How Do I Deal With My Doubt?

A couple of weeks ago, a reader wrote to ask if someone in the CADRE would make an effort to discuss doubt. I agreed to take up the task and have spent what time I could over the last two weeks reading about doubt and coming to some conclusions. At first, I intended to write a long, well-documented response to the question, but then I realized the magnitude of such a project and have decided instead to simply write down some of the thoughts I had while reading and give some direction based on my preliminary conclusions. I welcome any readers who have further thoughts on doubt, its causes and solutions, or who know of good resources to add them to the comments section because there is a dearth of good material on the Internet related to this issue.

What is Doubt?

Before knowing how to deal with doubt, we must first identify the nature of doubt. It seems to me that doubt is comprised of two components, one arises from the head and one arises from the heart.

The doubt that arises from the head is intellectual doubt. This is the type of doubt that informs your thinking process with questions like "Did Jesus really rise from the dead?" and "Does God really exist?" Doubts like these can be experienced by anyone at anytime and I doubt that any Christians are immune from such intellectual doubts occasionally arising.

The doubt that arises from the heart is, to put it bluntly, an act of rebellion. I am not suggesting that the person who has this doubt is consciously rebelling against God. In most cases the rebelling is occurring below the surface in a person who is otherwise outwardly devoted to God. Some think that this second type of rebellion is the only type of rebellion:. Consider the following from "Fideist Apologetics: Reasons of the Heart":

[T]he only real "apologetic" or defense of the Christian faith that a believer has to offer is his life. Consistent with this viewpoint, Kierkegaard argues that apologetics errs in treating the symptom of unbelief, intellectual doubt, while ignoring the real disease -- disobedience and rebellion against God. "It is claimed that arguments against Christianity arise out of doubt. This is a total misunderstanding. The arguments against Christianity arise out of insubordination, reluctance to obey, mutiny against all authority. Therefore, until now the battle against objections has been shadow-boxing, because it has been intellectual combat with doubt instead of being ethical combat against mutiny" (JP 778, 1:359).

"Faith's conflict with the world is not a battle of thought with doubt, thought with thought. . . . Faith, the man of faith's conflict with the world, is a battle of character" (JP 1129, 2:14; cf. 1154, 2:25). Kierkegaard quotes with approval Pascal's statement, "The reason it is so difficult to believe is that it is so difficult to obey" (JP 3103, 3:418). Bloesch agrees, stating that "the basic problem in evangelism is not just lack of knowledge of the gospel -- it is lack of the will to believe." Karl Barth also views faith as essentially a response of obedience to the truth. Faith is "knowledge of the truth solely in virtue of the fact that the truth is spoken to us to which we respond in pure obedience."

I disagree with this assessment but only to this extent: I don't think that all doubt is heart-related, but I do agree that the vast majority of doubt is not intellectual in nature -- it is heart-related. In most cases the intellect is used as a rationalization for the rebellion against God which hides the underlying cause of the rebellion.

Doubt can arise from a number of things. It can arise because sin -- our subconscious desire to engage in some type of activity that we know from the Bible is not within God's idea of what is good, right and holy. It can arise because we have expectations about God and what He will do that haven't been met. It can arise because we have asked for something in prayer and didn't receive the answer we wanted or don't think we received an answer at all. It can arise because we have elevated something up to being equated with the will of God which is only a man-made thing or viewpoint, and this man-made thing is disappointing us.

Now, I am not saying that there is not honest intellectual doubt. I do think that those type of doubts exist, but I would guesstimate that in 90% of the cases, the intellectual doubt is merely a rationalization for a deeper heart-problem. Thus, it seems to me that while a good apologetic is appropriate for responding to that intellectual challenge, the apologetic will not be effective in allaying the doubt which is, in most cases, not really intellectual in nature.

Dealing with Doubt

Assuming that I, and the writers quoted above, are on the right track, how does a person deal with this doubt? Well, five concrete steps come to mind that can be undertaken to tackle doubt.

A. Read apologetics materials by good Christian apologists. To the extent that the issue is an honest intellectual issue, the best thing to do is read some good Christian authors on apologetics who help answer the question and give strong arguments for accepting the Christian worldview. Books like Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Hard Questions, Real Answers by William Lane Craig, Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg, Reinventing Jesus by J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, Daniel B. Wallace , and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. There are probably 100 more title I could reference, and I wish I could reference them all. These books will all give excellent reasons, analysis and facts which support a belief in God and in Jesus as his only Son who came in history to die for the sins of all.

