Faithist Memes, Religious Privilege, Victimization, and Bad Arguments

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Lately, I have had a couple in-depth conversations with friends of mine who are believers about belief in God.  To their credit, the debates were mature, without so much of the self-victimization and underhanded straw men that believers often use.  But, some were still evident, so I thought I’d write about some of the faithist memes and myths that have been quite prevalent in society lately and my thoughts on them.  These are all “points” that are used to defend and protect religious beliefs.  (For the record, YES, these are generalizations, and if you don’t subscribe to the meme, then I’m not talking about you, and if you do, then YES, I am!)

It’s true because I believe it.” – The “Truth” Meme.

This might sound like a simple everyday understanding, but it’s definitely a faithist meme.  It’s a suspension of reality.  It’s saying, “It doesn’t matter what else is true, this will always be true because I choose to call it truth.”  Yeah, I said choose.  Belief is a choice.  You choose what you believe, and by the power of this meme, you get to choose your truth.  You see it used as a defense over every social issue.  Fundamentalists say they know what traditional marriage is (even though marriage has changed many times over its history), they know when life begins (even though there is no actual way of objectively determining such a thing), etc.  But they don’t know, there is no truth or fact, they just believe.

What’s really scary about the power of this meme is that it can be used to justify ANYTHING that happens as God’s will.  Hemant wrote this week about the study that concluded intercessory prayer (prayer for others) has no positive effect (and may have even had some negative effect).  Christianity Today twisted this result by claiming:

God seems to have granted favor without regard to either the quantity or even the quality of the prayers…True to his character, God appears inclined to heal and bless as many as possible.

In other words, even though prayer didn’t work, they twisted it to support their own belief.

This meme even appears in the new film Angels & Demons.  Plotwise, there is nothing supernatural that takes place—it can all be explained by science (the film’s version) and human behavior.  Still, at the very end, the new Carmalengo says “God sent you to save us.”

Dawkins explains the idea of the cliff and the need to explain that which seems to be unexplainable (taking a leap of faith).  This meme encourages taking those leaps just to justify one’s beliefs, when in fact, there is absolutely nothing miraculous or unexplainable about the events.  The fact that prayer doesn’t work is not further evidence of God, unless of course you believe it is.  And of course we respect those beliefs because they’re your beliefs.  In fact, let’s do that one next.

These are my beliefs, so you need to respect them.”  The “Respect” Meme.

No, I don’t.  I respect your right to have them, but just because you say they’re your beliefs does not mean I am going to kowtow to them.  This is, of course, what Dawkins referred to as “undeserved respect.”  I call it religious privilege.  The true nature of this meme is the immunity that beliefs have from debate.  Beliefs don’t stand up to debate, because they aren’t substantiated.  If you start to unpack this meme, you unpack the “Truth” meme simultaneously.  Why are they your beliefs?  Why do you choose to hold those beliefs?  What are your REASONS to hold those beliefs?

This leads into what I call Biblical Circular Reasoning.  (Of course, any religion and religious text can be substituted.)  It looks like this:

1.  “I believe in God.”
2.  “I believe the Bible is the word of God.”
3.  “I believe Christianity is the teaching of God.”
1. + 2.  “I believe in God because the Bible says I should.”
2. + 1.  “I believe in the Bible because I believe in God.”
1. + 3.  “I believe in God because I’m a Christian.”
3. + 1.  “I’m Christian because that is the only way I can know God.”
2. + 3.  “I believe in the Bible because I’m a Christian.”
3. + 2.  “I’m a Christian because the Bible tells me I should be.”

It’s perfectly impenetrable to the believer and yet totally without reason.  It’s a pretty easy way to see that there really is not an intellectual foundation to belief in God.  That should be open for debate.  If people are going to use their beliefs to effect social change or make political decisions that put people’s lives in danger, then belief is NOT good enough.  If belief were not so privileged in society, so many issues could have easily be avoided.

I do not need to respect what a person believes.  And many people who claim as such don’t follow it as such, because there are plenty of beliefs different from their own they don’t pay any heed to.  People just want their own beliefs to be respected so that they don’t have to actually think about them and they can just feel good about themselves.  This leads us to the next meme, which is quite popular in the media these days!

If my beliefs are not being respected, I’m the victim.” – The “Victim” Meme.

This is just a blatant abuse of privilege.  It’s crying foul and resisting any sort of intellectual debate.  It’s pitiful and pathetic.

Our good friends over at the National Organization for Marriage are infamous for this.  Maggie Gallagher is on some talk show every week spewing this garbage.  Carrie Prejean, that joke of a “role model,” is the latest public face of this privileged position:

I am not perfect, and I will never claim to be. But these attacks on me and others who speak in defense of traditional marriage are intolerant and offensive. While we may not agree on every issue, we should show respect for others’ opinions and not try to silence them through vicious and mean-spirited attacks.

That’s right.  According to the followers of this meme, by challenging their points, it’s offending their beliefs.  Thus, they’re the victims.  So, obviously, they should just have their way and that way no one will be offended!  That’s convenient.

Actually, when you say things like, “In my country, and in my family… I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman,” it doesn’t matter how many times you say “No offense,” you’re QUITE offensive.  You are offending countless people and countless families!  You are furthering the bigotry that the LGBT community experiences by validating the idea that they are less than.  If you think for one second I’m going to respect that belief, you are sadly mistaken.  And furthermore, if you can’t defend your belief, that doesn’t make you the victim, it just makes you dumb.  Stand up for your point of view, articulate it, debate it, substantiate it.  If you can’t do that without falling back on “Truth” and “Respect” memes, then you basically have no argument at all.

Christians, in this country, are not victims.  They have so much more power and privilege than they know what to do with.  They do not all abuse it like in the examples I’ve provided, but they all have it, and I think they all have a responsibility to work out that privilege.  If you choose to subscribe to a set of beliefs, fine.  I will always support free will and free thought.  If you expect me to respect what you believe, well, sorry, but I don’t think so.  You have to earn that respect.

“Oh yeah, well you only care about your own point of view!”

Atheists are ego-worshippers/self-centered/selfish/etc.“  The “Selfish Atheist” Meme

In one of the conversations I had recently, I found it to be the complete opposite.  In fact, I would argue that atheists (and more specifically, skeptics) are the least selfish people when it comes to worldviews.

I don’t believe anything.  I don’t have any proof of anything supernatural.  I have no reason to support any one belief.  I am equally open and critical of all ideas.  My focus is on human life.  What do I understand about the human experience?  What can I do to make the most of our existence on this planet?  How can I serve all of humanity?

Isn’t that so much more open and giving than subscribing to a religious belief?  How much time is wasted by trying to search for one’s faith, when the notion of faith is self-fabricated to begin with?  I search for meaning in my life too, but I’m not going to be granted it by some supernatural force.  I’m going to learn to better understand myself so that I can better serve others.  And I am never going to be so boxed into a belief that I am not capable of learning and growing from it.

Isn’t it the people that believe with such conviction that are the egotistical ones?  The ones that “know the truth”?  The ones that cannot be swayed and can never consider other ideas or beliefs?  Are they not the ones who are quite dramatically selfish?  Honestly, if you think about the previous three memes, it’s the believer who is most self-centered: “My belief is the truth, my belief deserves respect, and if it doesn’t get it, I’m the victim.”

I don’t pretend to know anything.  I have no beliefs that demand respect.  I kind of sometimes feel like the victim, but only because I’m subjected to people’s beliefs who are not on the same intellectual footing as mine.  They sure like to think so though.

We can’t prove there is a God.  You can’t prove there isn’t.  So neither of us is right or wrong!” – The “Stalemate” Meme.

Actually, that’s not how debate or science work.  In fact, if you think about it, I can never be wrong.  I’m positing nothing.  I’m not trying to prove there is not a God.  I’m just saying, “We don’t know and we can’t know and it’s foolish to assume otherwise.”  That’s pretty safe footing.  That’s how science works.  We don’t draw conclusions until we have tested, retested, and all come to agreement on the conclusions from the evidence.

Believers posit a lot of ideas, with no evidence.  Many will admit that they can’t prove God, but they believe and that’s enough for them (the “Truth” meme).  I can easily prove we don’t know, because, well, we don’t.  And the funny thing is, I hear people use this argument to defend only the God they believe in, as if it is substantiated and none of the others are.  I always like the idea of “We are all atheists, but some make exceptions.”  I often find myself asking, “Why do you believe in that God and not some other god or gods?”  And of course, they can only answer with more memes: the “Respect” meme and this one:

Well, since we can never know, it’s better to just believe, just in case.”  – The “Just Because” Meme

Ah, Pascal’s Wager.  I really could debate this, but the Wikipedia article explains it pretty well, with a Dawkins quote and all.

I’ll just call this meme what it is: desperation.  When faced with the choice of cognitive dissonance and blissful ignorance, this is the meme that allows blissful ignorance to continue.  It’s committing oneself to never see outside of the Matrix, and thus humoring the idea that there could be no such thing as the Matrix (if you’ll humor my metaphor).

While this meme seems harmless enough, I still worry about the effect it has on humanity’s intellectual development.  Skepticism leaves room for all possibilities and skeptics can explore them all.  Belief limits understanding to only one possibility and commits to only searching for meaning in that one.  We really cannot even humor this paltry meme, because it still supports religious privilege and limitations to our exploration and scope of knowledge.

Conclusion

So, there are the faithist memes as I have been able to identify them.  I’m sure there are more, but these seem to be the most prevalent ones.  Just a quick review:

“Truth” – It’s true because I believe it.
“Respect” – These are my beliefs, so you need to respect them.
“Victim” – If my beliefs are not being respected, I’m the victim.
“Selfish Atheist” – Atheists are ego-worshippers/self-centered/selfish/etc.
“Stalemate” – We can’t prove there is a God.  You can’t prove there isn’t.  So neither of us is right or wrong!
“Just Because” – Well, since we can never know, it’s better to just believe, just in case.

Now, a special note to my readers.  You may read this blog entry and find it offensive.  You may feel generalized (though you shouldn’t), you may feel disrespected, and you may have other emotional responses.  Great.  Let’s hear them.  We’ll either have some engaging dialogue or you’ll simply prove my points (or both).  I would love some engaging dialogue though, so please comment!  And let me know if you have other ideas!

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There are 62 Comments to "Faithist Memes, Religious Privilege, Victimization, and Bad Arguments"

  • Ergo Ratio says:

    I often point out that all defenses of faith are merely variations of one of two things: bare assertion and subject changes. Your list above is a nice enumeration of the most common variations.

  • Buffy says:

    Very well stated!

  • on another note, any defense of faith-in-general cannot be used as an argument for a specific faith… which, I’m sure, is the ultimate goal of the faithful. so it’s not precisely helpful for their cause.

  • [...] bookmarks tagged unexplainable Faithist Memes, Religious Privilege, Victimization… saved by 7 others     ThisTimeNextSummer bookmarked on 05/18/09 | [...]

  • DV82XL says:

    Well done. I would have added: “If I say it often enough, it must be true,” “If everyone believes it, it must be true,” and “If it makes me really happy, it must be true” although I suppose these could all be considered corollaries of “It’s true because I believe it.”

  • ZackFord says:

    DV8, you make a good point. My goal with this post was not to outline all of the arguments, but more to call attention to the kind of language that is prevalent in current discourse when religious privilege is challenged (such as the prayer study, NOM, etc.). If it’s easier to identify these memes, then at least within the blogosphere we can resist them with more consistency. (That’s my hope, at least!)

    What you have identified are some of the forms of egocentric thinking. I know of 5 that are all related:

    1. “It’s true because I believe it.” (Innate egocentrism)
    2. “It’s true because we believe it.” (Innate sociocentrism)
    3. “It’s true because I want to believe it.” (Innate wish fulfillment)
    4. “It’s true because I have always believed it.” (Innate self-validation)
    5. “It’s true because it is in my selfish interest to believe it.” (Innate selfishness)

    As you observed, religion depends upon all of these forms of egocentric thinking and they are quite evident in the memes I identified above. Thanks for your comment! I hope to explore these ideas more and welcome the discourse!

  • Mark says:

    Zack,
    Very good points. I was given a link to your blog via an atheist friend of mine. I am a Christian however, I will admit, what I believe does come down to faith and not so much any sort of scientific evidence. I believe that a lot of people of many faiths waste too much time trying to justify what they believe when it does come down to that simple element. I have quite a few atheist friends and in talking with them (my friend Dario in particular) I have said over and over that to an extent I can rely on history and science but to “fill in the gap” as it were it will always be a leap of faith.
    For the record: I completely disagree with the “defense of marriage” act and the other BS laws that most evangelicals try to put into place. To me there is a point were your faith needs to be separated from the law of the land and the rights of its citizens. This issue, unfortunately, has brought out a lot of ugliness from a group that is suppose to be about love. I can assure you, I’m not that type of evangelical:)

    Kind Regards,
    Mark Lukas

  • ZackFord says:

    Thanks for the read and reply, Mark! If you’re willing to dig into things a bit, I would be very interested in your reply to these two questions:

    What is the value of having faith that is not justified (or, as an atheist would see it, unjustifiable)?

    What is the value of “leaps of faith” and why is it better to take them than to not take them?

  • DV82XL says:

    Organized religion has lost its purpose. For most people are Christian in name only. They go to Church one hour a week, and if they had more time in their schedule for God, I doubt think about him more. They honestly don’t care, or want to care. Freud said: “He who does not live according to his beliefs, does not truly believe” and this is mostly what I am seeing.

    However the issue of privilege is one where the churches more than the faithful are very worried. Tax-free status, deferential treatment by government officials, and so on depend on maintaining the illusion that regardless of sect or dogma, all religious intuitions must be treated as something special simply for what they are. The fear of loosing this is one of the nightmares of organized religion, and it is one of the reasons that the faithful are so quick to defend it. It is so important to keep this idea going that we see faiths that cheerfully believe all others will burn as worthless leaping to the defense of those institutions who’s dogma is diametrically opposed to theirs on this issue.

    It is their weakest point – once they have lost this, they fall – and they know it.

  • Mark says:

    What is the value of having faith that is not justified (or, as an atheist would see it, unjustifiable)?

    What is the value of “leaps of faith” and why is it better to take them than to not take them?

    To your first question (though I am not the same Mark who answered earlier)That is the definition of faith. Its believing and agreeing with something that cannot be seen or measured or proven. As defined by Merriam-Webster online dictionary, Faith is the 1: allegiance to duty or a person; fidelity to one’s promises (2): sincerity of intentions; belief and trust in and loyalty to God; belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion (3): firm belief in something for which there is no proof; complete trust: something that is believed especially with strong conviction. The point of religion is that anyone can believe what is shown to them. It is easy to believe in gravity because if you drop a rock it falls to the ground. It is easy to believe that 1+1=2 because if you have one apple and you take another one you have two apples. It is easy to see these things and therefore easy to believe them. However, with religion it takes faith. It takes a strong will to give up your life for a supernatural being that you can never define and can never be proven (Though I’ll agree many do not actually do this). Those that don’t attempt to follow God’s law are not actually Christians, Jews, Muslims, ect. But it takes a strong willed person to set their life based on one book with no proof that at the end there will be a god. I myself was an atheist turn believer when I did my own research. Call me a “born again Christian” or whatever but I also wrestled with these questions. I read many books from each side of the divide I talked to preachers, pastors, Rabbis and non believers to gather their opinions on why they believed. My pastors reason wasn’t spiritual or because he “saw the light” but practical. Grant Jeffrey explains it the best in his book “The Signature of God”: “Some atheists have suggested that the disciples, during the decades following His death, simply invented their accounts of Jesus. These Bible critics say that the disciples, in an attempt to enhance His authority, then published the story that Jesus claimed to be God and was resurrected. Any fair-minded reader should consider the historical evidence. First, the apostles were continually threatened and pressured to deny their Lord during their ministry; especially as they faced torture and martyrdom. However, none of these men who spent time with Jesus chose to save their lives by denying their faith in Him. Consider this hypothetical situation: Suppose these men had conspired to form a new religion based on their imagination. How long would anyone continue to proclaim something they knew was a lie when faced with lengthy tortures and an inescapable, painful death? All they had to do to escape martyrdom was to admit they had concocted a lie and simply deny their faith and claims about Jesus as God. It defies both common sense and the evidence of history that anyone, let alone a group of twelve men, would persist in proclaiming a lie when they could walk away by admitting that it was a fraud.” The point is neither based on faith but rather Logic. All 12 apostles experienced some kind of torture/Martyrdom. All of them very painful and explicit means of execution. John faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he survived and was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve as Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey. He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.

