CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

The two detectives stood around the body lying supine on the floor. "Well, what'dya think?" the first inquired in a voice coarse from too many cigarettes.

The second, a large, younger broad-shouldered man with jet black hair looked over his notes. "While the crime lab needs to take some samples, I think it's pretty clear that the victim was poisoned. I think we need to bring the business partner in for questioning. He had a strong motive and he was seen in the area within half an hour of the time of the murder."

"I agree," the rumpled older detective muttered. "Ya' better . . . aw, crap. Here comes Dawdins."

A third detective with bright, alert eyes and wispy grey hair entered the room. "Parsons. Anderson," he said, addressing the two detectives by name. "Guess we're done here, eh? Let's call the morgue and let them clean the place up."

Parsons, the older detective, looked at Dawdins incredulously. "Done? What the hell are you talking about? There's been a murder. We have a lot of investigating ta' do if we hope to identify the murderer."

"Nonsense," Dawdins retorted. "The man obviously died accidentally. There's no murderer to be discovered."

"No murderer?" Anderson was now becoming animated, raising his large frame up in a show of intimidation. "How can you so callously proclaim that there's no murderer?"

Dawdins was nonplussed. "Look, do you think that his wife is the murderer?"

"No," said Parsons, "his wife is in Sacramento on business."

"How about his son? Is he the murderer?" Dawdins pressed.

"No," said Parsons, "the son is in the military serving in Korea."

"What about his secretary? Is she the murderer?"

"No," Anderson chimed in, "she can't be the murderer. She has an air-tight alibi."

"There you have it," Parsons concluded. "You ask how I can think there's no murderer. In fact, you don't think any of the other thousand possible people I could name are murderers. So, really, I just think there's one fewer murderer than you do."

Last night, Richard Dawkins made a brief appearance on Bill O'Reilly's program on Fox News. During an early moment in the conversation, O'Reilly is talking to Dawkins about the fact that he had faith of a sort (in atheism) and Dawkins, in his usual lame way, pulled out the old standby of "I believe in just one fewer god than you." Of course, this is a standard rhetorical tool used by atheists. In fact, I find it always so interesting when so many of the self-styled free thinkers all say the same thing like this. But what's really interesting about the "I just believe in one fewer god than you" argument is how hopelessly flawed it is.

When someone makes this argument the first counter should be, "so what?" I mean, what does saying "I believe in one fewer god than you," prove? Does it prove that there's no God? As my little dialogue above illustrates, it really doesn't prove anything. Just because I don't think that Zeus is god or that Odin is god or that Brahma is god doesn't mean that there isn't a God. All it shows is that we are in agreement that those other entities (whether real or mythical) aren't God. It does nothing to prove that there isn't really a God any more than establishing the wife, son and secretary aren't the murderer proves that there isn't a murderer.

Second, the argument would make more sense if the entire argument for the existence of God was that we should have blind faith. Then the argument could show that if I don't have blind faith in one god then there really isn't any reason to hold blind faith in another. But the Christian faith is not a religion of blind faith. It is a religion that calls on people to "come and see". It calls on people to look at its claim and evidence in its entirety. In other words, it gives reason to believe that God exists and that Jesus is His one and only Son. When a person tries to put belief in Zeus or Odin on the same level as belief in Jesus or the God of Christianity it simply demonstrates how little they understand Christianity or the truth claims that it makes.

Third, there aren't really thousands of other gods that are taken seriously, and anyone who sees religions as the same except that they have "different gods" has a very childish grasp religious belief. Sure, a thousand and more years ago some people believed in Ishtar and Odin and Zeus, but only a handful of people (if any) really give those types of religions credence today because, unlike Christianity, they don't ring true. C.S. Lewis addressed this question back in 1945 in an essay entitled "Christian Apologetics" when he made the following observation:

For my own part, I have sometimes told my audience that the only two things really worth considering are Christianity and Hinduism. (Islam is only the greatest of the Christian heresies, Buddhism only the greatest of Hindu heresies. Real Paganism is dead. All that was best in Judaism and Platonism survives in Christianity.) There isn't really, for an adult mind, an infinite variety of religions to consder. We may salva reverentia divide religions, as we do soups, into 'thick' and 'clear'. By Thick I mean those which have orgies and ecstasies and mysteries and local attachments: Africa is full of Thick religions. By Clear I eman those which are philosophical, ethcical and universalizing: Stoicism, Buddhism, and the Ethical Church are Clear religions. Now, if there is a true religion it must be both Thick and Clear: for the true God must have made both the child and the man, both the savage and the citizen, both the head and the belly. And the only two religions that fulfil this condition are Hindusim and Christianity.


Additionally, many atheists use this to try to give the impression that there is little difference between believing in one God and holding no belief in God. But there is a much larger difference between atheism and theism than there is between those who believe in different gods. The believer in Brahma, Allah, and Jesus, while differing in important ways, all believe in the fact that there is a supernatural reality that is beyond scientific measurement. A person who rejects all gods lacks any belief or comprehension of the supernatural -- in fact, they almost certainly reject the idea that the supernatural realm exists at all. That is a huge leap that many people, especially those who have experienced the supernatural, cannot and should not make.

To me, this infantile argument about believing in one fewer god is repeated time and again in the "freethinker" echo chamber (together with the flying spaghetti monster and the "Jesus Myth"-myth), yet it proves nothing. It is mere piece of rhetoric that Christians need to be better equipped to identify and critique.

45 comments:

It would be so tempting to tease about the popular misrepresentation of the Trinity at a time like that and say, "What, you believe in TWO Gods?"

I mean, we couldn't really do that in good conscience since we believe in ONE God, but it's fun to think about anyway.