Keep in mind that Christianity makes a particular claim: Jesus rose from the dead and as a result we are saved from our sins. We need to recognize that there is only one reason to believe a particular faith is whether it is true. If the central claim of Christianity isn't true, there is no reason to believe Christianity. Paul agrees:

I Corinthians 15:12-19 -- Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found {to be} false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

This is important stuff. Paul places all of his hope and confidence in the fact that Jesus, who he saw, rose bodily from the dead. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, why be Christian? Jesus is just another dead man -- a good man, but one who can make no difference ultimately in your life. Go find out what is true. Reading books like the ones listed above help remind us of why it is not only reasonable but compelling to believe the basic facts of Christianity are true.

Note that I am not suggesting that when we are doubting that we go and compare what these Christian apologetics books say versus what the skeptics claim. I don't recommend that at all. My reasoning is very simple -- when you are at a low point in faith is not the time to go seeking what the skeptics are saying. In times of doubt, we Christians are like ex-smokers trying to not fall back into smoking. In such a case, it would be foolish to hang around a smoke-shop or around a bar where a number of people are smoking. The temptation to fall into the crowd becomes very great -- not because they convinced you that smoking is really good for you or because they convinced you smoking is okay. Rather, just being in the place where a bunch of people are smoking when you are feeling strongly tempted to smoke will make the likelihood of returning to smoking very great. Thus, I am not suggesting that the Christian position is weak -- it is (after years of study and arguments with skeptics) objectively more rational and viable than the skeptical position. But a person who is at a weak position in their faith is unwise to seek out the wolves.

So, I would encourage Christians, in times of doubt, to reacquaint themselves with some of the basics of the reasons for believing that Christianity is true by reading good Christian books making a strong case for the truthfulness of the Gospel.

B. Evaluate the true basis for your doubt. If I am correct (and I believe that I am), then once you have found the Christian answer to your "intellectual" question(s), you may be saying, "Well, I'm not convinced." At that point, it seems to me that once you start downgrading what are otherwise good answers with whether it is convincing to you, you are acknowledging that the real source of your doubt is not intellectual but heart-related. Thus, it seems appropriate at this point to try to discern what in your heart is leading to the doubt.

This isn't an easy thing to do, and I don't suggest you try it alone. Instead, you are better off discussing the matter with a Christian counselor in whom you can have confidence and open yourself up. Many pastors are trained counselors who can provide you with excellent guidance if you merely allow yourself to open up and be brutally honest about yourself with them. When speaking with the counselor, if you are finding yourself drawn into sexual desire, say so! If you are disappointed that God has not given you a spouse or that you are unhappy with the person that you thought God led you to when you got married, say so! Until you recognize the true basis for your doubts, you cannot deal with them.

C. Find a "Spirit-filled" person to help you. Look around your church and find someone who you see as filled with the Holy Spirit. These people are usually very easy to spot -- they are joyful, friendly and loving. They know their Bible. They often teach or engage hours on end in acts of the ministry such as caring for the needy or providing ministry for the sick and grieving. If your church doesn't have at least two or three of these people, change churches -- your church is not transforming lives.

Take the time to get to know these people. Find out how they deal with their doubt. What you will find is that they don't have as many periods of doubt as the average Christian because they are engaged in the work of God for the glory of God (the purpose of the work is crucial to living a Spirit-filled life). Did Mother Teresa have doubts? Probably, but not many. People who are working hard on God's behalf and do so for the glory of God are people who are confronted weekly can easily see the Spirit working in their lives and the lives of people around them.

These people can serve as mentors for you. Once you befriend them, they can be a tool and a resource for helping you understand better how to live your life for God in such a way that doubt becomes more and more rare.

Please note that I am not suggesting setting these people up as some sort of paragon of virtue. They are not. They make mistakes like the rest of us. They can be mean, petty and dishonest, just like the rest of us. But what you will find is that their periods of meanness, nastiness and dishonesty are fewer and farther between (sometimes appearing non-existent) because they are so immersed in the Spirit-filled life that these things seem to almost completely fade away.

D. Make sure that you aren't confusing Christianity with Christianity-plus. Some people are not Christians, they are Christians-plus. In other words, it isn't just the Gospel they believe, but the Gospel plus the Republican or Democratic party. The Gospel plus feminism. The Gospel plus the social justice movement. These other things are imperfect man-made institutions which are bound to fail or disappoint. If you are following the Christian Coalition and believe that is the same as Christianity, you are mistaken.

This Christianity-plus idea can also arise within a Christianity itself where an idea of teaching of Christianity is elevated to an essential. For example, I am an strong proponent of the idea of inerrancy. Yet, I don't believe inerrancy to be essential to the faith; instead, I believe inerrancy follows naturally from an understanding of the faith. However, I know many Christians whose hearts are clearly Christian who don't believe in inerrancy at all. Inerrancy is an in-house debate among Christians, but if a person believes that they have to believe in inerrancy before they can be a Christian that that is a form of Christianity-plus that ought to be rejected.

