other seemingly implausible things. If you were born in deep Indonesia you might well have no idea what Jesus or Christianity even are. As it is, all you have is hear say, either in the form of other people telling you what they believe to be true, or a 2000 year old book riddled with contradictions and immoral encouragement. If you want to believe that constitutes ‘most of the pieces’, be my guest.

    You point out;

    “there is ‘no evidence that God exists’ but then there is also no evidence that he does not exist either. So that of itself is not a very convincing argument.”
    This is an incredibly poor piece of reasoning. Have you ever seen evidence unicorns don’t exist? No. So presumably you think it is quite likely that they do?

    “I have seen God perform miracles, I have experienced him in my life, I have seen him answer my prayers”

    At this point I struggle to know what to say, other than it seems an incredibly arrogant claim to make. Presumably God just likes you more than I, Steve, or any of the other vast majority of people he has not decided to reveal himself to or perform miracles for. I’ve heard people make such claims before, and it always turns out to be vacuous. I’d love to know what these miracles were (you got more than one!?), but I imagine they are quite dull things that happen to us all but we put them down to more rational explanations. It seems awfully unfair that you get miracles while some babies are born with AIDS, suffer their entire lives, and then die painful deaths. Too bad God couldn’t do a miracle for them.

    “Are all those things just part of my imagination”

    I’m sorry to be the barer of bad news, but yes, they are.
    “if God turned up on earth today, dressed and looking like a person, performed miracles and said he was God… would you believe him?”

    Honestly, if I saw a ‘miracle’ I would consider myself profoundly ill and seek medical help. If somehow, I was able to be convinced there was nothing wrong with me, and what I had witnessed was indeed real, I’d accept it, and be very fearful, as God – as described by Christian texts – would be no friend of mine and I would instantly fear him/her/it. I would then ask him why he is so egotistical, cruel, pedantic, jealous and resentful.

    “If there is a God who has the ability to create the Universe, he is mightier than I can imagine or even consider… why would he need something to create him?”

    You are about to explain this yourself….

    “Let us consider the alternative… how do you create something out of nothing? Yes I understand that infinitely small bits (sorry no technical sciencey definitions!) could create vast energy and things could happen from that… however where did those infinately small bits come from? Were they created?”

    This is pretty shocking. You say you cannot get ‘something from nothing’ but say that God requires no creator. So he/it/whatever most have come from nothing. Also, if your reasoning for there being a God is that the universe must have come from somewhere and thus must have been created, but God has just always existed, and that there was no ‘before’ God, why not just apply these attributes to the universe instead of God? Why is it God can transcend the need for a creator and has existed forever, but this cannot be true of the universe, or whatever the universe came out of in its previous form?

    “God cannot create something that is impossible for him to do because he created it. I don’t see that makes God any less powerful.”

    Just look at the first two words you wrote in that sentence. Look. “God cannot”. It really doesn’t matter what caveats you introduce thereafter, you have already stated he has limitations, which means he cannot be omnipotent. Omnipotence, if you fully understand the nuances of such an idea, is impossible.

    “Yes there is a lot of wonder to be had in the universe no matter what you believe…. but for me I work on the prinicple that my pieces of jigsaw give me a way of life that I feel I need to follow…. and if there is no God have I lost anything in believing there is one?? If I die and there is nothing after, well I’ll be dead and that will be that, I won’t exactly be able to debate it from the grave!!!! If on the other hand there is a God and I have chosen to ignore him, reject him, say he does not exist and I am wrong… the consequences of that truly are far greater!!!!!!!”
    This is basically Pascal’s wager. Do you really think God, if he exists, would be that stupid and pedantic? What you wrote hear actually suggests to be that you aren’t that convinced at all, but are engaging in ‘wish-thinking’, or perhaps just hedging your bets. You think he would be sufficiently happy that you have chosen to believe in him just because you think you might be in line for a reward, but have lost nothing otherwise? While he will condemn me to hell for not having a punt on him? Why wouldn’t he just forgive non-believers? And do you think believing in something, or acting morally, because you want reward, is moral?

    If you want to convince yourself of something that is intellectually vacuous, morally questionable, and quite ridiculous, then that is your prerogative. But it doesn’t in any way make it true.

    David J M Robinson

    You said;

    “In a sense it is difficult for me to relate to your predicament” – which I suspect is why you can say “I doubt thinking about these things will drive you insane”. Your experience was “it was always just inherently obvious to me that the notion of God was false”, and that was the end of it. For whatever reason, you’ve never actually wondered about the truth of it – you’re never really “not known”, you’ve always just “known”.”

    You make massive assumptions Sir. I have repeatedly said that it is impossible to ‘know’ 100% either way currently, and I have read both the Bible and Koran in their entireties, read countless other books on the subject, watched almost every debate there is to watch on religion and God on YouTube, and engage in debates like this on an almost daily basis. So for you to say I have never wondered about it is hugely inaccurate and disengenous, I just tend to leave my brain switched on when I do my wondering.

    “I’m not sure that all your own arguments are logical and self consistent, even before you pit them against Christianity or religion of whatever – and it’s interesting that you don’t spot that.”
    What is interesting, is despite spotting these ‘inconsistencies’ and illogic, you chose not to point them out? If you would I’ll happily respond.

    1. Hi Steven, I appreciate your response. I, too, have spent lots of time discussing faith and Christianity on the internet, and I’m sure that everything I’ve said you’ve heard before. I have a feeling you have pretty much written anything supernatural off a priori and therefore any ‘evidence’ that anyone can come up with you are basically at liberty to dismiss.

      That all said, I’m going to have a go at one or two of the things you’ve said. I’m aware that to do a proper response would take a book, and I don’t have that kind of time.

      Now, I don’t know why you define evidence as the way a scientist would. Religion is not a matter of science. You can’t do a scientific test for God. As Stephen Jay Gould said, they are non-overlapping magisteria. That doesn’t stop us from trying to find out what happened in history. I’d thought that would be much more like a courtroom definition of the word evidence than scientific.

      For the same reason I don’t agree with your next paragraph. Something which cannot be proved does not make it untrue. I can’t prove that such a thing as love exists, but I don’t doubt that it does. Some things just operate in a realm which science is not qualified to comment on.

      [Incidentally, I think you’re using ‘disprovable’ to mean the opposite of what you want it to mean. Disprovable means something is falsifiable. Correct me if I’m wrong, I think you’re saying that Christianity and the supernatural are not falsifiable, therefore they are not credible.]

      I don’t know, it just seems like your whole response assumes that science is gradually eroding Christianity’s base, which I think is a totally unfounded assertion. There’s a vocal minority of both scientists and Christians who are always at each other’s throats, mostly on evolution, but most of the Christians I know are quite happy to go along with science on the matter. Christianity deals with the ‘Why?’ question, science deals with the ‘how’.

      “All this talk of the Bible being any kind of evidence at all is, to be honest, redundant. What of the books that didn’t make it in? The constant contradictions? The fact that much of it is borrowed from earlier myths?”

      Don’t agree with any of that. e.g. contradictions – most of the contradictions I’ve seen have been minor at best and due to a complete misunderstanding at worst.

      “The Bible is quite simply, not very moral, which in itself should be a big hint that it has nothing to do with any God”

      While we’re on the subject of morals, please could you explain where you get your sense of morals from? On what basis do you say that the Bible is immoral?

      Running out of time here so just one more thing.

      “Just look at the first two words you wrote in that sentence. Look. “God cannot”. It really doesn’t matter what caveats you introduce thereafter, you have already stated he has limitations, which means he cannot be omnipotent. Omnipotence, if you fully understand the nuances of such an idea, is impossible.”

      I don’t think the Bible uses the word ‘omnipotence’ of God. It’s a word that theologians may use to describe him, but omnipotence is a human concept. But either way it seems to me like quibbling over a definition of a word people sometimes use when talking about God rather than having any bearing over whether God actually exists or not.

    2. Steven I think you managed to miss my point on numerous occasions… however a couple I would like to pick up on. A miracle is dependent on something very important… someone praying quite specifically for it. The fact you have experienced none in your life suggest perhaps noone has prayer for any in your life. Miracles do not have to be huge, and yes mine may seem boring and dull to you! When I wanted to do my year out, I debated for ages what to do, prayed about it and rang a place up, within 10days of that phone call I had not only been to visit my placement but I had got accommodation and everything in place and moved up there. That may seem like nothing to you but it was a huge deal to me personally. Could it be described as just lucky or good timing? Well in someone else’s eyes, yes probably, but that makes it no less significant to me! When we were living in London we were totally broke with a total lack of work and some money just turned up in an envelope through the door.
      I have experienced other things but I’m sure you would say the same of the other things I have seen!! Not much time so I want to answer a couple of other things.

      Have I seen or heard God? Seen in the physical sense, no. Have I heard him in the audible sense, no. So how can I have a two way relationship? By a prompting form the Holy Spirit that I really should say something to a particular person and do something particular. And by that I mean, I get flustered and the longer I don’t do that thing the more bothered I become… I suspect other people may feel this differently though! Sometimes a particular verse springs to mind and it turns out to be very appropriate. Sometimes someone comes up to you out of the blue without knowing your situation or what you are praying for and tells you an answer or something that helps you know what you need to do or they comfort you. Sometimes when you are looking for direction about what to do next certain avenues suddenly become unavailable. When I’m reading the Bible, sometimes a particular verse stands out, could be one I’ve read a thousand times before but suddenly that day it is significant! None of these things may sound like much on their own but when you add them all together, they are enough to convince me God is talking to me. If that makes me delusional, that’s fine I can live with that.

      As to the ‘Pascal’s wager’ thing and the not sounding convinced. I was making a point. I am convinced of my faith. I do not follow God lightly. I do not follow him because it is the least worst option. I do not follow him to hedge my bets. I follow him because I choose to, because he enriches my life, gives me peace, helps me, guides me, gives me hope that there is light at the end of whatever I’m going through. I don’t believe and act moral for the reward… I do it because I feel called to it!

      And one final point… can I ask you a question? If there is a God… what do you think he/she/it is like? Humour me!!!!

  14. “Religion is not a matter of science”

    You see, this is the problem. If you are willing to completely sacrifice your faculties of reason and accept anything no matter how improbable – burning bushes, immaculate conceptions, scientology, Elvis alive and well and working in Burger King – then of course, you can believe in anything. But what you must at least to, is admit that you are taking an intellectually redundant position, and that that same loosening of thought opens the possibility of many many other fanciful stories apart from just Christianity. Why not the Greek Gods, or Roman, or Islam? Why is Christianity any more plausible than any of those? It quite simply, isn’t.

    You argument is no more sophisticated than a child making up some fanciful story about a monster who lives in their closet, and when you open it to show it isn’t there, they just claim that it is a magic monster that adults can’t see. As long as you are prepared to be completely naive and irrational, the child’s story and logic is full-proof. Can you at least accept that point? It is entirely up to you what you believe, and it doesn’t bother me one little bit. But what I will not allow anybody to do is try to claim that it is reasonable to believe what you do, when ‘faith’ is clearly reliant on a willingness to transcend, or rather discount reason. The religious people I respect most are the ones who admit this; that it is entirely a leap of faith and makes no reasonable sense whatsoever.

    “Something which cannot be proved does not make it untrue. I can’t prove that such a thing as love exists, but I don’t doubt that it does.”

    That is true but is also absolutely irrelevant. I’ve never said that a lack of evidence proves something doesn’t exist, so I’m not sure why you even feel the need to make this point. What is relevant, is that just because this is true, doesn’t mean that everything which cannot be proven should be given equal credence.

    “Some things just operate in a realm which science is not qualified to comment on.”

    Like what? Who says? Where is the authority for that statement?

    You are right about my misuse of ‘disprovable’, thanks for pointing that out. I meant non-unfalsifiable. But what I was trying – and failing – to say makes sense.

    The idea that science can do ‘how’ but not ‘why’ is now undated. You are going to see BIG changes here in the future in terms of morality, but again, even to say what you have is begging the question. You are assuming there IS a ‘why’. I’ll say again, I am perfectly secure with the idea that there is no meaning to life other than that we project ourselves. I actually think an insecurity with that possibility is why most people who do, believe.

    If you are interested in the ‘how and why’ debate, I recommend Sam Harris’ new book: ‘The Moral Landscape’. Alternatively you can type the title into YouTube and see him give a lecture on the subject. Very interesting indeed.

    I could literally list you thousands of MAJOR contradictions in the Bible. But if you are someone who says you have studied this subject lots, and you have remained blind to this (perhaps willingly) then I fear there is no point me even bringing them to your attention. Here is a link anyway should you ever decide to genuinely question your faith;

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html

    “While we’re on the subject of morals, please could you explain where you get your sense of morals from? On what basis do you say that the Bible is immoral?”

    Genocide. Sex with young children. Rape. Homophobia. Misogyny. Need I go on? Ah, the old ‘where do you get your morals?’ approach. Well, certainly NOT from the Bible. Morals are part of evolution, obviously. But even leaving that to one side, the Bible proves that our morals don’t come from it itself. In fact, that is EXACTLY what the parable of the good samaritan shows. To be honest with you, I wouldn’t trust anyone who thought the Old testament was a good moral code, and the New testament isn’t much better. Anyone can cherry pick the parts of the Bible which match our morality, while expending the parts which seem to us to be immoral. But what does that show? That is us critiquing the Bible, not the other way around. If the Bible is the moral authority, without which we would have no sense of good or bad, where do we get our ability to say which bits of the Bible are good, and which are bad? Again, it is logically impossible that our morals are derived from the Bible, and that isn’t a matter of religion, faith or anything else. Just think about that point, it really does make perfect sense.

    Actually the argument that our morals must have come from the Bible is one I find especially tiresome. Especially as there are pieces of writing dating back earlier which clearly state things like murder to be unacceptable. Even chimps have recognisable moral codes. Have they read the Bible too?

    You might think it is ‘quibbling’ but I would have thought whether God is an all-powerfull being, or just an entity with limitations, possibly with insecurities, faults and all the rest of it, ought to be quite an important distinction.

    I really do recommend you watch the debate between the Rabbi I mentioned and Christopher Hitchens. The two of them get on very well, so despite his reputation the tone is very friendly and like I said, the Rabbi makes the best case if heard – largely through his intellectual and moral integrity which force him to make certain concessions. Because he won’t give credence to some of the blatant rubbish mysticism, it adds weight to the more sophisticated and water-tight points he does make.

    1. Hi Steven,

      You seem to be using the Dawkins definition of faith – “faith is believing in spite of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence” (from memory so might not be exact).

      This is a definition which is quoted by Alister Mcgrath in his book “Dawkins’ God”: “[Faith] affects the whole of man’s nature. It commences with the conviction of the mind based on adequate evidence, it continues in the confidence of the heart or emotions based on conviction, and it is crowned in consent of the will, by means of which the conviction and confidence are expressed in conduct.”

      The point is, faith isn’t just believing despite evidence. It’s believing because of evidence. The closest example I can think of comes, ironically, from science. Lots of scientists seem to believe in the Higgs Boson particle – and yet no evidence has been found that it exists. (Yet). Why do they believe that? Because it holds a lot of explanatory power and would make their theories correct. Now it’s not a perfect analogy, but that’s similar to I think the way faith works for a lot of Christians.

      I don’t believe in Greek gods, or Islam, etc because I don’t find them rationally compelling. But that’s a subject for a whole other debate, I just want to focus on one for now.

      “[on subjects which science is not qualified to comment on] Like what? Who says? Where is the authority for that statement?”

      Like philosophy for example. Why are we here? Or the subject of morals… is it OK to cheat on my wife? Can science answer those questions?

      A lot of atheists I have seen debate seem to go down the road that scientific knowledge is the only valid form of knowledge, which seems absurd to me. Where is the authority for that statement? It certainly doesn’t come from science. Science is a tool, yes, but it’s not a the long and the short of human knowledge and knowing everything.

      I’m sorry if I’ve misrepresented you at all and you’re saying nothing of the sort, but that seems to be a common undertone of what people argue.

      By the way, thanks for recommending Sam Harris. I will look him up on YouTube (along with the Boteach debate) when I have a spare moment. Probably next week.

      Thanks for your list of Bible contradictions. I’ve seen it before, and – contrary to what you seem to believe – I have in fact questioned my faith. Many times. Let me give you a few examples of why I don’t hold that list to be “major” contradictions:

      ‘The Sins of the Father’ – Isa 14:21 vs Deu 24:16: in Deuteronomy these are laws being given out, in Isaiah this is prophecy where he says, “This is how you will taunt the Babylonians”. I don’t see the contradiction there.

      ‘Snails do not Melt’ – Psa 58:8: Poetic language. Claiming this is a contradiction is like claiming Hamlet was wrong for saying, “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!” Flesh doesn’t melt, it’s just poetic language.

      ‘Good deeds’ – Mt 5:16 vs Mt 6:3-4 – seems to me that Jesus is on about doing good works for the sake of doing good works in 5:16, vs doing them for the sake of being seen by others and looking good in front of them in 6:3-4. He specifically says in 6:2 don’t be like the hypocrites. Again, doesn’t seem like a contradiction to me.

      I could go on. It just seems that this list was compiled by someone who took a more fundamental approach to the Bible than even the American right-wing fundamentalists. You can’t just lift a verse out of any kind of context, pitch it against another verse and go “There! Contradiction!”

      I freely admit there are a few errors in the Bible, I’m not one of those people who claim that it’s 100% perfect (i.e. those American fundamentalists). I think it was written by men, and there have been issues with copying etc. But that doesn’t seem to me to be a reason to dismiss the whole thing, the errors that I know about are generally minor and really have no bearing on the theological understanding of it.

      Re: morals – I’m not claiming that we get our sense of morals from the Bible. WLC uses the argument:

      1. Without God, objective morals do not exist
      2. Objective morals do exist
      3. Therefore, God exists.

      I’m not even talking about the Christian God here, just any kind of God. By what standards do you claim that “Genocide, sex with young children, rape” etc are morally wrong? Standards that have evolved?

      Well, let’s say they hadn’t evolved at that time. Would that make them morally wrong or right? If the people of the day saw rape as perfectly morally acceptable, for example, would you say they were still moral?

      Let’s say that our standards have evolved to say that murder is immoral. OK. But let’s say I want to ignore that. We don’t have to act as we have evolved, i.e. people are vegetarian now, even though we’ve evolved to eat meat. We don’t have to act as our programming designates. So, I want to kill someone. What could you say to me to convince me otherwise?

      The point is, I think with atheism there is no moral imperative, i.e. there may be a loose form of evolved ‘morals’ (quite how they evolved I don’t know) but there’s no way that you can say to me (or anyone else) ‘you should do this.’ You have your moral ideas, I have mine. In order to live together as a society we may have to prevent certain behaviours but in general nothing can ever be condemned as being universally ‘immoral’ because there is no such concept.

      “You might think it is ‘quibbling’ but I would have thought whether God is an all-powerfull being, or just an entity with limitations, possibly with insecurities, faults and all the rest of it, ought to be quite an important distinction.”

      I would say it’s a philosophical question which has no bearing on God’s existence. I don’t know, it just seems obvious to me that when we talk of God as all-powerful, God can do everything that is logically possible. That’s not to say God has limitations, but just that God can’t make a square circle because such a thing is a logical impossibility. God can’t make a rock too heavy for himself to lift because it’s a logical impossibility. I just never saw omniscience as including “God can do everything, even that which is logically impossible.”

      I’m not a philosopher though and I’m sure you would get more sense out of a Christian philosopher 🙂

  15. “[Faith] affects the whole of man’s nature. It commences with the conviction of the mind based on adequate evidence, it continues in the confidence of the heart or emotions based on conviction, and it is crowned in consent of the will, by means of which the conviction and confidence are expressed in conduct.”

    This, again, is empty rhetoric. It is patently obvious with only a basic understanding of the semantic meaning of the word that ‘faith’ means an investment not based on facts or evidence. I’m not taking Dawkins definition, I’m taking the every day definition. But why don’t we take dictionary definitions?

    1.
    confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.

    2.
    belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

    3.
    belief in god or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.

    4.
    belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.

    5.
    a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.

    6.
    the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.

    7.
    the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.

    8.
    Christian Theology . the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.

    Notice that none of these far more genuine definitions than the twisted-to-suit-his-needs one Alister Mcgrath (who I am also familiar with and quite like) gives, mention that it includes any form of evidence, logic or reason, rather, it is defined by the fact that it isn’t ‘known’.

    I wouldn’t say faith was defined as being a belief in spite of evidence to the contrary, I’d call that delusion. If you claimed the Sun went around the Earth, I wouldn’t just say you were a man of ‘faith’, I’d say you were very ‘deluded’. I’d say faith is simply something someone accepts when there is no reason to. Although I think that often with religious people it is actually a confusion of what I call, for myself, ‘hope’.

    Comparing the Higgs Boson particle to believing in Christianity is a mistake. Scientists come up with all kinds of theories, and then spend ages trying to disprove them. This is how science works. The ones which cannot be disproven are deemed credible, but even then, scientists go on trying to disprove or upgrade them. The point with the Higgs Boson particle is that data they have suggests something like it must be there, even though they can’t yet find it. In effect, it needs to exist to explain other things we know exist, but I doubt many scientists would say they 100% believe it exists. More likely they would say it is probable, meaning they have doubt. Do you have any doubt regarding God?

    “Like philosophy for example. Why are we here? Or the subject of morals… is it OK to cheat on my wife? Can science answer those questions?”

    Again, you’re begging the question by are assuming there is a reason we are here.

    As for WLC;

    1. Without God, objective morals do not exist
    2. Objective morals do exist
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    While this may be a valid syllogism, that is all it is. Doesn’t it strike you that 1. is just a massive assumption, and that the rest are built on that? I see nothing in this reasoning that shows 1) That objective morals exist at all, or 2) That even if they do, they only can because of the existence of God. To be honest I find this kind of reasoning laughable, which is why WLC is so frequently laughed at. I wonder, did you ever try to question WLC’s reasoning, or did you just accept it because it reenforced what you already believe to be true?

    William Lame Craig (sorry) also argues that without God, “everything is permitted” (borrowed from Dostoevsky), or that there is no reason to act morally without a belief in God. The fact that Muslims that believe indubitably in God have flown planes into buildings, and Catholic priests have systematically raped young boys, and then other priests have helped cover up their crimes, proves that not only is ‘everything possible’ even if you do believe in God, but that in fact, God is often a justification for atrocities. You only have to look at prison statistics, where the percentage (and these statistics are the number of Christians, Muslims, Atheists etc in prison compared to the number of each in the general population, then represented as a percentage) to see that Atheists are far, far less likely to commit crimes than believers of all major faiths (even Buddhists!). Of course, it could just be that Atheists are better at getting away with crimes due to a higher level of intellect (there is also research which shows this to be true, on average of course) but I doubt that is the case.

    Neither you or I rape, steal or murder. I 100% believe that if I could commit those crimes, and evade the law, there would be no consequences for me (actually I do. I would feel awful guilt which I imagine would probably lead to my demise, but in this context I mean no punishment in the afterlife) yet I still don’t do it, and wouldn’t, even if I knew I could get away with it. The measure of a good deed, or moralistic behaviour, is not that you have adhered to rules, or behaved in a way so as to receive reward. In fact, to behave in a certain way only because of either of these reasons is totally immoral. The old saying about how one behaves when he thinks no-one is watching is useful here. At this moment in time, I am alone, and believe no-one will ever know what I do. You, I presume, think God is always watching, or ‘knowing’, so I can’t really trust that you ever behave in a moral fashion for anymore of a reason than that you believe you will disappoint him if you don’t, and may be punished or miss out on some reward.

    To me, the notion that homosexuals are inherently sinners and will go to hell is a profoundly sick, immoral and twisted belief. The only people who believe this kind of thing are horrible bigots like Nick Griffin, and religious people. Religion justifies the most abhorrent of view points.

    Our morals come from a mixture of evolutionary mechanisms and social norms. A society which had no problem with murder would be completely unstable and would not last very long. This is why murderers are shunned from society. We don’t know it through some divine law-making, it is simply not helpful to us. Different societies have different morals, and morals also shift during time, which in itself should prove that we don’t get morals from God. Morality is evidently not absolute. If we all have morals bestowed on us by God why are there murderers at all?

    “By what standards do you claim that “Genocide, sex with young children, rape” etc are morally wrong? Standards that have evolved?”

    Yes. These things are unpalatable to me because over millions of years they have proven to be unhelpful to the survival of our species. As we developed intelligence, we also developed the potential for compassion (remember, as cave men we were far less moral than we are now, why were these absolute morals bestowed by God not in effect then? Or do you not accept evolution?) If God created animals too, why not install in them the same morals we have?

    “Well, let’s say they hadn’t evolved at that time. Would that make them morally wrong or right? If the people of the day saw rape as perfectly morally acceptable, for example, would you say they were still moral?”

    I think I’ve already answered this, but just to restate; it is you who has assumed that moral absolutes exist, not me. I deem rape to be immoral because of the suffering it causes to the victims of it. If you have ever seen cats have sex, you will know it looks more like rape than love making. Do I think cats are immoral? No, because they don’t have the capacity to appreciate each others suffering. Do I think cavemen raping cavewomen were immoral? No. I think they were cavemen. Also, the impact of rape on cats, or cavewomen, is most likely incomparable to the impact of it on a thinking, existential woman.

    “Let’s say that our standards have evolved to say that murder is immoral. OK. But let’s say I want to ignore that. We don’t have to act as we have evolved, i.e. people are vegetarian now, even though we’ve evolved to eat meat. We don’t have to act as our programming designates. So, I want to kill someone. What could you say to me to convince me otherwise?”

    I’d say people who murder are not so much choosing to ignore what they know is ‘right’, but are reacting on an evolutionary mis-firing. Anyhow, I’m sure there are some people intent on killing who cannot be persuaded otherwise. I don’t really see why this is relevant. More interesting is why these individuals seemed to have missed out when God was handing out the morals.

    “The point is, I think with atheism there is no moral imperative, i.e. there may be a loose form of evolved ‘morals’ (quite how they evolved I don’t know) but there’s no way that you can say to me (or anyone else) ‘you should do this.’ You have your moral ideas, I have mine. In order to live together as a society we may have to prevent certain behaviours but in general nothing can ever be condemned as being universally ‘immoral’ because there is no such concept.”

    Yes. You are getting there now. I assume your ‘with God’ alternative is that you can say; ‘now be a good boy or no heaven for you’. I don’t see how refraining from immoral behaviour just to gain reward is at all moral. Evidently, there is no ‘universal’ morality, as we have rapists; see the Catholic Church, mass murderess; see Islamic extremists, and different moral codes in different societies; see the mutilation of children’s genitals in Sudan in the name of God. You only have the morals you do because of the society you were raised in and the impact on you of people within it whom you encountered. Had you been raised in the woods by wolves I doubt very much whether you would have opinions on rape, genocide or abortion.

    “I would say it’s a philosophical question which has no bearing on God’s existence. I don’t know, it just seems obvious to me that when we talk of God as all-powerful, God can do everything that is logically possible. That’s not to say God has limitations, but just that God can’t make a square circle because such a thing is a logical impossibility. God can’t make a rock too heavy for himself to lift because it’s a logical impossibility. I just never saw omniscience as including “God can do everything, even that which is logically impossible.””

    I find it strange that you are so keen on logic when it suits your argument, but so quick to accept miracles, which to my mind, are only defined as such because of their logical impossibility.

    It’s been fun debating, but we are kind of going around in circles and I’m not saying much that isn’t easily accessible to you online should you care to look for it. I understand that Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris et al can offend people who believe, but they do also make some brilliant arguments. I might come across as a disciple of them, but actually I worked out most of what I say and believe for myself.

    From the people who I have met who have lost their faith, the thing that strikes me most is that they feel nothing really changes. They are no less happy (sometimes more), no less moral (actually I know people who through losing their faith became much nicer and are now ashamed of the way they treated gay people) and no more frightened. I find many religious people to actually be quite scared, and that it doesn’t give the comfort it ought to. I think when I die, it will be just like before I was born, which I think is fine.

    One thing I hear people say is that it is harder for atheists to deal with the loss of loved ones, not being able to imagine they are safe and well somewhere. It seems to me though, that many people lose faith at precisely this time, and I try to remember that grief is suffered by the people left behind, not those who have died and now feel no pain or anguish.

    If I have been aggressive in tone or offensive at any point I apologise. I get the sense that you may have some doubt yourself. Atheism would give you no answers. I like to think I have the wisdom to ask questions without requiring definitive answers. I also accept that I could be wrong about any of, or all of what I have said. I find it hugely comforting to know that even without a belief in God, people are capable of incredible good. One of my favourite quotes is this one by Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg;

    “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion”

    Now I shall go outside with my telescope and gaze at the stars, and imagine what wonderful this the universe beholds. Peace.

    1. Hi Steven

      When I quoted that statement of faith, what I really meant to draw out was that faith does not exist apart from facts or evidence, it exists because of them. Maybe that’s a semantic distinction. But I just see faith as a holistic thing which includes facts and evidence, not ignores them.

      Let’s take the first dictionary definition you came up with: “confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.” I trust my friends because they have proven themselves to be worthy of my trust (my faith). I have faith in them, yes, but it is based on a relationship. Would you say that was based on logic, evidence and reason or not?

      I’d agree with you about hope actually, the two are similar and the Bible uses both terms.

      I wouldn’t say that I had 100% faith, in the sense that I do have the odd doubt. But yeah, believing in Christianity doesn’t work the same way that scientists work exactly so maybe that was a bad analogy.

      “you’re begging the question by are assuming there is a reason we are here”

      But the thing is, whether or not we are here for a reason, people ask and want answers to those kind of questions. If all you can say to them is, “there’s no reason why we’re here, you might as well do what you like” that’s not going to be very helpful. People are looking for guidance. Science cannot give that. I’m just saying it has its limitations as a form of knowledge.

      “I 100% believe that if I could commit those crimes, and evade the law, there would be no consequences for me yet I still don’t do it”

      What I was getting at was, if someone did feel like they could commit those crimes you couldn’t label those crimes as wrong, evil or immoral because they may well have been acting morally by their own standards. You may still need to lock them up, but they are free agents acting in the way which comes naturally to them. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to behave.

      “To me, the notion that homosexuals are inherently sinners and will go to hell is a profoundly sick, immoral and twisted belief”

      This is also not a Christian belief. But I should ask at this point – we were talking before about the limitations of science. Do you base your moral beliefs on science? I don’t know, it just seems to me a slight contradiction in that when I ask about morals and science I am “begging the question by assuming there is a reason we are here.” But then you are quite happy to make pronouncements that some deeds are clearly twisted and immoral. Unless we’re using a different definition of morals. I’m just curious as to what you think the relationship is between science and morals.

      “More interesting is why these individuals seemed to have missed out when God was handing out the morals. ”

      I wasn’t saying that a sense of right and wrong means that people will always choose the right thing. I’m just saying that there is no objective way of judging what the right and wrong thing is, if we are living in a totally indifferent universe and there is no reason why we are here.

      “I find it strange that you are so keen on logic when it suits your argument, but so quick to accept miracles, which to my mind, are only defined as such because of their logical impossibility.”

      Why are miracles not logical? If God does in fact exist, it seems logical that miracles would happen. Miracles are not ‘logically impossible’ – they are supernatural, yes, but not the same as (for example) creating a square circle.

      “It’s been fun debating, but we are kind of going around in circles and I’m not saying much that isn’t easily accessible to you online should you care to look for it”

      I know what you mean, our debate has basically run on the same lines as pretty much every other debate I’ve had with atheists… I’m never going to convince you! That said, my goal with these things is not to convince someone of the truth of my position, but the more modest goal of convincing someone I’m not a complete moron. I think I’ve failed with that this time, but still.

      “I like to think I have the wisdom to ask questions without requiring definitive answers. I also accept that I could be wrong about any of, or all of what I have said”

      the problem with these debates is that you almost by definition have to come across as more sure of what you believe in order to fulfil the debate. I definitely don’t have all the answers. I’m also relatively comfortable having all the answers, as Douglas Adams once said, “in an infinite universe, anything is possible.”

      I disagree with Steven Weinberg in that I think for good people to do bad things, it takes an ideal, something worth fighting for. This is sometimes religion, but it could be politics or power or something like that. I read an interesting paper about religion and violence a while back. Apparently in Medieval times there wasn’t the distinction between religion and politics etc that we have today.

      Interestingly, I’ve heard Richard Dawkins speaking a few times recently and every time I hear him he seems to get more vehemently anti-religion. I don’t think we’d be a million miles from him waging an atheist war against religion. That might sound absurd, and I’m pretty sure it won’t happen, but there are little phrases he’s been using which suggest to me he believes so passionately that religion is wrong and anyone with faith is deluded that he would go to great lengths in order to eliminate it.

      “Now I shall go outside with my telescope and gaze at the stars, and imagine what wonder this universe beholds. Peace.”

      Now that’s something I can agree with 🙂 You too.

    2. Sorry not been following for the last few days and now missed loads, so having scan read most of the new stuff. Can I quickly talk about Steven’s dictionary set of definitions of faith?!

      Firstly a dictionary definition is in theory going to give you all different uses of the word and the chances of all of the definitions being true are fairly slim!
      So here’s the paraphrased version:
      1. confidence or trust in something/one
      2. belief without proof
      3. belief in God
      4. belief in a thing
      5. a system of belief
      6. obligation or promise to someone, when failed to do is breaking faith
      7. observance of 6. Proved faith
      8. Christian theology – trust in God, with hope that we are saved

      Point 5 I would suggest is a title, a categorisation, so no help.
      Point 3 seems to be similar suggesting a faith, a belief in a particular set of ideas.

      So we are left with point 2, which is the one you perhaps base your idea of faith upon, the delusional one which has no basis, let alone reason.

      I’m not exactly sure what point 4 means. Sorry!

      We are also left with 1, 6, 7 and 8.
      1 states confidence and trust both of which as already mentioned by Phil I believe, is based on a relationship, you have faith because in the past you have seen it is a worthy thing to do.
      6 and 7 are an obligation and the following through of it. Jesus died on the cross for our sinI feel obliged to be faithful to him, I made a promise to follow him and failure to do this is breaking faith with him. I carry out this obligation by being faithful during troubles.
      8 I trust in God, back to point 1 here, and all he has done for me. I am saved and justified because of what he did and I have faith in him. I hope for the future.

      So all in all we have faith as a title, or category. We have faith as a delusion. And we have faith as a relationship. Now this final one is faith based upon a knowledge of what God is like, what he has done in the past and a hope for what he will do in the future. Is that a faith based on all things unreasonable? No, it is based on the evidence I have to build up a picture of what might be and trusting and having faith for it to be. Faith is not completely unfounded. I have faith because God touched my life, I felt his reality and knew that everything I had learnt was true and for me. I had the faith to believe in a future with God. I also have continued faith based on the relationship I have with God. And continued faith to carry out the job asked of me despite hardship to see it to the end.

      There is something about relationship… without a meeting of some kind with the other person, an encounter. It is difficult to put faith and trust in that person. So I can understand where you are coming from. And my faith will seem entirely delusional to you if you do not believe I have had an encounter with God because ‘he does not exist’ or because I do not make a reasoned argument well enough. I will never be able to convince you of the truth as I see it… only God can do that by meeting you personally. I would challenge you to ask God to show himself to you, to honestly seek him… you may be surprised by what happens. And if nothing happens you will have lost nothing. Latentexistence you too. God is not offended by you asking him to meet you when you are. He does not mind if you question his existence… he would just rather you direct it at him!!!

      Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. That is not an empty scripture! The point is that until you ask to meet God… he does not reveal himself (generally). Until you look for something, the chances are you will not find it. A closed door will not open until you open the handle or knock on it or ring the bell and the person the other side opens it.

      It is most often when you are in the pit of despair that you find God… it is when you most earnestly seek him, when you need him most, when you are most likely to hear him and when you are least able to help yourself. If you are all sufficient and your life is ok, it is easy to feel no need for God.

      Sorry if it sounds like I have gone too super spiritual and over the top… but I think it is what you need to hear.

  16. You do have a habit of adding pieces of reasoning to what I say that I haven’t said or intended.

    You say;

    “I have faith in them, yes, but it is based on a relationship. Would you say that was based on logic, evidence and reason or not?”

    I’m sorry, but to me it seems like you are not actually thinking critically at all. If you have ‘faith’ in your friend (and I assume the faith you have in them is that they will continue to behave in a way you are welcoming of) this is no doubt based on the history of their actions, or evidence. If you know someone who constantly steals, lies and is violent, I doubt that you have ‘faith’ in them in the way you mean. Actually, you could have an equal amount of ‘faith’ that someone ‘bad’ is likely to behave inappropriately as you might that a good person will continue to be good. Why would we say we have ‘faith’ in a friend at all, rather than saying we ‘know’ they can be relied on? I’d say because human behaviour has the capacity to change, so no amount of prior evidence’ (your definition rather than my definition of incontrovertibility) can allow us to be certain someone will continue to behave in the same vein. So yes, the faith you have in people is entirely based on reason, logic or ‘evidence’.

    You say;

    “”there’s no reason why we’re here, you might as well do what you like” that’s not going to be very helpful.”

    Well I would NEVER say that. Clearly, I don’t believe a lack of God means ‘you might as well do what you like’. If you believe that without the existence of God we might as well do whatever we please, disregarding the impacts of our actions on others, I’d say that were a highly immoral and quite sick position to take. One which I have never heard said by any atheist.

    There is no point you constantly constructing straw man arguments. It is disingenuous and just halts any progress in the debate.

    “People are looking for guidance. Science cannot give that. I’m just saying it has its limitations as a form of knowledge.”

    Speak for yourself. Religious people may well be looking for guidance, unsurprising when you but your trust in such a tangled web of contradictions dotted with bigotry and morally vapid instructions, but most atheists I know are at peace with their existence in the world. Even disregarding that, I don’t see that a book which teaches the hatred of gays, women, people of other faith and people of no faith, is any sort of guidance at all. What kind of adult needs a book to tell them right from wrong anyway?

    “This is also not a Christian belief. But I should ask at this point – we were talking before about the limitations of science. Do you base your moral beliefs on science? I don’t know, it just seems to me a slight contradiction in that when I ask about morals and science I am “begging the question by assuming there is a reason we are here.” But then you are quite happy to make pronouncements that some deeds are clearly twisted and immoral. Unless we’re using a different definition of morals. I’m just curious as to what you think the relationship is between science and morals.”

    Firstly, when I refer to ‘immorality’ I am invoking the common consensus within our society of what is permissible. It is YOU who thinks (sick) morals were bestowed onto us by God. I base my morals on what my conscience (the result of evolution, intelligence and society) tells me is right and wrong. If you do not also, and instead have to refer to a book, I think you would be what is known as a sociopath. (I’m sure you don’t, and are not)

    Returning to “This is also not a Christian belief” in regards to the Bible’s homophobia.

    Totally disingenuous!

    Lev 18:22-23 “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

    Lev 20:13 “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death.”

    Cor 6:9 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals”

    Tim 1:9-10 “realizing the fact that (civil) law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers”

    Rom 1:26-27 “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”

    How you have the audacity to say that the idea that homosexuals are sinners is not a Christian belief is beyond me. Even if you personally disagree with the Bible on this (which you have elected not to take the opportunity to do) the fact remains that it is there in black and white, and as a result many Christians are deeply immoral bigots. Even if those Christians are somehow interpreting the Bible wrongly (which is hard to accept as it is so obviously what it says) then the fact that the Bible can be so easily misconstrued to such sick ends shows clearly that it is an awful source from which to glean ‘guidance’.

    “Why are miracles not logical? If God does in fact exist, it seems logical that miracles would happen. Miracles are not ‘logically impossible’ – they are supernatural, yes, but not the same as (for example) creating a square circle.”

    This is too absurd for me to respond to in depth. I’d say the definition of ‘supernatural’ is something which exceeds the laws of physics, which are all based on logic, so far as we can tell, even though new discoveries currently appear unintuitive to us.

    “I know what you mean, our debate has basically run on the same lines as pretty much every other debate I’ve had with atheists… I’m never going to convince you! That said, my goal with these things is not to convince someone of the truth of my position, but the more modest goal of convincing someone I’m not a complete moron. I think I’ve failed with that this time, but still.”

    I don’t think you are a moron. I think human beings are predisposed to looking for meaning, but that that is no proof that meaning exists. I think a belief in God is entirely based on emotional needs, and that they have the effect of hindering people’s ability to think – and sometimes behave, (ie. suicide bombers) – rationally. Of course ‘faith’ or religion is not the only thing which has this effect. That isn’t to say I think emotion is a bad thing, it is absolutely vital, but sometimes works against rather than for us. As I’ve said before, I am not 100% certain God does not exist, but I’d say the probability he/she/it doesn’t is extremely high. I can honestly say I’ve considered every point you have made to me before, except the ones I think are absurd, so you didn’t stand much chance of convincing me even if that had been your intention. Actually, I could formulate a much more convincing argument for the existence of God myself, I wont give it to you, but it involves consciousness.

    “Douglas Adams once said, “in an infinite universe, anything is possible.””

    Adams clearly doesn’t understand the nature of infinity. In an infinite universe, not only is everything possibly, it isn’t even probably, it is definite. Everything that can happen, must happen.

    Dawkins might sound stringent, but I’m certain he is a very nice, moral man who would never wish harm on anyone religious or not. In contrast, here are some of the sentiments he receives from religious people; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZuowNcuGsc

    I too would love to see the end of religion, not for my own satisfaction or vindication, but because I’m aware of the extreme unnecessary pain and suffering it has caused for thousands of years.

    1. Hi Steven,

      I’m sorry for reading things into what you say, I think you’ve done the same thing with me at least once or twice so maybe we’re even on that front. This is the problem with debating on the internet (or I guess you could say communication at all), misunderstanding is not just possible but eminently probable.

      Re: faith – my point was that it’s possible to have a ‘faith’, at least according to the dictionary, which incorporates evidence. I don’t know 100% that my friends aren’t going to let me down, but I have faith that they will not, based on past experiences and what I know of them. This is not a million miles away from my religious faith.

      “If you believe that without the existence of God we might as well do whatever we please, disregarding the impacts of our actions on others, I’d say that were a highly immoral and quite sick position to take”

      What I meant originally was that science can’t provide the answers morally. My words were unfortunately chosen but I meant to emphasise the limitations of science rather than saying we might as well do what we like.

      “What kind of adult needs a book to tell them right from wrong anyway?”

      And I think I’m not being completely clear with what I say. I’m not saying people should learn morals from the Bible. Nowhere have I said that. My entire point is that, without the grounding of some kind of deity, objective morals do not exist. An atheist cannot say definitely something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ other than by their own subjective standards.

      People don’t read the Bible for morals, they read the Bible to try to understand God, and how he relates to us. That’s not to say that I think the Bible doesn’t give moral guidance, just that I don’t think that’s where people get their morals from.

      “I base my morals on what my conscience (the result of evolution, intelligence and society) tells me is right and wrong”

      As long as you’re happy with that, that’s fine. As long as you don’t ever call someone else’s actions immoral should they come to a different conclusion as regarding what’s moral and not, no problems.

      “How you have the audacity to say that the idea that homosexuals are sinners is not a Christian belief is beyond me. Even if you personally disagree with the Bible on this the fact remains that it is there in black and white, and as a result many Christians are deeply immoral bigots”

      1. I disagreed with your statement of what Christianity says;
      2. I think there is a distinction between orientation and practice (at the very least);
      3. I think there is a legitimate theological argument for not understanding the passages you quote to be against every form of homosexual relationship ever. For example, one article I read claimed that scholarship in the last 30 years or so has revealed the word translated ‘homosexual’ in the Romans and other New Testament passages to not actually mean that.

      “I’d say the definition of ‘supernatural’ is something which exceeds the laws of physics, which are all based on logic, so far as we can tell, even though new discoveries currently appear unintuitive to us. ”

      The laws of physics are based on experimentation and observation. Physics can tell us that, if you drop a ball, there is a 99.999999 (etc) percent probability of it falling. It can’t tell us that will *always* happen, because the role of science is just to describe the universe and not proscribe what it must do.

      It makes sense to me that IF God exists, miracles can happen. I wouldn’t say they prove God exists, but – we’ve been through this before, to an extent.

      “I think human beings are predisposed to looking for meaning, but that that is no proof that meaning exists.”

      You’re right, but at the same time I think perhaps it suggests that meaning does. There’s a quote that says, “everyone has a God-shaped hole”. Now it seems reasonable to me that if God does exist, he might have created people with this ‘hole’. The fact that everyone seems to be looking for this meaning in this life isn’t proof, of course not, but I think I have a better explanation for it from within my worldview than an atheistic worldview.

      “Actually, I could formulate a much more convincing argument for the existence of God myself, I wont give it to you, but it involves consciousness.”

      I would like to here it sometime if ever you felt like writing it up. I read a book “Naturalism” recently which critiqued the idea of Naturalism, and consciousness was one of the things they use.

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