Eh, it's simply a saying borne by the presuppositions of the speaker. Everyone does it--Christians, Buddhists, Athiests, whatever. Rarely are people trying to question and prove their positions and perspectives. They usually take it for granted and proceed from what they already think. Not to say that's an excuse for being lazy and uncritical, just that if it surprises you, you either haven't lived among humans that long or you're the type that likes to judge others by a standard that they usually can't or won't attain.

there aren't really thousands of other gods that are taken seriously...

Every God that people have believed in, both in the present and in the past, was taken very seriously. Just because we no longer take most of them seriously doesn't mean you could ever have convinced them otherwise via an argument or with counter-evidence. You simply take your God seriously, and that's what all other people have done too.

There is only one God that is deserving of the name, and that is the philosopher's God. That is the God established by reasonable arguments, if such a thing can be done. The other Gods are human religions based upon the doctrines of "faith," that legitimize and grant power to those who propogate them, advanced by the sword, but containing not much by way of evidence, in my opinion.

"Just because we no longer take most of them seriously doesn't mean you could ever have convinced them otherwise via an argument or with counter-evidence."

Thats strange. I recall the first Christians being Jewish and Pagan converts. I guess they all decided to become Christians without any evidence or argument, without any reason, even with all the consequences associated with leaving one owns religion at that time and the persecution that wouldve followed just for being Christian.

"That is the God established by reasonable arguments, if such a thing can be done. The other Gods are human religions based upon the doctrines of "faith," that legitimize and grant power to those who propogate them, advanced by the sword, but containing not much by way of evidence, in my opinion."

See the thing is much of the historical evidence for Christianity is dismissed via skeptical double-standards. It becomes non-evidence to skeptics for the sole reason that its evidence for Christianity. Talk about presuppositions. Plenty of people in ancient times and now come to Christ because of the historical and philosophical arguments for Christianity.

The first few centuries of Christianity were mostly peaceful on Christians part. It spread because of the testimony of the witnesses and the disciples of witnesses, not "by the sword" until much later.

Indeed, many people come to the faith because of evidence and argument, not blind "faith", and treating Christianity as if it has little to no evidence only gives away your faith position, John.

What a person considers as evidence with regard to religious convictions is for the most part person related, based to an overwhelming degree on when and where they were born, and inspired by hope and/or fear. Sure, we all have presuppositions, but mine are firmly grounded in the things that Christians themselves believe, like assuming a natural explanation for every event that happens in their life (i.e., methodological naturalism, do you assume a ghost visited you if you hear a noise in the night?), the fact that religions are found to be separated by geographically locations, and the fact that miracles, if they occurred, must be admitted as extremely rare events and hence very improbable (Christians themselves are skeptical of any miraculous claims, especially those supporting other beliefs).

Add to this the great difficulty in describing the Christian God (have you ever considered the debates about divine simplicity, especially a triune one?), and the problem of why a perfectly good and all powerful God allows such great suffering among both humans and animals (Why should animals suffer? What did they do wrong? What lessons do they need to learn?), I have good reasons for being skeptical, especially since you yourself are just as skeptical as I am about other religions and sects within your own religion.

I was going to quip that O'Reilly should have answered, "Well, Oral Roberts just believes in one fewer evolutionary theory than you do!" Which is just as technically true. (Much of Mr. D's _The Blind Watchmaker_ is devoted to arguing against rival evolutionary theories, for instance.) But I see that the discussion has moved on to more serious matters.


John: {{What a person considers as evidence with regard to religious convictions is for the most part person related, based to an overwhelming degree on when and where they were born, and inspired by hope and/or fear.}}

Yourself excepted, of course. {cough}{g} Or are your presuppositions not based to an overwhelming degree on when and where you were born, and inspired by hope and/or fear?

If yours aren't, then other people's don't have to be, either--including believers. If yours are, then the mere fact that this happens doesn't tell automatically against the truth of the belief, or you'd have to discredit your beliefs, too.

I’m willing to respect your reasoning, without writing it off as being a mere product of your environment. That’s what you’re tacitly asking and expecting of us, when you give your reasoning. But when you appeal to dismissal on grounds of being mere products of the environment, you leave yourself no room to stand on. Unless your beliefs _aren’t_ merely products of your environment.

Not incidentally, my Christian beliefs (including in the trinity eventually) are grounded on the exact same evidence and (to some extent) even conclusions _you_ give and reach. Including, perhaps especially, the exact same presupposition _you_ apply: that a belief produced entirely by mere reactions to environmental stimuli, should be accorded second-class status at best compared to beliefs not produced entirely by mere reactions to environmental stimuli.

Which, under atheism (via evolutionary process or otherwise), must be _every_ belief. Including the apparent ‘reasoning’ you would have us respect _more_ than a ‘reasoning’ derived entirely from mere reaction to stimuli.

So: do you consider beliefs produced ultimately from mere reaction to environmental stimuli to be intrinsically suspect thereby? Or not?

{s!}

Jason Pratt

Jason, I have very good grounds for saying that what religious faith a person accepts is due to when and where they were born. Surely you cannot disagree with that. If you were born and raised in Iran you'd be a Muslim, is but just one of a myriad of examples.

Now, your answer to me is that there must be exceptions to this or we can write off all metaphysical beliefs. Okay. I'll grant you that. But what does it prove? All you have done is to say there are exceptions to the rule. So? Can you explain the rule?

Thus, I have a right to be skeptical, and this is only one of several reasons why this is so.

John,

Actually, my answer to you was, “I’m willing to respect your reasoning, without writing it off as being a mere product of your environment. That’s what you’re tacitly asking and expecting of us, when you give your reasoning.”

That means I _agree_ you have a _right_ to be sceptical, according to the best light you can see.

I also specifically wrote that I accepted the same evidence and to some extent even the same conclusions you had given in your post. (Maybe you missed that?) So no, I don’t disagree, incidentally, that if I had been raised in Iran I would most probably be a Muslim. Though not certainly so. Similarly, if I had been raised by atheistic or otherwise lapsed parents, I would probably be atheistic or otherwise lapsed, though not certainly so.