One place Christianity-plus shows up in Christian teaching is in things like the "prosperity Gospel" teaching. This teaching, in a nutshell, is that God is not a stingy God, but a God who is wanting to reward us with material wealth if we just follow him. Well, I've been following God for a long time now, and I am far from wealthy. God has provided for me and my family, but I don't think that the Bible teaches that God is wanting to reward us with tons of money for merely living the Christian life. The Bible seems to teach that Christians are to suffer and that our rewards will be in heaven. Thus, to the extent that a Christian believes in the prosperity Gospel, that is a form of Christianity-plus which should be rejected if it is leading to doubt (because no matter how hard you try, you just aren't getting rich).

E. Pray While I have listed this last, it is really the first. Praying is the most important thing a person can do. But when I read what ex-Christian skeptics say on their sites when they speak about how they used to pray and pray for faith, it struck me that they were not praying for the right thing. I think that when a person prays in doubt, they should pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal to them the reason for their doubt and to pray that the Holy Spirit help them work through the issue.

These are my thoughts and suggestions. As I said at the outset, I welcome and encourage other helpful suggestions or comments about doubt and how to deal with it.

Comments

none said…
Great post, BK. Some readers who would like to look into this issue more may be interested to know that Gary Habermas' book Dealing with Doubt is free and available online at:

http://www.garyhabermas.com/books/dealing_with_doubt/dealing_with_doubt.htm
BK said…
Very cool, Zok. Thanks for the link.
BK said…
For anyone coming here from the Without Credibility Hallq page, I simply ask you to read what I wrote for yourself then read his one sentence summary. I suggest that Hallq has a comprehension problem if he thinks that I am saying that I don't want to be bothered with the truth. It certainly is not what I intended to say, and I don't see how anyone who is fair minded would understand me to have said that.
Honest answer, BK: Do you think it is possible to "look honestly at the issue" (any issue, really) without listening to both sides?
BK said…
Hallq,

Who said anything about not listening to both sides? I am talking in this post only about when a person is feeling heavy with doubt. In the ordinary case, I not only want people to listen to both sides of the issue when it comes to matters of Christianity, I encourage them to do so!

This post is directed only to those times that a person is heavy with doubt. I give my reason to avoid skeptical sites during those times. To rephrase what I said above: I don't think the doubt is intellectual at its core, but a person will use the intellect to rationalize the doubt. Since many skeptic sites are designed to provide a rational basis to support doubt (since most skeptics agree that atheism can't be proven), when a person is feeling doubtful they are more likely to accept these arguments -- not because they are rationally compelling, but because they are using them to rationalize the heart-issues which give rise to the doubt.

Thus, if you read more closely, you would see

1. I am very interested in determining the truth, but

2. the post is limited to a particular circumstance (i.e., times of doubt) during which time I think that the conversation is not helpful because the person who doubts is not of a right mind to evaluate the information.



2.
I refer you back to my original description: "If you have doubts about Christianity..." I know that your advice was only for that situation. Allowing that people should listen to the other side when it is less likely to persuade them is a small concession.
Further thought: your defense of your recommendation is premised on the assumption that doubt is not intellectually honest. Can you provide significant substantiation for this claim, say, something along the lines of a well-respected defender of atheism saying that we ought to deny the existene of God even if all evidence and rational argument points to the conclusion?
Another question. Do you deny any of the following?:

1) You said that most doubt about Christianity is not intellectually honest
2) You said that those with doubts about Christianity should not listen to both sides
3) To "look honestly at the issue" is to listen to both sides
4) 2-3 entail "You said that those with doubts about Christianity should not look honestly at the issue."
5) My description of your post was little more than a combination of 1 and 4.
6) That the statement "my description was accurate" follows logically from 1, 4, and 5.

You just passed on an opportunity to deny 3. Does that mean you affirm it? I have trouble seeing how you could deny any of the others. You must deny one of them, however, in order to claim my description was inaccurate.
BK said…
Hallq,

In your original post, you (mis)paraphrased my position by saying: "If you have doubts about Christianity, do not, under any circumstances, look honestly at the issue." Later, you asked "Do you think it is possible to "look honestly at the issue" (any issue, really) without listening to both sides?" Since you are interested in looking at both sides of an issue, I am going to ask you to do that now.

Obviously, I don't agree at all with what you are saying. I don't agree with your statement "Allowing that people should listen to the other side when it is less likely to persuade them is a small concession." Can you, in looking over what I said previously and trying to put yourself into understanding what I was saying, reason what my objection is to what you are saying?

You also said that I made the assumption that doubt is not intelletually honest. Can you put yourself in my shoes and try to figure out why I not only disagree that I said that, but why I don't agree with that in light of what I have said?

When you have shown me that you have grappled with those two, I will happily tell you why I don't agree with your logic in your third comment (although, if you come to the correct answers on the first two questions, you should be figure out why your third comment is flawed on your own).
nsfl said…
Also interesting here is that if Christians are not dealing with doubt, how likely is it that they will go plowing through works by atheists on philosophy and religion?

Um...yeah.
BK said…
Daniel,

I have read many works on philosophy by atheists, and I have read some work on religion by atheist philosophers -- incredibly boring stuff, for the most part. I suggest that I am not alone.
Taking your points in a different order than you give them:

BK: You also said that I made the assumption that doubt is not intelletually honest. Can you put yourself in my shoes and try to figure out why I not only disagree that I said that, but why I don't agree with that in light of what I have said?

Response: I should have put the word "most" before doubt in my second to last comment. I have been good about putting the qualifier in in my other summaries of your position. Otherwise, I think the statement is accurate. Do you see a difference between "most doubt is not intellectually honest" and "I would guesstimate that in 90% of the cases, the intellectual doubt is merely a rationalization for a deeper heart-problem"?

BK: I don't agree with your statement "Allowing that people should listen to the other side when it is less likely to persuade them is a small concession." Can you, in looking over what I said previously and trying to put yourself into understanding what I was saying, reason what my objection is to what you are saying?

Response: Given that my original description of your post included the words "If you have doubts about Christianity," this is not strictly relevant to the accuracy of said description. Your reason for saying it is clearly that you think most doubters are dishonest, so only committed Christians are qualified to honestly weigh the issue. Given that you have not responded to my request for rational justification of this position, I can only speculate on the basis for this belief of yours. Let me ask you this, though: if an atheist said "If you suspect that God exists, start reading some atheists books and don't read anything by theists," would you take this as evidence of intellectual dishonesty?
BK said…
Okay, let's try this again. You objected (as I understand your first objection) to the fact that I advocated that Christians who have doubts not look at skeptic websites. Your objection is that I am telling people not to look at both sides of an issue. I am now inviting you to look at both sides of this issue by standing in my shoes and trying to reason about what I said from what you think could be my point of view. Instead, you have once again stated your point of view.

Are you really interested in looking at issues from both sides?
Okay. I ask straightforward questions asking you to explain, defend your opinion, say what I did wrong, you ignore them. This is the last time I'll be checking this thread. Bye.
nsfl said…
BK,

Let me say it another way -- if someone is struggling with doubts, that is the time that they want answers or help with their doubts, correct?

You are saying this is not a good time for them to read the sorts of materials that you yourself have read. The reason you are saying this is not because you feel that they cannot find answers to their questions, say, by reading George Smith's "Atheism", but because you know that they may indeed find just those answers, am I not correct?

In that sense, you are the opposite of myself -- I started out a Christian who said, "The truth is the truth, and pursuing it (with honesty) gives one no pause to fear." Obviously, I am at a place where I have concluded that many of my prior beliefs were ill-founded and erroneous. THose are the answers I found, even though what I wanted was some way to reaffirm and shore up my own faith.

Now, when you read those books, BK, were you reading them looking for answers, or were you reading them from a perspective in which you were not open to any new ideas and arguments?
BK said…
Daniel,

A couple of things: first, I have read the first part of George Smith's Atheism and put it down because I thought it was foolish. I don't think anyone can find answers in that book unless they simply want to believe nonsense.

As far as you starting out as a Christian and losing your faith over material such as this, assuming that to be true, my answer is I am glad you sought out the truth. I am sorry you have reached the wrong conclusion.

Now, you are not going to believe what I say next, but it is absolutely the truth: I am always open to new ideas and arguments. I read skeptical websites and articles (occasionally books) to see what they have to say, and if they were to convince me that I was wrong on an issue or even Christianity as a whole, I certainly don't divide my life into the "intellectual side" which doesn't believe something and the "faith side" which hangs onto faith no matter what my intellect says. Thus, the answer is that I have read those books to see what they say with the idea that if they really come up with something that convinces me that Christianity is false, then I will surrender Christianity. Really.

But, of course, there is the other side. I have many, many reasons to believe Christianity is true. I have read many, many writings by skeptics and rarely find them to present anything new that I have not already heard, considered and rejected as flawed. Many turn me off right away with the condescending attitude and their mindset that is so foreign to my own that it isn't worth my while to read through the entire work. So, while I go in with an open (if cautious) mind, it is certainly the case that the skeptics start off deep in the hole in trying to convince me of their point of view, and their attitude often turns me away before giving their arguments (if new -- which they rarely are) a completely objective consideration.