    Peter was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross

    James was so convincing during his trial that he converted a Roman Soldier who was listening to his testimony and before James was beheaded he too declared himself a Christian and was also beheaded.

    Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia when he was flayed to death by a whip.

    The List goes on and on from public humiliation and beatings to angry mobs tossing the apostles off buildings. It stands to reason that all these men would not have suffered these horrible deaths for a man they didn’t truly believe in. Jesus himself was Crucified. In case you are unaware of how crucifixion kills, if the hunger, blood lose, dehydration and the elements don’t get you, either the sepsis from the nail wounds or the slow suffocation from your chest muscles not being able to expand due to the great amount of stress asserted on them would. This was of course after being whipped and carrying the 175 pound cross beam up the hill. (Unlike it is depicted in movies such as the passion of the Christ, it would have almost been impossible for an average human to carry an entire cross anywhere especially not up an incline). Now no one would try to withstand that if they didn’t truly believe themselves to be what they said they were. Now, that is not a scientific proven justification, however it is a logical one. And if it was worth it for them to die horrible deaths and have not one of them deny that he was the Messiah to avoid said deaths then I’m willing to take a little faith and believe in their cause. As for other religions, Mohamed died of, at worst, poisoning, which some say he used to cover up an illness and would make him a Martyr. If it was poison, then he was taken by surprise and wouldn’t have gained anything by telling people what he believed was a lie and would ultimately hurt him as he was a very powerful man and general. As far as Judaism is concerned you can kind of say that I believe most of what they believe anyway. However many of the Jews reverted to other gods when the times got tough as is documented in the Bible. I believe that a majority of the Old Testament isn’t factually based but based off legends rather than first hand accounts. Now I cannot scientifically prove that Jesus was divine, but I can say with confidence that the people nearest and dearest to him who witnessed many of his teachings and works truly believed him to be the Son of God and risked literally life and limb to spread his message and give his testimony. And I cannot imagine putting myself through hell for a lie. A lie that would have outcast me from many cities. There was no promise of power for the apostles. It wasn’t some attempted coup as none of them advocated violence or overthrowing governments. They walked away from families, jobs and security to follow a homeless, roaming rabbi and they stuck by him through the thick and the thin. They truly believed in him and had their own reasons for believing in him and risking everything.

    As for the second question again I admit I only have ideology and logic. Every Christian will give you a different reason for the benefits of “leaps of faith” but mine is this: If there is a God, and I do believe there is one, he realizes it takes more strength and will power to follow him and his teachings with out proof. As I stated above. It is his method of deciding who is worth bringing into heaven and who is not. Now, to this day I struggle with this because I have friends who are not Christian or are of a different religion. Many of them follow their religion strictly and have their own reason for following that religion. My past two girlfriends were both atheists and, like you, believed that if they couldn’t grasp it scientifically it must not be true. The latter one in particular was such a beautiful and good person. She volunteered for less fortunate people, gave blood whenever she could (and encouraged me to do the same) and was just in general a good person. Her family were all atheists but they were warm and caring people. Anytime I saw them they would give me a hug. When I was miserable at college, her mum would send me care packages. Her father would text me just to see how I was doing. It kills me that according to my religion these incredible people won’t see heaven. I don’t believe all atheists are terrible people I know that to the contrary, but the fact that I am faced with the idea that these people who I love and would hate to see in pain won’t be in heaven almost makes me not want to be a christian. But I still am despite that, and while yes you can be cynical and claim that its easier to believe in heaven when you think you are going to it, believe me its not easy to believe in hell and to think that people I love would be sent there if the Bible is true.It pains me more to know that bad people who may live 70 years being terrible people, being greedy and self serving can find Jesus the last 5 years of their life and go to heaven while people who are good all their life and are decent people but never have this revelation will not. But I take a leap of faith that God will be just in the end. Though I am so torn between these two ideas, the fact that I am torn and still believe is more impressive to God than someone who can scientifically prove that he is just and believes because he or she knows it for a fact. Faith is always going to be a leap. It is ALWAYS going to be like stepping off the cliff of scientific fact and hoping that you are right. I have built my entire support system off the idea that God is real. If someday science can prove there is no God and this world is all we have then my support will crumble. For some people living in this world and that being the only life they will ever have is disheartening. There is so much pain and suffering in this world, and if all of this is for nothing then I don’t see the point in keeping myself in it. So it is a leap. If it turns out to be false and I actually just stepped off the cliff and now am falling, then when I discover this I will hit the bottom and it is a very high cliff to step off of.

    Perhaps to you it seems silly that someone would give up if it turned out there was no God, and that seems fanatical and silly to you, but I spent the first 16 years of my life miserable and searching for a reason to keep trying and then I found it and have spent the last 4 years happier then I ever was. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain or that bad stuff never happens to me, but the pain and the bad stuff only boosts my belief and in turn my faith helps me overcome it. Ultimately, to me it doesn’t really matter what other people believe or don’t believe. It isn’t about who is right and who is wrong. It isn’t about trying to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists, it is a personal decision. One that if people choose to listen I am willing to share with them but if they are not open to the idea then I won’t force the issue. You can read my reply and tell me I’m an idiot and that I can’t intellectually defend my belief but I don’t care. It isn’t about academics and science its about faith and devotion. I’m not sure if you read the book Angels and Demons but, at least to me, the book pointed out that many very intellectually brilliant people believed that science could help prove the existence of God rather than disprove it. I agree with that assumption and my Christianity is a personal relationship with God. Ultimately what the Catholic church does or does not do, says or does not say, means nothing to me. They can scream that evolution is not true but I believe it is. They can claim that gay marriage is disgusting and should not be allowed to be practiced but it doesn’t matter to me if gays get married. To me my religion is between me and God and I use fellowship with other people to discuss what God is doing in my life and to praise him. That is the church to me not some institution that is ruled by a Pope who is human and politically charged but is a group of fellow believers discussing what God is doing in our lives and supporting each other. When we have doubts we discuss them and I’ll be it sometimes the answer is “its tough but that’s what the Bible says” and sometimes the answer is “true but have you tried understanding this passage this way”.

    Now regarding your “If people are going to use their beliefs to effect social change or make political decisions that put people’s lives in danger, then belief is NOT good enough.” quote. I admit I am conservative and am a registered, card carrying republican. However religion does not play a role in my political decision making and it does not play a role in many of my christian friends decision making. Many of my Christian friends are liberals and are part of the Democratic party. The truth is that neither political group has ANYTHING to do with religion and that the people of the Republican party just use religion to justify their beliefs. But if you asked Republican congressmen to explain my they are pro-life, they would be committing political suicide to say that it is because the Bible tells me so. They would say that life starts at conception and that once the egg is firmly attached the ovaries it begins to grow and develop. Development and growth begins at conception and lets be honest doesn’t end until we die. We are always changing and developing whether we can see it or not, we are always changing. Some part of us is developing and once we die we stop developing. So if the egg is fertilized and attaches to the wall, why does that development not count? That is my reasoning for being pro choice and I did it without using any Christian reasoning. Others will say “because it endorses sex outside of marriage” and while some people think that just because the wording is similar it is based off religion but that is not true. Studies have proven that couples who do not have sex outside of marriage are 4 times more likely to stay married, be loyal to their partner, and have a better sexual relationship. I think we can all agree that divorce is never good and hurts not only the parents divorcing but also the children, their mutual friends and their families. Again, a non religious approach to abstinence based teaching. However, it is impractical for hormone-charged teenagers to not have sex so they should be taught to protect themselves. I use religion to rule MY decisions that affect MY life. I vote republican (usually not always though) because I agree more with republican economics and ideology based on reason. Most of the people who use religion as a means to choose their political leaders, use religion because they don’t understand the issues at hand and can’t find a logical reason to believe what they believe. They are usually the backwards red necks from the country who “cling to their guns and religion” though I have met “sophisticated” city dwellers who use the same mode of determination.

    Now I’m sure I have rambled on for far too long and many of you have tuned out and gone on to read other posts. I wanted to try to answer your questions and I may be wrong and I’m sure if the other Mark reads this post he will have different answers to your questions. Perhaps my logic doesn’t make sense to you and if it doesn’t please explain where I have gone astray in my thinking. I welcome disbelief and questioning because it is healthy to explore your religion beyond the bare bones. PS I’m a terrible speller and I wrote this while watching TV so I may have been distracted from time to time so the sentences may have grammatical errors or I may have started with one thought only to jump to a completely other thought. Again it is more of a rant which is not suggested for partaking in a debate, however I did not feel it was necessary to structure this response because its summer and as I am only taking a Bi Sci class this summer with no lab and it is not a writing intensive course I have switched my brain into autopilot and don’t feel like structuring it as an academic paper :)

  • Chi says:

    I enjoyed the entry. I’ve experienced all of the above. The stalemate meme is the most common and the most annoying to me. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked to prove god doesn’t exist. All I say is that…

    “It is logical fallacy to request a proof of the negative. I have nothing to prove, the onus is on the believer to prove his claims. If you can’t prove god exists, then god is as real as the unicorn and the wizard.”

    I wrote a similar blog entry on one of my blogs. I’ll let you dig around, but if you’re interested, you write about similar topics as my fellow writers and I do. You might like them.

    http://ideoteria.blogspot.com

  • UNRR says:

    This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 5/20/2009, at The Unreligious Right

  • [...] debate. Weather it is just about the existence of God, religious privilege, or gay marriage. Zack Ford has assembled a few of these arguments and breaks each of them down and shows why the arguments don’t work. The [...]

  • ZackFord says:

    Other Mark…

    The apostles’ beliefs are no more verifiable than your own. Just because they were willing to die for what they believed doesn’t mean they were right. The Heaven’s Gate group all killed themselves for their beliefs, so why not follow their teachings? “I’m willing to have a little faith” is hardly objective; it’s just applying the Respect meme to the apostles and defending it by saying Just Because. And, you didn’t answer the question. What is the VALUE of having unjustifiable faith? What is gained from it? Why is it worthwhile?

    As for your response to the second question, you immediately confirmed my Biblical Circular Reasoning. You believe in God because you believe in God. How did you first come to believe in God? Why believe in God? Why believe in Heaven and Hell?

    Furthermore, I must say, I feel a great amount of pity for you. You have found nothing in this world worth living for? Really? You require such an other-worldly crutch because human life is so awful you see nothing in it to cling to? That is very sad, because it makes me think you are missing out on so much that you can appreciate in this world… so much beauty and love that is all quite natural. In a way, you’ve contradicted yourself in that it is much harder to not believe, because not believing requires greater self-confidence, self-motivation, and resilience.

    What disappoints me is your attitude of, “I believe, it works for me, and that’s that.” It’s similar to what SarahH and I were discussing over on Friendly Atheist. You’ve basically given up on thinking. You’ve made the choice that the easiest thing for you to do is to subscribe to this thing which you cannot explain except that it makes you feel good. That’s the kind of language often used by addicts. I would suggest that NEEDING your faith to sustain you is keeping you from living your life to its fullest extent. I’m not saying this because I want to deprive you of happiness or stability, but because I think you’ll find it so much more rewarding to find happiness and stability within yourself and within your life as you’re living it without concern for what happens after you die or what other forces are supposedly playing a role in your life. You control your destiny, you control your circumstances, and I would encourage you to not give up on contemplating why you believe in God or why you think you should.

    One other thought… the idea that science could prove God. I agree with you, science should be able to prove anything we hold as truth. But no scientist holds a truth that has not YET been proven, and God certainly has not. Is there a reason to take such a leap of faith other than it simply makes you feel good because it keeps you from having to think about your life?

  • Annie says:

    My own experience has been the top bad argument is the Argument from Personal Distate. This is: God exists because I can’t bear the idea of a universe without a warm personal father figure/friend whose attention is centered on me and who will guarantee me everlasting life. If God doesn’t exist, I will die and that idea is very frightening.

  • Mark says:

    Ok I thought about it more and actually the various Cults did come to mind. They were not faced with persecution and torture. They CHOSE to kill themselves for their belief and were able to choose a peaceful death rather than one resulting from stones being thrown at you or being put in a pot to boil. I was using the faith of the people who would have had the chance to see his works with their own eyes and serve judgment on whether or not he was the real Messiah or a false prophet. Since they were with him night and day for a majority of his life, they were able to see first hand his teaching and his works. The whole point of bringing up the apostles was to show you that Christians DO justify their beliefs to themselves and that was my justification. Others justify it using other ways but you are correct that there is not a single Christian who can stand up and give you scientific proof that God exists. My personal justification (while the justification of many other believers as well) is just that: a personal justification. I did not ask you to respect my religion as friction is what keeps the car on the road so to speak.

    I attempted to answer your question by saying it is easy to believe in things that can be justified and proven. It is easy for me to believe that gravity exists because I remain on the ground and am not floating in space. It is easy for me to believe that they sky is blue because I can look out my window (most days) and see that the sky is blue. Believing on faith and living your life with no certainty that you are right but you live that way because you believe, is much more difficult. So believing in something that can not be justified is more full filling because it takes more self motivation to follow something that may not be there.

    I am ok with your pity. I do not pity myself because when I look at my life through eyes of a christian, the pains and tribulations are much more worth it. I am happy for you that you are able to live your life happily with out a god. Many people never believe and they live their life just as happily as I do. I guess its not that I would kill myself if God did not exist but its a lot easier for me to get through the rough stuff when I can pray and use the support of other Christians and God. Having God in my life has given my life purpose and you may have found your purpose in standing up for the under represented and I have found my purpose in God.

    Please believe me that I hold no contempt for you because you don’t believe. I don’t think that you are less important or any worse of a person then I am. I fear I may have given you that impression and I don’t mean to attack your beliefs. The whole purpose of the whole reason for the second part of the second paragraph (which probably should have been broken up a little) was to basically admit that the respect argument is what I was using and I don’t really care if that makes it a poor argument. To me it isn’t about who is right and who is wrong. Naturally, I believe that I’m right just as, I’m sure, you believe yourself to be right. But it doesn’t really matter to me if you think I’m wrong. In fact, as long as you don’t keep me from practicing my religion, you don’t have to respect it. I don’t feel the victim in that circumstance at all! If you choose to judge me based on the fact that I believe in a God and deem me unworthy to be your friend then fine! No skin off my nose that you dislike me because I believe in a God that cannot be proven then that’s your decision, but I don’t choose my friends based on religion but rather on who they are personally. I know plenty of “Christians” that I do not like because of their personality just as I have Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Atheist friends. (I have yet to be friends with a Buddhist, not because they are Buddhist but rather because I have yet to meet one. The price of living in central Pennsylvania I suppose :) ) Basically I am validating your “I believe it so that’s good enough for me” argument because that IS good enough for me. I don’t feel that I have to prove anything. If people come to me and ask me about my religion I will tell them. If they think that its silly or stupid or ignorant then they don’t have to follow it. It is not that I am not thinking for myself or that I am not stretching myself intellectually. I surround myself with people who DO NOT think like me because when they raise questions it causes me to search deeper into my religion and create justifications for it. I have yet to find an argument against God that I can not justify to myself. And in the end my opinion is really the only opinion that matters to me. I am glad to hear other people’s opinions and occasionally adopt them as my own, but in the end its my opinion that is the one I follow.