But there is a strong difference between saying “is due to” and ‘was influenced by’. Surely you cannot disagree with that--and in fact you don’t, because you admit there must be ‘exceptions’ or else we can write off all metaphysical belief. Myself, I would say that the situation is more complex than mere ‘exceptions to the rule’; but be that as it may. I don’t write off Muslim beliefs just because they happened to be born into a Muslim environment; and I don’t write off the agnosticism or atheism of friends of mine just because they happen to have been raised in that kind of environment.

As to your (possibly only rhetorical) questions about the rule and exceptions to it and whether I can explain the rule: I _did_ already discuss the relevant ‘rule’; and I agreed with it; and I noticed that you had to be taking exception to it yourself in your own case. And then I went on to point out an important corollary which follows from having to treat ourselves (you and me at the least--or anyway _you_ at the very least! {g}) as being an ‘exception’ to the relevant rule.

After which I asked _you_ a question--a non-rhetorical one, btw: “do you consider beliefs produced ultimately from mere rection to environmental stimuli to be intrinsically suspect thereby? Or not?”

Apparently your answer is still ‘yes’. And, I agree with that answer.

But there are corollaries which logically follow from agreeing with that answer. You asked, “But what does it prove?” I already discussed the implications of what accepting such an exception deductively proves. It proves, so long as I hold it, that I shouldn’t accept atheism to be true, but should accept not-atheism of some kind instead. (Though there are qualifications to this, one of which is that not-atheism needs to pass the same criteria without also being deductively removed from the option pool!)

Even so, I agree you have a right not only to be sceptical about 'religious' claims, but to be an atheist, too, according to the best conclusions you can draw. I could hardly be a supernaturalistic theist (much moreso an orthodox trinitarian theist) and coherently deny you really do have such a _right_. Could I? {g}

Jason Pratt

Ive got the bonus of not being raised in a Christian family :).

And as I recall, you said something along the lines of you'd:

"rather be treated like a dog in my wife's house than a human being in God's world!"

If this is true then indeed your personal wants and hopes have influenced your atheism.

But anyways, John, you said:

"Just because we no longer take most of them seriously doesn't mean you could ever have convinced them otherwise via an argument or with counter-evidence."

Jews, Pagans, and many other people of different religious backgrounds for the last 2,000 years were swayed from their faith determined by birth and location from the testimony and evidence for the Christian faith. Do you retract the above statement? Its most certainly wrong.

You said:

"The other Gods are human religions based upon the doctrines of "faith," that legitimize and grant power to those who propogate them, advanced by the sword"

I assume you are including Christianity within your characterization of religions in general. When Christianity first started to spread throughout the Roman empire, say for the first 200 years of its lifespan, how often did these Christians spread the faith by the sword? Certainly not too often. Do you think your statement is competely accurate concerning early Christianity? Also, of course numerous converts to Christianity would apostasize for some argument or evidence. Do you really think they converted given absolutely no good argument or evidence?

But then again, perhaps they are more like you, John, in that no argument (historical or philosophical) would make them believe something they dont want to (i.e. Christianity).

My basis for this is that you once said:

"I'll go with logic over history everytime"

but you also said:

"I am finding that logic doesn't help us in the quest for metaphysical truths, anyway."

and:

"... it may be that reason doesn't work as well as the presuppositionalist proclaims."

or:

"Tell me again about the usefulness of logic when it comes to metaphysical beliefs. Go ahead. Tell me."

or:

"...logic and reason may have no ultimate foundation, much like morals do not have an ultimate foundation."



So if logic is more trustworthy than historical evidence in your mind, John, yet logic doesnt work or help that much either concerning issues like debating Christianity's metaphysical truth claims, how would you ever give a fair hearing to the evidence concerning those truth claims? Given your personal aversion to being in God's world and your personal belief that history and logic are not necessarily useful or helpful in determining the metaphysical truth claims of Christianity, whats the point in trying to make you realize that there IS real evidence for Christianity?

Logic and history have been thrown out. Science cant replicate a historical event. Personal experience is out of the question because time-travel hasnt been invented yet to check Christianity's truth claims. Even if John Loftus had a personal experience that was miraculous and divinely caused, why should anyone believe him? No one experienced it with him. It eventually gets lost as a historical event that can be dismissed by later skeptics. How do we discuss any kind of evidence and have it count as evidence with you, John?

And given your statement above about morals, what philosophical basis do you have for claiming anything is wrong, evil, or bad given your atheism? Are you making an external critique or internal critique given this statement:

"the problem of why a perfectly good and all powerful God allows such great suffering among both humans and animals (Why should animals suffer? What did they do wrong? What lessons do they need to learn"

Who is defining good here, the Bible or or John Loftus and his atheism? What grounds does atheism have for claiming that suffering is "evil" or "bad"? From what I recall you have admitted in different discussions that there may not be any kind of basis for morality in atheism, so why always judge religions based on a morality without a foundation?

Paul Manata, I mean anonymous,
Quotations can slander if you gerrymander.

If you even gave an ounce of effort to understand what I said in it's proper context the way you repeatedly try to do in harmonizing errant Biblical statements, you'd see what I mean easily

But...I disagree with you, and since I do, I do not deserve even an ounce of your effort to understand. In fact, the effort you do extend toward me is to do everything you can do to twist and turn and make me look ugly in defense of a faith that cannot be defended in decent and honest ways. So you attack. The more you attack the more I see you in desperation mode.

It's YOU who ask me to examine the Christian faith with reason, so I do, because it is YOU who claim Christianity is rationally superior to all other faiths. I'm doing what YOU ask.

Ahhhh. but that's just me.

Paul Manata?

"In fact, the effort you do extend toward me is to do everything you can do to twist and turn and make me look ugly in defense of a faith that cannot be defended in decent and honest ways."

Im just really curious given your stance on logic, history, and the metaphysical ergo supernatural truth claims of Christianty how anything could ever count as real evidence to you. And how is it that Christians cannot defend their belief system with evidence (well, if there is such a thing anymore) and still maintain honesty? Do you think this is an accurate all-encompassing generalization?

You also did not retract certain statements that were truly inaccurate. Would you still like to admit as much?

"It's YOU who ask me to examine the Christian faith with reason"

But, hey, since reason cannot really sort through the truth claims of Christianty, according to you, why bother? Why even try to critique Christianity if its beyond an examination via logic?

What exactly is wrong with playing by your rules, beating you at your own game and then saying I don't like the game? It's like a card trick where you challenge me to figure it out and I do, even if I don't like card trick, or even if I think such games are silly.

Why try? Why climb a mountain? Because it's there, but also because I think such superstitious thinking leads to bad behavior and bad politics.

John W. Loftus wrote:

I have very good grounds for saying that what religious faith a person accepts is due to when and where they were born. Surely you cannot disagree with that. If you were born and raised in Iran you'd be a Muslim, is but just one of a myriad of examples.

I guess I don't see the point in this type of argument. It goes without saying that if you are raised in a particular country where a particular religion is paramount, the odds are that you will be of that religion. So what? Christianity claims to be (as the late Francis Schaeffer said) "true truth". That is, it's true for me and true for you regardless of your circumstances or background.

If I'm raised in an Islamic country, I'm probably going to believe women are less valuable as human beings, but that doesn't make it true. If I'm raised in a Communist country where I'm inculcated with Communist doctrine in schools, that doesn't make the Communist dream true. The circumstances of where I'm born in raised make it more likely that I will hold one belief, but that is irrelevant to its truth.

So, what's the point? To claim that Christians are Christians only because we were taught Christianity? That's like saying that evolutionists are evolutionists only because they are taught evolution. It's poor reasoning and ignores the real issue of whether it is true.

Im saying that I wasnt raised a Christian and neither were all the original Christians. I think standing behind the ol' "people are only Christians because theyre raised that way" routine is insufficient to account for Christianity's effect, history, and indeed evidence (well, to people who arent John Loftus).

John,

If you think Anon isn't treating you fairly in his quotations, there _are_ other people in this thread you could be discussing the matter with, you know. (Not entirely sure why Paul Manata of all people would post anonymously and without a signature on the Christian Cadre journal--did we xcom him a while back when I wasn't paying attention?--or, for that matter, why anyone would continue to do so without at least adding a name after being supposedly mistaken for someone else. But whatever.)

If I say "I agree you have a right not only to be sceptical about 'religious' claims, but to be an atheist, too, according to the best conclusions you can draw", then am _I_ traducing against the Principle of Intellectual Charity when doing so? If not... {shrug??}

JRP

I am not Paul Manata, and I do not think I am treating John unfairly.

1. He needs to take responsibility concerning his own stances and statements. He still has not responded to what really would count as evidence to him concerning realistic investigation into Christianity. If he finds good evidence for any kind of historical event in the distant past or finds reason helpful in different situations not concerning Christianity or religion, why hold the double standard?

2. He has not admitted to certain statements he made being inaccurate. He has not admitted to making uncalled for generalizations.

3. His posts on this thread contain assertions, should we allow him to make these without pointing out possible weaknesses?

I dont think my questions are unfair. After all, atheists arent the only ones who are allowed to question holders of opposing worldviews.

I guess I don't see the point in this type of argument. It goes without saying that if you are raised in a particular country where a particular religion is paramount, the odds are that you will be of that religion. So what? Islam claims to be...(as the late Mohammed Achmed has said) "true truth". That is, it's true for me and true for you regardless of your circumstances or background. The circumstances of where I'm born in raised make it more likely that I will hold one belief, but that is irrelevant to its truth.

Agreed?

So, what's the point? To claim that Christians are Christians only because we were taught Christianity? That's like saying that evolutionists are evolutionists only because they are taught evolution.

Reason and science and evidence are mutually agreed upon. There is no mutually agreed upon test for religious claims, so it's overwhelmingly the case that the religion a person adopts will be the one which sociological and political factors dictate.

It's poor reasoning and ignores the real issue of whether it is true.

No, it acknowledges an undeniable fact, and asks what conclusions can be drawn from it. Nor does it abandon argument, evidence, and reason.

He still has not responded to what really would count as evidence to him concerning realistic investigation into Christianity.

Yes, I have.

John W. Loftus wrote:

Reason and science and evidence are mutually agreed upon. There is no mutually agreed upon test for religious claims, so it's overwhelmingly the case that the religion a person adopts will be the one which sociological and political factors dictate.

I agree with your opening statement as written, but I don't think you meant what you wrote. It is certainly true that there are grounds for determining some of the principles (theorems, laws, etc.) of science because of the fact that they are physical in nature. Thus, it is possible to test how fast an object falls in a vaccuum because every factor involved in physical.

However, in other areas of the science there is a great deal of dispute as to what is true. For example, string theory is one scientific theory for which there is no test and (as far as we know) no test can possibly be developed because it would require to test things that are external to our physical reality. In such cases, the truth or falsity of the claim lies in reason alone.

Christianity is a discipline in which much of the evidence lies in reason, but not just in reason. Some of it requires revelation of what is beyond the veil of our limited view of the physical universe. Does that make if false? No, because, as you said, reason and evidence are largely mutually agreed upon.

Now, just because portions of the Christian claim (and any other religious claim, for that matter) involve matters that go beyond our physical existence does not make them entirely unknowable. If they were, then we wouldn't be having any discussions about the truth of Christianity. We would just say "believe" without providing arguments, evidence and reason to support the belief. But Christians (and I won't speak about other religions here) do make a case for Christianity based on evidence and reason.

To merely point to the fact that some people want to test religious claims in different ways does not mean that we cannot, through reason, arrive at the best way to test the religious claims and then use reason and evidence to test those claims. To assume that disagreement means that there is no way to come to knowledge suggests that you would have said that the earth was neither round or flat when people disagreed about its shape. That is contrary to reason.

To assume that disagreement means that there is no way to come to knowledge suggests that you would have said that the earth was neither round or flat when people disagreed about its shape. That is contrary to reason.

Non-sequitur. But thanks for responding.

These kinds of things cannot be settled with a few posts here and there. It's an ongoing debate we have.

But we all test the claims of different religions from the outside, because we are outsiders, and we arrive at different conclusions precisely because we are outsiders. Why don't YOU test your beliefs as if YOU were an outsider?

How does one become an insider in the first place? It's based to an overwhelming degree on when and where we are born, precisely because there are no mutually agreed upon tests to decide.

Test them as an outsider. What do YOU find when you do?

Excuse me, but you don't know me. You assume that I haven't tested the claims as an outsider. And on what basis do you think I haven't tested the claims like an outsider? Because I found them to be satisfactory?

Oh, and what I said wasn't a non-sequitur. Pronouncing something to be something doesn't make it that something.

BK, if you have then congratulations, you are above the great majority of people. You must be really really intelligent to think outside of your upbringing.

Kudos to you. You're amarter than I. You have bragging rights, ya know.

Although, tell me how you came to embrace your faith and let's see. Spare me no details, okay? Who or what influenced you? Start with when you were a child.

"Reason and science and evidence are mutually agreed upon"

Try seeing the dialogue between rationalists and radical postmodernists. Evidence is still hotly debated in any area of study. This also doesnt take into account the conflicting theories in science in different topics, each with their own followers. Scientists still cant agree over the mars rock "life" composition. Also, many people think reason and history are valid areas of evidence and argument in any case, so yeah I think your stances on such things gives credence to disagreement over evidence. Truth claims of any religion should be subject to the same methodology as anything else, whether it be the rules of logic or historical methodology. Otherwise its not evidence which is the problem its the bias of the arguer.

"No, it acknowledges an undeniable fact, and asks what conclusions can be drawn from it. Nor does it abandon argument, evidence, and reason."

So the Greeks and Jews of antiquity that converted to Christianity were only Christians because of their birth location? Im very close with my family, but again they didnt raise me Christian. What I wonder is why some people become atheists. Is it completely because of reason and evidence or, like John Loftus, partially because of a desire to not be a human in Gods world? Could atheists also be dictated by social circumstances like rebelling against authority or having bad personal experiences with Christians and therefore rejecting Christianity itself? Do you think this happens, John?

Anonymous, check out this map. The basis for saying what I do is found in it.

Let's say atheists are included. So what? Then it means we're all in trouble. And you claim to know with certainty, at least the kind that is willing to have what Kierkegaard calls an "ultimate comitment"? Come on now. We are ALL bound by humility. Me included. Why won't you say that at best you don't know? Why? I'm willing to say that. I don't know. What I'm against is people who do. I think the Christian God does not exist. He might. But I'm pretty sure he doesn't. At best what we could find is the "God of the philosophers." But that is far from the Christian God. Do you know how far away that kind of God is?

You often state your opinion as fact, John. Even in this past post when you claimed humility you have made two truth claims:

1. At best what we could find is the "God of the philosophers". Again, when debating with John Loftus this is impossible as well because he finds weakness in using logic to discover metaphysical truths.

2. That is far from the Christian God. What is your basis for believing this? Is it logic that brought you to this conclusion? I thought logic wasnt helpful in determining such a thing?

Though there is no such thing as proof it should be admitted by anyone that certain stances have more support than others, and the stance with the best support at the time should be accepted while also trying to keep personal biases aside. There is more support for stars being balls of luminous gas rather than fireflies in the sky. Any number of examples similar could be thought up.

Im more confident about the Christian view on Christian origins than any other attempted theory because, you guessed it, the presence of support rather than complaining about the support in itself because of what conclusions it would lead me to. I used to do it, I know.


And John would you ever admit that this statement:

"Just because we no longer take most of them seriously doesn't mean you could ever have convinced them otherwise via an argument or with counter-evidence."

is untrue?

My answer to one of your questions:

Not very far.

Also Id say I sympathize much more with a Kant than I would a Baudrillard when it comes to what evidence is. I was just drawing an example of some camps that feud over such things.

You often state your opinion as fact, John.

This going nowhere, and that's a fact! ;-)

What I find very strange is that if someone told you a snake or ass talked you wouldn't believe it just because someone told you they did. But you believe it and everything in the Bible because it's in there. You would be skeptical of every single claim in the Bible if someone came running up to you and said an old lady turned into a pillar of salt, or that lifting up the hands of Moses caused a military victory. You wouldn't even believe it if someone else came up to you and confirmed it. You would want to see for yourself, wouldn't you? Or are you truly a gullible person? But here you are two millenia removed and all you have is a text that says these things happened. Where are your critical skills here? Be consistent. Be as skeptical about these claims as you are claims today. Test these claims as an outsider. If you conclude Christianity is false, then seen what you believe, like I have. But I cannot be asked to believe these things actually took place without good evidence. You do realize how superstitious the ancient people who heard the messages of the prophets and apostles were, don't you? [I have a long chapter in my book relating such incidents as these]. Then why believe those same stories just because they did?

{{Test them as an outsider. What do YOU find when you do?}}

I don't know about Bill, or Not-Manata-But-Still-After-All-These-Posts-Anonymous {g}. (And for what it's worth, I don't think he's being unfair to you, yet. But I notice you focus on him anyway. To instantly denounce him as gerrymandering your quotes, without explaining to the rest of us how this is happening, or giving us even one example of it, starts to look at least a little overtouchy.)

But having specifically done just this, in detail (without prejudice pro or con, especially with an eye toward being critical about prejudices I might have when starting the project), I find that I ought to believe what may be called 'orthodox trinitarian theism' to the true; and that I should expect God to be enacting a certain kind of thing in history; and that I should be looking for records of this sort of thing, if it has already been happening to some extent. The obvious candidates tell that kind of story (with that kind of theology being slowly recognized by its participants); and when I check around on their historical bona fides, I find that by and large, keeping the contexts of their times and places in mind, they don't suck. {g}

This is very far from believing that a snake or ass talked _just because someone told me they did_. (Personally, I have no particular problem believing the ass; and I'm positively agnostic about the talking reptile. {shrug}{s} Not because it's a reptile, but because the story form there doesn't lend itself to that kind of interpretation, I think. But, I _might_ be wrong!)


There is a difference, though, between being positively critical, and being prejudiciously sceptical--even though the two _can_ overlap, and even in a proper and respectable way, just as being positively critical _can_ overlap with belief (to this or that degree, with this or that amount of leeway) in a particular set of claims.

JRP

What I find amazing about this conversation is the inconsistency that you are showing. First, you say "Why don't YOU test your beliefs as if YOU were an outsider?" When I say that you don't know that I haven't, you put on what appears to be a farce of incredulity and say "You must be really really intelligent to think outside of your upbringing."

Now, think about it. Either we have the ability to see things objectively or we don't. If we do, then why are you acting so astounded that I may have done so? If we don't, then your atheism is merely the result of a combination of your DNA and experiences. After all, you haven't looked at the claims in any type of objective manner either in which case you are merely spouting whatever nature and nurture programmed you to say which may not be what nature and nurture has programmed me to say. So, why are you here?

BK said:

In such cases [string theory,] the truth or falsity of the claim lies in reason alone.

No, the truth or falsity of any theory depends on how well the theory describes and predicts a phenomenon, based on observational and experimental data. In other words, nature is the final arbiter of the worth of any particular theory.

...string theory is one scientific theory for which there is no test and (as far as we know) no test can possibly be developed because it would require to test things that are external to our physical reality.

That is not necessarily true either, the Large Hadron Collider under construction at CERN has the potential to answer questions related to string theory.

Now, just because portions of the Christian claim (and any other religious claim, for that matter) involve matters that go beyond our physical existence does not make them entirely unknowable

How exactly do you go about examining something that is outside our physical existence?

But Christians (and I won't speak about other religions here) do make a case for Christianity based on evidence and reason.

What evidence? Bring on the evidence, and we can examine it.



Anonymous said:

Evidence is still hotly debated in any area of study.

Evidence is not the thing being debated, except regarding whether it is good or bad data. SOME theories are subject to debate, however many theories are well-established, having withstood the test of time.

Scientists still cant agree over the mars rock "life" composition.

The consensus at this point is the various structures seen in the Mars rock are not evidence of life.

Truth claims of any religion should be subject to the same methodology as anything else...

Bingo! The problem is religious claims haven't held up, for example see the Harvard-Templeton study of prayer.

What I wonder is why some people become atheists. Is it completely because of reason and evidence...

It is mainly the LACK of evidence, as John alludes to.

See my response in the link below: "Can We Or Anyone Think Objectively?"

John Loftus,

I am not going to visit your link. I want you to explain your inconsistency here.

nick,

I haven't heard that the Large Hadron Collider under construction at CERN would resolve the issue of whether string theory is correct. I had heard it may provide some further insight, but no one that I have read has ever suggested that the matter can or ever will be settled. In cases where there is little or no evidence, then it relies upon reason alone.

And the case for Christianity has been made many, many times. I suggest that if you are truly interested in examining the evidence as opposed to merely baiting me, you may want to get a good book on the subject such as William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith which has a lot of background information. You are welcome to examine that.

Jason - I apologize for not giving anything to identify myself by, Im Cam. Ill actually identify myself at the end of each of my posts. Again, I apologize.

John - Do you think every author in the bible had the same purpose and intention when writing? BK's new post somewhat describes my thoughts on the matter, though not completely nor do I completely agree with it. For example I dont think believing in God before going into the biblical texts is what makes them more true, but certain events in the Bible pass standard historical methodology and therefore give support for God himself. So Im worried I might be misinterpreting BK's post but if I am correctly characterizing it then I do somewhat hold to the backwards version of it.

"You do realize how superstitious the ancient people who heard the messages of the prophets and apostles were, don't you? [I have a long chapter in my book relating such incidents as these]. Then why believe those same stories just because they did?"

Last time I checked the vast majority of people in the modern world are supernaturalists. When you say superstitious youre being circular because you assume the things these people believed back then (which many people today still believe in) are false just for being "superstitious". Prophecy, drawing lots and belief in contact with supernatural forces, whether it be psychic contact with the dead or ghosts, are still believed in today. Claims of the miraculous are still widely pervasive throughout the world. Things havent changed, but it doesnt mean ancient people or modern people are false in believing and reporting such events just because YOU find them false because of your presuppositions right from the get-go. Nor does it follow that since some reports of miracles were false that they all are, or else falsified fossil evidence in science would bring us to reject all fossil evidence. I have read many responses to this argument you throw around often. If you wish I could try and find some of the links to it so people can see.

nick -

"No, the truth or falsity of any theory depends on how well the theory describes and predicts a phenomenon, based on observational and experimental data. In other words, nature is the final arbiter of the worth of any particular theory."

No, the truth or falsity of any theory depends on how well the theory describes all the evidence given an event when speaking of history. EVIDENCE is the arbiter of the worth of any theory. Otherwise people are dictating nature instead of the nature of an event speaking for itself, whether it be "supernatural" or not. Otherwise its presuppositions caused by sheer belief instead of the evidence which is speaking. For one example a historian once proposed Jesus had a twin brother and that is who everyone saw as the resurrected Jesus. This doesnt interact with the actual evidence of the event at all and instead goes strait from naturalism as a worldview instead, which Im assuming is your faith position. This is an example of what happens when one's perceived view on nature takes precedence over the evidence.

"How exactly do you go about examining something that is outside our physical existence?"

The distinction between natural and supernatural is arbitrary and it should all be seen as possibility within existence itself. The same standards for support should be held to everything without man-made dichotomies, which actually didnt always express themselves as such through the history of man and even in the present day.

"however many theories are well-established, having withstood the test of time."

I would include the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as one of those theories.

"The consensus at this point is the various structures seen in the Mars rock are not evidence of life."

Im well aware and I never said any different. But there are still camps that support that the evidence does point to life.

"Bingo! The problem is religious claims haven't held up, for example see the Harvard-Templeton study of prayer."

Well, I guess when you ignore the prayer studies that did have a significant effect. Which studies are flawed, the ones which showed a significant effect or those who didnt? I know that for example one study that found no effect wasnt able to control for people outside of the experiment praying for the experimental groups - this is a problem for all of the studies. Also, one study that found no effect told the prayers to not do so for more than 15 minutes a day, while other studies that did show a significant effect had prayer for an hour or more a day. I dont take any specific stance on the issue, but you should not be so overly confident in one single study or assume it had no limitations. Every experiment has limitations.

The most science can do when it comes to investigating a miraculous event is deem it unexplained - like the evidence at Lourdes. Its the claims and circumstances around amazing events that provide support for an event being supernatural. And when it comes to history, different lines of evidence seen through the lense of historical methodology can deem an event as historical fact until new information comes along. Thats how science and history works. Stand by what has the most support given the evidence, not given a worldview.

"It is mainly the LACK of evidence, as John alludes to."

Or maybe its the personal wants and hopes and rebellion of the atheist, which John's own comment above depicts. There isnt a lack of evidence, its the rejecting of the evidence soley because of the supernatural conclusion that would be reached.

-Cam

Fine BK, stay comfortable. Don't step outside your vortex.

John, with all due respect, you did come over to his blog. It would be polite to actually tell him why you seemingly hold a contradictory position without pitching your blog.

-Cam

Fwiw, John's reply isn't all bad; and it's long enough that I can understand him wanting to put it on his own blog rather than post it in a comment here. When one is trying to keep track of a bunch of other things already, including in someone else's journal where the active message is now very far down the list on the main page, then it's just easier to consolidate back home.

(Which, btw, John, is a better reply than the insulting, "don't step out of your vortex." {s})

JRP

BK said:

I haven't heard that the Large Hadron Collider under construction at CERN would resolve the issue of whether string theory is correct.

That's because it won't, but it will have the potential to address some questions related to string theory (the existence of supersymmetry for example.) String theory is young, it may lead somewhere, or it may be a dead end.

In cases where there is little or no evidence, then it relies upon reason alone.

However any scientific theory at some point will have to be verified by experiment. Christianity has no such requirement, so it boils down to the Bible and how it is interpreted. You can't get God on the phone and ask him to explain Matthew 10:34 or Numbers 31. Recently the Vatican decided to reverse their position on limbo, a position they have held for hundreds of years. There is no way to verify ANY position regarding limbo.

And the case for Christianity has been made many, many times.

Which will continue for the foreseeable future, as it tries to keep up with scientific progress.

I suggest that if you are truly interested in examining the evidence as opposed to merely baiting me, you may want to get a good book on the subject such as William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith which has a lot of background information. You are welcome to examine that.

I'd be happy to investigate any of his papers (or those of any other Discovery Institute fellow) that have been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Cam said:

EVIDENCE is the arbiter of the worth of any theory.

Yes, we agree on that point.

For one example a historian once proposed Jesus had a twin brother and that is who everyone saw as the resurrected Jesus. This doesnt interact with the actual evidence of the event at all...

One of my complaints about the evidence is it consists of eyewitness accounts written down a minimum of 40 years after the alleged event, by people who routinely believed in demons, flying horses, talking snakes, etc.

The distinction between natural and supernatural is arbitrary...

I would say the distinction is meaningless, there is only that which exists.

I dont take any specific stance on the issue [prayer], but you should not be so overly confident in one single study or assume it had no limitations. Every experiment has limitations.

You are right, Harvard-Templeton is the best so far due to its size and methodology, but of course more study always needs to be done. However considering the results I am not optimistic that another such study will be done anytime soon, at least not in the US.

The most science can do when it comes to investigating a miraculous event is deem it unexplained - like the evidence at Lourdes

I disagree. The most science can do is confirm the existence of God. Science is the best method we have to understand the world around us, if there is a god at work on planet Earth then that is fair game for scientific study. There is no conflict between science and religion, the conflict is between truth and ignorance.

There isnt a lack of evidence, its the rejecting of the evidence soley because of the supernatural conclusion that would be reached.

I have no problem with your "supernatural" conclusion. If a god exists then he she or it exists. Maybe I should say its not a lack of evidence, its a lack of credible evidence.

"One of my complaints about the evidence is it consists of eyewitness accounts written down a minimum of 40 years after the alleged event, by people who routinely believed in demons, flying horses, talking snakes, etc."

Actually many historians place Mark from 60-70CE, so this minimum you speak of is false. It also ignores the Pauline evidence and the evidence from Hebrews which many historians place before 70CE. The gospels COULD be later, but it also COULD be earlier and people make their respective arguments. Jews believed in Pegasus? Mark, Matthew, and John were most certainly written by Jews (arguments about who the authors were specifically aside).

Lets say my family and I believe demons exist. We witness a car crash and report it to the police. They ask us if we believe in demons. We say yes, they tell us to get the heck out and to not waste their time ever again - is this called for? Just because some people might have held a certain belief does not take away their powers of observation, especially when many different people, some from skeptical sides of the fence at the time like James and Paul, witness the same thing themselves.

(Also by going by this you are already assuming demons are non-existent and that people who believe in demons in modern and ancient times have no reason for believing in them. How can you know this for sure? What scientific experiment has given you results to make such a conclusion?)

"I would say the distinction is meaningless, there is only that which exists."

We agree again, :).

"You are right, Harvard-Templeton is the best so far due to its size and methodology"

Methodology? Really? I used to have links to a lot of the experiments, significant results or not. From what I recall 13 of the experiments had significant results and 10 didnt (shows the problem with controlling for prayer, doesnt it?). We could go through the experiments together if you wish. It might be fun.

"I disagree. The most science can do is confirm the existence of God. Science is the best method we have to understand the world around us, if there is a god at work on planet Earth then that is fair game for scientific study. There is no conflict between science and religion, the conflict is between truth and ignorance."

I really cant agree. Science doesnt confirm anything, this is getting too close to the idea of "proof", nick. It can support theories which in themselves are unfalsifiable because they are abstracts. The God theory likewise can never be proven, only supported. The typical skeptical response when something cannot be expained by current science is "it will be explained someday", so how can science deem an event a miracle if skeptics can always dismiss it in such a fashion? Even if a skeptic were to admit a an unexplained event was "supernatural", what scientifically would cause the skeptic to conclude the event was caused by God?

Science is not exhaustive. It has its limits. Thats why we have history, logic, and personal experience as well to guide our way to "truth' or an approximation of it. History can tell us things science cant. Science is useless without the powers of reason to properly guide its inferences and conclusions. Personal experiences you and I know are true cannot be replicted.

"Maybe I should say its not a lack of evidence, its a lack of credible evidence."

Id say the only reason you personally describe the evidence as lacking credibility is, again, because of the conclusion you would reach, not the state of the evidence.

You responded with tact. I appreciate that.

-Cam

Jason - Ive read the interactions others have had with John before and he often pitches his blog even when his entry isnt lengthy. Thats what I was basing my judgement on and if it was uncalled for in this case then I admit my hasty conclusion was in error. I do agree, however, that John's vortex comment doesnt help anything.

Cam,

Fwiw, 'not all bad' doesn't necessarily mean 'really good' either. {g} (I put down a three page comment myself on a serious methodological problem with his approach. I expect you'd appreciate it; it hews pretty closely to what you were critting him on.)

There's a nebulous line between being merely self-promoting and promoting something one is doing that one thinks is really the right thing to do. I agree, there are times John crosses that line. His opening line in that linked article is a good hubris indicator--_BUT_ to be honest there are times when I've done the same kind of thing. We're not immune to it ourselves. (Though at least we have grounds for critting the intention, which end up being something other than 'survival of the fittest'. Which wouldn't seem to be a good ground for critting mere self-promotion. Go us! {ironic g!})

Also, fwiw, I reiterate that I don't believe (yet) that you were treating him unfairly in your criticism. From my own experience with John, it isn't unusual for him to fly off the handle when confronted with inconsistencies in his own writing, and although I don't know the specific passages in question, they're the kind of thing I _have_ seen him do.


Nick,

Science is grounded on propositional logic, and absolutely requires this for its proper application. It isn't "science" therefore which "is the best method we have to understand the world around us". It's an excellent tool within its limits, but it does have limits.

That being said, I have no problem (in principle) with people deciding that an evidential set is either not credible as accurate data or else doesn't lend itself as data to an ostensible conclusion. I _do_ have problems with category errors (inadvertent or otherwise), but Christian apologists are not uncommonly just as guilty of that, in my experience, as anyone.

I also have problems (and this is more with John than with you so far) with people expecting us to take their reasoning seriously as reasoning (for better or for worse, but especially for better!), while also dissing the very possibility that we might be doing the same thing (even if we come up with different conclusions, for better or for worse.) Especially when the grounds for such dismissal are presented as being universal enough that neither can the presenter escape them, except by fudging in his own favor.

Admittedly, I have seen Christians engage in such Bulverism, as Lewis used to call it, often enough myself. There is at least one major school of theology which derides all disagreement with them as being explained along this line. Even so, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and _neither_ side can legitimately burn the same bridge they insist on crossing in order to keep their opponent from doing the same.

JRP

Jason-
I dont think Ill even get the chance to treat John unfairly, he seems to have left the building. I dont see why its perfectly legit for atheists to grind Christians on the stances they take but the moment Christians question atheists and demand explanations for erroneous statements and inconsistent positions Christians are suddenly "gerrymanders" and "jerks".

I know this doesnt happen with every Christian or every atheist, but in my personal experience it happens more than it should.

The only reason I objected to John's unwillingness to respond here is because Ive seen him pitch before. Perhaps this time that wasnt the intention, but that was just my judgement on the matter, though I suppose it was uncalled for.

-Cam

Maybe I would qualify as the outsider. I was raised a Methodist, intending to go to Claremont School of Theology. Studied Psych and Law at UCLA and left the faith. Became an agnostic of agnosticism. Studied the truth claims of science. Returned to evangelical (Bible believing Baptist) when Biblical claims seemed more persuasive than science claims.

Love this blog. Have bookmarked and will add to my favorites. Don't want to "pitch" my blog, but many who contemplate and write here may find opportunities to better understand the agnostics and atheists among us at godvsnogod.blogspot.com.

Hello Randy,

You aren't hawking your blog at all. Always happy to give the side of truth a leg up. I've reviewed your blog and it looks good so I'll be adding it to the blogroll.

Hmmm, perhaps other gods in the past were taken seriously, but how seriously did those gods take human life??? Many fell prey to the reign of bloodthirsty and angry deities but did anyone ask why they should be worshipping such?? I'm glad we have grace to question our God and He is not offended. Thanks!

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