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Why the “I Just Believe in One Less God than You” Argument Does not Work

Considering all of the conversations with atheists I have had recently, I thought I would bring back to light the fallacy of this common argument.

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” —Stephen F Roberts

This is a quote that is found often on the lips of atheists these days. It can be summed up this way: “I don’t have to take the time to reject Christ any more than you have to take the time to reject all the millions of gods that are out there. It just happens by default. The justification for my atheism is the same as yours with respect to your rejection of all the other possible gods.”

While I understand the spirit of this quote, I think it fails to understand some of the very basic beliefs that Christians are claiming about their God as opposed to “the other possible gods.”

I have heard my favorite atheist, Christopher Hitchens, compare belief in Jesus to belief in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Clause. This is really saying the same thing using different illustrations. But he also likes the “I don’t believe in other gods thing too.” As he once said, “No, I don’t believe in Yahweh. I don’t believe in Hercules either.”

As effective as these types of implicit appeals of association might be emotionally, they miss the mark completely. All assume a parallel that is simply not present when the claims are understood and the evidence is considered.

Take the “I don’t believe in Hercules” argument for example. This assumes a parallel between belief in Christ and a belief in any one of the millions of gods that have ever existed, especially those who belonged to a system of religion which espoused many gods (polytheism). These type of systems are represented by ancient Egyptian, Canaanite, Assyrian, Greek, and Roman cultures (as well as others today). There is really not too much difference between the basic philosophical structure of each.

There are two primary reasons why I believe drawing parallels between belief in these gods (or Tooth Fairies) are misleading:

1. The type of belief

Whether we are speaking of this from a political or rural position, the commitment to religious pantheonism (note: not “pantheism”), especially of the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman world, don’t have as committed adherents as we often think. The religious culture that Christianity demands needs to be distinguished here. People did not really believe in Shu, Nut, Hercules, Baal, Wearisomu, Enki, Utu, Diana, and the like in the same way that people believe in Yahweh. Their belief was more of a social convention which included all the pressures that such a system demanded. Their gods were more “faddish” than anything else. Their existence was rather fluid, changing and even morphing into other gods and sometimes moralistic ideals such as “justice” and “reason.” This is why the Caesers could so easily deify themselves and expect people to jump on the bandwagon. Did these people really suddenly believe Caeser was a god? If so, what does this say about the type of belief they had? Both in the philosophical world of the day and among the laity, “belief” as we think of it, was not present.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that we have “faddish” Christianity today where people follow the tide of the culture in believing in Christ the same way that people believed in these ancient gods. In this social folk religion, there is a parallel. But the basis for belief in these other gods was founded on social convention, not philosophical, rational, and historic necessity as is the case with Christianity. Christianity exists not because of rural pragmatism, but because of historic events.

2. The type of god

More importantly, the gods of these pantheons were/are not really gods in the proper sense. In order to call them such is a misunderstanding of what “god” means. In other words, they were functional deities who carried a role that was expedient to the life and happiness of the people. They were the gods of rain, sun, crops, war, fertility, and the like. They were the “go-to” immanent forces who had no transcendence or ultimate creative power. They were more like superheroes from the Justice League than gods. In this system, human beings and these gods shared the same type of life, having similar problems and frustrations. The deistic philosophy of the people did not center around a “universe” in which one god was controlling and holding all things together, but a “multiverse” where each god was responsible for his or her respective career. Therefore, these gods would have much more in common with the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause than they would with the God that the Bible describes.

While most systems had a “top dog,” if you will (Zeus, Re, Enlil, Marduk, etc), these were not thought of as the ultimate creators of all things who, out of necessity, transcend space and time. They were simply really, really powerful beings that happened to be caught up in the same world we are. More powerful than us mortals? Yes. But none qualify for the title “God.”

Christianity believes in only one God (monotheism). We believe this not simply because we want to have the most powerful being out of the millions, but out of theological and philosophical necessity. We believe that God created all things out of nothing. We believe that existence necessitates a “first cause” or an “unmoved mover.” This first cause is by definition God. Simply put, whoever started it all (the time, space, matter creation) is the only true God. There cannot be multiple first causers. God, while able to interact and love mankind, must transcend all that we see and know. He must be outside of our universe holding it all together, not simply the most powerful actor in our current play. We are simply talking about two different species here. One that is transcendently holy, both ontologically (who he is in essence) and morally (what he does) and the other which is but a hair’s breath from us.

In the end, the theistic type of God espoused by Christianity cannot be compared to the pantheon of gods of polytheistic religions. It is comparing apples to oranges.

Let’s look at this statement again:

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” —Stephen F Roberts

I understand perfectly why Stephen F Roberts and Christopher Hitchens reject all the other gods. It is because they reject polytheism. But I don’t understand how this parallels to the rejection of the Christian God. It is a slight of hand to make such a comparison (effective as it may be). People believe in these two completely different things for completely different reasons and, therefore, must reject the two differently. The same arguments used against these gods cannot be used effectively against the Christian God. Once polytheism as a worldview is rejected, all the millions of gods go with it. I don’t have to argue against each, one at a time.

My time is up, but I understand the much needed sequel. While there is a philosophical barrier that does not allow us to equate belief in the Christian God to belief in the myriad of gods in polytheistic systems, this does not mean that the Christian God cannot be compared to the god of Islam. However, if Stephen F Roberts would have said, “When you understand why you dismiss Allah, you will understand why I dismiss Yahweh,” then it would be philosophically correct. The comparison would be in tact and the conversation would not be manipulated into this accept-all-or-nothing resolve. However, it still would not make sense. I do reject Allah and my reasons are very specific. But they are not the same reasons why he rejects Christ.

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273 Responses to “Why the “I Just Believe in One Less God than You” Argument Does not Work”

  1. “Christianity exists not because of rural pragmatism, but because of historic events.”

    Outside the Bible, which can only confirm itself, and Josephus, who mentions Jesus only briefly in relation to his (at the time according to Josephus) more significant brother, what historic evidence have you to verify that Jesus existed or was crucified, rose from the dead, etc? Even the multiple versions of Mary Magdalene’s story in Mathew, Mark, Luke and John contradict each other, so even the bible can’t confirm itself.

    The Shroud of Turin was faked. The fabled Holy Grail was presumably lost. The alleged city Nazareth is a tourist trap. There’s no evidence outside the bible that babies were slaughtered in a search for the baby Jesus, or that Pontius Pilate allowed Barabus to go free and had Jesus put to death.

    Atheists compare Jesus to Santa and the Tooth Fairy because there is no historical validity. It is fiction. ALL religions are scams. Wake up.

  2. I agree that a different argument is needed against polytheism than against monotheism, but I think we should look to the evidence when presented something like this. Why believe in God? The beginning of the Universe, fine tuning, beginning of life… Why Christianity? Well documented, accurate texts, fulfilled prophecy, falsifiable claims that show themselves true. Why not Judaism or Islam? Because if you follow the texts & prophecies to their logical conclusions you can show the problems with these faiths. Using things like these I think we can explain why accepting Christianity is not the same as accepting other beliefs.

  3. “People did not really believe in Shu, Nut, Hercules, Baal, Wearisomu, Enki, Utu, Diana, and the like in the same way that people believe in Yahweh. Their belief was more of a social convention which included all the pressures that such a system demanded.”

    Bald assertion that cannot be backed up with a knowledge of history, or even an examination of the Bible for that fact.

  4. As Scott has pointed out, the assertion that adherents of polytheism did not believe in their gods in the same way that Yahwists believed in their God is largely unfounded. Polytheism was indeed fluid, but then again, so was Yahwism. The fact is that many polytheists were willing to sacrifice their children to placate their gods. If that’s not robust belief, I don’t know what is.

    As for your main point, I think you’re right to say that the statement you are examining would be better applied to other monotheistic religions in order to be sure that you are comparing like with like. However, I think what muddies the water in this regard is that while Christianity conflates the God of philosophical monotheism with YHWH of the Old Testament, YHWH as he appears in the Bible does in fact bear comparison to other deities. In fact, he encourages it, insisting that he consistently beats them at their own game. This is why many atheists find the comparison appropriate.

  5. C Michael Patton said:

    “1. The type of belief

    Whether we are speaking of this from a political or rural position, the commitment to religious pantheonism (note: not “pantheism”), especially of the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman world, don’t have as committed adherents as we often think. The religious culture that Christianity demands needs to be distinguished here.”

    Paraphrase: christianity has adherents that are more committed, compared to followers of other gods.

    http://www.fallacyfiles.org/redherrf.html

  6. This analogy is imperfect but it should help to show what is wrong with this atheist assertion.

    One person may prefer red for stop signs. Another green. Still others think that any colour can be used and no standardisation is necessary, and others promote the use of all colours on every sign.

    The atheist response is like saying you can’t agree on what colour to use because there are in fact no colours. Colours do not exist.

    Dropping from one god to no gods isn’t a continuation of the number of God’s argument, it is a completely different argument.

  7. I usually just respond to the “tooth fairy” crack by pointing out that the tooth fairy didn’t inspire the Sistine Chapel, Paradise Lost, Les Miserables, Handel’s Messiah, and so forth.

  8. This issue stems from atheists being unwilling to recognize the difference between “god A” and “god B”. They find a couple similarities (including the term), then assert that they are identical; thus if “god A” can be shown to not exist, then it follows that “god B” does not exist either.

    The problem is that we don’t determine identical identity by the presence of similarities, but by the presence of differences. If there are differences, then it is not logically valid to equate “god A” to “god B”. Hercules is not identical to YHWH in virtue of their differences; therefore the ontological status of Hercules does not imply the ontological status of YHWH.

    What needs to be demonstrated is that an attribute of the god is impossible. If two gods share an attribute that is impossible, then they both can be stated to not exist. But the impossibility is not derived based on the gods being the same god.

    This is a common logical mistake that atheists make frequently.

  9. ZachsMind,

    The response to your question is too log to fir in a reply here. I suggest you borrow a copy of “The Resurrection of the Son of God” by N.T. Wright. He has done significant historical legwork.

  10. Michael,
    It seems to me that Roberts et al. get it wrong in one of two possible ways, depending on how one construes polytheism. His objection fails to account for the yawning metaphysical chasm between naturalism and non-naturalism (of whatever type).

    1: If polytheism implies non-naturalism (and for this argument it really doesn’t matter what form of non-naturalism you’re talking about – any form will do), then the first philosophical cleavage will be between naturalism (which the truth of atheism would seemingly imply) and non-naturalism (which the truth of either Christianity or polytheism would imply). Given this argument, the question of one God vs. multiple gods is really an intramural question between non-naturalists.

    2: If polytheism’s gods are non-transcendent, is the physical universe the ultimate thing? If so, polytheism seems to reduce to just a stranger form of naturalism. In this case, the question again is naturalism (polytheistic) vs non-naturalism…

  11. I do not equate all gods/Gods or religions. I know that every single one is unique and every single one can distinguish itself from every other religions. I just don’t think that this justifies faith in any specific one when they all suffer from the same shortcoming, i.e., lack of evidence.

  12. Vinnie is right, and I’ll add that neither the fervency of believers nor the specific qualities of the deity in question qualifies as “evidence” for said deity.

    Even if it was true that christians have a quantitative difference in the manner of their beliefs vs believers of other gods, that is completely disconnected to proof of their position.

    Likewise the specific characteristics of YHWH are in no way proof of his (its) existance.

    I’ve heard apologists say one proof of christianity is that no other religion claims that its god dies for the sins of people. But that doesn’t constitute logical proof of the claim. It is evidence that in antiquity there was a cult that developed beliefs as a result of events. Its leader was crucified and his followers had to develop some rationale.

  13. “Outside the Bible, which can only confirm itself, and Josephus, who mentions Jesus only briefly in relation to his (at the time according to Josephus) more significant brother, what historic evidence have you to verify that Jesus existed or was crucified, rose from the dead, etc?”

    There is one glaring problem with this statement. For the vast majority of events in antiquity we are lucky if we have one contemporaneous source written within the first century after the event in question. Yet historians seems to accept that these events did in fact occur, and that the sources are reliable. One ultimately has to argue special pleading in the case of the Bible for it to not be accepted as historically reliable.

  14. Yet historians seems to accept that these events did in fact occur, and that the sources are reliable.

    Which events and which sources are you talking about? Based upon my reading, historians subject every source to the utmost scrutiny and carefully qualify all their conclusions. They never take ancient accounts at face value.

    For example I cannot imagine any credible historian thinking that the words attributed to Caesar are actually verbatim transcripts of his speeches rather than the ancient historian’s interpretation of the kind of things he might have said. When historians read the Socratic dialogues, they recognize that Plato may have put his own words in Socrates mouth for his own purposes. Christians, on the other hand, insist upon treating the words in the Gospel of John as exact quotes from Jesus rather than the author’s theological interpretation.

  15. “Outside the Bible, which can only confirm itself…”

    That is a very misleading and assumptive statement which borders on question begging.

    1. Why is it that sources outside the bible are more credible?
    2. “the bible” is not one source. The BT alone should only be thought of as 27 ancient documents, each standing on their own. There is no reason in this context to group the documents.

  16. 1. Why is it that sources outside the bible are more credible?

    Imagine relying only on the writings of Joseph Smith and his most devoted followers to write the history of the Mormon church from the time Smith first claimed to have seen the Angel Moroni to the time Brigham Young led the Latter Day Saints to Utah. If you did not view your sources with an extremely skeptical eye, you would end up believing a lot of nonsense. You would believe that the Angel Moroni appeared to several people besides Smith and that several people saw the Golden Plates. You might even believe that Smith was the faithful husband of a single wife as Smith’s polygamy was hidden from most members of the church. It is only because we have sources that give us the perspective of outsiders that a credible history of the Mormons can be written.

  17. Vinny, I’m not going to be drawn out into a discussion of Mormonism. But your thesis that only non-Mormon sources make a credible picture of Mormon history possible is absolute rubbish.

    Just about every credible work of Mormon history in the past few years has been written by faithful Mormons.

    For instance, Todd Compton’s book “In Sacred Lonliness” detailing the experiences of the wives of Joseph Smith. Or Richard Bushman’s “Rough Stone Rolling” which is the new definitive biography of Joseph Smith.

    In fact, the Mormon scholarship on Mormonism tends to be – as a whole – far superior to the non-Mormon scholarship – since most of the latter comes from brain dead, two-bit operations like Ed Decker out on the fringe of the Evangelical counter-cult movement.

    That’s all I plan to say about Mormonism – but the best stuff on it is coming from the FAITHFUL. Not outsiders.

    Outsiders generally don’t care about the subject. Certainly not enough to write credibly about it.

  18. Seth,

    I couldn’t care less whether the authors are Mormons or not. If they are credible histories, then I am sure that they made extensive use of primary sources that included the perspectives of non-Mormons and ex-Mormons on the events in Palmyra, Jackson County, and Navoo. If they simply relied on the official church accounts of those events, then I would suspect that they are not worth the paper they are written on.

  19. Sean Osborne 2011-04-14 at 3:27 pm

    As a former born-again evangelical who has become an atheist, I agree that the “one less god” argument is fallacious. The question is: gods or no gods? If you answer “gods, but only one true God” that is really no different from answering “gods, but only the Hindu pantheon.”

    Theists believe in invisible supernatural entities. Atheists don’t. While it is true that the reason I don’t believe in God is the same as the reason you don’t believe in Zeus, that doesn’t make you an atheist. It merely makes you illogical and inconsistent.

  20. Like primitive Christianity – there are no “official church accounts” from the formative years of the LDS Church.

    Everything had a kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants feel. You have published revelations, but they came from all over the place.

    But I digress…

  21. Seth,

    I realize that the Gospels and Acts were not viewed as the official church accounts at the time they were written, but they did eventually come to be accepted as the authoritative version of events as well as the authoritative sources. Unlike with the Mormon church, we have no way to know whether non-Christians or ex-Christians of the 1st century might have told the story differently, but we cannot think critically about our sources without allowing for the possibility.

  22. When teaching Western Civ, I describe polytheistic pantheons as analogous to a consulting firm; people appeal to various gods as needed for specific benefit. As your needs change, the god you sacrifice to changes. Monotheism and polytheism are different qualitatively, not just in the quantity of gods.

  23. The point of this post was not to prove Christianity, but to demonstrate the illegitimacy of a particular argument. Michael does this well.

    Faith in Christ is qualitatively different than the belief of polytheists; the Incarnation leads to a unique understanding of divine-human relations including the imitation of our God as the basis of a moral/religious framework.

    Zeus also became flesh. He was a terrible father and an unfaithful husband. I’m sure there were adherents of Zeus who did likewise, but they did not base it seriously off of divine precedent.

    As far as the validity of the 27 different first-century texts relating to Christianity that we now call the New Testament: it’s striking to find 27 such sources. A historian wouldn’t take them at face value, but wouldn’t discard them out of hand, either. There’s not such a plethora of sources that historians can afford to dismiss some of them out of hand altogether just because they’re insider sources. That’s sloppy.

  24. Gary,

    I would not suggest dismissing anything out of hand. I am simply suggesting that they be subjected to the same kind of critical thinking that any other ancient document would be. For example, I am not aware of any Graeco-Roman historian who believes that the sea really receded in deference to Alexander the Great in order that his army could pass even though the event was reported during Alexander’s lifetime by his official biographer.

  25. The point of this post was not to prove Christianity, but to demonstrate the illegitimacy of a particular argument.

    This seems to be splitting hairs. Michael attempts to demonstrate that the particular argument is illegitimate by virtue of the God and beliefs of Christianity being unique among all religions. That would seem to necessitate proof of Christianity’s claims.

  26. Don Kaspersen 2011-04-15 at 7:11 pm

    Suppose that you had collected by shovel a ton or so of pebbles from the bottom of a river and I demurred when you asked me to sort through them to find a good sized diamond. I might say that the difference between you and I is that I believe there is one less good size diamond in that pile than you do. Clearly, the statement is irrelevant to whether there is a diamond (or more than one) in the pile or not. While what I believe rules my decision making, it is otherwise trivial to the fact, whatever it is. I may despise manual labor or theology, but that is not pertinent. Things that are are not subject to slogans and defending slogans is not relevant to the existence or non-existence of persons. Your view as to whether this submission is made by a person or by some technical wonder in no way effects my existence (or non-existence).

  27. Forget the polytheists and let’s look at the argument in the context of Islam.

    You don’t wake up each morning fretting over the fact that Muslims believe Christ was not divine and that Mohammed’s opinions on the subject are infallible. Neither do Muslims worry about not believing that Christ was divine. And yet they have the same (arguably greater) belief and commitment to their religion, with as much history to gird them, as does the Christian.

    Christians are atheist with respect to Islam just as Muslims are atheist with respect to Christianity. And Atheists are atheist with respect to both.

  28. ZachsMind – We know its you Richard !!

  29. Vinny,

    1. “Which events and which sources are you talking about? Based upon my reading, historians subject every source to the utmost scrutiny and carefully qualify all their conclusions.”

    Pretty much EVERY ancient event is what I’m talking about. The Battle of Thermopylae, Hannibal crossing the Alps, the lives of Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle, the exploits of Alexander the Great. All have exceedingly thin contemporary evidence (and what little contemporary evidence there is often comes from sources who were in the employ of the government) and any complete history was in most cases written centuries later. Yet the fact that these events occurred, and many of the details of these events, are not in dispute.

  30. 2. “Why is it that sources outside the bible are more credible?

    Imagine relying only on the writings of Joseph Smith and his most devoted followers to write the history of the Mormon church from the time Smith first claimed to have seen the Angel Moroni to the time Brigham Young led the Latter Day Saints to Utah”

    Who else are you going to rely on?? I mean what do you expect? Someone who doesn’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead to state that “Jesus rose from the dead?” Of course not! Those who saw him rise from the dead are going to believe he rose from the dead and are going to be the ones who attest to that fact. The fact that they believe what the saw does not make what they state false. The fact that I believe I saw Car A rear end Car B and then tell the police doesn’t make my statement false – it makes me a witness. If you think I am lying about what I claim to have seen you should at least posit a motive for why I would lie.

  31. 3. Long story short. When an ancient document purports to record history, has all the marks of a historical document, and reads like ancient history there is a general assumption made among ancient historians that the document is history unless there is good reason to believe otherwise. In the case of the New Testament the best reason historians have for rejecting it as history is that it contains supernatural events which is perhaps the most blatant case of question begging in history.

  32. The contentions that christians are “atheist” with respect to the Muslim god seems illogical for several reasons.

    First, “atheism” means having no belief in any god, not just not believing in a particular god. Using “atheism” to mean the latter makes the word “atheist” equivocal and contradictory, which is why this argument seems to have merit, but doesn’t.

    Second, are Christians atheist about the Muslim God? Insofar as the Muslim God is Creator, one, eternal, sustains existence, is existence, etc., how are Christians atheist about that God? They may think that Muslims misunderstand some important truths about God, i.e, his triune nature, etc., but they don’t disbelieve in that God. In fact, the God of the Muslims is the God of the Christians because there is only one transcendental and imminent God, but Christians would say that Muslims have some important details wrong.

    Disagreement over details does not mean denial.

    Atheists need to explain what they are…

  33. “You don’t wake up each morning fretting over the fact that Muslims believe Christ was not divine and that Mohammed’s opinions on the subject are infallible. Neither do Muslims worry about not believing that Christ was divine.”

    I actually disagree with this to some extent. If one accepts Orthodox Christianity, but rejects Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, or some other monotheistic religion they should have a reason for doing so. Now you are probably correct that most people sitting in a pew, or kneeling in a mosque haven’t given this issue a second thought. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t, or that the more scholarly among them haven’t dealt with the issue.

  34. Right – volumes of material has been written on why certain Calvinist notions of deity are superior to Mormon notions of the same, and vis versa.

    No Calvinist would say that if you’ve rejected the Mormon notion of deity, you’ve automatically got grounds for rejecting the Calvinist notion of the same. And no Mormon would claim that just because the Calvinist image of God has been rejected, the Mormon notion should be automatically rejected too.

    The whole notion is nonsensical.

  35. “I actually disagree with this to some extent. If one accepts Orthodox Christianity, but rejects Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, or some other monotheistic religion they should have a reason for doing so.”

    They have very good reasons for doing so. The Koran says that Christ is not the son of God, but rather merely a prophet. Indeed, Islam condemns you to Hell for believing Christ to be divine.

    That’s kind of a deal breaker.

  36. Which passage in the Koran says that Nick?

  37. Especially considering that the Koran gives Jews and Christians special status as “people of the book” and considers their belief in the same God (Allah) to be praiseworthy – even if they get some details badly wrong in the Muslim view.

  38. “Which passage in the Koran says that Nick?”

    5:71-75
    19:30-40

  39. Nick,

    We might be talking past each other here. I’m not saying that Orthodox Christians don’t have good reasons for rejecting Islam – we (I am one) in fact do. That being said the simple fact that something condemns me to hell for what I believe does not make it wrong or provide me with warrant for rejecting it out of hand. In other words I would not consider that a good reason.

  40. “…the simple fact that something condemns me to hell for what I believe does not make it wrong or provide me with warrant for rejecting it out of hand. In other words I would not consider that a good reason.”

    Are you saying that all our religions are the same?

  41. Sean Osborne (post #19)

    It puzzles me when former born again Christians come to be atheists. I am much the opposite, having been a skeptic for most of my life and then became a Christian in my middle age.

    What clinches it for me is the indwelling of the spirit. Nothing explains that except the Bible. The life changing power that we see in Peter before and after Pentecost – I have seen that in other Christians and in myself. It scares and saddens me that someone could have that life changing event and then still fade away to deny God. I pray that God will once again open the eyes of your heart.

  42. I did not have to go far in the post to find faulty reasoning.

    You say:” All assume a parallel that is simply not present when the claims are understood and the evidence is considered.”

    No matter how many times you make claims for evidence–there is no evidence. This is why Christians have faith. Faith is belief WITHOUT evidence.

    And yes, Vishnu, Zeus, et al, are just as valid as your god is, so the little aphorism of “believing in one less god than you do”…..makes perfect sense.

  43. “What clinches it for me is the indwelling of the spirit.”

    Antioch,
    If you reflect honestly on your subjective experience (“indwelling of the spirit”) there are a number of things that could account for it. Many people experience similar feelings of “oneness” or “rapture” or bliss-cum-serenity. Yet they aren’t compelled to adopt supernatural beliefs or assign the same to them.

    What makes them wrong and you right?

    n

  44. “you saying that all our religions are the same?”

    Where in the world would you get that from anything I said? Certainly Christianity and Islam which make contradictory claims concerning the diety of Christ can’t both be right. However, the fact that Islam condemns all non-believers to hell (just as Christianity arguably does) doesn’t make the Islam wrong anymore then the fact that Universalists believe all go to heaven makes them right. My point ultimately that a religions claims concerning who is going to heaven or hell is a red herring and irrelevent as to whether or not one has warrant for either thinking that the religion is true, or conversely warrant for thinking it is false.

  45. Cathy,

    “Faith is belief WITHOUT evidence.”

    This may be a definition of faith, but it is not the Christian one. Faith is not belief without evidence, but rather belief without evidence that is a 100% conclusive. All human beings, even atheists, exercise a degree of faith in numerous matters. For instance when I sit down in a chair at a restaurant I believe that the chair is going to hold my weight and I am not going to go crashing to the ground. Now I have warrant for believing this, based upon the fact that the chair looks sturdy, others in the restaurant are sitting in similar chairs haven’t fallen to the ground, and similar chairs have held me in the past. Yet I can’t say for certain that in this particular instance, at this particular moment in time, this particular chair will hold my weight without performing some very weird tests in a restaurant setting. It is very likely it will hold but not conclusive, so I exercise a degree of faith that the chair will hold me when I choose to sit down.

  46. Nick,

    Are you asking as a believer or as a non-believer? It’s not clear from your posts.

    If you are a believer then you know and I think are just testing me. Acts 2:38. When I did that, that’s when my life changed. Habits I was not proud of but could not stop are gone from my life. The proof is in the fruit.

    If you are a non-believer, my words can try to explain what happened to me, but that is, as you say, a subjective experience. Although, it is one experienced by millions of Christians throughout history. As I said above, it is explained right in the Bible – a book I did not know well before my conversion but a book that has a whole new deeper meaning afterward because of the work of the spirit.

    You can dismiss the experience as some sort of bliss or manufactured emotion. Unfortunately, I think there is a lot of that in the Christian world. But is there one Christian you know and respect who has shared with you his/her testimony?

  47. “My point ultimately that a religions claims concerning who is going to heaven or hell is a red herring and irrelevent as to whether or not one has warrant for either thinking that the religion is true, or conversely warrant for thinking it is false.”

    Michael T,
    I get that, but it seems orthogonal to the point.

    The original post attempted to refute the notion that the reasons Christians have for not believing in the God of the Koran and Mohammed as God’s most recent prophet are the same ones Muslims have for not believing that Christ is the Son of God. Atheists simply apply that same rationale to both (and other) gods.

  48. “If you are a believer then you know and I think are just testing me. Acts 2:38. When I did that, that’s when my life changed. Habits I was not proud of but could not stop are gone from my life. The proof is in the fruit.”

    So essentially you read a book, reflected on what you read and how it made you feel and opened yourself up to a transcendental experience, after which you felt changed, in a non-trivial way. That experience, in and of itself, does not testify to the truthfulness of the existence of a god. Consider that millions of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews throughout history claim the same experience.

    Consider also that people who have read The Fountainhead, The Autobiography of Ben Franklin or The Hobbit can lay claim to the same transformation.

  49. When did the topic of this thread become – proof positive that God exists?

    Because wasn’t it supposed to be originally about why a common criticism against God is not valid?

  50. Michael,

    Your example illustrates the problem for Christians who claim to KNOW such things as the Trinity. Your chair example does not work. In this example, you use science and the Hypothetico-Deductive method, because your trust that the chair will hold you up is based on previous evidence. Your past experience warrants that claim. Faith, however, is belief WITHOUT evidence.

    The Christian philosopher,” Søren Kierkegaard argued that objective knowledge, such as 1+1=2, is unimportant to existence. If God could be rationally proven, his existence would be unimportant to humans. It is because God cannot rationally be proven that his existence is important to us. “(wiki)

    Experience does not count as evidence, as Hindus, and Muslims, etc, all have religious “experiences” If the experience argument worked, then Brahman must also be true!

    What Paul said “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”–is nonsensical.

  51. Also, if you believe arguments from WL Craig and other apologists amount to evidence, you would be mistaken. Their arguments are based on arguments that were refuted many years ago, and their recasting of these arguments are no better.

    On my blog, (aisforatheist5760.blogspot.com) I provide critiques of these arguments.

  52. Cathy,

    Using Kierkegaard to define faith is like using Barth to define Trinity. His view is going to be far outside the mainstream, bordering on (though not quite) unorthodoxy. Fideism is not the mainstream Christian view.

    Faith is belief according to the evidence, not against the evidence. Read Isa 40-48 to see blind faith condemned by God. The chair example is a wonderful way of looking at faith. The reformers had three components that went into saving faith:

    Notitia: knowledge
    Assensus: intellectual assent or conviction (based on evidence)
    Fiducia: trust

    The last one is the one that you are trying to say is faith.

    To assert that WL Craig’s evidence is refuted is merely an assertion that carries no value. It would be like me saying, “Atheism’s arguments have been refuted many years ago,” and then simply point you to a site. In reality, your overstatement should be toned down to this “In my opinion, their arguments are based on arguments that have been refuted.

  53. Cathy,
    CMP said most of what I wanted to say above, I did want to comment on this statement though.

    “Experience does not count as evidence”

    I think it is important to define experience because by a very generic definition science relies largely on experience. It is with our experential senses that we conduct scientific experimentation. So you might want to say something like this instead, “subjective emotional experiences do not count as evidence.”

    I would agree that a subjective emotional experience would not be convincing evidence for another person. However, I disagree, in that I believe such an experience, in the absence of hard evidence to the contrary, would provide the individual having the experience with warrant for believing what they believe. Thus the “internal witness of the Holy Spirit” provides sufficient warrant for someone who experiences this to believe, but would not be sufficient for someone who hasn’t had this experience to believe.

  54. C Michael Patton

    The definition I gave for faith is not Kierkegaard’s–it is the definition of the word itself. Faith, by definition is belief without evidence.

    Faith is only good if it is faith in the right thing after all. To put it bluntly, scientists do have “faith” in their theories, but those theories must be tested and confirmed before their “faith” becomes “knowledge.”

    What evidence do you have that has been tested and confirmed for the existence of the Christian God, that the Christian god is the only god, or that Jesus existed as a son of God–or that Jesus is God?

    My arguments against Craig are not by mere assertion, as my counter arguments to Craig’s arguments show that Craig’s arguments fail. Evaluate them for yourself.

  55. Michael T

    The experience argument works for every religion. Interestingly, Hindus have experience with their gods, Christians with Jesus, and Muslims with Allah and so on.

    What they experience is related to their own beliefs, and no one’s experience with their particular god is any more valid than the experience of others with their particular god.

  56. Cathy,

    Your definition is A definition of faith, but not the Christian definition. Isaiah 40-48 demonstrate conclusively that the God of the Bible is no fan of blind faith. Luke says that Christ appeared by “many convincing proofs.” Your definition is simply Fideism. Again, there are three elemements to Christian faith: notitia, assensus, fiducia. If you are going to argue agaist Christianity, it would help if you knew how Christians thought about such an important and central concept. It has a long tradition.

    Your statement is assertion plus a link. I could make the same statement: “Atheism has been conclusively debunked. See http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog.” I don’t expect you to read all through it even though I do think that I demonstrate that atheism is the most intellectually bankrupt worldview there is. However, assertions don’t do much. And this blog post is not about proving or disproving theism. It is about the invalidity of the cliche used by many atheists

  57. Cathy,

    1. You can’t force a definition of faith upon a group of people who have never had that understanding of the word. This is a textbook case of creating a strawman. For its entire history the mainstream of the Christian Church has rejected the definition you are giving. It is simply not what we mean when we use the word “faith.” As such your arguments are of little relevance on this matter.

    2. Two people who believe contradictory things can both be warranted in their belief even if they both can’t be correct. We see this all the time, whether it be political issues, economic theories, or even competing scientific theories (see the different theories on quantum mechanics for instance). Two people can believe completely contradictory things (for instance in order to get out of a recession is it better for the government to spend money or give tax cuts) and both have good reasons for believing what they believe. Warrant is not the same as being right.

  58. 3. As to your supposed refutations of WLC and others you can point me to your blog (which I looked at briefly and failed to see any novel objections) and I can point you to 20 others which address your objections (not to your satisfaction of course) and then you can point me to 20 others that respond to those (not to my satisfaction of course) and we can go on ad nauseum for days. Of course all this goes way beyond authors point with this post which was simply that the existence and evidence for any god must be evaluated independently of another god. Now perhaps the ultimate reason for rejecting the god is the same (e.g. not enough evidence), but the evaluations must be independent.

  59. C Michael Patton

    I am willing to accept your definition of faith, which is:

    ” Faith is belief according to the evidence, not against the evidence.”

    Now, what “evidence” can you present that would show that the Christian god or any other gods or goddesses exists?
    What evidence do you have to show that the Christian god is the only god? What evidence do you have of the Trinity? What eveidence do you have that heaven and hell exist? What eveidence do you have the people will be resurrected?

    My definition of knowledge is “true, justified belief” and this is based on evidence. Now, what is your definition of knowledge? Provide it and I will work with it.

    I am willing to accept argument by experience as evidence. Therefore, if I accept your experience as evidence to be fair, I also accept the Hindu experiences as evidence for Brahman, Vishnu and Krishna. I accept the Muslim experiences as evidence for Allah, and so on and so on–and the writings in their holy…

  60. Michael T

    Either people counter the arguments, or they do not. People can agree to disagree, but this is neither here nor there in regards to the validity and soundness of an argument. Now, as you seem to suggest, most people do not judge arguments based on their merit, but by their emotional response to it–which is why people will believe things without any evidence.

    The fact that you are not specific in addressing my arguments, is a sign that you judge arguments primarily based on whether they agree with your position or not–and not on their merit. So, if you care to address one of my arguments, then I will pay attention to what you have to say. Otherwise, your mere assertions do not bother me…:)

  61. The shotgun of questions are all very good and worthy of discussion. But, again, the subject of this post is very limited to the invalidity of the cliche.

    If you would like to see all the arguments in favor of theism and against atheism that I make, mingle through the atheism category on this blog.

    You might start here: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/03/why-is-there-something-rather-than-nothing-the-only-six-options/.

    This shows how irrational atheism is from the perspective of ontology. I merely point you there if you are serious about learning. But this thread is not for that discussion.

  62. Cathy,

    “Either people counter the arguments, or they do not.”

    Who decides whether or not a argument has been sufficiently countered?

  63. C Michael Patton

    Your arguments in the post offer no new revelations. If you read my post, and the comments and the replies, a viable explanation for the universe is “in its own nature” In the comment section of this post, I dealt with some of the issues discussed in your link.

    I will say more on this as I have been working on a post which provides support for the existence of the universe being “in its own nature” which addresses the objections raised in your post.

    Your mere assertion that, “This shows how irrational atheism is from the perspective of ontology.” is just another case of, to paraphrase, “As to your supposed refutations which I looked at briefly and failed to see any novel objections and I can point you to 20 others which address your objections (not to your satisfaction of course) and then you can point me to 20 others that respond to those…” but here I will not stoop to your low standards and judge arguments based solely on whether they agree…

  64. Michael T

    To answer that, I recommend you take and Intro to Logic and some classes in Philosophy. If you have already done this, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the process.

    Sometimes, people will just have to agree to disagree.

  65. Cathy,

    I understand the process and I have taken logic. I was simply making clear what you just admitted. Namely that people can disagree about whether a conclusion follows from the premises or the premises are valid, or if there are hidden premises, and so on.

    As to saying “see my blog.” I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but in a comment/forum type setting this is generally considered bad form. If you have a argument make it and then if you really feel the need say something like “see http://www._____” for more information and sources. Simply posting websites or blog posts is actually quite impolite and a lot of people like myself simply won’t pay attention to those who insist on this type of behavior.

  66. From “Sean Osborne” #19

    “Theists believe in invisible supernatural entities. Atheists don’t. While it is true that the reason I don’t believe in God is the same as the reason you don’t believe in Zeus, that doesn’t make you an atheist. It merely makes you illogical and inconsistent”

    I don’t think Atheists have an answer or explanation of everything (…please if you are able to fully elucidate where thought, love or even gravity come from, please enlighten me). So, what seems illogical and inconsistent, is to prematurely eliminate a possible explanation of things that are or appear to be supernatural.

    Scientific method would require that we pursue every avenue of explanation and go where the evidence leads us.

    By eliminating a possible explanation, or presuming a cause in advance, of natural phenomena, you have unfairly biased yourself against something that may end up being the truth.

    Strangely enough, that also demonstrates a type of faith…

  67. “I don’t think Atheists have an answer or explanation of everything (…please if you are able to fully elucidate where thought, love or even gravity come from, please enlighten me). So, what seems illogical and inconsistent, is to prematurely eliminate a possible explanation of things that are or appear to be supernatural.”

    Do we require doctors to have a cure for every disease before admitting that disease is probably not caused by your neighbor giving you the ‘evil eye’? No.

    “Scientific method would require that we pursue every avenue of explanation and go where the evidence leads us.”

    Precisely. *Where the evidence leads us.* The evidence for any one religion is no better than that for any other. So if we examine all of the claims and honestly do our best to develop competing hypotheses that could provide alternative, more likely, explanations for that evidence then it leads you down a path where the claims of religion appear increasingly tenuous and without merit.

  68. Don Kaspersen 2011-04-20 at 10:45 pm

    Please take a breather for a moment. There is a distinction between discussion and two groups talking past each other or genuine argument and meaningless polemic.
    If I am interested in dialog with you, I can’t just refuse to meet your argument with comment that denies a responsible answer is even vaguely required. Otherwise my comments are self-promoting, not about discussion.
    In fact, there are two ways to approach the argument. Let G= God is and let -G= God is not. The argument G may not be provable scientifically, but the argument -(-G) is testable – that is the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that natural process within the cosmos is insufficient to explain what we find.
    A solution for this may be of two kinds: open and closed. In the open case, solutions such as a multiverse may be used; in the closed case, not.
    If it can be demonstrated that only the closed solution is possible, one then must be willing to go back and parse different belief systems.

  69. “that is the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that natural process within the cosmos is insufficient to explain what we find.”

    Huh? Says who? Just because we don’t yet have natural explanations for every last detail doesn’t mean there are not natural explanations to be discovered.

    Imagine if, in the 1600s, we adopted your point-of-view with regard to medicine. “It’s clear that we don’t have natural explanations for why people get sick. So clearly we must consider supernatural explanations as just as likely and worth pursuing”.

  70. Nick, I’ve never liked that particular apologetic either.

    As you rightly point out, it leaves the evidence for God in a constant state of shrinking as human beings make more and more advances in knowledge. It becomes a sort of “God-of-the-Gaps” theory, where once you understand something, it’s not longer valid evidence for God.

    As a believer in deity, I think that is a very dangerous trend, and it’s one of the main reasons I reject the Intelligent Design movement.

    I consider God to be just as present in phenomena we think we understand, as in phenomena we do not understand. I consider theology, properly understood, to be the inquiry about the biggest picture possible for a human – our place in the overall universe, and our meaning in it. I consider science to be a discipline falling under theology, not an alternative, or opposing force to it.

  71. Nick,

    My argument is in regards to “theists believing in ‘supernatural invisibile beings'” and how, or if, those things may or may not be explained by natural phenomena.

    ‘Science’ cannot currently explain the origin or substance of every phenomena that we can observe (e.g. ‘thought’).

    The possibilities are 1) We ‘can’ explain everything we observe or 2) We ‘cannot’ explain everything we observe.

    At this point in our history, we ‘cannot’ explain everthing. Therefore the possibility of things that are unexplainable or supernatural is still valid–at least until ‘everything’ is explained.

    If you presume that man can and someday will be able to explain ‘everything’, then you believe (or have faith) that man is capable of, and will attain, infinite knowledge.

    I infer from what you say that we don’t have to have complete knowledge before we ‘probably’ can know what is true or not true. Well, that may be the case in some instances, but it is not science

  72. …but it is not science.

  73. Michael T.,

    Many classicists think it possible that the Socratic dialogues are not verbatim transcripts. In fact, they consider it entirely possible that Plato occasionally put his own words and ideas in Socrates mouth and that it may be impossible to determine whether specific words or ideas originated with Socrates or Plato. Such scholars are not deemed to hold an anti-Socratic agenda nor are they deemed to harbor anti-philosophy presuppositions.

    On the other hand, when a scholar suggests that the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John reflect the author’s understanding rather than Jesus’, he is likely to be accused of trying to destroy Christianity. Moreover, Christians believe that an incorrect conclusion on the question may lead a loving and benevolent God to subject him to eternal torture.

    Secular scholars apply the same standards to the Bible as other ancient writings. Christians don’t.

  74. Don Kaspersen 2011-04-21 at 4:23 pm

    Nick and Seth:

    You both seem to have missed the point. I was merely stating that the proposition -(-G) is defined as scientifically testable and if true, then the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that natural process within the cosmos is insufficient to explain what we find. No analysis was intended or offered. I was merely stating that one cannot choose either open or closed models because it satisfies ones predilections. In actuality, considerable data has been available some time, but to go there is to hijack Michael’s blog, which I have no intention of doing. Rather, I am reacting to the view in this discussion that science must uphold a point of view, for the scientific enterprise exists to collect and interpret data. It is not a theistic or atheistic enterprise: to make it so subverts it. When the Soviets decided that there was socialist and capitalist science, they fell down a three decade long rabbit hole.

  75. Don Kaspersen 2011-04-21 at 4:34 pm

    By the way, just to satisfy my curiosity, how many of you have practical experience in the physical, biologic or cosmological sciences? Some of you seem a little naive about the scientific enterprise in its actual practice. Perhaps, its just a misapprehension on my part.

  76. “t this point in our history, we ‘cannot’ explain everthing. Therefore the possibility of things that are unexplainable or supernatural is still valid–at least until ‘everything’ is explained.”

    Damon,
    We need to distinguish between “possible” and “probable”. To your point above, yes, it is possible that the supernatural explains things that are as yet unexplainable. It’s also possible that another explanation is that we’re living in a computer simulation and the “super-beings” who programmed the simulation are they themselves living in simulation. Recurse on that a few times.

    Both are possible, but one is more probable. Hint: see http://www.simulation-argument.com/

  77. “You both seem to have missed the point. I was merely stating that the proposition -(-G) is defined as scientifically testable and if true, then the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that natural process within the cosmos is insufficient to explain what we find.”

    How are you arriving at this? In what way is it scientifically testable? And how is ‘-(-G)’ different from G?

    “you seem a little naive about the scientific enterprise in its actual practice.”

    How so?

  78. No one “explains” thing in the proper sense. They just describe them. Even the simplest phenomenon can’t be explained if understanding is in question. Used, manipulated and described but not explained.

  79. Don Kaspersen 2011-04-23 at 2:42 pm

    Nick:

    The proposition G is God exists. The proposition -G is God does not exist. The proposition -(-G) is that the non-existence of God is insufficient to explain that which is scientifically determined. Science is a method and is not determined to decided for or against atheism. Ultimately it is a question of whether there is sufficient mass/energy and time to achieve what we see in the cosmos without intelligent input. It is because the current results are so discouraging to the atheistic hypothesis that we have three mulitverse(or megaverse) theories, one of which maybe in jeopardy and Dawkins’ favorite – an expanding and contracting universe – which fails according to recent analysis from Europe ( there is a transfer of entropy from each previous expansion so that after ~200 expansions and contractions the entropy is so high that protons, neutrons and electrons cannot exist).

  80. Nick,

    I was speaking of what is possible and how discarding a possibility before it is tested would bias one to erroneous results. What is possible and what is probable are two entirely different concepts.

    What is probable is a wholly different topic. Probability is what is ‘most likely to happen’–but that does not mean that it will–and it surely will not happen in all cases by definition.

    Is it ‘possible’ that God exists versus the idea that no God exists? Yes, it is possible that God exists–because man at this point does not have infinite knowledge.

    If you wish to discuss probability in terms of the main point of this post, I suppose you would have to then ask, is it more probable that God exists verus the idea that no God exists.

    In that regard, is it ‘probable’ that ‘something’ came from ‘nothing’? With our current base of knowledge, the idea that ‘something’ comes from ‘nothing’ is highly improbable based on certain know physical laws.

  81. “The proposition G is God exists. The proposition -G is God does not exist. The proposition -(-G) is that the non-existence of God is insufficient to explain that which is scientifically determined.”

    You’re smuggling a lot of assumptions into -(-G).

    If G = God exists and -G = God does not exist, then -(-G) = God does not, not exist, which is a double negative and resolves to God exists.

    “Ultimately it is a question of whether there is sufficient mass/energy and time to achieve what we see in the cosmos without intelligent input.”

    What’s to say there needs to be intelligent input? History is littered with examples of humans presuming there must be some “higher power” just over the horizon, and repeatedly that’s turned out to not be the case. What’s different?

    But for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s so; that there must be intelligent input. What makes us think it has to take the form of a God? Why couldn’t it be something akin to what Bostrom posits in…

  82. “If you wish to discuss probability in terms of the main point of this post, I suppose you would have to then ask, is it more probable that God exists verus the idea that no God exists.
    In that regard, is it ‘probable’ that ‘something’ came from ‘nothing’? With our current base of knowledge, the idea that ‘something’ comes from ‘nothing’ is highly improbable based on certain know physical laws.”

    Damon,
    Your logic is faulty. Simply admitting that it’s not probable that a god exists does not imply that something comes from nothing. It may be that our level of understanding of time, matter and energy is akin to what we understood about disease when Christ was roaming the Earth (i.e. almost nothing).

    Similarly it’s more likely that, as a matter of probability, our current explanations of our origins, including our religious explanations, are wrong.

  83. Don Kaspersen 2011-04-23 at 11:53 pm

    Nick:

    Smuggling nothing: if the limitations of the cosmos are
    4 insufficient (note: if), then there has to be an alternate solution. You ignore that I spoke to alternate explanations.
    But we are left with either a theistic solution – or a pantheistic solution – or a megaverse solution.
    Megaverse solutions assume an infinite number of universes and that anything is possible if you have an infinite number of universes makes anything possible.
    This is not necessarily so. Do you know who Georg Cantor was? If not, I have to do a whole lot more explaining.

    P.S. : I have been trying to set up an argument in the way a scientist would go about it. You seem hostile to what I am doing. I have not suggested that I have presented any evidence one way or the other. Have you ever had to set up an argument in a formal way? Anyone who is trying to set up a framework for reasonable discussion has to do what I have been trying to do, theist, atheist, agnostic, whatever.

    istic

  84. Don Kaspersen 2011-04-24 at 12:04 am

    Sorry, its late. I forgot to edit.

    Errata: 4 in first sentence is a typo. “of universes makes anything possible” is redundant and confusing. In the postscript there should be a colon between “do” and “theist” for clarity.

  85. No hostility at all. What I’m taking issue with is your making bold assumptions and unnecessarily closing off alternative hypotheses by limiting the choices to (or perhaps *leading the argument to*) a narrow discussion of multiverses. You write as though there’s settled science w/r/t multiverses, however I’ve not seen it. Can you point us to some?

    I know who Cantor is but I’m not a student of mathematics beyond what I learned in college on the way to a degree in music. Thus, the relevance of his work to this discussion, beyond having to do with ideas of infinity, is lost on me.

    But we shouldn’t need to resort to arcane mathematical theories to discuss whether there are good reasons to believe one or more gods exist.

  86. Don Kaspersen 2011-04-24 at 8:41 am

    Nick:
    What other possibilities are there?
    1. Either the universe is sufficient to explain itself or it is not.
    2. If it is not, then its existence must be explained by other means.
    3. Either that explanation requires an intelligent source or it does not.
    4. If it does not, de rigeur, a probabilistic solution is required. There are no other choices, in view of the collapse of the expanding and collapsing universe hypothesis (generally rejected by astrophysicists long before the recent nail in its coffin).

    Your objections are not to any “assumptions” I am making but to my attempt to make a testable framework. That is what we who have worked in the sciences do. Ultimately, we are doing is in my bailiwick. And in science the answers are often found by attention to “arcane mathematics.” To take mathematics off the table, is to reduce the issue to what one finds in so many of these fora: “I’m smarter than you and I say there is no god.” “No, you’re not.” “Yes, I am.”…

  87. Nick,

    I may have skipped a step in fully connected the thougths in the previous post, but you still have the question of “did ‘something’ come from ‘nothing’? And by ‘nothing’, I mean ‘absolutely nothing, or non-being’.

    If ‘something’ came from nothing, what proof do you offer?

    I something does not come from nothing, then ‘something’ comes from ‘something’–i.e. a ‘causal agent’.

    If the universe was ’caused’ to exist, then what was that cause.

    I am saying it is improbable that the universe came from nothing.

    When you then begin to determine ‘what’ or ‘who’ caused the universe, you cannot rule out the possibility (I do not say probability) that it is an infinitely powerful entity that exists outside of our time/space.

    That infinitely powerful entity could be God.

  88. Don:
    Let’s fast-forward a second: Do you believe there exists a supernatural presence who created everything in existence, who takes a personal interest in your affairs, answers your prayers and cares specifically and especially about you and every other person on this planet?

    I ask this not to dodge your question but to perform a sanity check on our discussion.

    Thanks,
    n

  89. “..you cannot rule out the possibility (I do not say probability) that it is an infinitely powerful entity that exists outside of our time/space.That infinitely powerful entity could be God.”

    Damon,
    If you’re going to make a list of things it *could* be (i.e. the possible, not the probable) then you have to include the other options as well. e.g. it could be a supernatural entity who is especially cruel and enjoys watching how many ways people can invent to both harm and help each other. Perhaps our existence is simply a game he invented where he set two forces opposite each other and the game is to see how it all plays out.

    Other possibilities include:
    -we’re a computer simulation
    -we’re a chemical experiment
    -we’re a game being played by super-intelligent entities on a vastly larger timescale
    -none of this is ‘real’; it’s a collective dream.
    -we’re the content of the dreams of a house pet in an extra-universe.

    I could go on for hours. None have more or less…

  90. Don Kaspersen 2011-04-26 at 11:55 am

    Nick:

    Sanity check? I have a friend whose brother was once considered a candidate for a Nobel Prize. In his personal life: paranoid schizophrenic, dissociative. Atheist, too, if memory serves, though I’m not sure that that pertains.
    Impeccable science, however. In short, personal beliefs or states of sanity are not germane to scientific inquiry. Bacon, Occam, Newton and Pascal, upon which the most of the scientific enterprise has its foundations were all Christians. If Christian beliefs are sufficient to deem someone mad, and madmen cannot be allowed to be thought to think coherently, then the whole scientific enterprise is brought to question. Your question entails an ad hominem.
    The framework I propose only pertains to these alternates – theism, deism, atheism, agnosis and no particular brand of any of them. Let’s stay on the subject.
    Incidentally, what you call “arcane mathematics” is now taught to high school sophomores and juniors. If they can get it, you can.

  91. Don Kaspersen 2011-04-26 at 12:38 pm

    Nick:

    1. If we are a part of a computer simulation, then the programmer is our creator. Hence, God.
    2. If are are part of a chemical experiment, the experimental designer is our creator. Hence, God.
    3. Were this true, your timescale would have to be in a dimension of time other than would be common to any universe or megaverse. You don’t seem to understand time theory very well. Oddly, the timescale you suggest is equivalent to eternity in Jewish theological thinking and requires opponents – a God and devil.

    4. The collective dream would of necessity be our reality, the reality would have to be something else, heaven, so to speak.
    5. What in the world is an extra-universe? Nothing that could exist in a strictly material megaverse. Nonetheless, in this example the Dog becomes the creator. Hence, God.
    Damon’s posit is more consistent with Occam’s razor than any of yours. If you wish to dismiss his, yours have to be elegant, not fantastic. Science fiction is fiction, not…

  92. You misunderstand my use of the word “sanity”, although I could’ve been clearer – sorry.

    I’m asking for your definition of “God”. I can’t divine from everything you’ve written whether you believe “he” embodies those characteristics I outlined in my last post or do you posit something altogether different? Perhaps something much more abstract? I ask because it’s possible we might be in violent agreement.

    Bring on the arcane math! 🙂 I’ll do my best to keep up.

    n

  93. Don, thank you for your post–I wish I could be as eloquent.

    @Nick, again, I must reiterate the topic of this post is “Why the “I Just Believe in One Less God than You” Argument Does not Work”.

    So, unless I missed something, we seem to agree that the idea of “…believing in one less God than you…” in regards to atheism is non sequitur.

    You gave some excellent examples of possibilities of ‘God’, but none of your examples was ‘no God’.

    Regards, -D

  94. Damon,
    If your definition of “God” fits any of the examples I’ve suggested then it bears no resemblance to the “God” that the publishers of this site posit. i.e. “he” cares not one iota about the personal lives or interests of any of us.

    If that’s the case then we agree. But you risk confusing the issue by referring to that entity as “God”, since “God” is already an overloaded term with definitions that already possess an inferred meaning (scripture and all).

    To that end we should probably give a name to “him” that is distinctly different such that we distinguish between what most religious people refer to as “God” from the possibilities above. How about “Phil”? Or “Steve”?

  95. Don Kaspersen 2011-04-29 at 12:00 pm

    Nick: (God question later)

    (Four naturalistic theories of the universe in the last 100 yrs: steady state, expanding and contracting, self-explaining, megaverse. The first three assume time is infinite, the last that mass/energy is. In science, theories are given up slowly and not made unless required (law of parsimony). Megaverse theory exists because of the perceived inadequacies of the former).
    There is not only one infinity. There is the Aleph infinity which includes all numbers. No other aleph infinity is known. Cantor observed, however, that there are an infinite number of numbers between 1 and 2 (1.1, 1.01, 1.001, etc.). So, there are an infinite number of numbers between 1 and 1.1 or 1.0001, etc. Note that 4 is not a member of any of these sets. You could have an infinite number of golf balls and not one would have the diameter of a baseball. For current theory to be right, our universe must be in the set that allows naturalistic explanation. More to come. Questions?

  96. Is the “megaverse” theory the same one covered in Steinhardt and Turok’s “Endless Universe”?

  97. They went out from us because they were not of us in the first place.

    Once the Holy Spirit is in someone, I believe that God preserves that person and won’t let them go.
    So I have to question whether the so-called former christian ever was a christian in the sense that the Holy Spirit had entered them.
    They may have intellectually claimed to be christian, but I doubt very much that they were supernatural christians.

    The fact is, they were not of us in the first place if they have left.

  98. Don Kaspersen 2011-05-07 at 1:38 pm

    Nick:

    I am afraid I am not familiar with the book. There is more to read about out there than I or you have the time for. The terms megaverse and multiverse refer to theories to explain in naturalistic terms how we have come to where we are in view of the lack of material in the universe to account for all that is. The total mass of our universe is roughly 10^80 neutrons – that is mass available to make atoms. But much of this mass, 96%, is not available to make atoms. Were all the mass proximal and available, the number of interactions in 13.73 billion years is 10^120. In fact, because of the Big Bang, mass is flying away in all directions and the estimated number of actual interactions is only 10^40. But scientists are finding more and more things must happen to have a habitable planet. Probabilities for the likelihood of having a single habitable planet for intelligent life: low estimate:1in 10^200:high estimate:1 in 10^550+. Some probabilities are estimates, hence the…

  99. I love the Tooth-fairy dismissal. See who inspires more belief in a 3 year old, the tooth fairy or god? Answer: tooth fairy. Why? Even to the 3 year old, there is more evidence that the tooth fairy exists than god. Sooner or later the child reject the tooth fairy as real once they learn the evidence wasn’t authentic. Non-theist, and to some extent agnostics, reject god for the same reason, the evidence isn’t authentic or is suspect. Put theism/non-theism into perspective. Read Ken Wilbur’s “A Brief History of Everything”
    Just my 2¢.

  100. You are so blind. You can offer only zero evidence of your god. If you accept your god, you must accept the gods of others because they are all based on fantasy. This is why you can call me

    ex Christian

  101. Don Kaspersen 2011-08-26 at 10:14 am

    Alvee,

    “If you accept your god, you must accept the gods of others because they are all based on fantasy.”

    Horses. Unicorns. Centaurs. Pegases. Assuming that I have never seen a horse, if I conclude that the latter three are fantasies, must I conclude that horses are too? I think not.

    You’re statement is interesting propaganda, but it is hardly reasonable. The problem for me is that you think that it is. This requires a blindness of its own.

    You’re response is one frequently seen and heard. It is a “cookie-cutter” response, one that takes for granted that the person who first stated it was right. At the very least you ought to have put it in quotes and given an attribution to professor Dawkins or whoever it was who originated the idea, shoddy thinking though it may be.

    As to evidence, I recall my mother telling me this saying when I was but a child, “Convince a man against his will, he’s of the same opinion still.” (I have sought but cannot find an attribution). The point is, if I ask, “Can you prove what you say?,” I am saying I am open to hearing what you have to say, but when I say that you can provide no evidence for what you say, I am saying that no matter what you say, I won’t buy it. It is much like the child who sticks his fingers in his ears and yells, “I’m not listening” over and over again.

    So, I have to wonder why you bothered to make the post at all. It is not persuasive enough to effect any reader of normal intellectual powers, so why do it? If you think that it is persuasive, then you have little cause to call others delusional.

    But I don’t think that that is why you posted it. It seems to me that you have had some kind of experience or experiences that have turned you away from whatever you have called Christianity in the past and have felt some need to vent.
    Why don’t you explain?

  102. Um, isn’t Father-Son-Holy Ghost 3 entities? Isn’t that polytheism?
    Or did Yahweh make it with his his mother to produce himself? Ewwwwww!

  103. Monotheism (from Greek μόνος, monos, “single”, and θεός, theos, “god”) is the belief in the existence of a single (one) god.[1] Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha’i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Judaism, Islam, Samaritanism, Sikhism[2] and Zoroastrianism.

    Christianity is not the only monotheistic game in town. If you can dismiss Zoroaster or Waheguru you can dismiss the god of Abraham and the judeo-christian faiths as easily.

  104. It is not just monotheism…or henotheism for that matter. It is transcendance. Not all monotheists believe in transcendence. Some are pantheists, pantheists, and henotheists. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are religions of transcendance.

  105. Well then Baha’i and Sikhism still fit the bill. I’m not here to argue whether christianity is special to you. But it’s not unique. Nor was it the first of its kind. The fact remains that it is every bit as ridiculous as any other faith you are comfortable not adhering to. That’s why the quote cited in this blog is particularly pertinent to those of you who can dismiss the faith of others, yet be so certain yours is real. Question your own faith with the scrutiny that you question the faith of others, and you’ll get it.

  106. You are failing to see the humble nature of this post. It simply argues that you cannot argue against any God with this argument so long as “God” is properly defined. It need not be the Christian God.

    It is not an issue of who does one worship. Otherwise, Thor, money, Diana, or Superman could qualify. The issue is Transcendence. This argument does not work against arguing for a Transcendent creator. In other words, it does not work when the argument is for God, but it does when it is for god.

  107. ” All assume a parallel that is simply not present when the claims are understood and the evidence is considered.”

    Wait. Did you just imply that there is *evidence* to support your god?

    “People did not really believe in Shu, Nut, Hercules, Baal, Wearisomu, Enki, Utu, Diana, and the like in the same way that people believe in Yahweh.”

    [Citation required.]

    “Christianity exists not because of rural pragmatism, but because of historic events.”

    Okay, I can concede this one. Christianity exists because people were converted by force, or killed.

    “More importantly, the gods of these pantheons were/are not really gods in the proper sense.”

    You don’t think they’re really gods, therefore they’re not *real* gods? Uh huh.

    “Christianity believes in only one God (monotheism).”

    Yes, you got that from the Zoroastrians in Babylon.

    “We believe that existence necessitates a “first cause” or an “unmoved mover.” This first cause is by definition God.”

    Yes, and we think you’re bonkers. What’s your point?

    “In the end, the theistic type of God espoused by Christianity cannot be compared to the pantheon of gods of polytheistic religions. It is comparing apples to oranges.”

    Just because you assert it doesn’t make it true. They believed in multiple fictional gods, and you believe in one fictional god. It’s like comparing Red Delicious apples to Granny Smith apples.

    “I understand perfectly why Stephen F Roberts and Christopher Hitchens reject all the other gods. It is because they reject polytheism. But I don’t understand how this parallels to the rejection of the Christian God.”

    So you don’t understand why they reject all the other gods at all. I’m glad we’ve established that.

  108. Thanks for this, I needed a good laugh

  109. Read many of the Roman historians and you will see that there was a committment to the pantheonic way of life, but a very loose and impersonal committment and belief in the individual gods. When the gods were threatened, it was the parties and way of life (culture) that was threatened, not their intellectual or even emotional committment to the deity. You find this quite a bit in a basic study of the persecutions of the early church. They started as grassroots persecutions due to the Christian’s focus on this one REAL deity which threatened their festivals and way of life. It soon won the day (by 400 ten percent of the population was Christian) due to this new type of committment, such that people were willing to die for this belief! Crazy stuff when someone REALLY believes in their God!

    Eventually, the persecution went to a top down as the Roman rulers began to seek such a devotion to their gods (whichever one they chose) in order to lift the empire out of chaos.

    Either way, the comparing or relating the “gods” in the pantheolic system is to the Christian view of God is comparing apples and oranges. One is by definition God due to his transcendant nature, the other is just a really really powerful superhero. Think about how easily people could be elevated to gods under the pantheolic system. How could ceasar claim to be a god if we are not dealing with apples and oranges? How could Simon the Magician have a statue devoted to him claiming he was a god if the Christian philosophical view of what makes god, god parallels with this other gods?

    Again, once you compare the Christian God with hercules, I see that you have not done your philosophical homework, but are relying on quick sound bite atheistic apologetics. It may work among friends, but not in any serious debate.

  110. So basically, as I read this defense of Christianity, the reason that Stephen Roberts’ quote is fallacious is that Jesus is speshul. Do I have it right?

    As an aside, the definition for Anglicanism, which is today’s theoloogical term for the day, is riddled with basic errors. Eg. The 39 Articles are no longer in force and were only ever in force in the Provinces of Canterbury and York. With respect to the statement on the authority of the Bible, Anglicans also accept the authority of the seven ecumenical councils. And with respect to the statement on salvation, you ignore the Oxford Movement (of which the former Lord Archbishop of York, Lord David Hope, and many other bishops are adherents.)

  111. Well, “God” is special. It is the difference in arguing for a transcendant necessary being called “God” and an immanent superhero that people worship and call “god”. Just because the same terms are used does not mean the same concepts are at issue. And this is the major fallacy with this comparison…it is hard to see how people who think deeply can continue to make this comparison.

  112. George Klein 2011-12-28 at 10:48 pm

    C. Michael Patton doesn’t understand the real meaning of the quote by Stephen F. Roberts. Christians have their god, Muslims have their own god (Allah), Jews have one god, too (Yahweh), Hindus, Buddhists and many other religions have only one god. They are all monotheistic religions. I would like to ask C. M. Patton the following question: is this the same god, just named differently, or each of those religions have their own god? If this is the same god, why it says different things to different religions. But, if it’s not, then which is the real one? Each religion swears that their god is the One, and the only One. It is impossible for me to figure it out. That’s why I am a Humanist Jew. I read the Bible, but I don’t worship it. I consider it as a great work of ancient literature, in spite of the hundreds of contradictions that exist in it.

  113. Michael T., where did you get your ideas? You need to stop speaking fancy and feeling smug about your semi-creative ideas. Whether or not someone goes to heaven or hell for the belief or disbelief in a religion is extremely important! As a Christian, our job is to help show other people what Christ did for us and help them to understand the joy we feel. As an apologist, I’m surprised at our reason, which is full of fallacies. Oh, by the way, Christianity does state that if you don’t believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save you and you don’t accept him into your heart, you go to hell. There’s no “arguably” about it. My apologies for the bashing, but to a point I agree with you. It’s by understanding and undermining those warrants that we’ll make disciples of others.

  114. I mean “your reasoning” in the middle…….

  115. I know this is an old thread, but I wanted to add something about the idea that pagans didn’t “really believe” in their gods and it was a social thing.

    Are you familiar with The Christians as the Romans Saw Them by Robert Wilken? Page 63:

    “The Christians were seen as religious fanatics, self-righteous outsiders, arrogant innovators, who thought that only their beliefs were true. However, the Roman belief in divine providence, in the necessity of religious observance for the well-being of society, and in the efficacy of traditional rites and practices was no less sincere than the beliefs of the Christians. As a Roman proconsul put it at a trial of a Christian in North Africa, ‘If you make fun of the things we hold sacred I will not allow you to speak.’ How presumptuous, thought the Romans, that the Christians considered themselves alone religious. As a Roman official aptly remarked at the trial of the Scillitan martyrs, ‘We too are a religious people.’

    “We must take these claims seriously. As tempting as it may be to those who have been nurtured on the personal religion of our culture, Roman religion cannot be reduced, as Augustine attempted , to politics or statecraft…”

    I’m just sayin’

  116. Good stuff. I think it supports my conclusion. When you allow for a plurality of “on demand” type gods their ontological value is quite diminished. This is why the Christian view was so unique and cannot find parallel with these othere “gods” as they did not qualify for the term. They wee just really really powerdul beings. This is why the early church emphasized the “almighty” of their God. He actually was THE God. These are categories that polytheism cannot conceive.

  117. George Klein 2012-01-29 at 9:01 am

    Of course it does work. Let’s change the wording just a bit. Instead of “all the other possible gods” let’s have “Yahweh and Allah”. Now we are in monotheistic territory. And I could add other monotheistic gods to the list.
    Your reason to reject their gods may not be the same I reject yours, but their reasons to reject the christian god are very similar to your reasons to reject their gods.
    Since Christianity evolved from Judaism is the christian god’s name Yahweh? Or if it’s not Yahweh, then what it is? Is it a different god?
    I am really confused . . .
    Christianity. Which “branch”? Orthodox, Catholic or the many branches of Reform? They presumably have the same god, but it tells different things to them. Catholicism: your life on earth is only temporary and a preparation for the afterlife in Heaven (or something like that), the others teach something different.
    Confusion again . . .

  118. So you can make this argument work by changing it completely?

    You are obviously familiar with the tactic of moving the goalposts.

    Once we are discussing transcendent deities we are in an entirely different area. Then we can argue over who has the better historical evidence. For example the Koran (written about 600AD) makes claims about Jesus that contradict the Gospels (written no later than 100AD) and draws on pious fiction like the Infancy Gospels (third century or so). Since it is claimed that the Koran is the dictation of Allah, not merely inspired as some Christians claim of the Gospels, we have grounds to be skeptical of its claims to authority.

    For the rest, your intellectual inadequacy is not a basis for argument.

  119. CherryBlossom 2012-05-06 at 1:28 pm

    “…like in the same way that people believe in Yahweh. Their belief was more of a social convention which included all the pressures that such a system demanded. Their gods were more “faddish” than anything else.”

    This is a grave failure of perspective. You take for granted our modern understanding of our world. The fact that the earth revolves around the Sun and that the Sun itself is a giant ball of burning hot plasma and gas was *not* understood 500,1000, or 5000 years ago. Such conceptions were sorcery! The convictions, beliefs, and social pressures of people in these times could only have stemmed from the knowledge, or lack thereof, available at the time.

    This all comes back to S.F.Roberts contention; you cannot dismiss any belief without considering the perspectives of its believers.

    …And as you go on to make such pronouncements as “They were more like superheroes from the Justice League than gods.” You just continue to illustrate S.F.Roberts point.

  120. I try not to get angry at ignorance. The truth is I understand it. It is safer to know nothing, than to think about anything in depth. This issue is beyond race, color or creed. My question to all people who agree with you is;Do you have anything to believe in? Do you wake up in the morning feeling general happiness in your life, or are you more miserable from the day before because you have nothing to believe in and absolutely nothing to look forward to? My father has a son that is not related to me. Sometimes I feel like we don’t share the same DNA, not because he is a bad person, but his knowledge only lies within the boundaries that my father and stepmother set for him. She knows nothing of God. My father stated to me that when he was a child, he went to Church so much he didn’t want to be bothered with it as an adult. I feel sorry for him, and no matter how much I love him, I know that he is going to have lifetime after lifetime of emptiness in a boundless existence filled with nothing. That is exactly how I feel about you. Good luck!!!

  121. I could say as much that I don’t believe in Ra. It’s just harder to get people to understand that Ra was a singular God in Egyptian times, when a monarch tried to change to a monotheistic system. See? The explanation itself takes away from the gravity of it all.

    So we are left with gods that everyone knows. Zeus, Odin, Heracles, and so on.

    You don’t hear me naming the numerous Celtic or Babylonian and Sumerian gods for that reason.

  122. Tracy Wyatt 2012-09-24 at 2:37 pm

    All this “analysis” of Mr. Roberts’ eloquent retort misses the point of his largely rhetorical statement, which is pretty self-evident. The joke is on you taking it so literally. I am amused at the ingenious efforts of may to distinguish their god from the other gods. This much defensiveness thinly conceals the inherent doubt that all of us share but many will not admit, as if their god will vanish in a puff of smoke should they concede any uncertainty. Funny, believers often point out that an atheist may call out to god for help in times of trouble. They never point out that, throughout thier lives, believers face doubt and experience changes in their beliefs. So which one counts, the highest point of belief in your life, or the highest point of doubt? A little honesty and perspectcie is all we nonbelievers ask. As Bill Nye so aptly stated regarding those pushing creationist curricula in our schools, “What I find troubling, when you listen to these people … once in a while I get the impression that they’re not kidding.”

  123. Tracy, what you don’t get is that – whether or not the God being discussed exists or not – the IDEAS and VALUES that are wrapped up in that theological package absolutely do matter. Your concept of God can drive innovation and desire to excel. It can also drive arrogance and hatred. It can motivate war or peace. It can enslave people, and it can drive Martin Luther King to march for freedom. Most of the key revolutionary advancements in human society can be linked first to a change in the way people thought theologically.

    That you can sit in relative comfort and sneer at all of this and dismiss it as mere “fairy tales” speaks more to your own arrogance and intellectual poverty than anything else.

  124. Quotes are typically concise and easily refuted. For example: “Man fears what he does not understand”. Obviously that’s not true. It may be true some of the time, but not all of the time.

    The fact is that Christianity as a whole is not falsifiable. Once you add interpretation into the equation, you cannot prove The Holy Bible to be true or false. You can always interpret it in such a way that protects it from scrutiny.

    At one point of time people believed that if you were to prove that our universe was not geocentric, that you would disprove Christianity. But Christianity, like so many other religions, just go back and re-interpret to fit current understanding.

    When it comes to any comparison that is not about identity (a=a), there is ALWAYS a difference. There are differences between Christianity, Islam, Santa Claus, and Scientology.

    The quote just points out a similarity. If 1/3 of the world believed in Zeus, then you would have people comparing Zeus to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. And you would have people defending Zeus and saying it’s just not the same.

    Be it Zeus, Allah, Yahweh, Elohim, or El that people are defending, the problem basically remains the same.

    To sum it up, religion and their gods existence is based on faith, which is “belief WITHOUT evidence.” Yes… some Christians will agree with this definition of faith, while others will not, and quote things like Creationist “science”.

    The quote mentioned, like all arguments, will apply to what SOME Christians believe, but not all of them. There are many many many types of Christians. The same goes with atheists. Some atheists believe “God” does not exist because (x) church that they went to as a kid was hypocritical…. A very poor argument.

    I am an atheist, but I’ll admit that many atheists, like many Christians, hold beliefs based on very illogical arguments. In the end it’s not the conclusion that matters, but the argument(s) that support it.

    • No, that won’t work as the point of the article is to show the false comparison, not subjectively, but ontologically. God, in this case, is not simply what one worships, but the uncaused cause, of which, by definition, there can only be one. Zeus and all the others from the pantheon were never proclaimed as the uncaused cause. It would be better to compare Zeus to money or power or that type of “god”. So we simply have a case of a false comparison. All it shows me is that the one who made this statement originally was speaking from the hip and had never studied much philosophy (or just not done very well.)

  125. “God, in this case, is not simply what one worships, but the uncaused cause”

    The same can be said of Gaia. It’s an extremely simplistic concept that I would imagine many of thought of on their own.

    “the uncaused cause, of which, by definition, there can only be one.”

    Not necessarily. The possibility of a few uncaused creators is yet another unfalsifiable explanation.

    “It would be better to compare Zeus to money or power or that type of “god”.

    That’s not true at all. Zeus is a god (real or not). Look it up god in the dictionary. It’s just a word. Debating something as superficial as semantics won’t get you anywhere.

    “So we simply have a case of a false comparison.”

    I wouldn’t call it a false or true comparison. But I tend to try and break things down more. If given a premise or two and a conclusion, then I would start speaking of true/false and valid/invalid.

    “All it shows me is that the one who made this statement originally was speaking from the hip and had never studied much philosophy”

    Maybe. Maybe not. People often make concise statements that only superficially represent their beliefs, if given in full.

    I can relate to this statement, but I would never use it to express my own beliefs.

  126. You missed the simple point of the argument… You believe in something that cannot be seen or proven because you choose too. It has nothing to do with comparing the inspiration of the toothfairy to God or the different aspects of the dogma or even how many gods are involved.

    It’s a very simple, basic part of human nature.

    Just try this: If you believe in a man that you’ve never seen just because you read about him, were told about him, want to believe he exists, find comfort in his existence, and or saw proof of his influence then you can believe in (choose one) Santa Clause, God, etc. Plug in any of the similar and you’ll see it works no matter which belief system you use. Hence the argument makes a lot of sense. “Listen more and talk less, you will learn more.” I like that one even better.

  127. I don’t know if this point has already been made or not. But the reason C Michael Patton’s argument does not hold water is that he is misunderstanding what is meant by “god” in the atheist argument.

    It is not simply that we assume all gods to be the same, which is indeed a fallacy. But rather we understand that all gods are *supernatural* in nature. They are all part of the same class of ideas. That is true by definition. And since most atheists pretty much put their conditional trust in methodological naturalism any concept of a supernatural entity is by nature outside the realm of reasonable possibilities.

    The Tooth Fairy, as was mentioned in another post, is another concept in that same category. Obviously The Tooth Fairy and Jehovah (or whatever name you prefer) are vastly different characters. Nobody would argue they are the same. But they *are* in the same category of characters…they are supernatural entities.

    Science has never detected such an entity and it isn’t even clear how such detection would even be possible. So without sufficient evidence to sway a rational mind the default position is to have no belief in these entities.

    It does not matter how different the Christian faith is from other faiths. It still posits a supernatural entity that cannot be verified or falsified in any meaningful way. So we simply do not believe it.

  128. Why is the default position not to believe?

    You totally just made that rule up JV.

    And of course the tooth fairy and deity aren’t in the same category. One was designed in its creation to be a make-believe story. The other was not. Not to mention the evidence for Jesus’ divinity is orders of magnitude greater than that for the tooth fairy. Finally – the existence of the tooth fairy doesn’t matter. The existence of Christ does.

    Which makes the analogy stupid in just about every respect.

  129. Of course, I agree with Vinnie, Michael T. and others! Roberts is right. What he means is that we atheists have no belief in any god, whilst those of the Abrahamic religions are atheistic as far as other gods. Should one not believe in Zeus but instead on Thor, then she is atheistic towards Zeus. Not believing in some other god makes one have an atheistic attitude towards that god. One does not have to be an atheist to have atheistic attitude towards other gods. And don’t let your opprobrium of atheism lead your astray from noting that.
    It is nothing that the gods of polytheism aren’t creators, as the lack of evidence counts against them in the other respects. Thus, one special pleads after all in dismissing Roberts’ idea!
    He is just making John Loftus’ outsiders test, which is a powerful argument, despite the special pleading of the naysayers! Science finds no intent whether that of polytheism or monotheism, so both are superstitious in finding intent!
    Aristotle’s teleology and his own science had kept us backwards, despite his own naturalism.

  130. Ben Lamoreux 2013-03-08 at 4:52 pm

    Couldn’t disagree more. This is a strawman argument that avoids the point.

  131. R. Seth, I made it clear that I put gods and tooth fairies into a category called “supernatural”. I don’t see how you could disagree with that. Do you feel that Jesus, being able to do miracles, is not supernatural in nature? The tooth fairy, being a fairy, is also supernatural.

    And I disagree about the evidence for the miracles of Jesus. I do not know of any such evidence. I know of a couple of stories, but I also know of a lot of other stories I don’t believe in. There’s a guy named Peter Parker who lives in New York City and has super powers. I really love that guy. He’s awesome.

    He isn’t real.

  132. The christian god has been around for 2000 years and look at the state of the world? 88% of the world thinks a god exists and yet its a self destructing, greed filled world. I imagine a world without religion hindering our very existence in this universe. We will be destroyed by nature unless we wake up to our environment on earth and in space. Let’s deal in facts and continue our adventure on this beautiful planet as one species with the believe in exploration of the truth. The alternative is to continue to say “I’m right” no “I’m Right” until we nuke our selves or waste too much time and are destroyed by a rock or super volcano. Your faith leads to our demise. Nature is the only god we need concern ourselves with at this point in our existence ( A god being somethings greater than ourselves).

  133. Actually Zach, Christianity has been in decline for nearly a thousand years.

    The horrors you describe are MASSIVELY the fault of the rise of secularism, not religion. The cult of the secular state has been a horrible development for the world.

    Ever since the “Enlightenment” when we started to banish religion from public influence, the world has grown increasingly cruel, barbaric, and bloodthirsty.

    The worst incidents of bloodshed in the last 500 years have been those committed by the secular order. Culminating with the most infamous of all – the Soviet Union and its anti-religious rain of blood and horror on this earth.

    You atheists have a lot to be proud of Zach. A lot to be proud of….

  134. maroonblazer 2013-05-14 at 10:10 pm

    Seth R:
    “Ever since the “Enlightenment” when we started to banish religion from public influence, the world has grown increasingly cruel, barbaric, and bloodthirsty.”

    What’s your evidence for this claim? All the data points to the opposite.

  135. No it doesn’t.

    Wars have been massively more bloody, more destructive, and more willingly engaged ever since the secularists took over.

    War has always been nasty, but the cult of the secular state took it to all new heights of scope, brutality, and finality.

    The 20th century alone ought to be proof-positive that secular regimes and secular ideologies have dwarfed religious ones in terms of cruelty, cynicism and barbarity.

    You atheists had your shot at history.

    And you failed – miserably.

  136. But really, you only have to look at the scope and development of wars before the Enlightenment and after to see that they became far worse under the new ideas than under the old. And it wasn’t just technology – it was also new paradigms for conquest.

    Witch burning is another interesting example.

    Under the rule of the Catholic Church, remarkably few witches were ever burned for the simple reason that the Vatican didn’t believe in witches. The typical Medieval scenario was the ignorant angry townspeople ready to burn the witch and the local Catholic priest intervening and stopping the execution while explaining to the people that this is just superstition. The Catholic Church actually pardoned more witches than it executed.

    It was only after the Catholic Church began to be banished from the role of government influence in favor of secular monarchs and secular local governments that popular outbreaks of witch-persecution became common (like the Salem witch trials).

    The Spanish Inquisition is another example of an atrocity that was largely carried out by the secular Spanish monarchy and their pawns – AFTER Rome had been told to stay out of it. When the Catholic authorities did get involved in the Inquisition, their role was usually to acquit people – since church courts operated on evidence of guilt. Secular courts, on the other hand, often operated without evidence on popular passion. Most of the abuses occurred there.

    Think the contrast between Judge Caude Frollo’s “Palace of Justice” vs. the Cathedral of Notre Dame from Victor Hugo – a perfect example of the bloody and merciless secular order vs the old waning religious order.

  137. maroonblazer 2013-05-14 at 11:45 pm

    Seth R:
    Please pardon my reluctance to simply take your word for it. You’ve offered no objective, third party, evidence that the world has become more violent.

    Here’s just one piece of evidence to the contrary:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904106704576583203589408180.html

    What’s yours?

  138. I think if you rephrase the analogy as something more simple, such as: If you are a Christian, why did you reject Islam? And why did you reject Hinduism? And Judaism? For whatever reason, such as, ‘I disagree with some of their beliefs’, which is reasonable, that is the reason why that particular person has chose to reject your religion as well. For whatever reason you have no faith in a Muslim god, is the reason the other does not have faith in a Christian god. Another way to put it: Religious and non-religious alike dismiss gods, therefore, are a form of atheist. The analogy shows a likeness between the polarities. Therefore, a person could technically be a “Christian-Atheist”, as in, a Christian, who is atheistic toward Islam. The “answer” to the analogy, for the religious-minded, should be that it’s a play-on-words, if anything, and all Christians are quasi-atheists. This analogy could also be discussed in faith-based groups, by looking at it in another way: Did you choose Christ, or have you just been coming to church since you were a child? There is no particular right or wrong answer, simply something to be reflected upon.

  139. Marcel Kincaid 2013-05-28 at 12:50 pm

    “‘Imagine relying only on the writings of Joseph Smith and his most devoted followers to write the history of the Mormon church from the time Smith first claimed to have seen the Angel Moroni to the time Brigham Young led the Latter Day Saints to Utah’
    Who else are you going to rely on?? ”

    Anyone who isn’t an imbecile isn’t going to rely on the writings of Joseph Smith in determining whether Smith saw the Angel Moroni. You gits who reject Vinny’s arguments have no grasp of what the import is.

  140. Marcel Kincaid 2013-05-28 at 12:53 pm

    “No Calvinist would say that if you’ve rejected the Mormon notion of deity, you’ve automatically got grounds for rejecting the Calvinist notion of the same. And no Mormon would claim that just because the Calvinist image of God has been rejected, the Mormon notion should be automatically rejected too.”

    Of course not … because they’re stupid and irrational. But atheists aren’t, and they apply the same reasoning to both.

    “The whole notion is nonsensical.”

    No, it’s quite “sensical”, which is why xtian gits resist and reject it.

  141. Marcel Kincaid 2013-05-28 at 12:56 pm

    “It puzzles me when former born again Christians come to be atheists. I am much the opposite, having been a skeptic for most of my life and then became a Christian in my middle age.”

    It’s never a surprise when stupid people are puzzled.

    “What clinches it for me is the indwelling of the spirit. Nothing explains that except the Bible. ”

    Uh, psychology explains it.

  142. Thanks to Marcel for providing yet another example of how atheism is largely founded on taunts and insults.

    Take away the juvenile insults, and you really aren’t left with anything in the thought system. Atheism has no real ideas to call its own, so it leads a parasitic existence of throwing around taunts and hoping no one will notice.

    As such, it is a perfect haven for people who would like to think of themselves as smart, but lack the capacity to really gain intelligence.

    Now watch as Marcel proves my point by trying to insult me.

    Try to make it entertaining this time at least Marcel. My classmates in 5th grade could have done a better job of taunting than your last three posts.

    Oh, and maroon – that Wall Street Journal article was just the author stating his unsupported opinion without any data or facts to back up his argument either. So I guess we’re back to square-one.

  143. maroonblazer 2013-05-29 at 9:44 am

    “Oh, and maroon – that Wall Street Journal article was just the author stating his unsupported opinion without any data or facts to back up his argument either. So I guess we’re back to square-one.”

    Seth R:
    Clearly you didn’t bother to read the article. Some quotes:
    – “These investigations show that, on average, about 15% of people in prestate eras died violently, compared to about 3% of the citizens of the earliest states.”
    – “Historical records show that between the late Middle Ages and the 20th century, European countries saw a 10- to 50-fold decline in their rates of homicide.”

    Also note the three independent studies supporting the infographic “The Waning of War”.

  144. What “investigations”? What “historical records?” And how do they show it?

    I was looking for all that and didn’t find it. Which means that the article is nothing more than a dressed-up version of the author’s own unsupported opinion.

    How about I use language like that in my comment above maroon.

    Would you be naive enough to take my word for it? But apparently you are when the source agrees with your own prejudices I suppose.

  145. There is no evidence whatsoever that doing away with religion or doing away with irreligion is going to have any positive or negative effect on society. Religious people have to explain away the inquisitions as well as violence in this modern world caused by…religion. Irreligious people need to explain away Pol Pot, Stalin, and Mao.

    I, on the other hand, win this argument hands down because there is no way to prove either way whether we would have less violence with or without religion but it can be demonstrated that ALL violence is ALWAYS linked to a power grab of some sort. End of discussion.

  146. maroonblazer 2013-05-29 at 9:43 pm

    “What “investigations”? What “historical records?” And how do they show it?”

    Either you’re not looking hard enough or you’re in denial of the evidence. Both graphics cite their sources:
    Manuel Eisner at Univ of Cambridge, in the first graphic and three separate studies in the second:

    The Human Security Report Project
    Uppsala Conflict Data Program
    Peace Research Institute

    As it says in the byline, the essay is excerpted from a book the author wrote, which contains all the references/citations.

  147. maroonblazer 2013-05-29 at 9:49 pm

    “Irreligious people need to explain away Pol Pot, Stalin, and Mao.”

    No they don’t. Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao were horrible not because they were fonts of reason but because they were so much *like* religions; cults of personality who embraced toxic dogmas that flew in the face of logic and evidence.

  148. maroonblazer said: “Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao were horrible not because they were fonts of reason but because they were so much *like* religions; cults of personality who embraced toxic dogmas that flew in the face of logic and evidence.”

    Exactly my point. They were power hungry monsters. Like all fanatical religious people out there. Now allow me to introduce you to the evil Martin Luther King Jr. He was a religious person and therefore a power hungry monster everything he taught flew in the face of human reasoning.

    Now meet Mohatmas Ghandi. Yet another religious fanatic who will one day burn in Hell for his wicked atrocities. So Christian he rejected Christianity and became a Hindu!

    And of course, all this is sarcasm.

  149. maroonblazer 2013-05-29 at 10:44 pm

    “Now allow me to introduce you to the evil Martin Luther King Jr. He was a religious person and therefore a power hungry monster everything he taught flew in the face of human reasoning.”

    Not all religions as equally harmful. Indeed some are innocuous. e.g. Hinduism, which MLK, despite his Christian heritage, leaned upon heavily to bring about equality for African Americans. In Hinduism, unlike the Abrahamic religions, there’s no notion of apostasy, heresy, blasphemy or other Iron Age nonsense. Consequently we’re not witnessing a spate of people blowing themselves up in crowded marketplaces, throwing acid in the faces of girls attempting to acquire an education, refusing to recognize marriage of same-sex couples or placing the interests of a clump of 100-200 cells over that of an 18 yr old in the name of Hinduism.

  150. Funny thing maroon, atheist socialists did all those same evil things, or things similar to them.

    But now we get the typical atheist protest – “oh, the atheistic regimes only did evil stuff because they were acting like RELIGIONS! See? That explains everything!”

    Nice try, but no dice.

    The only way you can call Pol Pot “religious” is if you redefine religion into basically “anything I don’t like.”

    And if you’re going to define religion that broadly, the word loses all meaning whatsoever.

    I might as well say that the Christians in the Crusades and the Inquisition only behaved poorly because they were acting like atheists.

    See maroon? Two can play at this stupid game.

  151. Oh, and I did miss the reference to the Eisner study since it was hidden on the image of an axe and hard to see. I’m curious how he derived his murder rates though. A quote from a paper that engages Eisner’s data somewhat:

    “Homicides estimates based on historical sources are subject to various limitations: An unknown number of cases may not have come to the attention of the authorities; the likelihood of dying from trauma changed over time as medical treatment improved; population estimates are often inaccurate; and often – particularly for periods before 1800 we only have estimates for limited geographic regions or cities, making generalisations to whole countries difficult.”

    How much of the decrease in death by homicide was simply due to better medical treatment?

    The graph about war is hopelessly inadequate. Because it only starts tracking since the 1940s.

    This is a favorite tactic of people who deny global warming. They pick a small portion of the global warming timeline where global temperatures have stayed stable or decreased locally, ignoring the fact that temperatures have been rising steadily for two centuries. You’d be able to see the rise in temperatures in the graph, if the graph scrolled back. But since the graph is zoomed in on only a small slice of the timeline, you can manipulate it to make it LOOK like temperatures are down.

    The same trick is being pulled with this war graph of yours. 1940 was World War II – a massive conflict primarily pushed by a pair of atheists who held religion in contempt. After that, we had the artificial peace of the Cold War. So trying to pinpoint a trend from the latter half of the 20th century alone is a hopeless business.

    Show me a timeline starting in the year 1200 and going to the present and I’ll take notice.

  152. maroonblazer 2013-05-29 at 11:16 pm

    “Funny thing maroon, atheist socialists did all those same evil things, or things similar to them.”

    Ah, but they didn’t do them in the name of reason and rational thought. They did them in the name of dogma. Dogma is the thread that runs through religions, authoritarianism, nationalism and their corresponding xenophobia.

    “See maroon? Two can play at this stupid game.”

    Your resorting to ad hominem is telling of your standing in this discussion.

  153. Dogma is not a religious concept. It is a human concept.

    The mere presence of dogma is not evidence of the presence of religion.

  154. maroonblazer 2013-05-29 at 11:25 pm

    “Show me a timeline starting in the year 1200 and going to the present and I’ll take notice.”

    Hang on a sec: *you* were the one who initially made the claim that the world has become MORE violent. Where are *your* independent sources (as imperfect as they might also be)?

  155. maroonblazer 2013-05-29 at 11:33 pm

    “Dogma is not a religious concept. It is a human concept.”

    Oh boy…

  156. Yes, I’m aware of where the WORD came from.

    I was talking about the concept itself.

  157. I would like to put in some input as a religious studies major here. Dogma (or discourse) is not something that is unique solely to religion. For instance, the Constitution can be looked on as the dogma or discourse of America. Even the NFL and the NHL have dogmas running them. What is unique to religion is a TRANSCENDENT discourse or dogma. That is, a dogma that transcends human rationale and makes claims of absolute truth.

  158. maroonblazer 2013-05-30 at 7:56 am

    “Dogma (or discourse) is not something that is unique solely to religion.”

    Completely agree. Also, not all religious dogmas are equally pernicious (e.g. Hinduism, Jainism, very liberal strands of Judaism and Christianity).

    The arc of history tells a story of religious dogmas pushed ever closer to the sidelines in favor of rational, evidence-based ways of looking at the world and *not* making claims of absolute truth.

  159. Who says religious dogmas are not rational?

  160. Seth R. said: “Who says religious dogmas are not rational?”

    Merriam Webster.
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rational

  161. Nice try, but no.

    Who says that definition doesn’t apply to religious ideas and concepts?

  162. Seth R.,

    Rational just means that it lacks material evidence to support it. Thus, it transcends and goes beyond what is commonly perceived as reality. Stating that religious beliefs are “irrational” doesn’t mean religious people are delusional. This would be an improper definition of the term.

  163. maroonblazer 2013-05-30 at 9:18 am

    “Stating that religious beliefs are “irrational” doesn’t mean religious people are delusional.”

    newenglandsun:
    Suppose I were to tell you that, as part of my morning ritual, when I break a cracker over my oatmeal I believe that doing so turns it into the body of Elvis.

    Would you consider me delusional?

  164. You could turn Elvis into a god for all I care. Rational? No. Irrational? Yes. Delusional? It depends. You might be considered a whack job because almost no one does that.

  165. Approaching atheism as a psychological problem rather than a theological problem just might be more effective….

    Check out
    The Question of God
    by Armand Nicholi (hope I got his name right)

    He teaches psychaitry at Harvard university.
    He points out similariites in developmental issues between Freud and C.S. Lewis (psychological reasons for their atheism) then he compares their statements. He concludes that C.S. Lewis was much healthier than Freud and points to conversion as the reason.
    Fascinating book!

  166. maroonblazer 2013-05-30 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for this Lora. I wonder whether comparing just two individuals is enough to make such a generalization. One could likely pick two others where the comparison would support the opposite conclusion.

    PBS has a version you can watch online:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/questionofgod/program/complete.html

  167. Lora,

    That seems a little bit like Freud’s take on psychology. There’s too few individuals. For some people, giving up on religion might make them more healthy. For instance, the street preachers that tell people they’re going to Hell. And wouldn’t it be nice if Fred Phelps became an anti-theist?

  168. It is a bit like Freud’s psychology–however, the author shows how Freud’s psychology (in some areas) reflects Freud’s own mental illness…..

    What if Nietzche’s claim that “God is dead and we have killed him” reflects Nietzche’s early childhood wish for death of his own father?

    I like how C.S. Lewis describes God as the Great Iconoclast, continually shattering his limited understanding of God…

    Author of The Question of God is one of the most objective writers I have ever read. He shows respect for faith of C.S. Lewis without bashing it in any way.

    By the way, the PBS special does not do the book justice.
    The Question of God is an excellent book.

  169. I don’t have time to look up the verse from Psalms–
    The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.

    I think Proverbs is clear concerning those who are wise will not waste their time arguing with a fool.

    If atheism is a psychological problem, then we are not qualified to “help” them.

    Humility and wisdom are necessary foundation for a peaceful life. 🙂

  170. From original post:
    While there is a philosophical barrier that does not allow us to equate belief in the Christian God to belief in the myriad of gods in polytheistic systems, this does not mean that the Christian God cannot be compared to the god of Islam. However, if Stephen F Roberts would have said, “When you understand why you dismiss Allah, you will understand why I dismiss Yahweh,” then it would be philosophically correct. The comparison would be in tact and the conversation would not be manipulated into this accept-all-or-nothing resolve. However, it still would not make sense. I do reject Allah and my reasons are very specific. But they are not the same reasons why he rejects Christ.

    My response:
    In the Middle East, Christians call Yahweh
    Allah because that is the Arabic word for God.

    Time for the “teacher of theology” to invest time in reading and learning (homework assignment)

    Great book I recently finished:
    When Religion Becomes Evil
    by Charles Kimball.

  171. Lora,

    Even still, to say that atheism is a psychological is a bit of a stress. Regardless of whether or not the author of that book is objective or not toward Lewis’s views does not mean he is objective at all. That could just mean he is biased in favor of Lewis.

    Again, you still did not answer my question in regard to Fred Phelps. I now would like to throw in Pat Robertson. Again, at the rate you are going at, theism could be considered a psychological illness depending on the people.

  172. Chad Dougless 2013-05-30 at 1:06 pm

    Newenglandsun,

    Do you really think that those individuals would be any healthier if they gave up religion? I think that those who spew hate will find a reason to spew hate regardless of whether they are “religious” or not. They will find a new religion (classism, racism, bigotry, intellectual snobbery, materialism, etc.). What often gets overlooked is that we are religious people, we seek to find a set of rules that can govern us in a way that elevates us. We want to find that which gives us the greatest satisfaction here, and in many cases it is simply a way to rule over others.

    Meanwhile you have Jesus who tells us and pleads with us to understand. He tells us how He designed the world to work and our role in it. He then tells us that if we do exactly 2 things in this world we will find true joy. These two things Matthew 22:37-39.

    I would encourage you and maroonblazer to really interact with those two statements.

  173. Chad Douglass,

    People have their ways of twisting religion around to suit their purposes. Yes, we are designed to follow rules but this does not mean we are all religious since rules don’t always come from religion.

  174. Chad Dougless 2013-05-30 at 2:58 pm

    You missed my point. It is not that the rules always stem from a religion, but rather that we will make rules into our religion. So, let’s say you are atheist. You believe that there is no god anywhere, yet you strictly and devoutly adhere to your new religion of evidentialism. Your views of evidentialism color your views of everything else. It becomes your functional god and you worship it because it provides you with the truth you seek. You have rules for how it works, what it speaks into, and why other people are wrong. This is a religion.

    And yes, you are quite right that people have their ways of twisting religion to suit their purposes, which is a common theme of Christians. But I would ask you to take one step further back and see the stem of all of these issues, and that stem is people. People are violent, people twist things for their benefit, people lie, etc. Religious or religion masking as irreligion does not matter. The common thread is that people are involved.

    This is why Christ is good news. He came and died for our sins, then rose so that we might have life. We can do and have done nothing to deserve any of this. We consistently do things to the contrary. So, if Christians have harassed and denigrated you, I am sorry that you had those interactions, but I would ask that you keep in mind that they are people as well. See the common problem.

  175. Chad Douglass,

    Evidentialism is not a religion. It is a philosophical worldview. It can be a subset with theism, atheism, or agnosticism. Just like not all atheists are materialists.

  176. maroonblazer 2013-05-30 at 8:51 pm

    “So, let’s say you are atheist. You believe that there is no god anywhere, yet you strictly and devoutly adhere to your new religion of evidentialism.”

    You’re making a category error by invoking religious terms to describe something that is absent of religion. I think what you’re trying to say is that atheists have simply embraced a different kind of dogma (one that believes in evidence, reasoned argument, substantiating claims with facts, etc).

    The big difference however is that atheists are willing to have their minds changed. If Jesus were to descend bodily from on high and present himself to me I would willingly re-embrace Christianity (I’m a former confirmed Catholic). Likewise Mohammed, Vishnu or Zeus.

    Correspondingly, what evidence would you need to change your beliefs about the existence of a personal god?

  177. maroonblazer,

    You don’t believe in Mohammad? Even non-Muslims like myself believe in Mohammad. Do you also not believe in Aristotle? I think you meant Allah.

    Any way, if it were me, I might state it was an hallucination but considering Christianity appears to be a package deal nowadays, I’d rather hope God ain’t real.

  178. maroonblazer 2013-05-30 at 9:46 pm

    “I think you meant Allah.”

    Thanks. Long day…

  179. No, you’re defining rational too narrowly. You’re defining it as whatever has been established with empirical evidence. But that’s not all that rational means. It can also encompass hypotheses or theories that have not been proven.

    Several old theories of physics have been disproven over the last 50 years. But that did not make those theories irrational.

    Maroon, if you’d bothered to read the rest of the thread, you’d know I already addressed the “tinkerbell” argument a while back. It’s one of the dumber atheist arguments out there and simply proves my point that when you take away ridicule and taunting as a tool, atheists really aren’t left with much of a compelling argument.

  180. For instance, Sir Isaac Newton was a passionate student of alchemy and pursued it for quite some time. It was a highly rational inquiry for him, as it was for most of the learned men of science of his day.

    It just happened to be wrong. But that didn’t make it irrational.

    Likewise, theology has been a highly rational field of inquiry for centuries. Which modern atheists would know if they’d bothered to read any of the great theologians seriously – which most of them haven’t.

  181. maroon, typically online – the atheists are the most strident, dogmatic, and impervious to argument people in the room.

    So you can drop the pious act of open-mindedness. You’re not fooling anyone outside your own echo chamber.

  182. maroonblazer 2013-05-30 at 11:15 pm

    “But that’s not all that rational means. It can also encompass hypotheses or theories that have not been proven.”

    But those unproven theories need to have a lot of good, objective, reasons as to why they might be true. It doesn’t mean you can make any claim you want and call it ‘rational’.

  183. Plenty of theology does have a lot of good reasons behind it.

    The Elvis comparison was trivial and not even remotely apt. Obviously Christianity means much more to world history than Elvis or Tinkerbell ever will.

  184. maroonblazer 2013-05-30 at 11:30 pm

    “For instance, Sir Isaac Newton was a passionate student of alchemy and pursued it for quite some time. It was a highly rational inquiry for him, as it was for most of the learned men of science of his day.
    It just happened to be wrong. But that didn’t make it irrational.”

    Yes it did. Newton, despite being one of the most brilliant men in history, nevertheless also happened to believe a lot of ridiculous things. In addition to alchemy we can add elixr of life, philosopher’s stone, temple of solomon and atlantis.

  185. OK maroon,

    Big Bang Theory.

    Rational or not?

  186. maroonblazer 2013-05-31 at 12:20 am

    “Big Bang Theory.
    Rational or not?”

    I’m not a cosmologist (are you?) so can’t speak with any authority on the topic, but from what I’ve read, very cursorily, it appears there’s considerable evidence for it, although it’s not without its problems. So yes, rational.

  187. maroonblazer 2013-05-31 at 7:51 am

    “The Elvis comparison was trivial and not even remotely apt. Obviously Christianity means much more to world history than Elvis or Tinkerbell ever will.”

    It’s possible for ideas to have impact on world history and also not be true. Women as second-class citizens had quite an impact on world history. Also slavery.

  188. But if we were to instantly teleport… say… 100 years into the future and find out that the Big Bang theory was actually comically wrong and completely off-base, then you would be willing to use similar expressions of contempt like you just did for Isaac Newton’s alchemy?

    It seems that your working definition of rationality is completely worthless.

    Because the only way to determine if something is rational or not is to basically know with full assurance that it is in fact true. But that is not the case for any human knowledge we have now. Any one of our modern scientific theories could be overturned in the future by human advance and better information.

    So the Big Bang is only rational as long as it appears to be true to you then?

    Well, alchemy appeared to be true to Isaac Newton as well. So either you have to concede that Newton’s alchemy was rational because he viewed it that way…

    Or you have to concede that possibly all of the ideas you hold are potentially irrational because they have not yet been completely proven.

    Which demonstrates the worthlessness of this atheist prattle about rationality fairly neatly. “Rationality” is nothing more than an atheist code word for “ideas I like.” And “irrationality” is nothing more than an atheist code word for “ideas I don’t like.”

  189. maroonblazer 2013-05-31 at 9:24 am

    “So the Big Bang is only rational as long as it appears to be true to you then?”

    No. It’s rationality is derived from the evidence supporting the claim.

    Read up on the Scientific Method and you’ll understand more fully. As Keynes said of Newton: “Newton was not the first of the age of reason, he was the last of the magicians”

  190. Chad Dougless 2013-05-31 at 9:51 am

    @179

    Maroon,

    In the sentence you quoted there is no category error. Did you mean in a different part of my post? Devout can simply mean to be “Totally committed to a cause or belief”. Religion meanwhile can simply mean “Details of belief as taught or discussed”. No category error is made as those are the definitions of the words.

    Now certainly you did not seriously entertain the notion that atheists have enlightened themselves to the point where they are the only ones who “believes in evidence, reasoned argument, substantiating claims with facts, etc.” That would seem extremely arrogant and misplaced in a reasoned argument.

    I also enjoy the always fun, well if God would bow to my whims and do what I want Him to do, then I would believe. No you wouldn’t, because you would rationalize and say that you manipulated this being into appearing before you and this being can therefor not be all powerful if subjected to your power. So, this must not have been God. But let’s assume you are even remotely honest with yourself, you are familiar with the Pharisees. These were men waiting for the Messiah and did not believe it when he showed up in their faces. Do not assume that you are any more able to believe when presented with the work of Christ than those who witnessed it first hand.

    At what age were you confirmed? Stating that you were a confirmed Catholic is ultimately meaningless without a frame of reference. I was confirmed Catholic, but only because my mom made me do it. I had nothing to do with church for years. But God.

    newenglandsun,

    I think whether we refer to the “dogma” that Maroon is referring to as evidentialism or something else, I believe we know what I am referencing. I am curious what you meant with this statement though, “Any way, if it were me, I might state it was an hallucination but considering Christianity appears to be a package deal nowadays, I’d rather hope God ain’t real.”

  191. Scientific method– a hypothesis must be tested and one must obtain the same results each time before it can become a theory.

    The Big Bang Theory has not been tested–it cannot be tested…therefore it cannot be called a Theory.

  192. Chad Douglass,

    With Christianity, not only do you have to accept the existence of God and Jesus as Messiah but everything that comes along with it as well. Constant “looking for demons and Satan on the prowl”, constant “atheists are evil”, constant “help the gays and bisexuals become heterosexuals”, etc.

    Lora,

    The Big Bang Theory (BBT) states: “the Universe expanded from an extremely dense and hot state and continues to expand today” (wikipedia). That the universe is expanding can be observed. What came before it, we don’t know. But this can be hypothesized rationally using the laws of physics without having to appeal to a deity. We know that the universe is expanding now. Fast forward back in time and there was some point in which it wasn’t.

  193. Chad Dougless 2013-05-31 at 11:58 am

    newenglandsun,

    Let me correct a couple of notions that you have here. The constant “looking for demons and Satan on the prowl” does not mean that you are literally assuming demons all over the place causing things to happen. “Oh no my car broke down, must be the evil car demon.” That is nonsense. But there are real spiritual forces that work in opposition to the Holy Spirit’s transformation of your heart. Christians are called to resist the temptation of the devil. So if you mean, look at your heart and see if it is in line with Christ’s, then yes, you are called to do that.

    The constant “atheists are evil” is a complete misnomer. If we want to define evil as opposed to God, then everyone is evil to some extent or another. One man lived a sinless life in complete obedience to God, Jesus Christ. So, if you want to state it simply, the constant “everyone is evil…but deserving as image bearers of God of mercy, compassion, and love, so strive to be that for them” is difficult, but rewarding.

    The “help the gays and bisexuals become heterosexuals” is an odd statement. I didn’t get any incantations, elixirs, pills, or “turn people straight” healing powers…nor do I know anyone else that did. I think this would be better stated as “help everyone realize that we do not measure up to God’s standards, but that through Christ there is a way to pursue these standards that maximizes joy in life.” But if we want to be blunt, why limit it to just the things that you characterize as emotionally invalid. We could state this as a litany of things: help adulterers to be faithful; help gluttons to enjoy food and not worship it; help sexually promiscuous be chaste; help bigots to see the glory of God in His image bearers; etc.

    Don’t let Christians who wouldn’t know grace, mercy, or compassion if it bit them in the butt color your view of the work Christ did on the cross. His death covered all our sins.

  194. Chad Douglass,

    These things were kind of what I was talking about. The problem with the gay thing though is that the APA warns people to stay away from those claiming that they can clear off these homosexual desires.

    The thing with the demons was exactly my point. Resist temptation to fail to tell the gays to be more heterosexual. Again, homosexuality and bisexuality should not be associated with adultery or sexual promiscuity.

    And of course, those evil atheists who are encouraging us to be enemies of god by standing up for feminism and LGBT rights. Curse those atheists.

  195. Oh and Chad, I want you to know that I’ve been to one of those “ex-gay” meetings. For Love Won Out. There’s a lot of loving people there. But they’re all misguided. The “cures” they present all deal with constant prayer as well as helping people to conform to stereotypical gender roles. That does not help people become less gay as evidenced by Alan Chambers of Exodus International and John Paulk of Love Won Out.

  196. maroonblazer 2013-05-31 at 8:04 pm

    “Religion meanwhile can simply mean “Details of belief as taught or discussed”.”

    Not without redefining “religion”. Here’s an accepted definition (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion):
    “A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”

    I possess no set of beliefs regarding the creation of a “superhuman agency”, thus I have no religion.

    “I also enjoy the always fun, well if God would bow to my whims and do what I want Him to do, then I would believe. No you wouldn’t,…”

    Yes, I would. I don’t know how I can state it more clearly.

    “At what age were you confirmed?”
    I was 14 and I firmly believed that Jesus was born of a virgin, died for my sins and ascended into heaven to join his “father”. As I grew older it became more and more difficult to square those claims with the evidence, largely because there was not good evidence.

  197. “No. It’s rationality is derived from the evidence supporting the claim. ”

    I got news for you shortstop.

    Alchemy was derived from evidence supporting a claim. It just happened to be wrong in light of further evidence that was developed. But the men who studied it were some of the most brilliant minds of the day. They employed the scientific method to the discipline, conducted empirical experiments, and made conclusions based on meticulously observed data.

    One of the defining features of modern atheism is it’s appalling ability to underestimate the intellect and discipline of scholarship in the past, and comically overestimate the ability of modern science to present us with unchanging truth.

    It’s entirely possible maroon, that in 200 years from now, some short-sided atheist bigot will be sneering about those “magicians” who came up with nonsensical and disproven ideas like “the Big Bang” and so forth. They’ll consider people like YOU just as mystical as you have the arrogance to consider Newton.

    Oh, yes, you know so much better than Newton, don’t you maroon? Unlike him, you’re an enlightened rationalist.

    The stupidity of modern atheism is only outstripped by its pig-headed arrogance.

  198. To argue the quote in question by claiming the Christian belief system has higher “demands” in order to believe and that the Christian god is different to other gods based on attributes is flawed.

    How is this argument not circular reasoning?
    Our god is different to other gods because of the attributes the believers have ascribed said god. Therefore our type of god can not be compared to past gods and Stephen Robert’s quote is flawed.

    Our religion is different to other religions because the practitioners of said religion have made the system more rigid. Therefore our religion can not be compared to past religions and Stephen Robert’s quote is flawed.

    This is an extremely arrogant line of reasoning. Especially how you have seemingly dismissed thousands of religions and gods as irrelevant compared to yours.

    It doesn’t matter how much different(superior) you believe your god is or how much different(superior) you believe your religion is.
    The analogy here is you claim a supernatural position which you have no evidence to support, just like all other religions and gods before you have done.

  199. maroonblazer 2013-06-01 at 10:47 am

    “Alchemy was derived from evidence supporting a claim.”

    You might want to read up on the history of alchemy before replying, lest you make yourself look even more foolish.

    The reason alchemy withered was due directly to the rise of modern science.

  200. That’s true of every scientific theory that has been disproven maroon. They were all displaced by the rise of more modern science.

    Just like how a lot of the rational scientific ideas of our era will be displaced by what people 200 years from now will call “modern science.”

    You seem to have this almost magical faith in the infallibility of the scientific theories and paradigms we have today. Hardly uncommon among atheists, I’ve found.

  201. And I suppose by “read up on the history of alchemy” I suppose you meant I ought to spend ten minutes reading the Wikipedia entry like you did just now?

  202. And I by “read up on the history of alchemy” I suppose you meant I ought to spend ten minutes reading the Wikipedia entry like you did just now?

  203. maroonblazer 2013-06-01 at 10:57 am

    “That’s true of every scientific theory that has been disproven maroon. They were all displaced by the rise of more modern science.”

    Sorry, I mean specifically the Scientific Method.

  204. Seth,
    The magical faith in science is not of the theories, but of the process to get there. As you alluded to, the scientific method, the peer review, the critical and skeptical nature of science in general is what is important.

    You are right, there are many brilliant scholars who study religion, manuscripts, ancient texts, etc…But none of them, not one, use a scientific approach. None of them, not one, publish their findings in scientific journals for critique.

    The arrogance lies at the feet of religious scholars who somehow believe they can never be wrong.

  205. Yes, the scientific method.

    Which was used heavily in the study of alchemy. And has been used since in the pursuit of hundreds of theories that later turned out to be false.

    They ought to teach a class in high school of failed scientific theories, to prevent the sort of short-sightedness you’ve been exhibiting in this discussion.

  206. maroonblazer 2013-06-01 at 11:27 am

    “Yes, the scientific method.
    Which was used heavily in the study of alchemy.”

    Wrong (again). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alchemy#The_decline_of_Western_alchemy

  207. We learn more from our failures than our successes.
    Constantly learning is human nature.

    What is understood today is based on today’s knowledge. Not to be humble enough and flexible to redefine understanding based on new evidence is folly.

    You have forgotten to mention all the scientific breakthroughs that have occurred by virtues of the scientific method.

    Do you have a better method?

  208. If you just read the first paragraph from the segment you linked to, you might get the impression that there wasn’t any experimental rigor in alchemy, but the rest of the passage makes it clear there wasn’t a strict dividing line. Alchemists performed experiments and took down results. The fact that they were relying on ancient lore to some extent should not be taken as a blanket-declaration that there was no scientific method used in it.

    But thanks for confirming that it was indeed Wikipedia summaries you were getting your opinion from. Christopher Hitchens would be proud, no doubt.

  209. maroonblazer 2013-06-01 at 4:14 pm

    “The fact that they were relying on ancient lore to some extent should not be taken as a blanket-declaration that there was no scientific method used in it.”

    Sigh…looks like I need to direct you to yet another definition. This one for “Scientific Method”:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method

    Alchemists weren’t following the Scientific Method. Were they doing *some* science? Sure, but *some* science no longer cuts it. It’s very unlikely one will get reviewed, much less published, by/in a peer-reviewed scientific journal unless one follows the Scientific Method in its entirety.

    “But thanks for confirming that it was indeed Wikipedia summaries you were getting your opinion from.”

    There are several books I could have pointed you to for the same information but given we’re having this conversation on the Web Wikipedia is much more convenient (and free!). Do you have something against Wikipedia?

    I don’t follow the “Hitchens” remark…? Did he have some connection to Wikipedia, beyond just an entry?

  210. Json, name me a religious scholar of note who has demonstrated he thinks he can never be wrong.

    And you don’t really seem to understand what I’m saying. I’m not saying science isn’t nice and useful and all that. I’m just saying that when you turn it into a religion – and assert that modern science’s conclusions must be correct – as opposed to the scientific conclusions of previous generations – then you’ve left the path of objective inquiry and entered the realms of zealotry. Something you see an awful lot of over on Dawkins.net.

    maroon, Hitchens openly admitted that he wrote most of his famous book based on “online research” and Wikipedia entries.

    I imagine he was too stupid to even be embarrassed by the admission. He probably thought it was a selling point.

  211. And yes – Wikipedia is a terrible source of information for any topic that has the potential to be ideologically manipulated. The user-generated review and editing process has resulted in a lot of articles that are biased, misleading, and outright false.

    It’s fine for researching trivia about summaries of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, and what the county seat of Bent County Colorado is, and so forth. But you’d be extremely foolish to rely on it for controversial historical topics.

    Like the role of religion and science, for instance.

  212. maroonblazer 2013-06-02 at 9:35 am

    “It’s fine for researching trivia about summaries of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, and what the county seat of Bent County Colorado is, and so forth. But you’d be extremely foolish to rely on it for controversial historical topics.
    Like the role of religion and science, for instance.”

    That you consider the history of science to be controversial is revealing. Had I known you were a Creationist I wouldn’t have wasted my time. Likewise your ignorance of the workings of Wikipedia.

  213. Actually, I think creationism is stupid – and at odds with the actual message of the Bible.

    I don’t believe the earth was created in six 24 hour time periods, or that human civilization is under 20 thousand years old, or that dinosaur bones came from another planet, or that Mt. Everest was covered with water during Noah’s flood, etc. etc.

    Although, it’s a pretty typical Dawkins.net trick to try and divert the discussion with accusations of fundamentalism whenever the debate doesn’t go your way.

    Just like how the New Atheists are always desperate to redefine religion as only the most narrow-minded fundamentalist subset possible.

    Perhaps it’s because they feel more secure talking to people who think the same way they do…

  214. I think he misinterpreted your statement in regard to the role of religion and science.

    And here’s the wikipedia entry on the relationship of science and religion.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relationship_between_religion_and_science

    It is anything but biased.

    And to set the record straight on alchemy.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/01/science/01alch.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  215. Thank you for article. The author is a bit more a demagogue than I’d like in an unbiased article, but I think it makes the point I was trying to convey well enough. Alchemy involved and used empirical science and was a forerunner to the modern versions. Yes, they were wrong, but that didn’t make what they were doing irrational. I think the article highlights at least that much fairly well.

    Oh, on Wikipedia:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2131458/Up-articles-Wikipedia-contain-factual-errors.html

    And for a wonderful example of the Wikipedia editor process completely breaking down into hopelessly biased and un-objective spitting matches, see this article about how Mormonism has been treated by Wikipedia:

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700105517/Wiki-Wars-In-battle-to-define-beliefs-Mormons-and-foes-wage-battle-on-Wikipedia.html?pg=all

    Especially pay attention to the stuff about the editor “John Foxe.”

    The bias isn’t really in the individual data points, but rather in how those data points are spun by the controlling editors to present a positive or negative picture.

    For example, an article about a racist Bible doctrine I looked up a few years ago, devoted pages of content to Mormonism’s racist past. But it devoted no more than one freaking paragraph to Protestantism.

    Just so happened that I had come fresh off studying Protestant racism in the United States and knew for a fact that the doctrine in question was heavily used by racist southern Protestants. What was going on?

    I’ll tell you what was going on.

    The editors had deliberately left out and blocked all content about Protestant racism while allowing reams of content about the Mormons. It was an attempt by an obviously pro-Protestant editor to turn Mormons into the whipping boy for American religious racism while hiding the ugly truth about white American Evangelicalism.

    Unbiased my butt guys.

  216. maroonblazer 2013-06-03 at 11:20 pm

    “…I think it makes the point I was trying to convey well enough. Alchemy involved and used empirical science and was a forerunner to the modern versions. Yes, they were wrong, but that didn’t make what they were doing irrational.”

    It doesn’t?? Let me refresh your memory:

    “Even though they were secretive and self-deluded and their practices closer to magic than modern scientific methods…”

    “Yet on the whole, historians say, the widespread practice of alchemy impeded the rise of modern chemistry.”

    “Other alchemists were outright charlatans or fools…”

    “Newton’s alchemical bent was not out of character, Dr. Smith of Columbia said. ‘He was drawn to the occult,’ she said. ‘Gravity for him was an occult force, and so was alchemy as an explanation of how things transform into other things.'”

    “They also remarked, somewhat conspiratorially, over parallels between the misguided certainties and self-delusion of alchemy and today’s political and religious attacks on modern science.”

  217. Yeah, the author sounded, frankly, too pissed off and irrational during those little rants to be taken seriously. I simply read between the lines to the grudging admissions they were forced to make.

  218. The fact that you can take angry, volatile language like that as even remotely objective and credible does not speak well to your ability to process historical data in a responsible manner.

  219. Seth R.,

    It is exactly like today’s modern religious scholars. Sure they look for evidences and go through trial and error experimentation. This does give a huge influence to the scientific method. Rational? No.

  220. What is irrational about it? You look for evidence and go through trial and error.

    Gee… sounds raving irrational to me [sarcasm].

  221. Chad Dougless 2013-06-04 at 11:06 am

    Sorry I have been absent for a few days. The weekend is usually tough for me to get on and then my wife and I have been walking through a miscarriage since Sunday. So, some of my responses may jump around a bit as I have no desire to bicker about alchemy.

    Maroon,
    Your accepted definition denotes “especially” when talking about superhuman agency. As in, this is a particular example that is the largest case. The best part is that there is a comma separating clauses. So, you can take the first clause “A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe” as the primary definition, then separate out the case as a particular example of when this is true, then go on to the final part with the and to give you (often) a moral code which I am sure you have. Further, I did not create the definition I sent you, I merely typed into Google “religion definition” to ensure I was using it correctly. You can try it and see it as definition number 2.

    So, yes, you do have a religion, and one that you dogmatically defend with all the zeal of those of us who admit that we do.

    I guess your comments about believing in Jesus would be best framed as, saving faith in Jesus. You would not have any more belief in Jesus than the demons quoted in James 2:19. I assume that you believe that Jesus was in fact a real person, but I don’t want to go too far down that trail until you clear that up.

    As far as your confirmation at 14, that does not mean a great deal. You were 14, how many other things did you “firmly believe” that changed? I don’t think firmly is the correct adjective. Also, what evidence were you wanting? A video? Do you hold all antiquity documents to the same standards of authorial proof and accuracy? What constitutes “good evidence” in your mind? Where do you draw the line on historical events being actual? How much evidence do you need? Does it matter the source of the evidence, or frequency, or purpose?

  222. Chad Dougless 2013-06-04 at 11:11 am

    Newenglandsun,

    I know very little about the events and people you referenced, so I cannot say anything about those “missions”. I fully believe that the Spirit brings transformation, not us. You can walk with someone through their sin and point to Christ’s atoning work, but until the Spirit works on that part of their life no change will be made.

    I would however like to discuss your comment about not clumping homosexuality and bisexuality with adultery and promiscuity. Why do you think that they should not be clumped together? That question is not meant to be offensive or insulting, just pleading for information before we continue our discussion.

  223. Chad Douglass,

    You asked:
    “Why do you think that they should not be clumped together?”

    Specifically because I know LGBT people and am bisexual myself. Heterosexuality is not clumped together with sexual promiscuity either. I am a virgin. I just happen to find men and women both attractive.

  224. In addition, the gay people I know are no where near sexually promiscuous.

  225. Chad Dougless 2013-06-04 at 7:06 pm

    newenglandsun,

    The common thing here is that these are all sexual behaviors. To what do you appeal to that determines which ones qualify as acceptable positive behaviors and which ones qualify as unacceptable negative behaviors? Also, we could each use anecdotes to discuss this, but to what do we appeal for ultimate authority?

    I appeal to Scripture as the revealed will of God. I fully believe that 2 Timothy 3:16 is true. I believe sexuality is clearly governed by the revealed will of God in the Bible.

  226. Chad Douglass,

    Here’s where the disagreement lies – homosexuality, bisexuality, and heterosexuality are not behaviors, they are attractions. I appeal to common sense and the forces of self-control to tell whether something is wrong or not. For instance, it’s wrong to get too drunk because it can harm you. It’s wrong to have too much soda in one day because it can harm you. It’s wrong to score on as many girls and/or guys all day because that could lead to STD’s.

    So when I look at homosexuality and bisexuality and whether or not to have sex with another of the same gender, I measure the situation and make the decision. Do I like the guy? Are we friends? Is he gay or bi? Etc. Sex is really an act of bonding.

    Now, one major problem that I have when it comes to the gays vs. Christians debate is the issue of celibacy. You guys seem to indulge in trying to break up supportive gay couples it comes out to me at times. What if the two gays in a relationship proclaimed chastity and stopped having sex with each other? Would the gay love relationship become okay?

    Okay, really two problems. Why disallow a gay couple the right to act on their desires as heterosexual couples get? If you want to appeal to scripture, we can discuss that too.

  227. I love how the gay marriage debate manages to hijack every religion discussion on the Internet.

    Can we get back remotely on topic?

  228. maroonblazer 2013-06-04 at 10:20 pm

    “So, yes, you do have a religion…”

    I guess you can sort of, kind of, get there, if you squint your eyes and cock your head to the side just a bit. But not really.

    When someone asks “Do you belong to any religion?” they ask because most people understand it to be a “yes” or “no” question. By your definition there is only one answer, in which case the question is rendered meaningless. Rather, I think most people will agree that the term specifically takes a supernatural/devotional stance.

    “I guess your comments about believing in Jesus would be best framed as, saving faith in Jesus. You would not have any more belief in Jesus than the demons quoted in…”

    Based on what exactly are you able to determine the character of my faith?

    I take it as given that Jesus existed, yes. I *used* to believe he was born of a virgin, right-hand-of-the-father, etc.

    “What constitutes “good evidence” in your mind?”
    I’ve just written a 21 word song lyric on a piece of paper. If you were to tell me that you asked god what I’d written, he told you, and you replied back here with the exact sentence, word-for-word, I would believe, and you would find me re-enlisting at the nearest parish tomorrow morning. I’ll give you a hint: the first word starts with a vowel.

  229. “I’ve just written a 21 word song lyric on a piece of paper. If you were to tell me that you asked god what I’d written, he told you, and you replied back here with the exact sentence, word-for-word, I would believe, and you would find me re-enlisting at the nearest parish tomorrow morning.”

    No you wouldn’t.

    Just proving God exists doesn’t really count for much. So you’ve proved him. So what?

    That doesn’t mean you admire him or want a relationship with him.

    What if we proved the existence of God and he turned out to be a complete jerk – like “Q” in Star Trek or something? Would you worship him then?

    This is something the atheists simply don’t get. It isn’t about proving God’s existence. That’s worthless, more or less. The point of Christianity is to have a good RELATIONSHIP with God. Even Satan himself can pull off the lame status of “I acknowledge the existence of God.”

    But I’ve found over the years, if there’s one thing atheists are exceptionally good at – it’s settling for less.

    So enjoy your pointless quest for intellectual assent maroon.

    What enjoyment can be had of it anyway….

  230. maroonblazer 2013-06-04 at 11:33 pm

    “No you wouldn’t.”

    I would. I don’t know how to state it more clearly. And I would most certainly want a relationship with him and I would most definitely worship him and devote my life to him.

  231. maroonblazer 2013-06-04 at 11:51 pm

    Because he is the Creator and through him I would find eternal salvation.

  232. So what if he’s the creator?

    What if he’s a monster?

    I wouldn’t follow someone like that, no matter what goody-bags he was offering.

  233. maroonblazer 2013-06-05 at 12:12 am

    How do know you’re not following a monster?

  234. Obviously you see where this is going and are trying to change the subject to avoid looking foolish.

  235. Anyway – YOU don’t know whether he is a monster or not.

    So why are you so willing to declare that you’d follow him if he exists?

  236. maroonblazer 2013-06-05 at 12:42 am

    “Obviously you see where this is going and are trying to change the subject to avoid looking foolish.”

    To paraphrase The Bard: The gentlemen doth protest too much, methinks. 🙂

  237. You going to answer the question or not?

  238. maroonblazer 2013-06-05 at 12:52 am

    “You going to answer the question or not?”

    You haven’t yet answered my question. Or are you trying to avoid looking foolish? 🙂

  239. I asked mine first. So it’s still your turn.

    What if God was a monster – would you still follow him?

  240. maroonblazer 2013-06-05 at 1:13 am

    Your question was rhetorical. Re-read your post.

    How do know you’re not following a monster?

  241. This is actually a pretty typical ploy I encounter with some of the dumber atheists online.

    They encounter a question they don’t want to answer. So they fire off a question of their own. Then when you ask them to answer the first question, they make noise about how you haven’t answered THEIR question.

    It’s basically a method for covering up that they don’t want to answer the question.

    (the irony is that I actually answered his question already – but he hasn’t been reading carefully enough to notice apparently)

  242. maroonblazer 2013-06-05 at 1:56 am

    You like to make lots of pejorative generalizations about your interlocutors when you find yourself in a corner. Curious that.

    Why so afraid to answer the question? And why is it so important who answers first?

    Please point me to the answer you apparently already gave. I confess I’m not as smart as you.

  243. Your question actually isn’t that upsetting. I’m fine answering it later. I’m just not interested in treating it right now because I’m pretty sure you’re just using it to slip out of the argument we’ve been having so far so that you can get back onto more comfortable ground of atheist gripes about the “ugly god of the Bible” and other tired and worn patterns you are used to.

    All the while leaving unanswered the rather crucial point of why you are willing to worship a being if he turns out to be a monster. Why would you want to do that?

    I wouldn’t.

  244. maroonblazer 2013-06-05 at 9:11 am

    “All the while leaving unanswered the rather crucial point of why you are willing to worship a being if he turns out to be a monster.”

    I wouldn’t be willing to.

    Your turn: How do you know you’re not following a monster?

  245. OK, if we could prove God’s existence to you, and he did turn out to be a monster, you would not be immediately heading to your nearest church to bend your knee, right?

    That’s an important correction on what you said earlier. And it does demonstrate that merely proving the existence of God is not the only problem here – you have to also demonstrate that God is worth allegiance.

    Now for your question – do I know God is not a monster?

    No, I don’t. I believe he is not. I don’t know he is not. And I mentioned earlier that there wasn’t proof of the sort you are requesting available to demonstrate that he is not.

  246. maroonblazer 2013-06-05 at 10:09 pm

    “No, I don’t. I believe he is not. I don’t know he is not.”

    So clearly you believe it’s more probable that he’s not a monster, otherwise you wouldn’t follow him.

  247. Seth, seth, seth

    “I’m just saying that when you turn it into a religion – and assert that modern science’s conclusions must be correct – as opposed to the scientific conclusions of previous generations – then you’ve left the path of objective inquiry and entered the realms of zealotry.”

    I don’t know if you are being deliberately obtuse or sarcastic here.
    According to your logic, we should still believe the sun revolves around the Earth because any other conclusion derived from new evidence is merely “zealotry”?

    Modern science’s conclusions are correct because there is evidence to support such a conclusion.
    Why would one hold dear to conclusions that newly discovered evidence proves false?

    You are really letting your religious colors show here.

  248. I wasn’t advocating believing things there is good evidence against believing (and no – God doesn’t fall into that category).

    I was simply stating that science is always changing in its conclusions. When you become dogmatic about modern scientific conclusions and assume that your modern science tells you everything you need to know – then you’re basically a zealot.

    Responsible scientists are constantly talking about how much we don’t know, and how much modern science cannot know about the world right now.

    It’s only atheist zealots yammering on about how science has closed the book on possibilities or how science has ruled out the religious experience (when it clearly hasn’t).

  249. maroonblazer 2013-06-08 at 10:30 am

    “It’s only atheist zealots yammering on about how science has closed the book on possibilities or how science has ruled out the religious experience (when it clearly hasn’t).”

    Please provide specific references to the above that have been made by Dawkins, Dennett, Harris or Hitchens.

  250. I see no reason to limit it to them. Besides Dawkins usually tries to add a slimy little disclaimer about how “of course we haven’t ruled out God” but then goes on to make statements that he’s pretty much as certain of God’s non-existence as he is about anything in life. It’s a two-faced routine you hear all the time in atheist screech-forums. I encounter it regularly.

    Oh, an article of interest on how atheists interface with science:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23667-atheists-turn-to-science-during-times-of-stress.html

    Sure looks like a replacement for religion to me.

  251. maroonblazer 2013-06-08 at 1:54 pm

    “I see no reason to limit it to them. ”

    Not limiting, they’re just the most vocal and publicly accessible. If there’s evidence of what you claim then they should be the easiest to point to. The fact that you haven’t illuminates the emptiness of your claim.

    “Sure looks like a replacement for religion to me.”

    I see what you’re doing. So if I were to say I don’t have a subscription to cable TV you would reply: “You’re merely subscribing to a different *kind* of cable TV”

  252. Trying to use the “atheism is merely absence of belief” argument maroon?

  253. “I wasn’t advocating believing things there is good evidence against believing (and no – God doesn’t fall into that category).”

    One does not “believe” in something because there is lack of evidence against it.
    Nowhere in our everyday life is such logic applied. It is only religion that gets a pass.

    People are zealous about the scientific PROCESS, not the conclusions. Please understand the difference. The process of finding the answer is the rub between science and religion.

    And the process of learning demands that previous understandings and notions must be reevaluated. To imply that somehow this very natural process is flawed is completely ignoring any experiences you’ve had with gaining knowledge
    (e.g., hopefully when you went through the very scientific process of determining if water is hot or not, you did not continue to burn yourself. That is: taking a hypothesis about the water temperature, observing and gathering evidence about the water temp via touch (that is testable), and reevaluating your conclusions as the evidence changed)

    “Responsible scientists are constantly talking about how much we don’t know, and how much modern science cannot know about the world right now.”

    And how, exactly, does that lead one to religion? A natural flow would lead one to try harder in science, not give up and accept religion because is answers everything with “god made it”.

  254. Actually “this sort of logic” is applied pretty much everywhere in normal life.

    Scientific discipline is one of the rare areas where it is not. Everywhere else, people pretty much act on personal experience and intuition for the VAST majority of their day-to-day decisions and interactions.

  255. Interesting argument about functional entities and not Gods.

    Okay, why then do you not believe in the God who created the Universe as per Hindu belief – Lord Bramha? Not only that, Hinduism says this is not the only Universe. There have been many Universes before and will be after.

    The “Holy Trinity in Hinduism” – Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva the destroyer or transformer. Vishnu (the maintainer, NOT Brahma the Creator) is the all-pervading essence of all beings, the master of — and beyond — the past, present and future, the creator and destroyer of all existences, one who supports, preserves, sustains and governs the universe and originates and develops all elements within.

    The Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda has this to say — and is proof of agnostic view of Creation in Hinduism (look for Nasadiya Sukta online) since about 1500 BC:


    Then even nothingness was not, nor existence,
    There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.
    What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping
    Was there then cosmic water, in depths unfathomed?

    Then there was neither death nor immortality
    nor was there then the torch of night and day.
    The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.
    There was that One then, and there was no other.

    In the beginning desire descended on it –
    that was the primal seed, born of the mind.
    The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom
    know that which is is kin to that which is not.

    But, after all, who knows, and who can say
    Whence it all came, and how creation happened?
    the Gods themselves are later than creation,
    so who knows truly whence it has arisen?

    Whence all creation had its origin,
    He, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
    He, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
    He knows – or maybe even He does not know.

    By this logic, even the Holy Trinity is not beyond Him.. and who is He?

    And what would you believe in if you were born in India? 🙂

  256. I don’t necessarily have to have faith to sit down in a chair and hope that it doesn’t break, i just HOPE it doesn’t break. i have no faith that it won’t because i consider the possibility that it might break but i weigh in the fact that because it isn’t slouched or old looking that it more than likely won’t break, in addition i’m probably choosing to sit down because i’m at a restaurant and i would like to sit down.

  257. Bertram Wheatley 2013-10-25 at 6:18 am

    2013 and this is still a valid conversation? If the bible is the best anyone can come up with as an argument (let alone proof) for a god, then I fail to see why anyone would consider it. There are seven books about Harry Potter, should I start a religion? It appears to me that there are way too many arguments based on the definitions of words, so until we all agree on the definitions, what chance is there of an intelligent discussion on the subject? I believe in nothing: it’s the most abundant thing in the universe!

  258. A conversation you obviously didn’t read Bertram – since I already addressed the comparison to make-believe things waaaay up in the discussion.

  259. You missed the point of the quote…I do not reject your god for the same reason you reject the others, I reject yours because you reject all the others, and all the others reject each other without reason. You do not reject with reason, I do, that is why I reject yours, for a good reason, not the same stupid reason all religions use to reject eachother…get it? I know it’s a little deep and intellectual, but when you understand why any and every religion requires you to reject all other religions, you’ll understand my completely different reason for rejecting religion in general, and you’ll probably do likewise. It’s a subtle jab, and a left handed argument.

  260. Having read through the majority of these posts, with their pseudo academic pomposity and literary masturbation, one cannot help but observe the over complication of what is a simple observation – the modern day theist has one god , not many, and has disregarded all other gods. The atheist is merely making the point that there is no “supernatural being” -all candidates have been dismissed in their mind. That being quoted is a statement, not in fact an argument as positioned in the post. Indeed it is a position that cannot really be argued with, as the individual is not inviting discussion, rather is stating a belief…and that is something the religious amongst are surely familiar with, particularly when rooting for your own tribal agendas in the complexities of Judaeoislamic theologies…

  261. “pseudo academic pomposity”

    Which is basically code for “you’re making my simple head hurt with all your educated arguments and big words and logical conclusions – whimper.”

    But aside from that, I really don’t know why atheists are so stinking proud of having a self-described non-position.

    As if that was some sort of achievement rather than a sign of being intellectually gutless.

  262. watermark0n 2014-09-22 at 9:35 pm

    “Did these people really suddenly believe Caeser was a god?”

    Caesar never deified himself. An emperor declaring themselves a God before death was usually considered a crazy act even in Roman times, and most of the ones who did so (Caligula) were considered tyrants.

  263. watermark0n 2014-09-22 at 9:37 pm

    “While most systems had a “top dog,” if you will (Zeus, Re, Enlil, Marduk, etc), these were not thought of as the ultimate creators of all things who, out of necessity, transcend space and time. They were simply really, really powerful beings that happened to be caught up in the same world we are. More powerful than us mortals? Yes. But none qualify for the title “God.””

    Fun fact, the word “Deus”, which is the word for God in most Romantic languages, and in Greek, was in fact etymologically derived from “Zeus”. So, yeah, Zeus isn’t a God in a really sense, he was just the etymological root of God.

  264. watermark0n 2014-09-22 at 9:39 pm

    “We believe that God created all things out of nothing. We believe that existence necessitates a “first cause” or an “unmoved mover.” This first cause is by definition God. Simply put, whoever started it all (the time, space, matter creation) is the only true God. There cannot be multiple first causers. God, while able to interact and love mankind, must transcend all that we see and know.”

    You do realize that the person who created the argument you’re using, Plato, was a pagan polytheist, don’t you? Somewhat absurd to use the argument against polytheism when the person who created the argument itself was a polytheist.

  265. watermark0n 2014-09-22 at 9:45 pm

    ” However, if Stephen F Roberts would have said, “When you understand why you dismiss Allah, you will understand why I dismiss Yahweh,” then it would be philosophically correct. ”

    “Allah” is just the Arabic word for “Yahweh”, as “God” is the English word for “Yahweh” and “Deus” is the word for “Yahweh” in Romance and Hellenistic languages. Arab Christians in the middle east refer to God by the word “Allah”, as they have no other word for him.

  266. Galo V Zapata 2015-05-29 at 4:07 pm

    Tooth Fairies end “other gods” didn´t create the universe

  267. I don’t believe in God. I accept science as fact. Not a belief. Therefore, non-theist. I also try not to call myself atheist because a – theism, means I accept your premise and then deny it. I don’t accept the premise, therefore there is no theism to deny. 🙂

  268. This is laughable and intellectually dishonest on multiple levels. There are staggeringly few religious anthropologists who would accept your position here.

    A) There were indeed believed to be supreme gods or creator gods. Brahman, Ahura Mazda, Sikhism’s Ek, and numerous other pantheistic faiths match Christianity. Even the Akhenaten idea of monotheism is comparable. Christian apologists never even bother trying to explain why their rendition of God is more intelligible than other monotheistic or pantheistic conceptions.

    B) People sincerely worshiped every god you mentioned. We have odes to them, altars and shrines. Socrates talks extensively about the need for piety to the Greek gods in ways that any modern Christian can understand. There is nothing incoherent about believing, as most polytheistic faiths did, in an account of creation where one or another god makes everything and then others take over for management and rule. An omnipotent and monotheistic god is no more rational than any other religion, especially when you graft on silliness like it creating a son to help it forgive humanity, armies of angels, Cherubim thrones, creating angels that rebel, etc. etc.

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