With respect to your first question, let me add this: What you seem to be missing (and what Hallq never figured out) is that the post I wrote was addressed to Christians who were suffering through times of doubt. I said, and I continue to contend, that in 95% of the cases the doubt is not really intellectual, but is related to rebellion. Thus, if a person is looking for a reason to rebel, the last thing they should do is go to skeptical websites or books that simply give them a rationalization -- however weak it may be -- to rebel. It is like an ex-alcoholic going to a bar when she is struggling with her desire for a drink.

I repeat: I welcome people to review the atheist websites and books and essays and anything they want to. But when they do so, they should be in a state of mind where they can really approach it rationally and objectively. I feel confident that you would agree with that. In fact, most atheists think that Christians are wrong to seek to convert people to Christianity at times of sadness or trouble -- such as the death of a loved one or a fatal illness in the home. They see this as preying on the person's emotions. Yet, they are willing -- even anxious -- to prey on a Christian when they are struggling through hard times of doubt. Is this an inconsistency? What is your view?

In all sincerity, I expect that you would agree that if a time of doubt is (as I said) a time when people are struggling more with emotional issues than intellectual issues and are therefore not necessarily thinking straight, then it would be wrong to take advantage of them. What do you think?
BK said…
Hallq,

You can blame it on me, but you are the one claiming that you want to look at both sides of things then refusing to do so. Sorry you're not going to get your answers, but if your approach is to attack, attack, attack instead of reason, you never would have accepted the answer anyway.
Siamang said…
BK,

You haven't answered the question that I thought would be the most revealing:

If an atheist wrote as advice to other atheists "If you start thinking there might be a God, don't read anything by theists, instead read lots of atheist books, because your nacent faith is really just rebellion against the atheist movement" would you think that is intellectually dishonest?

Are you capable of answering that question without rephrasing it or answering a different, unrelated question?
BK said…
Bruce,

This is really an amazing question to me because it requires a belief about the atheist movement that I have never heard any atheist previously acknowledge -- it is a movement partially of faith. You see, as I have always understood atheism as taught by atheists, it is the "freethinker" movement where all of the "rational" people have come to the conclusion that there is no God by exercising their intellect alone. Christianity is the "belief" that requires "faith" to believe. If you are now saying that there is more than an intellectual component to atheism, I would really be interested in hearing more about it.

But you want an answer to your question as stated? No, I don't think that's intellectually dishonest as long as it is agreed that there is a "heart" aspect to atheism as there is with Christianity. If atheism is, as atheists advertise, simply the only possible rational conclusion that the intellect can reach, then yes, that is dishonest.

Now, if you have a follow-up, I want you to answer my question without rephrasing it or answering a different, unrelated question: Is atheism a faith or is it purely rational?
J. J. Ramsey said…
BK: "This is really an amazing question to me because it requires a belief about the atheist movement that I have never heard any atheist previously acknowledge -- it is a movement partially of faith."

I think you misunderstood the referent of "nacent faith" [sic] in the question, "If you start thinking there might be a God, don't read anything by theists, instead read lots of atheist books, because your nacent faith is really just rebellion against the atheist movement?" "Nacent faith" is a reference to the religion one is thinking of adopting as one moves away from being an atheist, not to atheism itself.

I also notice that you didn't answer the question that Bruce posed.
All right. I came back and checked this thread, and when I saw that Bruce had gotten you to answer one of my questions, I decided it's worth saying more.

All I'm going to do is make a very simple suggestion: BK, if you want non-Christians to accept your account Christian belief, be ready to accept their accounts of their disbelief. I.e., be willing to believe them when they say they rejected Christianity for rational reasons. The fact that you've never heard an atheist agree with your account of atheism should be a hint that perhaps you don't have it right.
nsfl said…
BK,

Thank you for the interesting and polite dialogue.

First, I own Smith's book, but haven't yet read it.

What you seem to be missing (and what Hallq never figured out) is that the post I wrote was addressed to Christians who were suffering through times of doubt.
I didn't miss that at all. I explicitly opened my comment with that admission. The obvious disconnect that we're having here is in your next sentence:
I said, and I continue to contend, that in 95% of the cases the doubt is not really intellectual, but is related to rebellion.
Obviously, this is question-begging. Rebellion against...? God. So you assume God in order to prove that those who doubt the existence God are rebelling against God. You assume this mostly because of Rom 1:18, I'm guessing??

Thus, if a person is looking for a reason to rebel, the last thing they should do is go to skeptical websites or books that simply give them a rationalization -- however weak it may be -- to rebel. It is like an ex-alcoholic going to a bar when she is struggling with her desire for a drink.
Assuming that the person wants to rebel means that there is a God to rebel against. The loss of faith is obviously not analogous to rebellion if one stops believing that there is something there to rebel against. I didn't "rebel" against Santa Claus when I stopped believing in Santa Claus either. I'm not being insulting with that analogy, I just think it makes my point very clearly.

But when they do so, they should be in a state of mind where they can really approach it rationally and objectively.
Ideally, people would always want to be honest about the questions they ask, and the answers they seek, whether emotional or not. Basically, those questions don't come and go (nor the validity / invalidity of the answers) on the basis of how we feel.

The crux of what you're missing here should be rather apparent to a man as intelligent as you probably are:

people gaining or losing their faith is always emotional

I feel confident that you would agree with that. In fact, most atheists think that Christians are wrong to seek to convert people to Christianity at times of sadness or trouble -- such as the death of a loved one or a fatal illness in the home.
Most people lose faith, rather than gain it, over these issues because they are the evidence of evil, and most people agree that the argument from evil is the singular most potent atheistic argument that exists. I can say that it is why I quit believing, and began to seek answers to questions I'd had for some time.

They see this as preying on the person's emotions. Yet, they are willing -- even anxious -- to prey on a Christian when they are struggling through hard times of doubt. Is this an inconsistency? What is your view?
First, atheists don't have organized "conversion campaigns", as Christians do. It isn't like we're roving packs of wolves, seeking whom we may devour. Most persons I've talked to that are doubters have approached me, knowing that I'm an atheist, and asked me why/how I lost faith, and what I think and why now.

In all sincerity, I expect that you would agree that if a time of doubt is (as I said) a time when people are struggling more with emotional issues than intellectual issues and are therefore not necessarily thinking straight, then it would be wrong to take advantage of them. What do you think?
I think that emotions fade, but our intellects remain. I think that 90% of Evangelical Christian converts are converted under the weight of guilt, shame, and appealing to their already-present conscience (which the Christian insists is God's Holy Spirit) and telling them that they are depraved, and need redemption. For you to pretend that doubting is a time of emotional weakness, when in fact Evangelical conversion most often occurs using emotional devices, is a little odd.

As I said above, for you to somehow think that doubters should only seek answers when they're not emotional seems silly. People who are doubting what they are told is the most important thing to believe (God), and that they are told may face hell for doubting, are ALWAYS going to be emotional on some level or another. Especially if you've been a Christian for years, and/or a minister/teacher, as I was. Your faith becomes integral to your worldview, and the crashing down of one's worldview is hardly done in an emotional vacuum.

This is really an amazing question to me because it requires a belief about the atheist movement that I have never heard any atheist previously acknowledge -- it is a movement partially of faith.
If choosing not to collect stamps is a hobby, then atheism is a movement of faith.

Atheism is the lack or absence or loss of faith. It is not the replacement of one faith with another.

Some people, such as myself, replaced faith with, "Honestly, I don't know why the universe exists. No one does for certain, maybe one day we will." Is that faith? Is it faith to say, "There are answers we lack," or to say, "God is the answer to every question?"
Siamang said…
BK Wrote: "This is really an amazing question to me because it requires a belief about the atheist movement that I have never heard any atheist previously acknowledge -- it is a movement partially of faith."

Faith? What did I say about faith? For myself, becoming an atheist involved me examining myself and realizing that I no longer had any faith. Where did you get to atheism partially about faith from my comments? I see by reading ahead that you conflate "emotion" or "heart" with "faith." Emotions aren't faith. Yes, I am a happier and more generous person as an atheist. That doesn't mean it's a faith.



" You see, as I have always understood atheism as taught by atheists, it is the "freethinker" movement where all of the "rational" people have come to the conclusion that there is no God by exercising their intellect alone. Christianity is the "belief" that requires "faith" to believe. If you are now saying that there is more than an intellectual component to atheism, I would really be interested in hearing more about it. "

I'm not sure what you mean. I don't come to the conclusion that there is no God. I have come to my current belief that I have no evidence sufficient to compell me to believe that there is an interactive God. Therefore I worship none.

If you wonder if there is more than an intellectual component to atheism, I'm not sure how there couldn't be. I am an intellectual creature, but also an emotional one as well. I believe that intellect and emotions are not two seperate things. Is there any problem with seeing the human mind as one unit, rather than making an artificial distinction between "intellect" and "emotion"?


"But you want an answer to your question as stated? No, I don't think that's intellectually dishonest as long as it is agreed that there is a "heart" aspect to atheism as there is with Christianity. "

Really? So you do think that people with an emotional reaction to questions of belief shouldn't seek knowlege outside their sphere of understanding while they continue to be troubled? I think you're expecting people to be robots.


"If atheism is, as atheists advertise, simply the only possible rational conclusion that the intellect can reach, then yes, that is dishonest."

Just for the record, I make no such claim.

However, I have not heard a sufficiently compelling argument that Christianity or any religion has a more rational conclusion, so I'll live with what I have for now.


"Now, if you have a follow-up, I want you to answer my question without rephrasing it or answering a different, unrelated question: Is atheism a faith or is it purely rational?"

It is not a faith and it is not purely rational.
BK said…
JJ,

In re-reading what he wrote, I agree that he may have been using "nacent faith" to describe the Christian faith. But I did answer his question quite clearly.
BK said…
Hallq,

Maybe I've missed something here, but I don't think that atheists accept my Christian belief in any meaningful sense of the word. And what exactly do you understand me to be saying that says that atheists don't believe that they came to their conclusions rationally? I do think that they came to their conclusions using their intellect -- I just think that it was used more for rationalizing than actually thinking through the issues.
BK said…
Daniel and Bruce,

I have to run. I will try to respond tomorrow.
Siamang said…
BK Wrote:

"In re-reading what he wrote, I agree that he may have been using "nacent faith" to describe the Christian faith."

Well, I didn't specifically mean it to be the Christian faith, but rather faith in God. Christians will likely assume I mean the Christian God, but I was speaking more broadly.



As far as "accepting (your) Christian belief in any meaningful sense of the word"... That depends on meaning of the word "meaningful."

I accept that you believe your beliefs are true. I accept that you honestly believe them, and they are part of an experience of true subjective internal meaning for you.
However, I remain unconvinced that Christianity is correct for true subjective internal meaning in my life.

As a matter of record, I do not say that the supernatural claims of Christianity are objectively false. They may be 100% true. I make no claim that the core beliefs in Christianity are false.

So if "meaningful" means to you, "Makes atheists give up atheism and embrace Jesus Christ" then no. But neither do I reject them.

I remain neutral on supernatural claims of various religions while awaiting better evidence.


If you do not think I have thought through the issues, please bring up an issue you think I have not thought through. You may find yourself surprised.
Siamang said…
Lurchling wrote: "Bruce, you have a conviction there is no God, and that the NT is mostly a fraud. These are belief statements that cannot be proven. "

You'll come a long way toward understanding me if you realize that I've never said that there is no God. I've never said that the NT is mostly a fraud. I make no such claims.

Those are both belief statements that cannot be proven. Which is why I do not believe them, and why my atheism is not a faith.



You need to understand that someone NOT believing in your religion isn't the same as them believing in that your religion is false.

I remain unconvinced of the truth of your supernatural claims, therefore I do not worship your god.
Siamang said…
Let me also jump ahead to a question i suspect you may have next.

I am using this definition of the word "atheism":

Atheism, in its broadest sense, is the absence of theism (the belief in the existence of deities). This encompasses both people who assert that there are no gods, and those who make no claim about whether gods exist or not.

(From wikipedia.)

I am in the second category.
Siamang said…
Lurchling... your comment is pretty good for awhile, but then you smoosh together non-belief and active disbelief here:

"You cannot believe in something you are unconvinced of, therefore you do not believe it, therefore you believe it is not true."

That's not accurate. Not believing something is true is not the same as believing it is false.

I make the statement "I don't know if God is real or not."
I do not make the statement "God is real."
I do not make the statement "God is not real."

I reserve the right to change my mind about Christianity and indeed every other religion should I be shown compelling evidence.

It is not a faith statement to say that I have yet to be shown sufficient evidence to convince me. It's merely a statement of fact.

" I might have phrased it too directly. You do not believe in God. Faith statement. You are unconvinced of the so called supernatural aspect of my belief, which is basically the claims of the NT, therefore you do not believe the NT is accurate. Faith statement. "

It is not a faith statement to be currently unconvinced of the existence of God. It is merely a provisional neutrality awaiting His proof or His disproof. If you can disprove God, I'm all ears. If you can prove God, I'm likewise all ears.

But patiently seeking and listening and searching for which of those two propositions is correct isn't a "faith statement." "I don't know if God exists or not" isn't a faith statement.
Siamang said…
You could call me an "agnostic atheist" if you wanted to get technical. Everyone has their own descriptions of themselves that they go by. I am agnostic because I do not claim to know if there is a God or not. I am an atheist because I do not worship God or any gods.

The word "atheist" is a word about having a religion or not. The word agnostic is a word about knowing something or not. So the words are neither mutually exclusive nor redundant.

If I had documents by Jesus or a eyewitness saying he wasn't the Son of Man, Christ, ect. that performed miracles and so on I would believe the NT is false. All the earliest evidence we have paints one coherent picture, so I go on what we got.

I'll leave out the question of whether the NT is one coherant picture. I don't see that at all. But then again, the Oddyssey is one coherant picture for sure, but I still don't believe in mermaids.

But when you talk about eyewitness testimony, can I assume then that you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? Because the Book of Mormon has signed eyewitness testimony that paints one coherant picture.

Or do you accept the unsigned ancient testimony of the anonymous authors of the Gospels, but reject the testimonies of the modern and historically more easily verified witnesses of the LDS Church?
nsfl said…
Lurchling,

As with the example of my grandmother above, it isn't intellectual to lose faith in God because people die. I don't know why there is this feeling that to die is evil. Death is as natural as life and if no one died we would practically be in an afterlife already.
I don't know why "just death" is being considered evil here? Would you agree that there are natural evils (volcanoes, hurricanes, famines, droughts, forest fires) which confer a great deal of suffering and pain to many peoples' lives? Is this defensible if a Creature exists which has the power to stop it, and (supposedly) is good enough not to want it to happen? Formally, as Epicurus wrote:
P1) The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not
P2) Being willing to do so [take away evil from the world] cannot
P3) They [gods] neither can nor will [take away evil from the world], or lastly,
P4) They are both able and willing [to take away evil from the world].
C1) If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. (if P2)
C2) If they can, but will not, then they are not benevolent. (if P1)
C3) If they are neither able nor willing, then they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. (if P3)
C4) Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, how does it exist? (if P4) [reductio ad absurdum for P1]

If suffering didnt happen there would be no concept of what is good or evil, right or wrong, or any choice of that nature.
Wrong. This is Augustine's "Contrast Theodicy" warmed over. Consider for a moment that nerve endings exist in your body which have the potential for pain or pleasure (esp in certain places, wink-wink). Now, you seem to be arguing here [something like] that you cannot enjoy pleasurable stimulation if you aren't simultaneously aware of, and contrasting it against, the last time you burned yourself. This is silly.

Pleasure and happiness are not dependent upon pain and sadness in order to be intelligible. It is even quite simple to argue that the absence of pain and suffering could be the "neutral" state, against which the concept of happiness and pleasure could be contrasted, and thus there is no necessity for pain/suffering even if a contrast of some sort is necessary.

Losing faith because of losing someone or some disaster happening(which is really one of the ways nature balances herself in retrospect)is emotional and not intellectual in nature. Evil existing does not equal Jesus didn't rise from the dead, things don't happen for a reason, and there is no God.
1) When one doesn't believe that a good, all-powerful Creature watches natural disasters occur without stepping in, the world as it is becomes more innately comprehensible. Adding in this Deity makes the world, and its natural and moral evils, less intelligible. It's basically that simple.
2) The whole question of Jesus rising from the dead, or any miracles, all depend upon the existence of God. The argument from evil argues that God doesn't exist, and thus, by proxy, no miracles can or do occur.

I don't usually see people who don't collect stamps complain for not having their side represented.
I don't usually see people trying to make this "One Nation Under Stamp-Collecting" and having a National Pledge, currency, etc., all reflecting the motto. Furthermore, if non-stamp collecting was a "distrusted minority", and if Presidents said:
"I don't know if non-stamp collectors should be considered citizens," and if non-stamp collectors comprised somewhere between 5-14% of the populace, and stamp collectors the other 86-95%, etc. etc. etc., then you'd probably see just that, goofy.

If you weren't motivated by some conviction to give atheism a defense, then perhaps it's not a faith, but the fact that the premises of atheism cannot be proven without a doubt and that there are missionary atheists and it is a movement that people come together about and agree upon makes it a faith.
This is about as unintelligible and incoherent as it gets.
1) I am motivated to defend what I THINK against those who tell me what I OUGHT to think and believe, and against those who wish to deprive me of the free exercise of speech, and against those who wish to force me to acknowledge a God via my currency, my pledge, my national motto, etc. (All of which were modified LONG after they were first penned, WITHOUT "God" anywhere present)
2) There are "missionary libertarians" as well -- people who want other people to consider the virtues and arguments of the libertarian philosophy of economics. Does that make it a "faith"?
3) Tell me one thing that "can be proven without a doubt". One thing. Does that mean EVERYTHING is faith? Ridiculous.

I believe in no God = I don't believe in God.
Fine. So? I don't believe in Santa Claus either. Is that a "faith"?

It is a system of belief that refuses to believe in a higher power, denies any claims of religions having evidence of God, and denies that Jesus, his disciples, or their disciples could possibly have been telling the truth based on the belief that there is no God and Jesus could not have raised from the dead on a priori grounds.
Simply put, the question about Jesus is ancillary to the major argument about the existence of non-existence of gods. Jesus and his disciples never wrote a word in any book. Paul, and anonymous writers did. And, what many atheists, all of which have seriously studied the Bible, came to see, was that Paul never once quoted anything from the gospels, save for the Communion one-liner. