Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail

Point Fail

Revised Introductory Note

Since the first posting of this article in 2013 it has received 100’s of comments on my blog and has been reposted to numerous atheist forums and private blogs.

What I’ve noticed about the general nature of atheist responses to this article is an unfortunate misunderstanding concerning my purpose. Most seem to imagine that I had in mind a full scale Christian apologetic against atheism, or at least a presentation of insurmountable evidence for Christianity’s claims. This was not the vision.

For the sake of clarity, this article is meant to expose why the following atheist arguments (or, rather, assertions) fail to hit their target when debating with Christians. There are great arguments against Christianity, but this article is not about the great arguments, its about the most popular ones.

My rebuttals are aimed at exposing why these overplayed hands are ineffective and will continue to be ineffective, not with atheists, but with many (hopefully most) believers. If I were to present an exhaustive apologetic against atheism it would require many long articles, which I have no intention to write since it’s all been done before.

Plus I hate long articles.

Enjoy.

1. There is no evidence for God’s existence.

There is at least one major problem with this line as it is typically presented.

One often hears, “there is no evidence for God, therefore Christians believe in fairy tales,” (or something to that effect) when what is actually meant is more like, “there is no physical proof of God’s being in the physical world, therefore Christians believe in fairy tales (since all ‘real’ things for the atheistic-materialist are assumed to be physical).”

The fact that Christians have never claimed to believe in a physical God – as merely one more physical being among all other physical beings in the universe – does not stop these sorts of atheists from thinking they have laid waste to 40 centuries of religious thought, experience, and refinement with the mere mention of this evidentiary boogieman. It rarely occurs to them that such physical proof would actually run 100% counter to Judeo-Christian theistic claims. Their argument against a physical God is actually applauded and defended by Christians. The Bible proudly declares many times over that God is spirit.

Simply put: Christianity believes in a immaterial God, thus to demand material proof of His existence is nonsensical.

This fact is not, of course, proof that the Christian claim is true, but merely proof that with such attacks the atheist has not even begun to swing in the direction of Christianity.

Many atheists will protest saying rather that God’s ‘activity’ should be detectable in the physical world, not His actual being. Fair enough, but when presented with evidences of God’s activity in the world these same atheists roundly reject them, regardless of the scientific or philosophic soundness of the evidence. There simply seems to be no evidence of God’s activity in the world that passes the jury of popular atheist opinion. Many seem to think that admitting a single evidence into their court would equal a total breakdown in their case against Christianity.  I remind the reader to please keep in mind: “evidence” does not equal “proof”. One is not intellectually forced to accept Christianity based on good evidence.

For one of many excellent presentations of arguments for God, try the book Evidence for God, which gives 50 separate evidences in science, philosophy, and theology each by top-notch scholars in the respective fields.

However, if by “no evidence” an atheist has in mind something more like, “There is no logical evidence of God’s existence…” then the straw man suddenly becomes a brick wall. The logical arguments for God are vast and time tested against some of the greatest minds of all time working tirelessly against them. They are well-known arguments and can be easily found online or in print. But what is discouraging when engaging with atheists in debate, particularly online, is the constant charge that the faith is illogical, irrational, or the stuff of ancient fairy tales believed only by the ignorant and the mentally ill. It’s one thing to willfully deny the evidence for God after giving it an honest hearing, its another thing to remain willfully ignorant of an opposing view while claiming the opposing view is ignorant. I have found that such behavior is typically a sign of a person woefully insecure about his or her position, using an abundance of insults as cover for a bankruptcy of insight.

2. If God created the universe, who created God?

This is one of the more peculiar arguments I’ve ever come across. It is an argument usually levied once a theist posits that God is required for the existence of the universe (an absolute being upon which all other things exist by way of contingency). Some atheists then shift the weight over to the theist saying, “Well then who created God?” This very familiar argument demonstrates a failure to understand what almost any form of classical theism understands by the name “God”. Speaking for Christianity, God is the One who is – i.e., the only One who is the source of His own being. He is worshiped as the uncreated One who always was and always will be. God is not seen by the Christian as one more being in the total aggregate of all beings in the universe. Rather He is the source and ground of all being, of all existence (follow this link for more).

One way to say it, though it might sound odd at first, is that Christians do not believe that God ever came into existence (Kierkegaard). Think of it in the old ‘Cosmological Argument’ sense. Whatever begins to exist must have a cause. The universe began to exist, therefore it had a cause. But God never began to exist; He always was, i.e., eternal.

The atheist will typically respond with, “who cares what you assert about God, it still does not answer the question.” And this is a great example of the moment when atheists and Christians begin to talk past one another. For the Christian the question is purely nonsensical, for the atheist it’s pure logical fallacy.

On that note, for those who would cry “Special Pleading” at this claim must defend the alternative, which, strictly speaking, is illogical in a universe made entirely of contingent realities. Without the logical assignment of an absolute upon which all things are contingent, one is left with something like absolute contingency or unconditional conditionality of the physical universe (this assuming one believes in the eternality of nature; if not, if one believes the universe had a beginning, then he must defend an even more fantastic illogical leap, that of “just-thereness” of the universe, which differs very little from pure magic). But the belief that God alone is eternal in His being is not special pleading to begin with for the simple fact that the subject matter is something truly unique, justifiably “special”. If one cannot claim that at least one thing is Absolute, or “Necessary” in a universe of conditionality, then reality as we know it is irrational (for a great book on this see David Bentley Hart’s, The Experience of God).

Better to be wrongly accused of a logical fallacy then rightly accused of a logical absurdity.

3. God is not all-powerful if there is something He cannot do. God cannot lie, therefore God is not all-powerful.

This argument would be fantastic—devastating maybe—if God was more of the ancient Greek god persuasion, where the gods themselves were subject to fate and limited to their specific roles in the cosmos. The Orthodox doctrine of God is much different. Christians (at least Orthodox Christians) view God’s ontology as subject to His perfect free-will. Why is He good? Because He wills to be good. Why does He not lie? Because He wills to be honest. Why does God exist as Trinity? Because He wills it. He could just as easily will to not exist. And yes, He could just as easily will to lie. The fact that He doesn’t is no commentary on whether He could.

(Note: Due to the immense amount of discussion that this point has raised, one clarifying statement is worth noting. An argument based on strict logical word games can render the idea ‘all-powerful,’ or ‘omnipotent’ self-defeating. When one considers the juvenile question, “Can God create a rock so big that He can’t lift it?” this point becomes clear. But there is a serious error at work here if one interprets the Christian belief in an “almighty God” with this understanding of omnipotent. Christianity’s claim that God is almighty simply means that all power and authority are God’s. If the nuance escaped you, please read the last sentence again. It’s very important. Christians do not mean by all-powerful that God can do the logically absurd, such as make a two sided triangle, count how many miles are in purple, or defeat the flying spaghetti monster in a paper-rock-scissor death match. But, for giggles let’s answer the question: can God create a rock so big that He can’t lift it? No. There you have it. If you’re in jr. high school you may now slap yourself a high-five for defeating the “all-powerful god” that Christianity never claimed to believe in.)

4. Believing in God is the same as believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

What I love about this well-worn atheist ‘argument’ is that it actually serves to demonstrate how vastly different a belief in God is to these myths and imaginations. When one honestly assesses the Judeo-Christian doctrine of God he will find multiple thousands of years of human testimony and religious development; he will find martyrs enduring the most horrific trauma in defense of the faith; he will find accounts in religious texts with historical and geographical corroboration; etc (these fact are of course not ‘proofs,’ but rather ‘evidences’ that elicit strong consideration). Pit this against tales of the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and Spaghetti Monsters and one finds the exact opposite: no testimony or religious refinement, no martyrs, no historical and geographical corroboration, etc. Instead, one finds myths created intentionally for children, for point making, or for whatever. It’s strawman argumentation at its worst.

Again, just to be clear, testimony, martyrs, geography, etc., are not “proof” that God exists, but rather proof that comparing faith in God to faith in fairies and Santa is totally different.

5. Christianity arose from an ancient and ignorant people who didn’t have science.

Indeed, those ancient, ignorant people who believed in the virgin birth of Christ must have believed it because they did not possess the knowledge of how babies were born. Goodness. The virgin birth of Christ was profound and of paramount concern to the ancients precisely because they understood that conception was impossible without intercourse. Ancient man considered the virgin birth miraculous, i.e., impossible without divine action (and at the time most people scorned the idea), and the same could be said with every miraculous story in Scripture.

Indeed ancient people did not have the Hubble telescope, but they were able to see the night sky in full array, something almost no modern person can claim (thanks to modern lighting which distorts our ability to see the full night sky). On average, ancient people lived much closer to nature and to the realities of life and death than many of us moderners.

In terms of a living relationship with these things the ancients were far more advanced than we are today, and this relationship is essentially the nature of religious inquiry. If people lack religious speculation today, maybe it is because they spend more time with their iphones and Macs then with nature. Maybe.

But the claim that Christianity was viable in the ancient world because it was endorsed by wide spread ignorance is a profoundly ignorant idea. Christianity arose in one of the most highly advanced civilizations in human history. The Roman Empire was not known for its stupidity. It was the epicenter of innovation and philosophical giants. I would wager that if a common person of today found himself in a philosophical debate with a common person of first century Alexandria, the moderner would be utterly humiliated in the exchange.

6. Christian’s only believe in Christianity because they were born in a Christian culture. If they’d been born in India they would have been Hindu instead.

This argument is appealing because it pretends to wholly dismiss people’s reasoning capabilities based on their environmental influences in childhood. The idea is that people in general are so intellectually near-sighted that they can’t see past their own upbringing, which, it would follow, would be an equally condemning commentary on atheism (if one was consistent with the charge), but the idea is fairly easy to counter.

Take the history of the Jewish people for example. Let us say that to ‘be’ Jewish, in the religious sense, is much more than a matter of cultural adherence. To be a Jewish believer is to have Judaism permeate one’s thinking and believing and interaction with the world. But is this the state of affairs with the majority of the Jewish people, whether in America, Europe, Israel, or wherever? One would have to be seriously out of touch to believe so. The same phenomenon is found within so-called Christian communities, that is: many sport a Christian title, but are wholly derelict in personal faith. “Believing” in Christianity is a far more serious endeavor then merely wearing a church name tag. Indeed, being born in a Jewish or Christian centric home today is more often a precursor that the child will grow up to abandon the faith of his or her family, or at least be associated with the faith by affiliation only.

7. The gospel doesn’t make sense: God was mad at mankind because of sin so he decided to torture and kill his own Son so that he could appease his own pathological anger. God is the weirdo, not me.

This is actually a really good argument against certain Protestant sects (I’ve used it myself on numerous occasions), but it has no traction with the Orthodox Christian faith. The Orthodox have no concept of a God who needed appeasement in order to love His creation. The Father sacrificed His own Son in order to destroy death with His life; not to assuage His wrath, but to heal; not to protect mankind from His fury, but to unite mankind to His love. If the reader is interested to hear more on this topic follow this link for a fuller discussion.

8. History is full of mother-child messiah cults, trinity godheads, and the like. Thus the Christian story is a myth like the rest.

This argument seems insurmountable on the surface, but is really a slow-pitch across the plate. There is no arguing the fact that history is full of similar stories found in the Bible, and I won’t take the time to recount them here. But this fact should not be surprising in the least, indeed if history had no similar stories it would be reason for concern. Anything beautiful always has replicas. A counterfeit coin does not prove the non-existence of the authentic coin, it proves the exact opposite. A thousand U2 cover bands is not evidence that U2 is a myth.

Ah, but that doesn’t address the fact that some of these stories were told before the Biblical accounts. True. But imagine if the only story of a messianic virgin birth, death, and resurrection were contained in the New Testament. That, to me, would be odd. It would be odd because if all people everywhere had God as their Creator, yet the central event of human history—the game changing event of all the ages—the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ had never occurred to them, in at least some hazy form, they would have been completely cut off from the prime mysteries of human existence. It seems only natural that if the advent of Christ was real it would permeate through the consciousness (or, if you prefer, ‘unconsciousness’) of mankind on some level regardless of their place in history. One should expect to find mankind replicating these stories, found in their own visions and dreams, again and again throughout history. And indeed, that is what we find.

9. The God of the Bible is evil. A God who allows so much suffering and death can be nothing but evil.

This criticism is voice in many different ways. For me, this is one of the most legitimate arguments against the existence of a good God. The fact that there is suffering and death is the strongest argument against the belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. If suffering and death exist it seems to suggest one of two things: (1) either God is love, but He is not all-powerful and cannot stop suffering and death, or (2) God is all-powerful, but He does not care for us.

I devoted a separate article addressing this problem, but let me deal here with the problem inherent in the criticism itself. The argument takes as its presupposition that good and evil are real; that there is an ultimate standard of good and evil that supersedes mere fanciful ‘ideas’ about what is good and evil at a given time in our ethical evolution, as it were. If there is not a real existence—an ontological reality—of good and evil, then the charge that God is evil because of this or that is really to say nothing more than, “I personally don’t like what I see in the world and therefore a good God cannot exist.” I like what C.S. Lewis said on a similar matter: “There is no sense in talking of ‘becoming better’ if better means simply ‘what we are becoming’—it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination and defining destination as ‘the place you have reached.’”

What is tricky for the atheist in these sorts of debates is to steer clear of words loaded with religious overtones. It’s weird for someone who does not believe in ultimate good and evil to condemn God as evil because He did not achieve their personal vision of good. So, the initial criticism is sound, but it is subversive to the atheist’s staging ground. If one is going to accept good and evil as realities, he is not in a position to fully reject God. Instead, he is more in a position to wrestle with the idea that God is good. This struggle is applauded in the Orthodox Church. After all, the very word God used for his people in the Old Testament—“Israel”—means to struggle with God.

10. Evolution has answered the question of where we came from. There is no need for ignorant ancient myths anymore.

This might be the most popular attempted smack-downs of religion in general today. It is found in many variations but the concept is fairly consistent and goes something like this: Science has brought us to a point where we no longer need mythology to understand the world, and any questions which remain will eventually be answered through future scientific breakthroughs. The main battle-ground where this criticism is seen today is in evolution vs. creationism debates.

Let me say upfront that there is perhaps no other subject that bores me more than evolution vs. creationism debates. I would rather watch paint dry. And when I’m not falling asleep through such debates I’m frustrated because usually both sides of the debate use large amounts of dishonesty in order to gain points rather than to gain the truth. The evolutionist has no commentary whatsoever on the existence of God, and the creationist usually suffers from profound confusion in their understanding of the first few chapters of Genesis.

So, without entering into the most pathetic debate of the ages, bereft of all intellectual profundity, I’ll only comment on the underlining idea that science has put Christianity out of the answer business. Science is fantastic if you want to know what gauge wire is compatible with a 20 amp electric charge, how agriculture works, what causes disease and how to cure it, and a million other things. But where the physical sciences are completely lacking is in those issues most important to human beings—the truly existential issues: what does it mean to be human, why are we here, what is valuable, what does it mean to love, to hate, what am I to do with guilt, grief, sorrow, what does it mean to succeed, is there any meaning and what does ‘meaning’ mean, and, of course, is there a God? etc, ad infinitum.

As far as where we come from, evolution has barely scratched the purely scientific surface of the matter. Even if the whole project of evolution as an account of our history was without serious objection, it would still not answer the problem of the origin of life, since the option of natural selection as an explanation is not available when considering how dead or inorganic matter becomes organic. Even more complicated is the matter of where matter came from. The ‘Big Bang’ is not an answer to origins but rather a description of the event by which everything came into being; i.e., it’s the description of a smoking gun, not the shooter.

That’s it… my top 10 list. Thanks for reading. Cheers.

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423 thoughts on “Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail

  1. Thanks Eric! This was an extremely enjoyable read. You don’t need to respond, but I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on, “Why is there so much division between the church if they are all hearing from the same God?”. This is one I’ve never come to grasp myself, and have seen friends and family members experience deep grief and pain over what they believe they have heard from God or the opposite where they were told something by someone else who claimed they had a word for them.

  2. It used to interest me how some people could believe by faith alone without having to reason things. Personally, I had to test the reasonings of atheists for myself and I found them all to be flawed. Then, like you, I heard nothing new to block my way forward. At this point I could not reason why there must be a benevolent, omnipotent God, even though I found no reason why not. I found that only my will for this would be good enough for me to believe and I understood why this should be (I am abbreviating this). I had then arrived back to the old question of believing by faith. The only benefit I had from years of ‘considerations’ was that I could provide my answers to the atheist questions and arguments, if anyone should ask. This also helps one to recognise when others are just trying to score points and sound clever, and how to bring them back to ground. I’m glad that I went through this struggle to understand the basic atheist flaws.
    I do not know if this can be of any interest to anyone, but it maybe.

    I look forward to reading your link on Jesus’ death.

  3. I’ve been enjoying your blog a lot, Eric. Let me say, I was raised Lutheran with some soft “Bible-beltery” Fundamentalist/Born-Again overlay and so I’m currently for the time being in C.S. Lewis’ “hall of many doors,” trying to find the right one. What bothers me about finding the right one is exactly the conundrum that Lewis described: making sure that I choose it not just through some “personal feeling” of mine as to which is the right one but that there BE ACTUAL HOLINESS on the other side. My fellow creatures, to wit, Atheist and Protestant alike have NOT greatly aided me in my endeavor to any clear-headed discernment. The door marked CATHOLIC has interested me, but I can’t tell if that’s just another personal feeling or not. (Mostly, I blame Merton for that, God bless his soul!) I WILL not be hoodwinked, however, by the popular youth-phrase “I believe in Jesus but forgot all that Church nonsense” or its several hundred derivative (boring) explanations. No, I want behind one of the doors for good. I mention all this because I’m quite sympathetic to your general story, Eric. You have, in fact, shown me a neat new door in the hallway, the one marked “Orthodox” and I am grateful to you for being able to consider it in a nice clear light.

    More on topic (my apologies in rambling above): I’ve recently been troubled by Atheism in something of a new way. For one thing, I keep noticing (in its current cultural mode) that it’s wedded pretty heavily to Protestantism. In a historical sense, a marriage and divorce forged in Hell. What I mean is this: Approx. 300 years after Luther who should emerge from Germany? but Nietzsche (failed Lutheran) accompanied by a slew of lesser, let’s say, less-than-Christian Nordic philosophers. Darwin? (failed Anglican). Skipping ahead to our time (and this is where matters tend to frighten me a bit more). Michael Shermer, token “head” of many debates and evolutionary scientist? (failed Born Again Christian). John F. Loftus, editor of such seminal volumes as The Christian Delusion, The End of Christianity and author of (I’ve heard it’s quite a puny argument) The Outsider Test of Faith? (failed Born Again Christian). Bart Ehrman, agnostic who has set his sights on pulling out all the important historical pillars of Biblical Inerrancy and expunging the truth of Christ’s Resurrection from record (he is more scholarly than me, I am forced to admit) or so it would seem? (former student of Moody Bible Institute and failed Born Again Christian). Htichens, in a much lesser sense, described his own particular brand of Atheism as Protestant Atheism. Of course I don’t mean to say that there aren’t Atheists who were never Christian. Sure there were and are. Nor do I mean to go around historically slapping Atheists on the wrist. i mean “failed” SOLELY within Calvin’s context (and irony FULLY intended) of Sola Fide. What frightens is the Decay, actually. Either I’m crazy or there is a definite historical ebb and flow to what I’m saying. These men have all at one time or another and still currently continue enjoy significant megaphones to the ruination of souls. And there are plenty of listeners gullible enough to be taken in by their particular brand of evangelism, minus poor Darwin, I guess–except in the sense of his writings being dragged out as puppets in some dumby argument that makes 0 sense. And if for no other reason than the laziness of not wanting to be bothered by the heavy-loaded words “Church” and “Christ”. The decay of Protestantism, I mean to say, just flat out terrifies me. What happens, exactly, to a Born Again Christian who gives up on Christ? Are they Still-born or what’s the deal, man? How do Protestants account for the Holy Spirit letting that happen to souls? There is, of course, the entirely opposite extreme of decay in Protestantism: Fred Phelps’ backwater brand of heretical cultish Bible interpretation (mostly Old Testament hard-balling). I have to ask myself: Do I REALLY want to be in the same Kingdom of Heaven as Fred Phelps? The very thought gives me the creeps. One is tempted to ask the Westboro people: Does God love ANYBODY except you folks? I know it’s a mean thing to say, in light of recent events, but a part of me wishes Fred Phelps to roast in Hell forever for his heresies. The main heresy is this: Preaching the impossible hateful vengeful God (who nobody but the Jews can ever have a real relationship with) while failing to mention to people that God is (does not our very Faith crux upon it?) a God of love (and here I do refer to the FULL AGAPE not some “feeling”) and forgiveness. Was Fred Phelps’ (straight to the heart of the matter) version of Jesus Christ even Resurrected? Apparently not, given the hatred his backwater filth have poured down upon the masses. You can preach to me Christ both Crucified and Resurrected or you can just shut the hell up and go back to your backwater heretical filth, as far as I’m concerned, though I am bound to urge their repentance, I suppose. I notice a frightening resemblance, more to the point, between the God of the Westboro Baptist Church and the parody or stick figure of a hateful God that Atheists usually conjure up for us to reject like apes in a lab or Pavlov’s dog.

    One has to, at last, I suppose, eschew the effects of “Intellectual Drift Culture” I suppose and read more enriching literature, if one is given to read, of course (and I am). I just know this much: Personally, I don’t want to some day end up on the Decayed Protestant short-list.

    I am very sorry for depositing this shoddy lengthy ramble of paragraphs on your post, Eric. Not very good manners, at all. Just thoughts that have been on my mind a lot lately, nice to get them out at least. As for point number 10, I recently read a good book on the topic by David Berlinski “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions” Like you, I’m somewhat bored of the topic. I am though, for whatever reason, interested in understanding the arguments of Atheists and seeing how to answer them.

  4. Hi Demetri, thank you for your post. I would have to first contest the assumption that all churches are “hearing from the same God.” It’s clear that if a church has as a prime doctrine Sola Scriptura and its interpretive method as ‘whatever the preacher happens to think it all means,’ then the church is doomed to hearing from its self rather than God. This is the wonder of the Orthodox Church. None of it is based on what this guy or that guy thinks it all means. It’s based on Holy Tradition which can only be explained as the movement of the Holy Spirit through the Church age (the evidences for which are many and take a lot of time to consider). There has only ever been “one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church,” as claimed by Scripture and the Creeds. I relate to your grief over family members who have been hurt by self-appointed prophets (whether such prophets are others or themselves), as I have experienced this same thing multiplied hundreds of times in my painful and regrettable journey through charismatic, word of faith, evangelicalism. All I can say is I’m sorry you’ve been through this, and I’m sorry for your family. Its enough to make one throw his hands up and call the whole show a fraud.

  5. dichasium, I strongly believe that it is every Christian’s obligation to have a reasoned response for all who would ask of them an account of their faith. To have no answer, or to have a half-baked one, is a major disservice to the kingdom.

  6. Paul, I enjoyed your reply very much, no need to apologize. Some great thoughts and great book suggestions, which I must check out as soon as the world quits handing me multiply projects at once (lol). The Phelps family is an odd story at best, and deeply disturbing for believers. They have achieved none of their goals (i.e. ridding America of sinners) but have instead ironically strengthened the opposing side many times over. But their venom will die out with them, they have raised no disciples and have warned America of what crazy fundi-religious sects are capable of when set on course with their own aberrant zeal and intelligence as their directing element.

    I’m glad to hear you are looking at a new door mark “Orthodox”. It’s an amazing journey. Please stay in touch. I would be honored to answer any questions you have to the best of my ability. Cheers!

  7. Then may I ask you if you have a short version, (or a conclusion), of the reason for your belief in God’s existence Eric? (I have other thoughts about this but must keep matters clear at this point).

  8. First, some simple “housekeeping” issues:
    The term “New Atheist” refers to the position that we will no longer be silent. After more than a millennia of persecution, torture, humiliation, and execution by the Church for holding such a position, to be an atheist had become a taboo subject. So right off the bat you start with a flawed perception of terms. It is, by no means, a distinguishing marker from the “profound philosophical atheists” of the past. In fact, the term “New Atheist” is largely rejected by atheists and is mostly used as a Straw Man to indicate an intellectually lesser position. The only mention of the term I have seen within the atheist community is as the descriptor for the position that we refuse to be silenced.

    Next, “The old saying is true: the facts do not determine the argument, the argument determines the facts.” We’ve gone over this before, but it bears repeating that no argument will ever change the objective nature of any fact, only the subjective perception of it. I can argue till I die that you are a cloud, but this will never make it true.

    But let’s dive into the meat of it.
    1) Your claim that all of creation is evidence for God fails for the simple fact that it can just as easily be attributed to any supernatural being (real or imagined) as well as to the most rational explanation of all: nature. At best you can claim it as evidence for a deity (though it would fail similarly), but it does nothing to further the argument that God (as a proper noun to specify the name of the monotheistic conception of the Abrahamic offspring) exists.

    2) The reason why you cannot claim God to be eternal in an argument where you have already made the claim that all things have a creator is because that’s a fallacy known as Special Pleading. You posit that the rules apply to all things . . . except this one special thing which you want to be exempt.

    3) This one is indeed “bang, owned” though not for the reasons you describe. The problem is that to be a divine, singular God who is also the creator of all things he would have to be omnipotent. By properly unfolding this argument you reach the inevitable conclusion that God cannot exist. This is where I differ from other atheists who hold the position that they merely have no belief in the existence of God. I offer the reasoned proof of the impossibility of existence.

    4) Is a series of fallacies, I’m sorry to say. Your claim seems to be just a list of ways to misunderstand what the atheist is saying. If your point is that the two cannot be compared because no evidence exists for the alternatives (tooth fairy, Santa, etc.), then you are merely repeating the error in claim #1. If it’s that people don’t believe it as seriously then this is an argument from popularity. If it’s that people haven’t given their lives for it, then you are simply affirming the beliefs of any who have (like Muslim suicide bombers, or victims of the Inquisition). As for your claim of “geographical corroboration” I hope you don’t mean that by the bible naming something which exists in reality we can conclude the rest of the text must also be accurate. I have found you to be smarter than that so I will assume you mean something else which I failed to understand.

    5) Must be another purposeful misunderstanding of the claim. Who promoted the doctrine of Christianity is irrelevant to the claim. What is actually being asserted is that those (self-professed, though most of it cannot even be claimed to be “self-professed”) ignoramuses from whom the entire concept arose did not even know enough about what was happening in their own bodies to be said to understand anything else. This is why everything in Genesis is nothing short of a good laugh. This is why the story of the Great flood is equally easily dismissed (along with so much else).

    I’m afraid your claim that a debate between a modern person and an ancient one is suspect and/or flawed. A common man today (depending on so many variables, from country of origin to economic status) has, likely, at least a solid education and basic understanding of the world, while the ancient man is most likely an illiterate man of little understanding of the most basic knowledge we have today. He could school me on how to care for a flock of sheep, or how to hunt small game, but on the subject of cosmology he wouldn’t even be able to understand the most basic concepts. And not just cosmology, of course. These are people who didn’t even understand what causes diseases, often attributing them to curses or the wrath of God.

    6) Eric . . . all you have to do is look at the numbers. This is not a absolute claim (by the atheists) that your origin is the final determining factor for your religion, but it’s a painfully obvious one that most people do stay within the religion of their family and culture. Most Hindus come from Hindu families. Most Muslims come from Muslim families. Most Christians come from Christian families. In fact, most people do not apply reasoning to their faith. You clearly do, and perhaps you are surrounded by others who do, but the vast majority of people are content with continuing to believe what they were taught as children. Most of the religious mobility, in fact, exists within various subgroups of that same religion.

    7) I’ve never heard this one before. It sounds similar to a cliched argument, but it differs in significant ways. However, the reasons for the existence of Jesus you offered are just as nonsensical as anything I’ve heard before.

    8) I’m sorry, but what? In this claim Christianity is the “cover band” or the “counterfeit coin.” Are you claiming that Jesus was immaculately conceived, born, crucified, and resurrected numerous times before in history, or that people imagined those tales as some sort of prophetic occurrence? The former is really wild as a claim, the latter is baseless at best.

    9) You are using “hijacked” terms to make a false claim. The concept of good and evil is not a theological one. Just like you don’t own the rights to “morality” or “faith,” you can’t say that by using a common English word we are somehow accepting a part of your belief system. If the words trouble you so much perhaps we should restate the problem as “suffering exists.” The problem of evil refers to the lack of the best possible world. It encompasses everything from deranged rapists and murderers to the destructive power of tornadoes. Furthermore, you seem to be assuming this claim (and some others) are targeting something which they are not. The problem of evil is not an existential argument against God as a deity, but against the Christian conception of an omnibenevolent god.

    This is probably one of the most important issues that both theists and atheist don’t seem to understand about the “other side.” You are defining God and god as one and the same. Atheists separate the two in arguments and often they are arguing against the Christian god only and not any god ever conceived. For example, if I say “God does not exist” that is a different claim than “no god exists.” The former is specifically targeting the Christian god (meaning this does not apply to Zeus, or Thor, etc). The latter is a claim that includes the Christian god, but is targeting all gods. So, the problem of evil is not an argument against the existence of any god, or divinity, but it’s specific to the particular attributes which are existentially connected to the Christian god. In short, if your god is omnibenevolent and we show that such a thing does not match our perceived reality then *your* god does not exist, not *the* god.

    10) The “evolutionist” as a scientist indeed makes no claim about God, much like evolution has nothing to do with God. Evolution is not (and shouldn’t be) an existential claim against God. But it is a rather profound one again Christianity. Only through some serious apologetic acrobatics can you even begin to imagine salvaging the connection between original sin and the existence of Jesus in the face of evolution. Indeed, the person who made me aware of your blog was attempting to make such apologetic gymnastics by claiming that the story of Adam and Eve is a metaphor for the first spiritual humans, not the first humans ever. This is nonsense. And it should be understood that you have a major problem if your religion is constantly in need of having to accommodate emerging scientific theories.

    To summarize this entire post I would say this is all based on a misunderstanding of atheists’ arguments (which, if purposeful, is a Straw Man).

  9. Sure. For me, nearly everything in existence is reason to believe in God, but those of paramount persuasion (for me) are human existential concerns. Without God I have no reason to believe that anything I believe has any meaning or truth to it. But, a faceless “god” won’t do. I need a God who has extensive testimony in the lives of mankind through the ages. I also need something consistent, not doctrine that changes with every tide of human opinion. I need a paradox: something that is beautiful but evasive of full comprehension. The Orthodox Christian faith presents the only God who could possibly be God on all counts, due mostly to the incarnation of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity.

    At that point I would have to go into the doctrine of each – the incarnation and the Trinity – to make clear what I mean, and depending on the situation and how much time was permitted would determine which direction I would go. How’s that?

  10. I really enjoyed your article! In a world where atheism is becoming more and more popular it was great to read your article and your responses to several atheistic objections. I appreciate fellow Christians who don’t shrink from their duty to stand as witnesses of God at all time, and in all places. I believe we can best accomplish this by sincerely stating our beliefs, and offering our testimony to them. Whether they accept it or not is of course outside of our control, but when we testify of simple truth we give the Holy Spirit a chance to bear witness to them as well. Of course, a heated argument is not the ideal place for the Spirit of the Lord to touch someone’s heart, and we need to be cordial in all our interactions. Thanks again for your post, here is a link for a really good article written about a similar subject. It comes from a website which has a whole bunch of uplifting Christian messages that I think you and your readers will enjoy.http://goo.gl/3vJe50

  11. Pavlos, I was highly anticipating your post here, but unfortunately there is not much to respond to that is not already addressed in the article. There are quite a few misunderstandings of the points raised, and false claims of logical fallacies. For example, claiming that the ultimate necessity (God) in relation to all contingent entities (creation) does not warrant special pleading status is patently false and a misuse of the fallacy category. Also, you criticize some arguments as failing to prove the Christian doctrine of God or of Christ where I am obviously not attempting to prove the case, but merely buttress theism in general, etc.

    However, I would be very curious to address your top two or three concerns. This might help to ferret out what is, for you, important in the discussion and what is not. Thanks for the response. Cheers!

    (P.S. have your really never encountered #7? The “Old Atheists” dealt with this and more at length, which is a good example of why their arguments were so much more devastating to Christianity, albeit Protestant Christianity, than anything the New Atheists can seem to come up with. And yes, the “New Atheist” as a categorical species of atheists today is viable. It encompasses those who are aptly represented by the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, or as I lovingly refer to them – the trinity of biologism)

  12. Pavlo, I knew it was your reply before I even reached the end and saw your name…anyway you are and forever will be a gutless wonder in my book and you know why…telos.

  13. Ah crap. The first shot fired has come from a Christian. As promised there will be no deleting of posts, but let me say I hope this is as far as personal insults will go.

  14. Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawkings and Carl Sagan – the holy trinity of atheists.
    The Big Bang theory states that a mixture of particles just ‘popped’ into existence and from henceforth all life began. Why then don’t other things also pop into existence? Like a soda? Or a giraffe? What makes the universe so special?
    And it was hardly acrobatics but logical.
    And i would be fearful of my religion if it didn’t update its beliefs according to emerging scientific data.
    Finally, since the beginning of time people have believed, atheism is a modern and trendy thing – why???

  15. I know this post is directed to someone else, but I have to take issue with the first line. Einstein, Hawkings, and Sagan, don’t hold a candle to Hobbes, Nietzche, or Hume, to say nothing of Voltaire, Spinoza, Sartre, Heidegger, or a dozen other heavy-weight “old-atheists.” Oh I wish their type were back in action. They would decimate all pseudo-Christian sects.

  16. How’s that? Eric, for my liking, it is excellent for a quick and short reply – It was all I needed, thanks. The ‘watchmaker’ and other arguments for the existence of God (no need to explain which one I refer to), never did work for me, and whilst I agree with many atheist comments against believers comments, they are nowhere near adequate to end the question. So, I hold onto my position for now, and also like to remember that the God of my limited understanding ‘reads the heart’ (He will be far out of our intellectual stuff, of that, I am sure).

  17. One fine day I will sit down and read Hobbes, Nietzche, Hume, Voltaire, Spinoza, Sartre and Heidegger. Or at least I will try to – I am afraid my intellect is hardly as great as yours and it will all seem gibberish to me.
    Can you recommend any Christian equivalents? – I have read C.S. Lewis.

  18. Oh, a few of my favorites are Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, and Chesterton. On the Orthodox Church spectrum there are many to choose from, but I’d go with Yannaras, Zizioulas, and Lossky. Many of the Church Fathers also give excellent philosophically rich theology, Fathers like Gregory of Nazianzen, Gregory Palamas, Dionysius the Areopagite for starters.

  19. Pavlos, Is it possible for you to succinctly unravel the argument you refer to in #3 so we can view your reasoned argument that God cannot exist?

  20. I won’t speak to your points about about 1-9, mostly because they seem to involve certain word-games of Logic. But I do see fit to address your point at number 10: Namely, which scientific theories are you talking about that religion is “constantly” in need of having to accommodate? Because I have found none. To wit, the scientific theories THEMSELVES are constantly changing and evolving (this is just straight up common knowledge) to accommodate new findings or (as more often is the case) mere “data,” so this argument just doesn’t seem to me capable of leading us anywhere productive. NOTHING about Christianity needs to change in order to allow more “wiggle” room for scientific acceptability. It just isn’t so. To claim otherwise strikes me as straight up “Scientism.” No basis in reality whatsoever.

  21. I appreciate that, Eric. In general, remarkably, looking into doctrinal differences of Orthodoxy from what I am more used to, I find little to criticize. It would be slightly awkward, I suppose, at first, for me, unpacking the purely legalistic judicial Western take on sin and the Atonement into the Orthodox view of, as I understand you and several other websites, healing redemptive power from death. However, I do, in fact, believe in and want that healing, so really I’m having quite a hard time convincing myself of anything that could possibly be wrong on that account. I’d go so far as to say I “need” that. One problem that I am encountering when I look at specific churches in my area is they all seem to come with an ethnic tag “Greek, Ukrainian, Romanian, etc.” which there’s not necessarily anything wrong with, other than being the “outsider” approaching the matter is inextricably difficult. It can be hard to be the odd duck with mongrel heredity or incur looks of “um, why are you here?” Though I wouldn’t presume to judge ALL Orthodox in this manner, by any means; more simply, I don’t like making unnecessary waves in other peoples pools. Nor should I necessarily assume the ethnic tag always implies an exclusionary principle, that would be surely even more racist of me. I don’t know if you have any wisdom or advice to share in this regard, but I’d bet it would be golden.

  22. Thanks…spring break is coming up I will get some reading done then. Are the Holy Fathers available in English too or do you recommended that they be read in Greek only?

  23. Paul, although you are right that the church or shall we say Christianity hasn’t changed its beliefs in 2000 years – it is true that it has changed its world views like the fact the earth isn’t the centre of the universe for one and that’s what i meant.

  24. Stella, I have done my best to avoid you since I literally want to have nothing to do with a person such as yourself. Your comments about me and my children were beyond inappropriate and that’s why I blocked you and have been ignoring you ever since. Kindly move on with your life and stop focusing on me so much.

  25. Paul, indeed the scientific understanding of the world is constantly progressing and becoming more accurate. However, if your claim is that religion (Christianity in particular) has not been accommodating scientific progress then perhaps you can explain to me why biblical literalism is widely mocked (or at least frowned upon and discouraged) even by most Christians today. I’m aware of the existence of the Flat Earth society (which holds the biblical notion that the earth is round and flat like a coin), and Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis (which holds that the earth is 6,000 years old and that people and dinosaurs coexisted), but they are the minority and they are so because of scientific progress.

  26. I’ll do a bottom-up approach to get the minor points out of the way first.

    The term “New Atheist,” as I mentioned, exists, but is not defined as you did. You don’t have to take my word for this.

    #7 To me seems like a mash-up of two different arguments. God’s pathological anger problems and how he deals with them is an argument I’ve seen against the notion that he is omnibenevolent and is targeted at the OT. Usually, the Christian response then is that this is why he incarnated himself as Jesus, etc. Then the argument becomes one where God is a “weirdo” because there is simply no logic to any of the proposed reasons for Jesus’ existence. This reminds me of that old joke, now turned into a meme: Jesus shows up to your door and says “Let me in.” You ask “Why?” Jesus says “To save you.” You ask “From what?” Jesus replies “From what I will do to you if you don’t let me in.”

    ” . . . claiming that the ultimate necessity (God) in relation to all contingent entities (creation) does not warrant special pleading status is patently false and a misuse of the fallacy category.”

    You’re missing my point. It’s Special Pleading because you are attributing “ultimate necessity” to God, but you are not justifying this in any way. The logic holds that an ultimate necessity might be required, that’s not in dispute here; what is in dispute is the ease with which one can simply claim this to be God. For the sake of ease I’ll offer a rather basic example: If I were a pantheist I could argue that the Universe is divine and created the Christian God (obviously this is not accurate to Pantheism, but I’m merely illustrating a point). You have no way of justifying the claim that your God required no creator aside from pointing to the bible (which devolves into a circular argument rather quickly.) Without an external source of justification your claim that this particular god is the ultimate creator without requiring a creator himself is an informal fallacy called Special Pleading. In other words, it’s not special pleading when it’s a deistic claim (that of uncaused cause), but it is when it’s a theistic one.

    I think that covers those minor points so I’ll get to the meat of it (I seem to have raised a few eyebrows with my comment about the impossibility of the existence of God):

    We have to, unfortunately, begin with a proper definition of Omnipotence. In its most basic form (and I will cover other definitions below) it’s defined as “Omnipotence: having unlimited power.”

    So first we must cover why any being would require this ability existentially. God, of course, is thought of, rightfully, to be omnipotent because without omnipotence it could not be the Alpha and the Omega creator of all things. In simple terms, you cannot create everything if you are not capable of doing anything you desire.

    “Having unlimited power” translates to “nothing is impossible to you.” Theologians, apologists mainly, have, of course, attempted to redefine this so I will also cover those alternatives. But let’s start with the most accurate definition of omnipotence.

    P1: Having unlimited power (nothing is impossible to such a being) requires that being to have the ability to be limited by its own power. This is most commonly understood by the question “Could God create a rock so heavy even he could not lift it?” (“Yes” = not omnipotent, “No” = not omnipotent).
    P2: The ability to be limited by its own power logically leads to a self-negating contradiction.
    P3: Any being which requires omnipotence as an existential necessity, by definition cannot exist.
    P4: God (as defined in monotheism) requires omnipotence as an existential necessity.
    ————————–
    C: God cannot exist.

    This would be “case closed” but apologists wouldn’t be such if they weren’t persistent. So, they redefined omnipotence to mean “Having the ability to do anything which is possible.” At face value this does not absolve God from the challenge of creating a rock he cannot lift. However, once this is determined (as I did above) to be a logical impossibility, you can then determine this challenge does not apply to God because it’s an illogical (impossible) action (like creating a square circle, or changing the result of 2+2 . . . and other things God cannot do because they are impossible). But this leads to another obvious and logical question: Who, or what, determines what is possible? The theist will say “God, of course,” however, if God determines what is possible then he does so by a position of power which enables him to change what is possible. Therefore, he would not be restricted by what is possible since he can simply redefine what is possible at will. So, who or what then makes this determination of possible? The answer is nature (you could argue logic, but logic is an emergent property of nature, therefore, it is nature which determines what is possible. In fact, if you look at what most apologists (including Dr. Craig) consider to be the source of possibility you will find “nature” and “logic” to be the common answer.

    So the argument would look like this:

    P1: What is possible is determined by the natural state of things.
    P2: The ability to do only what is possible is confined by, and derived from, the natural state of things.
    P3: Any being which is limited by the natural state of things cannot be considered a transcendent being (defined as existing outside the scope and limitations of nature).
    P4: God (as defined in monotheism) must be transcendent in order to be a god (a divine being).
    ————————–
    C: Therefore, God cannot exist.

    It’s rather clear that based on the two most accurate (and accepted) definitions of omnipotence, we can rightly declare that God cannot exist. However, it’s precisely because of such arguments that “omnipotence” has been redefined.

    The third most common definition (and I think I read something of yours which gave me the impression that this is the definition you would accept) is: “An omnipotent being is able to do anything that it chooses to do.”

    To me this is the equivalent of claiming that logic is irrelevant to this conversation because it’s merely a continual moving of the goal posts. In any case, I tackle this as such:

    Can an omnipotent being choose to do something which is impossible to it? Of course, you would most likely answer “nothing is impossible to an omnipotent being,” or “an omnipotent being can only do what is possible to do,” but that just leads us back to the previously mentioned arguments.

    (I only offer the cliched “rock” question for the sake of ease; juvenile as it may seem it does circumvent plenty of initial misunderstanding)

  27. I have too much respect for this blog to post an explaination or the response I really want. If however anybody feels the need to talk to me further – they can e-mail me at:
    styliani2000@yahoo.com

  28. I can’t explain why people I’ve never met do things I can’t understand. The Bible is a variety of different kinds of literature (histories, poems, letters, etc.) and different kinds of literature demand different ways of reading. I don’t know about “literalism” per se but that doesn’t make The Bible not the Truth. Truth is more important, as I should say it should be to all real Christians, to me than the literary circus of “literalism.” As for Ken Ham and Flat Earth Society, in general, they are to be dismissed not only on scientific grounds but on theological grounds. To take a rather strong line directly out of the gist of C. S. Lewis, Flat Earth and Young Earth Creationism suffer on theological grounds that they are nowhere rooted in Christ or “merely” Christian. You may have strong scientific grounds for dismissing them (which I applaud) but I contend I have even stronger theological grounds for throwing them out: Any passing “fad” which seeks to append or fix Christian Theology around its coat-tails in order to drag it through the muck of its own pseudo-scientific theorizing is suspect and utterly worthy of dismissal. Stella noted the Ptolemaic Model. In closing, I will say, isn’t it noteworthy that Ptolemy was certainly no monotheistic Jeudo-Christian scholar but a secular or polytheistic one? Totally begs the question: Who exactly was correcting Whom?

  29. Pavlos, let me respond to your overarching point. Many of your points can easily turn into rabbit trails. For example, this line: “P1: Having unlimited power (nothing is impossible to such a being) requires that being to have the ability to be limited by its own power.” This may be a fun exercise to tease out, but it actually winds up going wherever the arguer wants it to go. One may just as easily say that because the all-powerful being can limit himself he is more powerful than even the most powerful, i.e., himself, making him omnipotent x2. This sort of ‘argumentation’ is really bewitchment.

    Anyway, in all of your examples you staged the argument to say something about God that is claimed nowhere in the Bible or the Orthodox tradition This is where right theology becomes important when discussing theological concepts. I won’t bore you with the fine details (because they are many), but the energies of God are distinct from His essence. God’s essence is uncreated and incomprehensible (the Greek word for it is “ousia”). Defining God as “omnipotent” is a very vague and unsatisfactory definition on its own. It’s vague because it tells the hearer nothing about God at core but rather how we experience God through His energies. It is through His energies that God makes Himself known to man and unites man with Himself; thus the doctrine of theosis: that of man becoming a partaker of God’s nature without man becoming one with God’s essence (as in, becoming part of the Trinity). When an Orthodox Christian speaks of God as being all-powerful he simply means that all power and authority rest with God, not with any other source. The high school type debate jockeying over whether God can make a rock too heavy for himself to lift is out of place in the discussion, which you rightly made note of (kinda).

    Back to the point from which this discussion came, God could lie if He wanted to. But in my critique I purposely upped the stakes by claiming that God could cease to exist if He wanted to. He is not trapped by fate, like an ancient Greek god. The Person of the Father wills Himself to exist as Trinity and there is no force or necessity by which He “must” exist. This, again, is more to the point in what the Orthodox Church has in mind when claiming God is all-powerful. Contrast this with man. Man can do nothing but exist. He does not exist as the product of his own free consent and self-affirmation: he cannot transcend, as it were, his “necessity” of existence. The only being with absolute ontological freedom – the freedom to exist or not exist – is the one, the God, who created all things according to his freedom.

    My apologies if this is getting more theological than you hoped for, but it is really the only way to address your points while remaining in the proper sphere of the discussion.

    To your defense of the accusation of “special pleading,” we seem to agree that an ultimate necessity is required (or at least “might be” for you). I call this ultimate necessity God. By definition the God witnessed to by the Judeo-Christian tradition is rightly understood as THE necessary being, thus it is a justified special pleading. Disagreeing with the tradition is something else entirely, but that doesn’t make the pleading a logical fallacy. I would not accuse a pantheist of special pleading for the universe, though I would disagree with him. One can logically disagree with a fully logical argument, and he need not employ the charge of logical fallacies to do so.

  30. Dear Pavlos,
    Thanks for giving the explanations above. I don’t know if Eric has, or will reply, but as I did ask, I would just like to say the following ‘quickie’.

    On your comment of the most accurate definition of omnipotent: Naturally, the real meaning of omnipotence will be impossible for us to completely understand and easy to confuse with explanations like the big rock. God (if he exists), is not limited by things out of his will because he does not will it. He is not connected by such. This kind of thinking tries to relate God to the physical whatever way it is thought about; rock or no rock, it will always be like trying to see God through a jam jar. It is askew. The argument continues with words such as ‘requires’ and ‘exist’ (suggesting things irrelevant to the subject). I have no writing skills, and I am certainly not a logician or Christian apologist, but, I believe I recognise in your explanation, a method which uses its own terms to draw its own conclusions and then claims success. Somewhat like a tautology. Elsewhere I find similarities ‘What is possible is determined by the natural state of things’ – But, God is not. I think the apologists tied themselves up, unless there is more to it.

    I don’t think there’s any point to taking this further and I expect you’ll find my lack of ability inadequate by far for your expectations. Moreover, I did not set out to offer you my response and neither did you ask for it. I merely wanted to know if you could affect my own stance. So, thank you for that and best wishes, Dichasium.

  31. Hi Eric, I’d left my reply to Pavlos open for hours before sending so I missed your reply to him until I’d sent mine. It was good to see we sung some similar verses, even though, mine was the junior version and yours was the Uni!

    On a different matter, my father (Denis) used to keep a quote of Dionysius the elder where we could all see it, it read ‘Let thy speech be better than silence or be silent’! So, your mention of Dionysius the Areopagite caught my attention and I looked up a tiny piece of his work. In it he was speaking of the great darkness and the unknowing (& non-existing, I think – I’ll read more later). It reminded me of the weirdest experience I once had and later found many types of people also had. We all use similar language to describe it and it is instantly recognisable to those who share it. I found that some describe it as an epiphany. A place where nothing (including oneself) seems to exists, there is no time, movement or light. I fell into this strange state as I knelt, feeling so terribly sad that I had pulled out the most beautiful and perfectly made weed! I had taken its life, killed it. I find it very interesting, but, my main point is, thanks for the recommendations, like Stella, I hope to read some more.

  32. What a wonderful quote, and experience you speak of. I’ve had something like it but not quite as you describe it. Very interesting, though.

  33. Bilbical literalism, in the case of taking the first few chapters of Genesis as a literal historical account, is not something one finds among the early Christians, a cursory reading of the Church Fathers and early monks will reveal this. The literalism you speak of really gained popularity during the Protestant Reformation, and is extremely popular with many fundi groups today, but that is no commentary on Orthodox Tradition.

  34. Thanks to everyone here – you have taught me some valuable life lessons: that I have been taking my orthodox faith for granted and that the Church is much more complex and rich than I first thought and that I need to be worthy of it… I will definetly be reading more Church fathers and all of the books my monk friend gave me some time ago.

  35. Eric and Paul, I once again must protest that I am (was) not making claims specific to Orthodoxy or any other form of Christianity. I was making a general statement about the religion. To Paul’s comment specifically, the organizations I mentioned are passing fads, which I accept, but that was exactly my point. Today they are passing fads that are mere echoes of past norms. The Catholic Church, for example, held the position of Geocentrism specifically because of their literal interpretation of the bible. When Galileo made observations that promoted Copernicus’ view of Heliocentrism the Church responded in 1616 with the Inquisition which declared Heliocentrism to be heretical. Today this is no longer the case because Christianity has been forced accommodate scientific observations. This is why verses such as 1 Chronicles 16:30 , Psalm 93:1 , Psalm 96:10 , Psalm 104:5 , and Ecclesiastes 1:5 are now read not as literal, but as a metaphor.

  36. Though I didn’t ask for your reply I welcome and appreciate it; this is why I am here, after all, to discuss matters to the benefit of us all. I will answer Eric first because I believe that answer will cover both your points, however, if not then I’ll return for a more specific answer to your comment.

  37. Unfortunately I did not find that a satisfying response because, as you mentioned, theology was offered as a reply to logic. You started with a non-theological point, however it was not a counterargument or a refutation of the premise you mentioned. For example, “One may just as easily say that because the all-powerful being can limit himself he is more powerful than even the most powerful . . .” I would refute that by repeating my opening position that it is precisely because an unlimited power cannot limit itself that you cannot reach the conclusion that it would be even more powerful than the most powerful. “Power” here refers to ability, not strength or force. It’s not a question of defeating an opponent in an arm wrestling match, but rather the ability to do that which is possible at will.

    This is a necessity for a single god (as in monotheism) despite the lack of description in the bible because without it he cannot be capable of bringing existence into existence. For example, the law of conservation states that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. In order for God to be the “prime mover,” the “uncaused cause” etc. he needs to exist in such a state where natural law does not apply to him because otherwise he would not have been capable of creating matter and energy from nothing. This is why the bible has no need to specifically mention that God is omnipotent because it is understood that this is an existential requisite for the claims put forth.

    Now, I did mention that I am using the “rock” question for the sake of ease, despite its juvenile appearance. I could have made it even more juvenile and asked the “microwaved burrito” question. But I was hoping that you would look past the specifics of “rocks” and “lifting” to see the essence of the question which I also stated as “Having the ability to be limited by its own power.”

    My argument transcends theology because it applies to any form of monotheism and is not relegated by specific esoteric understandings. What it ultimately concludes is that omnipotence is self-contradictory and impossible. Therefore, by extension, any being which requires it existentially is equally impossible to exist.

    Regarding the special pleading problem, you claim that (your) God is rightly the necessary being, but you do so without offering a premise. As I mentioned in reply to another argument, your evidence for the Christian God is not existential evidence. That a lot of people believe it, is irrelevant to the truth (much like when most people believed the world was flat). That some geographic accuracy exists in the bible does not entail that all claims in the bible are accurate. That people have died for a cause is not validation for the cause, but rather for humans’ willingness to die for an idea. So the problem that is at the heart of this is anybody who uses the “prime mover” argument for a theistic claim is borrowing a deistic argument without justification (without connecting the dots, as it were). OK, I can agree for the sake of argument only that an uncaused cause must exist. I have now conceded a deistic claim. But from deism to theism there is a distance that has not been traveled. This is the same reason why Aquinas’ five proofs hold no water whatsoever. Every one of them is a non-sequitur. He formulates premises tailored for deism and then concludes “we call this God.”

    To dichasium’s point (that I might not have answered in this reply), that “jam jar” is logic. Indeed, this argument is dependent on logic as a means for understanding God’s nature. In fact, the best criticism of the argument I offered has been that one cannot comprehend God through logic because he transcends logic. Of course, I think it’s obvious, where this fails is that if you give up logic for the comprehension of God’s nature then you cannot a) use logic to make that determination, and b) cannot say anything about God one way or the other.

    I would accept your criticism of making up my own terms to reach my desired conclusion, if not for the fact that I am using terms that are agreed upon by others (theologians, philosophers, and linguists). I did not come up with the definition for omnipotence, nor the concept of it. In fact, I am not even the first to offer this argument. It has a long history with a conclusion of “let’s agree to disagree” which I refuse to do (or have thus far) because I find this to be the quintessential existential argument. All else means nothing unless we can establish the possibility of omnipotence.

    It’s akin to Descartes “demonic illusion” whereby the claim is that reality does not (might not) exist objectively because we have no way of knowing if what we experience and perceive is real or if we are being tricked by a demon for his pleasure. If this holds true then there is no sense to formulate any argument against it because it’s all subject to the same trickery. What purpose is there to discuss the shape of the earth if the earth doesn’t exist in reality? Equally, what sense does a theological argument make if no “Theos” (God) exists. This is why I objected to Eric’s use of theology to counter the logical propositions I offered.

    We have a concept (God) and we have certain tools with which to examine this concept. If those tools do not apply to God, if they cannot be used to understand the concept, then the concept is inherently flawed from the outset. Arguing about the specifics of that concept after this point is like arguing about the color of the time machine we have agreed cannot exist because time travel is not possible (assuming time travel is not possible for this analogy only). So one cannot say time travel is possible because my time machine is red, anymore than one can say God exists because my God is “X” (X= any theological claim, in this instance).

  38. *In response to Pavlos above*

    Answering logic with theology – this is a very reductionist way to frame the situation. I was answering the question of what is meant by “omnipotent” in the Orthodox purview. You offered your assumptions as to what it meant, I responded with what it means for the Orthodox Christian. When understood on Orthodox grounds it makes your assumptions an unsatisfactory and vague attack. God is not “existentially” constituted by His “omnipotence,” as you put it in a roundabout way. His constitution, His being, is communion—i.e., Trinity.

    But anyway, let’s use your own espoused philosophy of life for an example to help you see where I’m coming from. You have said before that “The meaning of life is that it has no meaning.” What could be more logically self-defeating than that? I’m sure your explanation of such a belief would entail offering up your understanding of what you mean by meaning. And if you managed to wiggle out of the logical absurdity I would salute you, though I would still disagree with you.

    I have to comment on this: “This is why the bible has no need to specifically mention that God is omnipotent because it is understood that this is an existential requisite for the claims put forth.” Minor correction, it does claim God is all-powerful on many occasions, but in the way already explained in my previous reply. The biblical authors and the last 6000 years of theological refinement have not been concerned in the least by what you claim is ultimately devastating to the doctrine of Judeo-Christian theism. You may believe that everyone involved are simply retarded, but I submit that maybe it is because up to this point you have guarded your opinion rather than attempt to hear what Christianity actually says about itself. That’s not an attack, just an observation based on our many interactions over the subject.

    Next, “Regarding the special pleading problem, you claim that (your) God is rightly the necessary being, but you do so without offering a premise…” Ah, but I did. I offered the premise, not the proof that the Christian God exists (that is a much different argument). Under the rubric I offered God is worthy of special pleading. It is internally consistent, which denies slapping a logical fallacy title on it. The pantheist does not need to first prove that nature is god in order to grant nature special pleading status in his argument, where special pleading is warranted. Again, that doesn’t make it “true,” or “proven,” only “logically consistent.”

    And this: “your evidence for the Christian God is not existential evidence. That a lot of people believe it, is irrelevant to the truth (much like when most people believed the world was flat). That some geographic accuracy exists in the bible does not entail that all claims in the bible are accurate.” I’m not sure why you take this to be my “evidence” for God. I used it in another point to show why comparing God to Santa winds up demonstrating how utterly different the two beliefs are. Geography, etc., is not “proof” that God exists, but rather proof that comparing faith in God to faith in Santa is totally different.

    But, let me try to reel this discussion back to its genesis of the original post. I addressed this charge: “God is not all-powerful if there is something He cannot do. God cannot lie, therefore God is not all-powerful.” Your basic argument is that the existence of this God is impossible because it creates a logical absurdity, namely: an all-powerful entity would have to be able to limit himself. If he has a limit then he is not all-powerful. Thus an all-powerful God could not exist (or something close to that). Since I have already stated that attempting to conceptualize God’s essence using the idea of “all-powerful” (and in a logic-language-game sort of way) is inherently vague and unhelpful, it does me little good to attempt to refute this truth and fight to the intellectual death trying to make it perform the task you’ve assigned it, I happily relent. And I’ll state it as such: In terms of logical consistency, devoid of any Orthodox Christian theological contextualization, attempting to prove God’s existence using the idea that He is all-powerful—i.e., that he would have to be able to limit himself—is insufficient and fails to accomplish the goal. I can live with that; indeed, I can celebrate it.

  39. Pavlos thanks. Much that you explain was not necessary. I know what sort of power is being discussed, I know we can only work on what we have to go by, and I know why you used the rock example (nd I thought I’d shown that). I wish you could have found a better example (more relevant to God’s love). I see the essence of ‘Having the ability to be limited by its own power.’ But, it is the essence of God that is missing. The God of my understanding, as I tried to express previously, cannot be trapped by the rope you have used because he does not operate at this level. He only operates within goodness and love. If you give an example of God being limited by his goodness, the premise may become useful for debate.

    I have no difficulty in believing that the minds of philosophers, theologians, linguists, and the like, are any less immune to forming arguments from their own limitations.

    God is not found or denied by intellectual debate. I believe one must start from a totally different frame of mind. Your method reminds me of the question ‘If god is omnipotent and full of love, why does he allow pain on earth? If you stick with this, you’ll never get any further. You need to want something valuable to keep searching for it. Of course, this can make you equally susceptible to human weakness and one must keep testing all, at every turn. But thinking that you’ve found a made to measure box for trapping God, when you have the wrong measure of God will get you nowhere. I do not believe anyone can simply explain the existence of God to another, (I have my reasons), that’s why I do not attempt to, but one can try to answers questions. You are not asking, but believe your logic is adequate. I believe logic is adequate for leading to God but it needs to be viewed from applying logic to his power of love, not just power. God’s love and power is specific, it cannot be considered in some other general form.

    I daresay that all sounds meaningless to you, but it will be, unless you get over the stumble block and only your desire can do that. Perhaps you also have other reasons for wanting to be an atheist. For my part, I wish to exit the debate now and wish you well.

  40. If I may, Pavlos, the differences between Orthodoxy and the heterodox “churches” are too many to make a generalization; indeed, it borders on the disingenuous. When analyzed the claims Orthodoxy makes about God’s nature and attributes, are not the same claims made by, say, the Reformed Calvinists.

    Also, if I might make an evidentiary request. Pavlos, on what grounds, independent and verifiable, should I base my belief that you exist?

  41. Pavlos, please ignore the first half of my response; it poorly worded and redundant to the rest of the conversation.

  42. Pavlos, I won’t gloss over or ignore persecution as it is shameful for any Christian to partake in but regardless of the Catholic Church holding to strict geocentrism, my point is that both the Ptolemaic Model and Aristotle, earlier, were totally Geocentrist. This isn’t “up for debate” it’s died in the wall fact; they wrote (flawed) scientific treatises attesting to that fact WELL before the Catholic Church ever came into organization. Geocentrism wasn’t just a Christian mistake, it was the WORLD’S mistake for well over a millenium and a half. Arguing otherwise is certainly a view of history far too narrow. And thank goodness for Aristotle and Ptolemy! if they hadn’t made their mistake for Copernicus, Keppler and Galileo to figure out, Stephen Hawking wouldn’t even be able to know how to pen the speculative gibberish cosmology he does today. My point is you’re impeaching Christianity or perhaps religion on grounds you’re ignoring or glossing over when it comes to Science. One wonders if the modern day Atheist (who DO bring up the error of Geocentrism CONSTANTLY in debate, pedantically–though I respect and honor that you didn’t in this instance) will now please go around pedantically impeaching every stray soul who poetically speaks of “sunrise” or “sunset” (neither of which actually exist, of course) echoing the Psalmist?

  43. Sorry Paul, to interrupt, just an irrelevant ‘quickie’ – isn’t the idiom meant to be ‘dyed in the wool?” That’s what I’ve always used! 😉

  44. This is for David Thomas who asked me: “Also, if I might make an evidentiary request. Pavlos, on what grounds, independent and verifiable, should I base my belief that you exist?”

    I don’t have the ability to reply above so I’m doing so here. I will try to answer everyone as time permits.

    David, I’m sure I know where this line of thought is going and I can already skip ahead to the conclusion that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Since, however, I could be wrong (you could be taking the Neo-Hermetic approach, for example) I’ll go ahead and answer your question: None.

    I am not claiming to be anything more than 1 of 7 billion humans, some of which you interact with every day. Therefore, the evidence you would require to justify your belief that I exist need not consist of anything above and beyond your subjective perception of my existence.

    Just to cover the Neo-Hermetic approach I’ll also mention that your subjective perception (via your senses) is itself independently verified on a daily basis and, thus, a trustworthy mechanism for distinguishing between existential normality and mere illusion.

    In simple terms, if you are experiencing my existence via the same senses which keep you alive and healthy then you require no other evidence to justify your belief that I exist because I don’t violate any natural laws in my existence or action.

    (You said I should ignore the first half of your comment, so I presume this is the question you wanted me to answer.)

  45. Paul, indeed Geocentrism wasn’t unique to Christianity (a point I never made). The point I was making was, perhaps, more anticipatory to what Eric eventually replied regarding the historicity of the literalistic reading of the bible. The literal depiction of several concepts in Genesis matches perfectly what was already believed at the time prior, during, and for some time after it was written. We have several accounts of regional Kings (self-declared emperors) who boasted of having conquered the entire world and that to leave their borders one would have to walk off the edge and into oblivion. We have Alexander the Great who attempted to conquer the world (to reach the end of it), and the accounts of some of his generals who feared he would push the army too far in his expeditions and march them off the edge of the world. Aside from such accounts we also have several historical figures (some of whom you mentioned) who did, in fact, argue for Geocentrism.

    My point here is that while we have little evidence that those parts of the bible were written and read in a literal way, we do know that it is the most reasonable assumption to make since it was the dominant belief of the time that such events and objects existed and happened in that way. So Ken Ham’s young earth creationist views would have been the majority up until scientific evidence to the contrary became insurmountable for any religion. As a result Christianity (to their credit since various Islamic sects still have not accepted this scientific evidence which refutes their claims) was forced to accommodate the scientific evidence by declaring that it does not conflict with a non-literal interpretation of the bible. The case of the Inquisition declaring Heliocentrism heretical is just the last push before the accommodation.

    Anyway, I have limited time and I would like to answer the other gentlemen who have replied to my comments so I will have to leave it here for now.

  46. My question stems from a standard epistemological thought experiment. “How do I know I am not a disembodied brain in a vat being fed sensory data by the mad scientist that put my brain in the vat.” This is at least logically possible, and thus I am justified in making the claim that it is at least logically possible that you do not exist independently of the images the mad scientist “feeds” me. My five senses are not evidence of your independent existence. The common atheist refrain is, “You shouldn’t believe in something for which there is no evidence.” Your independent existence is no more upheld through epistemic means any more than God’s is (at least philosophically). I take it as a matter of faith that my senses tell something of reality (i.e. that you exist as a physical human being, and not an AI in an NSA quantum machine), just as I take it as a matter of, following examination of the arguments, that God exists.

  47. I’m sorry but I think you are accusing me of saying something which you most likely saw in a joke “meme” my wife created of me on Facebook. The phrase “the meaning of life is there is no meaning” is indeed entirely contradictory. If I am correct that this quote is from that picture then I want you to know that my wife took a picture of me to try out some new app she had downloaded and asked me “What is the meaning of life?” I replied in a heavily sarcastic pseudo-philosophical tone that “There is no meaning.” I know we have discussed meaning v. purpose before, and I do still maintain that there is no objective ontological meaning, but I would never seriously declare such a profoundly contradictory phrase (“the meaning is there is no meaning”).

    “The biblical authors and the last 6000 years of theological refinement have not been concerned in the least by what you claim is ultimately devastating to the doctrine of Judeo-Christian theism.”

    The problem of omnipotence applies only to monotheism and nothing else. Dualists, polytheists, and deists do not suffer from this problem because they don’t declare a singular theistic source of all existence. In dualism there are two opposing forces which can be mutually complimentary (where one fails the other succeeds). In polytheism there are several such sources (Zeus gives us lightning whereas Athena gives us wisdom, for example). Deism proposes nothing more than a source which requires no will. It is what it is and it can be nothing else.

    Monotheism, however, has been attempting to tackle this problem since at least the 6th century C.E. though the debate goes back further than that in an attempt to settle such a possibility not for theological reasons, but more as a thought experiment.

    It seems to me, however, that I need to explain again why theology is not an appropriate response to this problem. Regardless of the specific claims regarding names, laws, desires, etc. monotheism proposes that a single god exists and no other. That god is the origin of reality (I use that term instead of nature, now, because I want to emphasize where the problem is). So, for example, 2+2 equals 4 because that god has made it so. In other words, the claim is that this god (be he God, Allah, or another monotheistic version I may not be aware of) didn’t just create the universe out of pre-existing materials, he didn’t even just create those materials to then use, nor did he create just all of the above plus the laws to govern them. The claim is that “he” literally is transcendent in such a way that “he” is existence (ousia as you mentioned). This is something I have found Orthodox Christians to understand better than others (I grew up in Greece so I spent most of my life being taught this stuff).

    So, from this we can make specific claims about such a being’s existential requirements. One of those is the ability to do anything and everything. Quite simply, such a being cannot be limited by anything because it not only created everything, but it is the essence of everything.

    This is why I protest theological claims (which are a posteriori) against the problem of omnipotence (which is an a priori existential requisite). It doesn’t matter how you understand theologically this being to be, because the understanding is based upon the same foundational principles that all such beings are based upon. And like I mentioned earlier, this is a long had debate. The fact that 3,000 years ago this was not a concern (that we know of) to the originators of this monotheism is irrelevant. Don’t forget that the originators of Judaism were descendants of polytheists. In fact, all they really did was to remove all other gods from the equation while maintaining that the ultimate power was the only power. In other words, the Christian God is a descendant of the Jewish god, who is a descendant of his previous incarnation as the father of minor gods etc. (special note: the earliest incarnation of the Jewish god, after his polytheistic form, had a wife.). I mention all of this because I think this goes back to a point you made in the main article where we still disagree. I find it plainly obvious that these myths originated from highly uneducated and ignorant people. They knew next to nothing that was not essential to their survival (hunting and such), so to ask of them to comprehend deeper philosophical problems regarding the gods they were imagining is to ask far too much of them. Even some of the ancient Greek philosophers we venerate so much held beliefs in gods which were in control of everything down to the seasons (like the story of Demeter’s daughter Persephone who was abducted by Hades causing Demeter to be sad and thus giving us winter. In the deal that was struck later when Persephone returned, Demeter was happy and thus we have spring and summer . . . etc.) This problem, in fact, exists still today. There are, for example, some cosmologists who despite knowing the universe is 13.8 billion years old, still believe it is 6,000 years old. This is why I don’t discount a person’s intelligence based on their religious beliefs. I find that one can be both highly intelligent and also hold beliefs that are entirely nonsensical.

    “Your basic argument is that the existence of this God is impossible because it creates a logical absurdity, namely: an all-powerful entity would have to be able to limit himself.”

    No. His ability to limit himself is irrelevant. The problem is that his ability to do such a thing (or anything at all) requires that he can do something which he could not do. In other words, if a being can perform any action, then it should be able to create a task which this being is unable to perform; hence, this being cannot perform all actions. Yet, on the other hand, if this being cannot create a task that it is unable to perform, then there exists something it cannot do.

  48. I see. The “brain in a vat” offspring of Descartes “evil demon” is a fascinating thought experiment that should not be applied beyond in its own realm of existence.

    There are two options within that thought experiment. 1) It is valid and sound, 2) It’s not. If #1 holds then all conversation ends because it is irrelevant. There is no knowledge to be had because there is no truth; there is no truth because the truth you experience is not objective; it’s not objective because it’s dependent on your subjective beliefs which are manipulated by the demon (or the mad scientist). Those beliefs, however, can also be flawed and manipulated by the same manipulator. So anything you believe (let alone hold to be true . . . knowledge) is baseless and applicable only to your esoteric perception as dictated by your manipulator.

    So speculating what may be true and justified is not a speculation about objective reality but, rather, about your own personal subjective perception. In other words, there is no point to even have this discussion (if it holds true) because it’s a discussion that only exists in your mind and has no external applicability. It’s like a mental patient arguing with one imaginary friend about the existence of another imaginary friend and his ability to swim, though limbless, through the lake of tree bark they are all living in.

    Alternatively we can entertain the notion for personal entertainment only and move on with our lives as we focus on the one and only reality we have to presume we share. Your criticism of the “atheist philosophy” (which I would protest if not for the fact that it would distract too much) is unjust for that exact reason. In this reality (which we must assume is objectively real) our senses provide us with ample justification for ordinary claims. If your position is that they are unreliable because we are being manipulated by an external source then you are giving up reality and your ability to be a monotheist.

    Not only have you surrendered to determinism (since you are not in control of your thoughts), you have also surrendered to atheism since anything you claim about God existing could be nothing more than a manipulation by the mad scientist. He has created a world for your brain in a vat that makes it seem plausible to you that God exists. All evidence you have used to believe in God is also false as a creation by that scientist.

  49. Pavlos, this may have to be my last response for awhile, at least until I get caught up with a myriad of things on my plate at the moment (hopefully soon). We seem to be going round and round on a few points, so I will try to leave those out as we have exhausted them, and agree to disagree. I’ll just hit your overarching point again which you summarized at the end of your last post.

    “…if a being can perform any action, then it should be able to create a task which this being is unable to perform; hence, this being cannot perform all actions. Yet, on the other hand, if this being cannot create a task that it is unable to perform, then there exists something it cannot do.”

    This is an excellent word game (well worn for good reason), but that is about as far as it goes, and why it is of no serious consequence for Christians. The statement above reveals that what is at issue, for the logician, is not that God cannot perform any ‘existing’ task, but rather that God cannot ‘create a task’ which he cannot then perform. Good. So be it. That is how powerful He is. There is no task impossible for Him, so much so that He cannot even create such a task (the logical need for Him to create such a task to complete the abstraction is purely hypothetical and does not fit your qualifier of an actual, or potentially actual, ‘existing’ task). Only when one dwells exclusively on logical abstractions does omnipotence become a revolving paradox (like: “This sentence is false,” since the sentence is false it is true, and if true then false, and if false then true…) or an absurdity based on language constructs (like: “Make this triangle two sided”), which I fully acknowledge. But the theological claim that God is all-powerful is a simple claim: All power and authority are His; there is no power or authority greater than God. That’s all it means theologically. Again, I happily submit to logic’s conclusion on the matter when removed from its context. What is illogical is to want to remove the concept of God as being all-powerful from its theological garden, transplant it into abstract logic where it undergoes redefining, and then replant it back into theology and require it to be an existential necessity for God’s existence, all the while denying it theological qualifiers.

    In short, I agree with you, and couldn’t disagree more.

    If you absolutely must have the last word (which I know you do 🙂 ) I invite you to take it. Cheers.

  50. Since you’re exiting the debate I won’t attempt to answer your points. I will, however, mention that it’s not a *desire* to be an atheist, but rather that I am so become I remain unconvinced. In other words, I’m not trying to find reasons why a god can’t exist, indeed it’s the opposite because I am trying to find a way for a god to exist. To date any theological and/or philosophical reason has left me feeling that to accept it I must disregard reason and probability in favor of faith in unconvincing answers. For example, the story of the immaculate conception to me seems like a complete abandonment of reason for want to believe. What’s more reasonable: That a promiscuous young girl told a lie, or that the laws of nature were suspended for a miracle to occur? To me there is no question that it’s the former.

    My point is that I’m not actively trying to disprove something I don’t want to be true, I’m merely pointing out flaws in what is being asserted without reason or explanation and I’m being asked to take on blind faith.

  51. Indeed, a thought experiment is only as valuable as the realm of existence it is conducted in; in this case the reliability of subjective perception to show objective truth. The experiment pertains to the discussion at hand because of the nature of the atheists evidentiary arguments that almost always fall under one fallacious heading: I Have No Sensory Experience of an Ultimate Transcendent Reality (God), Therefore I Have No Reason To Believe In God, Therefore, God Does Not Exist. There is no need to take the thought experiment beyond this, unless you want to play the reductio ad absurdum game, which you seem to have done by demanding my position demands an end to Truth. So, again, “The Brain in the Vat and His Mad Scientist Friend” (I personally prefer mad scientists to evil demons) is used only to show the weakness of subjective analysis of objective truth claims; sensory perception fails, we have to assume beyond it to discuss truth meaningfully. Thus, my original claim, that sensory perception does not grant access to all Truth or provide justification that there is no God, pertains.

    Now if you want to discuss Cartesian Dualism and how a nonspatial/nontemporal interacts with the spatial/temporal we can, but that would be irrelevant to the current discussion.

    In short, my use of this thought experiment is strictly to show that atheism fails from an evidentiary standpoint, just as theism does (at least philosophically, theology is something different, obviously).

  52. Pavlos,I must have another attempt! But only this much;
    You’ve said ‘All else means nothing unless we can establish the possibility of omnipotence’. You have used the following to proceed to your evidence that omnipotence is not possible: ‘P1: Having unlimited power (nothing is impossible to such a being) requires that being to have the ability to be limited by its own power’. It seems that I and others would say that this does not prove that omnipotence is an illogical possibility because the premise itself is illogical. We have provided different ways to explain what we mean. Even the apologists, quite likely, meant that God can do anything possible to Him and His will (which does not involve negative matters for our debate). And His possible action transcends our own ability and therefore cannot be assessed by our standards, as you are doing. The problem is that your premise is illogical but you cannot comprehend what we are trying to explain because you view from the wrong end of the telescope (as they say!). Your argument does not transcend the concept of God, it sits below in the human area. I, for one, cannot find another way to explain. I just wondered if this is any clearer, but probably it is not. (Also, I rather care to think that inaction is not inability and this can add to the problem).
    ps. You do not have to agree with any particular religious views to believe in the possibility of God’s existence. I do not know if others have the evidence they claim, that’s their business. But you may even become agnostic (and who knows from there!), if you could keep an open mind, instead of demanding proof one way or the other. I expect you’ve heard this all before! Regards.

  53. Pavlo, I know you are ignoring me and you can continue to do so but I feel that I do sincerely owe you an apology. You see it’s lent and I have been fasting and a lot of things become clearer when fasting. Anyway, I realize my behaviour has been inappropriate but trust what I said to make you unfriend me I didn’t say with any malice or perversion – i honestly meant it as a compliment but yes it was inappropriate. I am a naive, open and foolish person. Forgive me and go well.

  54. Thanks, Pavlos. I’m going to leave it there as well out of interest of not dragging anything out longer. And dichasisum, ha ha, yes you were right “dyed in the wool” my mistake. Too funny.

  55. I’m finding a pattern of proclivity towards Straw Man arguments against atheism here (both in the main article and in the replies). I won’t partake in the back and forth on most of these, but I do feel the need to caution those who do so because ultimately you end up arguing against your own creation and not the actual position.

    For example. you defined the atheist position as ” I Have No Sensory Experience of an Ultimate Transcendent Reality (God), Therefore I Have No Reason To Believe In God, Therefore, God Does Not Exist.”

    This is simply not so. I am an atheist, as I mentioned in another comment, because I am unconvinced by the claims. For years (more than a decade by now) I had never denied the existence of God because of lack of evidence, nor did I feel the need for any evidence. I simply felt that I was being asked to believe something far more implausible and dubious than the most obvious alternative. It was only later in life (more recently) that I began thinking about the topic of God from a non-theological position. In other words, instead of simply being unconvinced by specific claims, I analyzed broader existential concepts that are applicable to not just one specific deity, but most. And it wasn’t until very recently (just a few months now) that I felt secure enough in certain arguments that I could proclaim that it’s logically impossible for God to exist. The backlash from saying so has been far more severe from other atheists than theists. In fact, the most common cliche, by this point, among atheists is that you can’t prove a negative, therefore you can’t say God does not exist.

    I mention this to you because you seem to have constructed an argument by way of the brain in a vat thought experiment that seeks to defeat a position that you have also constructed and not the people you are targeting.

    The request by atheists for evidence is almost always a response to theists who claim to have evidence, and you may or may not be surprised at just how often this happens. So the position is not that we require evidence to believe in God, it’s that if you are going to make claims that require evidence to be believed (and especially if you are going to claim to have evidence) then we are going to ask for said evidence.

    Now, to tie this in with your underlying position, what we can extrapolate from Descartes’ Demon, or the Brain in a Vat, is that all we have to rely on is logic. Everything can be faked (part of the trick, or the mad scientist’s experiment) except that. Out of all the possible positions, the theist stands to lose the most by these thought experiments. This is because your belief in God (theism) is based not on logic, but on evidence presented to you. In other words, you didn’t come to the conclusion that 2,000 years ago a man was immaculately conceived, then tortured and crucified, and then resurrected because of logic. Since it’s alogical (note: not illogical) it’s part of what you must give up as an unwilling participant in the brain in a vat scenario.

    Conversely, what do I have to give up? I already don’t believe the stories, I’m unconvinced by the evidence, and, therefore, my position is identical to where I started.

    This is why I mentioned that if these thought experiments hold logically (and we agree they do) then any belief you have that is not derived purely from logic would be part of the grand scheme of the illusion.

  56. *Quick response*

    Pavlos, I’m curious to get your feedback on this. Let us follow logic concerning the existence of the universe: The universe could not have come from nothing (such a proposition is hopelessly illogical), so it must have come from an eternal, intelligent being, or, it must have always had material existence in some form. Either way, both positions believe in something eternal. Why is it ‘more logical’ to believe in an eternal, non-intelligent something rather than an eternal, intelligent something?

  57. I’m afraid I don’t follow. “. . . this does not prove that omnipotence is an illogical possibility because the premise itself is illogical.”

    That premise is a definition of omnipotence derived from both the dictionary and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I don’t want this to be an argument from authority, but in a sense by declaring the premise as illogical you are arguing against the already established understanding of it.

    “Even the apologists, quite likely, meant that God can do anything possible to Him and His will.”

    You’re right, many apologists and philosophers have argued that exact point. However, that is merely a restatement of the same problem. In response to that restatement I would ask the following question: Who or what determines what is possible to God and his will? If it’s God, then I ask: If God can perform any action, then he should be able to create a task which he is unable to perform. If you say that there is no task that he cannot perform then you are saying that he is unable to create such a task (therefore, that is a task he cannot perform). Thus negating itself.

    What I pointed out earlier is that some apologists have suggested that God can only do what is possible and logical (Dr. Craig is chief among such apologists). This, however, confines God’s abilities to a source beyond his creation.

    ” And His possible action transcends our own ability and therefore cannot be assessed by our standards, as you are doing. ”

    At face value you are merely describing a being more powerful to us. It’s sort of like saying that an ant is unable to assess what we are capable of because we transcend the ant’s abilities and comprehension. But just like that doesn’t make us divine beings (gods), so is the case with what you are describing. Merely being more capable than us is not a criteria for divinity.

    If I analyze that comment a bit deeper it seems like you are saying we can’t find fault in God for our inability to comprehend him based on our limited capabilities. But if that is the case then it applies like a double edged sword to both parties. I can’t find fault because of this, but you can’t find virtue either. I can’t say such a being doesn’t exist, but you can’t say such a being does exist, for the exact same reasons: Namely that I am incapable of understanding his nature well enough to deny his existence, but then you are also incapable of understanding his nature well enough to affirm his existence. And since my position is one of negation, not affirmation, I hold the default position that neither of us can speak of such a being because neither of us are capable of comprehending it, therefore it is not logical to affirm its existence.

    To your last point: This is minor, but I contend we are all agnostic because “gnosis” refers to knowledge, not belief or lack thereof. Neither of us has knowledge of God’s existence or non-existence, therefore we are both agnostics.

  58. This reply is for Eric’s “quick response” since I am unable to reply directly below it.

    “Why is it ‘more logical’ to believe in an eternal, non-intelligent something rather than an eternal, intelligent something?”

    I have two responses to this question: 1) Because we experience and can observe without “blind faith” a universe which might fit that criteria (of being eternal and non-intelligent). [By “intelligent” I assume you mean “agency.”]

    2) #1 is not my position. I have no arguments against deism (an eternal and intelligent agent). In fact, due to my ignorance of astrophysics, I hold that to me it is in fact more logical to believe there is such an agent rather than not. Our disagreement is in theism, not deism. I see nothing reasonable in the belief that this eternal, intelligent, transcendent being (whether it exists as a force or a willful agent) has taken an interest in us to such an extent that it desires for us to perform specific duties, functions, tasks, that it has set up a system of reward and punishment that rewards unnatural obedience and, yet, punishes us for our very nature as it created us, that it’s willed for us to have free will (despite the many evils that come with it) and yet punishes for our exercise of that freedom, and, perhaps above all else, that it exhibits such petty traits that are only exhibited by one other species that we know of: Humans (the same species which is pushing this belief in the first place). And as the cherry on top the cake this being wants us to know him and his will and yet has revealed itself in such a way that I would consider it an astonishing failure. Your numbers are large, but they are dwarfed by the number of people who don’t believe as you do. Christians make up about 2 billion on a planet of 7 billion. Muslim’s are just under that. Hindu’s even lower, etc. For any one of these gods the fact remains that if it desired to be known and loved it has failed on a level that even humans can do better than. And once you add the punishment of our unbelief despite the fact that it’s for his failure and not our shortcomings . . . well, then we are talking about a creature that is so sadistic, cruel, and totalitarian at a level that no human has ever risen to.

  59. Great answer, Pavlos. And as an aside, I don’t agree with your final thoughts, but I am highly sympathetic to them. They are, in my estimation, the most honest reasons for rejecting the God popularized by western, Reformed driven, Christianity.

  60. Pavlos, I’ve been trying to say that His ‘limitation’ is only from the area that He already wills not to do (that being, anything other than love). This is not the usual meaning of limitation and, as such, does not work as a self-negating contradiction and lead to your conclusion. I’m sorry that I cannot explain my meaning any better, as it makes sense to me!

    Just want to say that I began by wanting to know whether a ‘loving’ god could exist despite all the statements against it. Over the years, I had to keep working on my understanding of love. I gradually pieced bits together until there were no more valid arguments against the proposition. Then I questioned whether it was likely (rather than merely possible), and those answers fell into place for a positive. It still doesn’t prove it to me or anyone else, but it certainly fitted my need for all things rational, reasonable and logical. (That’s why I’m not a traditional Christian of the organised church).

    I don’t have any more to say, so, I’ll love and leave you, at least, for now. Thanks for the interaction. I think you’ve done so well answering everybody – no doubt this shows your genuineness-( Is that a word!).

    Ps. Sorry it’s probably none of my business, but, I hope you manage to forgive Stella and I hope she learns to spell your name properly. Best wishes as always, Dichasium

  61. Dichasium, I always find your replies insightful and comforting. What does your username mean?
    In Greek, nouns have different cases: For example lets take the name Stelios so when you use it in the third person singuliar it’s: ‘Stelios ran to the shop’. But when you call him it becomes: “Stelio, come here!” Its confusing when using Greek names in English where we only have the singular, plural and possesive states for nouns and after 14 years of teaching English to Greek students I still don’t get it right…at least my students get some laughs out of it…hahaha. Greek grammar is one of the most complex grammars in the world not to mention Ancient Greek grammar which I had to learn to get my teaching license in Greece but I forgot soon afterwards.
    It’s always nice hearing from you.

  62. Here is an example of what I mean:
    Γεώργιος singular (ενικός)
    nominative (ονομαστική) Γεώργιος
    genitive (γενική) Γεωργίου
    accusative (αιτιατική) Γεώργιο
    vocative (κλητική) Γεώργιε
    the genitive Γεώργιου is also found

  63. Sorry, two small corrections: Firstly, It has been 10 years not 14 and out of the 5 noun cases 4 appear in English but the difference is slight like when we use of and from or when we talk about the Subject and Object of a sentence. Example: He – him.

  64. Hi Stella, I couldn’t reply from your last comments so I’ve used this one. Thanks for the kind words and Greek lesson! Dichasium is from the Greek for a dividing. It’s where a flowering branch divides and forms two more. Nature is awesome and a large part of my life. Best wishes to you.

  65. This Monday morning has greeted me with an unusual window of opportunity to do nothing but sit and think for a few hours. I’ve spent much of it reading a fascinating book by Thomas Nagel entitled: “Mind & Cosmos” but have also managed to return to this, your last reply, with a greater sense of attentiveness. I’m not sure how even a brief reading of it before allowed me to skip over an important bit of self-disclosure on your part, that is, the bit about being a deist rather than an atheist. My apologies for boxing you into atheism; an understandable assumption given the fact that you have played the role of an atheist thus far in our interactions.

    It seems that most of our contentions from this point further (assuming we have future debates) revolves not around the existence of God, per se, but rather what relation we have with God and what sort of being he/she/it is. You’re main issue seems to be well expressed by this, “that it (the deity) has set up a system of reward and punishment that rewards unnatural obedience and, yet, punishes us for our very nature as it created us,” is in your opinion ridiculous. Our entire contentions may in fact boil down to our specific takes on anthropology – i.e., what are human beings by nature. It is the Orthodox contention that human beings are good by nature and are disobedient according to what is unnatural to their being. It is the general Western theological tradition which holds humans to be evil by nature, which is why I claim that your attacks on Christian theism is one-sided towards Catholicism and Protestant influences and does not scratch the surface of Orthodoxy.

    Anyway, any future banters we have will be much more interesting for me knowing you are a deist and not a committed atheist. Please feel free to correct me if I am, once again, misunderstanding you. Cheers.

  66. Thank you for the post, it was an interesting read. There was, however, something which troubled me about one of your responses.

    In response to question three you stated: “The Orthodox doctrine of God is much different. Christians (at least Orthodox Christians) view God’s ontology as subject to His perfect free-will. Why is He good? Because He wills to be good. Why does He not lie? Because He wills to be honest. Why does God exist as Trinity? Because He wills it. He could just as easily will to not exist. And yes, He could just as easily will to lie. The fact that He doesn’t is no commentary on whether He could.”

    There seems to be confusion here regarding your understanding of Orthodox triadology and the distinction between God’s essence, which is unchanging, and his energies, which proceed from his will. While it is true that God is good and honest towards us men because he willingly loves us, it is not true that he is good and true according to his will. He is goodness by nature and truth by nature, these are not things he can change because he simply is them according to his essence.

    More importantly God is Trinity from all eternity, not according to His will but according to His nature as God. He could not change His nature as Trinity by willing it, and the Church would never teach that He could. It is this perfect relationship between the three person’s of the Trinity which is Love and the model of the life of the Church and all mankind. They are one in every way just as we are called to be and they could not be otherwise, nor would they will to be.

    God is all powerful but God cannot choose to be other than He is: perfect love. He may chose not to love us if he liked to, this would simply be withholding of love and grace, but he couldn’t act against his nature and do what is against it: to lie and to be evil.

    Evil proceeds from the will and is always acting against nature and destructive of it, to say that God could do evil is to say he could act against his nature, which is absurd. Doing evil is actually limiting in its activity and destructive of nature, if God did something evil it would limit his power rather than be a proof of it.

  67. Jason, thank you for your post. You bring up points that are essential for understanding the difference between Orthodox teaching and, what could be properly called, Western based theology. To show that God is primarily identified according to His Persons and not according to His essence, I will provide you with 4 sources that I trust we can agree are representative of Orthodoxy: Gregory Palamas, Christos Yannaras, John Zizioulas, and the Nicene Creed (among many, many other sources).

    Starting with Palamas, from his ‘In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts’: “And when speaking to Moses, God did not say, ‘I am essence,’ but, ‘I am He who is’; for He who is, is not from the essence, but the essence is from Him who is. He who is has comprehended within Himself all being.”

    Then to Christos Yannaras (a contemporary Orthodox theologian), from his work, ‘The Freedom of Morality’: “The one God is not one divine nature or essence, but primarily one person: the person of God the Father. The personal existence of God (the Father) constitutes His essence or being, making it into ‘hypostases’: freely and from love He begets the Son and causes the Holy Spirit to proceed. Consequently, being stems not from essence, which would make it an ontological necessity, but from the person and the freedom of its love which ‘hypostasizes’ being into a personal and trinitarian communion. God the Father’s mode of being constitutes existence and life as a fact of love and personal communion.”

    John Zizioulas echos this saying in ‘Being as Communion’: “The ontological ‘principle’ of God is traced back to the person. Thus when we say that God ‘is,’ we do not bind the personal freedom of God – the being of God is not an ontological ‘necessity’ or a simple ‘reality’ for God – but we ascribe the being of God to His personal freedom. In a more analytic way this means that God as Father and not as substance, perpetually confirms through ‘being’ His free will to exist. And it is precisely His trinitarian existence that constitutes this confirmation: the Father out of love – that is, freely – begets the Son and brings forth the Spirit. If God exists, He exists because the Father exists… Thus God as person – as the hypostasis of the Father – makes the one divine substance to be that which it is; the one God.”

    Why is this an important confirmation, i.e., that God exists as a result of freedom and not of necessity?, partly because the idea that the gods were subject to cosmic fate was a concept of the ancient Greeks and Romans whom the Fathers were attempting to distinguish God from. For God to be the God of Biblical revelation, He must transcend the necessity of existence. Or in Zizioulas’ words: “The biblical doctrine of creation ex nihilo obligated the Fathers to introduce a radical difference in ontology, to trace the world back to an ontology outside the world, that is, to God. They thus broke the circle of the closed ontology of the Greeks.”

    The Nicene Creed itself is more than enough evidence that the Orthodox faith holds a monarchy of the Father, in that from the Father the Son is eternally begotten and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds. The changing of this doctrine by the West (the famous ‘Filioque’) is what eventually causes the West to see God as primarily substance rather than person. St. Basil wrote: “the substance never exists in a naked state, that is, without hypostasis, without a mode of existence” (Letter 38,2). God’s mode of existence is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three modes of existence are owed not to the substance but to the person of the Father. This is not to say that the person exists without a nature or substance, but that the ontological principle or cause of being is traced back to the person, not the substance.

    This might be one of the longest single replies I’ve ever made on my blog, but it is one of the most important points ever raised on my blog so I wanted to be sure and answer it as fully as I could (though I’m still leaving out a ton). My hope is that you will take what is said here and apply it to your concept of God, changing out ‘naked substance’ with the ‘person’ of God as the prime reference point, and see where it takes you. You’ll find that God is free from ontological necessity and is love because He chooses to be. Love that is not the result of personal agency is not love by any definition. I interested to hear your thoughts, Jason. Cheers!

  68. Before we go on, I would like to make a point that we try not to place too heavy an emphasis of forming distinctions between eastern and western theology and simply talk about the issue at hand: God’s capacity to do evil and choose not to exist. Trying to talk about theology in a polemic manner can, and often does, force dichotomies where they do not exist and can get in the way of understanding one another.

    For example, my understanding of God is not one of ‘naked substance,’ but Father, Son and Holy Spirit existing in a communion of love from all eternity on account of the love of the Father. The reference point for my understanding of God is already personhood and not some ‘naked substance’. I understand that this has been a point of disagreement between eastern and western theology but this is not where you and I disagree.

    While I agree that the three persons of the trinity exist in a free communion of love, I find it difficult and dangerous to equate the type of freedom God has as the radical freedom to do as one wishes. I disagree with your understanding of God’s freedom as the potency to do evil and choose not to exist.

    While you are drawing your conclusion from Palamas, Zizioulas, and Yannaras, these theologians do not seem to have come to the conclusion you have reached, and I have trouble believing they would. In fact Zizioulas says that once the person becomes the ontological principle the very nature of freedom changes:

    “How does God affirm his ontological freedom?

    The manner in which God exercises His ontological freedom, that precisely which makes Him ontologicaly free, is the way in which He transcends and abolishes the ontological necessity of the substance of being God as Father, that is, as He who “begets” the Son and “brings forth” the Spirit. This ecstatic character of God, the fact that His being is identical with an act of communion, ensures the transcendence of the ontological necessity which His substance would have demanded-if the substance were the primary ontological predicate of God-and replaces this necessity with the free self-affirmation of divine existence. For this communion is a product of freedom as a result not of the substance of God but of a person, the Father-observe why this doctrinal detail is so important-who is Trinity not because the divine nature is ecstatic but because the Father as a person freely wills this communion.

    It thus becomes evident that the only exercise of freedom in an ontological manner is love. The expression ‘God is love’ signifies that God “subsists” as Trinity, that is, as person and not as substance. Love is not an emanation of ‘property’ of the substance of God but is constitutive of His substance, i.e. it is that which makes God what He is, the one God… Love as God’s mode of existence “hypostasizes” God, constitutes His being. Therefor, as a result of love, the ontology of God is not subject to the necessity of substance. Love is identified with ontological freedom.” (Being as Communion 44-46)

    Thus, according to Zizioulas, It is by begetting the Son and bringing forth the Spirit that the Father exercises his freedom and makes himself ontologically free. He is free from the bonds of his nature by begetting and bringing forth others from eternity; this giving of self constitutes love and this love constitutes God’s freedom, the choice of freedom, and even ‘His being.’

    All things outside the scope of love are outside the scope of God’s freedom, since freedom and love are one and the same thing. Therefor, God is not capable of choosing not to exist or to do evil since neither are acts of self-giving love.

    Before I began researching this I freely admit that I didn’t have a complete understanding of the significance of the way the love of the Father was expressed in relation to the Son and Spirit and so I spoke in terms of nature when I should have spoken in terms of relationships. Thank you for pressing me to further refine my understanding of God’s love, it has been challenging and helpful. I look forward to reading your response.

  69. Edit:

    I disagree with your understanding of God’s freedom as HAVING the potency to do evil and choose not to exist.

  70. Hi,
    I very much enjoyed reading your arguments. It is refreshing to see someone using their noggin.
    Your reasoning on point 6 re ‘if I was born a Christian i would be one, if i was born in India I would be a Hindu’ I feel needs further consideration.
    I hear tell of a story, where there was a young man from England who was enchanted by the religious life of India, and so became a Hindu monk in India. There was also at this time a young man from India who was taken with the religious life of the christians in europe, and so became a benedictine monk. Over the years they both studied hard and were dedicated to the spiritual unfolding of their understanding of their relationship with the Divine.
    The Young englishman one evening was sitting in meditation and was presented with the vision of the Christ.
    The Young Indian one evening was at Compline in Prayer and was presented with a vision of Krishna.
    Both these men were confused as to what they saw before them, yet over time they both understood the Truth of it.

  71. Hello again, Jason. Excellent response and, again, it is wonderful to have this exchange with a fellow Orthodox Christian. One does not gain opportunities to discuss matters such as these on a regular basis in everyday circumstances, so for that I thank you.

    Initially, I was reacting to these things you said:

    “God is Trinity from all eternity, not according to His will but according to His nature as God… They are one in every way just as we are called to be and they could not be otherwise, nor would they will to be…God is all powerful but God cannot choose to be other than He is: perfect love.”

    It seems to me to be of immense importance that one understands that God wills Himself to be Trinity, that He could in fact have been otherwise if He so desired, and that He decides who and what He is; He is perfect love because He wills to be, not because he was forced to be according to some sort of cosmic determinism. I’m not saying that this is what you are saying; however, it is a logical straight shot from the view that God “cannot choose to be other than He is.”

    What might be at issue, rather, is how one understands eternity. The Bible teaches that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; whatever He is He will be for all eternity. On this you and I seem to be in full agreement. The point I am making is that God is who He is according to His freedom, not according to necessity. God has will Himself to be Trinity from eternity to eternity, thus He will never not be Trinity. But this is wholly different from the idea that He could not have been otherwise. If He could not have been otherwise then something else was constraining Him to conform to Trinity. If God’s being is something that He must have been then He is involved in the closed ontology of the pagan Greeks. Fate would be His master.

    Take it to something ‘smaller,’ and consider whether or not God can lie. This goes back to my original point. God ‘cannot lie,’ as Scripture says, in the sense that He is truth and will be from eternity to eternity. But nothing forced this reality on God except the Person of God Himself. Therefore God at once determined Himself to be truthful and will remain so forever according to His will. My point is that God could just as easily have chosen to lie. If God was not free to lie then whatever determined that He must tell the truth is the real God.

  72. I admit that I did not initially speak well nor with the more precise language that you are speaking in and I did not entirely understand where you were coming from with your initial statement. It is certainly of immense importance that these things be spoken about and these distinctions be made.

    I think that you are correct in saying our understanding of eternity may be the issue; I’ll try to clarify my own understanding and consider the issue of God’s freedom in light of this..

    Eternity is atemporal, there is no before or after; there is only an eternal present. So, when we speak about God choosing to be Trinity it cannot be a choice strictly speaking, only by analogy. It is not as though there was a time when only the Father existed and then he chose for the Son and Spirit to come into being. The type of freedom God exercises in these eternal processions is not one of choice and change in a sense that we understanding it. In eternity there is no going from one thing to another for change from one to another marks a before and after which is understood as time.

    Further, Zizioulas explains that the Father’s being as God comes from His being Father; meaning He is God the Father insofar as he begets His Son. There could never have been a time that the Father existed when the Son did not, otherwise who would he be the Father of? Also, how could he be said to be at all? For if His being is dependent upon His Fatherhood rather than His nature He could not exist at all without His Son. The Son must have always existed then, and therefore, God could not chose to be other than He is as Trinity.

    Zizioulas equates the loving procession of the Son and Spirit from the Father with the type of freedom God has as Father, a freedom more perfect than a radical understanding which allows one to choose evil and non-being. It is not a freedom to do anything but rather a freedom from being isolated and constricted by His own nature. This is achieved through the eternal sharing of being in the Trinity. It is not as though there is some outside force which necessitates this, it is according to the Love which the Trinity is, which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is by their eternal relation. If God is said to be constrained it is only by Himself, although this sharing of nature hardly seems to be a constraint but rather a complete freedom/

    This is a great mystery. If you ever read the Five Theological Orations of St. Gregory of Nazianzus you will see that begottoness and procession are not causal and do not proceed from choice. St. Gregory is keen to reminding us to let these mysteries be and not explore them too deeply, since they cannot be understood except by analogy and are at the very heart of the Godhead.

    In summary, there was never a time when the Father was without His Son or Spirit for Him to have chosen to be other than Trinity. Since, according to Zizioulas, the Father’s being is found in his Fatherhood, if there was ever a time when he wasn’t Father then He simply wouldn’t be to make a choice. The freedom which God has is incomprehensible but it seems to involve freedom from constraining nature rather than freedom to act or be as it wishes in the strict sense.

  73. Jason, thank you again for this wonderful exchange. From the start we had huge differences, but after discussing them the differences we do hold seem fairly benign. One closing note though: Zizioulas explicitly states in his book “Being as Communion” that the Father had(has) the choice to cease existing. And this is absolutely essential to the argument he makes concerning God’s ontology as it was worked out by the Cappadocian Fathers.

    But, again, in comparison to the understanding that it is the Person of the Father who is the principle of God’s existence, and not His essence, the point concerning whether or not God could choose to not exist falls a distance second in terms of importance.

    Cheers my friend!

  74. Thank you as well.

    I will look into Zizioulas’s theological analysis of the Cappadocians more closely. I saw reference to the Father choosing, in a certain respect, to provide existence to the Trinity but perhaps I overlooked a comment on his choice to exist. It seems odd and at odds with my own reading of these fathers to say so; but Metropolitain Zizioulas is a much more qualified theologian than I.

    Peace and happy Lent!

  75. I recently came upon this article by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/106156954/St-Isaac-the-Syrian-A-Theologian-of-Love-and-Mercy
    It covers all the topics discussed on this thread in simple terms and with great love. I highly recommend reading it.
    By the way can someone please explain the difference between the Syrian Orthodox Church and Coptic church with the Eastern Orthodox Church – I read it online but I am still confused.

  76. Pingback: Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail – #2 « Enquiries on Atheism

  77. I will refer my readers to the above pingback as I did take the time to respond to it despite the fact that it is fairly uncivil. One will find that the blog this pingback leads to is pretty standard in the theist-atheist blogs in that it is more about purposely misunderstanding the opponents position and high-school-like games of intellectual ‘gotcha’ with no real intention of learning.

  78. I went to the site and I got the impression that it was written by some guy living in his mother’s basement trying to impress his girlfriend if he even has one.

  79. That was the most God awful biased article I’ve ever read. The reason why there are no new arguments is because there is no NEED for new arguments. You have no facts, no proof, no evidence, nothing, zilch, nada that proves anything within Christianity is true. And what little evidence you do provide has either been debunked or cast aside because it is only a claim.

  80. Thank you for your well reasoned and non-biased response, Joe. Are there any instances of Christianity being “debunked” which you’d like to share?

  81. Well, thanks for specifically addressing my points. I mean, if you just assert that my arguments have been debunked and cast aside, I guess that settles the debate.

  82. Haha, R.L. Culpeper, Joe’s insightful response was directed at me. Now you feel what Christians have to deal with when they jump into the world of apologetics.

  83. I just have too much spare time right now, what with my Mom cooking and my girlfriend busy cleaning the basement. 🙂

    I’ll leave you guys to it, Eric. Take care.

  84. I’m glad for the pingback Eric as it brought me to your words ‘Understanding, or assuming, the existence of God opens one to innumerable levels of understanding the ‘total-system’ (as it were).’ What a relief I felt, on that day, some years ago, when I first gained insight to the ‘total system’ with God (Love) firmly in control. It’s just as if a special ‘freedom’ door is opened and fresh air rushes in. It seems that atheists cannot conceive of it (many, if not most, appear to have closed their mind and thrown away the key). It was great to hear you mention it. 🙂

  85. Indeed, dichasium. And its beautiful that God reveals this not to the one who constructs an air-tight, logical approach to such elevated things, but quite the opposite. Apologetics is a double-edge sword for the practitioner-believer. One can easily win a debate with an atheist and lose his own soul in the process.

  86. Paul says I am though, for whatever reason, interested in understanding the arguments of Atheists and seeing how to answer them.

    No, you’re not. Be honest.

    These men have all at one time or another and still currently continue enjoy significant megaphones to the ruination of souls. And there are plenty of listeners gullible enough to be taken in by their particular brand of evangelism…

    You demonstrate zero interest here in understanding the arguments New Atheists use to justify why belief in gods or a god is a methodological failure to produce knowledge and why acting on the conclusions of this methodological failure as if the claims about divine causal agencies in the world we share were true continues to reliably produce (especially when privileged in the public domain) real harm to real people in real life. You don’t care to understand these arguments or you wouldn’t write what you’ve written here; instead, you use this post as a platform to misrepresent and malign those who dare criticize what you wish to privilege. When you’re ready for an adult discussion, New Atheists will respond appropriately. Until then, you deserve nothing but ridicule and contempt.

  87. Come on, Eric. The site has a variety of writers who each use different styles. To state that the blog this pingback leads to is pretty standard in the theist-atheist blogs in that it is more about purposely misunderstanding the opponents position and high-school-like games of intellectual ‘gotcha’ with no real intention of learning.

    That’s demonstrably false. There are many posts with all kinds of interesting academically and historically valid leads to follow for those who wish to have a more informed opinion about a variety of religious issues and claims. But the posts themselves are usually responses to specific questions put forth by theists. For example, your ten points have been considered for the writers to pick and choose whichever point they wish to address for the purpose of clarifying an atheist response to how you have represented them. That in itself is worthwhile to find out why your points are richly deserving of criticism.

    Why might that be?

    Well, the opportunity is there is learn why – whether one agrees or disagrees isn’t the only factor deciding the criticisms’ value (unless one craves only an echo chamber for enunciating one’s opinions); there is value in better understanding why misrepresenting atheists and maligning their character hardly reflects the best face of those who believe in representing a loving god and teaching others about it… a misrepresentation you yourself, Eric, are promulgating here with your inaccurate description of what the blog is about.

  88. A top ten list should include Dawkins’ central argument: There is no solution to the improbability of God.

    Dawkins contrasts this with his solution to the improbability of Darwinian evolution, namely gradualism, which wouldn’t work for God, unless you perceive God as the evolution of superman as did George Bernard Shaw.

  89. Sorry, tildeb, just reporting what I witnessed in the couple of articles and comment threads I read. Reminded me of high-school antics. That’s all, not meant to “malign” your character.

  90. It’s easy to come to a conclusion that supports your belief. That’s a very strong indicator for the need to reapply critical thinking or fall into the trap of confirmation bias.

    I think your description of the site for the pingback is exactly this: confirmation bias hard at work skewing your perception of reality to align with your beliefs about it (which is exactly the wrong method to achieve justifiable knowledge).

    All of us are susceptible to this, me included. So I work hard at recognizing when I do this. There are red flags I use… especially with language.

    For example, just look how obvious the confirmation bias is by so many theists – yourself included – accepting the term ‘militant’ to describe someone who does not agree with the belief gods exist and says so. Is this event actually militant?

    Well, it might be if armed forces got together and argued over a beer in place of fighting bloody wars. Militants commit acts of physical combat when described in the news, for example. You don’t call lawyers ‘militants’ for arguing their judicial cases. Yet you willingly go along with this description of atheists who criticize religious privilege in the public domain and that can be demonstrated to cause harm as if apt… without raising a peep of protest at the gross distortion of the term to be used this way.

    Red flag.

    It is this kind of appeasement of bias and discrimination and various degrees of intolerance committed in the name of religion – especially in the use of language – that indicates to the neutral observer why the ‘high school antics’ you identify are probably not ‘high school antics’ in fact any more than religious criticism offered is militancy or stridency. The likelihood that your description is accurate is undermined by such gross misrepresentations. It is far more likely that such blatant misrepresentations are a means by which a theist can better dismiss by fiat arguments that are on point and effective.

  91. This may qualify under the “sheer discourtesy that both sides tend to show the other”, but I hope it does not.

    Assumptions made: you believe in the Inerrant word of god

    How do you reconcile the old laws in the Old Testament. For example Deuteronomy 22: 28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[c] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

    Is the god you serve the one who commanded this? How do you reconcile that with god being a god of love, mercy, acceptance, peace, etc.

    Furthermore in relation to #6 do you believe that all have a chance to accept christ to avoid eternal damnation? What about the millions who had no way of encountering God, and the children who starve to death as their only act of existence. How do you cope with or do you even suffer from evangelical anxiety. The idea that the very thoughts we think are a high-stakes game of life and death.

    Again, I mean no disrespect. My questions are actually related to insecurities I found in my own beliefs.

  92. Personally, I don’t mean to hijack response here but I can reconcile them just fine. You have cherry picked here from Deut. the last in a fairly long list of violations to the sacrament of marriage. The more compelling thing here, to me, is while strict adherence to the specific letter of Moses’ Law has more or less become a thing of the past…..I am inclined to notice the more glaring travesty that RAPE ITSELF certainly hasn’t become a thing of the past. In fact, you may argue we prosecute it more properly today in a court of law (if we ever do, that is). Romans 7 is sound, in my estimation.

  93. Demetri, I am no theologian or well-read Orthodox scholar but I do know that God is all merciful and He will have mercy on whom He will
    have mercy. Nobody knows who will go to heaven or hell or what these places are. Starving children exist and it is utterly horrible but there are a lot of organizations which help and where you can ‘adopt’ one these children for a small fee this fee goes to feeding, clothing and educating this child in their home country. You see God works through people for good.

  94. I do know that God is all merciful…

    You know no such thing; you believe this claim is true based on your faith that your God is this way or that way but misrepresent this faith claim as if it were a knowledge claim. It’s not and it’s dishonest to represent it this way.

  95. So basically laws that encouraged degradation of women are swept under a rug called Romans 7? Is that your response to nonbelievers?

  96. Is not who will and who will not go to heaven or Hell the end game in all versions of Christianity? The idea that all are given a chance to accept christ is absurd.

  97. Perhaps it is a fictitious interpretation of my response to nonbelievers, not to mention a flabby modern reading of context in the early books of the Bible, but in interest of cutting matters to the chase here: Plainly, No. You’re just wrong. Encouraging degradation of women. Sweeping under the rug. The whole nine yards.

  98. Semantics…..know….believe ….it’s the same to me. I am not trying to mislead : I know it because I believe it. And in this sucky life I would rather believe in a just and merciful God than in ‘nada of the nada…in the nada

  99. Do you know what life was like in the of Moses? Women were probably regarded as one step above cattle. They were depended on men for their survival, If a woman was not a virgin she would be able to find a husband. This law was not degrading to women in the contrary it was written to protect women as if a woman had her forcefully virginity taken from her then she would not be able to find a husband and as a result would be depended on father then her brothers or might starve in the end. This law was progressive for its time and God in his wisdom knew how reckless men were.

  100. I understand why you would say that it is the end game but to a christian it is just the tip of the iceberg. To experience the love of Christ and God in your everyday life is what it is all about. If we go to heaven or hell is an after thought. If you live your life believing in nothing in no god no soul and that we are all just animals then you are already in hell.

  101. Demetri, good question, one that I had early on in my journey as well. I’ll try to be succinct as possible. You’ll notice that Deut 22:23-24 give the scenario of a non-married man and woman having consensual fornication, and the order is for them to both be stoned. Deut 22:25-27 gives the scenario of a man forcibly raping a woman, and the order is to stone just the male, the woman is innocent. Deut 22:28-29 gives the scenario of a woman being seduced and essentially giving in. The Hebrew word translated “seizes” in many English Bibles is a weaker verb than “forces.” “Tapas” (the Hebrew) means “takes” or “catches”. The context is verified by the preceding verses where rape is the scenario. These verses are not speaking of rape as we envision it today. The order is actually highly protective for the female. In ancient Hebrew culture a woman who is not a virgin is almost guaranteed to not receive marriage and a bride price, hence she was likely to wind up destitute. The reason the man has to pay 50 shekels of silver and to marry her is for her protection, not to make her a slave. This may sound like a weird way of handling things to our 21st century ears, but that doesn’t make it weird in reality.

    I’ll have to answer the other question later. Time is pressing. Cheers.

  102. @Anonymous – For me, the whole purpose of Christianity, (as taught by Jesus), is to learn how to share the freedom, joy and bliss of real love.

  103. Shooting from the hip here, I think knowledge is an understanding that seems to work for everyone everywhere all the time and whose use produces applications, therapies, and technologies that reliably and consistently work.

  104. For me, the whole purpose of Christianity, (as taught by Jesus), is to learn how to share the freedom, joy and bliss of real love (presumably of the heterosexual kind).

  105. “So, essentially, scientific knowledge (natural sciences, that is) is the only form of knowledge reasonably called “knowledge”?”

    I don’t mean to jump in front of Til, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen you make comments similar to the one above. Your other example was centered on substance dualism, and your objection to my “assumption” that the mind is materialistic. You’re right, it is an assumption, and one that is buttressed by mounds of evidence. The alternative (the mind and body are separate) has absolutely no evidence.

    Returning to “knowledge” you seem to be setting up an argument which would lead to the assertion of metaphysical knowledge, for instance. Yet, everything that we “know” exists in reality; that is, it originates in nature. That includes a priori impressions that don’t necessarily require experience to verify or derive new notions from; however, even a priori knowledge needs a foundation that originated in experience to then extrapolate further impressions.

    So, scientific knowledge is just another way of saying experience. Furthermore, everything that we “know” originates with fundamental assumptions – I exist and so does the material world, etc. We then observe the world and string together impressions, which then lead us to develop expectations. These expectations are synonymous with knowledge, and in turn the knowledge permits us to manipulate the world accordingly.

    This is an extraordinarily terse description of knowledge. What alternative descriptions can you proffer?

  106. No, not high school antics: a legitimate and ongoing issue that permeates not just christianity but many religions, one that sets up a revealing look at the important difference between respecting scriptural authority and respecting legal rights of equality when they are incompatible. It’s one thing to say “God is love” yada, yada, yada, and quite another to justify bigotry as it is exercised in so many ways under the banner of religion. The ‘love’ bit simply doesn’t cut it because it’s an avoidance technique.

  107. Eric, science is a method of gaining understanding beyond one’s self (a tool, in other words) . We can gain all kinds of subjective understanding (which may or may not be true beyond ourselves) but… if we’re going to make a claim about how reality operates beyond ourselves and our beliefs that we like to favour, then we need a method that allows reality – and not our subjective beliefs – to arbitrate our claim. The method of faith doesn’t do this, which is why it doesn’t produce stuff that works independently fo the believer. When we use a method that allows reality to adjudicate claims made about it, we end up with understanding that is not just subjective but as close to objective and we can get because the products based on this understanding seem to work the same for everyone everywhere all the time in the applications, therapies, and technologies based on them. I don’t think claims moderated and arbitrated and adjudicated by one’s beliefs immune from reality’s arbitration of them can produce anything beyond what was assumed; the problem, however, is that there is no means to validate the assumptions. We end up with a long history of metaphysics and religious claims about reality that are – to be blunt – wrong. Many of these are still held in esteem by the religious in spite of compelling evidence adduced from reality that they are factually incorrect. But because the method of justifying beliefs subjectively are immune from reality’s arbitration of them, they continue to inform all kinds of religious claims (dualism, prayer, natures, creations, and so on). This method is a failure to produce knowledge.

  108. With respect tildeb, The ‘love bit’ won’t cut it for those who have not understood it. Those who do understand the love of Jesus’ type would not need to presume I was referring to the heterosexual kind. It is better to ask than to presume – you may be surprised to find yourself wrong. Best wishes.

  109. “Your other example was centered on substance dualism, and your objection to my “assumption” that the mind is materialistic. You’re right, it is an assumption, and one that is buttressed by mounds of evidence. The alternative (the mind and body are separate) has absolutely no evidence.”

    Ooh, some tasty thoughts here. Was my example centered on “substance dualism”? I remember challenging your notion of man as being mortal based on experiential observations made from pure physicality. The idea that the mind is wholly reducible to neurons firing in the brain is unsubstantiated in both the physical sciences and in philosophical naturalism. The task of science since the 17th century was to explain the universe while ignoring the problem of the mind. It was only till recently that, in order to remain consistent with the materialist worldview, the materialists began claiming that they “knew” that man was strictly biology. But this is mere “biologism,” not actual findings from biology (it is biologism as a philosophy of everything, espoused by the so-called ‘new atheists’ who are aptly represented by Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, which sends them falling leagues behind the ‘old athiests’ in terms of striking religion at its core). But this is a discussion for another time, since this is not my concern with asking my question of tildeb. I hope to post an article soon discussing the failures of philosophical naturalism. However, I’ve written some preliminary thoughts on it already here: https://ehyde.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/the-finest-argument-against-atheism/ , but I hope to take this to the next level with some current research I’ve been doing. Cheers.

  110. Let me see if I can summarize your points above: science is a method of knowing reality, reality must be known objectively because subjective knowledge is too slippery, and the true test of knowledge is if it works for everyone, everywhere all the time, etc.

    Assuming I have the above at least somewhat accurate, you have thrown me for a loop by introducing even more concepts which demand defining, such as “reality.” If reality must past the test of objectivity, then let us see if some of the more fundamental existential issues pass the test (you seem to want to go outside yourself in your quest for reality, but I’d like to bring it a little closer to the human, since we are both humans and not phantoms of pure reason). For example, I’m sure you have loved someone, I’m sure you have hated someone, I’m sure you have had pain (whether physical or emotional) and I’m sure you have had joy. Assuming these are elements of reality and not mere illusions, what objective test do you propose will prove whether you indeed know them or not (keeping in mind it must work for everyone, everywhere and at all times according to the rubric you provided)? I would also very much like to know if your objectivity can demonstrate the realities of “good” and “evil” or whether these are illusory as well.

    At the end of the discussion I have a final question which I will not ask yet, but I want to give you a heads up so you can start thinking about it: How is it that you “know” that your prescribed method of knowing is true?

  111. I said, if we’re going to make a claim about how reality operates beyond ourselves and our beliefs… and you come back with Assuming these are elements of reality (love, hate, emotional and/or physical pain) and not mere illusions…

    Do you see the problem inserting false dichotomies introduces here? It avoids the justifications needed to support claims about how reality operates (and the causal agencies you claim it contains).

    Existentialism is set up in just this way to be presented as if in conflict with naturalism and empiricism… assuming that the examination (and the understanding then drawn from this process) of the human condition properly belongs to either philosophy/metaphysics or science. Well, if we’re going to make claims about the human condition that are not kept within the borders of the subjective and personal, then we had better be careful to keep these objective claims informed by knowledge… understandings that are demonstrable to seem to be the same for everyone everywhere all the time.

    These cross-border intrusions by belief into reality happen all the time. For example, the religious make a claim in the universal truth value that there really is a divine causal agency or agencies called by various names that interact with the reality we share. This is not a subjective belief claim but a claim extended across the border that separates a dependent faith-based belief from knowledge about how reality operates. This is a scientific claim you make that is then protected from legitimate inquiry by various diversionary methods… usually involving philosophy, metaphysics, and religion. I see you trying to head down this rabbit hole in this exchange and trying to get me to defend why such methods are inappropriate. This is shift in the burden of proof you have taken on by making a positive claim in the existence and interaction of this divine causal agency and then making a switch away from defending this claim by avoiding the burden altogether. If you’re going to make a claim about an independent reality and how it operates affected by divine agencies, then you need compelling evidence from reality (subject to non biased empirical evidence available to anyone) to justify it and not obfuscate this requirement with word games, philosophical sleights of hand, and metaphysical musings.

  112. I see. So it is your contention that we can “know” about objective “reality” but we cannot “know” about our internal, human reality, because, for you, “knowledge is an understanding that seems to work for everyone everywhere all the time and whose use produces applications, therapies, and technologies that reliably and consistently work.” Hence, the prime issues in life for living, breathing, humans – issues of good and evil, should and should not, right and wrong, love and hate, etc, ad infinitum – are off limits to “knowing” due to the fact that they do not have material substance and they do not work to produce “applications, therapies, and technologies.” Your understanding of what it means to “know” something is limited to the peripheral issues in life. In short, for a practical example, you cannot “know” that you love your wife or husband because love is subjective and it cannot produce an “application, therapy, and/or technology” to substantiate it. Your rule is simple enough: One can know nothing save what is presented to one’s sensual faculties and verified by popular vote. No wonder you don’t believe in God, you don’t even believe in human beings (that is, you can’t believe in them if your knowledge first requires adjudication from the natural sciences, since, as we agree, the natural sciences have nothing objective to say about such existential qualities). You’ve completely eliminated the human being from the equation of what it means to “know.” Objectivity requires objective distancing between the subjective observer and what is observed, i.e., the person cannot be considered in the ‘truth about reality’ sequence of evaluation, thus you must delete the most important parts of yourself from that which you deem to be “reality,” and all that is left over is a version of yourself which is essentially no different than a pocket calculator. This scenario works great for knowing the natural sciences, but not for knowing human stuff (as explicated above). I’ll say what all the great philosophers have said already in succinct language: whatever you think you “know” about “reality” are “beliefs” through and through, for the simple fact that one’s understanding of what “reality” is requires one to extend his belief about the matter without corroborating proofs. For example, the reason you seem to hold to philosophical naturalism is not because biology or physics teach it, but because your philosophical interpretation the data declares it so.

    And this provides a good transition – I’m curious to get your answer to my last question now: How do you “know” that your theory of what it means to know is true? I expect your answer to have absolutely zero subjective opinion included since only empirical evidence of your theory will qualify as “truth.”

  113. Eric, the term ‘know’ is one that indicates a very high level of confidence that can be demonstrated to still be the case independent of the person making the claim. If we allow the term to mean something dependent on the person making the claim, then it requires a lower level of confidence (although it can be held in high regard). We have better words for this, better ways of revealing the dependent nature of the referral claim. This allows us to grant claims with various levels of confidence – a grade of likelihood – based on the quality of what informs it. A claim that can be independently verified and demonstrated with consistency and reliability to be the case is better informed – more justified – than a claim that requires dependent verification. The dependent claim is a weaker claim. (I’m not forgetting about claims held within the boundary of an axiomatic system; these , too, are independent but are too often taken out of context i.e. the correct form of logic without appreciating whether or not the premises are true outside of the form ).

    I’m sorry if this sense of proportion and probability gives you a measure of discomfort. I would expect no less from someone willing to cross the border between faith-based and evidence adduced beliefs… when it’s convenient… to bolster weak claims. But this doesn’t give you license to assume various levels of understanding I have are somehow deficient because I understand them to be beliefs rather than knowledge. I also understand why and how you try to turn the issue away from respecting the best method we have for determining how much or little confidence we should grant claims about reality and try to make it into a case of philosophy/metaphysics and religious belief.

    The rule for appropriate epistemology is quite simple: if you want to make a claim about how reality operates, then the ONLY requirement that carries any merit is to allow reality itself to arbitrate the claim. Not philosophy. Not metaphysics. Not religion. Reality. And the best method we have at our disposal is science. That is the tool to use. It would help considerably if theists would stop making claims about reality and then try to avoid reality’s arbitration of it by substituting inappropriate justifications like axiomatic systems and philosophy/metaphysics. These cannot arbitrate the claim; it takes reality to do this. And if the adduced evidence is compelling, you’ll be the only one surprised if most atheists take the findings very seriously and change their minds. My opinions are only as good as the information that informs them. When encountering better information, i change my mind. This ability seems to be generally lacking in those who claim to be believers in divine agencies.

  114. tilbed, your resistance to philosophy while making philosophical claims about epistemology is indeed discomforting. Me thinketh that you’ve been staring at the world through the window of philosophical naturalism so long that you’ve forgotten all about the window (or perhaps you never knew it was there in the first place).

    Cheers.

  115. What’s humorous to me is you need (there is hardly any way around it) considerable philosophic argumentation to arrive at the conclusion that reality itself is the best arbiter of claims about it and the best tool we have for this is science. Science on the mindless process of reality. It’s no wonder really that even Hawking has said something akin to that philosophy hasn’t been keeping up with the sciences. Perhaps the thing he’s most right about. I suppose you’re perfectly comfortable with the intrinsic truth that we can objectively dismiss all of your above independent claims on pure skepticism: There is after all no scientific evidence whatsoever proving anything you say, therefore yours are weak subjective claims destined to the garbage bin. It’s funny when God is, quite humorously, that one most subject where his/her skepticism most prominently fails the Atheist pretending to wed Science. At no point in reality do Atheism and Science ACTUALLY line up, independent of the person making the claim. I call this The Vanishing Philosophy, personally.

  116. When a subject is considered much, often we gain intuition or insight. It is usually extremely difficult to relate all the ingredients (thought processes) which mature into that intuition.
    Yet one is assured of its sound reality. Most atheists I know, gave in at the simplest hurdle and their ego, fear or laziness keeps them stuck. In any case, God does need us to ‘prove’ his existence to others. We can plant seeds but God will water those who want to drink. Avoidance techniques will keep many atheists dry, Believers talking of real Jesus type love are going straight to the hub but atheists don’t recognise it because their homework is on the wrong subject.

  117. Eric, I have great confidence in methodological naturalism… because it works. I do not hold to philosophical naturalism. And I do not hold to metaphysical and philosophical claims about reality because they don’t. It’s really just that simple. I recognize the urge I have to assume my beliefs are adequate but I take Feynman’s warning to heart: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person in the world to fool.”

  118. Paul, you make a category mistake assuming that linguistics is philosophy because it’s not science. This a trope. I don’t need philosophical argumentation to justify reality as the best arbitrator of claims made about it; I need evidence from reality to justify confidence in the method. That computer you’re using is good start and there really is something to it that allows you to read these words. That’s not philosophy on your screen; it’s a product of methodological naturalism at work. Rail all you want at the lack of philosophical and metaphysical sophistication your computer seems unaware of; it still works. Complain to your heart’s content that it fails to respect your argumentation that it may not exist… but you’re still reading the words. Be skeptical that it works based on knowledge independent of your beliefs about causal agencies of Oogity Boogity interacting in and with reality… but you’re still reading the words. Pretend your computer is really a compendium of a series metaphysically weak claims to satisfy your need to feel philosophically smug… but you’re still reading the words. The evidence of why methodological naturalism is the best tool we have for creating knowledge about reality is right in front of your nose. I can’t make you see what your beliefs refuse you to acknowledge. That task – aligning your beliefs with reality – is your job.

  119. Methodological naturalism makes no truth claims about reality (except for the fact that it poses a distinct cognitive approach to reality, which, in itself, qualifies it as a philosophy of knowledge). It simply studies natural causes. You have made such truth claims, thus, like it or not, acknowledge it or not, you are currently employing philosophical naturalism. Why does that bother you? Be proud of it. There’s no shame, other than its totally false.

  120. I’ll not spin the argument further around in circles. I will say that we are still a million miles away from me rejecting your claims on the basis of my belief and that I am indeed a Christian theist; I don’t need to: Pure skepticism will suffice quite soundly. You can’t prove it and neither can science. I am interested in one question though: What happens when reality itself proves to be the greatest of intrinsic liars? as Socrates noted many many many moons ago…

  121. Eric, why are trying to be so slippery here? I have made the point repeatedly that claims for knowledge about reality requires reality – and not our subjective interpretation of it – to arbitrate them. When we allow this, using the method correctly produces knowledge that can then be applied to stuff that works for everyone everywhere all the time. In any equivalent comparison – an equivalency often pronounced to be the case under the heading ‘Other Ways of Knowing’ – religious methodology (revelation, scriptural authority, personal interpretation, faith) does not work to produce equivalent results. In fact, the history of religious methodology has produced no knowledge about reality!

    I’m sorry that’s the case because it seems to cause you great angst. I feel bad for you that you have to feel so uncomfortable but that discomfort I think is a really good thing… because something is out of alignment if religious methodology really was equivalent as Another Way of Knowing. It should have evidence that such a sweeping claim is justified, and this evidence is missing in action. This leaves us with the method that does produce knowledge, and we call this endeavor science. We call this method by which science is done Methodological Naturalism (you see the link? ‘Method’ in methodological – not philosophical – naturalism? It’s really important.)

    Granted, the tool of MN doesn’t produce knowledge alone any more than mechanical tools produce a tractor. Both have to be used correctly to achieve the desired results – knowledge about reality in the case of MN, engineering expertise in the case of tractors. Claiming that tractors can be produced with a different tool set by another kind of expert – say, noodles by a chef – requires evidence that is simply lacking. Holding fast to the claim that noodles in the hands of right kind of chef are an equivalent but a different kind of tool to produce equivalent tractors without evidence from reality (but argued using philosophy/metaphysics and faith-based belief that it is not just possible but likely) is not reasonable. The problem we encounter when we move away from reality arbitrating claims made about it is a recipe for fooling ourselves… no matter how hungry we may be , no matter how much faith we apply, no matter how dedicated we are to believing, some ‘other way’ alternative.

  122. “*face, meet palm*”

    Eric, can we agree that everyone, irrespective of their religious leanings, has to make some basic assumptions about reality? It seems — and I don’t want to bring another subject into the discussion that you and Tildeb are having — that you’re objecting to his ability to know for certain that the ideas he assents to are true. He keeps offering demonstrability as a basis for knowing, and you, at least twice, have asked the following:

    “How is it that you “know” that your prescribed method of knowing is true?”

    “How do you “know” that your theory of what it means to know is true? I expect your answer to have absolutely zero subjective opinion included since only empirical evidence of your theory will qualify as “truth.”

    Now, I think (and forgive me Tildeb) that he’s being a little bit stubborn in not acknowledging that the foundation of his beliefs about reality are derived from philosophical assumptions. However, his arguments are still valid based on those assumptions, irregardless of whether he acknowledges them. Now, since you and Tildeb both have to make the same assumptions about reality, why don’t we just acknowledge this particular commonality and move forward? If you believe yourself to be exempt from the assumption, for instance, that the external world exists, then please follow through by providing your reasoning. Your questions above seem to imply that you have access to some method by which the veracity of an observation may be known with certainty; if this is the case, enlighten us. Also, you have yet to describe what you consider to be knowledge — is it only things that can be assented with certainty? are probabilities permitted? can any idea formed within the mind be considered knowledge? What is your criteria?

    Then, perhaps you can provide some counter-evidence to his claims. You have yet to refute his arguments in any real sense, other than assert that naturalism is totally false (see below).

    “You have made such truth claims, thus, like it or not, acknowledge it or not, you are currently employing philosophical naturalism. Why does that bother you? Be proud of it. There’s no shame, other than its totally false.”

    Sorry for interjecting again…

  123. Thank you Eric. As you said that is a very weird way of handling things to our 21st century ears.
    I have enjoyed your responses a lot, and still look forward to your response on evangelical anxiety. Do you have it, if so how do you deal with it? If not, why not?

  124. “Eric, can we agree that everyone, irrespective of their religious leanings, has to make some basic assumptions about reality?”

    Absolutely.

    “Your questions above seem to imply that you have access to some method by which the veracity of an observation may be known with certainty; if this is the case, enlighten us.”

    I have no such access to “certainty.”

    “Also, you have yet to describe what you consider to be knowledge — is it only things that can be assented with certainty? are probabilities permitted? can any idea formed within the mind be considered knowledge? What is your criteria?”

    I haven’t described it yet because I was not asked. 🙂 I fully embrace methodological naturalism in the natural sciences for pragmatic reasons. It helps to get the job done with efficiency and keeps everyone on the same page. But this source of knowledge is very limited in scope. My objection to Tildeb is not that methodological naturalism does not deliver knowledge, but that it is not the “only” conduit of knowledge. This is why I charged Tilbed with not being able to have any knowledge of human beings since their prime features which make them unique are not available to this method. This is a major problem (among others) for Tilbed’s whole philosophy of knowledge. His theory slits its own throat since he is human, yet is unable to know anything about himself by using his method, thus he cannot even explain how he “knows” something since his tool for knowing (i.e. his mind) is a total mystery to him.

    For objective truth, objectivity works just fine, but for truth that must be appropriated – lived – the truth is subjectivity (as Kierkegaard would say). Not “subjective” but “subjectivity.” If you need clarification on this point let me know.

    “You have yet to refute his arguments in any real sense…”

    Tildeb believes that his theory of knowledge is not a matter of philosophical assumption – i.e. belief – you and I both agree that it is. This was my task from the beginning. His initial objection, for which I started the discussion, was that there was a strict division between mere belief and knowing. My task was to demonstrate that his idea of “knowing” was based in a philosophical orientation, a belief. He worked hard to avoid this conclusion, but it is strictly unavoidable.

  125. Stella asserted I do know that God is all merciful…

    I pointed out that she presented this faith-based claim as if it were a knowledge based claim, to which you asked what I meant by the term ‘knowledge’. I described it as “an understanding that seems to work for everyone everywhere all the time and whose use produces applications, therapies, and technologies that reliably and consistently work.

    Now here you are presenting this interchange as if I was establishing a Theory Of Knowledge. I was providing a working definition, one I explained as a method of gaining understanding beyond one’s self (a tool, in other words) .We can gain all kinds of subjective understanding (which may or may not be true beyond ourselves) but… if we’re going to make a claim about how reality operates beyond ourselves and our beliefs that we like to favour, then we need a method that allows reality – and not our subjective beliefs – to arbitrate our claim.

    Now you’re trying to claim that this definition of methodology to define knowledge claims (how we know) about reality independent of our subjective understanding is a philosophical claim. No, it’s not. It’s a claim justified by reality’s arbitration of it independent of any philosophical assumptions I may be making. Reality – not me – determines its truth value.

    I accused of being ‘slippery’ trying to reformat my line of reasoning used to express this meaning about methodology for claims (like the one used by Stella) to differentiate belief claims from knowledge claims to be philosophical naturalism. It’s not. Its about using methodological naturalism to allow reality to arbitrate claims we want to call ‘knowledge’. You have it exactly backwards to define this approach as simply another kind of belief, namely, philosophical naturalism. But that’s bunk. By allowing reality to arbitrate what is and isn’t knowledge, we avoid imposing our own philosophical framework and allow reality to show us where the borders are. The benefit is that the result from this kind of understanding (versus the kind of understanding based on one’s subject beliefs about reality) works… not just for one’s self but for everybody everywhere all the time. And that’s the problem believers in claims not adjudicated by reality can’t seem to wrap their head around, that because of methodology one’s subjective beliefs are of a lower, lesser, class of understanding, Calling both classes ‘knowledge’ serves only those with an agenda to promote belief claims to be ‘another way of knowing’ without producing equivalent understanding. And that’s why it’s so slippery. Your approach attempts by language to redefine up and another kind of down, black another kind of white, subjective belief to be another kind of reality-arbitrated independent knowledge… unencumbered by the same requirement to demonstrably work.

  126. Hi Demetri, let me take a swing at the second part about evangelical anxiety:

    “What about the millions who had no way of encountering God, and the children who starve to death as their only act of existence. How do you cope with or do you even suffer from evangelical anxiety. The idea that the very thoughts we think are a high-stakes game of life and death.”

    To begin, I do not have a theology that denies people a way of encountering God based strictly on whether or not they have heard the Bible or preaching. I believe God is well able to encounter His creation as He pleases, even for the child who dies of hunger before he has even learned to say the word hunger. For the Orthodox death is not the end of the story. Children are the epitome of innocence and have no need of repentance. Those who have not heard the gospel are still in touch with God on some level as the Scriptures say, “the Spirit convicts the world of sin and of righteousness,” and even pagans witness by their works the law of God written on their hearts. Scripture claims that those who do not have the word of God have nature as God’s witness, and one can know God by knowing nature and themselves (“the kingdom of heaven is within you”), and many like sayings. This is not to say that Orthodox Christians have no obligation to evangelize, but the call to witness lacks anxiety as an animating factor.

    Also, it is true that the very thoughts we think are a high-stakes game, but its not merely thoughts but one’s whole life that is high-stakes. Thoughts only find life in the context of a life practice or development. No one ever slipped on a thought, so-to-speak, and wound up separated from God. Thoughts have a life-lived-context.

    Not sure if that hits the mark for you, but its the best I can do at the moment. 🙂

  127. “But this source of knowledge is very limited in scope. My objection to Tildeb is not that methodological naturalism does not deliver knowledge, but that it is not the “only” conduit of knowledge.”

    I suppose you could make a very esoteric argument in favor of knowledge gained a priori, but even this kind of knowledge originates with experience, so we return to naturalism.

    At any rate, If we have both made the same assumptions, then we are both constrained by the same epistemic limits and therefore the scope of our “source” is identical. Tildeb is describing knowledge as demonstrable, and you’re acknowledging this as pragmatic precisely because it is demonstrable. So, the big question is, what is this alternative conduit that you are referring to? How are truth-values discerned within this alternative methodology?

    “This is why I charged Tilbed with not being able to have any knowledge of human beings since their prime features which make them unique are not available to this method. This is a major problem (among others) for Tilbed’s whole philosophy of knowledge. His theory slits its own throat since he is human, yet is unable to know anything about himself by using his method, thus he cannot even explain how he “knows” something since his tool for knowing (i.e. his mind) is a total mystery to him.”

    This is simply not true. After our initial assumption is made we proceed in exactly the manner that he is. You can’t agree that we are subject to the same assumptions and limits and then point back to those when inferences are formed within the agreed framework of reality. He can observe other humans, factor in environmental differences, perform introspective exercises, etc. and form inferences based on this information. These are all weighed against a scale of probabilities that take into account humanity’s exiguous experience and limitations, but his method in no way precludes his ability to gather knowledge of human beings.

    Even if it did, that is, even if it wasn’t universal, you still need to present this alternative method that permits you to overcome “naturalistic” limitations.

    As he described below, his objection was to Stella’s assertion that she knows God is merciful. Well, he’s right – it’s an assertion and one that she can’t support. Knowledge is derived from reality, and so far human experience has, without exception, never witnessed a metaphysical or supernatural occurrence within reality that can be supported probabilistically or otherwise. Therefore, unless you are prepared to present an example to the contrary, Tildeb (and I) are within reason to describe knowledge as that which can be derived from nature. Of course, you’re alternative conduit may demonstrate otherwise, but we will see…

  128. I enjoyed your article and wanted to make a few comments. To start, I wanted to tell you about me. I am an agnostic. I do consider myself part of the atheist community because if I were forced to make a guess, I would lean atheist. My wife on the other hand is an agnostic, but leans deist/theist. The reason I am comment is I am also sick of the hypocrisy and lack of logic that is rampant in the atheist community. I have tried to point these things out to the atheist community, only to be attacked. I think my efforts may better serve the religious community. I majored in Religious Studies (not to be confused with theology) and majored in History. I have a minor in Jewish Studies and have taken so many courses in the history/philosophy of science-design arguments, I could major it in (this also includes the evolution-creationism controversy.) The original topic of my Sr. paper was the New Atheists and how they could be considered religious. Basically, what I am saying is my education could not be better suited for this debate. I am here to offer my opinion…

    To start, I could tell right away that you either have a M.Div or a Ph.D. in theology. I have seen your arguments dozens of times. I think some are better than others. The better ones are for the deist god, something like a first mover. Christianity is harder to support, but that is not what I am here to argue about. The point is that your arguments are good for BELIEVERS. It is good that you introduce them to the arguments, but your arguments will not sway an atheist. The reason becomes obvious when looking at the evolution-creationism controversy. The argument is apples and oranges. Atheists are arguing one thing, believers another. They are using a different type of reasoning. What one needs to do is argue the same way they are trying to argue. I will give you an example…

    In your first point, you bring up something that is one of my pet peeves also. Though I do not disagree with your point, it will mean nothing to an atheist. Here is a better way to approach it…They will often bring in Russell’s Teapot, which basically says that the person making the scientifically unfalsifiable claim holds the burden of proof. They say they see no evidence for god, therefore there is no god or no reason to believe in god. The only conclusion we can come to based on no evidence is agnostic, but the atheists make a fatal mistake in assuming a lack of evidence is evidence of absence. They assume that there are only two possible outcomes, theirs, and yours. They are falling victim to a logical fallacy, argumentum ad ignorantiam, or argument from ignorance. This logical fallacy is a type of false dichotomy in which they assume there is only two explanations when in fact, there could be as many as four. The answer could simply be unknown, or unknowable. So when they claim that a lack of evidence for god supports their view, that point is plainly wrong according to basic logic. We did not use theological apologetics and word-plays, nor did we argue apples and oranges. I used basic logic (the thing they claim to be masters of) to show this claim is clearly false. At best, one could claim to be agnostic based on this claim. The problem is that they prefer the term atheist, which is a truth claim.

    On your final point…“Evolution has answered the question of where we came from. There is no need for ignorant ancient myths anymore,” I will start by saying that I agree, but for a different reason. It is hard to tell because you have some conflicting statements, but it appears you do not understand evolution properly. To say that both sides are equally dishonest is simply not true. The problem again is apples and oranges. To get this out of the way, in the first point you mentioned presenting evidence in a court of law. I would not go there. One, a court of law is based on making an argument, it is not science. Two, the courts ruled that creationism is not science, creation science is not science, and Intelligent design is not science, and is religion. At the very least, we can only conclude that they are better at arguing their case….

    But where I think your big problem is, is understanding what evolution is or says. You said “the evolutionist has no commentary whatsoever on the existence of God…” Well of course they do not. Evolution does not attempt to answer the question of there being a god. It does not address the creation of the universe or the origin of life. Evolution is a theory of the change of life over time. In addition to that, it is not incompatible with religion. Darwin was not an atheist (he became an agnostic, but that was due to the death of his daughter, not his theory.) Darwin even talks about God in his theory. The champion of Darwin’s theory, Asa Gray, a Harvard botanist, was a devout Christian. I have actually used Darwin’s theory to SUPPORT Paley’s argument. The only time it becomes an issue is with the literal translation of the Bible. Evolution is a very small part of science. It is only a part of biology. To say evolution=science is wrong.

    You also miss one of the biggest points that the atheists miss. Though they preach science, they forget that the question of God is not a scientific question. Science relies on falsification. The supernatural, or a god, cannot be tested and therefore cannot be falsified. Science has no business talking about the existence of God because it cannot be tested. This is a question of philosophy and I find both views to be logical. Neither one is stupid nor wrong, which is part of the problems with the atheist criticism of believers.

    You should also focus on the history of science and that fact that science and religion are not incompatible. Because science does not address the question of God, it is no concern of scientists. It is also true that science and religion used to be one in the same. It used to be the people of Church that did the science because they were the ones that could read and write. To say that they are incompatible is wrong.

    Finally, evolution is a scientific fact BUT there are things we are not sure of, which you mentioned. There are two major questions that are yet to be answered. 1. How or why the Big Bang? We know that it happened, but we do not know how or why it happened. Could it not be the method of a god to create the universe? A deistic first mover god could be supported by the Big Bang. 2. How did life begin? We know how life changed over time, thanks to evolution, but Darwin’s theory starts AFTER the origin of life. He starts with the premise that life already exists. The fact of the matter is that we have never created life from non-life in a lab. Because of this, it would not be absurd to suggest a theistic god that played a role in the creation of life. These are two very important questions that atheists need to answer if they are going to claim that they know there is no God.

    These are the things one needs to focus on dealing with an atheist.
    One needs to use logic and science, not theology and apologetics. One must point out why their logic is flawed and show why their science is wrong, misleading, or does not support the claim they are making. If I had one suggestion, it would be to clear up your misunderstand of evolution because if you do not understand that correctly, they will dismiss you for a fool. (apples vs. oranges, you need to be arguing the same thing, not something totally different.) Anyways, thanks for the good read,
    Kevin

  129. Thank you Eric for your kind responses. I hope you don’t mind, but at this time I will digress. I have only come to inquire and am glad that I have. You religion seems to do you well. I hope it continues to do you and those around you.

  130. “cannot arbitrate the claim; it takes reality to do this. And if the adduced evidence is compelling, you’ll be the only one surprised if most atheists take the findings very seriously and change their minds. My opinions are only as good as the information that informs them. When encountering better information, i change my mind. This ability seems to be generally lacking in those who claim to be believers in divine agencies.”

    Can present me with evidence or “better information” to change my mind that God doesn’t exist?

  131. No, because that’s a negative claim. All I can do is ask for evidence from reality for the positive claim.

    After all, you inform your beliefs. That’s fine. My issue is whether or not reality supports your claim with compelling evidence so that I, too, can use the same references to inform my belief. When this evidence from reality is lacking and the belief is still held, then all I’m saying is that it should be presented as such, namely, “I believe such and such about reality…” This is a qualitatively different claim – and treated differently – than, “I know such and such.” For that to be the case, I’m saying the word ‘know’ requires a more stringent case based on evidence we can share independent of our beliefs.

    For example, I ‘believe’ my local sports team is going to win the championship because I think they’re really good and I fervently hope this will be the case. But I make a mistake to say I ‘know’ they’re going to win the championship because I simply do not have compelling evidence from reality that can be shared by others to also determine that this claim is accurate and well informed by reality. After all, the championship game hasn’t even been played so there is no means yet available to adduce evidence to establish the accuracy of the actual claim. There is a qualitative difference in what informs the claim – belief/hope it is so, and evidence independent of beliefs to demonstrate its accuracy.

    When people confuse these two methods of how claims about reality are informed, we get a cross-over between belief and reality, a confusion between belief/hope and knowledge. Belief imposed on reality as if accurate is not trustworthy in terms of accuracy arbitrated by reality (by the championship game being played and the winner established) . Belief adduced from evidence that reality provides (the game has been played and my beliefs/hopes either validated or dashed) is much more accurate. The term ‘know’ indicates a very high level of confidence; we should reserve the word for the method that produces it, namely, independent verification that is consistent and reliable that describes reality as it is rather than how we hope it will be… a condition of reality accessible to anyone (here are the reports, here are the pictures and film captured by many sources, here is the trophy, and so on).

    When we don’t exert this discipline in our terminology, we present our confidence inappropriately and can easily be fooled. After all, this is exactly how snake oil salesmen, magicians, and theologians of all stripes earn their living… by making claims about reality that are not informed by reality’s arbitration of them; they are informed by confidence people place in them. These are not the same quality of accuracy. We don’t have to support them by pretending their claims are as well informed by reality as claims that are. We need to remember the difference and exercise our skepticism appropriately.

  132. Reply to Culpeper above.

    This:

    “So, the big question is, what is this alternative conduit that you are referring to? How are truth-values discerned within this alternative methodology”

    And this:

    “You can’t agree that we are subject to the same assumptions and limits and then point back to those when inferences are formed within the agreed framework of reality. He can observe other humans, factor in environmental differences, perform introspective exercises, etc. and form inferences based on this information. These are all weighed against a scale of probabilities that take into account humanity’s exiguous experience and limitations, but his method in no way precludes his ability to gather knowledge of human beings.”

    Do we have an “agreed framework of reality”? It doesn’t seem to me that we have scratched the surface as to an agreed framework of reality. You both seem to be using the term to mean something like observable nature in general, but is this “reality”? For me, a true “knowing” of reality entails knowing the “ding an sich,” the thing as such, which constitutes observable nature. For Kant this underlying reality was simply unknowable, at least to the senses, yet it is constitutive of everything observable. The best one can say is that they have a knowledge of nature as it presents itself and as we interpret it through sensory and linguistic filters (unless one wants to go the quantum physics route, which is fair game, and devastating to classic materialism). To simply assert that reality is whatever is predictable about the mechanical workings of nature and is open to human manipulation to produce “technologies, therapies…” and whatever else the initial line was, is to provide a very sterile and surface understanding of “reality.” For me, it is to provide no understanding of reality, strictly speaking.

    This is why I’m perfectly comfortable with MN as a pragmatic approach to the sciences, but not as an approach to all avenues of knowledge, and it seems that both of you now agree with this to varying degrees. If we admit from the start that knowledge cannot entail certainty (even so-called objective knowledge in the strict sense), then certainty is not a requirement for other avenues of “knowing.” Knowing ourselves and knowing fellow human beings is a perfect example. If one were to posit MN as the only method of “knowing” (which tildeb implicitly held at first) then we are wholly cut off from knowing ourselves or others. If I were to tell you that I know my wife is merciful, I would not be handing you a natural tautology, but rather my experience with her. That experience is justified as “knowledge” within the rubric of interpersonal relationships. A Christian is in a Person-to-person relationship with God, thus such comments are justified (not “proveable,” let’s be clear). The atheist is also justified in denying such a relationship, but he does so from his given philosophical presuppositions concerning God, not by demonstration.

    Relate this back to Stella’s statement that she “knows” God is merciful and it is clear why an objection to her usage of “know” based strictly on an MN framework is out of court.

    Lastly:

    “his objection was to Stella’s assertion that she knows God is merciful. Well, he’s right – it’s an assertion and one that she can’t support. Knowledge is derived from reality, and so far human experience has, without exception, never witnessed a metaphysical or supernatural occurrence within reality that can be supported probabilistically or otherwise.”

    This line that “so far human experience has, without exception, never witnessed…” is perhaps the most unsupportable and speculative thing I’ve heard you say yet. Or it may just be that you have witness all events and have been present with every human being throughout history to make such a verifiable claim. If so, forgive me. You certainly have not been present with me, this I can verify, and I have witnessed supernatural occurrences, though for me to “know” them does not require me to support them via MN and present them to a peer review committee to sign off on their legitimacy.

    Knowledge is indeed derived from reality. Your reality begins and ends in philosophical naturalism (or so it seems, feel free to correct me). Our reality begins with He who is intentionally excluded from the MN process. And that’s fine. I would have it no other way. That faith is based on inner experience, revelatory knowledge, relationship with the divine, etc., is faith’s greatest strength for those who are really interested in “reality.” To make faith condescend to pure objectivity is logical absurdity. The truth is subjectivity. 🙂

    I can’t imagine that I have more to deposit in this discussion with regards to making the point I set out to make, so this may be my last reply (unless something wholly original springs from your next reply). We will surely have to agree to disagree with our given understandings of “reality” and “knowing”. That’s to be expected. Please feel free to have the last word. Thanks again, both of you, for a very interesting discussion. Cheers.

  133. Kevin, thanks for your reply. Great to have you on board. It is interesting that you and at least a few other commentators have noted my apparent misunderstanding of evolution. This is a bit mysterious to me in that I make the claim that evolution does not address origins or the existence of God and then the criticism follows that I don’t understand the fact that evolution does not address origins or the existence of God (*scratches head*). Seeing that you are articulate and reasonable it must be that I made myself misunderstandable in the way in which I stated my point. My only reason for making the point was because I very often witness atheists using evolution as a cover-all for these issues, and many Christians taking the bait. The fact that evolution speaks to a very narrow field of organic development is why I find it to be so boring in atheist vs. Christian banters; it does not touch on the bigger issues of existence, but it is still treated by many as the ultimate theistic take-down. I hope that helps to clear the air.

    Cheers.

  134. I know she killed her daughter. How do I know this? Because I believe it. On what evidence is my belief based? I don’t need evidence because my belief suffices. It isn’t slander because I have freedom of speech.

    Not good enough for the courts to accept, thankfully, and not good enough for your claim that belief is sufficient to define what is known (no matter how much sophisticated philosophical spinning you do).

  135. Yes, it was your wording. You said
    “The evolutionist has no commentary whatsoever on the existence of God…”

    My response to that is “well of course they don’t, why would they? Evolution does not deal with the existence of God.”
    At the end, you then stated

    “As far as where we come from, evolution has barely scratched the purely scientific surface of the matter. Even if the whole project of evolution as an account of our history was without serious objection, it would still not answer the problem of the origin of life, since the option of natural selection as an explanation is not available when considering how dead or inorganic matter becomes organic. Even more complicated is the matter of where matter came from. The ‘Big Bang’ is not an answer to origins but rather a description of the event by which everything came into being;”

    This made me think that maybe you did understand the difference between evolution and other scientific theories. I just was not sure based on these statements. Thank you for clarifying. You are correct that evolution is just a small part that does not address bigger issues. That is why I say evolution-creation arguments are apples and oranges. They are arguing two different things, which is why you find it boring. I guess I would just like people to realize that they are arguing about two different things…

  136. If you don’t understand the link between creationist beliefs about human origins and their incompatibility with science in general and evolution in particular, then you cannot possibly appreciate why atheists use evolution in their arguments about why Intelligent Design and Genesis creation myths should not be taught in the science classroom.

  137. If this was directed at me, trust me, I understand the argument in depth. ID and creationism should not be taught in the science class room because they are not science. In Kitzmiller v. Dover the court ruled that ID is NOT science and IS religion. Period.

  138. @kevin

    You write Though they preach science (what atheists preach science?), they forget that the question of God is not a scientific question. Science relies on falsification. The supernatural, or a god, cannot be tested and therefore cannot be falsified. Science has no business talking about the existence of God because it cannot be tested.

    There is a lot wrong with this paragraph.

    First, atheists don’t preach science. They respect its method.

    Secondly, it’s not a question of ‘forgetfulness’ regarding the god hypothesis. And it is a hypothesis if it is used as a foundation for causal claims… something believers actually do that you conveniently seem to forget. That claim about god being a causal agent makes the existence of god a scientific concern and the effects attributed to this divine agency open to scientific inquiry. If someone is going to claim causal effect from an agency in this universe, then they are going to assume the burden of proof to demonstrate its existence. The excuse of god being unavailable for falsifiability because its supernatural and therefore exempt from this requirement is accommodationist claptrap that privileges this specific belief in such a causal agency from assuming the burden of proof that accompanies all other causal claims. After all, if there’s no burden to carry, then on what basis can any confidence be granted to whatever informs such a belief? Imagine someone claiming that demons were interfering with their water pipes and, when asked to produce evidence for the claim that demons were the responsible causal agents, he or she pointed to the reduced water flow and insisted that was sufficient. After all, your reasoning goes, one couldn’t possibly question the assertion that the demons are actually the causal agents because they are supernatural and therefore not falsifiable. Bunk! Your argument here is really, really poor. Don’t shift the burden of proof for causal claims to those reasonably asking for it; keep the burden it where it properly belongs: to those making these kinds of causal claims.

    Thirdly, falsification is only one part of the scientific method and not its central plank.

    Fourthly, claims that cannot be tested are simply beliefs. And people believe all kinds of stuff. That doesn’t make them wrong; it makes keeps them as beliefs from becoming knowledge. That’s why causal claims about god are just that: beliefs. Forming public policies on such beliefs – religious or otherwise – is usually very foolish. Public policies based on knowledge are usually much wiser.

    Fifthly, keep in mind that you can sometimes find creationist beliefs without religion but you will never find religious beliefs without creationist beliefs. When there is incompatibility between claims about reality made by science and religion, and reality tests the scientific claim successfully, why is it that over two thirds of all adults in the US will continue to believe in the religious claim? Does ‘science’ have any business confronting this incompatibility or should we as a population simply shrug and walk away and let policies based on evidence adduced from reality sit idle while believers happily go about their denialism? I’m thinking specifically of climate change caused by human activity but believed by many christians to be contrary to god’s promise, believed by many to be unsettled science, believed by many to be alarmist, belieed by many to be unjustified, believed by many to be a left wing plot to make money, believed by many to yada, yada, yada. On what merit do we do nothing while we allow those who believe differently – from what so many climate scientists, military planners, and every major scientific body in the world are telling us – to deny this reality and keep public policies strictly neutral (so that we don;t hurt anyone’s feelings about the quality of their beliefs) so that we can carry on as normal, and watch the world become more and more inhospitable to man because of our actions and inaction? Is this not the height of of colossal stupidity?

    Your line of reasoning here is deeply problematic. It is done in the service of pretending that unjustified beliefs (the same quality as those that inform some public policies) are equivalent to claims to knowledge and are therefore worthy of equal respect. They’re not. And that’s why so many atheists go after the method used to arrive at beliefs that make causal claims about reality: it doesn’t work to produce knowledge deserving of confidence, deserving of respect, deserving of the claim that it produces equivalent ways of knowing. And that fact matters when – not if – incompatible claims using these incompatible methods inquiring into reality are made that produce incompatible results. Yeah, there’s no sign of any incompatibility here at all. Just move along…

  139. I am not going to argue with you on someone else’s blog. If you want to argue, contact me in a different way and maybe try to find out a little more about me or what I am actually saying because you made a lot of incorrect assumptions. But do not waste your time because I do not argue with atheists. I find no value is trying to talk to someone that already knows all of the answers.

  140. I don’t want to argue. I want to show you why you need to correct your assertions that you stated here. I don’t care that you state it differently elsewhere. It doesn’t change what you said here by alluding that if I knew you better I’d understand better what you’re saying here. There is obvious need to correct what you’ve said here and I’ve done that for you. You’re welcome.

    You are a typical anti-atheist basing your assumptions on your own beliefs and willing to do drive-by smears on other people’s blogs. Bully for you. But, as I’ve pointed here, your claims are deeply problematic. Ignoring that fact isn’t going to make them go away.

  141. Drive-by smears? You think that is what I did? You think I came by here just to leave a stupid comment and be a bully? If you think I was bullying or insulting Eric, you need to work on your reading comprehension…

  142. It is your lucky day. Since the kids are out of the house, and I have nothing better to do, I will break policy and engage. I will try to make it simpler so that you can follow a little better…

    1. The preaching science thing was a joke. But let’s not even pretend that militant atheists do not come off as religious…

    2. I never said that theists do not have to validate their claims. My point was that a lack of evidence is not evidence to support the idea that there is no god. This is a logical fallacy, argument from ignorance. So if you are going to assert that there is no god, that claim must also be supported. The intellectually honest conclusion is agnostic (we do not know or cannot know.) If that is your conclusion, I suggest that you use the word agnostic, and not atheist. Do not start the semantics game about atheist and agnostic being the same thing.

    3. I could scan my intro to scientific reasoning book, but Wikipedia does a good enough job with this one…

    “Falsifiability or refutability of a statement, hypothesis, or theory is an inherent possibility to prove it to be false. A statement is called falsifiable if it is possible to conceive an observation or an argument which proves the statement in question to be false. In this sense, falsify is synonymous with nullify, meaning not “to commit fraud” but “show to be false”. Some philosophers argue that science must be falsifiable.[1]

    For example, by the problem of induction, no number of confirming observations can verify a universal generalization, such as All swans are white, yet it is logically possible to falsify it by observing a single black swan. Thus, the term falsifiability is sometimes synonymous to testability. Some statements, such as It will be raining here in one million years, are falsifiable in principle, but not in practice.[2]

    The concern with falsifiability gained attention by way of philosopher of science Karl Popper’s scientific epistemology “falsificationism”. Popper stresses the problem of demarcation—distinguishing the scientific from the unscientific—and makes falsifiability the demarcation criterion, such that what is unfalsifiable is classified as unscientific, and the practice of declaring an unfalsifiable theory to be scientifically true is pseudoscience. This is often epitomized in Wolfgang Pauli famously saying, of an argument that fails to be scientific because it cannot be falsified by experiment, “it is not only not right, it is not even wrong!””

    Principle of Falsification:

    Being unrestricted, scientific theories cannot be verified by any possible accumulation of observational evidence. The formation of hypothesis is a creative process of the imagination and is not a passive reaction to observed regularities. A scientific test consists in a persevering search for negative, falsifying instances. If a hypothesis survives continuing and serious attempts to falsify it, then it has “proved its mettle” and can be provisionally accepted, but it can never be established conclusively. Later corroboration generates a series of hypothesis into a scientific theory.

    Thus, the core element of a scientific hypothesis is that it must be capability of being proven false. For example, the hypothesis that “atoms move because they are pushed by small, invisible, immaterial demons” is pseudo-science since the existence of the demons cannot be proven false (i.e. cannot be tested at all). -Excerpt from the Encyclopedia Britannica

    If you are still going to say I am wrong, provide something to support your claim.

    4.
    be•lief
    noun \bə-ˈlēf\
    : a feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true
    : a feeling that something is good, right, or valuable
    : a feeling of trust in the worth or ability of someone

    I believe in evolution because of the overwhelming scientific evidence for you. Before you tell me that I do not believe in it, I “accept it…”

    ac•cept
    verb
    1. Consent to receive (a thing offered).
    “he accepted a pen as a present”
    2. Believe or come to recognize (an opinion, explanation, etc.) as valid or correct.

    You are making up your own definition for words so that they fit your argument.

    5. I participate in the scholarly and scientific study of religion, which you probably did not know existed. I could explain it to you, but you would probably disregard what I have to say.

    6. My reasoning is pretty straight forward. Sorry if you were unable to understand it. Your problem is you were reading into it and assuming I was arguing FOR theism. I never did that.

  143. Tildeb, I posted my reply here as I can’t reply after each statement using my phone. Here it is:
    Am I a detective or perhaps a lawyer in court where I have to produce proof or evidence for every statement I make? Exhibit A for my belief: correction knowledge in a merciful God? I guess everything I have read, seen, experienced and felt and thought.
    You remind me of that federal judge in ‘The Good Wife’ who insisted that the lawyers always end with ‘in my opinion…’
    I am just a simple person expressing my belief…in my opinion…your honour.

  144. Kevin, I hope you dont mind me saying this but I truly enjoyed reading your replies. I found them simple yet effective and informative.

  145. Well, Eric, I appreciate your last comment. It was informative in the sense that I now understand where you’re coming from and what you meant by several of your previous objections. I wish, however, that you would have simply stated that you’re a proponent of Kant’s transcendental epistemology, and I suppose I should have picked up on that since you implied as much a few times. At any rate, I largely agree with Kant, but there are some inconsistencies within his work, that, and forgive me, I can barely recall right now — despite willingly engaging in this discussion, epistemology is not my main focus. However, one minor objection that I do recall has often been rebuked by linguistic limitations, which I think you even anticipated by saying, “The best one can say is that they have a knowledge of nature as it presents itself and as we interpret it through sensory and linguistic filters.”

    I’m not entirely satisfied by this response – that is, arguing that our language does not permit us to discuss the noumena. It seems dismissive because this is an overt epistemic problem within his theory – how can you know that the unknowable exists? I understand the deduction but I’d need to refresh my memory before committing either way. Also, if I remember correctly, we need something to stand still in order to arrange our memories temporally. This “thing,” for lack of a better word, is the noumena or exists in the noumenal world. But he also states that there isn’t a causal relation between the phenomenal and noumenal worlds; and moreover, that cause and effect do not exist in the noumenal world at all (how he determines what is and isn’t within an unknowable reality, again, seems strange). Regardless, I appreciate the conversation because you’ve renewed my interests in this topic.

    Now, your other comments:

    Is certainty a criteria of knowledge? No, of course not. I admitted as much but with a caveat; that is, probabilities determine truth-values. You instanced your wife’s benevolence and then applied that to Stella’s original statement. I don’t think these are analogous. Your wife’s existence can be falsified and God’s cannot – at least not phenomenally (if we admit the existence of two separate worlds). Since your wife’s existence and benevolence can be demonstrated, I think this represents a more likely proposition. Thus, it is reasonable even to the outsider for you to claim knowledge of her benevolence; the same cannot be said with regard to God.

    My own position is simple on the supernatural or miraculous: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Testimony is permitted so long as it concurs with humanity’s collective experience. Humanity’s collective experience is the source of our causal expectations. Our causal expectations provide the foundation for natural laws. Supernatural occurrences either break those laws or occur so infrequently that they appear to be supernatural (the second, in my opinion, is more likely attributed to humanity’s limited experience). Thus, testimony is secondary to empirical evidence, and the evidence must be proportional to the claim.

    By the way, even if we concede that the noumenal world exists, what is the criteria for determining what exists within it? Is anything permitted? For instance, I have an idea of unicorns; this idea cannot be demonstrated phenomenally, but it exists in my mind. Does my idea originate in the noumenal, or is it chimerically constructed from phenomenal impressions? I suppose we really don’t have a say, correct? So this argument merely permits the possibility of an alternate world – one where, essentially, anything is permitted. I don’t think this really supports the God argument one way or the other, but then again, that wasn’t your goal; rather, we were discussing what “knowledge” is. Thanks for your time and insightful responses. If you choose to respond, please don’t make me pull your teeth out to get a straight answer. 🙂

  146. Haha, Culpeper, you’ve been a delight. Honestly. I wish you lived in town, I’d take you out for coffee regularly just to pick your brain. Cheer my friend.

  147. I honestly enjoyed this and I’m happy we ran across your article. I still think the arguments in the article are too simplistic, and I obviously don’t agree with them for various reasons, but you’ve demonstrated that you didn’t arrive at them uncritically. I can respect that and appreciate the time you’ve taken to clarify your thoughts. Coffee would be nice, by the way. If you’re ever in Santa Cruz I have a philosophy club that does just that — meets for coffee once a month. We could use another theist to keep us on our toes! 🙂 Take care.

  148. I am just a simple person expressing my belief…in my opinion…

    And yet I think you don’t really believe that! (Irony, I know.) That’s why I crafted my reply to indicate that I understood perfectly well that you believed this to be the case but presented it as a knowledge claim. I also think this really does matter far more than it merely being a semantic complaint or you would have responded to me quite differently. I think you really want your belief to be understood as a knowledge claim independent of your belief and are chuffed that I take the time to say, “Not so fast…” And I do this because I think more of us need to remind ourselves that there really is a difference and we should honestly represent that difference in our claims… not for politeness’ sake or semantics but because it’s true..

  149. I have absouletly nothing to prove. When I said I know God is merciful I was just expressing how I honestly feel – not trying to start an argument or mislead anybody. This is reality to me. I forget not everyone thinks or believes like me but I live in an orthodox country where it’s taken for granted that everybody has the same belief. Your reality is different to mine. Your truth is not my truth. To say I really don’t know but merely believe that God is merciful would be denying my beliefs. I am so sure it’s true. I feel it in my heart, in my soul. You are entitled to believe whatever your conscience tells you about the world, life, people. Do you follow your conscience or scientifically evaluate everything before proceeding?
    I must move on this isn’t my blog and I feel I have said too much on here. I am no priest, no theologian, no scholar, no philosopher. I am not even an expert on anything.

  150. Hi Culpeper, Just wanted some clarification from you please. – Earlier in this blog, (24th March), I attempted to describe, to Eric, an experience I once had that I’d never experienced before and never since. After my experience I discovered others who describe the same. Words cannot do justice to this experience and, without the experience, one cannot imagine it. So, on the basis of your “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, would you deny my testimony that I have had this extraordinary experience, or, would you merely treat it as irrelevant because I do not claim that it has any bearing on you? Or what else?

  151. Hi dichasium. I looked for the specific comment but I could not find it. Regardless, I’ll try to answer your question, but I’m fairly certain that this will be unsatisfying for you.

    First, in order to inspect your claim properly I need to understand what kind of experience this was. That is, did it violate a natural law or was it coincidentally unlikely? Second, I think it’s incumbent to examine supernatural claims in the same manner that we examine natural claims – granting primacy to evidence, but also permitting human testimony (I’ll explain in more detail below).

    Now, if you agree that it was the latter – a coincidentally unlikely event – then we can, I think, examine three possible causes.

    1. It was a supernatural occurrence
    2. It was a natural occurrence that humanity has yet to witness
    3. You were mistaken – the effects were not as you experienced them

    The next step becomes a matter of probabilities – where 1 is the least probable and 3 is the most probable. I think this is fairly straightforward, but if you disagree with the order of probabilities I can explain my reasoning. Since this possibility is not commonly assented to, I will move to the next – events that violate natural laws.

    Before I do, however, one agreement must be made between us: regardless of whichever definition is proposed, the event is being investigated with a general accord to natural laws. That is to say, that a law of nature has been firmly assented to by both parties. For if such an accord was nonexistent, you would have no basis to define it as supernatural. And this accord is applicable irrespective of one’s views on the laws of nature (i.e. necessary laws vs. probabilistic laws). Thus, if one were examining an argument wherein nomological impossibilities were raised, the acceptance or rejection of this argument, although provisional, is possible because both parties agree on the applicable law of nature; provisional, though, because future evidence may refine our understanding of the law. Likewise, the collection of human experience is sufficient to render an extraordinary claim either probable or improbable. So, if a supernatural event is to be designated as sufficiently justified, favorable evidence is necessary.

    Be that as it may, evidence of even ordinary events does not, generally speaking, last forever; rather, sometimes it is only momentarily available for review. Thus, if we agree that it should, at a minimum, be possible to falsify supernatural claims, you may argue that falsifiability is only momentarily available. This theoretical issue then seems to lend substance to the importance of human testimony. That is, inasmuch as we prefer to examine evidence directly, we are often relegated to the testimony of others. Moreover, since we have insisted on examining supernatural events by the same standards of ordinary events – we are requiring empirical evidence for justificatory purposes – testimony, which is often assented to in the course of ordinary events, should also be permitted for extraordinary events (as I said above).

    As a result, it is necessary to evaluate the verisimilitude offered by human testimony. I don’t think I need to go into the problem of induction, but essentially, it is the cause behind relegating human testimony as secondary to empirical evidence – we are prone to mistakes. False conclusions are often induced from true premises, and false premises can ultimately lead to false conclusions. The fallibility of this method – inductive reasoning – is thus the derivation of our hesitancy to assent to testimony. Nonetheless, human testimony is both useful and necessary in our daily lives. The usefulness of human testimony, however, is conditional on its congruity with the expected and regular conjunctions of cause and effect – should human testimony be in opposition to such principles, we ought to discard it. That is, we should ask what is more likely, that the testimony is authentic – insofar as its veracity is concerned – or the individual is mistaken. In doing so, we find that human testimony is always the lesser of the two justificatory methods available to us, and thus, empirical evidence takes precedence over testimony.

    Returning to empirical evidence, though, presents a problem for you. For in my concession that miracles are possible, you are obligated to produce evidence in support of your claims. But by the nature of our accord you have essentially confessed that this burden is nearly impossible to maintain; for by recognizing the regularity of the laws of nature, you should recognize the difficulty in demonstrating an infringement of these laws. The evidence of the supposed intrusion, moreover, must be proportional to the unusualness of the event. In other words, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Thus, even though certainties are impossible, the evidence of supernatural events appears to be permanently skewed in my favor. Still, that they are improbable does not preclude their possibility, and given this, we simply return to the more fundamental question: Is their evidence that supernatural agents exist, which are said to perform such miracles?

    So, would I deny that you had an extraordinary experience? No, you may have; or, rather, you thought you had an extraordinary experience. It is very unlikely, however, that you actually did. And if you feel it necessary to assure others that you did, in fact, experience such an event, their insistence on evidence is not unreasonable. Would I treat it as irrelevant? No, not necessarily. It’s relevant for you, which is fine but you shouldn’t expect to convince others of its truth (not that you do expect this). And it’s not entirely irrelevant for me because I find these claims to be interesting regardless of their veracity. People believe in them, and I like to understand why they believe in them – whether the claims are true is secondary to my interest. I hope this answers your question.

  152. Pingback: This Week's Best in Catholic Apologetics | DavidLGray.INFO

  153. Thank you very much Culpeper. It is a pity that you could not be specific to my experience as I would like to see how your comments can be applied to it. In case you wish to have a go for me I’ve copied it at the end of my comments on your current reply.

    It does indeed seem to be coincidentally unlikely as both the sadness and guilt at taking the life of a perfect seedling (with all its potential) and the following experience/sensation were completely isolated in my life with nothing to judge them by. But, they may well be coincidentally inevitable, as far as I know. Did they break a natural law? – well it’s certainly not an experience that anyone can verify for themselves, as far as I know. But it may be a natural law that some of humanity has yet to experience and some, or all, have yet to properly understand.

    To me, it seems a contradiction to expect to examine the supernatural in the same way as the natural. It also seems to put a bias on the matter. Though, I cannot see how the supernatural is to be judged.

    If I were to follow the steps you have laid I would come to the same conclusion. However, an experience such as my very peculiar one, does make one reconsider. All the more intriguing when the conclusion formed by those who have not experienced it, is that, in all probability, you did not experience what you describe! (It reminds me of those who have not experienced clinical depression and are dismissive of the experiences. In fact they are totally without the appropriate tools for understanding it. But don’t let this stand as an example to argue against, as, I do not need it but, it is at least, similar in some ways, if not all, and may be helpful as an analogy.)

    I certainly do believe it to be extraordinary by any assessment, and whatever words I try to describe it with I personally know how I experienced it. And on that basis, I think the claims made by some of an experience of a benevolent and omnipotent God could well be a fact known only to some. (There is also sense to be found as to why some alone would have this experience).

    (I can’t help wondering if your profession is in law. Do you mind me asking?)

    Here’s my earlier description to Eric ( he replied that he had experienced something similar but not the same). If you can find time to comment, I would be grateful for any input:
    …….‘So, your mention of Dionysius the Areopagite caught my attention and I looked up a tiny piece of his work. In it he was speaking of the great darkness and the unknowing (& non-existing, I think – I’ll read more later). It reminded me of the weirdest experience I once had and later found many types of people also had. We all use similar language to describe it and it is instantly recognisable to those who share it. I found that some describe it as an epiphany. A place where nothing (including oneself) seems to exists, there is no time, movement or light. I fell into this strange state as I knelt, feeling so terribly sad that I had pulled out the most beautiful and perfectly made weed! I had taken its life, killed it. I find it very interesting’,…

  154. Dichasium, I always enjoy stories like this because they help mitigate my ever increasing misanthropy. They can, however, be slightly irritating (I hope that doesn’t offend you). That is, somehow believers of the supernatural have taken ownership over emotions. Elation, grief, hope, fear, love, hate and empathy (in this specific case) are not in any way supernatural. They are natural expressions that humanity has developed in response to various conditions. It does not follow that because your particular example was remarkably sensational, that it was caused by something beyond the natural or normal order of things.

    I don’t say this to try and marginalize your experience, but perhaps to bring the experience into focus. You had, presumably, experienced emotions prior to this, for instance. So, even though this particular event was more vivacious, it did represent, to some degree, the product of a previously formed causal expectation. That is, the destruction of a living creature, or the sadness that accompanies witnessing something’s potential remain forever unfulfilled. These feeling, granted, may have only ever applied to humans prior to this experience, but you surely felt them. For instance, hearing that a baby died in a car accident – think of all the emotions associated with this tragedy (e.g. grief that the baby will never fulfill its potential, etc.). You probably felt empathy towards the child, or perhaps towards the parents, etc. Are each of these representative of coincidentally unlikely occurrences? No, of course not. If you’re interested, Derren Brown recently filmed a television show where he demonstrated how easy it is to invoke religious experiences in others. He, momentarily, converted a lifelong atheist. This demonstrates the power of subconscious triggers. Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51B8MzcxOX0

    Now, you may perceive emotions as expressions that naturalism cannot explain, but I would strongly object. That claim would, furthermore, be enormously unsupported. We have very reasonable naturalistic theories behind the development of emotions and emotional behavior – even extreme behaviors such as altruism. You would need to posit equally as reasonable theories, with the same level of evidence that is being utilized to form the natural ones. Which leads me to “my bias” and “contradictory” approach to examining these claims.

    First, if there is a bias it has been developed by the same method that we use to determine the “truths” of everything else we experience. If I lift a rock above my head and let it go, it will fall towards the Earth. After witnessing this a few times, I can form an expectation of what will occur before actually doing it. This same approach is used when people say, for instance, that they can find water by dowsing. Multiple attempts at reproducing this within the confines of an objective experiment have manifested negative results. We therefore have concluded that dowsing is nonsense. When someone tells me they can find water by dowsing, the expectation formed from previous experiences tells me they are mistaken without having to conduct any tests. I therefore have formed a bias towards people who claim they can find water by dowsing. Now, additional tests are always permitted, but after repeatedly producing negative results, I think it’s fair to discard such notions without further appeal to experimentation. So, if I have a bias it was developed on the shoulders of humanity’s collective expectations. And, moreover, a single example to the contrary of all previous events would eradicate this bias and ignite a renewed interest in whatever has been demonstrated – withholding a modified expectation until further demonstrations have been produced.

    Second, you’re quite right in saying that it is contradictory to expect to examine the supernatural in the same way that we examine the natural. You’re right because by definition these notions are logically complimentary. Which leads to a problem: how can we falsify a violation of the laws of nature when we are confined to test such claims within the framework of the very laws we presume were violated? JL Mackie proposed that such occurrences should be recognizable as intrusions; but then he failed to provide a criteria for identifying intrusions, or discerning between an actual intrusion and an event hitherto unexperienced. I don’t have an answer for you. But then again, I am not the one claiming that supernatural events occur. I have, I think, been fairly generous in conceding that they are possible (even though my conditions for possibilities extend to everything). At any rate, it is up to the proponent to demonstrate the veracity of the claim. And this, as Kevin Stern proffered earlier, could be construed as an argumentum ad ignorantium, but I respectfully reject this assertion, because I have mounds of evidence that demonstrates the naturalistic properties of the universe. This is not an evidence of absence fallacy; this is an absence of evidence argument – one wherein negative results are posited as proof to the contrary. That is, nearly every natural phenomenon that was at one time believed to be the effect of some supernatural agent, has, without exception, been demonstrated to be the effect of a natural cause. Those that have yet to be definitively understood neither support nor refute the supernatural, but all of our previous experiences point to natural causes.

    I am sorry for the book. I’d rather cut this short, but since you asked: Until about 6 months ago I worked in electromagnetics. I returned to school to pursue a formal education in history/philosophy, however. Since law and philosophy have always been closely related, I suspect that’s where you drew the inference. 🙂

  155. Thanks again for your effort Culpeper. I should begin by making it clear that I’m not offended at all and I’m sure you won’t be either, we have better uses for our words. I am surprised though. Let me explain please, though I’ll probably say more than is necessary!

    ‘Elation, grief, hope, fear, love, hate and empathy (in this specific case) are not in any way supernatural. It does not follow that because your particular example was remarkably sensational, that it was caused by something beyond the natural or normal order of things’ – OMG! (please excuse me, any Christians out there). It always comes as a shock to discover what people think they need to explain, especially, when I think I’ve made my focus clear to them. I was not offering the experience in itself as any evidence of God, but merely to suggest that there are extreme positions (beyond our normal experiences), like empathy for a seedling, which can move one (without ones own doing), into experiences not previously known, maybe not experienced again, and not experienced by some others. As such, I suggest that religious experience may be working along the same lines. But this leaves open the question, (I was aiming at), of what is it that ‘moves’ us into such extreme states, which we could not imagine before in order to bring ourselves to it. I know about universal love for strangers, even for those who it would be easy to hate, and for the earth itself, but knowing it is not sufficient to explain it or the place/sensation that followed mine. I wanted to see if you accepted that part of it.

    To move onto your dousing example. I expect you will be aware that hazel wood bends down to increased air humidity which is likely to be above water saturated ground, it’s just that people who make exaggerated claims will disappoint many (you’re not alone in being fed up with that). The problem is that once you dismiss an idea (or people), you are less likely to find yourself so open to further demonstration. It would indeed have to intrude upon you. I think with the question of god we need to make a little effort to be available for the intrusion or other demonstration. (I had to try the arguments against a benevolent and omnipotent God to be confident that God is a definite possibility, rather than just not knowing if one is possible.)

    It is certainly reasonable to ask others what evidence they have for their claims but I’m sure it is even better to work with ones own methods. The old argument that you can’t prove a negative is responded to with ‘who says it’s a negative?’ The point being that if you look to prove a negative, you are more likely to find one and the same for positives. So, as usual, we go round in circles.

    But, regardless of all that, to sum up: I am fully aware of all that you speak of (the inciting of strong emotional reactions included), and have put it all to good use in my life. But none of it applies to what I was saying. However, regardless of missing my actual point (no doubt my failure to be clear), you have stated that you are still open to the possibility. That is the main thing, I believe. I’m not sure how you’re interpretation of my previous quest mitigates your tendency to misanthropy, but, I must say that I also think badly of us humans, but that, for me, is mitigated by hope! I like to think of a benevolent God in our lives but I would not act differently if there is not one. Having said that from my current position, it is interesting though, that had I not heard of and considered Jesus’ all inclusive kind of love, it may not have dawned upon me and I may not have had the choice of aiming for it, or forgiving myself and others for our failures. 🙂 Best wishes.

  156. … what is it that ‘moves’ us into such extreme states, which we could not imagine before in order to bring ourselves to it?

    Trying to find explanations for just these kinds of questions is (I think) cut short by alluding to an outside agency that might be supernatural. Once you go there, you’ve left the room of reality and entered the room of the imagination and wishful thinking. These are not synonyms not equivalent ways of knowing. And that’s why harp about methodology because how you approach trying to find an explanation really impacts its knowable quality.

    The ‘it’ you mention is what we’re after. Because experiences like yours are so powerful and even transformative does not justify empowering belief to rule the day unless you are willing to stop looking in reality for explanations and substitute what comes from you. And this is way to guarantee that you fool yourself into thinking your beliefs about reality are synonymous with reality. And all of us do this far too much… me included. But I try to be aware of my predisposition to do this and do my best to stop myself from falling into this cozy trap of my own making.

    I think there are really good explanations about why we not only have these kinds of experiences but jump so easily and willingly into attributing them to being caused by outside agencies (divine or otherwise). And I think we tend to do this because it serves a biological purpose (such as feeling that my coffee maker didn’t just break but chose to stop working at just this moment to piss me off and remind me of its importance – long neglected – in my life). We do this (our mirror neurons activate emotional responses to external stimuli) to put ourselves in place of the affecting element to try to better understand its motivations and intentions by using ourselves as references. That’s why I think the best explanation for how you responded to your experience will eventually come out of neuroscience and not religion. After all, religion isn’t in the business of furthering human knowledge; it’s in the business of gaining and maintaining adherents. That’s why religions lay claim to anything and everything that can further this goal. That doesn’t make any of its claims true or false but it sure raises a red flag about its motivations.

  157. Wrong tildeb – yours is along the same lines as Culpeper’s response. Mine is pure enquiry and no alluding to outside agency. This is what the discussion is about! I’m purely saying there is more that we do not know, so we cannot yet rule out a God of Jesus’ description, unless anyone knows how to completely. The religions you speak of I am not part of. I am more than willing to accept the evolution and neurons answers, but think that God (if he existed) would have sound and good reason to use evolution and our neurons for his ways forward ( will not go into this), but I will be first in line for acknowledging that this may not be factual at all. Your type of response shows a great willingness to ignore what you’ve heard – you’ve apparently rushed into repeating your current thinking without due attention to my words. I made sure that I was clear about it this time. Best wishes.

  158. Dichasium, I honestly think Tildeb’s response was spot on, and I don’t think I can add anything else to it. Furthermore, I don’t think I misunderstood your original question/experience. In fact, I addressed (1) theorizing that such emotions are caused by supernatural agents; (2) I suggested a video that illustrates the power of subconscious triggers; and (3) tersely described why we should expect to discover naturalistic causes for events that we currently don’t have definitive answers for.

    I am open to the possibility, but like I said, all of our experiences until now have pointed towards a naturalistic universe. You may argue that supernatural events occur, and that people like you and Eric experience them, but we have never attributed an event, with any degree of confidence – the kind of confidence derived from demonstrability – to a supernatural cause. Never. My bias is not the result of turning a blind eye towards these possibilities, it is the result of looking. That search brought me here, and the only thing that is going to change it is evidence. Appeals to our ignorance are unproductive, and remaining “open” to notions that have long been discredited seems hopeful at best. Hope is great, but it’s best to put your hope in things with proven track records.

    Nonetheless, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m glad it’s relevant for you in some manner, and for what it’s worth, I’m glad, that for you, it keeps a beacon of hope ignited. Take care.

  159. Oh dear! Still you misconstrue my meaning. Throughout my comments I repeatedly use phrases like ‘as far as I know’ (it could mean anything at all) or ‘may be’ (this, as opposed to that). I have been completely neutral. I am already well aware and take full account of the things you took the trouble to address. I was merely clarifying (as I originally stated), whether or not you could be open to the possibility (via my example or anything else), that there may be another (hopefully benevolent and omnipotent) force. That was a question with no aim to persuade, argue or supply evidence. The very thought of that is anathema to me. Why you should continue to suggest there is any connection between what I have said and the replies you both gave I do not know. Perhaps, I am more unable to express myself clearly than I ever thought, or you are so used to academic type arguments that you cannot recognise my purely neutral questioning and have therefore jumped to conclusions. Another unknown! I did however get my answer from you Culpeper in other ways, so it’s evidently time to close. Thanks to both for your replies never-the-less.

  160. Every single one of those arguments is valid. Merely faining as thought you’re unconvinced by them does not a counter argument make.

  161. Oh dear. I hope you haven’t perceived me as trying to “flame” anybody up, tildeb. I would suggest that ridicule and contempt, generally, aren’t very good for one’s well being or generally very effective. I beg your pardon but I’ve suffered through countless boring hours of Dawkins/Hitchens/Krauss/Craig/Lennox debates on youtube attempting to acquaint myself with their arguments. I’ve read “God Is Not Great”–Hitchen’s absolute worst book, its weakest flimsiest chapter on the New Testament, in fact, which chapter is mostly premised on an even weaker flimsier book: Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus.” “The God Delusion” I will not read (I’ll grant you) because I refuse to waste one second of life God has given me on “Scientism” or to put it more bluntly an evolutionary sociobiologist/zoologist dedicating a 400 page tome to a God he doesn’t believe in. Along with my beliefs, it simply aggravates my notion of “good literature.” Publishers, it seems, will throw any low standard at the masses these days and they will gobble it up like lemmings. You see, Literature (with the capital L is my main “interest” and passion in life), especially poetry. I’ve read, understood and enjoyed The Brothers Karamazov, The Divine Comedy, a greater portion of Shakespeare than not, Dickens, ALL of the High Modernists, The Republic, the English Romanticists and your arguments generally leave me in a negative fog of vague histrionics. Is there then something merely wrong with my intelligence? Perhaps, but you, sir, are no Shakespeare when it comes to expressing yourself. I find that side by side with Eric’s 10 points above, if anything, your arguments and comments are generally lacking in important substantive ways. You can type METHODOLOGICAL until your heart’s content; it’s not making anything more true for me, regardless of whatever intellectual told you contrary. Can you, for instance, point me toward HARD PROOF that belief in a god or gods is a methodological failure to “produce knowlege”? (whatever that vaguely means.) Are you trying to echo some childish histrionic about Christians (you can insert Theists or Pantheists, if those are more comfortable expressions to you) not being very creative? Lol. I find your terms simply (and please do forgive me if I am wrong) unwieldy in several key important places. But I certainly don’t wish to malign or misrepresent anybody,if I have done so I do sincerely apologize. Since you have broached the subject, it is perfectly within my rights to ask: How old are you exactly? Godspeed, friend.

  162. I said You demonstrate zero interest here in understanding the arguments New Atheists use…

    Thank you for doing so yet again. You are very consistent, my friend.

  163. And yet you are still far less than forthcoming in actual proof. Or your previous response, which I can sum up far more succinctly than you have: “REALITY, THEREFORE I NEED NO PROOF.” The proof of God or Theism that I know is not “God, therefore I need no proof” I will say. The only proof I feel comfortable offering (proving God itself as an activity giving me great fear and trembling) is as follows: Scripture (NOT Sola Scriptura, just plain Scripture), the Church (which Church? indeed is a question I’ve mostly enjoyed seeing Eric explore), the fact that “the gates of Hades will not prevail against it and the gates of Hades have NOT in fact prevailed against it, and, of course, the Saints: not the typical American Protestant response of their QUANTITY and “look at all our number” but rather: their qualities. Also, the fact that God has directly answered at least one prayer that I can remember in the affirmative, though I realize this proof probably isn’t good enough for you. But you’ll also notice that you have rather pointedly misquoted me YET AGAIN: When I initially commented to Eric I said flatly ATHEISTS yet here you interject NEW ATHEISTS to suit your own purposes. This may be startlingly hard for you to believe, but I wasn’t “shelving” YOU and YOUR OWN arguments under some convenient straw umbrella of my own interpretation of New Atheism; I was trying to understand and interact with them on their own merits. You’ve also misrepresented the spirit of my comment, which was mostly just introducing myself on Eric’s blog, rude otherwise I thought, since he doesn’t know me from Adam, and where I come from on things and what not and certain things I’ve been thinking lately in relation to stuff he writes. Your involvement in this part of the conversation is bizarre to say the least; if you’re just “TROLLING HARD” I will say that I’ve seen better trolling on the internet and you have indeed been outdone. It’s also disheartening after 33 years on this planet to hear that I’m still not “allowed” at the “adult’s” table, something I’d never say or have said of you.

  164. I didn’t misquote you, Paul; I accurately pointed out what you said upthread and criticized it about the megaphone atheists you so detest so I responded about you not trying to understand their arguments in spite of your assertion to the contrary and then you give me a list of NEW atheists you’re bored of listening to and which ones you won’t read because you assume (incorrectly, which doesn’t seem to matter to you at all) that you already know what their arguments are (your boredom factor obviously indicates an argument’s validity, eh?) so I commented that you still weren’t trying to understand their arguments because your comment didn’t reflect any. Now you’re trying to misrepresent me as misquoting you. That is not true; I quoted myself.

  165. dexter, To feign is to be deceptive. I may not be eloquent in academic terms but I am not deceptive, neither have I been so in this blog. You however, are mistaken on several accounts:
    I haven’t said they weren’t valid, I agree with all the possibilities except one. What I said is that they do not give an answer to my specific request. The only one I found contradictory Culpeper agreed with me and added this :’JL Mackie proposed that such occurrences should be recognizable as intrusions; but then he failed to provide a criteria for identifying intrusions, or discerning between an actual intrusion and an event hitherto unexperienced’. I don’t have an answer for you.’ – Hence dexter, there is no argument and no need for feigning.

    You can also see here that Culpeper is was aware that my quest is not argument, he said ‘ you shouldn’t expect to convince others of its truth (not that you do expect this). ‘

    Unfortunately, he later said ‘You may argue that supernatural events occur’, and ‘I’m glad, that for you, it keeps a beacon of hope ignited.’
    This is evidence that he has indeed drawn wrong conclusions, since, I may NOT argue that supernatural events occur (I have no evidence of such), and neither have I. And on his second comment – My hope does not come from my experience and neither did I say so.

    Sometimes people are determined to argue when no argument exists. That is telling of the culprit. Culpeper certainly does not appear to be one of these. However, we can all be mistaken and base further comments on such.

    I don’t wish to engage any further unless you need to and want to offer evidence of your claims.

  166. Tildeb, sorry for running out of room above. My initial comment you quoted (I actually just checked to make sure I wasn’t going crazy) was more a criticism of Protestantism than Atheism per se. (My apologies, in fact, for it was, all told, a choppy and sloppily worded criticism.) This is what I mean by you misrepresenting the spirit of it and why you have deluded yourself into discovering an attendant “failure” on my part to “demonstrate understanding” or “interest.” Not everything necessarily is or can ever be at your leisure for appraisal of demonstration, sorry to inform. There was no “demonstration” in fact because it didn’t seem to me one was ever required of me, nor any evidence that said demonstration would ever bear much fruit. You are chasing a red herring and phantom of your own creation. And flatly: NO, my boredom DOESN’T speak to the validity or invalidity of any argument whatsoever; that’s not even something I think. If an argument is boring, however, it simply struggles to be compelling; no end comment, really, on its validity whatsoever. And a sociobiologist writing 400 pages about a Deity he doesn’t believe exists still, at the end of the day, lacks certain credibility. He can wave his Oxford credential at me all day long; STILL won’t wash. And it will STILL be a basic rudimentary offense against reason at core, if we have any semblance of honesty about applying REAL rigor to our study and learning. I hope that clears things up.

  167. I’m sorry, Tildeb, for a back to back post here but I feel somehow I owe it to you to be as thorough as possible and avoid ambiguity. I only ever really considered Eric reading my first post. I had not the slightest conception at the time of it becoming used as fodder in a debate or somebody even disagreeing with it. I wasn’t trying to demonstrate in the post you quote an understanding of the arguments atheists make. That understanding is an ongoing process, in fact, one I haven’t (nor can you at such a flippant censure, in fact!) merely clicked OFF with a flick of your keyboard wrist or smartphone. The most important (and no doubt, interesting) principle is how I can hold up and shine what small light God has given me to the world. This, I contend, is to be shared with Atheists wherever possible. That’s what the last words in my first comment on this blog mean.

  168. And a sociobiologist writing 400 pages about a Deity he doesn’t believe exists still, at the end of the day, lacks certain credibility.

    That may be so, but that description is what you imagine The God Delusion to be about, not what it IS about. That’s part of the demonstration – that you’re okay substituting your beliefs to back up a criticism you want to assert – that I say indicates the opposite of what you claim: that you want to understand atheist arguments. That’s why I criticized you. I don’t think you’re a bad person; I think all of us need reminding from time to time that our intellectual integrity is only as strong as it is subject to correction and revision should the need arise, and that being honest about our biases is sometimes very hard to do. I think you’re biased against atheists and do not grant their arguments the same level of intellectual respect that you grant to the claims of the religious. And that’s okay… as long as you realize you’re doing this so that the degree of confidence you want to hold for your own beliefs is subject to revision when reality indicates it deserves to be.

  169. I see. Thanks for that explanation. Sometimes I question how productive and fruitful our modern prattling about peoples assorted biases can actually be, (for instance, how can we really analyze their biases?) but I’ll give you that. Does “there is no God and religious people are deluding themselves” NOT roundly sum up The God Delusion? Just because I haven’t taken in that work doesn’t mean I haven’t familiarized myself with Dawkin’s program, is another thing, if the debates he has conducted are in anyway representative of his overall thought and if his debates are NOT representative of his thought on the subject, then he had no business of course doing the debate circuit as he would have no credible argument to make. I’ll do you one better, though, as I’ve recently read The Selfish Gene, which compared to The God Delusion IS worth reading. The God Delusion, on the other hand, insofar as it retains the REAL rigor of science has lost that credibility and has wandered into speculative philosophy, anti-theology or (dare I say it) a religion all in itself. But let’s still look at a core pillar in Dawkin’s argument: “Who created God?” which is by the way a misrepresentation of God the Christian Theist has posited–i.e. an uncreated Creator. As far as I understand this argument, it’s premised upon probability. Dawkins submits that “Our universe is improbable.” (Improbable or merely miraculous? I smilingly submit.) He then has a problem with God as an explanation for it because God is an even more improbable explanation. To him, anyway. My problem is why? who says so? The laws of probability say so? Well, the laws of probability have also claimed time and time and time again that for instance it will rain tomorrow and be a nippy 30 degrees when in fact the sun has shone all day and it is a balmy 80 degrees. And vice versa! Probability is fine math but it’s not applicable necessarily to all circumstances. So I question to what extent Dawkin’s dismissal of God as the even more improbable explanation is valid for positing at the beginning of our universe. I find it flat out a tenuous argument to be making, at least as tenuous as the cosmological arguments it is attempting to argue with. And MORE IMPORTANTLY, I don’t see in reality ANY WAY to either validate or invalidate his claims, so shadowy are they. Thus, how fruitful will reading his book have been in the end? 12 hours of my life I’ll never get back? Nor does my dismissal of Dawkins in this fashion apply a bias of my own against ALL atheists (perhaps I’ll grant you, merely him) nor would I presume to dismiss all atheists on these grounds alone. Hopefully, there are actually ways of validating or invalidating their arguments. And yes, I realize the theist’s arguments are likewise difficult to validate or invalidate. The difference perhaps (I am not ashamed to admit) is that fringes of the theist’s argumentative scheme have importantly touched my life and can actually be applied to it.

  170. Tildeb and Culpeper, I have a sincere question for you and I don’t mean any disrespect or offence. Here is my question: What purpose in all honesty does atheism serve? Apart from giving people a reason to argue intellectualy on the internet? Religion gives people comfort and hope and meaning among other things….

  171. What purpose? To show respect to reality and honour the intellectual integrity and discipline it requires to interact well with it… with honesty and responsibility. I think these are fundamental aspects needed to live wisely that defines a life well lived.

    Because the invisible and the nonexistent look very much alike, I don’t think we do ourselves or the universe any favour pretending to know stuff we know nothing about and then use these artificial belief creations to justify imposing public policies on everyone. Of what use in living wisely are comforts, hopes, and meanings if all are based on deception? Well, a pernicious use… which is exactly what we find when we look for real world effects from empowering deception.

  172. No offense taken, Stella.

    First, I’d like to begin by affirming that atheism isn’t a philosophy, it’s a conclusion about one particular question – Does/do God(s) exist? Unlike organized religions, those who arrive at the atheism conclusion have not developed a set of absolute principles in response to this. For instance, I derive comfort, hope and meaning from humanistic principles; and these can be assented to by both theists and atheists alike. Conversely, I could not assent to the Pope’s infallibility, or Muhammad’s status as a prophet, so the fundamental principles that accompany theistic philosophies tend to be divisive in nature. That is, the Pope’s infallibility and Muhammad represent cornerstones of two different religions that have extended their philosophical conclusions into unwarranted realms. As a result, I find theism to be inherently disingenuous and therefore a corruption of human reason. I can, however, respect the deistic conclusion even though I don’t ultimately agree with it — it is the leap from deism to theism that I find difficult to respect.

    Now, although the majority of religious people are perfectly moral and upstanding, I personally feel that since religion is inherently disingenuous, it is a detriment to humanity’s progress and well-being. Thus, to engage in discussions relative to its veracity strikes me as perfectly reasonable, and almost a duty – one product of which, it may be argued, bestows my life with meaning. The veracity of an argument, furthermore, cannot or should not venture to find purchase in the emotional support procured by its adherents. We can all point to things that lend emotional support to individuals that aren’t necessarily good for them.

    Finally, why should my life be devoid of meaning simply because there is no “after”-life to look forward to? I think atheism confers more meaning to one’s life, because we cherish it more.

    So, if one is concerned with the truth, or is interested in discovering more about the Universe in the short period we have here, I can think of only two possibilities that do not impede such endeavors in even the slightest of ways: deism or atheism. Securing meaning, hope, etc. in any alternative way, to me, comes across as illusory – where comfort and hope liken more to sedation.

    This is my general opinion, and one that is not universally applicable to all theists.

  173. “This is my general opinion, and one that is not universally applicable to all theists.”

    I just wanted to clarify this. By, “not universally applicable,” I mean to those theists who are actually closer to deism than they will admit or are aware.

  174. Right. And this raises the question that I think deserves so much more attention: HOW can we know the difference? I think when we establish a means (that seems to work for everyone everywhere all the time) that allows us to know the difference, only then can we clarify why so many central tenets of faith – claims about reality and how it operates – are either unknowable or untrue, and the certainty people place in their truth value properly understood can be demonstrated to be equivalent in all ways to a deception protected from correction. That’s why these tenets never change… in spite of compelling contrary evidence. This is so endemic that when asked if a fact conflicted with a religious belief, about two thirds of Americans would maintain the belief.

    Think about what that means for a moment and what it says about the value we place on what’s true compared to what is believed to be true. Clearly, supporting and respecting truth is not the point of religious belief…

  175. Stella, deism is essentially: Creator of the laws of nature which govern us but no religion, no divine revelation. I actually have more spiritual contention, strangely enough, with deism than I do atheism. It seems not even theism is good enough, like I previously mistakenly thought. Theism apparently doesn’t accept the doctrine of the Trinity. Well, that’s everything! if they are not simply in real ignorance of the Trinity, that is. They basically answer the bell punching in at intellectual lightweight.These are actually worse to me, if left to their own devices, because they patently misrepresent God. For one thing, how does the deist know this Creator or even begin to argue IT to others? (A primary reason deism has almost no voice or reason to voice itself as a party in discussion of the matter; their arguments are at least less than forthcoming.) What is the deity? is it a deity of their mind’s own creation? It strikes me as profoundly strange Culpeper is more comfortable with these vague individuals. Almost the same with agnostics or as I lovingly refer to them “Don’t-know-but-I’ll-talk-at-length-about-it-anyway-ism.” Similarly answering the bell punching in at intellectual lightweight, in other words. It is such lukewarm folks, should they remain that way forever, I am to understand, God has every intention of spitting out of His mouth. I can actually respect atheists more than any of these other shadowy categories. Lol, bizarre twist, I think. There isn’t, it seems to me, much of a “leap” necessary from deism to theism, by the way, I feel like saying. They strike me as the same shadowy category. Same vague hogwash that won’t even admit it won’t say “Jesus Christ is Lord.” The atheist position is, in fact, stronger: “He is not Lord.”

    On other matters…it’s a bit puzzling to hear Atheism isn’t a philosophy, just a conclusion. An end of inference or deduction. I guess that’s fine–completely wrong, but fine as per a description of itself, though all of its groundwork has been laid by philosophy or at least philosophers. To pretend otherwise just isn’t historically accurate. No big deal, of course: I’m perfectly comfortable with atheism so choosing to further reduce itself to not-even-a-philosophy. But I am interested if atheism at all represents a coherent body of thought or is it just some conclusion its adherents came up with one day as one comes up with the idea of switching toothpaste or, perhaps more illustrative, to cut certain fatty foods out of one’s diet?

    One can be good and derive comfort meaning hope honesty while being atheist, theist, agnostic, Christian, etc. all alike. All perfectly true. No, my issue in that case–while we are all sitting around in public drum circle chanting aloud how good we can be: The Problem of Evil, ironically. It’s a wonder it drives so many to atheism because it is the very thing that drives me the MOST into Christ’s open arms. More specifically: MY OWN evil. For I have thought terrible things about people. I have privately wished enormous ill about certain people regarding the way they carry and put themselves on display. Few examples…”who does this one think he is? he isn’t so much as me.” Or in Fundamental churches on Sunday: “who the hell does this holy roller think he is lifting his arms from the congregation? what does he think he’s more holier than I am??? I’ll show him” and here’s where the REALLY big error sets in “GOD will show him.” We run to Christ not out of how wonderful we are (were that true, we could just as easily insert the heresy that He died for nothing)…no, that won’t do, I flee to Christ because by now I know exactly what a putrid prize bastard I can be. I have even sought solutions to what is wrong with my pride on purely human terms (atheists are presumptuous to imagine I haven’t): THEY ALL FAIL. They are all facile childish sedation. Show me one that doesn’t or isn’t. And saying it’s all Churches’ fault won’t do either: I am just as liable to revert into the filth of my pride in the supermarket as in the sanctuary.

  176. But I am interested if atheism at all represents a coherent body of thought…

    I chuckle every time across this notion, that atheism is something other than what it is: non belief in gods or a god. That’s the whole thing. Everything else you might read is added by author… for whatever personal reasons they may have.

  177. I can appreciate your chuckling actually, tildeb! 🙂 Have you not though also considered that is, in the end, why it is so straight forward a source for some to make mincemeat of in dismissal?

    Like every other of the countless -isms riddled with comments added by the author for personal reasons we are confronted on a daily basis or statement of “this I believe or don’t?” “Yeah, well, good for you…so on to the next important matter of business…”

  178. Dismissal? Again, I chuckle. The reason why atheism is enjoying steady growth in the ranks of the wired generation is because they come to see what theists and faitheists refuse to: what’s true matters. And many religious tenets dismiss this concern in the name of faith… and at their peril. That’s why the internet is where religions come to die; they can’t compete with what’s true and so lose ground with every advancement of human knowledge. The demise of large scale organized religion is inevitable.

  179. Lol, the argument from technology. You’re a genuine wonder, tildeb! I’d be glad and prepared to file in rank with whatever dwindled minority there is left. Popularity is, again, another thing that registers, in the end, at an intellectual feather weight. I reference her John Stuart Mill, for instance.

  180. Oh, I don’t care about the popularity because it’s popular; I care about its popularity because it lowers the political capital of religion. This is what is needed to reduce the urge and introduce negative consequences for politicians to impose religious stuff in the public domain and assume it to be virtuous on this basis rather than on it’s real world effects. That’s what I care about.

  181. “It strikes me as profoundly strange Culpeper is more comfortable with these vague individuals.”

    Forgive me, but that’s because you are stuck in a little Christian bubble.

    First, I presume you meant to say “deism” in the below quote.

    ” Theism apparently doesn’t accept the doctrine of the Trinity. Well, that’s everything!”

    Well, no, sir, the Trinity is not “everything.” It’s one particular set of beliefs from one particular form of theism.

    “There isn’t, it seems to me, much of a “leap” necessary from deism to theism, by the way, I feel like saying.”

    Where did the doctrine of the Trinity originate? How was it handed down to posterity? Through the Bible, you might say; though, many have argued and still argue that reference to this doctrine cannot be explicitly found within the Bible. In fact, this argument spawned the need for Constantine to officiate over the subject, which ultimately led to designating Arius as a heretic… and this wasn’t the last time the issue would raise its head. Still, you could remain steadfast in your beliefs that the Trinity is described in the Bible, and you can furthermore propose that the Bible is the word of God. How do you know all of this? Because God said so. Where did he say so? In the Bible. No leap?

    No sir, there is a leap. It’s precisely why Christians find solace in faith; it’s why they (you) hold “faith” aloft like some kind of pseudo-virtue. It’s why people like Tertullian proclaimed, “I believe because it is absurd.”

    The deist rejects miracles, revelations, etc. because they are untenable. On this point deists and I agree. This objection, I’m sure, will lead to prattling over Jesus’ historicity or the historical authenticity of the Old Testament. Although these are interesting topics, I have no interest in arguing about them in this forum. If you want to believe in the principles that accompany theism, then you’re free to do so; but don’t pretend like they’re firmly established and capable of being proved, because they’re not. If they were, we wouldn’t be arguing over the possibility of knowledge in metaphysical worlds, or trying to defend that supernatural events can’t be demonstrated in the same manner that natural events can, and therefore it’s unfair to impose the same standards on the former.

  182. “On other matters…it’s a bit puzzling to hear Atheism isn’t a philosophy, just a conclusion. An end of inference or deduction. I guess that’s fine–completely wrong, but fine as per a description of itself, though all of its groundwork has been laid by philosophy or at least philosophers. To pretend otherwise just isn’t historically accurate.”

    Yes, it is grounded in philosophy. Now, aside from the conclusion that God(s) do not exist, what else does it posit? Is there a moral philosophy that accompanies it? A social philosophy? Please, if you wouldn’t mind, point me to the source of atheist philosophy.

  183. Just popping back in Culpeper as I thought Tildeb said atheism’s purpose is in providing the fundamentals to live wisely – that sounds a lot like philosophy to me?

    Also I wanted to offer an alternative purpose (for anyone interested)that atheism may serve as I found this to be a logical and possible source and purpose for atheism (philosophy or not).

    Some atheists are egotistical and arrogant. This, this type could find it difficult to simply admit to not knowing if God exists. Their ‘conclusion’ that He does not, is based on earthly ‘probabilities’ which is clearly not applicable to spiritual matters, (incidentally, probability can also be considered as a type of gambling). Or, they use the many examples of those who claim to be living with God yet act like the devil (wolves in sheep clothing), as ‘evidence’ to ridicule all religious belief (since they cannot see the difference). If they are not doing this, they are claiming to be wise, reasonable and living with integrity, (by which, they are saying this cannot be true of believers). Deism is easier on some of their egos because they then do not have to accept the possibility of a Father who loves us, as this makes them feel childish, immature and weak, which is bad for their ego. They prefer to pass on their own responsibility for accuracy by claiming that all believers are being dishonest, disingenuous and corrupt, (whereas atheists are not), rather than to admit that they themselves cannot possibly deny believers, and that therefore believers are entitled to their belief without slander, even if atheists do not understand it. That would be real integrity, but their egos are far too big for them to overcome and, in trying to maintain/bolster their egos further, they merely manage to show their arrogance, rudeness, and lack of integrity and intelligence (which they often confuse with education).

    I find this to be quite possible but hope the cap doesn’t fit anyone 🙂 Best wishes to all, sincerely, dichasium.

  184. “Some atheists are egotistical and arrogant”

    Dichasium, dichasium, dichasium… The irony is overwhelming!

    Theists — and Christians in particular — believe that the entire Universe was created for them, and that humanity persists at the center of attention in the mind of the most powerful and intelligent entity imaginable. This is the definition of hubris, dichasium.

    Tildeb said we should show respect to reality and live accordingly. He said that the invisible and nonexistent look alike. In the course of 200 comments we have been presented with numerous reasons as to why X can’t be demonstrated in the only pragmatic version of reality available to us. We are asked to trust in the testimony of others that supernatural events and entities occur and exist, yet are assured that “probabilities” aren’t applicable. If you want to call this approach — what follows from a preceding conclusion — a philosophy, then I will concede. Still, it is very narrow in its ambition, and one hardly characteristic of arrogance.

    “Deism is easier on some of their egos because they then do not have to accept the possibility of a Father who loves us”

    If, furthermore, this is what you distilled from my last two comments, then you simply were not listening. The above has been interjected by your own imagination, because nothing I wrote even came near to referring to a father figure. It is an attempt to elude my arguments — a red herring of the finest quality. And please do not insult me by denying that your last comment was not specifically in response to my previous statements (keywords such as conclusion, probabilities, disingenuous, corrupt, etc. gave it away).

    Please, show me how we get from the cosmological or teleological argument to God thinks animals that chew their cud but don’t have cloven hooves are unclean. These are the leaps I’m talking about. What is egotistical or arrogant in rejecting, unapologetically, untenable claims such as these?

  185. Lol, Culpeper, you imagine I was arguing with you anyway? I wasn’t. Merely making note of the contrast between yourself and me in relation to deism and theism. I suppose, yes, theism or deism is perhaps a path on which God brings people to himself. My point is it seems to me the atheist has to KNOW there is no God, no Creator based on lack of evidence evidence or else his/her premise falls apart and mere deism, mere theism have even less to stand on in that department. That you privilege deism over theism represents, in fact, a logical absurdity to me, because you have even less reason to do so. One step down the ladder into the abyss is no step at all.

  186. The question I was asked was what purpose does atheism serve? The short answer is me; it serves me to be able to relate honestly with reality. You want to call that a ‘philosophy’? It serves you in exactly the same way (and you use it all the time, too): non belief in all kinds of claims that are contrary to how we know reality operates. That makes you an atheist because we apparently share that philosophy. Gremlins don’t interfere with your car; demons don’t interfere with your plumbing, faeries don’t intervene with your garden, and so on, we agree. You know this non belief serves this purpose, which is why you aren’t a gullible fool for every whacky claim you encounter (I presume.. correct me if I’m wrong, please): to apply appropriate skepticism to claims contrary to how we know reality works. Does that make you an atheist? Well, it does to some extent, I guess; however, you – not I – make an exception and you do so for really poor reasons: to serve your religious beliefs. Now you’re a theist who ‘rejects’ this philosophy, right? You want to call that rejection another philosophy? So I guess philosophically you are what we’d call a theistic atheist and I presume you’re okay with that lovely bit of anti-rational terminology. Unlike you, I think it’s relativistic pseudo-speak and I call it an error in methodology, where you actually think X equals not X. Well done, but I see it as clue about how well you think….

    And for following your reasoning to its natural conclusion, you call me arrogant, rude, lacking integrity and intelligence? If that’s an example of your sincere ‘best’ wishes, you can keep them to yourself, thank you very much.

  187. “Theists — and Christians in particular — believe that the entire Universe was created for them, and that humanity persists at the center of attention in the mind of the most powerful and intelligent entity imaginable.”

    I find this statement, actually, a grossmisrepresentation, and one that atheists are proud of. Moreover, even if we follow its tenets we must substitute “created them” (in the Christian context) “ALL HUMANITY EVER.” After the billions upon billions of human beings who have EVER lived…it ceases to be such an outrageous claim. That is, when it’s not longer just “us” or “me” but when it includes “you” and “everybody you have ever known” and “everybody you have ever not know.” If that’s egotistical? so be it…it is the glory of God which can just do just FINE on His own without my ego pleading the case.

    Also, Culpeper, the real Christian knows what a perilous endeavor it is to pretend that we can easily scan the mind of God. Why do you feel comfortable asserting such?

  188. You see, Paul, this is precisely the problem with red herrings. Now we’ve been distracted. We’re discussing something totally off-subject. Let’s not venture to answer the questions posed, like justifying our beliefs in a personal deity; no, let’s assert that atheists have authority problems, which stem from our immature desires to distance ourselves from father figures. Yes, let’s assert that they are egotistical and then deny that our holy book explicitly states that the universe, and everything in it was created for man – nay, let’s assert that this is a misrepresentation! That will get those arrogant atheists!

    And despite my better judgment (because I’m apparently a masochist), I will address one last comment from you: Yes, I’d even go as far as saying that it is egotistical to think that God created the entire universe for “ALL HUMANITY EVER.” One species, perched on a rock that lays in the corner of an insignificant galaxy, rotating about a universe that spans 15 billion light years. But I’m sure that somehow makes everything more special – “Look how insignificant we seem, and yet He still took the time to create us.”

    But no, I do not feel comfortable asserting that I can scan the mind of God. I don’t believe he exists. When talking to another theist – one for instance, that believes in Zeus – I might mention how untenable his claims are, and his response would very likely be similar to yours: I don’t pretend to know what Zeus thinks. It’s like a wild-card for theists – if all else fails, just assert that the supernatural is unknowable.

    I’m afraid this will probably be my last comment, since this discussion has devolved beyond recovery. It has been a pleasure, nonetheless, and I will take nothing personal away from this extended exchange of thoughts and ideas — I hope the feeling is mutual.

  189. No, it has not been a pleasure, in fact, not through any fault of your own but mine because it seems to me I’ve actually been less than helpful or for inspiring you to masochism (euphemistically I presume, lol) or in the case of causing discussion to devolve beyond recovery. These must all consist of terrible errors on my part which give the exact opposite of pleasure.

    And for the record, I wouldn’t say that atheists or you are egotistical or arrogant. Any more or less perhaps than certain apologists can be perhaps. I realize that’s what dichasium was saying. I didn’t mean in other words to “corner” you between what dichasium and I were saying, but I can empathize with how it came across that way. That’s just awful. I just plainly thought yours was a misrepresentation in its own right.

    The Christian doesn’t even start with “look how insignificant we seem, thus…etc etc etc” I will posit. That’s not any kind of proper start.

    It has been informative, perhaps. Thanks.

  190. I wouldn’t beat yourself up about it, and that goes for dichasium as well. I’m sure you didn’t appreciate my “disingenuous” and “corruption of reason” comment… 🙂

    It comes with the territory, as they say.

  191. Thanks Culpeper and Tildeb. It’s been interesting and informative! Thanks for your time spent replying. I will be checking in your site now and then. By the way regards to your mom and girlfriend in the basement 🙂 …..

  192. Culpeper and Tildeb –
    Stella asked you both what purpose does atheism serve other than intellectual argument. You gave your replies. I proposed that ‘some atheists are egotistical and arrogant’. Indeed some are, as are some of any other group. For convenience, I used your words and those I’ve heard from other atheists to explain how such thoughts could be the result of ego. I do not know either of you from Adam so I cannot say if this applies to either of you. That’s why I made my last comment about caps not fitting I hope, and signed off as I did, with my best wishes and sincerity. I am only ever in discussion to share ideas, and arguing, name calling, or tit-for-tat are of no use or interest to me. I will always avoid it.

    There is no point in me replying to anything else mentioned since I am certainly not suggesting such things. Perhaps if I just say this much it may help you to know this. I am agnostic but can find no good reason why love may not be a stronger force than absence of love and that there may be a creative life force which works on the principle of love and is known to many as God. To go any further would, I think, be superfluous to our needs. I’ll leave it there then and hope you can accept what I’ve said with the sincerity it is meant. I am sorry if you cannot.

  193. tildeb:
    “The demise of large scale organized religion is inevitable.”

    “I care about [atheism]s popularity because it lowers the political capital of religion. This is what is needed to reduce the urge and introduce negative consequences for politicians to impose religious stuff in the public domain and assume it to be virtuous on this basis rather than on it’s real world effects. That’s what I care about.”

    I’m sorry for politicians imposing stuff in the public domain. Which ones specifically?

    This has still been nagging at me. Mainly: Bring it on! I say. I say this not in the spirit of (though perhaps analogously, yes) an athlete egging on another competitor. Childish that would be, indeed. NO. What I mean explicitly is: Let’s see what you’re saying above get REALLY implemented. A sinister (or is it?) part of me wants to see atheism really get its legs under it more. It’s no shame per se to discuss these things online but the old maxims still hold true: Talk is cheap. Action is worth a thousand words. I’ll elaborate further….

    Does the atheist (in practice) believe that religion can simply be systematically reasoned away and the faithful will all “lapse quietly” and come to their senses? I doubt the actual reality of that end ever occurring because you’ve barely been able to convince me. Well…we’ll posit that on a base level I’m simply not very intelligent and this prevents me from applying myself to the fuller rigor of your arguments, realizing you’re right and I’m wrong and thus trapped in a Christian bubble of my own creation and deluding myself. This still won’t do because I think we can all agree Eric is by leaps and bounds so far as I can tell way more intelligent, witty, well-rounded, well-read and informed (LEAGUES my intellectual superior, personally) and I seriously doubt this or any atheist discussion is ever capable of convincing and convicting him to simply “lapse quietly” from faith and religion. That’s just my suspicion, though, and I do apologize if for being presumptuous. For the sake of argument, then, we’ll just say that atheists wouldn’t ever be actually capable of arguing away what they perceive as either his error, flawed reasoning, or faith-delusion. Merely putting myself in the atheists shoes, trying to see how they would vie it. And now even forget me or Eric…the matter gets hopelessly more complicated once we throw in all the John Lennoxes and Ravi Zachariases and Dinesh D’Souzas and (cringe) Pat Robertsons and (double cringe) Ken Hams and (triple cringe) Jerry Falwells of the world. They will, in all likelihood go on to sell out auditoriums around the world giving “talks.” The Evangelicals are vocal and proud of it when it comes to their ability to have a lot of progeny. As though having more kids were in some way some “sign.” The Health and Wealth Gospel does, in fact, very little for me personally but that doesn’t mean the preaching of it isn’t fully capable of fortifying for such individuals fantastic barriers which you can’t necessarily penetrate merely under the pretense of “Reason” and a friendly civilian disposition and they can quite soundly doze with its barricade from your attempts in their cozy little suburb. The matter gets even MORE staggering for the poor atheist when we consider…I’m merely describing ONE religion in all its divisive forms. The atheist still has several thousand MORE religions to go, if they are concerned at making a true effort towards worldwide eradication of “faithist” religion.

    Has it not been made patently obvious to the poor atheist yet? “Reason” on its own won’t do the trick: You’re going to have to start taking the kid gloves off, pull up your work boots and take a bulldozer to the whole damn Cathedra, so to speak. And not just ONE Cathedral either that won’t do: ALL of them or nothing will suffice as virtuous reward for your efforts. Remember: Religious faith is an irrational delusion and prayer an infective virus. Books shall require burning, lest some idiot uncover them and run riot with them. You’ll also need to FULLY align the law on your side so that stragglers who persist in their error may be prosecuted. And whatever ensuing penalty may entail. We’re aiming at eradication here; please do get “real” about it! Freedom is relative and, in fact, many atheists are quick to point out how foolishly prohibitive and divisive religion can be. Universities are perhaps noble places for you to have started your endeavors but they are, for all intents and purposes, WAY too susceptible (moreover dishonest about it!) to a certain brand of tenured malaise. At least that’s been my experience. The term “militant” atheist has been seen as mostly pejorative. Why should it be? How about pragmatic atheist or practical atheist? There’s a part of me (though I would be in total opposition to such projects) that in fact would love to look out and behold that experiment. You can attribute it to your prevailing humanism, even, if you find that semantic more comfortable or apt to describe the actual project. In short, I guess I would like to see more realistic crusading out of atheists. Less milk ‘n’ toast stuff, though not because I don’t have any respect for the milk ‘n’ toast 🙂

    John Lennox is fond of saying “Logos” a lot, detailing the first chapter of John and along with Ravi Zacharias the two are fond of citing wide-scale moral collapse as though society and all of its prevailing rules were in some way inherently Christian in conception and thus can’t or won’t fail. Profoundly disagree, gentlemen!t I agree that everything good about us humans is God’s provision (whether we recognize or not) BUT I don’t know that a merely atheistic society will necessarily collapse; we’ve never really tried that yet. Moreover, I happen to note a LOT of society that already doesn’t for all intents give two figs about whatever Christ said or didn’t say or His teaching or law. The society I inhabit, for instance, currently believes it is lawful for my taxes to subsidize the poor urban Unborn at great personal pain to my conscience, frankly. No, Ravi, Dostoevsky, Dr. Lennox: Society can still run itself with DOs and DON’Ts. You’re all just, mostly, afraid of it. The quality of its running is indeed still TOTALLY up for debate but a totally atheistic world full of totally atheistic societies isn’t necessarily impossible to envision. Don’t get me wrong: It’s no place I actually WANT TO LIVE and I’d be happy to be on the earliest wave possible marched off to prison or whatever failure-to-comply-penalty that could be conjured up for whackos like me.

    No, my dear atheists if you want the REAL-WORLD ends of all your conclusions, you’re going to have to inevitably get your hands dirty and set up the concentration camps. Forgive me for invoking that imagery or leading us into a place thoroughly of my imagination’s construction but this is the natural result of what happens when atheists say things like “religion is child abuse.” Banter won’t suffice for us hell-fearing God-fearing child-abusers: Remember we are deeply irrational and you need to cure the world of all the “child abuse” otherwise known as organized religion and faith is still an infectious disease capable of being passed on through genetic heredity. Perhaps a touch of ethnic cleansing will do the trick? Well…perhaps we don’t necessarily need to appeal to the 20th century in all its assorted rhetoric of abomination in order to proceed. Perhaps simply prison or reasonable prosecution will suffice. And you are going to at least need prisons and prosecutors for your endeavors. Too much work. Too much resistance.

    Finally, I say all this not to demonize the poor atheist. Not, in fact, to make imaginary monsters of them. They aren’t, for one thing. They strike me as folks who just want to see what’s rational and true hold sway over what’s irrational and false. Noble, no doubt. But no…my take is I would actually fear for the poor reasonable atheist in that circumstance. Mainly: What do you do with all the “vulgar” mob as it were who would after the great purge of all the world’s religions tend to not give two figs about your rational approaches toward mitigating their irrational wills, desires and heart’s content? For you would, in fact, still need to say “no, you can’t do X” or “can’t have X’s wife or Y’s husband” mostly because you are the new righteousness, the new foundation, the new trust in which people place their faith. You may perhaps get away with public orgies (I’m not being pejorative here, merely euphemistic) for a time and that will suffice their baser instinct. But when they start to convolute reason itself and start to make their own irrationality look like rationality arguing from the creations or inevitable results of their own baser instinct that you can get off your horse and THEY not YOU should start running things? I fear for you and confess I would not wish to be in your shoes in that case. Perhaps you’re right yet again and I’m wrong: the inherited disease of faith and child abuse of religion can simply be “reasoned” away and the citizens of earth will simply “lapse quietly.” Or that the faith delusion or prayer virus can simply be discussed away. I doubt it but that’s no matter.

    If I am right, however, I hope the atheist hasn’t imagined that simply because the world has been purged of child-abusing religion that means a definitive end of all irrational behavior? One doesn’t want to draw straw man, of course, but the thing still won’t stop sticking out at me. Because I call that…wait for it…wishful thinking.

    For none of us ever have been purely 100% rational “everywhere everyone all the time” have we?

  194. The goal of New Atheism is to get religion out of the public domain and this is accomplished by making criticism of religious privilege commonplace. The target audience is not people like you who are firmly embedded in their religious beliefs; it is those who can be swayed by reason… specifically those who do question established practices, namely, the next generation. And it here where we find remarkable success by enabling young people to understand why religious belief has proper boundaries and how to personally implement them to improve the common good. There are lots of available examples for this trend and its beneficial effects. The legalization of gay marriage is but one… a legal change younger people know is a better condition for their family, friends, and neighbours who are marginalized than the brute legal discrimination so long empowered by contrary religious belief. Reality has a way of forcing unjustified beliefs out of the way and young people understand this.

    We see a steady and growing rate of non affiliation in this population and a reduction of political support for religiously inspired social policies – especially the ‘Thou shall not…’ kind – that are fueled by religious belief into crossing this proper border and invading areas that are none of its concern. Of course, the religious try to paint this success in as negative a way as possible – as you and many other brittle theists do – without realizing how you aid New Atheism by doing so. Younger people are reasonable and they can see the positive and egalitarian effects from getting religion out of the public domain in socially responsible countries with none of the highly negative consequences advertised by the religious… more evidence that religious belief is disconnected from the reality it tries – and fails – to explain. They can see and hear by contrast how unreasonable the religious are to continue to use bad arguments to inform confidence in their religious beliefs that translate into policies that are neither as socially responsible nor as egalitarian as what the non belief proponents support; instead, the younger generation lives in a world dominated by those who claim to be religious and act for pious reasons yet show a willingness to support more authoritarian policies and who tend to serve some establishment organization more than show honest care about the welfare of real people in real life.

    New Atheists facilitate with better reasons why the old arguments in favour of religious privilege need to be rejected for the common good. The change we seek is coming into being as the younger generation moves into adulthood and by sheer numbers will reach a tipping point rejecting religious privilege much sooner than most religious folk think is possible. We already see this in play in many examples where the crossing of the border – in either direction (meaning privileging either belief or non belief in public policies) – will not be socially tolerated without being accompanied by a loss of political support. Young people see the facile arguments used to impose privilege, experience first hand the unfairness of it, and understand the not just the need for but the benefits of neutrality – of a level playing field – as a fundamental principle of fairness in law and governance and policy. This means that specific initiatives must gain support by reasonable, evidence-based arguments demonstrated by merit rather than assumed by some kind of belief-based fiat. This is the death knell of religious belief: where reality justifies beliefs about it and not beliefs imposed on reality justified by divine authority. That way has been tried and it is an unmitigated failure to improve the common good without creating unacceptable numbers of victims. We can do better, and we shall as religious privilege is curtailed over time by shift in the social zeitgeist.

  195. Ah, youth. You may right, of course. Personally my actual experience with the young is that they are tepid apathetic milquetoast intolerant rude selfish and irrational (generally) BUT feel free to drink whatever kool-aid and strap on whatever rosy-colored glasses of wishful thinking…

  196. The ethnic tag often carries with it a lot of its history of theology and an indicator of which branch of what their ideas came from ect.

    I’d say just go and meet people and see. If it’s exclusionary move on, but its never bad to meet people, even if you are the odd one out.

  197. So, you present no arguments of your own, but criticism the guy that’s actually looked at the words of numerous people with that moniker and dismisses them…

    You’re aware that crying about being misunderstood and saying ‘nu uh’ to people that disagree with you doesn’t constitute being methodological right?

    I’m thinking you’ve missed that point tbh.

  198. Dude, the flat earth society has been irreligious and more or less atheistic since 1956… The old theistic flat earth society or Universal Zetetic Society was in the 1800’s…

    The theistic group had a better name by far. Flat earthers are by and large atheists though, and heavy into the conspiracies.

  199. History is replete with declines of religion and resurgences. Even in the context of old Catholicism or a nominally christian but practically secular older North America.

    Anyway, if it wasn’t for a lack of decent philosophy (lol at assuming theists are basically all fideists) there would be little atheistic growth, even as is there really isn’t substantial growth of atheism, but what Paul describes as “tepid apathetic milquetoast” people who just don’t give a damn about the discussion.

    Those people who don’t care are generally the precursors to later zealotry. If thats atheistic zealotry killing off ect the Christians it’ll just give water to a religious revival. If it turns out to be a new Christian zealotry it’ll either be a new heresy and the atheists will suffer, but no one will really benefit in the long run, or else we’ll have a pure revival which will merely push the minority atheism back to the shadows.

    There isn’t a realistic scinerio where atheism makes real, long term headway. It’s not an appealing belief system and shouting REASON constantly doesn’t really beleave you are de-fact reasonable over and above others any more than a BRAND POWER commercial yelling FACT makes people believe their products are the be all and end all.

    Clearly those commercials can work to some extent, loads of people are weak minded enough that if you yell IM REASONABLE AND LOGICAL they’ll beleive you. But the ‘true believer’ in atheism, the real zealot that beleives that tripe about being uniquely rational while no one else thinks won’t become dominant anymore than Westboro Baptist will become the new mainstream church.

  200. Pingback: Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail | Sentry on Duty

  201. I was reading your latest blog entry and, having nothing to comment on, decided to check and see if anything new had been posted here. Apparently I need to start checking the box below for notifications of replies since I seem to have missed plenty of “meaty” comments. Too late to deal with those, but I did want to take a moment to address your reply which I was not aware of until now, sorry.

    My first point of disagreement is that the difference between deism and theism is not “what relation we have with God and what sort of being he/she/it is.” To have a relation with God, one would have to first believe there is a god. So, we don’t disagree on what type of relation there is, but rather I contend there is no such being to have a relation with in the first place. I do take issue with the Christian understanding of this relation (should such a being exist), but that is secondary to my stated claim.

    “Our entire contentions may in fact boil down to our specific takes on anthropology – i.e., what are human beings by nature.”

    Yes, and no. I contend that if your theism depends on such claims, then by pointing out the error in the claims I, by extension, point out an error in theism. But that’s mostly for the esoteric arguments which, while I enjoy them, ultimately take second seat to what I consider to be the arguments against all monotheism (which I covered in an earlier reply, we disagreed, let’s move on, for now).

    ” It is the Orthodox contention that human beings are good by nature and are disobedient according to what is unnatural to their being. ”

    This is, possibly, a “new” favorite topic of mine which I have been exploring recently. I say “possibly” because, again, it depends on how I read or interpret certain words in that sentence. Are you saying we are good natured (as in “born good”), or that existence is good by nature (the Augustinian concept which lead to the most popular concept of what constitutes evil)?

    I’ll leave it open to allow for clarification (if you wish), though I suspect it could be both.

    ” It is the general Western theological tradition which holds humans to be evil by nature, which is why I claim that your attacks on Christian theism is one-sided towards Catholicism and Protestant influences and does not scratch the surface of Orthodoxy.”

    Indeed, I tend to “target” such beliefs more frequently because I find it highly poisonous to suggest to someone that they are born broken and in need of fixing. We are neither broken, nor complete when we are born. I disagree with both sides of that coin. We are born with instincts which are, understandably, self-centered. Once we reach the age of interaction with the world we need to be taught how best to interact to the benefit of us all.

    “Anyway, any future banters we have will be much more interesting for me knowing you are a deist and not a committed atheist.”

    Even if I were a “committed deist,” I could still be a “committed atheist.” Much like agnosticism and atheism aren’t mutually exclusive, deism and theism also aren’t. I could believe that a deistic “force” is at the root of creation, and yet completely reject every part of the definition of theism, thus making me an atheist. Having said that, I’m also not a deist . . . in the strictest sense of the word.

    Deism is where I tend to retreat from the discussion for the simple fact that I can’t take a side. It’s as I mentioned in the comment that sparked your reply, a difference between “what I find logical based on my ignorance,” and belief. I actually don’t believe or disbelieve in deism. I find logic in both, though I’ve spent more time contemplating in ignorance the validity of deism. As science progresses I’m finding answers to questions I used to think of in favor of deism (though not any longer), but I’m still finding some serious errors in some conclusions some people make. However, this would be an argument from ignorance, or a “deity of the gaps” if you will, if I were to assert the positive claim that a deity exists.

    One final point, you said “your attacks on Christian theism . . . does not scratch the surface of Orthodoxy.” I consider the entire tale (or the extraordinary claims anyway) of all biblical characters (from Adam to Jesus and beyond) to be entirely fictitious. I’d say that more than adequately scratches the surface of not just Orthodoxy, but Christianity in its totality (not to mention also Judaism and Islam).

  202. Pavlos, It’s only me Dichasium. Could you please tell me if you find anything outstandingly special in the bible that you haven’t found in other books. I would assume you don’t.

  203. Maybe we can get to the “deist” stuff later, as it truly interests me, but here I will answer this:

    “It is the Orthodox contention that human beings are good by nature and are disobedient according to what is unnatural to their being.” …
    “Are you saying we are good natured (as in “born good”), or that existence is good by nature…?”

    I hope I do Orthodoxy justice in my response, but my understanding is that we are born good in the sense that we are born innocent. We are not guilty of some primordial sin of Adam and Eve, as Western theology has it. However, as a consequence of sin that preceded our individual “arrivals” to the planet (so to speak) we are (a) born into a world already corrupted by our ancestors, and (b) are born without the “nous” – that part of our intelligence that was originally created in the likeness of God. This was the part of our being that is inherently flawed within us due to primordial sin. It is the Orthodox belief that the nous is recaptured through baptism and chrismation. As a result of “a” and “b” we are born, essentially, into a life constituted with death. Christ’s death and resurrection is the defeat of death. Those joined to Him will not die but be resurrected to life.

  204. Sorry, once again, for not replying sooner. As Eric knows already I was sick recently and in the process forgot about this last post (I’m also pretty sour about the the other post I wrote . . . rather long . . . in response to the latest article about materialism and values, which was “lost” when windows decided to update itself and restart my computer before I could submit it the following morning).

    Anyway, first to answer dichasium, yes and no. In terms of “content” I’d say no because there isn’t anything profound which is also unique to it (or even original per my understanding). It’s flawed (read literally) where I’d expect it to, it’s a reasonable representation of the thoughts/ideologies I’d expect from such tribal people in such primitive times, and what little wisdom there is to be found seems to be plagiarized from earlier sources.

    What I do find special about it is its ability to pawn off concepts as inherently true to the message, while simultaneously in contradiction to the stated action. “Love” comes to mind immediately. What is outstandingly special, to me, about the bible is its ability to promote this “abuser’s concept of love” as actual love.

    Eric, I see; Yes, you do seem to do Orthodoxy justice (as I remember it anyway). Hopefully you have better answers to my questions than any and all of my past teachers and priests who always answered me with “Believe and never question.” So, part of my problem with that concept has been that we are born innocent and yet also “doing the time” for a crime we are not guilty of. Like being born in prison and forced to serve a life sentence because our parents committed a crime. It’s somehow even more insulting to me to have the admission of innocence handed to me while I’m still serving this sentence. At least pretend that I’m guilty so that I might have hope that if I can prove my innocence I might be freed. But if my warden is openly admitting I’m innocent, but will not set me free . . . then there is no justice and the entire system is corrupt.

    And this is a recurring theme in the OT especially. The drowning of the entire population of earth for their wickedness (what about the innocent babies, and children?), the massacre of the first-born in Egypt, the division of men (in language and race) because of the tower of Babel, the innocent girls which were to be taken as spoils of war per God’s orders, and even that poor old fig tree with no fruit, cursed by Jesus (I jest about that last one 🙂 ).

  205. Pavlos, maybe its the deist lord trying to teach you to either keep it simple, or practice safe saving. 🙂

    In response I would say that the Orthodox Church teaches that the human race is in this thing together. We are not wholly separated individuals but have a “community,” broken though it is. What I do effects others. There’s no way around it. The universe is constructed as such.

  206. In reply to Eric’s reply (I ran out of space to directly reply above) re: “In response I would say that the Orthodox Church teaches that the human race is in this thing together. We are not wholly separated individuals but have a “community,” broken though it is. What I do effects others. There’s no way around it. The universe is constructed as such.”

    Of course we are, but that doesn’t really answer the question at all. There is a fundamental lack of justice in such a system (if it were created by a perfect being), and, therefore, a complete lack of love and benevolence. The only rational explanation for our existence is either a natural one, or a malevolent being.

  207. Ultimately, its a product of love. Love requires free-will; free-will requires the potential for apostasy. The human race apostatized from God – each according to his own turning, not any “inherited” turning. The story of Adam and Eve is a story we all share individually as well as communally. Our lack of “nous” does not restrict us from returning to God.

    But, please understand, I get your position, and it’s completely legitimate. But claiming injustice is to assume the existence of justice. This harkens back to the OP: what does one mean by justice when no standard exists besides human fancy?

    I think to speak in such terms means you believe justice is real, independent of your own thinking about it.

  208. My argument about justice (or lack thereof) is a conditional one (“assuming there is a God, then . . .”). I make such arguments frequently to illustrate my point that there is an inherent problem in the accepted story.

    I’m hesitant to take the bait on the free will comment because I’ve had this argument too many times lately (and an ongoing one) and I’m rather tired of it right now. But I will mention that I don’t follow how any of this is a product of love.

    Of course, much of this has to do with how one reads the creation story (literally or metaphorically), but if read literally then I can’t help but notice that we were created with full knowledge of God’s existence (he even interacted with Adam openly) which puts a damper on the free will argument. Then there is the forbidden fruit which we were given the freedom of will to eat, but not the knowledge as to why we shouldn’t (only a command that we shouldn’t, but given our human nature God should know that the more you deny us something, the more we desire it . . . add in a rather convincing serpent and we were basically created with no choice but to violate this commandment which would doom us and all subsequent generations into a corrupted world and then an eternal damnation). I’ll say it again, this is Stockholm syndrome in my eyes. Hitchens summarized it best “We were created sick and then commanded to be well.”

  209. Hi Pavlos
    I answer these matters in a manner which I find perfectly cohesive. I expect Eric will offer you something better, but I will offer you my version next week (when my visitors have left), to see if it is of any use to you. Regards, Dichasium.

  210. Hitchens summarized it best “We were created sick and then commanded to be well.”

    Wow, I don’t actually want to intrude upon earlier parts of the conversation which led to this but that is one of the more atrocious summaries I’ve ever heard. Where to start? Created sick? I seem to remember quite a few “And God saw that it was good”s laced throughout the first chapter of Genesis. We weren’t created “sick.” We were created (the ONLY word that applies in ANY WAY at that point in Genesis is…) Good. Case closed. But even more atrocious is Hitchens extension of the analogy “commanded to BE WELL.” Lol, be? Well? No, rather we are commanded to love God, love one another and do good. Period. Hitchens summary seems to be more an exercise in moving the goal posts (vis-a-vis “sickness” as a broken down analogy for sin) to the point where we can do absolutely 0 but play out our own sins/misdeeds across the generations. Augustine, Calvin and Milton (for practically popularizing the concept) would all smile and shake their heads, of course.

    If sin is “handed down” how is it transmitted? Genetically? Are they saying there’s “sin” in my genetic material? Surely not. The greater part of reformation theology here seems to me to be an exercise in making God look ridiculous.

    I’m sorry but It is just not so. And his “medical analogy” breaks down and falls apart exactly at the juncture where we realize we even have a “Will” at all (suspend, in fact, all arguments of how “free” it necessarily is, for the time being, if necessary) that is tied up in our decisions.

    But I could just be the wrong sort of fellow to talk about “free will” at any length. I generally don’t get hung up on the “intellectual conundrum” folks seem want to make out of it. Seems self-evident to me: Over-intellectualize (the intellect consisting in toto for us a very very passive sphere of our being) on the active attributes of ourselves until our minds have fancied themselves loose from the active sphere enough to create a total unreality: i.e. the “mystifying conundrum” of free will.

    It is as broad-daylight apparent to me as walking out my house each day and deciding to go left or right.

  211. If justice is merely a made up idea, hatched in the religious ethos, then I urge all naturalists to live their lives in accordance right down to changing their choices of terms. “Justice” should not enter into the discussion whatsoever, unless the only point is to trip up a theist. However, this is not the case with most naturalists and atheists in general. They speak very passionately on the lack of justice and it is their core argument against God: not, mind you, because it is a made up idea, but because they know it to be real, and not just in a sentient way.

    If you won’t “take the bait” on free-will then you simply won’t accept the Orthodox Christian take on the issue, which leaves us without much room for discussion. I don’t use free-will in the highly nuanced sense like many philosophers, I simply mean that we get to choose whether to follow God or not. Simple. No tricks.

    To the last point, following the example of many Church Fathers – including Chrysostom, Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil, and many more – I find no reason to limit the Genesis creation story to a literal history. I believe it is declaring truths about existence. The tree of knowledge was a tree symbolizing God’s terrain that remains for him alone. We see the same metaphoric image at Mt. Sinai where the people were not allow to even touch the mountain on pains of death. The tree was perhaps reserved for a point in time when Adam and Eve had attained a more perfect union with God, perhaps not. Regardless the command was to not taste of it. No reason need be given, particularly given the fact that Adam and Eve (i.e, you and me and everyone else) were not ready to even understand why not. That’s my take anyway. There are levels of holiness that will kill the average person if they are not suited for it. God leads us line upon line, precept upon precept, a little here, a little there. He does not put our mouth to the fire hose and blast us when we are thirsty. 🙂

  212. My response to Pavlos (hope it may be of some use to someone, if not Pavlos). I’ve not had time to check it over, so, hope it’s clear enough and apologies for errors).

    The question is about fundamental lack of justice, a complete lack of love and benevolence, in a system supposedly created by a perfect being. The only rational explanation is either natural or malevolent.

    Thankfully, I have always had the freedom to think for myself. I would like to attempt to provide rational replies to your matter of injustice being incompatible with a perfect and loving God.

    This will be my version of sense, drawn from the many things I’ve read or heard from others and then strung together myself. I am ever willing for anyone to find a flaw for me to consider.

    This is the way I see it, (trying to keep with essentials only), and I find nothing conflicting. I am confident that whatever else I may need to know, will come in due course. I like to remember some words I once took note of ‘In simplicity, lies grandeur’.

    1. I see there is a creative energy in the universe. I have no reason to believe that I control it all. I do not know what does control it, or where it comes from.
    2. I hear people answer this question by saying that something called love has the power to do all things connected with love and that it is commonly referred to as God, though others have a different name for it. (People argue over its methods of attaining universal love).
    3. I hear about the meaning of love from various sources and seek to understand it more. I find the most profound and simple explanation and example to be given by someone (commonly accepted to be called Jesus) in a book called the Bible. I see that this example, if used widely, would create far less fear between people and create a much better standard for living happier lives. This Jesus also spoke of the omnipotent force of love and referred to this entity as his and our Father, because, he claims it was our creator. I have no idea if this is the case. (Yes Pavlos, I am indeed still agnostic (as you said before), but hopefully on the right way!)

    People argue that we cannot have been created by such an omnipotent force of love as there is so much in the world that pains us. I have reasoned this apparent dichotomy in the following manner:

    I have found that the nature of love is to spread more love by giving of itself by sharing (hence, all the stories like the five loaves and two fish feeding 5,000).

    But, love cannot be forced upon anything because it cannot be love if it is not given and taken freely. I find the understanding of this to be fundamental to all else. According to the Bible, love came with a commandment (but I see it as a cautionary and loving piece of advice). Whatever it was, is irrelevant at this position, since it is very evident that we have not stuck with the nature of love but have been selfish, greedy and cruel, (taking what belonged to others (not least to the earth), ultimately due to the fear which was caused by wanting to be as powerful, or more powerful, than another (Adam & Eve story being an overall illustration of this). The problem with doing something against God or others is that we then experience fear of being caught and punished. It seems that, at least, the majority of mankind has done this in some way or other and unless someone breaks the cycle, it grows bigger with a larger problem looming, just as God was supposed to have advised against and the person named as Jesus, forewarned us of, until we could no longer ignore the fundamental problem from which all else stems (though many still try!). Once man has experienced this fear is results get spread in the world (we do so much wrong in order to try to protect ourselves). The world is full of fear. The only power that I have seen that is capable of withstanding the power of fear and its false temptations is the power of love, which is stronger than ones life.

    Hence, we were free to choose. But having wanted more than we needed and thereby been subjected by the experience of fear, we try various wrong ways to overcome it. We can try to turn our behaviour towards love in its pure form but according to my understanding from the Bible we cannot obtain a perfectly clean slate and that is why we are able to choose to recognise that love is the only way (you only need to believe) and in doing so (sincerely), we show our desire is in accord with God (love). If you want to be subject to love, rather than fear, you will want to give consideration to love in your thought, word and deed. It is said in the Bible that we will recognise our partners in love by their actions, (but clearly, we would need to recognise love accurately, to be able to do so).

    Basically, the rest of the story is, of course, that there is a future for us beyond our death if we join with love because love cannot die, it can only expand. However, the individual who does not become part of the force for love will gradually harden, until it can absorb love no longer, and thereby, is useless to this universe (uni-verse : one way to turn = love), like the tree that did not produce what it was there for. This then, is the condition in life – learn to live in love and live on, or, live without love and be discarded. That’s the justice of love (God). The rest is up to us as individuals.

    I have found that I love the great story of the effect of love and would, without question, want to be part of it. We cannot pursue love by thinking we are being good, but we will automatically be drawn to its ways if we have learnt to love it. We all have many examples to draw from and can try our best to see them. Once we understand any part of it there is always more to learn about it and there will be ever more examples till we die. We all learn at different rates and times because the lessons are there for our own taking. We cannot understand some things without first learning others.

    I would hope (it seems a natural thing to desire), that there is a good purpose for life, but regardless, I wish to live as much as I can in harmony with giving and receiving love. In doing this, I hope that something I have said may be of some use to someone at some time. Thanks Pavlos for the prompt, although it wasn’t primarily for me.

  213. Justice is an imagined reality. It’s a concept which requires no transcendent source. And I highly disagree that naturalists, or anyone else for that matter, should change their choice of words because a religion wants to lay claim to it. When I speak of justice in general I do so with an understanding of the concept. But I also make conditional arguments (as I mentioned previously), where I play along up to a point. It’s like discussing the merits of a Hobbit returning the ring to the fires of “whatever it’s called.” I don’t have to actually believe it happened to discuss it.

    That free will argument I will take on. There really is no choice in following God or not. No more than your choice to not hand over your wallet to the robber holding a gun to your face. “Give me your money or I’ll shoot you in the face” or “Follow me or be tortured for eternity.”

    To your final point, you basically just handed me the argument. As you said, he put something in front of us which we weren’t ready for, he allowed a more cunning being than us to convince us, he armed us with absolutely nothing other than “because I said so” and then he created a penalty for failing a task we couldn’t have succeeded at because of how we were made.

  214. Paul, your argument doesn’t really hold up that well. You’re saying we weren’t created “sick” because the bible says “it was good”? You’re basically not seeing the forest for the trees here. What is being disputed is precisely what the bible claims, that it was not good. We were created in such a way that we never stood a chance. Then that same creator created a penalty which we were guaranteed to suffer. And then we were commanded to do precisely what we were created not capable of doing.

    “No, rather we are commanded to love God, love one another and do good. Period. ”

    You can’t love someone or something because you were told (commanded) to. That’s not love, it’s obedience. It’s same for commanding us to do good. The act will be good, but is that all that matters to God? Does he prefer lemmings like the Stepford Wives, doing good because they fear retribution?

    “If sin is “handed down” how is it transmitted? Genetically? Are they saying there’s “sin” in my genetic material? Surely not.”

    You’re running too far with this quip of Hitchens’. Basically, we are as we were created (depending on your theology, to what extent you ignore or disagree with evolution, etc.) and we are still being asked to be something we were not created to be. Someone with no desire to cheat on his wife doesn’t need to be told not to cheat on his wife. I don’t have to create a rule in my house stating that my guests aren’t allowed eating out of my trash can because they don’t naturally desire to do such a thing. So if God has rules for us then it must be because we desire to do things which are not in accordance with what God desires of us. But why would we not naturally desire what God desires if we were created by God? Because we were created “sick” (don’t take this analogy too far again). And the rules are God ordering us to be well. You say “free will” but all that amounts to is God giving us a gift which we can’t use unless it’s exactly how he demands we use it. So he made us so that we desire something we can’t have, we can freely choose to take it or not, but if we do . . . well, then we’re damned for all eternity.

    Lastly, when you walk out of your house, do you really decide which way to go? Let’s say you chose left. Could you say why? And whatever answer you gave me, could you justify that with another similar answer to a similar question?

  215. Definitely some interesting thoughts in that reply. Some questions that come to my mind are: can you think of a better way to create our existence than how it currently is?

    A bit of a side note regarding your comment about desire: Buddhists believe that all evil stems from desire. The problem with it is that it never “turns off” or “goes away.” If you’re poor you desire more money (so you’re unhappy because you don’t have it), but after you get that money you desire still more money (so you’re still unhappy). If you’re “fortunate” enough to get more money than you could ever spend then you start desiring more material pleasure (and you’re not happy until you get it) which you can acquire with all that money. Eventually that’s not enough (so continue being unhappy). You reach the point where you’ve satisfied each momentary desire (“I want that new Ferrari” so you buy it), but it all fades away as you start desiring other things. Since you’re always desiring something you’re never happy because you always want what you don’t have.

    That might have been totally irrelevant to anything discussed, but I thought I’d write it nonetheless.

  216. Pavlos, I’m sorry to come back again, (though you did once say you were glad to hear all), but, you are clearly arguing against conventional and contentious religious views, (which Jesus came in order to clarify and put in such simple terms), when there is no need to. There are options open. It seems to be your stumble block.

    You must know that a good loving God would allow us time to prove our desire for his way, but simply, and fairly, not forever. Of course you cannot agree with cruel and nonsense expectations. I’d love to say more and elaborate on my earlier attempt, but I do not think you are open to it. Love isn’t difficult, but people make it appear so.

  217. Dear Pavlos
    Glad you found some interesting thoughts. I thought maybe you’d find it too simple! But you are always polite, I ought to have known.

    On desire. Yes, I’m aware of the Buddhists view and it is very evident. Then, if one possesses the desired object, one is in fear of losing it! It’s so evident in the religious and non-religious. It happens when we desire to possess something without of ourselves and our rights (as Adam and Eve did). We usually do it to gain power over others in one form or another. But, I said it in the meaning of finding the love within, which has no place to go but to give out to others. Then, we are being love. That’s why Jesus said ‘Physician, heal thyself’. Wonderful! I have to stop myself now or I’ll go on and on!

    On your question. It may have served an interesting an useful purpose to know why you ask it. The ‘wonderful’ in my last paragraph though, does show that I think the whole jigsaw of life has been laid out well by an entity ‘love’. I can see no other way to allow us to choose and prove sincerity to a creator. Why do you ask? Do you think you have a better way?

  218. “Paul, your argument doesn’t really hold up that well. You’re saying we weren’t created “sick” because the bible says “it was good”? You’re basically not seeing the forest for the trees here. What is being disputed is precisely what the bible claims, that it was not good. We were created in such a way that we never stood a chance. Then that same creator created a penalty which we were guaranteed to suffer. And then we were commanded to do precisely what we were created not capable of doing.”

    One thing you’re missing is God told Adam quite explicitly why he mustn’t eat from the Tree: He would die. And God’s warning turned out to be 100% accurate, by the way.

    Where do you get that we never stood/stand a chance? Reality seems quite replete with “chances.” Just no longer the “permanently well and dandy in Eden” chance. No, that’s passed. Also, what penalty are you talking about? Death? Hell? Finally what were we created not capable of doing? You’re invoking many unrealities here, NONE of which actually exist in Scripture. I can’t really argue with you or somebody Hitchens very far, to be honest, if so many blatant fictions are going to be “invented into” my position. That was my point.

    “You can’t love someone or something because you were told (commanded) to. That’s not love, it’s obedience. It’s same for commanding us to do good. The act will be good, but is that all that matters to God? Does he prefer lemmings like the Stepford Wives, doing good because they fear retribution?”

    Why is obedience so distasteful? And who says obedience is not love? Does no human child love their human parent? Because that is the kind of relationship we are talking about here, albeit on a different scale. Also, what’s so “loving” about disobedience in either regard? Moreover, you have by no means ruled out the glory and grandeur of God whereby we can learn to love Him–as each other–at last in obedience through a very unfortunate series of acts or attitudes of disobedience. This is why Jesus Christ instituted the number of times forgiveness should be granted. His answer to that question is nothing short of deeply profound.

    “Lastly, when you walk out of your house, do you really decide which way to go? Let’s say you chose left. Could you say why? And whatever answer you gave me, could you justify that with another similar answer to a similar question?”

    Sure, how about it is beneficial to go left. Or it is detrimental to go right. Or right looks interesting. I don’t feel like going left. It would make somebody else happy if I go left, so I’ll go along with it. All kinds of possibilities.

    I’m wondering if free will (apart from any religious understanding of it–but just in its own right, on human terms) exists for you, Pavlos? For you do human beings possess free will or are they biological robots anyways? My sincere apology if this question was already asked of you and I’m just failing to remember.

  219. First I’d like to address to your comment from earlier (I’m out of space on that thread so I must do it here). The comment begins with “Pavlos, I’m sorry to come back again, (though you did once say you were glad to hear all) . . .” And this is the first point I’d like to address. There really is no need to apologize to me for commenting. If I didn’t desire the conversation I wouldn’t participate in it. You are polite, thoughtful, and insightful so it’s a pleasure to converse with you. The only time I don’t welcome someone’s comments is when they are purposefully rude, insulting, or they’re just “trolling.”

    On to the “meat” of it . . .
    “You must know that a good loving God would allow us time to prove our desire for his way, but simply, and fairly, not forever. Of course you cannot agree with cruel and nonsense expectations. I’d love to say more and elaborate on my earlier attempt, but I do not think you are open to it. Love isn’t difficult, but people make it appear so.”

    I find no logic in an omnibenevolent god (or just a good and loving god) allowing suffering and evil to exist for any amount of time merely so that we can, hopefully, some day view his way as the right way. In fact, “he” has not even convinced me his way is the right way. If anything, I’m convinced it’s the wrong way. I disagree with his way from A to Z (even if we can find common ground in details in between). I think it’s Stephen Fry who said “You can’t just claim God is love; you have to account for bone cancer in children.” (I might have butchered his quote).

    I’ll move on to the comment I’m actually replying to.

    I ask because I think it’s rather easy to do it better. The point being that if a finite, flawed, and limited being such as myself (or others) can think of something better, then a perfect, eternal, and omniscient being such as God either doesn’t exist, or isn’t as described (including his motives or plan).

    Much of this comes down to what specifics you ascribe to. For example, there are some who say that God only requires us to be good and loving to each other. Fine (I can take issue with this also, but there’s a far easier target for me now). Others believe that it’s not about being good and loving, but about worshiping and being obedient to God’s will even if you find it flawed. So here’s a problem. If God’s will is not self-evident to all people (meaning he need not reveal himself to make himself or his will known) then there is no justification for punishment of people who don’t worship him or follow his will). Such a being would be entirely unworthy of even praise, let alone worship. In fact, I would want to do everything possible to ensure I don’t end up in any kingdom of his. So if this is the God in question, then I think we don’t need more that a couple of seconds of thought to imagine a better way to create existence.

    The same can be said about the version of God who only wants us to be good and loving. Were the people who lived 50,000 years ago aware of this? What about the people who are unkind and hateful because they were born into such an environment? Take the current N. Korean dictator for example. And undeniably cruel man who, if he died right now (and God exists) would certainly not go to heaven or be rewarded. But is it his fault? He was raised by a lunatic who was every bit as cruel and sadistic as his son (which is why his son is as such). So why isn’t he given a fighting chance? He didn’t ask to have a sadistic murderer as a father. He didn’t ask to be born into such an environment. And there is no hope at all that he will ever be converted into any Christian thought preaching that he must be good and loving. Again, not because it’s his fault, but because his mind has been poisoned since birth. Where does he go after death? Heaven would be undeserved and contradictory to the message that God only wants us to be good and loving. Hell would be unjust and contradictory to the claim of a perfect creation (because you can only punish someone justly if he is aware of right and wrong and he’s aware that he is doing wrong).

    And if that example is too hard then just think about some random man born into a cannibalistic tribe in Papua New Guinea (for example). A man who will never hear of God, Jesus, the Church, the Bible, or any of the messages, or plans, or God’s will. What he will hear of is of their own customs, much of which might be cruel, unloving, or unkind. The same question applies as above: where does he go after death? Either way it’s a strike against the notion of a creation by a perfect being. And it fails to meet the criteria of a loving being. This tribal man never had a chance. So where is God’s love for him? To me this seems like if I had a large number of children, but only told some of them my rules while expecting all of them to adhere to them.

  220. “God’s warning turned out to be 100% accurate, by the way.” It turned out to be accurate because he created it as such. It’s not like the tree existed independently of God’s creation. He created it and he created the penalty for eating from it. Telling your child what will happen is good, but if you made your child in such a way that he would not be able to resist the urge to do something despite your warnings, then you can’t blame the child for not obeying you (because you made him like that). It’s even worse if you’re omniscient so that you will know ahead of time that you have created something which will fail, by its nature, to live up to your will. And it’s even worse still if you’re going to punish that child for doing exactly what it had no choice but to do because you created it as such.

    “Where do you get that we never stood/stand a chance? ”

    Think of it like this: Let’s imagine you create a child in a lab, and that you are so accomplished at this that you can determine every aspect of its nature. The only thing you can’t determine is the choices it will make because it has free will. But, even though you can’t control his choices, you already know what choices he will make because you’ve also created his brain in a specific way. So he’s created with a brain which causes him to desire doing “action A” rather than “action B.” Now you tell him he’s no allowed to do “action A.” Why? “Because I’ll make you suffer if you do.” With nothing else told, we already can see that you are unjust (perhaps even sadistic). To make it worse, however, you allow someone else to enter your child’s world; someone whom you know is far smarter, and more cunning than your child. And you allow that other person to freely interact with your child and use every weapon in his mental arsenal to convince him that doing “action A” is good for him. Not only did you create this child desiring “action A,” you also created him so that he is easily manipulated by this other person. Lastly, you have created a punishment for doing “action A.” This is where Hitchens’ quote becomes clear. “We are created sick and ordered to be well.” In other words, we are created in a specific way, and then told to be the opposite of what we were created to be. And if we fail, which we will, we will be punished.

    That child never stood a chance.

    “Just no longer the “permanently well and dandy in Eden” chance. No, that’s passed. ”

    You find this to be fair? Your ancestors (many times removed) do something wrong and get kicked out of Eden, but what about you? Why don’t you get the same opportunity they did? Why must you pay for their mistakes?

    “Also, what penalty are you talking about? Death? Hell? Finally what were we created not capable of doing? You’re invoking many unrealities here, NONE of which actually exist in Scripture. I can’t really argue with you or somebody Hitchens very far, to be honest, if so many blatant fictions are going to be “invented into” my position. That was my point.”

    First you ask me what penalty I’m talking about, then you accuse me of creating a fictional penalty and tell me you can’t argue with me because I’m creating “unrealities” which you seem to be imagining me creating.

    In any case, I’ll just go with exactly what’s in the bible: Our expulsion from the garden of Eden (for that original sin). Beyond that it depends on your theology. If you believe that we inherited that predisposition to sin from Adam then you make my case so much easier to make (and Hitchens’ quote so much clearer).

    “Why is obedience so distasteful?”
    Are you seriously asking me this? A desire to be obedient is a desire to be enslaved. Freedom and obedience cannot coexist. I value such things as freedom, and independence. I’ve never desired to be obedient, nor to have others be obedient to me. In fact, I find it hard to even respect people who would sooner grovel at my feet than stand eye to eye against me. I have a much higher opinion of my most hated adversary, than I do for my most loyal subject. One of the things I love the most about my children is that they refuse to accept my word based on my “authority” or status as their father. If I can’t convince them that doing something is wrong, then no amount of me telling them will prevent them from doing it. And I love that about them.

    But to be more succinct here, obedience is distasteful because it’s dishonest and demeaning.

    “And who says obedience is not love?”
    Obedience requires the imposition of the master’s will upon his subservient slave. This is not love. But this also a mistaken interpretation of what I said. I didn’t say obedience is not love (though I say it now), rather that you can’t love someone because you are commanded to. There is a rather big difference between the two.

    “Does no human child love their human parent?”
    Does any parent force his child to love him? And if so, is it really love? A parent who has to force his child to love him, does not deserve that love, nor will he ever have it, only a pretense of love.

    “Also, what’s so “loving” about disobedience in either regard?”
    There a difference between being disobedient, and not being required to be obedient. To be disobedient you must first have a master/slave relationship and have the master issue a commandment. Then the slave must refuse to be obedient, thus being disobedient. None of these things exist in the love aspect of a loving relationship.

    “Moreover, you have by no means ruled out the glory and grandeur of God whereby we can learn to love Him–as each other–at last in obedience through a very unfortunate series of acts or attitudes of disobedience. ”

    if I have not, let me do so now. Anybody who demands or desires to be worshiped or obeyed deserves neither. Think of it in simple terms: why do we look up to certain people, and what kind of people are they? We look up to those who rise above the rest of us while never considering themselves better than us. This is why we value and reward humility and scoff at arrogance. Take any man or woman alive today who people consider worthy of praise. The moment they stop being humble (and I’m positive they all are) is the moment society will turn on them like a pack of hungry wolves. You can even try this yourself. Go to a forum and be humble. Then go to another forum and declare that you are better than everyone else. People who know nothing about you will go out of their way to attack you for being so arrogant. So what’s my point? If God was grand and glorious this would be self-evident, he would never have to demand worship of us, and more importantly he would be more humble than any of us. He would reject our worship, put aside our praise, and ask that we don’t waste a single moment praising him. So God’s grandeur is eliminated by God’s own words.

    “Sure, how about it is beneficial to go left. Or it is detrimental to go right. Or right looks interesting. I don’t feel like going left. It would make somebody else happy if I go left, so I’ll go along with it. All kinds of possibilities.”

    Since this is a hypothetical we will have to pick one and go with it. So let’s just go with the first one you mentioned. “It’s beneficial to go left.” So you have a reason (something is making it beneficial for you). This reason exists independently of your choice, and prior to it. So the reason is “guiding” your action. Are you the type of person who prefers to do beneficial things? Well, if you’re choosing to go left because it’s beneficial then I think it’s safe to say that you are that person who prefers to do beneficial things. But if that’s true then you never really had a choice walking out of your house. Since you are the type of person who prefers to do beneficial things then by virtue of being you you had no choice but to go left. You couldn’t choose to go right because that’s not something you would do. You have the illusion of freedom of choice, but your choices are determined by your biology and personality (you go left because you can biologically, and also because your personality dictates that you prefer to do beneficial things). Your biology is also what creates your personality. By removing or altering specific parts of your brain we can change your personality in many different ways. We can even make you a masochist who hates doing beneficial things (assuming neurology advances to such a level, if it hasn’t already). Your memories, for example, exist physically in your brain (the connection of specific neurons which recreates those memories). So is the rest of your personality. This means that your “choices” are made in your biology before they appear in your consciousness (this has actually been studied and proven to be true). And your biology is pretty much out of your control.

    So to answer your next question:

    “I’m wondering if free will (apart from any religious understanding of it–but just in its own right, on human terms) exists for you, Pavlos? For you do human beings possess free will or are they biological robots anyways? My sincere apology if this question was already asked of you and I’m just failing to remember.”

    No, I don’t believe we have free will because the brain always precedes the mind, and any choices which I think I am making with my mind have, in fact, been made at the biological level prior to me even knowing about it.

    Sorry for the length.

  221. Thank you for your kind words Pavlos.

    I have yet to hear of an argument that blocks my belief that there could be an omnibenevolent God. I have always, (as long as I can remember), considered the matters you mention. David Attenborough is another atheist and said he could not believe in a loving God when he sees a maggot crawl out of a child’s eye. That’s the argument against nature’s nasty effects. It has been put to me that this along with natural disasters is due to man upsetting nature’s systems. I can imagine that this could be a possibility but it does require an expansion of thought. Perhaps so, or perhaps another explanation exists, but I’m not prepared to give up on the possibility of God because of it. As for the judgements men make on others, these are made from ignorance. God would have every single record, omitting nothing. His view would not be as narrow as ours and with such short vision. He would know exactly what we started out with, what chances we have had to see a speck of light amongst whatever else we receive and how we have responded or not, what we have done with any opportunity and even if we never had a chance, perhaps we would even be given another life (He knows ‘every hair on our head’ – more then we ever can). His knowledge/thoughts/judgement would never be restricted to the miniscule rules that we have available to us. Jesus knew this and tells us not to judge one another. We may find it necessary to imprison or sanction some for the safety of others but we’re in no position to determine whether they’ll be made anew because god sees them in a different light, or whether those we judge as ‘suitable’ for heaven will indeed be there. (Who do we think we are? God?!)

    I do believe you are judging the man made God. I’d rather make my own errors than blindly accept, (or bother to argue against), those opinions. I don’t believe the God in question wants us to do that.

  222. Who says that God created Man in such a way that he would not be able to resist the urge to disobey Him? I find this nowhere factual, but something entirely made up. I can, for instance, resist the urge to lie other human beings. I can resist the urge to sleep with someone elses wife. If so, Adam and Eve could have as surely resisted the urge to eat from the fruit. That they didn’t (or I don’t) is flimsy commentary (that doesn’t hold up in any factual way) on their (my) potential ability to do so. How do I know so, in fact? Because the same is true for me; I can resist or give in. Quite freely.

    The other thing that’s missed is a taking of God’s original admonition entirely at face value: i.e. Perhaps He, having seen what He created was good, didn’t WANT His Creation to die/be summarily destroyed. And even though we disobeyed, the Son (who was created, Scripture claims, before all worlds) still perfectly conquered that very death for us anyway.

    This is getting pushed right, so I’ll have to leave it there. Strikes me as the key to a lot of questions, in fact.

  223. My apologies for making the grave mistake here of saying Christ was “created.” I meant entirely “begotten” but committed the semantic blunder anyway.

    Horribly misleading, sorry.

  224. Pavlos, one final question, why are you so puffed up on freedom and independence on one end:

    “Are you seriously asking me this? A desire to be obedient is a desire to be enslaved. Freedom and obedience cannot coexist. I value such things as freedom, and independence. I’ve never desired to be obedient, nor to have others be obedient to me. In fact, I find it hard to even respect people who would sooner grovel at my feet than stand eye to eye against me. I have a much higher opinion of my most hated adversary, than I do for my most loyal subject. One of the things I love the most about my children is that they refuse to accept my word based on my “authority” or status as their father. If I can’t convince them that doing something is wrong, then no amount of me telling them will prevent them from doing it. And I love that about them.

    But to be more succinct here, obedience is distasteful because it’s dishonest and demeaning.”

    and yet at the other free will winds up being an illusion for you here:

    “This means that your “choices” are made in your biology before they appear in your consciousness (this has actually been studied and proven to be true). And your biology is pretty much out of your control.

    So to answer your next question:

    No, I don’t believe we have free will because the brain always precedes the mind, and any choices which I think I am making with my mind have, in fact, been made at the biological level prior to me even knowing about it.”

    Since you maintain we are the slaves of atoms anyway, one has to seriously question why you performed above the highly specious argument only to tail up flatly contradicting yourself in the end in related material.

    Moreover, love can never be free in that paradigm. In fact, it may not even exist. In fact, it definitely has no discernible point and all the people who speak of “love” are just wasting our time on a lie. You are, in fact, wasting our time here with this precept (now in shambles of your own creation) of imagining you love your children.

    Since I consider it inhuman to tell you you do not love children, I have to maintain that the Christian apologetic here is, flatly, far less self-contradictory.

  225. If Adam could have (resisted the urge), he would have. He (we) was not created perfect. He was created imperfect (flawed, or with the ability and probability to make errors). He was then given a command with no reasoning or persuasion outside of the implied authority of the issuer. He was presented with the object he found naturally attractive (and told not to eat from), and he (or more accurately, at first, Eve) was left alone with a persuasive adversary. If this was a sporting event we’d say it was rigged.

    The fact that you, and I, and others, can resist urges is not comparable. We have reasons and reasoning, for resisting, beyond a simple command of “because I said so.” If anything, when someone tells you not to do something, he only increases your desire to do it. To really prevent someone from doing something you have to give them good reasons, not mere commands. In any case, even if a mere command should have been enough it clearly wasn’t. This means that Adam was not the type of person who obeys such commands. And who made him like that? God.

  226. I forgot to address your final point here: This might be just flimsy usage of semantics, but God seeing that what he created was good, implies he didn’t know beforehand it would be good (which goes against his omniscience). It also implies that it was possible that he could have created something that’s not good; which would be a problem if you are a perfect being that is omnipotent and omniscient.

    Much of this is explainable by the fact that the modern view of God is far different than the ancient view (where he was seen literally as an embodied man playing hide and seek in the garden with Adam and Eve . . . see: Genesis 3:8, Exodus 33:20 and such).

  227. Re: Freedom, I’ll address this with an analogy, or two. My point is similar to a prison situation. The warden gets to decide when it’s “lights out” but he doesn’t get to decide when you actually fall asleep. He can decide what meals you will be served, but he doesn’t get to decide if you will enjoy them. He can decide the physical restrictions that you can travel, but he can’t decide where you may chose to “fly off” to with your mind. My point is that accepting a reality (there is no free will) does not negate by necessity the desire to be free, nor does it eliminate all forms of freedom.

    Let me use one final analogy to better illustrate this point. I’m assuming you desire freedom. Despite the fact that you also desire to have a God who is a totalitarian demanding obedience and worship, I’d wager that if given the choice you’d pick to live in a country in which you are free, rather than a country in which you will be sold as a slave. To me this seems contradictory, much in the same way that you accused my position of being. Nonetheless, you are a free man and yet you aren’t free to swim underwater longer than your body will allow. Nor are you free to jump to the moon, or wander about in space without a protective suit. In other words, there are physical limitations which restrict your freedom to do anything you desire to do. So you cherish what freedom you have within the confines of the forced restrictions of your biology. There’s nothing contradictory about this at all. Neither is there a contradiction between not having free will and not desiring a celestial dictator.

    Re:Love, you are merely defining love in an unrealistic way which requires elements that haven’t been proven to exist. Under that scenario it’s far more accurate for me to question that type of “love” being real. To claim “I love you” under such conditions is to say “I feel certain emotions for you which require unproven and unrealistic demands for which I have no evidence that they exist.” Worse yet, it implies that love is something which you can freely turn on or off (“today I love you, tomorrow I won’t because I want to love someone else for a day, but then I’ll choose to love you again . . . until I decide otherwise.”). Just like you can’t be commanded to love someone, you can’t choose to love someone either. Can God choose to not love you? If so, he’s not omnibenevolent (nor does he really love you). If not, he lacks that same freedom of will which you claim he gave us.

    So love not only doesn’t require freedom, it can’t exist with it. But I want to be clear, there’s a difference between feeling something outside of your desire to feel it, and being forced to feel it. I’ll go back to my biology analogy for this. I’m not free to continue living without breathing, but I can’t be forced to live without breathing either. Breathing is a requirement for our life. The fact that you aren’t free to turn it off and continue living doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

    So when I say I love my children I mean it in the most real way possible. It’s not a claim that is based on wishful thinking, archaic notions, obedience to my children, or the whim of my desire.

    You haven’t mentioned if there is anyone in your life that you love (and you don’t have to, of course), but if love depends on your freedom to decide otherwise, then are you telling me that anyone whom you may love might lose your love if you just wake up one morning and decide, freely, to choose not to love them anymore? Lastly, can anyone force you to love someone else (would your feelings count as “love” if you are merely obeying a command)?

  228. Much of this depends on your theology, but let me give you some of my reasons why I can’t believe in an omnibenevolent God. First there is the “Problem of Evil.” I won’t get into the details of it because it’s a rather long argument with counterarguments and counter-counterarguments etc., but I’ll summarize it with this quote by Epicurus, “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” Of course, many would cite free will as a defense to this, and I won’t get into that right now since I’m already addressing it with “Paul,” but this does nothing for natural evil (like a tree falling on a child, pinning him there in agony for days until he dies). Others will say, as you did, that perhaps it’s because of our corruption that evil exists (natural and human). This would have to be combined with free will to make much sense to me (though it still does nothing for natural evil), but, OK, let’s say this is true. Why, then, don’t we all get the same chance our ancestors got? For example, I was told a story by a friend (she is a social worker) about a baby that was stuffed in the freezer just a few days after it was born. According to the coroner, it suffered for quite some time before dying. Why, with an omnibenevolent God, does this happen? Free will, OK, but why must a completely innocent infant suffer for her abusive (murderous even) mother’s ability to freely choose to do this? Corruption of people? Why must the infant pay for their corruption? Lastly, why couldn’t God (knowing the infant would suffer and die in that freezer) just end it sooner? The infant is put in the freezer and God is unwilling to prevent it because of the mother’s free will (even thought, as Epicurus said, that means he’s not omnibenevolent), but as soon as it’s in, God knows it will suffer and die. So why not just end it right there and then?

    Second, hell. Someone once told me that he can’t wait until we both die so that he can watch me from heaven as I roast in hell. He was human and flawed, fine, but God? He’s omnibenevolent and he yet he will allow eternal torment and suffering (under his watch) of a being he loves? And for what offense? Blasphemy? Eternity in hell for blasphemy? This doesn’t work for an omnibenevolent God. Imagine if your child “blasphemed” against you so you decided to take into the basement and torment it for the rest of its life. Now multiply that by infinity (the length of time we spend in hell) and degree of suffering (hell being worse than any physical torment we could inflict), and that’s God being loving? Of course this depends on a perception of hell which isn’t really accurate to the bible (hell is not a place of torment for humans, rather the eternal flames were created for the fallen angel, while for us it’s merely a separation from God, or nonexistence, depending on your interpretation). But either way, it’s an infinite punishment for a finite crime, and it’s not even much of a crime to say “I have not been convinced that God exists so I don’t believe in him.”

    Third, and final point due to length, omnibenevolent means not only wanting the very best possible for others. I think we sometimes get lost in the word, which isn’t often used, so we forget what we are talking about. It means that God doesn’t just love us, but that he always want’s the very best possible outcome for us. It means that he suffers infinitely more than we do when we suffer. It means that anytime he can make it better for us he will, or die trying (though that would be beneath him since he is omnipotent to there’s nothing he can’t do). So imagine your love for someone. The type of love that makes you honestly say “I would die for them.” Now imagine how much more God’s love would have to be for us. Can you truly, honestly, tell me this world, or anything you know about God, has lived up to that standard? It hasn’t even lived up to a human level of love. The love that I experience for my loved ones is so far greater than anything I have seen from God that it’s almost insulting to me to say that God is omnibenevolent. I can’t even imagine harming my children in retribution for an offense (especially not some insignificant, or minor, one), and yet God not only has hell (eternal) set up, but if the bible is to be believed has committed and commanded some atrocious crimes against humanity (his children which he supposedly loves so much).

    Finally, you said “I do believe you are judging the man made God.” This reminds me of Anselm’s ontological argument describing God as”. . . that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” If you’re not familiar you should look it up, I think you would find it an attractive view (if not similar to your own). Although, I’d urge you to also look up the criticisms of it.

  229. Your argument was still self-defeating. All of this analysis and analogies just strike me as delayed attempts to wiggle out, but oh well. One thing I do know: You haven’t wiggled out of it at all but merely made the situation more perplexing than it initially was. In your framework, there is still never anything except biology carrying itself out. Thus all distinction you (arrogantly) proffer of love or not love, free or not free, it is really just one big pipe cloud your smoking up. But, best of luck to you.

    I will tell you one thing: Females have consistently “woken up” one day and decided not to love me anymore. I don’t know; body odor perhaps? Who knows!

    But in reality Christian theology is simply better than any of your answers: God does not “force” us to love him. Just because the commandment to love Him and one another is given, doesn’t imply or even logically necessitate “force” or even negate modes of a “choice” to love him. In fact, I thought Atheists were rather clear proof of the contrary that it is not a matter of “force” or “coercion.”

    I think all this stems from your (frankly) rather irrational desire to reside in (and ascribe to God and us utterly) the rather one-dimensional the “MASTER/SLAVE” paradigm of “obedience.” Um, wake up: God is not 1-dimensional! No Christian is now nor ever has said He is. Master/slave is one paradigm of the relationship: There are myriads. It is really just a way of saying God is the greater and we are all the lesser. Does not the student obey the teacher out of love for truth (yikes! we hope!) and learning? Does not the athlete obey the coach out of love for winning and (hopefully) the game itself played fairly? Does not the soldier obey the officer out of love for their country? Does not the patient obey the doctor out of love for their body?

    So, too, did Christ complete his work on the cross, obeying the Father out of love for the Father and us. He could have as easily, having done such things as change water into wine, struck down the chief priests with lightning and laid waste to the Roman Empire. But He didn’t because becoming the scourge of the Roman Empire wasn’t conquering death for us.
    No: He instead showed us “the most glorious way” or something on that semantic order. The Father’s will and the Son’s, in perfect alignment.

  230. Eric,
    You said that for you, everything in existence is a reason to believe in god. Isn’t that simply conformation bias?

  231. Pavlos, there’s not a reply option under your comments to me at 2.03 this morning (31 May), so, I’m replying above it from my earlier comments. (why does this happen, I wonder).
    Pavlos, As you have said on several occasions, much depends on ones belief and interpretations. Many people base their conclusions on the same interpretations of God as you use. There is no way to go but to agree with the conclusions you make IF you base it on the things you pull out of the bag. Our different conclusions are not caused by a lack of understanding of what you are repeatedly trying to show, but is because we do not agree with the fundamental concept of God that you give. You are coming from a different position. The question is, what causes us to see god in a different way. Some of your thoughts are in the bible and I believe them to be immature interpretations (that is not an insult), or for a different purpose.
    Jesus showed us the way of impartial love (that is, for all, not just for our favoured ones) and said this is the love of God. This love is indeed inconsistent with the God you describe. I kept this impartial love in my mind and examined it in all aspects of the life that I experienced, until, I came to realise why it must provide free will (as you like to with your children and as in the prodigal son example), and why injustice of all sorts occurs. I think Jesus gave us the New Testament because others had misused the old one. He does not change the message of love but gives us an easy way to look at it, so we do not have to rely of the false teachers. But we still have to let go of the old and make use of the new (you cannot put new wine into old wineskins). You do not have to be stuck in the mud with those who dragged you there. No-one can do this for another, simply, because it is indeed a matter of free-will and we are all at different positions. It will take much more than a blog to even try to help you away from your destructive thoughts on god but impossible without your own choices. A religious friend once told me that I must put my foot into the water and I replied but, where is the water? I had always examined the ways of mankind, but then I seriously looked at, and examined, the words of Jesus, from which I saw the possibility of an omnipotent and benevolent God and the beauty of it. It also provides insight into the Old Testament.
    I hope you can find it too, by looking in the right direction for it.
    All the best, with love, Dichasium 🙂
    ps. (apologies for my incorrect use of omnibenevolent). .

  232. I would amend that and say that “existence” is reason enough to believe in God. But help me understand why you take this to be conformation bias?

  233. I would consider it to be conformation bias because you are using existance as evidence for a god, but not providing any reason or detail as to how you draw your conclusion. I will not speculate as to your reasons for drawing this conclusion, but hope you expand on this.

  234. Very nice article. I would however like to contend that while I am no expert apologist, your 7th point alluding to Christ’s death as not purposed to appease God’s wrath, seems to reject the presence of that wrath altogether. Rom 1:18 directly points to that wrath as being revealed against the ungodly. Following from the two preceding scriptures it does, at least in my humble view, appear that the gospel is God’s loophole (if you will) or escape out of a judgement that we rightfully deserve. A judgement that comes about because of his wrath and hate for sin. You are right. God didn’t need Jesus to die so he could love us, nor did his death serve as just an appeasement, however I think there is a mid-point on the argument as in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed (v.17) …… because His wrath is also revealed against the ungodly(v.18) The Bible actually says that God is angry with the wicked everyday(Psalms 7:11). While I can agree that Christ’s death was as you say to unite mankind, though you did not use a verse (i guess his death would have united jews and gentiles) I am very sure that from the verses in Rom. 1:16-18, that while i don’t see Christ’s death as a mere appeasement, it is definitely a response to a wrath that ungodly man deserves.
    Thanks for the articles and continued education.

  235. I’m looking forward to Eric’s reply to Darryl but I can’t wait. So, my opinion, for what it’s worth, is that it is wrongly attributed to God’s wrath, but is, actually a natural consequence in God’s universe that everything that works for the good lives on (because it works in God’s kingdom), whereas everything that does not work for good will naturally die because it does not fit into His kingdom. This attitude may help others who cannot tolerate the belief that God has wrath and a sort of revenge.
    Does Jesus describe it such? I can’t remember all, but will certainly check it out.

  236. Hello Darryl, pleasure to have you on.

    Because this is such a huge topic I tried to exhaust my personal knowledge on it in two articles, here:

    https://ehyde.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/was-jesus-sent-to-heal-man-or-to-heal-god/

    and here

    https://ehyde.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/was-jesus-sent-to-heal-man-or-to-heal-god-a-look-at-propitiation-vs-expiation/

    I would love to hear your thoughts on them. And, yes, I think there is a “mid-point” but it is important that one knows what it is that Christ came to destroy. He did not come to destroy his Father’s wrath but rather death. If he came to destroy the Father’s wrath then his essential ministry was to heal the Father, not mankind; he essentially becomes our protection against the Father rather than our union with Him.

  237. Paul, I can assure you that I am not trying to “wiggle out” of any argument. My position is ironclad and I was offering you analogies to help you understand what you don’t seem to want to understand. It seems your desire to find me wrong is overpowering your ability to understand the argument.

    If you insist, however, on claiming I am wrong, please go ahead and prove me wrong. Merely asserting that I am is, as you should know, fruitless.

    The females that woke deciding not to love you anymore didn’t love you in the first place. Perhaps the problem is that you don’t know what “love” is. It’s certainly not lust, a one-night stand, or a “crush.”

    “God does not “force” us to love him. ”

    Perhaps you also don’t understand your own theology. What happens to you if you don’t ” obey God’s commandments? You go to hell, yes? So your option is “obey me or be eternally punished.” If a man puts a gun to your head and says “Your money or your life” would you not say that he is forcing you to give him your money? Under your definition it seems not. You’d merely be offering him your money.

    “Master/slave is one paradigm of the relationship: There are myriads.”

    You just handed me the entire argument. Thank you. What other relationships exist between people and God is irrelevant once you have already acknowledged that there is a Master-Slave relationship.

    ” He could have as easily, . . .”

    If we’re going to go down the road of what he could have done differently then you’re not going to like all the alternatives that exist along that journey. Though I do find it fascinating that you seem to have merely accepted this tale without even considering the claims. You find something special about an amortal being temporarily “dying”?

  238. It’s not my desire to find you wrong. It’s that you are wrong. “We were created sick and commanded to be well” was incorrect and a total misunderstanding passed off as some clever summary. It’s not–at all. That was where all of this stemmed from.

    And I do understand what you’re trying to explain to me. I’m slightly insulted (but it’s no big deal really) you felt the need to “explain to me” that I didn’t understand that obviously we don’t have total freedom to do everything and anything we wish, as if I’m too childish to understand this. I also understand that we are in no small way what our “biology” says. But “biology” only suffices up to a point, as you proved via the discussion regards “loving your children” and “them loving you” and what roles freedom and obedience play in that that, which you (there is no way out of it) want to contradict by saying all choice is biologically predetermined. Don’t get me wrong: I was glad your earlier claim (regards your children etc. contradicted it) but that still doesn’t make it the slightest bit logical.

    Maybe I don’t know what love is. I certainly wasn’t talking about lust or one-night stands. For one thing, humanity has been, by and large, poor at showing me what it is, though imho they talk a good game about what it is. I know God hasn’t.

    Also: Get this! If I don’t obey God’s commandments? I can repent and ask forgiveness! Fancy that! This isn’t an “excuse” of course: True repentance and forgiveness isn’t “excuse me, God.” Your weak point here is how hasty you are in your evaluation of “hell.” I will refer you again to the number of times Christ in the Gospel said forgiveness is to be given.

    Also, why do you object so strongly to anybody being “God’s slave” yet you have asserted elsewhere we are pretty much the slaves of our biology?

    There is more freedom, I submit, to be found in being God’s slave than all the phony weak piss-poor “freedoms” this world waves in our faces and just as soon takes away like a precocious mistress.

  239. This is a continuation of my discussion with Paul.
    “It’s not my desire to find you wrong. It’s that you are wrong.” Not to be repetitive, but you keep asserting this without giving me any reasons why. Typically, to defeat an argument you go after the premises and show how, or why, they are incorrect. Merely stating I’m wrong is like giving me an argument that consists of nothing more than a conclusion . . . it’s not enough.

    “I’m slightly insulted (but it’s no big deal really) you felt the need to “explain to me” . . .”

    Don’t take it personally. I am verbose and aware of it; it’s not because I think you don’t understand what I’m claiming (see, I just did it again 🙂 ).

    “But “biology” only suffices up to a point . . .”

    Any assertion regarding a human function, ability, attribute (etc.) that is not tied existentially to our biology needs to be proven or, at minimum, supported by something. It’s like saying “our soul . . .” I’ll just stop you right there and ask you to prove we have a soul before I can accept any arguments which originate from such a thing existing. Equally for “love” if you are claiming it’s more than a function originating in our biology (chemical interactions, synaptic “firings” etc), then I’m going to need more than just the assertion that it is so.

    “. . . what roles freedom and obedience play in that that, which you (there is no way out of it) want to contradict by saying all choice is biologically predetermined. . . ”

    Can you please point out the contradiction? Also, you still haven’t given me an alternative to the materialistic claim that “we make choices based on our biological predetermination.”

    “Maybe I don’t know what love is. I certainly wasn’t talking about lust or . . .”

    Granted, but that was the “low hanging fruit.” If a woman gets out of bed one morning, declares she doesn’t love you, and then walks out for good, it’s reasonable to assume she didn’t really love you in the first place (or perhaps you did something so abhorrent that she couldn’t feel that way anymore). Whatever the case may be, let’s look at familial love (“Storge”), the love between a parent and offspring. I don’t know if you have children, so I’ll ask about parents. Could you turn it (your love) on or off at will for your parents? Truly love your mother now, then for five minutes truly not love her, then for five minutes love her again . . . and so on? I certainly couldn’t. Especially not for my children. It’s an old cliche, but I truly mean it (and feel it) when I say that if one of my daughter’s needed my heart to continue living I would give it without even considering it (the cliche being that I love her so much I’d die for her). I can’t turn that off. It’s not something I chose to feel, it’s not a decision I made, I was never before, nor am I now, free to choose otherwise. If this is the love I must have for God then, sorry, but it’s not there and it’s not going to happen, certainly not because someone (God even) told me to. Just like you can’t force me to love another person’s child like I love my own. It doesn’t matter who you are, what authority you have, what power you have over me . . . at best I can pretend to love another child like that, but never honestly.

    “If I don’t obey God’s commandments? I can repent and ask forgiveness! Fancy that! This isn’t an “excuse” of course: True repentance and forgiveness isn’t “excuse me, God.'”

    I’m glad you don’t take that stance (that merely confessing and saying a few prayers will get you out of anything). That’s a truly despicable practice in my opinion. Having said that, however, this only goes back to our original disagreement. I don’t feel the need to be forgiven for something I was created to do. If looking at a woman lustfully is a sin (something God doesn’t want me to do) then he shouldn’t have made me a person who lusts after beautiful women (and I’ll ignore the fact that this is a “thought-crime” which is the mark of a truly oppressive dictator).

    “Your weak point here is how hasty you are in your evaluation of “hell.” I will refer you again to the number of times Christ in the Gospel said forgiveness is to be given.”

    And I will refer you to Mark 3:28-29 “I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever.”

    And also Matthew 12:31-32 “And I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

    Done and done, for me. I am, by nature, not a person who submits to such authority and demands. I’m sure that, like any person, given enough torture I could be made to say the words, but I would never truly feel anything but contempt for such a profoundly petty and flawed mentality. To be clear, not only do I deny the existence of the “Holy Spirit,” I would also deny its authority, and righteousness should it actually exist. In fact, to be honest, if it did exist (or if I believed it did) I would do far more than engage in internet discussions to combat such evil. I deny it, and speak against it in every way possible. And I can’t do otherwise (it wouldn’t be true to my nature to do so). Which means I am to be punished for something I was created to be. Which brings me back to Hitchens’ quote.

    “Also, why do you object so strongly to anybody being “God’s slave” yet you have asserted elsewhere we are pretty much the slaves of our biology?”

    For the same reason you would object to being another man’s slave even though you accept that you are still a slave to your biology (perhaps not the same degree I assert this, but to some degree anyway). Our “slavery” to our biology is really not slavery at all because we are our biology. We are not a mind trapped in a body, rather we are a body expressing itself with a mind. Slavery requires two opposing forces, one of which dominates the other and forces it into submission. I and my body are the same (no opposing forces).

    “There is more freedom, I submit, to be found in being God’s slave . . .” I read that the same way I would read this “There is more freedom, I submit, to be found in being Kim Jong-un’s slave . . .” Well, yes, of course you will consider yourself to have more freedom if you submit to the “dear leader” and his oppressive regime. Dictators often grant special privileges to their most loyal subjects. But never forget that you will always be nothing more than a subject to him. Step out of bounds and you get crushed. Dare to think for yourself and you will have to ask him forgiveness. “Dear Lord, I’m sorry I used my brain to have an independent thought. I should have known better.”

  240. “Any assertion regarding a human function, ability, attribute (etc.) that is not tied existentially to our biology needs to be proven or, at minimum, supported by something. It’s like saying “our soul . . .” I’ll just stop you right there and ask you to prove we have a soul before I can accept any arguments which originate from such a thing existing. Equally for “love” if you are claiming it’s more than a function originating in our biology (chemical interactions, synaptic “firings” etc), then I’m going to need more than just the assertion that it is so.”

    This is a false dilemma because I am not, and it strikes me as the prime line of Christian theology isn’t saying that these things (functions, abilities, attributes) aren’t tied existentially to our biology. This creates a land of false dichotomy, to my thinking. In fact, I don’t even know that I’m altogether content with “functions, abilities, and attributes” but that doesn’t strike me as very helpful to us (semantic hair-splitting on my part) so I’ll abandon it.

    Another false dilemma: “…ask you to prove we HAVE a soul….” My understanding of it is that it is even more revolutionary than that: We ARE SOULS. This, to me, is not a semantic point to be taken lightly. One does not “have” a soul as though in ownership and tow, as though it were one’s personal pet, some ghastly sliver of oneself or shade. You’re actually asking me to prove something in a particular way I don’t find to be true. I won’t try to prove it, in fact, partly because I’m unaware as yet how and also because such activity does strike me as deeply idiotic on my part. I will refer you, though, to the common language of the tribe: “I did some deep soul-searching the other day….” This shall be an interesting question for mankind: Can it bear to wrench and remove entirely the concept of its “soul” from itself? I’m just inclined to notice in colloquial speech, no matter how firmly our spirituality is denied or suppressed….no sooner next do you get folks speaking about the SACREDNESS of life. And how sacred human beings are. Ha! they’re right but here’s the kicker: WHY? WHAT is so sacred about us? And why do we attach to ourselves such significance of sanctity against which he hold such a firm foothold against any and all trespass to the contrary?

    I wouldn’t rule out for love the possibility of it originating in our biology (to get back on point here) but if it’s not nothing more in the end than chemical interactions and synaptic firings expressing itself outwardly, Pavlos, don’t you have a sense of being the slightest bit cheated? I know I do. In fact, no sooner does it physically break down (as it must, in the end) than you get people talking about posterity and extraordinary individuals. You have the imperative to improve education. You have the desire to revolutionize. Through these humanity negotiates complex systems of justice and truth. You have people beckoning us to examine the deeper significance of things. Good grief, that all of this effort is just adrift and destined for the intergalactic scrap-heap that is the cruelest fate I’ve ever heard for humanity. More cruel than I can bear, personally, I don’t know about anybody else. In fact, this in particular is something I find in Christianity uniquely true: Because the “scrap-heap” (yeah, there probably will be a “scrap-heap” temporarily) is definitively not the end of our story with God. That is the hope, anyway.

    But I don’t imagine any of this will be any proof for you. I suppose I can summarize my proof more briefly: Because we are burdened as beings by knowing and believing what the Truth is at all. That’s the clearest best proof I know.

    I looked at the Scripture you’ve quoted (and clipped from context, btw, but its ok), Pavlos, and the context is Jesus being falsely accused of driving out demons on authority of Beelzebub. Not believing here is not some “theoretical” point of hair-splitting over which we can multiply possibilities for you but it is the very heart rub and core of Jesus’ rebuke: You HAVE to first believe that the Spirit of God and the Devil are REAL, in order to then blaspheme and call the work of the Holy Spirit the Devil. And these folks certainly believed wrongly. This is the only sense in which Jesus is referring to blasphemy. Let me assure you that you are well safe from this type of blasphemy 🙂 It’s when we drift into confusing the Holy Spirit for the work of the Devil we are surely in deep water and I would advise against that as strongly as possible.

    As for the Hitchens remix you’re mashing up on Kim Jong-un…God is nothing like him, Pavlos. Period. Case closed. I’ve long maintained the kingdom of heaven is not even remotely comparable to any earthly dictatorship and I think Scriptures bear me out. How can it be? His love (unlike ours) is perfect and Scripture is replete with His express desire to rescue us from any and all real oppression. This is a phrase I see even many Christians in the profound mistake of making, saying with too much zeal what God is and heaven is. I’ve heard it repeatedly from cheeseball American Fundamentalists: “Heaven will be a benevolent dictatorship!” No! I want to tell them. You are wrong. Followed by: Incorrect analogy; quit misleading people about God! I’m very sorry but King (correct), Lord (correct) and “dictator” (INcorrect) aren’t remotely interchangeable, which is exactly the way the modern mind is inclined to relax and express itself. To be honest, I find it symptomatic of our modern intellectual laziness. Just because the modern rhetoric of political ideology vaguely mashes up oppressive rulers like swiss-cheese doesn’t give these over-zealous Christians the right to “mash-up” distinctions of God’s sovereign glory any free-wheeling which way one chooses. There is nor one hint of cruelty or despotism about God’s sovereign glory. Could it be that Christians lack the stomach and guts to express this strongly enough? I shall! to my grave, every time the parade of “human despotic leadership” is paraded out before me as though we could compare them to God. It will be “no no no no and NO” all day long.

    Kim Jong-un, to take an interesting spin off Scripture, probably isn’t even worthy of being the Lord’s footstool.

    I think I got you beat on sheer verbosity, Pavlos 😉

  241. Storge! boy, am i the wrong person to talk about it! But I wanted to address your point on that subject (can’t believe I forgot!) mostly cause I find it interesting, less so out of any desire to disagree. In fact, agree!

    As for parents and children…well, I’m a real loser at relating on this subject mostly because I’m a child of divorce. My mom mostly dumped me on her mother’s doorstep and came around every other weekend to sign a few checks and see how we were doing. My father essentially went and got himself another family. It is for this very reason that I am glad to have a Heavenly Father, considering how absentee the earthly one was! Though there were, to be sure, other relatives from my mother’s side who stepped in brilliantly. And you’re right: I certainly couldn’t “turn off” the love I have for any of them…or even my mother. I have to tell you, though: I have seen considerable chinks in the armor of “Storge.” For instance, my mother’s deep regret at “not being there for me” as much as she may have liked. The fact that she must forgive herself for these things. The fact that I’ve tried to make it plain to her on several occasions that I forgive her and she’s generally a good woman/mother and she must forgive herself. And the fact that it to this day! gnaws at her, making it hard for her to move on. It is a relationship, you’ll note, that takes us VERY FAR AFIELD of anything anybody could presumably ascribe to “Nature” or anything Dawkins has “pretended” to study and signify in genetic research. It has been almost unnatural to experience and take it all in! And out at the other “periphery” of my existence, here’s the sting: To be quite frank, I am neither “husband” nor “father” material. It’s the truth. The plain truth. I am NOT cut out for it and I would almost certainly be an even lousier father than mine was. I have dark moments when I consider it almost merciful not to have any of my own. It takes a special kind of person (like yourself) to be a parent and husband/wife and I generally don’t “got it”–though everything in my “biology” remains perfectly in tact to be a father/husband otherwise, lol, so far as I know. Also, I’m rather introverted and “storge” is difficult for obnoxious introverts like myself.

    But in the end, the main thing I think important to convey: This sacrificial love as you have described it that you have for your children…it is quite on parallel to the agape love God has for us but on the total scale of humanity. You know…I could be off-base here. I just don’t see God as anybody you would have a problem or quarrel with, but for the intellectual hurdles perhaps, which are understandable.

  242. Hi Pavlos – another try from me, if you will? Putting all the rest behind, what about this simple approach, without the complexities added to it. (Of course, much more can be talked of, but trying to keep it free of that dangerous stuff ‘intellectualism’!)

    Perhaps the variety of God’s that exist are all man-made, in that, because we cannot see God (His power would overwhelm us), we make our own interpretations to the best of our liking (or not). The only matter of interest for God would be that he can read our wills (are they growing towards His pure love or not), regardless of the errors we make in describing Him to others, or even our actions. (In which case, you are therefore fighting against the descriptions given by others which, does not fit your liking.)

    Can you not simply imagine that man had the opportunity of living with pure love of his environment and fellow creatures but was tempted, (probably in the same way we see today – to attempt to make life easier for himself by robbing something else of its own power, thereby taking something that was not his), and hence, introducing a weakness into the substance of man which placed him out of the environment of pure love. Having been subjected by this error, man reproduced in the new environment which contained fear along with some good (‘now you shall know good and evil’ – the quote goes something like that). Hence, the world today with fear growing, as predicted by Jesus.

    Why must people insist on making it more complicated? Probably, because they still want power over others, or, want to feel unity with those who see God the way, or nearest way, to their liking. Could this simple explanation, possibility open the door for you at all (even a teeny-weeny bit ) Pavlos, or are you committed to proving others wrong, or what else? (if you care to tell).

    If you are already bored with the subject, no worries!

  243. “I think I got you beat on sheer verbosity, Pavlos”
    Don’t tempt me 🙂

    I’ll shift this comment away from “love” momentarily because I think I can express my point via the other topics I’d like to address. But first let me start by saying that I understand the feeling of pointlessness in a universe absent any divine being, plan, afterlife, etc., but it’s still wishful thinking. I can pretend to be rich so that I don’t despair at my poverty, but I’d still be unable to feed my children at the end of the day. I suppose I don’t feel the same way you do because I enjoy the “now” too much to worry about it having a meaning after I’m gone.

    In any case, let me explore this idea of the Kingdom of Heaven for a bit. What is it, and what is it like? Do I have free will there? If so, could I choose to do something evil? If not, then do I really have free will (also, why can’t that work on earth?)? But if free will exists in heaven, and, therefore, evil is possible, then how is it that there is no evil in heaven? Or is there evil in heaven? But if so, then how is it different than our life here on earth? Also, I’ve been told its eternal, but then what do you do about boredom? I could live an eternal life on earth without boredom because the search for knowledge would be never ending, innovations would be constant, the world around me would never cease changing, but heaven can’t have any such things or else it’s not a perfect place (since it would be incomplete if such things existed in heaven). Maybe boredom doesn’t exist because God removes it for us, but then what about my free will? And if he can remove this boredom without affecting my free will then why can’t he remove evil in the same way here on earth? And what about all the people I love who might be in hell? How can I sit up in heaven having a grand time when my loved ones are being tortured in hell? I can’t. But eternity worrying about them is not really all that pleasant sounding to me. And what about the people who don’t go to hell even though they deserve it, in my opinion. If a man rapes a child and then is truly repentant he goes to heaven alongside his victim. I certainly wouldn’t want to spend eternity with a man who raped me.

    In other words, I find the notion of heaven to be not so well thought out. And if I turned out to be wrong (and there is a god, and a heaven) and I got there I’d find myself with two choices: 1) Condemn God and subject him to tireless questioning before denying him utterly, or 2) Bow down against my will for fear of eternal torture. But both of those options only confirm my current sentiments because they are both actions punishable only by an unjust authority. I’ll say it again, anybody who desires or requires obedience or worship is not worthy of either. But in the case of God, if I will be in awe of his grandeur (etc.) I will still condemn him for failing to make himself known to me on earth. So that blasphemy Jesus talked about is exactly what I’m planning on doing should I be wrong as an atheist (whether I want to or not). To do otherwise would be insincere (and God would know it), but if I’m to be punished for it then I’m being punished for something that is in my nature to be (I’m being punished for being me). Is that not the mark of ultimate injustice?

    As for love . . . I don’t make my children jump through hoops to earn my love, nor do I require that they love me in return, nor will I ever allow them to suffer if it’s within my power to prevent that suffering. To me it’s almost insulting to suggest that my “storge” does not far exceed that of God’s for us. I find him lacking entirely in this department.

  244. I wasn’t really talking about “after I’m gone,” specifically. I enjoy the here and now, too, and can’t help but notice in a sense how broken and confused it can get. Parts immense joy, parts terrible sorrow. I rather think the mosaic of human loves and cares is such that, in some cases utterly shattered, in many cases quite noble and steadfast and good, if there is not a loving mercifucl God to redeem it, that is the cruelest fact of existence I know. My constant reference point to this is, in fact, the here and now: It is how I know and not something I view as “let’s just get over with it.”

    Lol, Pavlos “free will” and “boredom” certainly don’t exist (even here on earth) at polar opposites in dichotomy. Furthermore, you are heavily begging the question: Life on earth, in many many many ways is quite boring. Is there any living human being who can ever claim they have not persevered under the fog of intense periods of boredom here on earth? I have no idea about free will in heaven. I tend to see Heaven as the “completion” a human being’s earthly free will, but that’s mostly speculation on my part and would gladly abandon it for God showing us something even greater in His plans:

    9 But as it is written:

    “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
    Nor have entered into the heart of man
    The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
    (1 Cor 2:9)

    As for loved ones “going to hell,” I hear you on that. However, I do have a counter question: Why care so little about their salvation while on earth and then care so much at Heaven as a last resort scenario to fret over their fate? If I may say, I don’t like at all this fictional “Heaven” we sometimes popularize and/or fantasize here on earth, this “Heaven of Last Resorts.” It is little but a fantasy of human conception, not at all like the real deal, which I freely apologize for in advance, is in many important ways inconceivable to human perception. What is the Christian concerned with? Salvation, in the here and now.

    As for your question about the rapist in heaven “next to” his victim, I certainly won’t pretend to work out the dynamics of God’s mercy justice and love, but I will ask (in reality, not just theory) how truly “repentant” any rapist is or can be. If I’m not mistaken, recidivism rates bear me out to a degree: http://sapac.umich.edu/article/198 (sorry for not having anything more to up to date.)

    How “repentant” is any rapist in reality? I have not heard of even 1, though perhaps there are some. Also, are they truly repentant or is the repentance we have here more a type of repentance attempting to “intellectually abscond” oneself into God’s forgiveness and heaven?

    Since Eric has been a contributor there, I will end by shutting up and noting a recent article I came across on Pravmir (I’m finding its articles more and more useful and insightful I have to say.) I find it to the heart of the matter at any rate:

    http://www.pravmir.com/hell-breaks-loose-orthodox-christian-thoughts-high-incidence-rape-american-college-campuses/

  245. Great questions, all, really. I have another question that I find Atheists somewhat incapable of giving any good answer to: How is any of it any better without God? Nietzsche, I think, went farther, unequaled among Atheists, really, in attempting to answer that question with Zarathustra. And even there, the answer is not as ultimately satisfying to me as the journey is intriguing. The sheer number of times of “going under” and “rising” again, quite frankly, elicits one sea-sick eyebrow from my general direction. To say nothing of the trail of REAL humanity stumbling and bumbling along in its wake, which is the real story, of course, as we know it. As for the Christian response to how is any of it better WITH God? I would cite (along with a plethora of answers to many of your questions) the final two books of the Revelation by St. John.

    From there perhaps we may be able to delve into more detailed answers.

    “In any case, let me explore this idea of the Kingdom of Heaven for a bit. What is it, and what is it like?” We are promised a new earth and new heaven and a Holy City (Rev. 21: 1-2).

    “Do I have free will there?” The only context we have thus far of “free will” is a purely worldly one, so it is hard to say for sure. I have always thought of Heaven as the completion of our free will. What’s more: We are promised, as I understand it, nothing short of the very presence of God. In comparison to beholding Him? free will have looked like so much “small beer.” But given your next question, I can sympathize with what’s really nagging you at the core of the issue and I might comment it isn’t really “free will” per se.

    “If so, could I choose to do something evil?” We are told there is nothing “impure,” so definitively No and you wouldn’t, in the very presence of God, WANT to do something evil (violating His and your will) anyway, so I’m afraid the rest of your questions involve a false dilemma. Heaven, in God’s very presence, will make all the trouble of having had a “free will” look like so much small (but necessary) beer. Scripture is also replete with multiple references to “new bodies” we will receive. If the old bodies we have now have “free will” it’s totally on table to say the new bodies we have will have something like their own new version of “free will” only in every way better and totally glorified by God!:

    “The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
    1 Corinthians 15:42-44 (NKJV)

    “Also, I’ve been told its eternal, but then what do you do about boredom?” Good question. I’m tempted to smile when I point out to you that any human answer is totally begging the question because the only conceivable context in which any of us has come to be afflicted with “boredom” in our very modern temperaments is 100% and totally a worldly context of “boredom.” God, on the other hand, is the inexhaustible source of all life. In not the slightest sense can He ever be “used up” or “worn out.” There is no boredom for us with God not because he “removes” boredom for us, but because boredom for us isn’t possible in His presence: He is the source of all things new, compared to which all the innovations in the history of this planet are neat little hobby horses to wind up and see and gather dust. Furthermore, to suggest that you would never get “bored” with a ceaseless show case of human innovation and knowledge…well, I have to call your bluff on that right off the bat! I’ve seen first hand how totally boring man’s knowledge can get. For one thing, is there any living human being to claim that they’ve never been “bored” with knowledge? I highly doubt it. For another thing, you have to invent the sheer fiction of an eternal earthly life to swing this proposition my way. Finally, is human innovation totally something to marvel at for so long? In many cases, I outright refuse! Let’s see.. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, modern warfare where you no longer have to look your enemy in the eye to kill them, and our culture of “everybody’s nose permanently buried, for better or worse, in their smartphone or tablet,” the sheer self-indulgence of our hi-tech consumerist society ever seeking new “conveniences” at the expense of doing anything for one self, the culture of impatient immediacy now now “I want it must have YOLO” now ever bearing down and winnowing our existence with its cheap threats?…all of these attest “No” or “harmful” on the negative side of innovation. I’m obviously not a full-on Luddite…but, pretty darned close. To come to a point

    “And what about all the people I love who might be in hell? How can I sit up in heaven having a grand time when my loved ones are being tortured in hell? I can’t. But eternity worrying about them is not really all that pleasant sounding to me. And what about the people who don’t go to hell even though they deserve it, in my opinion. If a man rapes a child and then is truly repentant he goes to heaven alongside his victim.”

    I admire how tough these questions are and shall not pretend to have the best answers, though a few dawn on me. Are we to make a hair-splitting mockery of God’s mercy and forgiveness? I’m tempted to lead with. Simply because man has contrived in his heart ever depraved (and totally unnatural, I may add) forms of atrocity? I should think not! Not one jot of the splendor of God’s mercy is even remotely capable of being blotted out. But I can see how the thought of loved ones being tortured in hell is real and terrifying, Pavlos. I can empathize. The best answer, for fear of Hell with a loved one, as I see it is quite simple: Do something about it! Help them to see the light while there is time, which is the very core of everything the Great Commission is supposed to accomplish. It is why we were given the imperative. There is literally nothing God can’t heal, even the pain of knowing a loved one’s doom. Similarly, I do detest, while on earth, the idea of a rapist in heaven. For one thing, how shall a rapist repent? I mean, really repent–not just lips ‘n’ intellect service! They have already violated another human life, which God has expressly deemed sacred. Mere “lip service” doesn’t strike me as enough. For another thing, recidivism rates, last I checked, in this specific department do not have good odds in their favor. Furthermore, the amazing human capacity to forgive even the darkest and deepest of depravity. Even secular society talks of that! The need to “move on” with one’s life by forgiving and not being consumed with hate, no matter how despicable the act. Finally, I can’t stress enough the recuperative power attributable to God. In heaven, it’s totally on table to say there won’t even be the slightest memory or hint of “sin.” It will all have been shed. The pain of the rape will be totally healed and if that’s the case, really, all bets are off. I know how difficult that sounds; it was even more difficult to think! This is where I’d harken back to “commanded to be well.” No, not accurate by half: In heaven and the very presence of God we will actually BE MADE well.

    Also, let me stress, now that I’ve rambled into the blue yonder, we tend to get this idea of the Heaven of Last Resorts, as if only available after every other human resource has been exhausted and therefore on permanent holiday of sorts. If I’ve encouraged this thinking in any way, please, do forgive me and promptly pitch it, as I find it more of a fantasy we contrive from time to time rather than anything actual.

  246. My apologies for the double post. I thought the first got chewed up and wasn’t entirely satisfied with it anyway. Sorry for being a derned fool!

  247. Pavlos, for two new reasons, I’m again unsure if this is wanted, but offer it hopefully.

    Pavlos, Your questions/comments :- Heaven – what is it; what’s it like; do we have free-will there; boredom; watching loved ones being tortured; while sitting alongside a rapist;
    If yes, then I’d either deny him utterly or bow in fear of eternal torment.
    Condemned by either action for something that was in my nature.
    I love my children far greater than god’s love for us.

    My immediate response:- In the parable of the three talents, each is given a certain amount (perhaps our genes and our circumstances in life), we are to add to that what we can (which is our free will at work). Because we do not know what the rapist has available to him, we are not in a position to judge (we often hear – ‘there but for the grace of God go I – it could have been you or me). What we do is relative to what we are capable of, according to our biological nature and nurture. This is why it is fairness to ask ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’, and ‘let the first who is without sin, cast the first stone’. (You small error may be, in fact, greater than what we see as a far greater one (by someone else)).

    This earth gives us the opportunity to respond and grow in love to our fellow man, but, according to our ability. (We can judge the action, but not the man).

    In Revelation it is said ‘that our tears shall be turned to laughter’. The painful past will not exist. In heaven all is love. We will not know who we were on earth. Everyone will be loving family members because our earthly choices have proved what our will is. God does not need us to prove him. If we could prove him in this earth he would have to be here on our terms (impossible) and we would not be in the free position we now are, to prove our own will to God and possibly to ourselves.

    I may have said before, but not sure, that I think that when you look for the good in God’s love, the contradictory ‘bully’ God takes on a different meaning. For me it is man trying to portraying the appalling effect of wasted opportunity to turn towards love (permanent light, joy and love) and the only other alternative of death (permanent nothing). I know my views are not traditional ones but I think they are worth stating.

    All the best, Dichasium.

  248. If I were to strip away any and all complexities I would start with “if God exists why does evil exist?” Without having any books, churches, traditions, or other influences giving me their opinions, or apologetics (etc.) I would conclude that either there is no god, or there is no god who cares enough about us to do anything about the evil. I might even conclude that a god exists who is simple malevolent, but that doesn’t hold up as well as the other two options (and requires some further complexities).

    Now, I’ve heard all sorts of explanations over the years, many of them have become cliches from overuse (for example “if evil didn’t exist then we wouldn’t be able to know what good is.”), but what I’ve never heard is an explanation (which assumes God exists) that doesn’t begin with the presumption that God must be omnibenevolent and nothing else. So it’s all excuse-making by people who consider a “less than loving God” a non-starter. This isn’t necessarily a criticism right now, it’s merely leading me to my point.

    At this point I can still assume the role of the “reasonable agnostic” (a person who is not biased one way or the other and only needs a reasonable explanation). To this day, however, I’ve never been given such an explanation. If God exists and he cares about us (let alone loves us) he would, in my mind, prevent evil. This is not to say that he would prevent all harm, but all unjust immoral actions (evil).

    Why do I think this? Simple, really; it’s because I would prevent evil from happening to someone I would normally not otherwise care about at all. If the difference between me and God (to paraphrase a quote from Tracie Harris) is that I would prevent a man from raping a child while God would not, then either there is no God, or we should all hope there isn’t such a god. And it doesn’t even have to be my child (as we supposedly are to God), it can be any child, even a child I wouldn’t take 5 seconds to smile at on a normal day; so imagine how much more I would feel the need to intervene if it were my child.

    Once you start telling me about free will, or a biblical story, original sin, blaming mankind, or anything like that, I simply hear excuse-making for an idea of a God that doesn’t seem reasonable to me, at all.

    So to tie this in with your initial comment (“The only matter of interest for God would be that he can read our wills (are they growing towards His pure love or not), regardless of the errors we make in describing Him to others, or even our actions.”) That is a description of an absentee landlord who only cares about collecting the rent at the end of the month. So it seems contradictory to me that he is pure love and also absent, or unwilling to prevent evil.

    Later you talked about man being tempted, to which I ask again, why didn’t God prevent this? If I see a drug dealer trying to tempt my children, I won’t care about free will, I won’t merely issue a command to my children, I’ll stop that from happening in that moment and make sure (as best I can) it never happens again. This doesn’t take pure, divine love, only my own limited love. Hell, it doesn’t even require love at all; I would prevent a drug dealer from tempting a child I’ve never met before, and care little about.

    Last paragraph (I hope) to offer an example of the above. I watched, recently, a prank show on youtube where the pranksters were pretending to give cigarettes to a 9-year old child (the child was in on the joke too, obviously) in front of strangers. These strangers who knew nothing about the kid would go out of their way to stop these people from giving the kid a cigarette. They would take it out their hands, throw it away, break it, stand between them and the kid . . . in other words, they didn’t simply say “don’t take the cigarette kid, trust me, it’s bad for you” rather they got involved and stood there until they were sure this kid would not be given a cigarette from these pranksters. My point is that it doesn’t even take love, all it takes is a basic sense of morality or compassion and we, as humans, are already operating at a higher, more loving (moral), level than a, supposedly, loving God.

  249. First let me apologize for the time it’s taking me to answer these comments. Second let me say that I’ve already answered “dichasium’s” first comment today, and I will get to the second one as soon as I can, but first I’d like to address Paul’s because I’ve kept him waiting longer (I think).

    OK, so Paul, I’ll start with the shortest answers first. Your description of heaven seems good, but it makes me wonder why, then, must we go through this earthly existence first? And if it’s so grand (while hell not) why not make it easier for us to *know* such things, rather than have to believe them? I’ve heard many reasons given for this answer, but none of them satisfy the same question for someone who has truly asked for such knowledge merely because faith alone is not enough. And I’m hardly a rarity in this area. I hear it quite often from former Christians, such as myself, who, when they truly wanted to believe (but couldn’t fully for lack of evidence) prayed and asked God to please (pretty please with cherries on top) satisfy the burden of proof that I am so naturally inclined to require for such beliefs.

    If you tell me a man named Clark exists, I’ll believe you with nothing more required. If you tell me he’s also Superman . . . well, then I need a whole lot more than that. No amount of promises or threats will get me any closer to believing Superman exists, and it’s not even a purposeful rejection, or need for more evidence, as much as it is my natural state of being. I can be highly gullible with ordinary claims, but it takes a lot for me to go from unbelief to belief in extraordinary claims. And don’t forget, I used to be a Christian. Not just in ceremony, but in actual belief. But then I had questions that nobody could, or wanted to, answer, not even God (it was nothing but silence on his part). Eventually the questions became more than just wonderments about bizarre claims and they lead me to actual philosophical problems with the concept of theism (I wasn’t just picking on Christianity). For a while I went though stages of deism, then Pandeism, then Pantheism, until first the silence became deafening, and then I realized that either there is something out there and it’s gone to great lengths to conceal itself from us (or me), or there is nothing. If there is and it’s purposefully staying hidden from me then there’s no reason to believe it’s there. If there isn’t anything there then I should stop spending my time working towards an admission ticket to an afterlife and I should start focusing on the one life I have now. This leads me to my next point, your first, but before that I should say that this was in my past. Now I have seen and formulated far too many logical arguments against even the possibility of such a being that it seems strange to me, looking back, that I ever did honestly believe it. Though, if there is a god, any god, he/she/it should know exactly what is required for me to believe, so if it is required of me to believe then it’s up to him/her/it to convince me, otherwise I have no reason to think that I should believe any differently than I do (or don’t) now.

    In any case, you asked “How is any of it any better without God?” I find it so much better. First of all I know that any accomplishments of my own are, in fact, my own and not “given” talents. It really bothers me when people see someone who spent their life toiling to reach the level they did, only to have it credited to God as a gift. The phrase “Glory be to God” is quite common in Greece (where I grew up) and it’s said after every event (minor or major) where someone is happy with the outcome. “I passed my test” some kid would say, “Glory be to God” would say his mother as if her kid didn’t do any of the work to pass the test, but rather God made it happen. Obviously different people mean that in different ways (some say it more out of habit then an actual desire to credit God with every little accomplishment), but it always struck me, and still does, just how quick people are to thank God for something a person did.

    Then there is morality. Once upon a time I lived in fear of accidentally doing the wrong thing and angering a god with a different set of moral laws than what I was aware of. Once all that was gone I realized that I have no need of a reward/punishment system to keep me a moral person. So when I go out of my way to help someone, it’s a truly altruistic act because I don’t even consider that someone might be looking at me from above keeping score. And even when you think your not thinking of being watched, you really are thinking it if you believe it. This calls into question every moral act you are responsible for. Do you not kill your neighbor because you truly believe murder is wrong, or because there is a commandment against it? If it’s the former then why have the commandment at all? If it’s the latter, the how can you consider yourself anything but a fraud to your own nature (wanting to kill, but not doing so because you fear your watcher)? It’s good for the rest of us, but a lie is a lie even if you’re living it rather than speaking it.

    Then there is the fact that life, with its ups and downs, just makes more sense. If there is a god who has any sense of justice, love, or caring for his creations then it makes no sense to me when terrible things happen to good people. I’ve elaborated on this with dichasium in a previous comment, but the only god I can imagine logically is a cruel or completely uncaring one. But if there is no god then it makes sense because . . . well, “shit happens” as they say. It makes no sense to ask “why did this happen” when something terrible happens to a good person. It only makes sense if there is a higher authority to ask this of, but then there is no good answer.

    Speaking of making more sense, our existence, equally, makes more sense in general (not just in terms of justice). Consider all that has transpired for us the exist today (by which I mean all that has happened prior to our existence). It seems like an awful lot of unnecessary interactions of matter and energy, an astonishing amount of time, a mind-boggling number of “junk” material just floating in space, and a stupendous amount of irrelevant to our existence happenings in space that have occurred and continue to occur for what? So we can exist? Makes no sense. So we will be entertained? Makes less sense. I could believe it if the universe was our solar system, it was made in 6 days, 6,000 years ago, and we were at the center of it all, but 14 billion years for us to exist in some remote part of an obscure galaxy in an unimaginably large universe . . . makes no sense.

    Continuing the theme of “what makes sense” what about our earliest ancestors? Sure, we have the bible now (or Koran for Muslims, of the Vedas for Hindus, etc), but no revelation prior to this? Why not? It’s a historical fact that monotheism was born after the earliest Jews stopped being polytheists. Yawheh used to be one of many before the rest (of the gods) were left behind and outlawed. It was even believed that he had a wife, until she too was discarded. Prior to that people were running around believing in several gods. Prior to that they were animists who prayed to the dead, worshiped “spirit animals” etc. The oldest known religious idol is of the “Lionman,” a 40,000 year old figurine of a half-lion half-man. We have been around for about 200,000 years (in a 14.8 billion-year old universe), but we received the revelation of God only about 3,000 (or so) years ago? Where was the promised salvation of those people who existed 100,000 years ago. Just imagine how many people died worshiping false gods over the years. And not to mention evolution in general. Why bother starting life as a single-celled organism that needs millions of years to evolve into us, when God could have done it quite literally as Genesis describes? Hell, he could have done it better than that; an Omnipotent God wouldn’t require 6 days to make anything when he could have done it instantly. But if there is no God, well then there is no real why. It’s just the way it is and we should feel lucky to be born and have had a chance to experience it (for those of us who are not living in constant pain and suffering).

    In short, it just makes more sense. And it’s better for me when something makes sense.

    I get where you’re going with this. Given the option of a typical life and an eternal one (without the negatives of eternity or the typical human life) I’d pick eternity without question. There is an appeal to thinking death is not the end. As a smoker I compare it to a nicotine addiction. You don’t worry much about running out of cigarettes until I’m running low on them. The fewer I have, the more of them I want to smoke (the older I get, the more years I want to tack on to my life). But this is something I try to explain to my kids everyday, though for entirely different reasons and in a completely different situation. When they are thirsty the say “daddy I want a drink.” To this I reply “I want to be a millionaire.” The idea being that just wanting something isn’t going to make it happen; you either ask for it (nicely) or you make it happen. So just wanting an afterlife isn’t going to make it true. But if you are looking to live longer then either work for it, or support those who do. If you want a better world, work for it, or support those who do.

    Lastly, another question I have (for most believers) is how do you know your faith is the right one? By this, I don’t mean God, or Allah, or Zeus, but rather what if there truly is an Ultimate Truth (God) and an Ultimate Deceiver (the Devil). This is sort of a “reverse Pascal’s wager.” If God exists and you’ve been fooled into worshiping the devil (thinking you’re obeying God) then I’d imagine you would be in a far worse predicament come judgement day than I who worships neither. It’s easy to think of the devil as a man with a tail and pitchfork, but if he’s truly an adversary of God then only God himself could separate truth from his lies. To claim that God would (or did) prevent this deception from happening is to say that he has become involved in a way that he seems unwilling to do for the problem of evil. So in a “Pascal fashion” then, isn’t it better to not believe and, thus, not oppose either side, than it is to believe in the wrong one and risk living a life in direct opposition to the true God? I suppose you could say that an omnibenevolent God would see through this and understand that you have been deceived, but then again I could (and do) say this exact thing when I’m told that merely being good is not enough for God.

    That’s it for Paul, for tonight.

    Dichasium, if you’re reading this, I promise to read and reply to your comment soon, but I have a few full days ahead of me and I’ve been keeping Eric waiting for a reply on another thread so it might take some time. I apologize.

  250. Pavlos you say your question (without all the complexities) would be ‘If God exists, why does evil exist?’ My reply is this:

    I have been agitated by man’s actions for as long as I can remember. I did not like so much that I witnessed. The injustice made me cross. I could not understand why some would be unfair and cruel which caused pain to others. Eventually, I realised that man feels vulnerable in this life and tries in all sorts of ways, from hidden to obvious, to try to feel even a tiny bit stronger. The sting in the tail is that these small and large ways all require us to take something which at its root is unfair. When we take from a source which is not justly ours, we weaken the source and build our appearance of strength on sand. We have created a spectacular mess in our efforts to feel more secure. But then, why do we feel insecure? Because, there are ills on earth which can harm us. How did these ills come about? This is where I can either say, I don’t care and I’ll do the same as so many, that is, I won’t be bothered whether I harm others in my quest for more power for myself, or, I’ll try hard not to harm anything up to a point, or, I’d rather die than do something that I know will harm another. That’s my view without looking at why/how we are here.

    For the reason why we exist in this manner, I can look at the various ideas that are on offer to me. The one I can live with is that a force called God (probably infinite) consists of love, which, by its nature can only expand (this requires more understanding which I cannot give here, but will explain why, later on). Hence, other souls are formed in order for love to expand. Because love cannot be forced onto anything (else it would not be free (love cannot be otherwise), but, merely robotic), they had to be free to recognise what they are made of (love), or not to recognise it. This is our free-will. As I said above we can ignore this matter and be as selfish as we like or we can try not to harm others. As, I understand, the first humans were the blueprint for the rest of mankind. They did not accept that they were created by a greater force who gave them the earth to love, but wanted to have power over the creation for their own ego, to feel superior. That was their error and they are our blueprint. It would be pointless for God to wipe them out because the proof was in the pudding (so to speak), and therefore would only repeat itself in new souls because the freedom cannot be taken away once given, else we are back to robots (this also required other thought on my part). So, yes Pavlos, we were created with the ability to do wrong, but there is no other way for love to give love.

    Now, we can still make a choice to try to love others as ourselves (which will automatically include the earth we exist on), but we need to understand why this is justice, regardless of whether any of the rest is true. Someone (attributed to Jesus), said that we need to understand ourselves before we can do this (and I agree with him).

    As I’m sure you will have noted, I have repeatedly talked of understanding these concepts. This is the problem of passing our understanding onto others – we cannot. I return to the statement that we must understand ourselves to do this. This is why some say that ‘IT’ is not here or there’, the kingdom of heaven is within (ourselves). We are our own key to unlock love that is within. Over the years of my troubled mind, I found certain things to be true and working with these findings I cross examined any and all other thoughts on other matters, accepting only the things that knitted together making my thoughts confirmed, unless weakened by something else. In this way, I have been able to settle my mind on the things that I find essential. It would not be possible to pass this onto anyone else as they have their own ‘knitting’ to do for themselves and their own ‘wool’ to choose from (their own lives).

    Hope there may be something helpful in this lot. I hope my reasonings (not a word apparently!), are true because they give an infinitely good purpose to life, but if not, I will still try to behave according to my free-will.

    With love, Dichasium.

  251. Pavlos, I just saw this after sending my latest reply to you. No worries about when you get back. I can’t help noticing when one man’s answer ties in with a question to another. I wonder if you’ll see it. Best wishes, D.

  252. “why, then, must we go through this earthly existence first?”

    That’s a great question. There is a temptation to be reductive in the answer. The best answer I know, my personal answer, is to be made anew by the work of Jesus on the cross dying and then His being risen again. Somehow I think this may not convince some people, but it does convince me. For one thing this “newness” business, I find, isn’t to be taken too lightly. On one hand, I’m inclined to point out the fundamental drive or thirst in humanity for all that which is truly “New” is quite insatiable. Is it not one of our deepest strongest pangs? And on the other hand, because I might agree that one mustn’t get carried away in confirmation bias, I think we can agree that the absolute genuine article of “the New” is quite a rare bird. And even when it does arrive, we waste little time (don’t we?) in making sure it’s not so new tomorrow. This is when eggheads with tenure are liable to come around pronouncing for us (quoting Solomon I might add) “there is nothing new under the sun.” Some even invite us into paradoxes such as “old stuff but in a new WAY.” NOT (and distinctly!) so with Christ. When He says “go and sin no more” and promises “new life” he absolutely means it.

    “And if it’s so grand (while hell not) why not make it easier for us to *know* such things, rather than have to believe them? I’ve heard many reasons given for this answer, but none of them satisfy the same question for someone who has truly asked for such knowledge merely because faith alone is not enough. And I’m hardly a rarity in this area. I hear it quite often from former Christians, such as myself, who, when they truly wanted to believe (but couldn’t fully for lack of evidence) prayed and asked God to please (pretty please with cherries on top) satisfy the burden of proof that I am so naturally inclined to require for such beliefs.”

    I would suggest the reason that it might be difficult for you is because you’re going by a definition or standard of faith that is intrinsically not Christian. Any use of “faith” that pits it as a mere “blind belief” against that which is “known” or “reason” is of necessity liable to crumble. I used to have the same problem, as a believer, quite frankly. But let’s look at what one website says about faith, according to the Hebrew etymology:

    “Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings
    Faith ~ Emunah
    By Jeff A. Benner

    The Hebrew root aman means firm, something that is supported or secure. This word is used in Isaiah 22:23 for a nail that is fastened to a “secure” place. Derived from this root is the word emun meaning a craftsman. A craftsman is one who is firm and secure in his talent. Also derived from aman is the word emunah meaning firmness, something or someone that is firm in their actions. When the Hebrew word emunah is translated as faith misconceptions of its meaning occur. Faith is usually perceived as a knowing while the Hebrew emunah is a firm action. To have faith in God is not knowing that God exists or knowing that he will act, rather it is that the one with emunah will act with firmness toward God’s will.”

    Faith is far more about “action” than many people today realize, I think. Could it be the problem Pavlov that you’re simply looking for God in all the wrong places? i.e. as manifest proof of something you didn’t already know with regularity? As if God could suddenly “blink on” from some imaginary human darkness we don’t even really possess anyway? The exact atheistic problem (though I respect you said you weren’t exactly an Atheistic) is that they are looking for the Ridiculous God, the God who blinks ON at them of a sudden, like their YouTube and Twitter feeds. Frankly, that’s just the sort of God I’ve come to not believe in. He, quite literally, would suck.

    Rather, it is most on point to the Christian contention that “faith” and “reason” while two separate things “help each other” at the business of living.

    “If you tell me a man named Clark exists, I’ll believe you with nothing more required. If you tell me he’s also Superman . . . well, then I need a whole lot more than that. No amount of promises or threats will get me any closer to believing Superman exists, and it’s not even a purposeful rejection, or need for more evidence, as much as it is my natural state of being. I can be highly gullible with ordinary claims, but it takes a lot for me to go from unbelief to belief in extraordinary claims. And don’t forget, I used to be a Christian.”

    What’s interesting about this comparison is Clark “hides” his other “truer” identity as Superman. Jesus, on the other hand, was put to death for openly claiming to be (for we who believe, BEING) the Son of God. Contrary to your example, this death sentence was carried out following a period where evidence of His Divinity (miracles and such) were at their absolute peak. I can’t do much, though, with a “natural state of being” (whatever that is:)) except respect it. I might caution against it being a “front” for “apathy,” mainly because “apathy” I tend to view as the greatest cautionary sin of our age. Not only in apologetic-type debates, but also in the world, cutlure, society and all that. If that’s not the case with you, awesome, and forgive the assumption. “Natural state of being” just sets off a trigger with me in the “disguised apathy” department; the most dishonorable and ignoble aspect of the millennial temperament I know. On the other hand, I can respect how much you seem to have investigated and searched with questions.

    “In any case, you asked “How is any of it any better without God?” I find it so much better. First of all I know that any accomplishments of my own are, in fact, my own and not “given” talents.”

    Though I guess I can get where you’re coming from here, it still doesn’t convince me it’s any better without God. By contrast, I find who gets the “credit” to be another great time-waster of our day and age, totally worthless when stacked up against the sheer joy in itself of accomplishing anything at all. Our modern ego is astronomical by now. But I would tend to say that this also reinforces a very petty incomplete view of God as someone who even NEEDS to take credit for human accomplishments. Let me assail that notion right off the bat: He absolutely DOESN’T. The works of man, while still worthwhile in their own right, aren’t all that much to Him, I believe Scripture says. If there is an issue of “primacy” or something like that regarding a gift, the issue of it coming out at the other end as a “credit for accomplishment” just doesn’t translate well enough for me.

    “Then there is morality. Once upon a time I lived in fear of accidentally doing the wrong thing and angering a god with a different set of moral laws than what I was aware of. Once all that was gone I realized that I have no need of a reward/punishment system to keep me a moral person. So when I go out of my way to help someone, it’s a truly altruistic act because I don’t even consider that someone might be looking at me from above keeping score. And even when you think your not thinking of being watched, you really are thinking it if you believe it. This calls into question every moral act you are responsible for. Do you not kill your neighbor because you truly believe murder is wrong, or because there is a commandment against it? If it’s the former then why have the commandment at all? If it’s the latter, the how can you consider yourself anything but a fraud to your own nature (wanting to kill, but not doing so because you fear your watcher)? It’s good for the rest of us, but a lie is a lie even if you’re living it rather than speaking it.”

    Wow, does your argument defeat itself here by begging too many questions. You’re totally forgetting people who give “lip service” to morality, but really privately believe themselves above it or that it doesn’t apply to them. And corporate America, as we saw in the last decade, is full of them! And in some cases, beggaring belief! it STILL hasn’t BEEN APPLIED to them. We can “get away” with it, is the thing. My experience of humanity is that altruism (generally) tends to ride a high tide when we think everybody is watching but descends into a lowest common denominator when we think nobody is. In short, Pavlos: You’re forgetting that unlike yourself there are people in the world who really ARE morally bankrupt. Furthermore, though the laws of our lands may be absolutely steadfast in the manner they uphold justice: Morally bankrupt persons STILL get away with it! Furthermore, good luck ridding human beings of the reward/punishment drive! Have not the biologists, psychologists, neuroscientists (whoever!) said these things are too hard-wired into our framework to get “rid” of them anyway? Lack of God still computes as “invalid” for “better morality” I’m afraid. But I still praise God, of course, that you see the value in being altruistic for its own sake. Here’s the rub: I don’t see how He would disagree with you in its merit. He did after all give us the Parable of the Good Samaritan for a very good reason.

    “Then there is the fact that life, with its ups and downs, just makes more sense. If there is a god who has any sense of justice, love, or caring for his creations then it makes no sense to me when terrible things happen to good people. I’ve elaborated on this with dichasium in a previous comment, but the only god I can imagine logically is a cruel or completely uncaring one. But if there is no god then it makes sense because . . . well, “shit happens” as they say. It makes no sense to ask “why did this happen” when something terrible happens to a good person. It only makes sense if there is a higher authority to ask this of, but then there is no good answer.”

    Good point, but here I will just refer you to the fact that Jesus at the conclusion of Matthew 5 has already beaten you to the punch by 20 centuries in speaking to this problem.

    “Speaking of making more sense, our existence, equally, makes more sense in general (not just in terms of justice). Consider all that has transpired for us the exist today (by which I mean all that has happened prior to our existence). It seems like an awful lot of unnecessary interactions of matter and energy, an astonishing amount of time, a mind-boggling number of “junk” material just floating in space, and a stupendous amount of irrelevant to our existence happenings in space that have occurred and continue to occur for what? So we can exist? Makes no sense. So we will be entertained? Makes less sense. I could believe it if the universe was our solar system, it was made in 6 days, 6,000 years ago, and we were at the center of it all, but 14 billion years for us to exist in some remote part of an obscure galaxy in an unimaginably large universe . . . makes no sense.”

    I don’t know…the dark is any better without a God? If this is the argument from “scale” I’ll just say it’s the most laughable one in the playbook. But perhaps I’m not catching your drift.

    “It’s a historical fact that monotheism was born after the earliest Jews stopped being polytheists.”

    Where is this recorded? How is this known? I’ve never heard it before. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask for a credible source. All of the other stuff about dates of religions and stuff I’m definitely not equipped to answer. Luckiness, I will summarize though, I’m afraid, flatly ISN’T good enough for me.

    “Lastly, another question I have (for most believers) is how do you know your faith is the right one? By this, I don’t mean God, or Allah, or Zeus, but rather what if there truly is an Ultimate Truth (God) and an Ultimate Deceiver (the Devil). This is sort of a “reverse Pascal’s wager.” If God exists and you’ve been fooled into worshiping the devil (thinking you’re obeying God) then I’d imagine you would be in a far worse predicament come judgement day than I who worships neither. It’s easy to think of the devil as a man with a tail and pitchfork, but if he’s truly an adversary of God then only God himself could separate truth from his lies. To claim that God would (or did) prevent this deception from happening is to say that he has become involved in a way that he seems unwilling to do for the problem of evil. So in a “Pascal fashion” then, isn’t it better to not believe and, thus, not oppose either side, than it is to believe in the wrong one and risk living a life in direct opposition to the true God? I suppose you could say that an omnibenevolent God would see through this and understand that you have been deceived, but then again I could (and do) say this exact thing when I’m told that merely being good is not enough for God.”

    I will grant you this may seem like a tough problem for some; however it isn’t for me. Has the Devil been sinless, died on a cross for our sins, and been risen again? No. And so for me, as I would have to believe for many other Christians, that’s how that question gets a “game over, Deceiver 0” type answer. How do I know Christians have the right God? I wouldn’t actually insult your intelligence by pretending to unpack “how I know” but I do know. I will say He certainly comes off as the more realistic when compared to other Gods, who are rather sketchy or ridiculous or petty on the promise-factor. He also may boast an astounding knowledge of the human condition: Who WE are and why we do what we do. I shall think more on “how I know”…I hope others have even more satisfying answers!

  253. Sorry Pavlos, I feel I must correct something I said earlier. When I mentioned some not ‘bothering’ about the consequences of their actions, I do mean ‘apparently’ not bothering. The fact being that I am not in their shoes and cannot know. Of course, this wasn’t actually the issue in point, but still needed to be corrected.

  254. Obviously I must apologize again for my late reply. In any case, if I were to extract from your comment a precise answer to my question “If God exists, why does evil exist?” it would be this: That evil exists because to experience, or have (feel, etc.), love we must be able to freely choose to do so.

    I have two replies/problems with this concept. 1) An omnipotent, omniscient God should have no restrictions in what is possible. Therefore, he could have created a universe (a reality) where love is possible via free will, but without evil. 2) As I’ve be mentioning to Paul in that conversation, if love and free will were tied together, then that means that the feeling of love can be felt or prevented at will. If this is true then we should be able to turn off and on our love for those who we love, at will. I am unable to do so. Furthermore, I would be suspicious of anyone who told me that they can stop loving their children at any moment, for any amount of time, at will. If love is not a required emotion outside of our desire to feel it, then it is not necessary. For example, if I want to continue living I must continue breathing (one necessitates the other). I can’t choose freely to live without breathing. So to for love. I have no control over who I fall in love with. I can control my expression of that love, my availability to it, and so on, but love is beyond my ability to feel or stop feeling at will.

    (Sorry, if this is too short, but I’m falling behind and finding myself unable to provide drawn out answers without causing too much disruption.)

  255. I’ll start from the bottom and work my way up, though I may skip around a bit.

    ” Has the Devil been sinless, died on a cross for our sins, and been risen again? No.”

    But that’s exactly what I’m questioning here. If the whole thing is a construct of the “deceiver” then every part of the tale would be of his making (or corrupted by him accordingly). Suppose there is a “grand scheme” a “divine plan” (call it what you will), by the true almighty God, this would be unknown to us because of the devil’s corruption of our source for knowing what it is. You said Jesus came (and died) to give us new life (a forgiveness of sins, their abolishment, etc), but I can look at it as a corruption of the original promise, or plan. I could go further back, in fact, and say I identify love far more in the actions of the “snake” convincing Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. I associate ignorance with imprisonment, and knowledge with freedom. He who seeks to keep me ignorant is my oppressor. He who offers me the freedom to know all there is to know is my liberator.

    I could construct a utopia for my children in the basement and confine them to it. Never will they have to worry about external dangers, corrupt people, viruses and bacteria that could harm them and kill them, or the knowledge of all that is wrong in the world. But then they would be my prisoners, not my children whom I love. If we’ve always had the natural desire to be curious then it only makes sense that he who made us curious would do so wanting us to have the ability to satisfy that desire. In any case, this is going into unnecessary specifics, but my main point is that if everything you believe could be a product of the deceiver you would have no way of knowing it. Your faith is not just in God, but in that you are faithful to the true god. Your faith in God can be backed up by an appeal to scripture, the Church, leaders, doctrines (etc.), but your faith that you have the right faith can’t be argued from those same sources.

    Regarding the polytheistic origins of early Judaism, look up Mark Smith’s, “The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel,” 1990. (Smith gives a copious list of biblical, extra-biblical, and archaeological evidence to convincingly demonstrate that Judaism was polytheistic in origins.) Also, William Dever’s “Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel,” 2005. (Less “scholarly” in tone, more accessible to the average reader). Then there are these sources (I haven’t read them myself, but I have a friend who is currently completing a dual Master’s (Second Temple Judaism, and Anthropology) who cited these sources on the topic -by leading scholars):

    “Finkelstein’s “The Bible Unearthed” for a basic overview of the SCHOLARLY consensus.
    “The Origin of Biblical Monotheism” by Mark Smith
    “Inventing God’s Law” by David P. Wright;
    “Blood Expiation in Hittite and Biblical Ritual: Origins, Context, and Meaning” by Yitzhaq Feder;
    “Old Testament Parallels” show the influence of polytheism (Egyptian, Canaanite, and Mesopotamian) on the development of monotheism from polytheism in Judaism;
    “Rediscovering Eve” by Carol Meyers shows how the majority religion in ancient Israel was polytheistic and only LATER became monotheistic due to elite, urban scribes, rather than the common Judaism among the majority rural populace;
    “Prophets Male and Female” by Jonathan Stokl and Corrine Carvalho point out the influence of polytheistic Mesopotamian “prophet” groups on later monotheistic Judaism.

    ACADEMIC JOURNAL ARTICLES by Mark Smith (from his faculty website) – some might be in German, since bible scholarship in Germany rivals (perhaps exceeds in many ways) French and American scholarship:
    .
    “The Problem of the God and His Manifestations: The Case of the Baals at Ugarit, with Implications for Yahweh of Various Locales,” in Die Stadt im Zwölfprophetenbuch (ed. Aaron Schart and Jutta Krispenz; BZAW; 428 Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012) 205-50.
    .
    “God in Translation: Cross-Cultural Recognition of Divinity in Ancient Israel,” in Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism (ed. Beate Pongratz-Leisten; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011) 241-70.
    .
    “The Blessing God and Goddess: A Longitudinal View from Ugarit to “Yahweh and …his asherah” at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud,” in Enigmas and Images: Studies in Honor of Tryggve N. D. Mettinger (edited by Göran Eidevall and Blazenka Scheuer; Coniectana Biblica Old Testament Series 58; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011) 213-26.
    .
    “Ancient Near Eastern ‘Myths’ and the Hebrew Bible: Interim Reflections,” in Was ist der Mensch, dass du seiner gedenkst? (Psalm 8,5): Aspekte einer theologischen Anthropologie. Festschrift für Bernd Janowski zum 65. Geburstag (edited by Michaela Bauks, Kathrin Liess and Peter Riede; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 2008) 487-501.”

    So, in other words, the scholarly consensus is that it’s beyond questioning that monotheism (Abrahamic monotheism especially) evolved from polytheism. William Dever’s “Did God Have a Wife?” Specifically examines the precise historical time when Yahweh moved up the ladder in the polytheistic hierarchy to claim the throne (God of the gods), when all the other gods were “expelled” leaving only him and his wife, and when eventually even his wife was expelled and Yahweh completed his transformation from “one among many gods” to “just the one God, creator of all things.” Considering the fact that this is the god whom you now have faith in, and the fact that he was once just another face among the many gods, doesn’t this strike you as a bit of a problem?

    Anyway . . .moving on.

    It’s similar to AS, but not quite because that’s simply nonsensical in the conclusions it draws. I’m only speaking to what’s more reasonable, or makes more sense. What makes sense if God exists, versus what makes sense if not, compared to what is (how it is). It’s not an argument for or against God, merely what I find a better explanation for the understanding of how things are.

    “Wow, does your argument defeat itself here by begging too many questions.” I don’t follow. “Begging the question” philosophically or in its colloquial meaning?

    “By contrast, I find who gets the “credit” to be another great time-waster of our day and age, . . .” Don’t forget these are not arguments against the existence of God; rather I was answering your question “how is it better without God.” It’s not so much about who gets credit, but rather that credit can be given to those responsible for their own accomplishments. If I am made from a divine source, then any accomplishment of my own is insignificant, at best. It’s sort of like looking at a faded picture of a picture, of a reflection of a reflection of a distant object, and admiring its beauty.

    I’ll have to leave it at that for now. It seems I’ve filled up my plate with too many of these debates/discussions running concurrently and combined with my suddenly hectic days I can’t keep up.

  256. Pavlos, Just some immediate responses to your comments of today 19 June. It is natural instinct to love our children. It would indeed be a strange love if we could turn it on and off at will. Like God’s love – He does not turn love and evil on and off. He cannot create love without evil because He does not create evil. Evil is merely the absence of love. God is nothing but love, nothing but love can emanate from Him. Anything not of love has nothing to do with God because it is just the absence of God/love. We experience/suffer the consequences of it. We live in a world that is not in harmony with God’s love. We can seek the meaning and experience of His love for all mankind. We can use our love for our children as an example – when they err, we seek to protect them. We know we must try to encourage them and we don’t want to hurt them, or have them annihilated! It is easy to love certain people in our lives but, we can choose to find a way to love our fellow men likewise. You once spoke of loving your children more than other people’s children. That’s natural, in that, if many kids fell into deep water you would take responsibility to save yours (it would be turmoil if no-one knew who to go for). It would only go against love if you got yours to safety and didn’t help others in danger. Or if you wanted to hurt your neighbours kids because they are in your opinion ‘little blighters’, but your own kids must be understood and forgiven many more times. Impartial love is stronger than our version of partial love. Partial love creates fear and enemies. Total love makes no enemies or fear. As Jesus said ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me’ and ‘my yoke is easy and my burden, light,’ Love is necessary for our continuation, since, to love is to live on (in whatever form), without it we die. If we kill love, there is nothing left to live for. We must expand it as far as we can. In my opinion we need to understand impartial love’s incredible beauty to put us on the right road.

    I think I’d have to write very much more to get at what I mean. I made these brief comments hoping something may click for you. But really, I think you have formed your opinions, (as with the two above), and hold tightly to them. You will need to wait for some more experiences which enable you to see your way out of them. These experiences we be missed if we are not alert to them and then the old thoughts become harder to remove.

    If you’ve any more to say, don’t worry how long you are – I can wait. But, I think we’ll probably go round in circles unless you come across a key to unlock your mind and set it on a freer course. All the very best to you.

  257. That first sentence sums it all up. You don’t write about this topic because you don’t have a lot of experience with it – because you are BAD at it. You completely make up arguments and points no rational person would invoke, you handwave more than the queen of england, and the level on conceit is just laughable.

  258. Eric, I cannot find where to post a general question to you so please excuse me putting it here. Could you please tell me the Orthodox interpretation of ‘resist not evil’? (Matt 5:39). Or tell me where to go for it. Thanks.

  259. Hey dichasium, yah, I should create a page just for questions. That would be cool. Anyway, in Greek this verse is to be understood as “do not resist an evil person,” not the devil or injustice. Scripture in many places explicitly commands us to resist the devil and to right injustices, but not necessarily evil persons when one is personally attacked. It ties into the rest of the verse, i.e., Christ’s admonishment to turn the other cheek. That’s my understanding anyway. Both Chrysostom and Augustine note this in their commentaries on the verse.

  260. Thanks Eric, but that’s as clear as mud! If I hassle you, by dissecting this, I don’t think you’ll find a questions page such a cool idea! I’ll just say that I have to fall back on the simple instruction to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But, I’ll still hold the thought that Jesus is giving a principle which holds for everything (that doesn’t stop you from helping people when appropriate), and I’ll remain slightly puzzled about the placing of his ‘righteous anger’.

  261. I see. Sounds as if you already had an idea of an answer you wanted. I don’t find this particular passage cryptic in that the context is clear, with or without a knowledge of Greek. Feel free to dissect it with me.I created a new “ask a question” page if you want to go there. Cheers.

  262. Hallo Pavlos
    I found this on the net a couple of days ago. Don’t worry, I won’t be sending any more, but I thought it may be of use to you, if you ever get time to read it.
    I cannot trace what site I found it on but, as usual, I copied it to a Word document to enable me to enter my own comments which are in brackets and begin with KW my initials). In copying it to my word document some small changes in its set-up changed but they are immaterial.
    I asked Eric if it was ok. to post, (as it’s lengthy), and he said he’s be pleased to see it.

    If you just want the original with references and bibliography and none of my additions:
    http://www.sewanee.edu http://www.sewanee.edu/Philosophy/Capstone/2004/bostwick.pdf
    http://www.sewanee.edu
    OR: http://www.sorenkierkegaard.nl/artikelen/Engels/062.%20Kierkegaard%20Nietzsche%20nature%20christian%20faith.pdf

    Kierkegaard vs. Nietzsche:
    Discerning the Nature of True Christian Faith
    Ellie Bostwick

    I. Introduction
    Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche were practically contemporaries, both writing in the second half of the nineteenth century. While their vantage points are
    fundamentally different, their approaches to philosophy and many of their insights are surprisingly aligned. Both wrote as rebellious spirits during their time; they were unwilling to accept the norms of society, and were disillusioned with contemporary
    Christendom. They both noticed the human spirit diminishing in the modern world and related this to the comfortable religion of the west, which they felt had triggered this “spiritless form of life.” They both identified a shallowness they perceived in
    Christianity; and both sought “something greater and truer.” Ultimately, their quests resulted in quite divergent conclusions; while Kierkegaard believed a radical, authentic Christian faith was the only true means for a fulfilling life, Nietzsche held that Christianity was life-negating and should be abolished altogether. Kierkegaard kept faith in Christianity, trusting that there was something much richer and truer than evident in modern Christendom, namely, a doctrine of passion, inwardness, paradox, creativity, and courage; something he intended to recover. For Kierkegaard, the task was to dispose of the multiple misconceptions of Christianity, and restore the truth of Christianity.
    Nietzsche, on the other hand, never made it past his own surface-level misgivings to see the radical faith that Kierkegaard believed in so firmly. In his persistent polemics against Christianity, he fails to see beyond the empty, modernized Christianity, which Kierkegaard too saw in the contemporary misrepresentations of Christianity.

    In this essay, I will focus on Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous author, Johannes Climacus, who offers an interested-outsider perspective of Christianity as presented in Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript, before taking up Kierkegaard’s own views of how to live out Christian faith as portrayed in Works of Love. I will follow this discussion with a Nietzschean critique of Christianity as life-negating, based primarily on passages from Beyond Good and Evil and Genealogy of Morals. Then, in dialectical form, I will propose a possible response from Kierkegaard to Nietzsche’s critique, and conclude the essay by evaluating whether Kierkegaard is successful in defending his beliefs against Nietzsche. Based on Kierkegaard’s ability to withstand Nietzsche’s critique, I will argue finally that Kierkegaard successfully defends authentic Christianity.

    II. Kierkegaard and Climacus on Christianity
    In order to defend the legitimacy of Kierkegaard’s view of Christianity, it is important that we acquire a clear understanding of the precise nature of the Christianity that
    Kierkegaard envisions. In doing this, we must grasp Kierkegaard’s understanding of the paradoxical nature of Christianity through the voice of Climacus. We must also
    Understanding Kierkegaard’s specific views of Christianity is a task in and of itself, not only because his writings are rather difficult to comprehend, but because many of his writings on the nature of Christian faith are written through pseudonymous authorship, particularly that of Johannes Climacus. In his “First and Last Declaration” at the end of the Postscript, Kierkegaard tells us that we are to regard his pseudonymous authors as independent beings with their own distinct views.
    Rather, Kierkegaard chooses to portray these views of Christianity through pseudonymous authors because they allow Kierkegaard various angles from which to assess Christianity. As Evans writes, “As a humorist, Climacus can be knowledgeable about Christianity and interested in Christianity, as well as other religious perspectives. He can, however, maintain the philosophical detachment necessary to look at the issues fairly” (Passionate Reason 12). Thus, by employing pseudonymous authors, such as Climacus in the Fragments and the distinguish Kierkegaard’s ideas of Christianity from his contemporaries’ beliefs, as envisioned by some of the modern philosophers of his time as well as the church establishment he refers to derogatively as “Christendom.” Finally, we must show how Kierkegaard himself, independently of Climacus, affirms his Christian faith through “works of love.”
    i. What is the nature of faith for Climacus?
    I will begin by examining Climacus’ ethical perspective on the meaning of Christian faith; Climacus is uncommitted to Christianity, but is curiously investigating its doctrine. He is able to surpass the contemporary misrepresentations of Christianity (as Kierkegaard would see it) and dissect to its core, unveiling the passion at its center, while simultaneously maintaining an unattached perspective, a perspective that, because of its “objectivity,” may be more convincing to the skeptical reader.
    Postscript and Anti-Climacus in Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard can present a variety of perspectives, distinct from his own views, though not necessarily different.
    Climacus speaks as an outsider of the faith. He seeks to understand specifically how one is to become a Christian. Evans suggests that we should read Climacus’
    understanding of Christianity as, “If Christianity is true, this is how things are” . Thus, he provides a kind of unbiased view; for Climacus neither exalts nor attacks the believer, but tries to describe the believer’s situation as clearly as he can. Yet, one must not forget that his view is basically “detached;” for as Evans points out, a “personal interest in Christianity is not equal to a commitment”.
    Like Kierkegaard, he represents the same period in which, despite the common assumption “that we are all Christians, many believed that it was impossible for an educated, reflective person to be a Christian in the old-fashioned orthodox” sense . Consequently, Climacus seeks to question this intellectual prejudice and discovers a much more profound faith that is not the simplistic faith such intellectuals resent. Rather, he finds that becoming a Christian requires taking a two-fold leap. First one must cross the “metaphysical ditch,” which involves questioning how this “particular historical event purport[s] to be eternally significant for all historical ages”. Then, one must address the epistemological concern of how this merely probable historical knowledge could be a sufficient basis for the life-changing decision to follow Christ.
    As Climacus mounts these central questions of truth, Kierkegaard seems to largely be in agreement with him as he demonstrates in his own Works of Love, recognizing the absurdity that the unbeliever sees and the many initial offensive sentiments; but the difference comes when Kierkegaard personally commits to Christianity, and thus, receives a transcendent understanding of the paradox that only the “skilled” person could possess (Fragments and Postscript 280). As Evans reveals, Whatever Climacus would think, I have a feeling that Kierkegaard would agree with this idea. Kierkegaard says that the believer understands that Christianity is to the unbeliever the absurd and can therefore talk quite calmly about Christianity as the absurd, but “at the same time it naturally follows that for the believer it is not the absurd.
    While Kierkegaard would sympathize with Climacus’ findings in his study of Christianity, he would understand that at some point unbelievers are naturally limited by the contradiction of the paradox and can simply not understand the final reconciliation of the paradox that believers find in Christianity.

    In his Philosophical Fragments, Climacus explores Christian faith by first addressing the idea of truth and how someone comes to know truth. He appreciates Socrates’ quest for truth, but distinguishes another way of searching for truth, which
    complements Socrates’ in its understanding of the incompetence of human beings; human beings will never know complete truth based on reason alone. Climacus suggests instead, that we can know truth through the absolute paradox, which unites faith with reason. The absolute paradox is quite complex and multi-faceted, but the gist of it is encapsulated in the “absurd” idea that the eternal, transcendent God is in fact knowable in time. As Climacus puts it in his other pseudonymous work Concluding Unscientific Postscript,
    “The paradox is primarily that God, the eternal, has entered time as an individual human being.” Christianity upholds the “unbelievable” idea that the omniscient and omnipotent God was once both human and divine in the form of Jesus Christ, that the eternal entered the temporal world.
    This is not an easy thing to believe, as it does not make rational sense; for, how could a perfect and supreme God be at the same time a lowly human? This presents an apparent contradiction that is twofold. As Climacus describes, “First, basing one’s eternal happiness on the relation to something historical, and then that this historical is constituted contrary to all thinking.” Thus, there is a dual ambiguity as one must first
    accept the insecurities that go along with living ones life around a mere historic event that one did not even witness himself; and moreover, that not only is this an abnormal historical event, it is unlike any other, and rationally incomprehensible. It seems
    objectively absurd to place all hope, joy, and faith in a historical event—Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Moreover, the concept of the historical belief is equally absurd, as it requires believing that God entered the temporal world as a human. In this way, Christianity cannot be an immanent, familiar doctrine, for it transcends far beyond the limits of objective thought in the absurdity of its core belief that God became man.
    The absolute paradox is revealed when reason has reached as far as it possibly can and has run into contradiction trying to find complete truth, for reason alone cannot fathom this heavenly being entering the temporal world. Here, “the paradox could be said to be the fulfillment and not destruction of reason,” for the paradox enables one to transcend reason. At this point one must unleash his speculative bearings and enter into an existential relation with God who bridges the gap to complete understanding. Through grace given by God, one can finally grasp the paradox and see its truth, which, from a rational point of view, lies only in the absurd. Climacus writes,
    But one must not think ill of the paradox, for the paradox is the passion of thought, and the thinker without the paradox is like the lover without passion: a mediocre fellow. But the ultimate potentiation of every passion is always to will its own downfall, and so it is also the ultimate passion of the understanding to will the collision, although in one way or another the collision must become its downfall. This, then, is the ultimate paradox ofthought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think.
    Thus, the paradox adds a new dimension to reason through subjectivity; that is, by directing one’s person, applying one’s passion, and appending one’s experience to reason, which enables transcendence of reason. As one brings passion to this paradox through devoted yearning for God, he opens the door to what “thought itself cannot think.” Thus, one overcomes this paradox as he enters into divine relation with God and accepts his help in moving past the objective paradox. One can finally come to understand truth as he allows God to reveal it to him. One must realize that he is incompetent to discover this on his own and must allow God to take over, and trust him to provide understanding.
    As Evans reveals, this paradox has four essential functions. First, it “preserves the transcendent character of Christianity” by not allowing accessibility by reason alone, which would put it on a level comparable to paganism.
    Instead, the paradox realizes the unavoidable human shortcoming in trying to reach the paradox through human faculties alone. He proposes that instead one must rely on something transcendent to reveal the paradox. Thus, in this way, Christianity is also distinct from human reason alone. Evans cites Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers as follows:
    Christianity is not content to be an evolution inside the total determination of human nature, such a proposition is too little to offer to God…The incarnation would in such a case have direct analogies in the incarnations of paganism, while the difference is: incarnation as a human invention and
    incarnation as stemming from God.
    Next, “the paradox ensures the existential character of Christianity.”
    As Evans reveals,
    One can not really assume that the essential eternal truth came into the world because it needed to be explained by a speculator; it goes better to assume that the eternal essential truth has come into the world because men needed it, and the reason why they needed it is certainly not to explain it, so that they could have something to do, but in order to exist in it. It is a form of “existence communication,” (KW –I like to see it as communicating fully with the conscience, that is, with science, but this science being the laws of God pervading his creation), but this does not mean that it lacks “intellectual content.” On the contrary, “the fact that this content is paradoxical in form and that it is the limit or boundary to reason should force the individual to see that the proper relation to assume toward it is not that of detached intellectual contemplation but existential commitment.”
    Additionally, “the paradox preserves and strengthens human freedom and selfhood.” Humans must make a choice to accept the paradox. Thus, it involves subjectivity and cannot be restricted to the objective realm. It involves personal choice, and thus, is not confining or tyrannical. Furthermore, not only is this subjective choice not restrictive, it actually enhances the person that makes the choice as it allies him with the most supreme being, who the person freely chooses to follow, rather than being forced into his rule. As Evans explains, “To make it possible for man freely to choose the truth, the truth came into existence in the form of an individual man. Such an incarnation is necessarily paradoxical…But it makes possible a free response on man’s part.” By coming into the world as a human, God set the choice before us of whether or not to follow him, not in his glorious and superior force, but in his humility and love manifest in his human character. In doing so he empowered us by giving us our own autonomy of choice; yet, he nevertheless made it clear that only by giving up that autonomy to him, by surrendering our lives to him, could we begin to act like him even minimally (KW-become part of his kingdom). Through our experience or understanding of him here on Earth, we are enlightened as to the great discrepancy between us and God, and we begin to understand how much we need him, and how wretched we are without him. (KW – my point that one can only join impartial love or be without it which (our choice to be without), is the result we see the world in the grips of and which causes us to feel we must fight for ourselves).
    Finally, “the paradox guarantees human equality by reducing the intellectual differences among men to insignificance.” This “essential human task” is equallyachievable by all. It is not limited to the scholarly, but “unintelligible” to all, and thus, equally attainable by all. While added intelligence may enhance the profundity of the meaning behind realizing the paradox, it will in no way provide easier access to it; if anything, it would likely stymie the intelligent believer, while the simple-minded fellow could more quickly realize it. As Climacus writes, “With regard to the absolute, more understanding goes no further than less understanding. On the contrary, they go equally far, the exceptionally gifted person slowly, the simple person swiftly.” (KW-the intellect is the long way round to acceptance, the less intellectual simply feel its warmth).
    More than being able to identify the function of the paradox, Climacus believes that Christians (KW-the intellectual ones) must understand how they can subjectively relate to this paradox, for this subjectivity is truth. For, “Only in subjectivity is there decision, whereas wanting to become objective is untruth. The passion of the infinite, not its content, is the deciding factor, for its content is precisely itself. In this way the subjective “how” and subjectivity are the truth.” Hence, Christianity involves a subjective “inwardness,” a personal relation to the eternal, which has entered into time through the incarnation. Inwardness requires “resilience” to the objective “what” of Christianity, the concern with the contradictions of the incarnation; and engagement with the “how” of Christianity, one’s personal relation to God, how one existentially lives out their faith. As Climacus explains,
    When subjectivity is truth, the definition of truth must also contain in itself an expression of the antithesis to objectivity, a memento of that fork in the road, and this expression will at the same time indicate the resilience of the inwardness. Here is such a definition of truth: An objective uncertainty, held fast through appropriation with the most passionate inwardness, is the truth, the highest truth there is for an existing person.
    At the point where the road swings off (and where that is cannot be stated objectively, since it is precisely subjectivity), objective knowledge is suspended. Objectively he then has only uncertainty, but this is precisely what intensifies the infinite passion of inwardness, and truth is precisely the daring venture of choosing the objective uncertainty with the passion of the infinite. This combination of objective uncertainty matched with fervent desire equates with subjective truth, and thus, comprises a much deeper truth than the one found in
    “Christendom.” A truth that is not amenable to shallow, showy religion. This truth is all encompassing and requires complete conviction and surrender. Hence, one appropriates the truth of Christianity through subjective inwardness, bypassing objective doubt, and venturing out with passionate faith and trust.
    Thus, Christian faith, in its complex form is recapitulated by Climacus as “the objective uncertainty with the repulsion of the absurd, held fast in the passion of inwardness, which is the relation of inwardness intensified to its highest.” Believing in this absolute paradox, and taking the leap of faith to realize its reconciliation, is on surface level, a ridiculous and unexplainable decision. However, when the divine reveals the truth of the absolute paradox to an individual, he is finally able to see its truth, rather than its contradiction. The believer can at last accept as legitimate what seems objectively impossible, based on the faith that God bestows. Only through this immense struggle with contradiction can one assume an authentic Christian faith.
    ii. Critique of Modern Philosophy
    In his Fragments and Postscript, Climacus repeatedly criticizes the rationalistic systemization of faith he witnesses in surrounding contemporary Christianity, in order to define what he feels Christianity truly is. Noticeably, he begins his critique in the jesting titles of these works, for they are clearly
    “polemically directed toward the speculative philosophy of Hegel and even more specifically at the Danish followers of Hegel.”
    Hegel claimed to have formalized Christianity so that it was systematic, as a science.
    Thus, by titling his works “Unscientific,” Climacus clearly intends to oppose Hegelian thought. Additionally, Climacus employs the word ‘fragments,’ which is equally offensive to the Hegelians as a non-scientific, commonplace word.
    Climacus is opposed to Hegelianism because he sees it caught in contradiction, for it claims to follow traditional Christianity, but fails to believe in many of the traditional orthodox beliefs, such as the miracles of Jesus and his supremacy over man. Additionally, it tries to systematize Christian faith, which Climacus sees as impossible. For, how can one systemize radical faith? It is not a science! Hegel sees Christianity as one step in an infinite system aimed at attaining truth through speculation, but for Hegel, Christianity is by no means the absolute realization of truth, it is only one step along the way, part of the dialectical system. For Climacus, the paradox must be the historical event that is discontinuous with human
    experience and expectations. The surprising thing is that Christians have been bothered by the fact that Christianity contradicts immanent speculation and have even tried to alter their faith to make it more palatable—this is the heart of
    Climacus’ polemic against modernism and liberalism in theology. Climacus speaks to Hegelian philosophy, which has assimilated Christianity as a fact, and thus, taken the great mystery out of the faith based on unexplainable history. It has removed the divine mystery of Christianity to fit it into a system of immanent, speculative truth. Clearly, the Christianity that Climacus advocates could not fall into any system, but it something wholly unique to each person, and something only found in the through subjectivity. Climacus writes, “The difference is simply that science and scholarship want to teach that becoming objective is the way, whereas Christianity
    teaches that the way is to become subjective, that is, truly to become the subject.”
    According to Climacus, the Hegelians’ perversion of Christianity is an utterly incorrect representation of Christian faith, and thus, not true Christianity at all. Moreover, for Climacus, Hegel’s speculative Christianity is “subjectively false.” It does not involve passionate conviction of objective uncertainty; in fact, it involves no passion at all. Hegel’s systemization of Christianity lacks what Climacus sees as the very core of Christianity, the element of overwhelming passion that leads to decision that in turn gives Christianity it’s meaning. For, the essence of Christianity for Climacus involves this subjective choice to take a leap of faith.

    iii. Critique of Affluent, Comfortable Christianity
    In the Fragments, Climacus depicts contrasts two generations of disciples of
    Christ: “the first [Christ’s contemporaries] and latest generations of “secondary disciples” [Christians today or perhaps in Climacus’ time].” His story does not oppose those who try to disprove Christianity, for he sees value in their sentiments of offense. By taking offense, these critics are evoking passion, and simultaneously participating in one part of the paradox. For only by taking offense to the unlikelihood of Christianity and the absurdity of believing in it can one have the feelings of deficiency and humility required to be in the position to accept faith, to embrace the divine paradox. Once one recognizes his own human finitude and incapacity to understand the divine paradox, he at the same time is on the brink of paradoxical faith. Thus, this critical offense is valuable, not threatening.
    Instead, Climacus contests those that try to “naturalize” faith by making it into something innate, something that one can be born with. Evans writes, “Clearly, Climacus has in mind here the idea that someone born in a Christian land might simply possess faith automatically.” This is the general contention of “Christendom,” of which Climacus is so adamantly opposed. Evans continues, “The notion that faith might become naturalized in this way is the ultimate in lunacy, according to Climacus, since it amounts to the claim that one can be born with one’s second nature.” By this, Evansmeans that Climacus is opposed to this idea of naturalized Christianity because it fails to involve any radical experience, any divine encounter, any second birth. Climacus says that being born with faith “is just as plausible as being born twenty-four years old.” In Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Climacus notes too, “Christianity cannot be poured into a child, because it always holds true that every human being grasps only what he has use for, and the child has no decisive use for Christianity.” In his book, Kierkegaard and the Crisis of Faith, George Pattison cites Kierkegaard’s critical view of these affluent Christians as follows:
    Bourgeois religiosity, he declares, is a religion of the lips and not the heart. ‘The bourgeois’ love of God commences when the vegetative life is in full swing, when the hands are comfortably folded over the stomach, when the head is reclining on a soft, easy chair, and when a drowsy glance is raised toward the ceiling, toward higher things. Pattison makes it clear that Kierkegaard was undoubtedly disillusioned with the relaxed, comfortable state of Christianity that no longer involved a treacherous leap, or confrontation with the contradiction of the absolute paradox.
    The bourgeoisie’s so-called “Christianity” had become too easy and accordingly, too empty. Kierkegaard did not accept this as true Christianity; he saw this rather as ‘levelling.’
    “Levelling” is a process, which not only levels off the distinctions between ranks and offices within society but also affects man’s capacity for authentic subjectivity. Real passionate selfhood, Kierkegaard believes, depends on tensions engendered by dynamic contradictions and oppositions within experience—the sort of tensions, which inspire tragic conflict and make demands on human greatness. In the world produced by leveling, however, all the vital contradictions become ironed out and life becomes ‘one-dimensional’.
    For Kierkegaard, the struggles involved in experiencing and living out Christianity are fundamental. One cannot say he is a Christian if he has not confronted the absolute paradox for himself. Kierkegaard fears the advent of the world in which there will be a terrifying surplus of theory over practice, in which more energy will be spent on understanding life than living it, and in which the institutionalized organization of ways of satisfying human needs will drown out the real subjective sense of what is actually needful as life is reduced to a ‘shadow existence’.
    Again, Climacus distinguishes his idea of true Christianity from the general conception of Christianity, which he feels has become too comfortable, and has lost its radicalness, and thus, its validity. Climacus calls for “Honesty rather than half measures.”

    iv. How Kierkegaard Affirms Christianity
    In Works of Love, Kierkegaard speaks in his own name and existentially affirms the Christian faith that Climacus has only alluded to from an outsider’s perspective. He engages in an extensive discussion of what it is to live by faith, and thus, what it is to be employed in works of love, allowing God to work through oneself to manifest love. He shows what it is to affirm true Christian faith, trying to set an example of what it actually is, after having set it apart from the contemporary distortions of it. Kierkegaard states,
    As Christianity’s glad proclamation is contained in the doctrine about man’s kinship with God, so its task is man’s likeness to God. But God is love; therefore we can resemble God only in loving, just as, according to the apostle’s words, we can only “be God’s co-workers—in love.”
    Thus, Kierkegaard believes Christianity is more than a stale belief, as many in Christendom have allowed it to become; rather, it is a conviction that causes one to spring forth into action. He believes that authentic Christian belief could never leave one inactive; it involves an essential doing, which is never a simple task. He writes, “But if your ultimate and highest purpose is to have life made easy and sociable, then never have anything to do with Christianity.”
    Kierkegaard believes that Christian faith held fast is life transforming. It enables the Christian to do things that he could not or would not do on his own. It involves an inner change in the conscience that manifests itself outwards through love. This love is an overwhelming love in which God empowers one to love all those one sees. It is not a natural instinct for humans, but something made possible through union with God, and accordingly, it is a transformation to the likeness of God as one tries to embody his qualities. In this way, a Christian is called to love all those he sees, for as Kierkegaard informs us, “We men want to look upward in order to look for the perfect object (but the direction is always towards the unseen), but in Christ perfection looked down to earth and loved the (KW-imperfect person) person it saw.” Just as God loves us, even coated in our stench of sin, we too are called to love others without bias or prejudice, and to do this through God. In addition, this love, authorized by God, “builds up.” It is an empowering force
    that encourages edification in the name of love. Love is the foundation and the only true vehicle for “up-building.” As Kierkegaard insists “All such building up in knowledge, in insight, in expertness, in rectitude, etc., insofar as it does not build up love, is not in the deepest sense up-building.” Only in building up in love is one truly achieving “upbuilding.” This kind of love provides a sort of immunity from things that might tear one down, and the strength to flourish. Most important of all in faith, is the idea of one’s personal love for God and relationship thereof, as this directs the love flowing in all other directions. Kierkegaard explains,
    The matter is very simple. Christianity has abandoned the Jewish like-for like:
    “An eye for any eye, a tooth for a tooth”; bit it has established the Christian, the eternal’s like-for-like in its place. Christianity turns attention completely away from the external, turns it inward, makes your relationship to other human beings into a God-relationship… Christianly understood one has ultimately and essentially to do with God in everything…
    Thus, this inwardness with God becomes a part of everything and every relationship. It is an inward passion that reflects into all facets of life, as it is part of one’s person. This is the subjective aspect of the God-relationship as it manifests in all parts of life, and is uniquely one’s own, as it is a personal relationship with God. Moreover, it is not something limited to one section of one’s life; it overflows into all parts of one’s being. Thus, this inward passion that is the God-relationship is also essentially one’s spirit, as the inwardness reflects outward into all things.
    Kierkegaard describes love as a “revolution, the most profound of all but the most blessed.” Love is life fulfilling for Kierkegaard as it empowers and overcomes, and most importantly, as it is life’s final purpose. Through his model of love, Kierkegaard
    proclaims what Christianity truly involves in what he believes is its truest sense, differentiating it from all the falsifications that he finds in “Christendom” (as expressed by Climacus in the two prior sections).
    III. Nietzsche’s Critique of Christianity
    Almost Kierkegaard’s contemporary, Nietzsche can identify with Kierkegaard’s sense of disillusionment with Christendom, as well as with modern philosophy. He describes this shortcoming with religion in Beyond Good and Evil, writing, “Has it ever been really noted to what extent a genuinely religious life requires a leisure class, or half leisure—
    I mean leisure with a good conscience.” Here, he is referring to what he finds to be the “nausea” that has become religion. He follows this describing his contemporaries as follows, “They are not enemies of religious customs when participation in such customs is required in certain cases, by the state, for example, they do what is required, as one does many things—with a patient and modest seriousness and without much curiosity.” Nietzsche feels Christianity has become a mere custom or
    tradition for his contemporaries, but has lost its religious significance and the “why” behind it. However, while Kierkegaard still values Christianity and attempts to tear away the idiosyncrasies of “Christendom” and return to a more authentic Christianity,
    Nietzsche sees it as irredeemable. Simon May presents Nietzsche’s argument against Christianity in Nietzsche’s Ethics and his War on Morality, writing, “[Christianity]
    engenders weakness, degradation, and despair—and its claim to foster love, light, and life is simply false.” Nietzsche instead calls for an elimination of Christianity, a sort of cycling out. He calls for an antichrist to save the world from Christians’ degradation of it, for a nihilistic denial of all previous beliefs, a new start.
    For Nietzsche, Christianity represents a denial of man’s “natural instincts, which are directed towards strength.” Kellenberger makes this point with a citation from
    Nietzsche’s Antichrist:
    Whatever a theologian feels to be true must be false: this is almost a criterion of truth. His most basic instinct of self-preservation forbids him to respect reality at any point or even to let it get a word in. Wherever the theologians’ instinct extends value judgments have been stood on their heads and the concepts of ‘true’ and ‘false’ are of necessity reversed:
    whatever is most harmful to life is called ‘true’; whatever elevates it, enhances, affirms, justifies it, and makes it triumphant, is called ‘false’.
    Nietzsche feels that Christianity’s basic regulation, the “ascetic ideal” denies one’s natural capacity to be stronger, better, and more powerful, precisely the capacities which Nietzsche most values. He writes,
    The ascetic life treats life as a wrong road…For an ascetic life is a self contradiction:
    here rules a ressentiment without equal, that of an insatiable instinct and power-will that wants to become master not over something in life but over life itself, over its most profound, powerful, and basic conditions; here an attempt is made to employ force to block up the wells of force; here physiological well-being itself is view askance, and especially the outward expression of this well-being, beauty and joy; while pleasure is felt and sought in ill-constitutedness, decay, pain, mischance, ugliness, voluntary deprivation, self-mortification, self-flagellation, selfsacrifice.
    Nietzsche cannot fathom what he sees as Christianity’s reversal of the valuation of ‘good’and ‘bad.’
    ( KW – N is misinterpreting. He is arguing a different point. Christianity does value mans competence and strength, they do value beauty and joy extremely so, the difference is that Christianity value man’s ability to overcome the wrong man can do to each other in pursuit of his own strength. Christianity will prioritise man’s love for his fellow man over his desire to reach his own potential in strength at the cost of others which occurs when oneself is loved more than ones love of love).
    As he (N) sees it, it should be good to do those things, which one is naturally compelled to do. Why would one refrain from natural inclinations, continually going against one’s instincts? Why should one go against nature? Nietzsche describes this
    poor state of Christendom, ruled by the ascetic ideal, and calls for a rejection of it, writing,
    We can no longer conceal from ourselves what is expressed by all that willing which has taken its direction from the ascetic ideal: this hatred of the human, and even more of the animal, and more still of the material, this horror of the senses, of reason itself, this fear of happiness and beauty, this longing to get away from all appearance, change, becoming, death, wishing, from longing itself—all this means—let us dare to grasp it—a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a rebellion against the most fundamental presuppositions of life.
    Nietzsche disdains this repression of what he feels to be the true self, one’s true nature. (KW- Absolutely spot on is Nietzsche in this regard. Christianity sees the appalling results of man nature when his highest goal is to achieve his own power at all costs. Christianity recognises prioritising anything above love towards ones fellow man makes love to ones fellow man take second place and that brings us the miserable part of life.)
    He (N) wants to obliterate this false impression of good and bad, to start anew with a revaluation. (KW-When placing ones love towards fellow men as the priority there is no revaluation possible – one either places it first or second).
    Nietzsche also proclaims the weakness that Christianity promotes by calling it the “religion of pity.” He writes, “What is to be feared, what has a more calamitous effect than any other calamity, is that man should inspire not profound fear but profound nausea; also not great fear but great pity.” He believes that this pity, promoted by Christianity, only inspires further weakness in the weak.55 It comforts the weak in their dismal situations and encourages them to remain there, not aspiring to greater feats. It also debilitates those who feel pity for the weak; causing them to sympathize with the weak, and therefore, not be the strong forces they could otherwise be, independent of the weak, without carrying their burdens. (KW-This is the antithesis of love for ones fellow man – the very opposite). Nietzsche emphasizes this fatal drawback of Christianity, the need to congregate as a community of believers, caring for each other. (KW-Yes, caring for each other is the aim and not to do so is the ‘fatal’ error and not merely a ‘drawback’).
    He writes,
    When one looks for the beginnings of Christianity in the Roman world, one finds associations for mutual aid, associations for the poor, for the sick, for burial, evolved among the lowest strata of society, in which this major remedy for depression, petty pleasure produced by mutual helpfulness, was consciously employed…wherever there are herds, it is the instinct of weakness that has willed the herd and the prudence of the priest that has organized it…the strong are naturally inclined to separate as the weak are to congregate. (KW-Again absolutely so, and again simply because Christianity wants us to use our strengths to care for the less strong and not to ignore them while we try to increase our own power. Christianity sees strength in the integrity found in not pushing ahead while others struggle but the internal power achieved by knowing one cannot turn ones back of the suffering of others without demeaning oneself by the split in personality required to want help for oneself when in difficulty but then to deny it to others when in ones own strength ( hence the desire to do unto others as we’d have done to ourselves and to forgive our trespasses as we forgive others – Christianity wants fair-play.)
    He believes community is a further fault of Christianity rather than a benefit, as a Christian might believe. It does not promote one’s own greatness, but concerns itself with the good of other Christians, and thus lessens itself and its capabilities by doing so. (KW-Again, absolutely correct in the fist half – its purpose is indeed not to promote ones own greatness but to promote the greatness of love for one another. It does indeed place oneself vulnerable to the abuse of those who abuse because they cannot/do not rise to this challenge, But, if the other person takes the freedom given and uses it to gain for himself, then there is more to this matter for the genuine Christian than merely being taken advantage of – in that, ones own resolve is then tested to the limit and can become stronger or weaker. The Christian will naturally delight in this strength if he wins the battle of love over self. He will accept the loss of himself for the gain of keeping love his priority)
    He (N) believes the strong should be independent forces, seeking personal fulfillment, not concerned with the weak. (KW=Christianity does not want competition between since the ultimate goal of this, is that, one man wins and the others live in fear (of the winner’s appetite for eating everything in its way). Christianity recognises that the only fight worth having is the fight for love between men, and at least for playing his part, knowing that he has lived to overcome the selfish nature which leads nowhere good, but rather the better goal that he sees as the only worthwhile goal – love for all over the competition between individuals. If someone without this and merely loves for his own welfare he stops love from growing. He (N) writes, “A human being who strives for something great considers everyone he meets on his way either as a means or as a delay and obstacle.”( KW Yes, he certainly will if he seeks only for himself and not for love for all).
    Nietzsche’s prototypical man has no need for intimate community with others. (KW- he wants to be above them)
    Additionally, Nietzsche equates Christianity with a sort of slave or herd morality, which is comprised essentially of the “violated, oppressed, suffering, [and] unfree.”
    (KW- Naturally, since Christianity stands for the oppressed for the sake of giving impartial love (the fullness of love), and naturally, those who wish to aim for this work together towards this goal. They are indeed slaves to the goal they serve, they give themselves to this principle which they choose over self security or aggrandisement. For those who choose to aim for this principle it is the most worthy).
    This type includes those that are submissive, yielding to the commands of the ascetic priest, and failing to “ascribe value” to themselves; rather, in weakness, they succumb to their priestly superior. In following the direction of their priest, Christians allow the priest to ascribe value to them personally, and to establish the guidelines of the “good” and the “bad” which they are to mind. Instead of taking it upon himself as the Nietzschean man would do, creating his own values, the obedient Christian submits to the values of the priest and thus, to his prescribed way of life. He surrenders to a slave-like existence where the master priest dictates his existence. Thus, overall it seems that Nietzsche’s aversion to Christianity (KW-the false Christianity) in this case stems from its weariness, its lack of value-creation, its suppression of animal instincts, and its overall vulnerability to slavishness. He cannot accept this faith because he feels it is an unhealthy limitation, one that goes against the essential drive of life.
    (KW-Christianity has many who do not truly understand the cost involved and do not persevere when the pressure is on. But this does not negate the principle that is the goal of many, or the attempts to commit oneself to it. When one is learning a trade it is natural to seek help from those who appear to know more. But once one finds oneself at odds with them, the Christian like any other must choose to join them or stand alone which is the same as the Nietzschean man, albeit with a different goal –It is this goal that N. is really at odds with. N. cannot see the same in himself and the C. because he has not felt the need to put their principle over his. He has not even recognised it for what it is, but only for what it is not. Many Christians want to grow just as much, in every way, but, for a different goal- KW).

    IV. Kierkegaard’s Response
    In response to Nietzsche, I expect that Kierkegaard would be somewhat sympathetic to his critique. I think he would understand how the modern world’s portrayal of
    Christianity could lead to Nietzsche’s atheism, and I think he could also accept Nietzsche’s characterization of Christianity to some extent. However, I think he would insist that Nietzsche threw in the towel too quickly, that he acted rashly, giving in to what Kierkegaard would view as a form of defiance, described by Anti-Climacus in Sickness Unto Death as “despair as will to be oneself.” In “The Definition of the Self and the Structure of Kierkegaard’s Work,” John Glenn describes this analysis of despair as a “prophetic critique of the atheistic existentialism of thinkers such as Nietzsche…” Rather than facing the struggle with faith that Kierkegaard no doubt admits it will include, Nietzsche instead gives into despair in which he aims to be the “master” of himself or to “create” himself, “to make his self into the self he wants to be.” Nietzsche turns away from Christianity, wishing for its obliteration, desiring instead to create his own values or, as Kierkegaard predicts in this form of despair, wanting “to compose his self by means of being the infinite form,” wanting to become his own god.
    Through his analysis of despair, Kierkegaard shows the “insufficiency of an unaided self-relation, that the self alone is unable to put its existence aright, that this can be done only through a right relation to God,” and thus, without this right relation one is doomed for despair.64 Glenn explains what exactly Anti-Climacus means by despair in Sickness Unto Death:
    Despair…is a malady affecting all the dimensions of the self. It is a failure to will to be the self one truly is—in other words, a deficient self relation— which involves also an imbalance among the components of the self as synthesis and a deficient God-relation. The health of the self— which he eventually identifies as faith—is an affirmation by the self of itself (that is, a positive self-relation), in which the components of the self as synthesis are in right relation, and the self is properly related to its divine foundation. It is a state in which “in relating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it.”
    Thus, despair is without the transient quality we might assume it to have today. It is a sickness at the core of the self that prevents one’s full realization of the self, a realization that must transpire before God. Hence, it is on this basis that Kierkegaard would defend Christianity against Nietzsche’s contention that it is conducive to slave morality. For clearly Kierkegaard sees Christianity not as a restrictive or slave-like existence, but rather as a liberating and fulfilling way of life, the only way to free oneself from the despair that results without Christianity.
    While I think Kierkegaard would immediately sense this form of despair in Nietzsche, I think he could go further than diagnosing Nietzsche’s despair in his response to Nietzsche; because for Kierkegaard, Christianity does not involve the aversion to life that Nietzsche criticizes. Rather (as indicated above), for Kierkegaard, Christianity is the completion of life. It is the only thing that can bring true fulfillment. Kierkegaard takes into consideration the rejection of Christianity as life-negating, but reasons beyond it. He writes, There is so much talk about being offended by Christianity because it is so dark and gloomy, offended because it is so rigorous, etc., but it would be best of all to explain for once that the real reason that men are offended by Christianity is that it is too high, because its goal is not man’s goal, because it wants to make man into something so extraordinary that he cannot grasp the thought.
    This passage removes the Nietzschean sense of asceticism, weariness, or deprivation from Christianity and emphasizes instead its immense capabilities.
    For Kierkegaard, Christianity is not primarily concerned with the burdens of the ascetic ideal or the suppression of one’s animal instincts. While ascetic practices may come as disciplines of faith, and thus, as enhancements of faith, Kierkegaard’s focus is rather on the exciting, stimulating, fulfilling part of Christian faith—the absolute paradox. (KW – also the political paradox, that when men act to produce the very best for themselves, they bring a situation that is worse for everybody (including themselves). Men resort to the self when they do not realise this paradox and cannot see the inward benefit of working for the good of all despite it’s outward apparent failure ). They do not possess the inner strength to overcome the apparent vulnerability in life, which forces them to seek a fruitless goal – to survive their lives as comfortably and pain free as they can-KW).
    For Kierkegaard, Christianity implies a communion with God, an intimate relationship beyond comparison with any other. It involves not a weakness, but a strength, the greatest possible strength, one attainable only through union with God. As Anti-Climacus explains,
    A self directly before Christ is a self intensified by the inordinate concession from God, intensified by the inordinate accent that falls upon it because God allowed himself to be born, become man, suffer, and die also for the sake of this self…the greater the conception of God, the more self; so…the greater conception of Christ the more self. Qualitatively a self is what its criterion is. That Christ is the criterion is the expression, attested by God, for the staggering reality that a self has, for only in Christ is it true that God is man’s goal and criterion.
    One’s union with God provides his greatest power, the power to love (KW-impartially) and to be involved in a God-relationship. For what could be more potent than union with the ultimate being?
    Thus, it is on this point that Kierkegaard would censure Nietzsche’s contention that Christianity lacks value-creation; because while Nietzsche seeks to be his own value creator, the values he creates could never be comparable with the godly values that stem from a God-relationship. This unity with God inspires far superior values than those that one could generate on his own. While Nietzsche believes that man’s greatest fulfilment is in the fully realized self, Kierkegaard feels Nietzsche is foundering, resisting the ultimate fulfillment, possible only through a God-relation. As Glenn oncludes, “only thus, by virtue of relating to God in faith, can the self exist as both finite and infinite, both involved in and transcending the world.”
    V. Conclusion
    In conclusion, I think Kierkegaard and his pseudonymous authors are successful in their defense of Christianity. It is perhaps quite convenient that Kierkegaard “prophetically” considered a character like Nietzsche in developing his philosophy. Nietzsche rests his claim that Christianity is life-negating on the superficialities of the ascetic ideal, which is clearly not a comprehensive assessment of Christianity from Kierkgaard’s perspective.
    Moreover, May, a Nietzschean scholar, even questions whether the ascetic ideal is “necessarily life-denying.” He gives three considerations for why the ascetic ideal might instead be “life-enhancing:”
    First, the Judaeo-Christian conceit that man participates in, and so must try to perfect his ‘imitation’, or expression, of the divine essence and, moreover, is God’s viceroy of nature, may be highly empowering beliefs, inducing men and women to feats of imagination and effort for which they might otherwise lack the
    courage—or even the conception.
    Like Kierkegaard, May recognizes the sustenance that Christianity provides its believers, by endowing them with an ultimate goal for which to strive, in communion with the ultimate being. This divine aspiration could only be seen as life-enhancing, as one is inclined to be godly. Additionally May suggests, “The idea that life ‘on earth’ is merely a means to approaching the divine can also be interpreted to make life-enhancement, in just Nietzsche’s sense, a duty to God, a way of honouring and knowing his creation.”
    Hence, Christianity instills value and purpose in life, giving Christians something to strive for as they try to live a godly life. While Nietzsche suggests that Christianity manifests itself only in a slave-like existence, May argues that Christianity instead gives meaning to life and value to living life to the fullest. Finally, May offers an “empirical” consideration, writing,
    As a matter of historical fact, the very European civilization that Nietzsche considers to be dedicated to the ascetic ideal and so to a ‘will to nothingness’ has been culturally one of the richest in world history—a simple fact with which his account of the calamity and ubiquity of the ascetic idea appears inconsistent.
    May offers this pragmatic proof to finalize his argument that the ascetic ideal is not necessarily life-denying. He expands on this, writing, “Nietzsche’s avoidance of these basic points is reflected in his assertion that a great life-enhancer, like Raphael, even if he -professes Christianity, cannot really be a Christian…Thus he claims that ‘Raphael saidYes, Raphael did Yes; consequently Raphael was no Christian.’”
    Clearly, Nietzsche could simply not allow Christianity the honor of responsibility for the richness of being, which he felt people like Raphael possessed. He could not reconcile the ascetic ideal with life-enhancement; he could not reconcile the absolute
    paradox. In failing to do so, he also failed to give Christianity a fair trial. He fell into a Kierkegaardian form of despair in which he willed to be his own god, which countered any aspirations to know the truth of another god, perhaps the Christian God. He was never able to see the life-enhancing qualities of Christianity that Kierkegaard so embraced.
    For Kierkegaard, Christianity involves much more than Nietzsche includes in his critiques, in fact, Kierkegaard would kindly agree with most of Nietzsche’s criticisms,
    but would further specify them as criticisms of what Kierkegaard thinks to be the misrepresentations of Christianity. Moreover, for Kierkegaard, Christianity involves all the excitement and passion that Nietzsche sees it as lacking. Kierkegaard would see Nietzsche as essentially giving up on the only thing that could have provided all that he was looking for in his quest for the “life-affirming.” It seems the two were looking for quite similar things in their existential quests, but while Kierkegaard was able to unveil the realities of Christian faith in all its passion and strength, Nietzsche never seeped deep enough into the faith to find this for himself. Nietzsche consistently sneered at the counterfeit versions of Christianity that he witnessed in his day, but was unable to uncover the true essence of faith to experience the passion that Kierkegaard found there.
    It is remarkable that two such comparable philosophers on such similar quests could end up with two such divergent outcomes (KW Not at all – they both are humans striving for a goal. The different goal takes a different path to try to reach its different peak) Perhaps, Nietzsche surrendered too quickly to despair, pronouncing the death of God and seeking to be his own god, without looking around him long enough to see the staggering presence of God that Kierkegaard so steadfastly professed.

    (KW-It is plainly evident that N. analysis is correct but applies only to the bath water and not the baby. He has thrown the baby out with the bath water because he has failed to see the true and deeper meaning of Christianity, as so many do. It is a pity he did not live longer and find what he is missing).

  263. Bla bla bla. All I hear is loud noises. From Christians and heathens alike. I would very much like to know what the author of this post means by “Orthodox”? For clarification I will state that I am a Calvinist, not because I hold to the infallibility of Calvin, but because it is the best way to describe my beliefs, i.e. I believe the Institutes are a very accurate description of the true Christian faith. ( From the few comments I have read it would seem the author has read quite a few theological works and I presume that you have had some dealings at least with the Institutes) And I would like to make a bad comment:
    1. The author claims that he has distanced himself from the Christian vs atheist debate due to the lack of new arguments/evidence. Should this lack of advance not be seen as a good reason to stay in the debate? As can be seen by this informative thread he has started. If one has enough experience to start seeing the patterns of certain ideologies and an unknown time later still be able to write an authoritative piece on the topic, should that person not then start to devote time to completely destroy the arguments of that ideology? Or as this thread has done, devote time to equipping others to continue the fight in an orderly methodological Christian way? Atheists are as much part of this heathen world as Buddhists, Muslims etc. and are therefore equally fair game in our mission to bring Light to the world.

  264. Pingback: Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail | A disciple's study

  265. Hello VerVanRyn, you make some interesting points. You’ll notice that I did put out a rash of apologetic stuff just after writing this article, but I still hold to my original statement that the atheist/Christian debates are lacking interesting topics and the banters are so monotonous at times its enough to make one cry. I have found that apologetics along these lines are necessary, but that it is difficult for the Christian in the debate to be edified by much of it. In fact, it tends to distract me personally from my real pursuits as a Christian – i.e., humility, love, prayer, etc. Apologetics should play a role, but, for me, that role needs to be kept in check. I have the tendency to overdo topics to personal exhaustion.

    As to your first question, by orthodox I mean historical Christian Orthodoxy. You might recognize it better by its ‘Western’ call name: Eastern Orthodoxy.

  266. Sorry Diachasium, I just now found this post hanging out in my “comments” edit section waiting for approval. Not sure how it wound up there.

  267. No worries Eric, I expect it was so long it needed to be ok’d. Although, I thought I saw it there long since, (slightly to my embarassment as my additions were instant ‘off the cuff’ replies and I wished I left such simple comments out). I expect the main text itself is below your intellectual boxing anyway, but, hopefully, there may be something in it for Pavlos (no Pavlos, I’m not thinking you may be below Eric’s intellect arguments, it’s just that he is clearly SO familiar with them all).

    (What’s this new box for comments Eric? – I’m asked for my e-mail!). I tried connecting with WordPress but it’s not happening!

  268. Eric, the same has also just occurred on Jeremy Williams’ ‘Make Wealth History’ blog. Maybe, it’s just me as I’ve recently created a new Google account. Yes, that seems to be it, I just need to change the log in choice.

  269. Pingback: Basck in the Saddle Again . . . Again . . . « Been There, Done That

  270. Pingback: Links to Make You Think and Grow (8.14.14) | Kevin Halloran's Blog | Christ, Culture, Books and More

  271. That’s because evolution does not explain the origin of life. Abiogenesis is the hypothesis (of which there are a few) of how life arose from water but is still not completely figured out yet. The evolution of life via natural selection has been observed for well over a century in the fossil record and nowadays through genetics. Antibiotics are formed by studying biotic viruses and how they evolve, for example. Our own DNA tells the story and we’ve even mapped the human genome back to Africa where we evolved several million years ago.

    This is not up for any serious debate on whether life (including us) has evolved among any serious scientist in just about any scientific field.

  272. Nolan, I appreciate the input but I’m not sure how it applies to the article. The article does not contend that evolution is bunk because it doesn’t account for the origin of life. It merely points out that origins is not within its scope of investigation (which you aptly restated). I made this observation because of the somewhat pervasive popular thought that evolution is a catch-all antithesis to creationism.

  273. The article does not contend that evolution is bunk because it doesn’t account for the origin of life. It merely points out that origins is not within its scope of investigation.

    The theory of evolution is about the unguided purposeless mechanism for changes to life forms over time. In this regard, evolution has nothing to say about abiogenesis.

    But this is not to say that abiogenesis has nothing to do with evolutionary biology: understanding biological origins is in fact the eventual goal! Our explanatory models are evolving as we fit more and more puzzle pieces into place.

    Evolutionary biologists just don’t throw up their hands and pretend the subject is out of bounds as you imply here. They admit we have a lack of knowledge now. That certainly doesn’t mean that there is any justifiable grounds for the alternate claim of POOF! caused by Oogity Boogity!

  274. And by “Poof! caused by Oogity Boogity!” I assume you mean the “the unguided purposeless mechanism” of Big Bang cosmology? What exactly are the “justifiable grounds” for that belief?

  275. “Evolutionary biologists just don’t throw up their hands and pretend the subject is out of bounds as you imply here.” True, partly because the field is overflowing with practitioners of biologism rather than science proper. Evolutionary study has limits since, as stated in the article, “the option of natural selection as an explanation is not available when considering how dead or inorganic matter becomes organic.” If you want to deny this, be my guest. But you won’t be speaking for evolutionary study, but rather for the religion of biologism.

  276. Hi, my name is Mike and I am currently working on a book called, ‘How to Debate Atheists.’ I have completed the first three chapters and would appreciate any feedback.

  277. Your first chapter starts with a ‘fail’.

    To answer your first question, “Is there a god?” This is a knowledge claim. I would answer as a New Atheist quite honestly, “I don’t know.” I lack this knowledge. I lack compelling evidence that makes this hypothesis a valid framework for understanding a model of how reality operates through such a divine causal agency.

    Where is that choice in your debate framework?

    Absent… because you are trying to frame the debate as if the claim that there really is an interactive divine agency operating in our reality doesn’t require compelling evidence from that reality.

    Well, it does… for the claim to stand and act as if it were a reasonable model describing the reality we share.

    Because there is no compelling evidence from reality, the claim tries to be informed by those who believe it to be true to first assume it is true… by suggesting that revelation, scriptural authority, and anecdotes are an equivalently reliable method as independent evidence to inform the divine agency model.

    To be perfectly clear, in every other area of life, these tools are not reliable to inform knowledge claims. We don’t tolerate bridges built based on the assurances of the builder’s hope that this time it will hold, that this time the wings of the plane may produce lift if we sacrifice a chicken, that drinking this boiled herb if blessed with the right words will reduce sickness.

    And we know this. You know this. That is why belief about gods or a god is not a knowledge claim, not a claim that describes the reality we share with a model that produces insight into how reality operates (which can then be used to better inform applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time) but the state of hope and desire people hold wishing the claim were true.

    That’s why the claim that such an interactive causal agency of divine properties is a failed hypothesis… because the claim does not produce a model that can be used to generate knowledge with practical effect. What it generates is belief based not on the reality we share but empowered by the willingness of the individual to use faith that it might be so. It is a faith-based belief.

    As such, claims about gods or a god is a question of belief and not knowledge. The debate is not served by misrepresenting this essential fact. The first question therefore must be about the belief itself and whether or not it is justified to describe the reality we share. I don’t think it is justified, so I do not believe. That non belief describes my atheism, whereas your faith-based belief describes your theism. The debate revolves around these justifications for the belief and it is here where the theist finds very little support.

    If you want to debate atheists, produce compelling evidence for your god hypothesis and you will find a very willing audience ready and able to change the state of their belief based on the quality of the justifications for it.

    Go figure.

  278. Mike, the excerpt of your book does an excellent job of showing that one of the main problems with theists and their arguments is that even your foundational assumptions are unsound. As a minuscule example (trust me, I could write a book on the errors in your thinking in just that short excerpt you have shared) you ask that theist and atheist start from a black state, but fail to realize just how heavily biased and loaded with presuppositions your blank state already is.

  279. Hello Mike,

    I’ll pick up with what Tildeb has already commented on. I’m glad that she brought in the ‘New Atheist’ perspective before I had a chance to respond. She illustrates why posting your thoughts on a blog first and allowing atheists a chance to comment will probably be some of the best “feedback” you can receive for writing such a book.

    As a spokeswoman for the New Atheists – i.e., an orphaned Enlightenment group who still believe all things are knowable via the unaided reason of man – she reveals that you begin with a fail if you approach the question of God’s existence on any other ground other than classic theism. For probably the best book on the subject of classic theism read David Bentley Hart’s book: “The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss.”

    Here’s some excerpts: “The one thing of which it (naturalism) can give no account, and which its most fundamental principles make it entirely impossible to explain at all, is nature’s very existence. For existence is most definitely not a natural phenomenon; it is logically prior to any physical cause whatsoever; and anyone who imagines that it is susceptible of a natural explanation simply has no grasp of what the question of existence really is. In fact, it is impossible to say how, in the terms naturalism allows, nature could exist at all” (p.18)

    ….”It may be perfectly ‘rational’ to embrace absurdity; for, if the universe does not depend upon any transcendent source, then there is no reason to accord the deliverance of reason any particular authority in the first place, because what we think of as rationality is just the accidental residue of physical processes: good for helping us to acquire food, power, or sex but probably not very reliable in the realm of ideas” (p.19).

    ….”An honest and self-aware atheism, therefore, should proudly recognize itself as the quintessential expression of heroic irrationalism: a purely and ecstatically absurd venture of faith, a triumphant trust in the absurdity of all things” (p.19).

    Here’s the basic premise of classic theism: “Beliefs regarding God concern the source and ground and end of all reality, the unity and existence of every particular thing and of the totality of all things, the ground of the possibility of anything at all” (p.33).

    So, essentially, if you want to argue against philosophic short-bus New Atheist types, you should get your classic theism down pat. The only problem is, as Hart said in one of the above quotes, you won’t find many who even understand the question of existence to start with, so it’s often a waste of time.

  280. Eric, notice the bait and switch Hart makes regarding ‘existence’.

    First, he baits us with an introduction to ‘naturalism’ as if it were a philosophy (it isn’t) and then asks it (naturalism) to explain ‘existence’… as if existence itself had unique properties (when it doesn’t because it’s not a ‘thing’) that naturalism can then explain.

    This is a tautology because ‘naturalism’ requires things in nature for us to deduce any properties whatsoever!

    Then, he switches the request for evidence for these properties of existence (which is impossible) to be evidence of some supposedly embedded irrationalism contained within ‘naturalism’… a straw man he has set up only to knock down as if it reflects poorly on atheists when it is he who has created the ne3cessary condition for the irrationality!

    The clue he misses is that when one recognizes the irrationality of the framing, one should immediately question the framing and not the reasoning of those it supposedly represents! This he doesn’t do (because it doesn’t serve his purpose of denigrating non believers… a motive that clearly has absolutely nothing to do with finding out anything about nature and the supposed interactive divine agencies it contains!). In other words, Hart isn’t concerned about finding out what’s true; he’s concerned more about framing any so-called ‘dialogue’ to be rigged in favour of the conclusion he starts with, that belief in some god is rational by fiat and any non belief in that god is by definition irrational. Gee, thanks… but no thanks.).

    The study of classical theism is grounded in the kind of metaphysics that requires certain supernatural premises to be considered true a priori. Within the context solely of the framework of the metaphysics, the conclusion reached works to be logical. But don;t mistake form for content. Once the conclusion is applied beyond the framework of the assumed truth of the premises it doesn’t work. This extension of metaphysics into reality doesn’t work. It is a mistake of method if one honestly wishes to gain knowledge about the reality we share. That’s why, for example, not one shred of knowledge has ever been produced using such religious premises and metaphysical framework which is then applied to reality in order to supposedly model it accurately. It doesn’t. But we have a long and glorious history of replacing ignorance with religious pseudo-answers backed by metaphysical musings that turn out to be empty of knowledge value. That’s why religious belief has not does not and never shall produce any applications, therapies, or technologies that work in reality. This, too, is a clue that Hart grants zero weight…

  281. ^^^ case in point:

    “The only problem is, as Hart said in one of the above quotes, you won’t find many who even understand the question of existence to start with, so it’s often a waste of time.”

  282. …which doesn’t slow him down for even a second from erecting his straw man and the escape hatch he uses to shift blame for his erection…

  283. “Orphaned Enligthentment group” heh heh. That’s too catchy, Eric.

    Anyway…MikeManea,

    The verbal gymnastics you’ve just witnessed above can be boiled and broken down in more succinct translation as “You’re not allowed to say that, neener neener.” This is actually smoke-screening and grandstanding of the first degree. However, I maintain you can actually cut a clear path through tildeb’s smoke:

    1. The Debate Platform “Does God Exist” can be rescued

    …from tildeb’s guerrilla-like attempt to trample it down and replace it with digressive assumptions. Simply open up a third “I don’t know” category for tildeb (btw, it’s somewhat shocking to hear tildeb has actually drifted to the weaker category of Agnostic.) I should say here that I haven’t read all the way how far you’ve gotten, but just glanced at the first component of your book, so forgive me for repeating anything you already know. So anyway, the person claiming or admitting “I don’t know” in REAL DEBATE (not garbage you can get away with on the internent b/c there’s no moderator and thus nobody to hold you accountable) has already, stunningly, lost! The reasons are simple. Does God Exist? can only have one logical answer. God does not both exist and not exist at the same time; logic informs us that this is to perpetuate, give credence to or contemplate inanities. And saying even if God CAN, seeing as the typical Christian definition of God quite truly consists of nothing being impossible for Him, pull off the incredible trick (similar to Eric’s initial reference to Kierkegaard’s argument regarding God “not having come into existence“) of both existing and not existing, this still involves existing in some way and I fail to see how this position helps advance the debate. The bottom line is that “I don’t know” is an universally unacceptable platform to arrive with and launch from in any debate. This is why you don’t see many agnostics in formal debates; though they may swear up and down they have taken the high ground of “personal integrity” in admitting what they don’t know, in reality they just flat-out bring nothing to the table to…everyone, everywhere, all the time. While I do applaud their personal integrity, still means Jack to the debate. A moment’s reflection proves this a stunningly accurate assessment: Would we, say, tolerate “I don’t know” as a debate platform at a summit on “How Do We Fight Crime In Our Inner Cities?” Or is “I don’t know” in anyway acceptable in a debate about Climate Change? Would we listen for very long to anything else an individual has to say claiming “I don’t know” to the Growing Problem of ISIS? Or “I don’t know” as regards How To Curtail Teenage Female Suicide? Or “I don’t know” to How Should Congress Spend Our Money? Or “I don’t know” to Police Brutality Problems? Or “I don’t know” to Hate Crimes Against LGBTS? I rest my case.

    In nearly every other case BUT GOD, we have a 0 tolerance policy for “I don’t know.” This is to be understood as a formal convention, most of all. Thus, all individuals claiming “I don’t know” are, in reality, to be utterly sanctioned from attempts to pollute, undermine and sabotage our rational discourse in debate platforms. Now of course the new atheist may thrive on what we may call “crowd appeal” but that’s only because the crowd is either too beguiled or dull to recognize that I-don’t-know-ism, irrespective of how politely or honestly or tactfully stated, is still discreetly smuggling a position into the debate at the explicit and crucial apex of nothing but sheer and unadulterated ignorance. (And not the good kind that leads to investigation, to boot!) Check. And Mate. And you didn’t even have to move but one tiny pawn before the atheistic agnostic goes batcrap crazy over “philosophy” and “[pseudo]science.” What really galls, of course, is I-don’t-know-ism seems to be puffing itself with explanatory power enough to sort of “dry erase” your own assumptions. Well, the marks are still on the board and there is a method for allowing them to bleed back out…

    2. The Uniformity of Nature

    Once sanctioned, sequestered, confined and defeated among the lesser “I-don’t-know” category of argument, we may be at total liberty to consider “I-don’t know” really a weaker tenuous form of “No.” And when tildeb objects to that, we may ask tildeb, quite pointedly:

    How can we justify our faith in the Uniformity of Nature?

    A fairly crucial question, if not to science itself, absolutely to the way we view and operate science. From there it’s probably another matter of the opponent trying (like the tired trite post-modernist clap-trap they tend to offer) to dismantle the integrity of the question, adding 0 to discussion. Or if the word “faith” proves too loaded or complicated an expression in conjunction with the Sacred Cows of Science (as indubitably is often the case) you can substitute “faith” (though it is a fine and correct word) for: How can we be justified in knowing the Uniformity of Nature to be true? That is, how do we know the laws of nature are the same as unobserved as observed? How can we be justified in making inductive inferences from observed laws of nature in the past to predict the future? Make no mistake here: We most certainly CAN make them. The problem isn’t the system. The problem is the assumption we must make to operate that system. It is a sheer act of faith. Tildeb will want to plead something like the Evidence of Reality and its ability to predict the future at you, but this is nothing short of a restatement of the classic Problem of Induction (and circular reasoning, to boot) which you can read more about here:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/induction-problem/#CarIndLog

    Another luminary you may want to look up on this matter of Uniformity (which is where I picked up the idea) is Dr. Gregory Bahnsen, if you can stomach a more Reformed view. I’m inclined to stomach his Reformed views perhaps simply because I find methods employed by his Presuppositional Apologetics strong and sound. What I like about him is he can draw the links of our faith in Uniformity back to Scripture, in the very Greek of the Apostles Epistles. His contentions typically range from discreet disavowal (on a Presuppositional methodology) to outright accusing atheists of having hijacked assumptions intrinsic to the very earliest of Christian theism! This is astounding, if you think about it, in light of tildeb putting on airs of assailing your assumptions.

    Come to think of it! (maybe Eric knows?) I wonder if a synthesis of the typical Presupp. Apologetics of someone like Bahnsen with the more “classic theism” of David Bentley Hart is at all possible or are there spots between the two that are capable of displaying some connective tissue and thus useful bridging? I’d have to, quite honestly, read into both more thoroughly to say. Perhaps they are similar, two sides of a coin.

    Now, of course, there are other contemporary views on Uniformity. No doubt! the embarrassing thing for atheists (NOT scientists) is that scientists do not seem to agree or some even say that we don’t even need certain facets of Uniformitarianism anymore. The problem of induction is declared a myth, for instance, by Karl Popper and scientific theories are suddenly and mysteriously a matter of deductive reasoning! All of this, of course, was wildly anticipated by C. S. Lewis’ question when he asked many years ago how long scientists’ faith in the uniformity of nature would last? Keep in mind, all the while, and NEVER let them wiggle out of it ONE MOMENT, the very thing Tildeb is dogmatically attempting to argue at you IS NOTHING OTHER THAN the Uniformity of Nature posed a different way.

    It is to be understood, of course, that I am not directly asking tildeb “how we know Uniformity?” because I have 0 personal interest in tildeb’s circumlocutions to sweep the matter under the rug because I find them at all points everywhere all the time entirely artless, inelegant and inconsequential wasting of my time.

    I am merely suggesting some means by which you may catch the rat in its own trap.

  284. If you want think of an agnostic, think of Richard Dawkins. That puts Paul’s comments into perspective.

    The summation of Paul’s self-described “stunningly accurate assessment” can be stated as, “Therefore, yes…because of Oogity Boogity by POOF!ism is an entirely reasonable answer to the first question, “Is there a God?”

    Stunning, I’ll grant you but accurate? How could we possibly know (hence, the agnostic bit, Paul)?

  285. Ah, the “oogity boogity” thingy you seem to repeat in nearly every discussion. In fact, I responded to it the last time you said above (some months ago) in relation to the origin of the universe, and you never replied.

    Since I’m bored I’ll take you up on it again and see if I can turn you into at least a Deist as I did Pavlos with the same question:

    You and I both believe in something eternal. The universe surely did not just by “Oogity Boogity… Poof” come into existence according to its own unguided purposeless natural mechanisms (prior to its existence it would have no mechanisms). What could be more illogical or magical thinking? So lets agree that something is eternal.

    You believe in a non-intelligent eternal something (nature), and the theist believes in an intelligent eternal something (God).

    Question: why is a belief in a non-intelligent eternal something more logical than belief in an intelligent eternal something?

  286. Half-hit, hit-miss. If it wasn’t clear, let me make it now, I’m not saying “Therefore, yes” is thus a reasonably proven answer. I’m saying “Yes” has won the debate by default because “I don’t know” has yet to even show up. Dr. Bahnsen, for instance, called this “the Myth of Neutrality;” of course, he was more referring to Christian apologists who want to argue from a non-biased neutral position and therefore prove God reasonable, but I think the Myth of Neutrality cuts both ways. Mostly because it doesn’t strike me as logical for the question “Does God Exist” to have a neutral answer in reality. You want to set up “I don’t know” (which I consider a red herring) as a lead proposition from which to buttress your assumption (presupposition?) of the regularity of nature to conclude “therefore, no God evidence.” Well, Dr. Bahnsen would probably say the regularity of nature (as an item) isn’t even possible without God as a presupposition, along with laws of logic and morality. The thing about neutrality in formal debate: That’s why Moderators exist. Neutrality, for one thing, can easily sag into the sophistry of pandering to a crowd’s sentimentality; naturally! as we all prefer to think of ourselves (nowadays anyway) as “fair-minded, neutral, balanced, non-biased” individuals, even though that can’t even remotely be the truth.

    That and I just straight up agree with Bahnsen about being neutral toward God. Now don’t get it twisted when Bahnsen goes from there to penning “Reformed Confessions” he does lose me, because I don’t accept those innovations. Also, I can respect in polite conversation one’s honesty in claiming “I don’t know” or perhaps “maybe.” But it’s bad form to be swayed necessarily by respect of one’s personal honesty.

  287. Eric, you keep claiming that I’m a deist despite my repeated attempts to help you understand I’m not.

    Paul, your comment regarding winning such a debate pertains only to the theatrics of it. You’re arguing in favor of certainty for the sake of appearance, rather than honesty for the sake of truth. If all you care about in a debate is who appeared to win because of their certainty then you might as well go watch a play or a movie, the theatrical production will be superior to any debate you attend.

  288. Haha, I know you don’t claim to “be a deist,” but when push came to shove, this was your answer to the same question I gave Tildeb:

    “I have no arguments against deism (an eternal and intelligent agent). In fact, due to my ignorance of astrophysics, I hold that to me it is in fact more logical to believe there is such an agent rather than not. Our disagreement is in theism, not deism.”

    That’s a HUGE concession for a staunch atheist. (*Eric snickers and gives himself a high-5*).

  289. Actually, I find “I don’t know” fairly theatrical, by turns dishonest, especially where it leads to “and you can’t make that knowledge-claim.” To echo Eric’s and Hart’s assessment above, I find that tends toward the irrational species of argument. No surprise, though; modern atheism has been quite an extended pretension in erasing rationality at the bidding of something vaguely resembling scientific inquiry, nevermind reason was a central tenet of the Enlightenment. That fellows like Hitchens and Dawkins set themselves as great champions or protectors of Reason is a real knee-slapper; if only they half-knew. Unfortunately, nobody has the ability to erase what’s rational. I’m willing to drop splitting hairs about it now, though.

  290. Paul, I criticized Hart for his bait and switch (and for erecting a straw man) and said It is a mistake of method if one honestly wishes to gain knowledge about the reality we share.

    The question “Is there a god?” as a knowledge question is answered honestly with “I don’t know”. There may be. There may not be.

    As a belief question, it can be answered yes or no based on how much or how little confidence one has. I have no confidence. I do not believe. That state of non belief in gods or a god defines atheism.

    Lo and behold: here we have an agnostic atheist.

    Questions?

  291. That entire paragraph was a red herring as it did not address the argument at all. Nonetheless, I’ll take this bait for now. The argument you are making is an appeal to adverse consequences (i.e. “‘I don’t know’ is dishonest because it leads to something undesirable”). Once you remove your emotional disapproval of the valid consequence you realize that it is, in fact, the only honest answer to such a knowledge-claim (“tildeb” has explained this to you yet again below).

    If you disagree then perhaps we need to go over some basics regarding knowledge, what it is, how it is acquired, and how it is justified.

    Back to the original argument or was your red herring a life-line for you?

  292. This theory of knowledge put forth by Pavlos and Tildeb is so interesting. I’m curious, based on your presuppositions of what constitutes knowledge, how is it that you two came to “know” that this theory of knowledge is true?

    My guess is that you pose the theory based on your personal subjective preference, however, it could be that the two of you are actually phantoms of pure reason. I’ve never seen a real picture of Tildeb so she might actually be one.

  293. Do you want me to take your question at face value or consider it a loaded one? Since I’m currently pressed for time I’ll choose the former and go from there, if needed, later when I have some more time. The simple answer is from the study of Epistemology. It’s not a matter of preference as there is not much of a choice.

  294. You lot! Why don’t you admit that belief in gods is a personal experience and cannot be proved to others because it is personal (whatever it stems from). Science will not disprove the existence of gods, even if it ever managed to create a universe. ‘Don’t know’ may also come from poor sources but for many it is the only true position when they are without personal experience of a god and find no evidence against gods in science. ‘Don’t knows’ can be quite capable of arguing both sides of the coin and there is no good reason why they should be excluded from any debate on the subject of belief in gods, especially when the two opponents regularly resort to insults, jokes and other diversions. For many, a god can be rationally accounted for but that does not prove existence of a god.

    I cannot see how this does not completely sum it up or how further explanation gets us anywhere other than an intellectual battle (possibly, driven by ego or fear of being found wrong).

  295. Neither science nor philosophy can disprove the existence of gods, but they are both well equipped for disproving specific varieties. For example, if a particular religion claims that their god created man from dust and woman from a rib, that’s something science can disprove. It doesn’t disprove the existence of that god, but it does prove the specific claim to be false. Once enough of those are accumulated it should cause any reasonable person to pause and consider the rest of the claims made by that religion which don’t fall into the realm of science. It’s like finding out a friend of yours has been lying to you about several things. You might forgive a few lies, but eventually they accumulate to the point where you can’t really believe anything this person has told you.

    Philosophy, on the other hand, can tackle those issues which are outside the realm of science. It can pinpoint logical inconsistencies and contradictions and bring them (the claims) tumbling down.

    Let’s also not forget history as a good “disprover” of specific deities. If you can trace the origins of gods back to their birthplace it tends to fall apart (depending on the belief of course). Christianity here is a good example. We’ve discussed this before, but we can (and have) trace the monotheistic Christian God back to the polytheistic tribes from which the Jews are descended. God’s transformation (evolution even) from a minor deity, to the one and only creator of all things is well documented.

    Of course this is where apologetics come into play. “Oh, you’ve got it all wrong because you see . . . blah!” is all that’s left at this point. It’s an attempt to cling to a belief by all means necessary. Each time someone knocks down another pillar, the apologists step in to either pretend it wasn’t a pillar, or pretend it wasn’t knocked down.

    I know, telling Christians such things can be like speaking to a child who doesn’t want to hear you (no insult intended), so just imagine Mormonism as a substitute. You can disprove it scientifically, philosophically, and historically, but all they have to do is use the exact same apologetics to counter such things. “Oh, you’ve got it all wrong because you see Joseph Smith received a divine epiphany . . . blah!”

    Lastly, while I agree with much of what you said about the validity of “I don’t know” I can’t help but wonder how a logical fallacy (argument from personal experience) can be used to soundly conclude an argument. If your claim is that God exists because you have experienced him then you must admit that claim has the exact same weight as another person’s claim when he says “God does not exist because I have not experienced him.” Of course both can’t be right because of their contradictory nature, but this is why personal experience means little to nothing without supporting evidence. I’ve seen Christians whose personal experience (therefore proof) was enough milk to bake their muffins. I’ve seen Muslims whose personal experience (therefore proof) was a western woman who was cheating on her husband (don’t ask, long story). I’ve seen Hindus whose personal experience (therefore proof) was a levitating Yogi. To paraphrase Dr. Krauss, spirituality exists because of our innate narcissism.

  296. Thanks Pavlos for your kind attention. I do not have the time to respond fully to this but a brief reply may suffice.

    I was making the point that both parties can come up with ‘You can’t say this…..blah di blah!’ Just as both can have much about them that is wrong.

    You may lose, (dare I say it), faith in a friend but if you seek elsewhere for truth you may come to realise that some of what he said made sense after all but he misunderstood some/much of it – and them you’d forgive he for his errors and see him in a different (better) light.

    Thirdly, I was indeed saying that personal experience is real only for the individual (who cannot provide the evidence because it it personal to them),but it is not real for those without it. So, both can exist sincerely in each mind but neither will ever prove it. Hence, my comment that II cannot understand why each side tries to persuade the other by any amount of information and quotes from so called
    educated people. It just won;t wash. Trying to see if someone has not considered a point is worhtwhile but all this firing at each other is akin to, a biblical quote which we may be able to agree upon as being wisdom – “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecclesiastes 12:12

    As I said, my instant respone, but possibly sufficiently covers what you’ve said in your kind offering? Thanks again Pavlos..

  297. Oh come, come. You know that won’t do. What theory within the broad study of epistemology do you take to be truth about knowledge? You can’t just say you believe in the findings of epistemology. That’s like saying you believe in philosophy therefore you are, eo ipso, a Hegelian. Which model do you believe (both of you seem to hold a strict scientific/verification model), and how do you *KNOW* this is the correct one?

    Take another shot when you have more time to think it through. I believe this is important to this entire debate, and it nicely falls in line with point #1 of the OP.

  298. Dichasium, I’m not sure who you were meaning this comment for, but for the record I’m not attempting to prove God’s existence so as to throw out faith. I’m attempting to level the playing field and demonstrate that we all approach our understanding of existence from, ultimately, a position of “faith.” From there let the chips fall where they may. 🙂

  299. @ Pavlos above, an appeal to adverse consequences strikes me as totally justified if one of those adverse consequences is potential ignorance. Interesting that you qualify it as emotional disapproval (and it may very well be however), since I see it as merely rational, regardless of emotionality. The world doesn’t tolerate very much “I don’t know,” especially not in professional or formal capacities. Ergo, I see no good reason to let anybody in the world get away with “I don’t know,” the [supposedly!] charitable nature of the blogosphere notwithstanding. Especially in matters as weighty (for you, empty) as the existence of God.

    Epistemology, ha! Funny you should mention it! Quite in conjunction with Eric’s harken back to the OP, point #1, this is, of course, exactly why i brought up Bahnsen, it being his life’s work and all. The discrepancies of individuals (here, Christian theists and whatever the opposing party feels like describing itself as last Tuesday) who look at the same evidence and claim different knowledge surrounding or pertaining to it: How do we decide which obtains? Quite honestly, I went down this route because it quite seems tildeb wants to show up playing at epistemology somewhat like a climber ready to take on the mountain, leaving behind his repelling gear, gloves, helmet, cleated shoes and not to mention enough rope to ascend back behind at the cabin in favor of calling the mountain a fraud, thereby conquering it.

    Very well! Let’s dig in for the crude beginnings of some real epistemology. How, for instance, does your (and whoever wants this can take it) worldview account for: (1) laws of logic, such as the law of non-contradiction, the law of identity, modus ponens or modus tonens (an important qualifier for these laws being that they are a priori; this may get us over the embarrassing hump of having to quarrel over whether they are simply particular to or contrived by human beings; hopefully we may avoid this dingy ditch; seems to me they’d have to be a priori anyway) (2) law and regularity (uniformity) in nature such that we can observe it, study it, make conjectures about it, criticize and research it to shape predictive models based upon it and have those models peer-reviewed at a consensus (to say nothing of the sad sucker(s) in the middle doing all the observation, study, conjecture, criticism, prediction and peer-review) (3) laws of morality and finally (4) will be my personal add-on (it may not be valid or sound, but I can’t see how or why): the fact that (1-3) are not wholly independent of each other but intricately overlap (sometimes even experience friction between each other) and interlock to comprise nevertheless a total cogent ordered system that actually works such as our world, existence, reality and the universe.

    Well, the Christian worldview can consistently coherently account for them (1-4) (Dr. Bahnsen suggests) and also while establishing the impossibility of the contrary. With God’s existence as our central guiding presupposition, we claim that God is (1) logical or rational or intelligible being (2) He is eternal and yet transcendent (shaping, law-giving and sustaining nature) (3) moral and (4) purposive, immanent or active in the affairs of His Creation as One God in Three-Persons (Trinity). Hopefully, other Christian theists won’t be too cross with me in the characteristics given above or feel I’ve left anything important out or added anything objectionable; I’m open to correction.

    Can the presuppositions embedded in your worldview claim the same knowledge? I haven’t seen any yet that can, quite frankly. The Creation bears too much His indelible mark and signature. God hits a home run each time, touching each tight base in succession before pushing one across the dish. Enjoy your World Series (rooting for the Royals, personally).

  300. @Eric – And I’m at a loss as to which comment of mine you have derived your thought from. But no, I don’t think anyone here is trying to prove God’s existence so as to throw out faith. Thanks for your attempt to help, I really do appreciate and respect it (and likewise with Pavlos).

  301. If I want to learn about reality, I turn to reality and allow it the power to arbitrate my beliefs about it. That’s my epistemological method and one, I think, deserving of our mutual respect.

    What a radical concept.

    I create (okay, I usually borrow) models of how reality operates to test what causal agencies it may contain. I test these models all the time. For example, I want to know where I left my car keys. I allow reality to arbitrate their location and utilize reality to demonstrate to me where they really are.

    How unsophisticated! (Where’s the First Cause and Moral Law Giver and Prime Mover in all of this?)

    When I have a model that seems to accurately describe how reality operates – that meets the requirement of producing consistently and reliably applications, therapies, and technologies that seem to work for everyone everywhere all the time – then I can justify my beliefs about reality by demonstration. Everyone who misplaces their car keys should utilize reality to aid in their recovery. Go figure. By relying on reality to arbitrate the location of my misplaced keys, I seem to be able to find them without sacrificing my moral character. I think you can, too. How very controversial of me.

    If I want to learn about faith-based beliefs and how people seem so willing to undergo mental gymnastics in order to justify the invisible clothing the Emperor wears, I can find all kinds of sources in religion, philosophy, and metaphysics and marvel at the energy expended. None of that helps me find my car keys, of course.

    The model for faith-based beliefs is to first imposes an a priori belief on reality, assume it to be true, and then use it to falsely advertize any deduced conclusion to be an equivalent kind of knowledge claim that doesn’t require reality’s arbitration of it. The problem is that this epistemology simply doesn’t work to produce a model that accurately describes reality. I can assume my car keys have been taken by garden faeries and cleverly hidden in a under the rose bush but, until I turn to reality to arbitrate the claim, my belief is utterly useless no matter how sophisticated my argument may appear to be that justifies my belief in such key-stealing faeries (and the moral ramifications their supposed existence has as ‘explained’ by believers in their causal efficacy).

    Faith-based methodology will never, ever, help me find my car keys. No amount of sacrificed chickens and burnt offerings will do the job. Faith-based epistemology doesn’t work to describe reality because it has no means to connect to it. This is an essential feature in that it’s use removes any need for reality’s arbitration of these belief claims and so pays the price for doing so: a disconnect from the reality it purports to describe. As a method of knowing anything about reality it’s a fraud… a fraud, that is, if we really want to accurately model reality (in order to improve our understanding of how it functions arbitrated then by applying this understanding to practical benefit).

    Truthfully, my car keys care not one whit for the beliefs some people may have about garden faeries. In the same way, reality cares not one jot or tittle about the religious beliefs people may have about it. And if we want to find those keys or understand how reality operates, we must put aside this broken method of faith-based belief.

  302. Assuming you are answering here and not to my question posed to you above, I’ll respond in lieu of Paul’s response.

    If “applications, technologies, and therapies” were all there was to reality, if reality consisted only of the mechanical workings of the objective world, then your chosen epistemology works just fine. No complaints.

    The trouble is reality is much bigger.

    Your view of both reality and how one can “know” anything about it is highly polarized; you operate from one extreme end of the knowledge spectrum.

    Let’s take your car key example. Sure metaphysics, moral philosophy, religious truth, etc., will not help you locate your keys, nor build your car, nor teach you how to drive it. But where exactly are you going in your car and why? Let’s say you’re going to work. Why? To make money. But why? So that you have money to eat and survive. But why, why survive, why live, go further – what does it mean to live as a human being in the world? Ah, and now we arrive at a category of knowledge that objectivity helps not one iota.

    Push past that and talk about interpersonal relations. How do you know your wife, husband, kids, parents, etc? Do you study their photos? Do you examine their DNA? Or do you have an astrophysics book that will teach you all about them?

    The point is you’ve chosen objectivity as your sole avenue of knowledge about reality, when in fact you are a living, individual, human being who is not pure reason, pure logic, pure objectivity – that’s part of you, but not all of you. Objectivity prohibits personal subjectivity – but you are a “personal subject” in the world. To remain in pure objectivity is to negate yourself, hence to negate your most important reality. Kierkegaard said, “existence mocks the one who keeps on wanting to become purely objective.”

    To retain your stance requires you reject the beginning and end of all knowledge that really matters, Socrates dictum: Know thyself. You can’t know yourself using the epistemological method you’ve chosen as your catch all for reality. I encourage you to become less polarized, expand your ability to know yourself, others, questions of life, etc. I’m not asking you to become an Orthodox Christian, just to become more involved with all of reality, not just your car keys.

  303. what does it mean to live as a human being in the world? Ah, and now we arrive at a category of knowledge that objectivity helps not one iota.

    Category mistake. None of what follows in your comment is about knowledge; it’s all about subjective belief… which is fine as subjective belief but a fraud when masquerading as knowledge. I’m simply pointing out the fraud.

  304. Eric, you asked me:

    Question: why is a belief in a non-intelligent eternal something more logical than belief in an intelligent eternal something?

    I never said anything remotely connected to this question so I’m in no position to ‘answer’ it coherently!

  305. The question is the wrong one. It’s based on a false dichotomy of either/or regarding belief. No matter how this question is ‘answered’ it will not produce knowledge. It will merely support an unjustified belief. That’s why it’s incoherent.

    The right question to ask is What evidence does the universe provide for us to model its history accurately? Follow that chain, and you will be on a path to knowledge about cosmology.

    You remain fixated on using belief to inform knowledge. You assume the form of logic produces conclusions that describe reality. Well, Eric, unless you promote reality to be the arbiter of beliefs held about it, you’ve no means to establsih whether or not the premises you use reflect reality! This is exactly the problem that misguided Aristotelian physics – assuming a priori that motion required a causal agency. that’s why you keep encountering the idea of a ‘First’ mover. This framework was effectively and fatally wounded by Galileo who demonstrated the explanatory power of first reality and then belief.

    The early church took took on board Aristotelian physics and incorporated it whole hog… including cosmology. This is the framework used by many church fathers (and in all the world’s great religions). All are fatally undermined by it to accurately describe reality because all assume certain a priori premises that are then imposed on reality and which distort their ability to follow Galileo’s example – first reality, then belief – to produce knowledge. The result is as we see: literally tens of thousands of incompatible religious beliefs using thousands of models to explain the reality we encounter. Not all can be correct. There is no means to determine if any are correct.

    Now compare that method to the one used to create explanatory models we use based on Galileo’s advise: science. There are not thousands of incompatible ‘chemistries’, ‘physics’, and ‘biologies’. There is one field for each. For example what we call ‘chemistry’ is a field of study that defines molecular interactions no matter what race, geography, age, gender, culture, religion, language the user may identify with. One field (later subdivided into specialties). Why? Because it works and not because of any a priori beliefs (meaning ‘not dependent on certain beliefs’) we bring to the field of study. The explanatory model works to produce the same demonstrable results regardless of what beliefs accompany the practitioner. This method – and not beliefs – is the ground of knowledge: an explanatory model that reliably describes the reality we share.

    When we attempt to describe reality and how it operates (and by what agencies), we are making a knowledge claim… unless we first phrase the description as a belief we hold. If we did that, we can excuse ourselves from claiming any knowledge independent of our beliefs. I believe my sports team is going to win. That’s not a knowledge statement. It is an expression of my belief and is not to be understood as if it were already a fact, an historical event. It is an expression of my hopes and wishful thinking. It is not a reasonable basis on which to hang public policies and procedures. Religious belief is equivalently a belief statement and not a fact, not an historical event, but an expression of hopes and wishful thinking. We need to be careful which is which because presenting a belief claim as if it were a knowledge claim is a guaranteed way to fool ourselves into thinking our beliefs define the reality we share. No. Reality defines reality and our beliefs become informed knowledge only by getting this order right.

  306. No. Its a question regarding logic, not knowledge per se. Everything you said after that “category mistake” is irrelevant to the discussion. Wanna take another shot?

  307. That’s because it’s not presented according to the framework you presume to dictate but is self-contained as an epistemology that dares to work accurately and reliably well for everyone everywhere all the time.

  308. “AN epistemology,” now you’re starting to get it! Epistemology is not descriptive of a single method as you seemed to understand it at the beginning of this discussion. It’s a highly diversified category of philosophical thought. If you can accept that then you’re on your way to “knowing” that there are other equally valid methods of approach according to what portion of “reality” one is trying to assess. You’ve got the “finding your keys” thing down, now let’s move on to something more challenging, like, “knowing” yourself – yes, something that you will not be able to “know” according to some universal, mechanistic application.

  309. Eric, I was asked “how is it that you two (Pavlos and I) came to “know” that this theory of knowledge is true?

    My answer was ‘epistemology’, meaning the method used to investigate reality, a method that distinguishes justified belief from opinion by its results to accurately describe how reality operates.

    Now you condescendingly inform me that I’m beginning to get ‘it’, meaning ‘it’ to be the epistemology (the method you use that you assume allows you to elevate your beliefs to be equivalent to justified knowledge. This is a broken epistemology.

    I understand that this is what you do. I also understand why it’s a broken method that does not produce knowledge. I understand why you think elevating your beliefs to the status of knowledge is handy for you. But, as I pointed out with the misplaced keys, it doesn’t work as a method to accurately describe reality… no matter how much confidence you infuse into your beliefs.

    you assure me as if it is agreed (when it’s not) that “there are other equally valid methods of approach according to what portion of “reality” one is trying to assess.” If this is true, then your example of ‘knowing’ one’s self is not it. We fool ourselves about ourselves all the time. This is not a reliable method that distinguishes justified belief from opinion. You may call it an epistemology, but it fails to be one that fits the definition. And that’s my point… the method one uses very much determines the accuracy of the results. Yours fails.

  310. @tildeb. I think you are not considering all things tildeb. Just as we have different levels of biological factors we also can respond differently to other factors. Of course you’ll find all sorts of ways to claim that any response to ‘other factors’ by some and not all, is not justified! If you stick to this view you cannot be open to anything else. You, apparently, feel this ‘response’ is one you do not want to be open to, whereas, I feel that your intellect prevents you from being open to it.

    Fundamentally though, I think any genuine ‘religious’ affiliation is about the desire to be ruled by love at all times in all spheres. It is the no.1 priority in ones life, whether we fail or succeed. In ‘religious’ circles this love is god the creator who one day puts all things right. There is nothing to argue about if ones goal is impartial love and you appreciate that all are learning. Why put so much energy into ‘God or no god’, if love is the priority? Simply recognise the goal and as Eric says ‘let the chips fall where they will’. But perhaps you do not desire to show love to all. If so, that is where the real difference can be found. For me, the intellectual stuff provides not a jot of help, is a red herring, and provides nothing new (Yes, I can follow it). Btw, I am agnostic with a strong will to love in case you have not gathered that. I suspect I know your opinion of my view but I feel compelled to give it. With love, Dichasium

  311. Di, you say ” Why put so much energy into ‘God or no god’, if love is the priority?” Well, look at the assumption you make: “In ‘religious’ circles this love is god the creator who one day puts all things right.”

    We face significant challenges all the time. If our focus assumes that some deity is going to “put all things right” then I see this as an abdication of accepting our responsibilities, of pretending that with enough belief in some divine ‘fixer’, our significant problems will magically be solved without our direct involvement in these solutions. This position – regardless of the rationalization that it’s about ‘love’ – translates into inaction. And we are beginning to experience what this non action means in real life in areas such as dealing with climate change and dealing with IS and dealing with ebola and dealing with gross inequalities produced by legal privileging of some over others. For example, calling a beating an expression of ‘love’ doesn’t change the damaging effects one iota. Doling out soup for the poor and calling it an act of ‘love’ while at the same time trusting this supposedly benevolent creator who will put all things right to deal with the reality of climate change caused by human activity I think is gross negligence. I think the assumption you make about belief in a ‘fixer’ endangers all of us and upon serious consideration demonstrates an inexcusable immorality to all.

    By putting energy into explaining why the method that empowers such faith-based thinking is not just broken thinking but of very great danger to all of us when accommodated in the public domain, I hope to support the next generation’s wholesale rejection of this methodology and misplaced trust so that young people can have a cleared playing field upon which to tackle these very challenging problems straight up and in this reality without first having to convince people that confidence in some correcting interventionist agency of Oogity Boogity is misplaced if we want to start dealing with these kinds of problems as responsible and ethical adults should. Expressing love and acting on this compassionate value with others doesn’t require any religious baggage or any misplaced trust or the support of a broken methodology that threatens us all.

  312. I infer that you mean this to suggest that this epistemology is selfish. Well, it is impervious to imported faith-based beliefs that tries to disguise subjective meanings and purposes as if these notions originate from some other agency – one that just so happens to be divine – than one’s self.

    Not gunna fly if we are concerned about what’s true. And the universe is indifferent to you imported meanings and purposes.

  313. Oh dear tildeb, what a shame! You have jumped on the wrong horse and galloped off in the wrong direction. I was talking of the Christian and other such ‘religions’ with which I cannot concur, for the same reason as you. So, it was neither assumption nor my own view.
    As to your desire to help the world, I and many religious people are enganged with all the issues you raise and will do what we can to encourage the next generation. I am aware that some do not.
    So, unfortunately, you have not responded to my words but to something else in your mind. I did describe my position in the hope that you would see where I come from.
    I am thinking of exiting this particular debate/argument so there’s no need to respond unless you should feel the need.

  314. The final verdict, really (and it seems to me Eric has exhausted this point ad nauseum to dear ears), on methodological naturalism is that by having snipped God or any other supernatural explanation a priori from its investigate kit and narrow evidence base, how can it possibly acquire the requisite knowledge to make pronouncements about God or a belief in God? Well, it can’t. Period. End of story.

    Anybody (everybody) arguing to the contrary is an imbecile arguing from a state of incompetence to the wind and perpetuating false science everywhere all the time.

    False science, of course, is of 0 actual value or consequence to society, so the real question is will the next generation be as incompetent as tildeb? Hope not.

  315. And many believers here refuse to accept after exhaustive attempts ad nauseum to dear ears that methodological naturalism comes with no snipping a priori of any ‘god’. It is the believer who accepts a priori that god is an interactive creative agent in the universe and it is the believer who assumes that they can know something about this ineffable nebulous critter, its purpose, its nature, its wishes and preferences for humanity, its meddling in our affairs, its desires and goals, its origins, its power and scope, its lack of borders, its properties, yada, yada, yada, without any compelling evidence to back up even one of these supposed knowledge claims. (Revelation! Scripture! Geography of birth! Parental allegiances! Indoctrination!)

    Yeah, right.

    There’s your period. There’s your end of story.

    And you wish to apply the term ‘incompetent’ to me for daring to question the truth value from such unstable and knowingly gullible/credulous methods?

    Please, dear Paul. Do tell…

  316. Your 1st argument you use the fallacy of proving civilization. This is the same argument as finding a “watch on beach.” You cannot compare that with the god existing since we already have experience as proof of civilization. You also play on the words of existence whilst under the ASSUMPTION that your god is eternal. Again, zero evidence to suggest this.

    Your 2nd argument is strongly linked to what I said about the first. You will argue that the universe had to have a creator then you’ll simply say well he’s obviously enteral. This is an argument from ignorance as you can’t be bothered to research or think of a better explanation.

    Your 3rd argument, once again you have simply played on words and made the massive assumption that all Christian don’t think god is actually ” all-powerful” but rather the meaning you have given to it. You argument here does in my eyes hold credibility but its a large leap to say this is how all Christians will take it.

    Your 4th argument, what you have failed to mention that if we go back through history and the crop true far enough there will be a time when they weren’t believed in or heard of. The giant spaghetti monster is simply a new idea and could have as much credibility in 1000 years time.

    Your 5th argument states that it’s not right to say they were ignorant back then and that could plain the idea of the “miracles” etc. This is perfectly acceptable as there is documented evidence of the time when such superstition occurred, so it is reasonable to assume this was a common trend.

    6th argument: firstly it can’t be condemned the same way atheism can be since you can read documented stories of atheists being rejected by their families for turning away, and being murdered in Islam for apostasy. Also I was catholic for 18 years until I logically “saw through it” the point of this argument is that for the most part, this is how indoctrination occurs, through the parents.

    I could argue the rest of the points if you so wish. Please believe me when I say this is intended with no hostility whatsoever. I was simply angry at how you perceived each of the questions to be so simplistic as to counter them as you did, and that your putting this out there as an instructional guide.

  317. Thank you for your thoughts anonymous person. Simplicity is one of the caveats to blogging, which is different from giving a full account of any subject, say, in a book or in volumes of books. Yes my replies to these worn and tired atheistic arguments/assertions are simple – intended so. I have argued pretty much all of them in full throughout these replies and in follow up articles. I encourage you to read through if you so desire. I too could argue back with every one of your points, and then you to mine, then mine to yours, ad infinitum and neither of us would be satisfied with the outcome (just read these threads and you’ll see). But let me at least answer one of them to show you good faith.

    The first point is that “evidence” is a slippery term. All of creation is evidence of God’s existnece. Is it proof? Of course not, but its excellent evidence. Everything in creation is contingent. Unless you believe in absolute contingency, unconditional conditionality, and uncaused effect – which are as illogical as it gets – then God is a great alibi. The point about civilization is that one must experience the “whole show” as it were of civilization in order to “know” what it is. One cannot point to this or that thing and claim to proof civilization. Same with God. One cannot pick this thing or that and say, “see, there you have it, God.”

    Again, I’d do this for all of your points but I feel that I’ve already done so multiple times in the threads below. If you find something not already covered please feel free to call me on it. Cheers.

  318. Okay, here we go:

    1. There is no evidence for God’s existence.
    No, Evidence of a thing is anything that shows that thing to exist, regardless of belief.
    It is up to the theist to define her gods, and once that is done, then she must present evidence for that definition of gods. To do otherwise, allows the fallacy of moving the goalposts to be used, when the evidence present is shown to be false. That is why a clear definition is required, so that the gods are clearly able to be tested against the evidence presented for them. And this is not the job of the non believer, the burden is on the one making the claim.

    2. If God created the universe, who created God?

    If you claim the gods are eternal, how do you know this? You might be able to wring logic into sort of supporting this wish, but until you can show that in fact and beyond all doubt, the gods are eternal, you have to acknowledge that you do not know. You might believe/wish that this is so, but it does not make it so. The correct answer would be “We do not know if gods are eternal.” I would offer Carl Sagan, seeing we are quoting here.

    In many cultures, the customary answer is that a God or Gods created the Universe out of nothing. But if we wish to pursue this question courageously, we must of course ask the next question: where did God come from? If we decide that this is an unanswerable question, why not save a step and conclude that the origin of the Universe is an unanswerable question? Or, if we say that God always existed, why not save a step, and conclude that the Universe always existed? That there’s no need for a creation, it was always here. These are not easy questions. Cosmology brings us face to face with the deepest mysteries, questions that were once treated only in religion and myth.
    — Carl Sagan – The Edge of Forever (Cosmos)

    The claim that gods are the source of everything, is unproven. Has the theist examined everything, might there be something somewhere that the gods did not make, and there is a very real possiblity that the gods the theist believes in are in turn made by other gods and or process that are not deities. It is possible that it is Turtles all the way down, we just do not know.

    3. God is not all-powerful if there is something He cannot do. God cannot lie, therefore God is not all-powerful.
    How do you know that the gods are all powerful? Yes, I understand that you really believe this, but until you can show that the gods are all powerful, all we have is your claim that this is so. Why should we believe you?
    Again the burden of proof is yours.

    4. Believing in God is the same as believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
    You do realise that all three of the Abrahamic gods only cover a very small area of the planet Earth, roughly from Rome to the Arabian Sea. The rest of humanity spread out over the whole world has different gods all of which have the exact same amount of evidence for them. So yes, believing in the Muslim or Christian gods is the same as the Tooth Fairy or the FSM.

    But even worse with this statement, is the dishonestly in it. You know that the tooth fairy and Santa, have no deity abilities assigned to them and neither do they have worshippers or followers, nor doctrine and dogma. As for the FSM and Her Highness the IPU, these are constructs meant to show how easy it is to create gods based on no evidence at all. If should be note that what non believers really say in comparison, is that the Christian gods are just the same as believing in Zeus, Odin and Krishna. But for you to use these gods names, would damage the argument you are making in your statement, which is why you used the Tooth Fairy, Satan and the FSM.

    5. Christianity arose from an ancient and ignorant people who didn’t have science.
    Hitchens answered this very well when he said “What is more reasonable, that the whole of natural be set aside, or a Jewish minx tell a lie.”
    One can not be allowed to use a book which validates the truthfulness of its claims for itself. You can not use the Bible, just because the bible makes the claim that it is true. You should know the reason for this. And if you look of outside extra biblical texts to confirm the claims made by the bible or any holy book, you will find that they are really non existent. The reason why we can discard the claims of these books today, is because of the scientific method, we examine things and claims and if they are shown to be true and valid, we have to accept them, regardless of our personal feelings about the claim. Consider the question asked last to Ken Ham in the debate, “What would cause you to change your mind?” Bill Nye answered that evidence would change his mind, while Ham said outright that there is nothing that would change his mind.

    And your nonsense about the ancients being much more advanced, compare for example an office tower block in New York city with, say, The Great Pyramid. Which one has more features, functions, and utility? Who is more advanced? Consider Leviticus 14:2 – 52 with the modern treatment of Leprosy http://tinyurl.com/ogvre3j which is more advance and effective? Ancient or modern? Be honest now.

    6. Christian’s only believe in Christianity because they were born in a Christian culture. If they’d been born in India they would have been Hindu instead.
    Very few people actually reason themselves into a belief system, which is why most atheist exist today, because they applied reason to the belief system that they were raised in and found that it did not stand up to examination. Did you reason yourself in to your belief system, or was it “gifted” to you by those who raised you? Or are you a special case? No, most if not all believers believe the religion they were indoctrinated into. Reason has nothing to do with it.

    7. The gospel doesn’t make sense: God was mad at mankind because of sin so he decided to torture and kill his own Son so that he could appease his own pathological anger. God is the weirdo, not me.
    You know if someone owes me money, I could break the legs of my son, or I could just forgive him the debt. There is no valid reason that the Christian god could not have just forgiven everyone their sins, your know like Jesus said that we all should do. Just forgiven them that trespass against us. Or even, being the all powerful deity that he is claimed to be, create a system where free will exist and no sin is possible. Unless you can show that free will needs sin to be free will, can you?

    8. History is full of mother-child messiah cults, trinity godheads, and the like. Thus the Christian story is a myth like the rest.
    How you know that your U2 band is the real one?

    10. Evolution has answered the question of where we came from. There is no need for ignorant ancient myths any more.
    Yes, you are correct, one of the few theist who understand that ToE has nothing to say about abiogenesis. But what it does show about religion, especially the Christian one, is that there is no need for the Jesus murder, because there is no evidence of Adam and Ever (in whatever form you want to twist this) and from that no Original sin. Again, as above, the non believer is not making a claim, the theist is, and therefore it is up the theist to present evidence for examination. Examination means that the evidence is tested to see if it is valid. So far all evidence presented for gods has been shown to be false or invalid.

    As to the so called Big Questions, well emotions and feelings can all be shown to be processes at work in the human body, electro-chemical reactions to outside styli. Meanings of things come from purposes we assign to them as we see fit to do. Whether these assigned meanings and purposes are valid does not matter, what matters is that we should be able to show why they are the correct ones to hold. For example, keeping of humans as property was at one time a valid thing to do, there was a purpose for it. But we, overtime, came to show that that purpose was invalid and we changed the position on slavery. We gave it a new meaning, based on what we decided was an acceptable thing to do. Why type questions, really are meaningless, or less meaningful than the what and how questions. With answers to “what” and “how” we are able to give a better answer to the why question.

  319. 1. There is no evidence for God’s existence.
    “No, Evidence of a thing is anything that shows that thing to exist, regardless of belief.
    It is up to the theist to define her gods, and once that is done, then she must present evidence for that definition of gods. To do otherwise, allows the fallacy of moving the goalposts to be used, when the evidence present is shown to be false. That is why a clear definition is required, so that the gods are clearly able to be tested against the evidence presented for them.”

    — We (Orthodox Christians) believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    There you go. Please feel free to apply whatever measurement tool from the physical sciences you feel are appropriate in testing these statements.

    2. If God created the universe, who created God?
    “If you claim the gods are eternal, how do you know this? You might be able to wring logic into sort of supporting this wish, but until you can show that in fact and beyond all doubt, the gods are eternal, you have to acknowledge that you do not know. You might believe/wish that this is so, but it does not make it so. The correct answer would be “We do not know if gods are eternal.” I would offer Carl Sagan, seeing we are quoting here.

    In many cultures, the customary answer is that a God or Gods created the Universe out of nothing. But if we wish to pursue this question courageously, we must of course ask the next question: where did God come from? If we decide that this is an unanswerable question, why not save a step and conclude that the origin of the Universe is an unanswerable question? Or, if we say that God always existed, why not save a step, and conclude that the Universe always existed? That there’s no need for a creation, it was always here. These are not easy questions. Cosmology brings us face to face with the deepest mysteries, questions that were once treated only in religion and myth.

    Carl Sagan – The Edge of Forever (Cosmos)

    The claim that gods are the source of everything, is unproven. Has the theist examined everything, might there be something somewhere that the gods did not make, and there is a very real possiblity that the gods the theist believes in are in turn made by other gods and or process that are not deities. It is possible that it is Turtles all the way down, we just do not know.”

    –In answer to Carl Sagan’s quote: why not just stop with the universe is eternal? Let’s try. If nature is eternal and everything in nature is contingent then one must posit absolute contingency, unconditional conditionality, and uncasused effect. If you’re cool with that, more power to you, but it is thoroughly illogical. Orthodox Christianity and classical theism in general posit God as unconditional and the ground and being of all existence, which is actually logical considering the natural universe we live in.

    3. God is not all-powerful if there is something He cannot do. God cannot lie, therefore God is not all-powerful.
    “How do you know that the gods are all powerful? Yes, I understand that you really believe this, but until you can show that the gods are all powerful, all we have is your claim that this is so. Why should we believe you? Again the burden of proof is yours.”

    –You don’t have to believe me, but really this is not a reply to my point, it is a reply to a point you created. The point was not to prove that God was all-powerful but to answer the charge that such a statement is self-defeating. Please see the OP for more.

    4. Believing in God is the same as believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
    “You do realise that all three of the Abrahamic gods only cover a very small area of the planet Earth, roughly from Rome to the Arabian Sea. The rest of humanity spread out over the whole world has different gods all of which have the exact same amount of evidence for them. So yes, believing in the Muslim or Christian gods is the same as the Tooth Fairy or the FSM.”

    –This is a non sequitur. Please see the OP.

    5. Christianity arose from an ancient and ignorant people who didn’t have science.
    “Hitchens answered this very well when he said “What is more reasonable, that the whole of natural be set aside, or a Jewish minx tell a lie.”

    “One can not be allowed to use a book which validates the truthfulness of its claims for itself. You can not use the Bible, just because the bible makes the claim that it is true. You should know the reason for this. And if you look of outside extra biblical texts to confirm the claims made by the bible or any holy book, you will find that they are really non existent. The reason why we can discard the claims of these books today, is because of the scientific method, we examine things and claims and if they are shown to be true and valid, we have to accept them, regardless of our personal feelings about the claim. Consider the question asked last to Ken Ham in the debate, “What would cause you to change your mind?” Bill Nye answered that evidence would change his mind, while Ham said outright that there is nothing that would change his mind.

    And your nonsense about the ancients being much more advanced, compare for example an office tower block in New York city with, say, The Great Pyramid. Which one has more features, functions, and utility? Who is more advanced? Consider Leviticus 14:2 – 52 with the modern treatment of Leprosy http://tinyurl.com/ogvre3jwhich is more advance and effective? Ancient or modern? Be honest now.”

    –So far you seem to have a knack for answering your own set of questions and superimposing them onto the actual claims at issue. Again, please reread the OP to find out what I said the ancients were more advanced in.

    6. Christian’s only believe in Christianity because they were born in a Christian culture. If they’d been born in India they would have been Hindu instead.
    “Very few people actually reason themselves into a belief system, which is why most atheist exist today, because they applied reason to the belief system that they were raised in and found that it did not stand up to examination. Did you reason yourself in to your belief system, or was it “gifted” to you by those who raised you? Or are you a special case? No, most if not all believers believe the religion they were indoctrinated into. Reason has nothing to do with it.”

    –Sounds as if you believe that mankind only just started applying reason to their belief systems. Is this chronological snobbery or just a deficit in education in historical philosophy? Whatever the case may be, if you are sincerely interested in the origin of religious belief in individuals I highly recommend a close reading of Gordon Allport’s classic “The Individual and His Religion.” But, if you want to know my own story, the short version is that I was raised Mormon and came to Orthodox Christianity on my own. My parents were jack-Mormon and basically irreligious from the time I was 3 years old. I did not rely only on my reason alone for the reason that I am not pure reason, I am something more dynamic than that–a human being. The idea of being led strictly by reason is a fantasy of the Enlightenment and is a short road to neurosis.

    7. The gospel doesn’t make sense: God was mad at mankind because of sin so he decided to torture and kill his own Son so that he could appease his own pathological anger. God is the weirdo, not me.
    “You know if someone owes me money, I could break the legs of my son, or I could just forgive him the debt. There is no valid reason that the Christian god could not have just forgiven everyone their sins, your know like Jesus said that we all should do. Just forgiven them that trespass against us. Or even, being the all powerful deity that he is claimed to be, create a system where free will exist and no sin is possible. Unless you can show that free will needs sin to be free will, can you?”

    –If you find the time, google “theosis” or “deification” and/or the Orthodox theory of the atonement. Your reply would be decent if you were talking to a Protestant, but you’re not. A little bit of research into historic theology might really help your endeavor to become an atheist apologist. That’s not meant to be sarcastic, I really do wish that more atheists took more time to discover the faith that they wish to attack. With a little devoted investigation you will easily rise above the shallow masses of lowbrow atheism. I say go for it.

    8. History is full of mother-child messiah cults, trinity godheads, and the like. Thus the Christian story is a myth like the rest.
    “How you know that your U2 band is the real one?”

    Because the one I saw in concert twice rocks and the rest suck.

    No complaints on #9?

    10. Evolution has answered the question of where we came from. There is no need for ignorant ancient myths any more.
    “Yes, you are correct, one of the few theist who understand that ToE has nothing to say about abiogenesis. But what it does show about religion, especially the Christian one, is that there is no need for the Jesus murder, because there is no evidence of Adam and Ever (in whatever form you want to twist this) and from that no Original sin. Again, as above, the non believer is not making a claim, the theist is, and therefore it is up the theist to present evidence for examination. Examination means that the evidence is tested to see if it is valid. So far all evidence presented for gods has been shown to be false or invalid.”

    –I see that you are a true believer in biologism and the like, that is, the idea that the natural sciences can test all things and give adequate conclusions to all (minus your admission that ToE is silent on the biggest one). But, again, sorry to be a broken record but I have no choice, your understanding of historic Christian theology is lacking. Tackling the scope of why God’s own sacrifice was needed is not something I wish to do at present. It has been done ad nauseam elsewhere and I invite you to investigate. The fact that you do not believe is fine, just have an informed unbelief. It’s more interesting that way.

    Thanks for your reply. Unless there is anything new that adds to the discussion in a future reply this will be it for me. Cheers.

  320. I was going to reply, but then I realised that I did not need to do this, as people can compare your reply to mine and see who in fact has the better position. Sorry about that, you wanted to play.