    The rest of the paragraph was just to state that you’re right people who justify their voting practices and political opinions based on religion are ignorant and often times uneducated in political issues. But if they didn’t use religion to justify their belief it would be “because its different”. For me and many of my Christian friends, our political affiliations do NOT use religion as a justification. I admit my morals are based out of the Bible and of course that colors my opinion to a certain extent, but I view both side of the argument and then make a decision based off which makes sense to me and other knowledge. I enjoy reading your blogs because you have very different opinions then I do and I like to gather the other sides opinion and try to understand it (Though sometimes it frustrates me ;) ). I make it a habit to read Michael Moore books (VERY frustrating) and I have read some of Karl Marx’s work.Similarly I do listen to the garbage that Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson and Ann Coultor (not sure I spelled that right but she doesn’t really deserve to have her name spelled correctly so I won’t even bother to look it up) spew. I study Political Science at Penn State so I am more interested in the theory and it intrigues me to try to understand the both sides and their justification for it. I look at the far left and the far right’s opinion because both of their opinions are different than my own. Many of the educated Christians I know, follow a similar means of political alignment. Like I said in the earlier post, some of my Christian friends consider themselves Democrats just as others consider themselves Republican. Neither of them use religion to justify their political opinions. What I am trying to point out is that intelligent Christians (though you may think that is impossible :) ) use reason to justify their political opinions. Unintelligent Christians ONLY use religion as their political opinion. And it isn’t really religion but rather “its different from me so it must not be good”.

    Essentially, to me, the only reason that I get into theological debates is not to justify my opinion to others but rather to hear the other side and see if I can find a counter to it that makes sense to me. It helps further my faith and if it makes sense to them great and if not well that’s too bad. Basically, I’m okay with it not making sense to you because it works for me. Again it feeds into your argument but my goal was not to win you over but merely to express my reasons for believing in an attempt to better educate you and other atheists just as your blogs and other people’s posts better educate me.

    I admit some Christians are ignorant and don’t allow people to question. That is why I had such a problem with my Lutheran Church and why it turned me off from God. It was “God is God and that’s just the way it is don’t cause a fuss and say the prayers”. That is why I explored different sects of Christianity and talked to different religious leaders as well as people who do not believe. I created my personal opinion based off questioning and making educated decisions. I drew connections based on what people told me about religion and about Atheism. It turns out that religion clicked with me.

  • ZackFord says:

    Are you really questioning if you only ever look for the same answer? It sounds to me like you start with the answer: “It has to make sense with my faith in God,” and then you just find a way to convince yourself it does. That’s not really questioning, in my opinion.

    Just to clarify though, who I like or befriend has nothing to do with beliefs. The only thing on the line for me is intellectual respect.

    Thanks for all your comments!

  • DV82XL says:

    “Essentially, to me, the only reason that I get into theological debates is not to justify my opinion to others but rather to hear the other side and see if I can find a counter to it that makes sense to me.”

    Then you are deluding yourself is this as well. If you were really true to your faith you wouldn’t need to reaffirm in this way. The fact is you are being gnawed with doubt, and the only way you can keep it at bay is to constantly argue with the faithless, using dialog as a form of catechism. But of course that’s what all proselytizing is about isn’t it: convincing the speaker of his own correctness.

    At the root of this sort of faith is cowardliness – fear of facing the fact that there is no invisible friend watching over you, but the inability to really, truly believe with all your heart, and all your soul.

  • Will says:

    “I don’t feel the victim in that circumstance at all! If you choose to judge me based on the fact that I believe in a God and deem me unworthy to be your friend then fine! No skin off my nose that you dislike me because I believe in a God that cannot be proven then that’s your decision, but I don’t choose my friends based on religion but rather on who they are personally.”

    Despite your protests to the contrary, you ARE portraying yourself as a victim. It makes sense that you would – the whole Christian mythos contains so much glorification of the persecuted righteous ones, as you yourself have cited, and the Christ figure has given our entire bloody culture a martyr complex.

    So, I understand why you would want to see yourself this way, but this sort of fantasizing is not really appropriate. Christians are not persecuted in this country. I would argue that as a group, you’ve lost the understanding of what persecution even is. My father was arrested for his (lack of) religious beliefs. Atheists actually ARE shunned in the manner in which you imagine us shunning you; we’re one of the most openly hated groups in the country. There is active employment discrimination against us, we stand no chance of obtaining elected office and are seriously under-represented in our government, and old language in legal documents still designates us as second-class citizens. And all this is TRIVIAL compared to the persecution of real minorities.

    So please, check your privilege and get some perspective. You are NOT marginalized as a christian.

  • Mark says:

    DV82XL I use the debate to further my exploration into my religion. I don’t pretend to know every aspect of my religion and questions allow me to explore new parts of the Bible and belief that I may not have thought of before. It further helps to fuel discussion amongst members of my “church” when I bring a question to the table.

    I’ll admit that I have doubts. Through out the Bible people voice doubts. The story of Doubting Thomas, the Story of Job, the Psalms and many more stories. They all end with the doubting person believing again but they explore their belief and through prayer, meditation and religious leader advice, they search out their questions and find answers to full fill them. The Bible never requires blind obedience. The purpose of the Bible is to have a written guide of God’s nature. It is the reason God gave us free will. He could have made it so that we obeyed him and knew him and no one ever questioned him, but he wants us to come to him on our own. Would you want someone being your friend just because its their only option? No! You want them to WANT to be your friend. You want your children to WANT to love you, not just because you are their father. You want them to love you because they love who you are and how you act.

    I am not sure I follow how questioning is cowardly. It is what Atheists say Christians DON’T do. You say we follow a god because we blindly follow it wherever it takes us. That is not how Christianity works. The questions are attempts to bridge the unknowable to the people. Any Christian you ask will question. I hope you question whether Atheism is truly the correct religion or rather lack there of. Mr. Ford clearly does as he sets up opportunities for religious people to question him. Unfortunately, I seem to be the only religious person responding which is too bad. I would have liked to see other religious responses in order to juxtapose their response with mine and see if I am on the right track. Ultimately, I use not only your responses and questioning to explore my faith but other Christians opinions who may be different than mine to explore my faith. Understanding how they came to believe what they believe allows me to look at Bible passages and other things such as sermons or text books on religion and try to see their angle on the same words. I am merely pointing out that (at least where I live) questioning is welcome because it means we aren’t blindly following something and that we are actually thinking and debating and coming to the conclusion to follow because we truly believe it rather than just because this person told us so. I will not pretend to claim that there are NO Christians that blindly follow the Word, but I certainly hope that people are questioning and reaffirming their faith with the answers they find.

    You bring up a good point Zack. I sm not sure how to address your remark about questioning but then only searching with in the context of my religion. I suppose I search my religion first to discover if the question CAN be answered with my religion. I am not blind to the advancement of Science and of course I take into account recent scientific findings. Many times it is the Scientific finding that prompts the question. I believe that dinosaurs were on the planet. I believe that Man evolved and that all things evolve. I have not found religious backing for those questions and thus the reason I question Genesis and many of the other early books. It was prehistoric and there was no way that man witnessed the creation. It is a story to explain why we are here and how we got here. I still believe God created earth. I still believe he continues to evolve not only us but animals and plants as we change and influence the planet. WE are responsible for putting pollution in the air, using up natural resources and changing the planets ecological system. God uses evolution as a tool to adapt animals so that they survive. Just because he created the Universe doesn’t mean he controls it. He put certain laws (physics) in place that would make it so that the Universe was self sustaining. He doesn’t control the meteors that hit the planets or the volcanoes that erupt sending clouds of gases that changes the climate. But he does make the teeny tiny mutation in the various animals that allow them to survive in the new environment. Again that is my OPINION. That is how I justify the findings in Science. It does not match up with the Bible nor any religious text for that matter and perhaps I am completely wrong. But its my questioning and taking other facts into account that allows me be able to form opinions on these things rather than deny them completely. Logically I can’t believe that the creation played out exactly as it is laid out in the Bible when nothing was there to witness it. Scientific fact rebuke this and I’m not ignorant enough to ignore them. Does this disprove the validity of the Bible? Perhaps but other things such as ice cores taken that show at one point there was a great flood that engulfed the land, and that pieces of a large ship that match the measurements set forth in the Bible was found at the top of a mountain also helps to confirm parts of the Bible that people were actually around to experience.

    My religion does color my interpretation of scientific findings. But I take those findings into account and examine them in the CONTEXT of my religion. Rather than deny them to be truths, I try to make connections between what is found to be factual and how it can be related to God. Perhaps someday there will be a discovery that will officially and conclusively prove that God does not exist. Until I have that proof, I will continue to look for connections between my religion and scientific discoveries.

    I use the Bible as a historical primary source. I use what the people say, saw, heard, felt ect. who were actually there to make my decisions on religion. I do not use the stories from the early part of the Bible, merely from when people would have been able to witness the events unfolding. Many of the Old Testament writings were based off oral recounting from person to person for generations. I take those writings with a gain of salt but DO believe there to be some truth at the heart of the stories. The wanderings of the Jews and from there on out I take to be fairly factual. I am not naive and believe that EVERY part of the old testament is true. I do put a fair amount of faith that the New Testament is true and thus the reason for me being a Christian rather than a Jew.

    In my opinion, questioning is not a sign of weakness and cowardliness, but a sign that we are human. People who question and find the answers on their own believe those answers with much more conviction than people who are told to believe this and they never stop to wonder. There are people who believe that and there are religious leaders in Christianity who would say that I’m wrong and perhaps that is true. But I question the Bible. I question the Sermons that are given to me by my pastor. I question the answers that fellow Christians find in their questioning. THAT is why I feel that you unfairly accuse Christianity of being an unintelligent group of people who ignore outside influences and just accept the findings that prove them right. I take all things that I come across into account whether they help prove or disprove my religion depends on how I interpret what I am being told and in turn works to shape how I interpret what I find in questioning my religion. But you are correct that I look to find the answers in a religious context.If someday there is a scientific finding that has no biblical context and there is no way for me to justify WHY there is no biblical context then I’ll concede. Until then I have yet to hear of a scientific finding that completely and totally disproves the new testament and Jesus’ teachings. (Again I take Paul’s letters with the up most skepticism because he was not divine and therefore was merely interpreting the Bible as he saw it. I use them more to examine what he as a christian believes is being said)

    Again I hope that I am being logical. If you find more inconsistencies please bring them to my attention. I do not take personal offense to your skepticism as I hope you all don’t take my skepticism of your beliefs to be personal. I’m curious Zack whether then you find that I am being respectful to intellect. Granted our brief encounter at MAD hardly gave you a full range of who I am, I am curious if after all of this whether, in your opinion, I respect intelligence. Of course, I am a college student at a public university. I attended public school all my life and was taught scientific truths through out my education process. I was raised in the Lutheran Church which I later rejected because it did not allow for much questioning (though I’ll be it, it was much more relaxed than the Catholic Church). I explored other ideologies both within Christianity and outside of it. I came to find a Church that catered much more to what I believed and have become a member. I am not a perfect christian nor do I mean to pretend to be. I hope that I do not come off as all knowing and pompous as I’m afraid I sound. I certainly do my fair share of sinning but I am still relatively new to the faith and I continue to try to work towards my goal. (When I say I am new to the faith I mean that I am new to actually believing not that I had never experienced it before. I could answer trivia about the Bible just fine, but I didn’t believe what it had to say until recently) I respect all of your opinions though I may not share them, I truly believe that difference of opinion is VERY positive and is what keeps the United States a Democracy. If everyone conformed to one ideology I believe the world would be a sad sad place. I am capable of admitting when I am wrong and I am willing to explore opposite belief. I do not expect you to be my friend necessarily but I wonder if you respect my opinion and intelligence enough to actually contemplate my stance as I do contemplate yours, or if you think I lack intelligence and I am no better than the backwards rednecks who give not only Christianity but the Republican Party a bad name. (I include Dick Cheney in the backwards Redneck group. I put George Bush in the uninformed easily manipulated by backwards redneck group) I do appreciate your input and will not take offense to you saying I am a backwards redneck. If you get that perception then it means I need to reexamine my logic and see if I am actually intelligently questioning my faith.

  • Mark says:

    Oh and I wanted to say that I fully agree that the United States should be a land free from religious law. I try to make my decisions based on logic rather than based on religion. For example I have no problem with same sex marriage and never have I ever had a problem with it. Just because I am straight does not mean that everyone else should have to be. I believe that same sex couples can be just as good a parent as hetero couples and I believe they can be just as BAD as hetero couples. I am pro life but (as stated earlier) I don’t use the Bible as my reason for being pro life. I agree that the health care system is broken and some how it needs to be fixed. I am NOT sure how to fix it as I haven’t heard a plan that will be fair to everyone. I do not believe that the wealthy and successful should be punished for their success and I believe the tax system is broken and needs fixed. I do not believe government interference is the way to fix all of our problems and I do believe cutting taxes and allowing people to use their money how they see fit, to a point, is beneficial. (I am also an economics minor though I’ll admit I have only a few courses under my belt). I am a Republican NOT because I am a Christian as Christianity (despite what Pat Robertson may say) is about forgiveness not capitol punishment, is about caring for the poor not kicking them when they’re down and is about the acceptance of people outside the faith and extending a hand of brotherly love to them rather than shutting them out and judging them because they are different. I believe in the “Love thy neighbor” commandment. It is not the “Love thy neighbor only if they are christian” commandment, it is the “love thy neighbor” commandment and I truly believe our gay lesbian neighbors deserve the right to love who they love and should be allowed to protect their loved ones and make decisions that effect their health and what not especially in a country where you SHOULD be free to be who you are and not have to hide it. I am not SO closed to tradition that I think everything needs fixed, but I AM open to new ideas if it will make the tradition better or if it will be better than what is in place. I just wanted to be sure that, while yes I am a card carrying republican, I am a card carrying republican with Christian morals who uses his morals and logic to make political decisions. I take non-Christians into account when making said decisions and try to be open in my thinking. I believe “extremists” in my religion have colored it to be what it is not and I am saddened that this has happened because I think many Atheists see their opinions as the “general christian opinion” when it is not. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and unfortunately the extremists, not unlike extremists in Islam, squeak the loudest and therefore receive the most attention. Moderate Christians, which believe it or not IS the vast majority, don’t make a fuse because our beliefs really aren’t that controversial. Its true that I disagree with genetic replacement or genetic engineering and cloning, and that is impart because I believe that God created it that way for a reason but I also believe that God is the one who decides which mutations are beneficial to humanity as a whole. I hope you can see there IS a difference between conservative politics and Christianity.

  • DV82XL says:

    Certainly I do not see a refusal to believe in something unproven to be a act of faith let alone a religion. This is because these thing are defined as belief without proof, and certainly too I reject any argumentum ad ignorantiam on the matter as well.

    It doesn’t matter which way you want to look at it the central dogma of Christianity is that by faith in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, individuals are saved from death – both spiritual and physical – by redemption from their sins through God’s grace, by faith and repentance, men and women are reconciled to God through forgiveness and by sanctification return to their place with God in Heaven. The crucial beliefs in Christian teaching: Christ’s incarnation, atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection from the dead to redeem humankind from sin and death are such that there cannot be an alternate interpretation of this position while still claiming to be Christian.

    What you seem to be practicing is ‘salad-bar religion,’ the trend where people pick and choose religious beliefs, doctrines and practices – mixing and matching them much as they would select food in a cafeteria, and always that is a sign of doubt, and this doubt, by the very tenets of the faith you claim to believe in damns you. There is no salvation just for going through the motions.

    I call you out as a coward because it is clear you don’t have the depth of faith required to be a Christian, yet you try and cling to the faith while your intellect is telling you it’s a crock. Your ‘journey’ is nothing more than an pathetic attempt to bury reasons in a sea of justifications in the vain hope of drowning out your own mind. If you weren’t a coward you would face the fact that all of this nonsense is founded on a set of poorly transcribed, poorly translated and largely plagiarized, moldering Bronze Age documents that have no bearing on the modern world, no mater what sort of intellectual gymnastics you do to justify them.

    You are grasping at straws, in fear of having to abandon the comfort of these fairy-tails, and the certainty that somehow everything is going to turn out all right in the end. You are using religion as a way to avoid seeing the universe in all of its cruel magnificence and wonder, and accepting your insignificance in it. Hiding from reality is cowardly. QED

    Where you a true man of faith we wouldn’t be having this exchange.

  • Mark says:

    I find your points interesting. If you are asking me whether or not I believe Jesus was the son of God who died for my sins and through the grace of God I am forgiven for my sins through his trial, crucifixion, death and then victory over the grave then yes I agree with you 100% that there is no other way to view that. I believe it with my whole heart. At what point have I said I question Jesus’ divinity? At no point have I ever claimed that I question his sacrifice is my renewal and you will not hear me say that. When I say I look at passages to try and interpret the meaning I am not referring to the entire Gospel but rather JESUS’ words. What he says we should act like and be. I am trying to examine what Paul says and compare it to how I believe Jesus wanted me to live which would be what God wants me to act, do and say. But believe me friend there is no doubt in my mind that I am saved through Jesus. Perhaps that makes me a coward in your eyes. But frankly friend your opinion of me matters very little to me. I entered this forum to attempt to explain my position so that non believers could examine it. I did not enter this forum to convert anyone or to belittle their belief.

    I have read your reply will and am sorry for any troubles being an atheist has cost you and your family. I truly believe that in the United States you should be allowed to practice your religion with out persecution. That is all I am willing to address from your post though because I feel the rest is rather ignorant.

  • DV82XL says:

    Let me get this straight. You think the Creator of the Universe cares personally about your life, and that you know, with absolute certainty, what he wants for all of humankind.

    While I think that we’re basically alone, not very special, and are just fumbling through our random existence trying to do the best we can.

    And I’m the ignorant one?

    BTW I am nether American, nor have I or my family suffered in any way being atheist. Where you got that idea, is beyond me.

    And it would seem that I have hit a nerve – a good sign that I got your number.

  • ZackFord says:

    Mark,

    My general reaction to your comments is that you simply confirm the points I made in my original post.

    If you truly were WILLING to question your faith, you would be 100% sure of NOTHING. Instead of looking for answers within your existing beliefs, you would spend time contemplating WHY you believe what you already believe. Why don’t you believe in Judaism? Islam? Hinduism?

    Until you are willing to consider all the possibilities in the world with equal measure, you are actually disrespecting your OWN intelligence. You are limiting all the answers to only one, which honestly makes it difficult to engage with you. Read over my Biblical Circular Reasoning… your belief in God and belief in the Bible are merely reinforcing each other… but how did you enter that cycle? At some point you had to be CONVINCED to believe one of them, and then you were stuck.

    If you are forming your own opinions on such lofty matters and you’re choosing which things to believe and which not to… what merit is there to any of it? What you have suggested is that it does not even need merit, but merely means to be meaningful to you. What a low standard you have set for yourself! You have essentially subscribed to your own gullibility.

    Could you doubt that Jesus is your one true savior? Could you doubt that any of the supernatural aspects of your religion are true? Could you consider proof OBJECTIVELY as opposed to merely “good enough for me”? These are very different questions than what you’ve been willing to ask yourself.

  • Mark says:

    DV82XL The second paragraph was in response to a post above by someone named Will. I was not referring to you as the ignorant one. I do believe it and that is the Amazing thing about my religion is that God care intimately about everyone of us and a relationship can be bridged between us, through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, between us and him. It is not just that I am important enough to him that I can have a relationship, but anyone who believes Jesus is the savior can have this same relationship. I will not pretend to know what God would like for all of humankind I can merely influence MY life to be the way I believe he wants me to be. But with that there is no proof and no real way to know I am doing the right thing and THAT is where the questioning comes into place. I question God certainly. I do not question his existence but more his plans for me. In addition I will not pretend I am a good christian. I am certainly in sin and I know I sin everyday whether it is intentional or not. You have struck no such nerve my friend :)

    Zack,

    I entered the cycle by this Logic. Judaism is the oldest religion of the three big ones. I believe in their God however in their scriptures it says that the Chosen one would come to be the Messiah. I believe they missed him the first time around BECAUSE of the life of the Apostles post-Ascension. Following historically documented accounts of Apostles gruesome deaths, and their stead fast faith based on what they themselves had actually witnessed. Something thoroughly convinced them of Jesus’ Divinity and since they were the ones who were spending the most time with him I tend to believe their accounts. As for Islam, I believe that they two missed the Messiah and that Mohammad also mislead them. They claim that they follow the religion of Abraham, Judaism, more completely. They DO acknowledge Jesus as a Prophet, but then claim he was not the Son of God, Which according to the Bible and other texts, was Jesus’ main message. If they believe him to be a prophet it would stand to reason that what he said would be true. Therefore, by claiming he is not the Son of God they are not heeding his word. That is how I decided to follow Christianity rather than one of the others in the Big three. I admit, I did not search Hinduism or many other religions.

    I view the Bible as not only a religious text but a historical one as it is the accounts of Men who witnessed the events in the life of Jesus; rather than the opinion of a self proclaimed prophet (Quarn, the Book of Mormon). See the difference? The Bible was not directly written by Jesus but rather by men who spent every day and night with this man for a good deal of time. I have to go but I will try to address the other very good points that you raise.

  • Mark Lukas says:

    Zack,
    Just for the record, the last entries left by “Mark” were not me (the one who you asked the original questions of). I will respond shortly, it’s been a crazy week. I’m a graphic designer by trade and it’s been all about the multiple deadlines and craziness this week. Anyway, I’ll respond by the end of the weekend at latest. I didn’t want to just send you some half thought out lame post full of churchy talking points (which I wouldn’t do anyway…) Hope all is well!
    M Lukas

  • Mark Lukas says:

    And don’t worry, I won’t try to prove the bible by using the bible as my reference or convert you. Ultimately, I think the only testament to any faith is how you live and treat others. If people see that your faith makes a difference in your life, they will ask you questions. No amount of debate will win over anyone. Also, an opinion based on my reading of previous posts: the value of using the bible to prove the bible is ridiculous, even from my viewpoint as a Christian. To me it would be akin to trying to prove that Star Trek is real using the StarFleet technical manual. Everything in the manual will substantiate everything else in the manual, but what it comes down to is that it is all fiction. I don’t believe the bible is fiction but if most of your audience thinks that, then all the biblical reference in the world won’t matter. You may end up having to actually (GASP!) use your own mind to sort things out instead of throwing verses around. Talk to you soon Zack!

    M

  • ZackFord says:

    Hey Mark Lukas, thanks for letting us know you were still alive! I look forward to continue the conversation with you.

    Mark, I think you are still missing the point. You started your explanation of why you believe by saying, “I believe in [the Jewish] God.” That’s not logic. WHY do you believe? Why did you START believing?

    The question is not why you picked Christianity over one of the other religions… the question is: Why you are willing to believe in anything at all? Why did you only choose from the big 3? Why did you have to choose at all? WHAT IF YOU DID NOT BELIEVE?

    You have chosen to accept something as truth only on the merit of another person’s word… there is no “logic” to that. Men wrote something down, and SOME of what SOME of them wrote got passed on. That doesn’t mean it’s truth. It could just be stories. You have to BELIEVE it’s truth before that furthers your argument in any respectable way… so it won’t get you anywhere with me. :)

    You need to step outside the box and you haven’t yet… I hope if we continue we can get you closer to thinking outside of everything you’ve come to know. It’s pretty enlightening when you are actually able to do that.

  • DV82XL says:

    Stripping the biblical narrative to the basics we learn that there is an indescribably powerful and intelligent being called God who has always been existence. For whatever reason, he decides to create the universe and pays particular attention to planet Earth. Having created the universe, Earth and all the species on it, he decides to focus all his attention on a collection of tribal groupings in the Middle East, in particular the Israelites who are his ‘chosen people’ and who he obsesses over, while apparently ignoring the rest of the world’s population. He lays down numerous arbitrary and ceremonial laws, then gets involved in inner tribal politics and land disputes, inciting acts of brutality, war crimes, genocide, and rape along the way.

    Fast forward to the Middle East under Roman occupation and God decides it’s time to put in an appearance. By mystical means he comes to earth in human form, being born of a virgin. He becomes incarnate as a Jewish male and wanders around what is today Israel-Palestine, imparting pithy social commentary (but never giving any systematic explanation of how such ideas might be made politically useful), engaging in faith healing (removing ‘demons’ from people), magic tricks, and ranting on and on about sin, eternal punishment for the majority of the world’s population, and the impending end of the world. He gets himself crucified, nominally in order that he can be a divine blood sacrifice of himself, to himself for our good. A few days later he walks out of his tomb and wanders round with some of his followers (noticeably not bothering to make himself known to anyone but those who already believed in him), before ‘ascending’ into ‘Heaven’, to wait for the time when he will return to raise every human who has ever lived in bodily form for judgment, then cast most of us into a pit of fire and take a select few into his ‘kingdom’ for eternity where their only activity will be to worshiping him.

    To believe in such tripe without any other supporting evidence other than claim made in these texts that they are true the and to choose to devote one’s life to this fiction is a travesty. To subordinate one’s power of reason, one’s intellect to a collection to texts that were so obviously written to further the ends of their authors or the authors’ sponsors, and at any rate are thousands of years old, is a pathetic abdication of rationality in the name of surety. It a act of profound laziness, and the reason I hold all theists in contempt.

    The funny thing is, you are a very poor theist in that you cannot suppress your need to reason and thus, whether you choose to admit it to yourself or not, your faith is weak. You cannot have it both ways, you are committed to buying into it wholesale, or you doubt. Because ultimately, like those that cling to the creation myth of Genesis realized long ago, you cannot pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe, and which parts not to, and not have planted the seeds of doubt. Ultimately no amount of hermeneutic juggling with concepts like ‘directed evolution’ can patch up the shear disconnect between observed reality and ‘biblical truth.’

    In the end you are doomed you know, you will not grow in your faith without abandoning reason, and the fact that you question it now does not bode well for that to happen. Doubt will grow, and one day you are going to have to address it, or face your own hypocrisy,

  • Mark says:

    I admit that Christians have damned me before (A Catholic Mother at a soccer game when me and her son got into a scuffle) though it is very new to be damned to hell by an Atheist. I am intellectually drained at this point (though many of you may have never thought me intellectually full :) ).

    I would enjoy a response from the other Mark (No worries I clarified in my post that I was not you granted I did not cite my later posts as my own so just to be clear all things stated by Mark after the original Mark post is mine down to the point where he makes himself known) because it is clear you disagree with me. I take no personal offense to that but I am curious to hear your advocacy of your religion. Perhaps it will allow me some more insight into mine. I would like to point out that I have NOT been trying to convert you. I am attempting to share what I believe with you and why I believe it and how I came to believe it. I am not so much sharing the “good word” as I am more sharing my opinion then what the Bible says. But by all means I am curious to read your response.

    I am holding two different debates. One with Zach trying to justify why I believe what I believe and evidently one with the jumble of letters and numbers fellow (or Madam) about whether I am a good Christian and what makes a bad Christian. Your synopsis of the Bible is slightly ignorant however. Look at your wording it is clearly not an unbiased synopsis. I will wait until Mark replies to give my own reply.

    I do find it amusing however, that a non Christian is informing me that I am doing it wrong. It seems you have adopted the attitude you hate Christians for having. The “there is only one way to live and it is our way” attitude. It makes it more difficult for me to take what you say seriously. It does allow for a good laugh however.

    Perhaps read Zack’s posts. He is not belittling my belief but merely asking me to justify WHY I believe which is a very difficult thing to do I am discovering and requires a great deal of consideration. It is much easier to listen to his ideas when he is not trying to convert me to his theological belief but trying to get me to convert to his way of THINKING.

  • ZackFord says:

    I would just like to clarify that I’m not trying to “convert” you to “my” way of thinking… but to OPEN you to NEW ways of thinking. This dialogue is fun! I look forward to it continuing!

  • DV82XL says:

    I’m not particularly interested in converting you to my way of thinking, as much as showing that your way is hypocritical, compartmentalized, and irrational, and that this remains so no mater how much you twist and prevaricate.

    Nor do I hate Christians per se, I dislike hypocrites of any stripe, and I rarely pass up an opportunity to show them what they are. You can claim membership in the Christian communion, but if you are not practicing according to its precepts you are hardly a credible witness or representative of Christian thought.

    Please show me where my description of the narrative is wrong; attempting to dismiss it out of hand as biased strikes me as avoiding the question. After all your interpretation of the Bible wouldn’t be? For example you seem to believe that: “I view the Bible as not only a religious text but a historical one as it is the accounts of Men who witnessed the events in the life of Jesus.” Well it is certain that none of the Gospels were first hand accounts. Nether the authors of John or Luke/Acts were contemporaries by almost a generation, and Mathew and Mark used Luke as a source. These are well established facts, recognized as true by almost all Biblical scholars.

    You can hardly debate the merits of the Bible, while remaining ignorant of its shortcomings, OR you accept the Bible as inerrant, in which case there are no grounds for debate. Do you see? You can’t sit on the fence in any of this, once you start to question you have gone too far, and the only way not to follow through to the logical conclusion – the Bible is largely a work of fiction – is to put blinkers on.

    That’s why claims of intellectual theism of any sort, Christian or otherwise, are a fraud; ultimately it requires putting the concussion first and then justifying it, which is both logically flawed, and by the act itself a rejection of the requirements of faith which is to believe without the need for proof.

    Lest you think this is a personal attack on you remember that this thread is about religious privilege, victimization, and bad arguments, I’m just illustrating how invocations of intellectual theology are nothing more than a veiled claim for privilege, based on bad arguments.

    You’re handling the victimization part on your own rather well.

    BTW my screen name is pronounced,’deviate to excel’ hardly a “jumble of letters and numbers”

  • Will says:

    Actual experience is “ignorance?” Come again?

  • Mark Lukas says:

    Zack,
    Sorry for my extended abscence! Between my 3 kids, the labor day weekend and some home demolition/construction I haven’t been able to give your questions much thought up until now. Here it goes…

    What is the value of having faith that is not justified (or, as an atheist would see it, unjustifiable)?

    The only value in it, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, is the betterment of the individual. Some people are fine on their own, others need a guideline. I think that even “unjustified” (I take it you mean by this that it can’t be proven that there is a god who revealed himself through any person and/or holy scripture) faith can prove valuable in that it can encourage a person to be better, more kind, less self centered, etc, with others.
    Where religion goes off the rails, in my opinion even as a believer, is when you try to force others either by the rule of law or the barrell of a gun (or button of a detonator) to follow what you believe. That is just wrong and, from a Christian standpoint, can’t be justified by scripture unless you REALLY twist things. Same with Islam, the justification of the killing of “infidels” and forced acceptance of Allah can only be done through a whole lot of creative twisting of the Koran. Sidenote: As a believer I think that Christ never came to be a force in politics. If he would have been I’m sure he would have encouraged his followers to overthrow Rome. Which was a typical mode of operation for most insurgents in those days.

    What is the value of “leaps of faith” and why is it better to take them than to not take them?

    I don’t know if I can answer this from a purely pragmatic standpoint as a leap of faith means that you are taking the leap to believe in something or someone. The value could be in, again, the betterment of the individual through their faith. Through the leap that allows them to believe that there is a god there to not only show them right from wrong but will help them along the way. Even if you don’t believe in god there is proof that faith and/or strong belief can influence the way a person acts/reacts.
    Note: I think our conscience is the programming that shows us right from wrong. This, I believe, was given to us by god as I think, if we were just a sophistocated animal, we wouldn’t have. I think we would be far less giving and WAY more self centered were it not for that.

    In both cases I speak about faith in an ideal way. There are plenty of people that use their faith for some very ugly things. This is a tragedy, in any faith. Belief in a creator is suppose to make you more loving toward your fellow man, not encourage you to oppress him or blow him to bits if he doesn’t fall in line with your beliefs. I think this is more a symptom of greedy people more than one of an evil god.

    Again, I apologize it took me so long to respond. Hope this helps and/or will lead to some spirited debate:) Hope you had a great memorial day weekend Zack!

    M

  • ZackFord says:

    Mark Lukas,

    I would encourage you to investigate the growing research that demonstrates that morality and sense of right and wrong are very much evolved aspects of humanity, “gifts” of natural selection.

    I also feel the need to follow the script by replying, “Do you need God to be good? Are you only good because of your desire to please him or your fear of displeasing him? Aren’t those awfully shallow reasons to be good to fellow humans?”

    What if we simply articulated goodness as a trait of all humanity, and not one that requires subscription to an ideology, but one that reflects a global community of life?

  • Mark Lukas says:

    I’m not saying that I am good just to please god or out of fear of him. I think the common misconception (granted, a lot of times encouraged my a lot of Christiandom) is that people follow him out of fear. If fear is the only thing that any god may have as a motivation for obedience then count me out. I am not a Christian out of fear and I think it is a HORRIBLE, short sighted and short termed way of getting “converts”. Biblicly (not using this to convince you of the faith just as an example) I am commanded to “love my neighbor as myself”. Simple, and with no fear motivator attached to it. Doing good to others just because they are THEM.
    As far as where the morality comes from, I am more than willing to look at any research you will point me towards but I have a feeling that that is a pure faith issue on both sides. My reason for saying that is this: the more muddied areas of science are just as “faith” driven as theology. People, all people, have a personal.stake in proving that their view is correct. Scientists have their reasons, theologians have theirs. When it comes to evolution of the human mind, there probably is proof but the data could be open to different interpretations even within the scientific community.
    Having said that, I promise to read it with an open mind:)

  • PB says:

    Actual experience is "ignorance?" Come again?

  • Navya says:

    Wow! My name is Navya and these are all great posts! I’m really enjoying the spirited discussion! lol Bravo dual Marks, you both are doing a wonderful job addressing Christianity as it should be! I think a majority of Christians are either too ignorant or apathetic to what their religion truly means. Zac and others (Atheists) seem to think faith is a nonessential crutch in substitute for fact and science (paraphrasing of course). I believe this is correct.

    I really liked the definitions of faith Mark put up. Faith, in my opinion, to a Christian is not a handicap but a tool. Atheists and people of all faiths believe somethings by faith. We have faith that the doctor we go to will do his/her best (otherwise we wouldn’t go), we have faith that our loved ones care for us. You might be thinking, “but wait! all of those things can be proven or evidenced in some way! How is THAT taking things by FAITH?!” The thing is…we never really know. Our doctor could be more concerned about profit and money than our health. Our loved ones can hurt us in the most greivous ways (homicides, infidelity, etc.). We make resonable assumptions based on evidence and/or experience but we aren’t omniscient. Blind faith is never okay, but faith based on reason and/or experience is only natural. I digress. Back to what I was saying about faith being a tool rather than a handicap. Faith is what gets Christians through hard times and makes life more fulfilling in the good times, so it is not a handicap to Christians. Though you might think it is an intellectual handicap, faith that is based on reasonable evidence and/or experience is never flawed. For the faith to be flawed the premises must be flawed, but if the person has reasonable premises, then you can’t just call that person’s faith blind or unsubstantiated. So the question is…what is a reasonable premise?

    And here in lies the tricky part. Everyone has a different perspective. I really liked the part in Pulp Fiction when Jules and Vincent are talking about the “miracle” that had ocurred. Jules and Vincent are two gangtser working for a guy named Marsellus. Their assignment is to retrieve a black briefcase, but in the process, a guy runs out of a room and shoots them point blank six times; however, none of the bullets touched either of them, seeing as how the guy was shooting blindly. Jules sees it as a miracle that he wasn’t killed, Vincent sees it as a freak accident. Same occurrence, different perspective. Of course they spend the rest of the time trying to convince each other of what had happened,(Much like how Christians and Atheists discuss things today) but neither of them backs down. The funny thing is it ends with Vincent getting angry with Jules for coming up with crazy answers to which Jules promptly replies, “If my answers trouble you, why do you ask the questions?”–something like that. It reminded me of what Atheists and Christians do. We ask each other questions and sometimes get annoyed by the answers. And I think it’s mostly because we’re trying to convince each other “even though we’re not trying to convince each other” lol but it sometimes boils down to a matter of perspective. If life was a painting. Someone might look at it and say, “Wow look at how the artist displays complexity and aesthetic appeal!” While another might say, “Who dropped the canvas on a pile of paint buckets?”

    I digressed several times. Sorry about that, but hopefully it made enough sense to follow! Let me know if I committed the egregios sin of fallacy. But hey! To err is human, to forgive is divine. ;)

  • ZackFord says:

    Navya, I would encourage you to read my recent post about the word “believe,” as it applies in much the same as the word faith.

    There is a difference between TRUSTING (based on evidence) and BELIEVING (based on faith). Faith, by definition, is built on NO evidence. Do not confuse these two concepts merely because words are often inaccurately interchanged.

    In the case of Jules and Vincent, I would side with Vincent. He doesn’t need any more evidence than he has to support his claim that it was a freak accident. Jules insists it’s something more: a miracle. He has only the same evidence, but he makes a bigger claim. The question is an intellectual one: how did Jules make that jump? To be skeptical is to also be critically curious, and demand that such conclusions be verified. The answer is faith, which is literally no answer. Making meaning of nothing is a terrible precedent that we know has often deadly consequences when it comes to the application of religion.

    Faith is a false tool to support a false end. God (and the faith that supports his existence) is just an external projection of the internal. Faith is NOT what gets you through rough times or makes life more fulfilling in good times. Atheists have those same sensations, which is because they are all within our own consciousness. By relying on faith, we are letting down our own self-awareness, self-confidence, and intellectual potential. Faith is a crutch that keeps us dependent, gullible, and detached from our own true inner strength.

    As fanciful as your artistic and emotional interpretation of faith might be, it cannot contend with a reason-driven empirical discussion of facts and understanding.

  • Navya says:

    Ahhh Zack! You have made the error of omniscience! How do you know it is not faith that gets me and other people through hard times and difficulties? You certainly do not share my experiences or have gone through what I’ve gone through, and I’m certain you cannot see into my head! lol You’re basing that assumption on what you perceive and therefore are doing the same thing you claim Christians do–subjecting others to your terms. But I’ll play along.

    Ok, let me forget my faith. Where does that leave me? With reason and facts as you say. Therefore things are true only if it holds up to evidence. But people can subvert evidence to suit their ends, so the only evidence worth trusting completely is the evidence I myself garner from experiments, experience, etc. But I can never and no one else can ever obtain 100% completely accurate evidence about the origins of the universe or the existence of the supernatural…it’s all speculative and up to theory. So where does that leave me?

    Well now I am at a crossroads. I can say, well since I myself can’t possibly know for sure, then I can’t ever know for sure…so I shouldn’t bother and sneer at everyone that does think so…or I could think, maybe I could know for sure and try to figure out how that’s possible.

    And this is why there is a conflict. Atheists believe you can’t know things of that sort for certain, and Christians and other people of faith think you can. And you’re right, maybe it was wrong to use faith when trust would’ve worked better BUT what really is the difference? You say trust is based on evidence? Well then, I “trust” in God, and you will of course ask, “Where’s the evidence?” Well to me, he is self-evident. haha You can’t refute me on that, if you do…you’re playing God. ;) But whether or not people believe things by faith is not really the point. I’ve realized from talking to Atheists, reading books, watching TV…most people love Jesus but they hate Christians. And that I think is the number one reason people look at our faith and laugh. Not because we “believe” in it, but because our lifestyles and actions hardly match our beliefs. Sad to say but if Jesus was still alive today, I doubt he would hang out with a majority of us who claim to be his followers.

    I really like this quote: The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world, simply finds unbelievable.

    I forget who said this but it’s true. There is no power in just mere “faith.” In this we both agree. Faith in and of itself is useless. HOW people put that faith into practice matters. I myself am more willing to listen to a Muslim who practices what he preaches than another Christian who completely has no regard for what Jesus taught.

    And if you were to say, Well even if Christians acted out their faith, I still wouldn’t believe them; however, you might respect them more because of it, and in the end, isn’t that what really matters? :)

  • ZackFord says:

    Navya, you have made some pretty dramatic conclusions that I can not let stand. I make my points strongly, but know that it is my goal to challenge you and further the discourse.

    I don’t assume to read your mind. You THINK faith is what gets you through, but “faith” is just a mask for the internal motivation that gets you through. There is a difference. A significant population of resilient atheists are clear proof that faith is not what humanity needs to get through the hard times. It might be very real to you that faith is what gets you through, but my point is that faith has no substance of its own, so it’s not ACTUALLY faith that gets you through. Faith is very much a crutch that keeps us from owning our emotions and our challenges and drawing our own conclusions about our lives.

    You’ve also made the assumption that you NEED to know the origin of the universe to somehow find meaning in your life. Why? What difference would that make? How bold to suggest that YOU can know such a thing when scientists have several workable ideas and no definite conclusion! You also humor the idea that there IS anything supernatural, but only because you assume you CAN understand that which you obviously can’t. That doesn’t mean the supernatural exists. It just means you’re looking for meaning in phenomena that either need no meaning or just haven’t been explained yet.

    If you could know anything for sure, we would teach it in schools and universities. There is no such thing as “truth” which we can’t know. Faith and knowledge are not on an equal playing field. There is only what we know and the stories we have MADE UP to fill in the rest.

    And Here is a place where you are just wrong (and confirming the memes). “He is self-evident. haha You can’t refute me on that.” YES I CAN! We should be able to have an intellectual debate about the existence of God just like we debate any other issue. You don’t actually have evidence, and me saying so isn’t “playing God,” it’s making a valid intellectual point. You saying you have felt God is not evidence of God, but further evidence of your subscription to the delusions (beliefs) by which you were raised.

    Atheism, for me at least, is an intellectual and political point of view. It’s a critique on how humanity constructs knowledge. You can’t “know God and then try to figure it out.” It is the opposite of how we learn. It’s insanity. And that insanity allows so many horrible things to happen in this world, and it is my goal to unpack that. So to me, it doesn’t matter whether Christians live by their professed faith or not, the mere idea that living by faith is somehow worthwhile is preposterous to me.

    Your faith is a self-fulfilling prophesy. You believe it and it’s true and it’s true because you believe it. That’s not knowledge. If anything, it resembles an addiction that keeps you from controlling your own life or your own construction of knowledge.

  • Will says:

    Navya:
    “Well now I am at a crossroads. I can say, well since I myself can’t possibly know for sure, then I can’t ever know for sure…so I shouldn’t bother and sneer at everyone that does think so…or I could think, maybe I could know for sure and try to figure out how that’s possible.

    And this is why there is a conflict. Atheists believe you can’t know things of that sort for certain, and Christians and other people of faith think you can.”

    There’s a crucial misunderstanding of our position there. That bears resemblance, but the subtle differences actually completely change the meaning. First off:
    -We can never know ANYTHING with 100% accuracy, aside from the fact that our own consciousness exists. It is possible that EVERYTHING we see is nothing but random delusion with no connection, and “solipsists” actually believe this. Does it take a “leap of faith” to get past this? Effectively, no. We reach the conclusion that there is a causal connection between events we observe because of experience – we have seen a causal connection between observed events in the past. 100%? No, but it’s good enough for me (and all of us, really).
    -Even with that assumption, we still cannot be 100% sure of anything. Our senses are imperfect, and our perception biased in a manner of subtle ways. So we cannot even rely on our own senses for perfect information.
    -The above is only a problem if you see 100% accuracy as vital. Uncertainty is, unfortunately, a part of life. This does not mean we throw all certainty out the door! It simply means that we must try to get as close as we can get. Yes, other people are not necessarily believable. That doesn’t mean we must throw aside all testimony – we can use our experience with those people to see if they have been reliable in the past, ask them for their justifications, ask others about that person’s reliability, and repeat the whole process again for THOSE people… all this is part of how we actually deal with trying to get answers.
    -So, no, we cannot personally go back and witness our universe’s origin. We can never be 100% certain – but that doesn’t mean we have no information at all! We can study our universe as it is now and draw some conclusions about the past – and verify those with empiricism and corroboration.

    So, then, our approach to the problem is simple: we cannot witness our origin nor be perfectly certain. But we can try to get as close as we can. So we study, and learn, and attempt to discover how the world is, so we can answer that question to the best of our abilities (and those of others). If we don’t know anything about the answer, we say so; if we have a justifiable hypothesis, we might tentatively accept it. When more evidence comes along to back some other explanation, we’ll weigh it, and adjust our theory to fit the available evidence.

    So first off, it isn’t really accurate at all to say “Well, we weren’t there, so we must have no evidence or information at all!” concerning the universe’s origin. It is, however, correct to refer to a lack of evidence surrounding a deity, so let’s move on to that.

    So the question is, “Is there exists an omnipotent, omniscient being with the power to create worlds and perform miracles?” The claim is that there is. Now this alone – this is an ENORMOUS claim! This claim inherently violates everything else we know about the physical world, demanding exceptions for all otherwise immutable laws and countless wholly new types of interaction that we’ve NEVER seen before*! So, a skeptic says, I’m going to need to see a LOT of evidence for this claim, if I’m going to accept it.

    And yet, there is no actual evidence ever put forward. So, we’ve got this immensely unlikely claim without any rational reason TO accept it… why would we? It seems to defy logic.

    So, we’ve dealt with what you don’t understand about our position, and now we’ve come to what *I* don’t understand about *your* position, Navya. I really DO NOT understand faith in the sense of “believing in something without an evidential reason to do so.” We’re faced with this question about the world to which we don’t know the answer, and while I am trying to answer the question to the best of my ability, it seems to me that you are throwing reason to the wind and taking a random guess, making up a story and giving that as your answer. I really do not understand your point of view, and I’d love to hear you explain.

    (And just as an aside: No, that quote of yours is not true; in fact, even though you don’t realize it, it’s an insult. Sure, I don’t like people like Pat Robertson. But were you all models of kindness and morality, that wouldn’t change whether or not your religion is actually true, would it? Of course not; you acting nice doesn’t cause a god to appear, and Pat Robertson acting mean doesn’t cause a god to vanish. It’s an insult to think that we’re simply too dull to grasp that. If you were all saintly, I might admire your better qualities – but it certainly wouldn’t change my lack of belief, which has nothing to do with your behavior.)

    Zack – love everything you’ve posted except this:
    “Faith is NOT what gets you through rough times or makes life more fulfilling in good times.”
    Must disagree with you there. Navya’s right: you don’t know that. Faith is certainly not the ONLY thing that gets you through rough times, nor the ONLY thing that makes like fulfilling – but IF you’re claiming that it *never* does those things, that’s as short-sighted as the faith-only view. Didn’t you listen to Mark II’s story?

    *I’m not sure how apparent this is, so let me give an example. Let’s assume this deity does exist. Say it wanted to reach through the wall of my house from the outside and type something on my keyboard – could it do that? Well, sure it could! Now, though, we’ve got to totally redefine what is and isn’t material, what interacts with physical objects, etc. The very meaning of “physical object” has to be radically redefined.

  • ZackFord says:

    Will, you’re right and I should clarify. I meant to address the idea that faith is what HAS to get them through. Faith is not the only source of resilience.

    Now, this depends on how much we humor the idea of faith. If we critically analyzed WHAT faith is from a sociological perspective, I would still contend that faith is a projection of the self and that faith itself does not have actual substance. If we follow that through, we still see that it is not faith in God that offers emotional support. That faith is actually a mask or façade for “faith” in oneself, which I would argue is not faith at all, but confidence, courage, perseverance, and/or resilience.

  • Navya says:

    Hahaha man oh man oh man I love it! Zack, so you think my faith is a delusion? Ahh if only. I don’t believe in God because there is evidence out there to prove he exists. I believe in him because I’ve experienced the presence of him. He’s as real to me as real as you are even though all I see are words on the page. I don’t expect you to understand. That is why he’s self-evident. It wasn’t logic, facts, or science that proved him to me. It was my own experience. Now think of it this way. The experience I had…it would be fine to assume that my experience was flawed if I was the only one or only a few people experienced it; however, I can guarantee you that MANY Christians have had an experience like this (I say many because not everyone who calls themselves a Christian really is). You still think my faith is a crutch? I pity you for thinking that. lol Like I’ve said, you don’t know my experiences.

    About the origins of the Universe, you’re right I really could care less. That doesn’t change what I believe because I base what I believe off of the life of Jesus. Interesting how Christianity flourished under persecution. If it was based on a lie, you think it would’ve been stomped out quick or at least not as popular as it is today! lol

    “you’re looking for meaning in phenomena that either need no meaning or just haven’t been explained yet” Phenomena that needs no meaning? Could you explain to me what type of phenomena that is?

    Lastly like I’ve said before. It isn’t what you believe but how you live it out. Atheism is just as dangerous as faith in the wrong hands. Look at what Hitler did with the philosophy of Neitzche. And I don’t know why you’re bashing faith so much. Look at what Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Florence Nightingale, and so many others did in the name of Christ and human rights. Do I need to also remind you that most of the famous scientists that made innovative breakthroughs had some sort of faith or the other? Granted people have also used Christianity as a means to achieve power, dominance, cover corruption, and other vices as well. Which is why I believe that religion and politics shouldn’t mix.

    “There is no such thing as “truth” which we can’t know.”–How do you “know” that? “We don’t know and we can’t know and it’s foolish to assume otherwise.” And once again I must ask, “How do you know that we can’t know?” I mean you’re right…we don’t know many things, but to say that we can’t know, that’s a pretty big statement in and of itself. That’s what you said in your Stalemate meme. But it isn’t a Stalemate. One of us is right. One of us is wrong. It’s as simple as that. haha You of course will posit that you are right and I will say that I am. There is no negation of argument here haha.

    Oh and Will, I disagree with you. I believe that somethings can be known with absolute conviction. 1) Given certain premises, certain things will happen. The Cause and Effect Law so to speak. 2) The Law of the Excluded Middle: Two differing extremes cannot both be right at the same time in the same context. Etc. etc. Many other stuff I could list, but If you could logically or scientifically negate my stance, I will gladly concede my point. :)

  • ZackFord says:

    Ah, Navya, you underestimate me.

    It is EXACTLY because so many have had the same experience of “his presence” that I think it’s a delusion! Even moreso with statements like, “I don’t expect you to understand.”

    When did you first believe in God? How did you come to believe in him? Why do you worship Jesus? How did you come to worship Jesus? Why do you worship Jesus and not other manifestations of God or other gods? When did you experience the presence of God? How did you know it was the presence of God? Tell us what “experiencing the presence” means. Tell us how you “know” God exists. Show us how to also experience his presence. Show us how you know Jesus is God and why you worship him (without using the Bible, if you can).

    I don’t expect you to answer those questions. My point is simply that like all devout believers, you were indoctrinated. You only believe what you believe because you were CONVINCED to believe it. The conditioning began when you were very young, before your brain had matured concrete reasoning skills. The terrors of Hell, the joy of the Lord, Santa Claus, and the monster under the bed were all equally as real as I am to you, but society made sure that not all of them faded away. There is severe social pressure (not unlike what you exhibit to others now yourself) to believe, but to continue to believe is to limit a part of your brain from fully growing up.

    God is a well developed delusion. If you had said “I have felt the presence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” (or whatever, fill in the blank),” and expected us to believe it, we would call you crazy. Only because you fill the blank with God, it’s okay? No, God is no more realistic or likely than anything else the imagination can come up with.

    Phenomena that don’t have meaning? Coincidences. If all these “amazing” things happened at the same time, it doesn’t mean “God must have meant it to happen.” That applied significance is bogus. A whole bunch of things happening at the same time might be fortunate, but it is only symbolic of a whole bunch of things happening at the same time. Nothing more.

    How people live and who lived how is an irrelevant obfuscation to the argument at hand, especially since your facts are wrong. Many of the world’s greatest scientists are and have been atheists. Hitler was a practicing Catholic. Mother Teresa opposed empowering women which is what could have made the biggest impact on poverty. Just because some believers have done some good things, even in the name of their faith, doesn’t mean that’s a good reason for their faith. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a classic fallacy. As you pointed out, many bad things have happened in the name of religion. The lesson isn’t that religion and politics shouldn’t mix; the lesson is that religion is not a reliable force for good in the world and certainly not a reason for it to be maintained! Anyone can justify believing anything with religion, and the real answer to this potential abuse is to no longer justify religious belief at all.

    I don’t think you understand the Stalemate meme, since you’re trying to use it. It’s NOT right vs. wrong. It’s right vs. we don’t know. Will and I don’t need to be right. Our whole point is that any conclusion about anything supernatural is preposterous and unfounded. We don’t claim an alternative; we make no claim. All we have to do is disprove you to “win” the argument, which we have done. In fact, you haven’t offered anything to support your side, which isn’t surprising because there is no such evidence.

    Now, you have a lot of reasons to hold onto your faith. It’s easy. It affects how well you interact with society, including your social networks. You’ve been conditioned to need to believe, not unlike an addiction. Letting go would be tough, but if you’re holding onto nothing, why exert so much energy?

  • Will says:

    “Oh and Will, I disagree with you. I believe that somethings can be known with absolute conviction.”
    You bring up a couple of good points; my earlier claim was too broad and a mistake. I’m going to draw a distinction between what I’ll call “descriptive statements,” which describe the way the world is, and “pure logical statements,” which are tautologies and contradictions. Examples of the former would be claims like “the sky is blue,” “like charges attract,” and “god exists,” and examples of the latter would be the law of the excluded middle, the modus ponens, etc. What I had in mind when saying “you can’t be 100% sure of anything” was the former type of statements. Sorry for the confusion, I wasn’t being anywhere near clear enough. Now then, to the justification.
    To use an extremely trite example – and I do apologize for this – how do you know you aren’t living in a simulation like the Matrix? We have some reasons to believe that we aren’t, but we cannot actually prove or disprove it.
    This shows that we cannot ever be 100% certain that ANYTHING we perceive is real, and that takes away our ability to make any (descriptive) statement with 100% accuracy. how the world works; if “how the world is” is just something we’ve imagined, we don’t know anything.
    Now, I’m not actually supporting solipsism. The world does appear to be consistent and logical, which is all the reason we CAN have to believe that it is. But we can’t be *100% sure* that we aren’t living in a total hallucination, completely divorced from any connection to how the world really is.

    But anyway. I’ve belabored the point enough, and all I really meant to impart with that was “we can never fully trust our own perception for absolute (descriptive) truth.” The meat of my argument was in the rest of it…

    “Zack, so you think my faith is a delusion? Ahh if only. I don’t believe in God because there is evidence out there to prove he exists. I believe in him because I’ve experienced the presence of him. [...] The experience I had…it would be fine to assume that my experience was flawed if I was the only one or only a few people experienced it; however, I can guarantee you that MANY Christians have had an experience like this”

    Okay, so you didn’t explicitly give a reason for your claim that there is a difference between delusion and true spiritual experience – but it sounds like you’re arguing that we can tell the difference by seeing whether other people have the same experience, right?

    So if that’s the case, why aren’t you also a Buddhist? Plenty of Buddhists talk about how they’ve reached transcendent spiritual experiences, in a similar way that you (and other Christians) do. Same with Muslims. And Jews. And Wiccans. And Scientologists. And so on. Clearly if this is all the criteria you need to determine that a religion is true, they’re all true – which produces lots of contradictions – which shows that the premise is false.

    (So why can’t I simply trust your accounts on “spiritual experience” the way I might trust your accounts of everyday experience? To put it simply, observability. When you talk about seeing something or feeling some emotion or the like, I can have similar experiences – I could in theory have gone to see it myself, or I could trigger a similar emotional reaction. But when you start introducing new, extra senses – these mystical connections you talk about feeling – there is, inherently, no way I can recreate them. Even the other people you have to corroborate your account did not actually witness what you witnessed – they witnessed their own “connection” within their own personal perception. As such, there is no way to distinguish these from delusion, or at least no way that has been given thus far.)

  • Navya says:

    “My point is simply that like all devout believers, you were indoctrinated. You only believe what you believe because you were CONVINCED to believe it. The conditioning began when you were very young, before your brain had matured concrete reasoning skills. The terrors of Hell, the joy of the Lord, Santa Claus, and the monster under the bed were all equally as real as I am to you”

    First off I’ve never believed in Santa Claus. haha Second, indoctrinated? I think my parents wished that was what happened! All right, I need to give you some background. Yes my parents were Christians, yes they dragged me to church, made me pray and read the Bible…I hated doing all of it. To me Christianity was something my parents were trying to shove down my throat. While they preached Christian doctrine and morals, they hardly were ideal parents at times. Especially my mother, who would twist scripture to mean whatever she wanted it to say. My parents drove me away from Christianity not towards it! But I came back, not because of my parents, not because of the “indoctrination” you speak of from others, but because I chose to come back. My parents had a very narrow-minded Christianity and it wasn’t that there faith was any less real to them, it just made it more unattractive to me. I loved to read though. I would read books about all faiths, all religions, about Atheism, Agnosticism, and cult books. I loved to read about differing beliefs and think sometimes if I was an Atheist how I would defend myself against a Christian or if I was a Buddhist, how I would argue against a Muslim…things of that sort. So you can’t say I haven’t explored other possibilities. But then I looked back at Christianity and thought to myself, if I can’t find enough evidence to believe in it then I’ll look somewhere else. So I started reading Christian apologies, they made sense, but weren’t enough to convince me. Eventually, after much deliberation, I decided to take a chance. I would pray, if nothing happened, I would move on with my life, and that would be that, it wouldn’t have bothered me that much. So I used to be a skeptic, I took a chance, and I’m not a skeptic anymore. And if you would like to ask why Christianity and not another religion? Well in all my readings, I learned that Christianity is the only popular religion that isn’t based on a merit system of some sort. You don’t “earn” your way into heaven and also because of things like what happened to Jesus’ disciples. Mark went into great detail with that which I loved. And why not Atheism? Why? It wouldn’t have made any difference in the way I was living beforehand.

    “Tell us what “experiencing the presence” means. Tell us how you “know” God exists. Show us how to also experience his presence.”
    I’ll tell you what it means. It’s life-altering. You do things that make other people wonder why. They don’t know what’s gotten into you, but they like the new you. Show you how to experience? I don’t think you could, because it seems to me you’ve already closed your mind to the idea of a God, so unless God decides to show himself to you…I don’t see anything I can do. I like Will’s use of the Matrix. I’m going to use the Matrix also. To show how to experience God to you would be like Neo explaining to everyone else how to experience the Matrix without them taking the pill. Sorry, but at least the analogy works! haha Unless you’ve experienced what I went through, you wouldn’t understand. And your use of the word delusional…do you even know what you’re implying by saying people of faith are delusional? You’re basically implying that everyone has been indoctrinated or is insane; however, have you thought about the different life stories of those who are Christian and I mean really Christian–not only on Sunday? They are people of different backgrounds and experiences and some of them were devout believers of other faiths! Some of them have even been atheists! Look at Mark’s story. He sacrificed a lot to get to where he was, and I know several stories of atheists who started trying to disprove the idea of God but ending up converting…C.S. Lewis is the most famous example I can think of.

    And now I will address Will.

    “Even the other people you have to corroborate your account did not actually witness what you witnessed – they witnessed their own “connection” within their own personal perception. As such, there is no way to distinguish these from delusion, or at least no way that has been given thus far.)”

    Let’s play with the hypothetical. Let’s say you had a dream, a very vivid and almost realistic dream. If you believed your dream was actually real…people would most probably call you delusional. Let’s say you told your friend, and your friend says, “Hey I had a dream that was exactly like yours!” Now you’re surprised. If you and your friend went around telling everybody your dream was true, they would laugh at you and say it was mere coincidence. Now let’s add in people you’ve never met before…do you see where I’m going? To the people who haven’t had the dream, the people dreaming are being delusional. The people dreaming however know they aren’t because lots of people can’t have the same dream with the same details. You know something outside of yourself is at work. Poor analogy? Perhaps…but I hope I got the point across.

  • ZackFord says:

    If you “came back” to Christianity, then you never really escaped the conditioning you had. You never had the experience of growing up Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist, so going “back” to Christianity was just following a path of least resistance. You never actually escaped the Matrix you were inserted into by your upbringing.

    A truth that is not a fact is a delusion. Just because a whole lot of people have convinced each other they believe the same thing does not mean their “dream” is any less delusional. It just means they’re gullible, naïve, and conforming.

    You’re the one in a system, a Matrix. We are the ones looking at everything objectively, from the outside. You continue to rely on your own experiences while we use discernible facts to consider all possibilities rationally.

  • Will says:

    You haven’t addressed the problem, though. To continue your analogy, there are also several OTHER large groups of people sharing other dreams, and these people also claim their dreams are real, and your dreams and their dreams are mutually incompatible. Again, the reasons you’ve given for believing your “dream” is true invariably lead to us assuming all the “dreams” are true, which gives us a contradiction – so those reasons are faulty.

    Also, your analogy has some SIGNIFICANT differences from what you’re describing. In your analogy, there’s no apparent “real world” cause for different people to have the same dream. In fact, this is the *entire basis* behind pointing to an outside cause – for example, if you all had dreams about a movie you’d all just watched, dream-sharing would be seen as completely plausible rather than supernatural. It is the absence of a shared material cause that (seems to) imply a supernatural cause. Back outside of the metaphor, in the real real world, however, this is completely UNLIKE spiritual experiences. Far from being something that one has never heard about before, something with no material source, this is something we’re told about extensively. People LOVE to share stories about spiritual experiences – and I’m far from being someone who’s likely to seek those stories out! In your case, you mention having read extensively about religion and actively seeking out this sort of thing – so you’ve had even more exposure. So, the shared nature of the experience is entirely to be EXPECTED – part of our socialization is being told to expect this sort of experience, and told what it’s like in vivid detail. So, the shared experience does NOT necessitate a supernatural cause – it’s not a sign that “You know something outside of yourself is at work.”

    A couple other things I want to address:
    “I don’t think you could, because it seems to me you’ve already closed your mind to the idea of a God, so unless God decides to show himself to you…”
    Excuse me for being a bit presumptuous, but this sounds a lot like something I’ve heard often – “Well, if you can’t feel the presence of god, it just means you’re not trying hard enough!” If that is what you meant, careful. It’s wrong. When I was younger, I went through a phase where I was extremely depressed with my worldview and desperately hoped to find religion. I tried as hard as I could to pray and feel that connection, to have that spiritual experience. Obviously, it didn’t work. Eventually I grew out of the rather pessimistic way I was looking at atheism and embraced a much more positive worldview… but anyway. My point is, don’t think we just weren’t open enough, or just didn’t try hard enough.

  • Navya says:

    Haha I feel like we’ve covered so many topics, I forgot why I entered into this debate. Let me make a few rebuttals and then I’ll reiterate why even bothered to step in. lol

    “If you “came back” to Christianity, then you never really escaped the conditioning you had. You never had the experience of growing up Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist, so going “back” to Christianity was just following a path of least resistance. You never actually escaped the Matrix you were inserted into by your upbringing.”

    Honestly? So what if you were brought up Atheist? Isn’t that just following the “path of least resistance” then? You don’t share the experiences of those in the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or (add religion here) faiths. So according to your logic, growing up Atheist is just as silly as growing up in a Christian family. Somehow I feel I need to make this point clear: Upbringing is not a real determinant in faith!! I’ve seen Christians that have Atheist parents and Atheists that have Christian parents. What I’m talking about is real faith!! Not the kind of faith that says “The Bible says it’s wrong, so it’s wrong! But the kind that says, “Why does the Bible say its wrong? Let me search out the matter for myself!” It’s a faith you live out each day! Not just on Sundays! I agree with you on one thing: there are many people who grow up in Christian families that have in effect been indoctrinated. They believe what they believe because somebody told them to believe it. I don’t agree with that. And usually by the time they get to college, they stop being Christians anyway. Why? Because what they had wasn’t really theirs to begin with.

    “Just because a whole lot of people have convinced each other they believe the same thing does not mean their “dream” is any less delusional. It just means they’re gullible, naïve, and conforming.”

    Gullible, naive, and conforming? That’s just your opinion. I made a personal choice to become a Christian. Nobody convinced me. Nobody “indoctrinated” me. Sometimes when I get into discussions with other Christians, THEY irritate me because they’re not willing to look at other possibilities or keep their minds open on things. My parents irritate me all the time. lol Even among Christians, everybody has different perceptions of God based on their life experiences. The thing that unites us is that we all have had a common experience but if you were to question each one of us, you would find that the circumstances leading to the experience varies from person to person. We didn’t have to convince each other. The supplemental experiences of everyone else only build on what is already there. The dream analogy was a poor one. Sorry for that, I kind of wrote it last minute without too much thought.

    “You continue to rely on your own experiences while we use discernible facts to consider all possibilities rationally.”

    Experiences in and of themselves are not the answer! You have to look beyond the experience at what causes them! You have to ask, “Why am I experiencing this?” That’s science! I’m not looking at my experience and claiming that is the truth! I’m looking at the cause of my experiences. The only thing that could have caused my experience is a supernatural being because nothing physical, mental, or emotional could have caused what I experienced! I had an experience–the one of conversion if you will. The experience consisted of awareness of being loved and accepted. Do you know when somebody loves and accepts you? You know it when they do. That’s the feeling I felt. It certainly wasn’t coming from me. I wasn’t loving and accepting myself. I have “loved and accepted” myself on occasion out of my own egocentricity but it was nothing like that. lol So I knew with a certainty that it was coming from something outside of me. No one else was in the room. Not my family, not my friends. If they were there I could see how maybe this feeling can emanate from them. But they weren’t. You may say, well maybe I was thinking about them and their love for me. At that time no I wasn’t. I was thinking about my own selfish nature and how self-destructive I was. So where did that feeling come from. The only “rational” explanation would be that it came from a mental disorder I didn’t possess or from something outside of myself–God. Why God and not something else? It was the nature of what I experienced and THAT I cannot describe to you. You may doubt, you may scoff, but to me my faith is something rational and real and constantly evolving. Honestly, if I was gullible, naive, and conforming, would there really need to be a reason to have this dialogue? I could just wrap myself in a Christian bubble and drown out all other voices, which is what some Christians do…and I disagree with that. To blanket all Christians under the same terms is ignorance. That’s just as stupid as me saying all Atheists have no morals or values because everything is meaningless. I get into these discussions because you help point out things in my faith that I haven’t really or fully questioned; however, nothing you’ve presented is enough to convince ME that the Atheist lifestyle is better than the Christian one, as I’m sure nothing I’ve said has had any effect on you. The point of discussion isn’t necessarily always to walk out with a clear verdict, sometimes it’s to help better understand both positions. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m not trying to convince you of my faith or of Christianity for that matter but to help clear misconceptions about what our FAITH means TO US not TO YOU.

    Wow, come to think of it. I’ve digressed a lot haha Oh well, my original reason for entering this argument was that a contention was made that faith is a handicap in people’s lives. haha I of course disagree. You can be a successful and happy Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, etc. There are truly wretched people out there that if not for faith, they would’ve still been wretched. Faith does have the power to change people and make them better but like I’ve said before, it needs to be your own faith, not something someone’s spoon-fed you. My favorite example of positive, life-altering faith is this story (my retelling):

    A tribesman was sitting on a beach boiling a pot on a campfire in preparation for lunch. While he waited, he pulled out a Bible and started reading. While he was reading, an Atheist came up to him and scolded him. “Don’t you know what you’re reading is false? That it is just a collection of fables and twisted accounts? How could you believe in such a thing?!” The tribesman looked at him and replied, “If it wasn’t for this book, you’d be in that pot.”

    I don’t know if this was based on real events but it does make a good example. Many tribal people stopped being cannibals because of Christianity. Most examples are not that dramatic but faith does change people’s lives. There’s no denying that. The reason why there is so much problems with faith is because people sometimes use it for political or ulterior motives (Ex:George Bush–”God told me to invade Iraq”) or to justify an evil (Southerners and Slavery). Then some of them try to convince ignorant and gullible people to believe and not question and twist the meaning of scriptures or other holy writings. (David Koresh, Islamic and Christian fundamentalists) Dangerous. Very dangerous. Most cults start this way.

    So there I’ve said what I wanted to say and a little more than I needed to say. lol Thank you Zack for the spirited discussion. I only have two real questions for you: 1) Are you satisfied with the way your life is turning out? 2) Are you willing to die for what you believe? And I’m not talking about somebody killing you just because you’re Atheist, I’m talking about somebody giving you the option to recant and you still choosing to die anyway. Because if there’s nothing worth dying for, there really is nothing worth living for either. If you can answer with a resounding “yes” to both questions then I’m happy for you. You’ve found something worth dying for that also gives you satisfaction in life. I can respect that. I may not agree with you but I can respect that.

    And Will?

    When I was younger, I went through a phase where I was extremely depressed with my worldview and desperately hoped to find religion. I tried as hard as I could to pray and feel that connection, to have that spiritual experience. Obviously, it didn’t work. Eventually I grew out of the rather pessimistic way I was looking at atheism and embraced a much more positive worldview… but anyway. My point is, don’t think we just weren’t open enough, or just didn’t try hard enough.

    I’m sorry if you assumed I was talking to everybody. Thank you for sharing this with me. I enjoy hearing people’s stories because it helps me understand them better. My statement was meant more for Zack than for everyone else. Seeing as how you’ve tried and it didn’t work, I applaud you for at least giving it some thought. The same questions I asked Zack are the same ones I would like to ask you. Perhaps you had a moment or moments in time when something terrible happened and you wondered, “If a God existed how can this be possible?” Perhaps someone close to you betrayed you in some way, I don’t know. But I would truly love to hear your life story. Not to add a Christian spin on it, not to further try to convert you, but to try to understand you, and in trying to do so, becoming a more aware and understanding person. My email is navya_nandamudi@baylor.edu. Why a Christian school? Hey! I have free tuition! That’s hard to turn down! lol

  • ZackFord says:

    You have to be conditioned to believe, not to not believe. You have to be conditioned to humor the idea that the Bible is somehow legitimate and worth investigating. You wouldn’t have made any “choice” to become Christian if you weren’t influenced by and surrounded by Christianity. What if you had lived in an isolated part of the world and never even heard of it? (Does that mean you’d automatically rot in Hell since evangelists and missionaries didn’t get to you?)

    “It must have been something outside of myself,” is HARDLY rational by any stretch of the imagination. You completely left out the possibility that your brain convinced itself to feel loved despite the fact there was nothing real loving it. That’s actually pretty easy to conceive. I can convince my brain it’s having sex and produce a pretty physical reaction, but that doesn’t mean I was screwing a ghost.

    I’m not contending that good things don’t happen in the name of religion, but you don’t need religion to do any of those things. Is there anything in Christianity that actually condemns cannibalism (aside from of course condemning murder)? Island peoples often WORSHIP the settlers who come because of their technological advances and wealth of supplies. People are naturally attracted to better ideas and sometimes they’ll take new bad ideas along with new good ones. It’s hardly a good defense of religion.

    I think you’re “willing to die” is a horrible example. I would say that I am very happy with how my life is turning out, but so much so that I would want to preserve it. I have no egotistical deity to worry about offending, so if my life was on the line, I probably would consider lying. Martyrdom is one of the worst evils religion advocates. No physical threat could make me change my mind or make me actually think differently, but if you’re judging me for not dying on principle, that’s pretty barbaric (not unlike all the uncivilized practices throughout the Bible). My worldview is that life is all we have, and I think there are only things worth living for. Dying for something is shallow, and as a point of view it’s hardly admirable.

    Navya, I definitely have to say that I respect you for engaging in this heavy dialogue. Talking about one’s beliefs is one of the hardest things for people to do, and I have encountered many unwilling to engage whatsoever. Thank you for that.

    Still, everything you have said suggests to me that you succumbed to a false hope in which to feel support in your life. It may not seem false to you, but only because you’ve convinced yourself it’s real. I think it’s so much more freeing to not waste your time worshiping and praying to a God and instead focusing on your own life and your ability to make a difference in the world for the direct sake of helping people, and not just because God said so.

  • Navya says:

    “Dying for something is shallow, and as a point of view it’s hardly admirable.”

    You do realize that America was built on the fact that people were willing to die for ideas such as liberty and independence? That men and women fight for the sake of others and their countries? People DIE to protect loved ones…but I guess to you that’s shallow. We wouldn’t be living in the world as it is today without the sacrifices of many lives for ideas and concepts such as liberty and justice; people are willing to die for what they truly believe in. You and I are enjoying our freedom to have a religious debate because people sacrificed their lives for free speech.You should read books Goerge Orwell–1984 or Ayn Rand–Anthem, or watch movies like V for Vendetta and Equilibrium. I think it’ll help change that ignorant opinion.

    “My worldview is that life is all we have, and I think there are only things worth living for.”

    I think you quite misunderstood me and are only looking at one side of the coin. You think there are things worth living for? Ok Good! What if those things were taken away? Would you DIE for those things? Because according to logic if something is worth living for and is taken away, and you are not willing to die to keep it, then it really isn’t something worth living for. lol

    I have no egotistical deity to worry about offending, so if my life was on the line, I probably would consider lying.

    I wouldn’t die because I was afraid of offending God lol I have done things on occasion that were quite offensive to God! I would die because I believed that what I was doing or what I believed was right! The fact that you, in an extreme situation, aren’t willing to sacrifice your life for what you believe/know to be right tells me a lot about your character (don’t confuse this for what suicide bombers do. Their life is in no immediate danger. They gladly inflict harm to send a message…not what I’m talking about).

    “I think it’s so much more freeing to not waste your time worshiping and praying to a God and instead focusing on your own life and your ability to make a difference in the world for the direct sake of helping people, and not just because God said so.”

    How do you know it’s more freeing? Have you actually prayed and worshiped God before and I mean as a born-again Christian? Didn’t think so. :) Once again, that’s your opinion. lol I find my faith freeing and unconstrained. It’s a matter of perspective. ;) And I don’t help people because God “told me to.” I genuinely do care for people and want to help as many people as I can. God helps me love and care for people I wouldn’t normally love and care for, like my enemies and those who have hurt me deeply in some way. “Do good to those who hate you.”–yeah, I try to live by that verse. It can be hard though. :D

    From everything you’ve said up till now, I can infer that you are a man that has little or no principles and what little you do have don’t hold any water against the tests of life. And what you might feel strongly and passionately about are meaningless in light of what you have said. lol If that is what being an Atheist is all about, thank you but I think I’ll keep my faith. :)

  • ZackFord says:

    Wow, I don’t think you understand me at all.

    My point was that I wouldn’t die just because of something I believed. I have heard people, including those who comment on this blog, use Jesus’s disciples as proof of faith. They were willing to die for what they believe, so the faith must be true. What you asked was if I would be willing to die for my atheist viewpoint. If someone were holding a gun to my head, would I be willing to die before I said “I believe.”

    You have warped my comments to represent me in an inaccurate way I don’t appreciate. I would like to think I would be willing to die to protect people and protect freedom, though I am a pacifist and would not seek violence as a means to that “protection.” I do not respect martyrdom and would only put my life on the line as a last resort, if the life I knew were no longer possible. I am not the ignorant, valueless heathen you have painted me as.

    I do not think your “logic” is valid. Something worth living for is not necessarily something worth dying for; that could be construed as quite petty. Life changes and society changes, and things will always be different. Encouraging people to be willing to die for things is what incites violence and continues your assault on the human capacity for reason. Sometimes you have to grow up and say, “These are the way things are now.” That doesn’t mean you stop advocating for change and a better life, but you don’t throw your life away just out of principle either. Just because our history has suggested we should find triumph in war doesn’t make it any more respectable than suicide bombing. The line is finer than you think.

    That’s what I meant by being more free without God. I have believed. I have prayed. I couldn’t again, because I now understand how absurd a concept such as God is. Much like 18-year-olds have to grow up and start living without their parents over their shoulders, so too do we all need to realize we can live without God. You shouldn’t (and frankly, don’t) need God to help you love and care for people. You can motivate yourself to do that.

    That’s what I do. That’s what being an atheist is about to me. It’s about stepping up. How can I be the best person I can be and contribute the most to the lives of others? It’s about recognizing the full potential that I have as an individual without needing guidance or support from some inner projection of a supernatural protector.

    I would appreciate you heeding me at my word, and not falling into another meme trap by calling me unprincipled and dispassionate. I am anything but.

  • Navya says:

    You’re absolutely right. I guess I did misunderstand you but it was only because of the way you answered. But I guess I wasn’t being very clear with my questions, so I’m sorry. Let me clarify. When I meant willing to die, I meant willing to risk your life. I too understand that if there was the option of not shedding blood or if there is an easier way of doing things without compromising your values then it should be taken.
    I choose to look at the lives of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. as proof of this fact. Both were willing to risk their physical well-being and lives to fight for what they believed to be right, using non-violence. Look at the examples of the students at Tiananmen Square. They willingly risked their lives for what they believed. I guess what I should have asked you then was could you, in the face of oppression and possible death, remain true to your values and ideals? Because a man who is not afraid of death and willing to stand for what he believes is more respected than a man who seeks the easy way out. Just watch any good action movie. :) THAT is why Christian martyrs were so effective. Do you realize that Christianity initially flourished under persecution? And even today in the areas of the world where Christians are being persecuted, it is there that faith is the strongest? People dying for something they believe is true doesn’t make it true. I concur with you; however, it does make an impact and starts making people question why they believed it was true. The fact that killing Christians didn’t deter converts like antagonists wanted at least raised the question of why.

    Enough about that.

    My logic was valid. It could only be construed as petty if what you were living for was “petty,” ex: living for love, money, material things, etc. I should have been more clear, sorry.

    Much like 18-year-olds have to grow up and start living without their parents over their shoulders, so too do we all need to realize we can live without God.

    I already understand this. I think everyone that has had a born-again experience understands this. Have you read the story of the prodigal son? I know for a fact that I can live without God and have done so on occasion. The truth is, I am happiest when I’m doing what God wants me to do. You’re right, I don’t need God’s help to love people, but he makes it a lot easier.

    “It’s about recognizing the full potential that I have as an individual without needing guidance or support from some inner projection of a supernatural protector.”

    Ok, good for you! If that’s what makes you happy! I’d rather live my life with my “inner projection” lol and we can both go on with our lives thinking each other unreasonable. :)

    “I would appreciate you heeding me at my word, and not falling into another meme trap by calling me unprincipled and dispassionate. I am anything but.”

    Well that’s good to know. I didn’t necessarily call you those things. I was implying that your principles and passions were unfounded. But you’ve clarified so there is no comment from me. ;) However, I think you’ve fallen several times in another “meme” trap by assuming that all Christians are ignorant, naive, and indoctrinated. :)

    Overall, apart from the faith in God thing, what really is the difference between the ideal Atheist lifestyle and the ideal Christian one? If the ideal Atheist lifestyle is to “be the best person I can be and contribute the most to the lives of others” than the only difference would be that the Christian would ask, “How do I glorify God in the process?” Honestly, what we’re debating here is worldviews not lifestyles, which brings me back to my original point: Faith is not a handicap to a person’s life.

    If you really want me to understand the Atheist viewpoint, show me examples of Atheism principles helping people break addictions, tell me how Atheism helps people with terminal illness find joy in the midst of their suffering. Explain to me how the Atheist rationale allows for people to care for those who have irreparably wronged them. I love stories and I think I would get a better understanding of your worldview and lifestyle if you were to do this. And I have a question. If I was an Atheist, why should I not live at the expense of others? I am selfish by nature, so it wouldn’t be very hard for me. If my life here on earth was all that there was and there would be no after death consequences, if I could get away with it, why shouldn’t I live however I pleased even if it harmed others?

    Other than that, I’ve noticed something, so I before I end I’ll ask: Why do you call yourself an Atheist? You sound more like an Agnostic.

  • ZackFord says:

    The difference is truth. Truth is not always rosier, it is not always comforting, it is not always easier, but at least it’s honest, objective, and measurable. When you introduce a concept like God and related beliefs, it opens the door to the subjective, and things done “in the name of God” are entertained as justifiable. I agree it is the only difference between an atheist and Christian, but it is a significant, disconcerting difference. It is that difference that inhibits how humanity understands and appreciates each other, and that is why I’m chipping away at how protected beliefs are by society (see my most recent post http://is.gd/1b98U).

    Breaking addictions, enduring suffering, forgiving… these are all within the human potential, and God does not need to be a reason to support them. The assumption you made, “I am selfish by nature,” is not an accurate depiction of humanity. The truth is quite the opposite. Yes, we can be selfish, but ultimately, we evolved the way we did because of our ability to support one another. We are a social species. The golden rule is an evolved instinct. Even without God, our lives are richer when we are all living for others (in “selfish” terms, if I live for everybody else, everybody else will live for me). Granted, it needs to be nurtured, but it’s there. Morals are not derived from beliefs. Beliefs were designed around morals. The proof is easy to see too… the Bible hasn’t change in centuries, but morals have. Our understandings of abolition, suffrage, and civil rights, as examples, didn’t come from the liturgy; in most cases they blossomed in spite of it.

    It might be as simple to you as, “I’ll believe, you won’t, and we’ll respect each other’s choice.” But Navya, I can’t respect your choice, because it is respecting that choice that holds back my rights. Every time I argue with someone who is anti-LGBT, I’m convincing them to choose reason over belief. I can’t be fighting baseless “truths” with one hand while I’m respecting them with the other. It’s the system that protects them that is at the root of the problem, so I’m sorry, but “I am happiest when I’m doing what God wants me to do,” isn’t good enough for me. Ignorance might be bliss for you, but your subscription to beliefs continues to hold me down. I am raising the intellectual bar for everybody.

    An Agnostic think there is just as good a chance there is a God as there isn’t: 50/50. Atheists doubt. In fact, I think it is highly unlikely that there is a God. “People say so,” is no proof at all. See my Terminology page and this post for more detail about these identities: http://is.gd/1bb0r

  • Navya says:

    “I agree it is the only difference between an atheist and Christian, but it is a significant, disconcerting difference. It is that difference that inhibits how humanity understands and appreciates each other, and that is why I’m chipping away at how protected beliefs are by society”

    It would only be disconcerting if people were twisting things to suit ulterior motives and others couldn’t or wouldn’t think for themselves, but I’m not talking about society as a whole. I’m talking about the individual. I agree that no one religion or set of beliefs should rule an entire society. What I’m talking about is the single cell–the individual. How an individual lives his/her life.

    My “I’m happiest…” statement wasn’t good enough for you? I don’t need it to be. It’s good enough for me. Because I’m living my life not you. lol I don’t need you to respect my beliefs.I don’t care whether you do or not. I’m entitled to my way of thinking and you to yours. That’s what I meant. Just like in your “Respect Meme.”

    I don’t like how you’re putting reason vs. beliefs. That’s really silly because usually reason leads to belief. I have reasons to believe in God just as you have reasons to “highly doubt there is”–which is a belief/opinion. I call it a belief because you are basically saying you believe in the strong possibility of there not being a God, and you of course have reasons to back that up. Until someone can PROVE to me there is no God, there is no reason for me to give up my beliefs because they are REASONABLE to ME. Once again, I’m not asking you to accept my point of view.

    “Ignorance might be bliss for you, but your subscription to beliefs continues to hold me down. I am raising the intellectual bar for everybody.”

    Ignorance is never bliss and it’s quite pathetic to assert that I’m ignorant just because I think differently than you. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge, learning, or information. So if I’m ignorant then please enlighten me. Where is the “knowledge or information a.k.a evidence” that God doesn’t exist? That he is solely contrived from my own being? If you could prove to me with hard facts than I will concede that I am indeed ignorant of there being no God. Seeing as how you are only highly doubtful and not knowledgeable, I don’t see this happening. Lastly, my subscription to beliefs continues to hold you down? That’s laughable. I am in no way holding you down. This is America! Not a theocracy! You can believe and fight for whatever you want to! My personal beliefs are in no way keeping you from exercising your right to do so. You’re falling into your own “Victim” Meme. I don’t support LGBTs but I still do care for them as individuals. The whole point of Christianity is to love people DESPITE their political beliefs or ideologies OR sexual orientation. Besides I don’t need the Bible to argue against things like gay marriage. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1082190/posts. This is just one of several arguments against gay marriage without introducing religion. I don’t agree with some of it but I do agree with the parts of incest and polygamy and what about NAMBLA and NAWGLA? They should be given rights too! So there are nonreligious reasons for me to not support things like gay marriage.

  • ZackFord says:

    Well, I was enjoying our respectful dialogue, but I guess that’s over. As the adopted son of a mother who could not have a child of her own (and was condemned by her church for even trying) and a future adopter myself, I resent the fact that you would suggest an argument that same-sex relationships aren’t worth recognizing simply because they’ll cost the state the same money as any other family. That’s so incredibly low. Let’s not even get into your absurd mention of NAMBLA.

    You make a claim without proof. I don’t. You believe. I don’t. The difference is in our approach to understanding. I use science and reason. You use mythology, subjective experience, and conformity. Reason doesn’t lead to belief, delusion does. I have reason to not believe in God, you have delusions that convince you to believe in God.

    People do twist beliefs to their motives, or let their fear take control. I’m glad as an individual you don’t, but I see no effective way to distinguish between your beliefs and the people that do. The claim of God is yours, and the burden of proof is upon you. I can offer plenty of reasons why God cannot exist, but you will say, “You haven’t fully proven it, so I still believe.” That’s ignorance, and you’re entitled to it. Do not expect me to cater to it.

  • Navya says:

    hahaha oh my! I guess the less words I use, the more I leave open to interpretation. You’re not enjoying this anymore? That’s a shame. So why did the church condemn your mother? The only real thing I did agree 100% is the part about incestuous and polygamous relationships. If love between two individuals is all that is necessary for marriage. Then why leave out incestuous relationships and why stop at just two people? Why can’t four people get married? Not including my religious perspective, that is the reason why I don’t support LGBTs. And I mentioned NAMBLA because they’re fighting for some rights too and also I was being facetious ;) . But guess what? If gay marriage is legalized, that’s not going to make me start hating married gay people. I don’t want to see any heavy PDA but I feel the same way about hetero couples too. I think most Christians are too tangled up in politics and care too much for the wrong things. Christianity was built on the concept that God’s son died for our sins, so we should demonstrate his love for mankind by loving others and through us his light would shine. That’s what Christianity is about and what I think most Christians have forgotten.

    You say I use mythology, subjective experience, and conformity? I’m 90% sure that the only thing that is correct is the subjective experience. lol Mythology? Jesus was a historical figure. There are references of him outside of the Bible, but what counts as a reason for belief is how the disciples/apostles lived after Jesus. Stories can be fabricated, myths can be made. Yes. I agree with you. But his disciples didn’t consider Jesus to be any less than the son of God and were willing to sacrifice their lives to spread the news. And look at the life of Paul! He went from persecuting them to becoming their strongest advocate! And conformity? Please be more specific as to what you mean.

    You say that reason doesn’t lead to belief. I think you’re missing the whole point of inductive reasoning. Besides we use reason to predict things like future events and the strength of our belief is determined by how valid we believe our reason/reasons to be. You say again that you have reason to not believe in God, and I have delusions. Well I have reason to support my “delusions.” :)

    Lastly, you’re right. In a debate of the existence of God the burden of proof is upon me and I could show you scientific evidence that supports why God can exist, but you might and probably will say, “You haven’t fully proven him, so I still don’t believe.” So what then? We’ve reached an impasse. But get this. I don’t HAVE to and CANT DEFINITIVELY PROVE God to you or to anybody else. Think of it as trying to fully describe how beautiful a sunset is to a man who was born blind. It’s impossible. In fact that’s where the whole faith part kicks in. You believe in it if you are willing to. If not, fine. Besides I didn’t get into this dialogue to prove the existence of God. I got into this discussion because you were making the claim that faith inhibits a person from truly living life to the fullest, and I had contention with this because in no way has my faith impaired my judgment on living a fruitful and fulfilling (in my opinion) life.

    You think I’m ignorant, but I think you’re just being ridiculous. Like I’ve said before, ignorance is lack of knowledge, learning, or information. If arguing in an actual debate and was made to take your side, I could whip up a fully-fledged stance on why atheism could be correct, because the point of discussion isn’t necessarily to convince others you’re right. Sometimes it is to simply become more aware of what the other side is all about. I’m just trying to show you that not all Christians are ignorant, naive, or indoctrinated like you think and that faith isn’t a handicap in everyone’s lives. Overall, I guess I’m just trying to help make you less ignorant. ;)

  • ZackFord says:

    1) Sexual orientation is about “what gender,” NOT “how many” and definitely NOT “what kind” (more often that is paraphilia).

    2) By conformity, I refer to the fact that you never stepped away from the beliefs in which you were raised. You believe Jesus is your God, not Mouhammed, not Zeus, not Thor. What fits for you is what fits for your community to accept you.

    3) I welcome any scientific argument you have for God. Even this “inductive reasoning” you boast requires precedent and probability. Considering my argument is “there is no precedent and it’s highly improbable,” you would have quite a case to make. Let’s hear it!

    You could live a full and complete life, but your understanding of the human experience would still be constrained by your beliefs. That is my point. You have demonstrated the way you choose not to see outside of what you believe. You don’t seem to generally mind being challenged on these beliefs, which I suppose I respect, but your responses don’t seem to ever develop beyond “I still believe.” You certainly do not seem interested in considering your beliefs rationally or scientifically. But, that’s not my problem. It’s your choice to stay in the box that you know.

  • Navya says:

    1) I guess I should make myself clear. I agree with some of the things that LGBTs are fighting for such as being able to serve in the military and public offices, etc. But I don’t support gay marriage, because the most common argument in defense of it is that two people who truly love each other should be allowed to be legally joined under full protection of the law despite sexual orientation. Am I wrong? Now let me pose another argument: Two people who truly love each other should be allowed to be legally joined under full protection of the law despite blood relation. And here’s another: A group of people who truly love each other should be allowed to be legally joined under full protection of the law despite their number. Gay marriage is only the beginning, so where do we draw the line? How far is too far? Should we only allow LGBTs to have their right to get married? If you try to claim that sexual orientation is genetic and gay people cannot help it. Then I’m going to reply that the gay gene is indefinite and with that type of logic I can make a case for the incest gene or the bestiality gene, etc. etc. Anyway, our culture (as a whole) has shown us that it is not ready for gay marriage, not yet at least. And what is my Christian response to everything? Love the sinner, hate the sin.

    2)That is ridiculous. I am highly individualistic, but can conform with the group when it suits my purposes to do so. Even then, I could’ve been a closet atheist, Buddhist, (I don’t know how I could’ve been a closet Muslim lol) but you get my point. What really makes me laugh is that you assume that I surround myself with only Christian people, and even the Christian people I do have as friends have differing ideas from me on some issues! Let me give you some more background, I was born in India. My dad was a Hindu convert and my great-grandparents on my mother’s side were Hindu converts. They were ostracized by their village for converting to Christianity. Were they conforming? I don’t think so. Besides, I’ve told you before that the two people who could have driven me away from Christianity were my parents, especially my mom. It was because I (me, myself, and I) decided to search the matter out for my own and had my purely subjective and real (to me) experience that I am a Christian–not because I was conforming. It’s kind of funny that you would think I was, seeing as how you’ve never met me. Haha I’m an ENTP type.

    3)I’m not going to get into great detail with this one. I have lots of reasons for believing in God and some of them are scientific BUT I would like to emphasize that none of the evidence proves God, just merely the possibility for the existence of an intelligent, supernatural being. Basically I will do a Creation vs. Evolution thingamajig. I’ll give three main ones and follow-up:

    A) The Cambrian Explosion–Evolutionary theory states that less complex beings evolved into higher, more organized ones over a gradual period of time; however, the Cambrian Era proves that this is false because multiple, highly developed and distinct species appeared at the same time. The fossil record attests to this.

    B) Dearth of Transitional Fossils–I believe in Microevolution but for Evolutionary Theory to be correct, Macroevolution must also be possible. If Macroevolution was possible, then we should be able to harness thousands, nay MILLIONS of fossilized creatures in some sort of transitional state. But the “transitional fossils” paleontologists have uncovered are very few and far between and most of them have turned out to be nothing more than hoaxes. And most fossils uncovered were already fully distinctive.

    C) Abiogenises, Not Really–Studies have come out about how given the right conditions such as temperature, environment, etc. Proteins and amino acids can be formed. The so called primordial soup effect; however, while proteins and amino acids are essential for all living things, they are in and of themselves not living things. No one has been able produce a cell or even a single RNA strand from an experiment. And even if they were to do so, it would prove only one thing: Intelligent beings are able to produce life by manipulating circumstances and factors. Sounds kind of god-like to me. Biogenesis is a well-established fact, while Abiogenesis is merely speculative. I once read online from a man defending Abiogenesis that given enough time and chance, it can be possible. He wrote in contrast to what some Christians were saying. The Christians were arguing that the chance of life spontaneously happening was 10 raised to some number that made it pretty close to never. lol The man argued using an analogy of flipping a coin heads four times in a row. The chances of getting heads four times in a row is 1/16, but you can get it in the first try. It is merely the amount of possibility. If you increase the number of people and pennies, the chances of getting heads four times in a row increases. He used this to show how multiple proteins could then spontaneously arrange themselves into genetic sequences and then into life with a greater possibility given a significant amount of time and billions upon billions of proteins arranging themselves through trial and error. It made sense. Logically, it is sound. It is even reasonable. I was inclined to agree with him except for one small thing: Time and chance don’t cause anything to happen. Everything has a cause. Some people say, well environment change helped cause evolution, which it does in some cases, but only because living things are already built with the ability to adapt. How did the early “living” things adapt to environment changes when that part didn’t evolve yet? How did viruses replicate?

    There are other arguments I could make: the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the distance from the Sun, etc. basically, things that the destructive force of nature can’t do on their own.

    Lastly, I would like to say that everyone has a box. You have one, I have one. Let me tell you what the real human experience is all about. The human experience is about getting out of our own boxes and jumping into other peoples’. We learn what we can from them, good or bad, and take it back to our own box. We then proceed to use the information we gain to build better boxes. THAT’S what the human experience is all about. You say that my beliefs constrain my understanding of the human experience? That’s like saying my dislike of papaya inhibits me from having a deep appreciation for fruit. You’re being too broad and vague. Everyone has beliefs of some sort. Everyone has hopes, fears, dreams, and opinions. That’s what makes us human. Would you say you guide your life only by science and reason? If so, then I would say it is you that are missing out on the human experience. For 1) Science is a helpful tool but corruptible just like any other human activity. and 2) Reason is just one of three things: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. To live life by reason is a good thing, but it is all three that make us truly human. From what you were saying, it seems as though you’re implying that people of different faiths have little understanding of the human experience and the only ones who truly do so are people like you…kind of narrow-minded isn’t it? Lol Sounds just as narrow-minded as what Christian believe. ;)

  • Quixotic says:

    I cannot believe this guy above me is not only using the anti gay, “If we let the queers marry, what next!?” arument…and follows with some “proofs” that evolution didnt happen…its like he’s shitting on all the people who have worked so hard for equality, and pissing on those who have spent lifetimes furthering our understanding of life…

    Its like, you see someone with such great perspective, because he is sitting on the shoulders of giants…and you watch him drop trow and relieve himself…

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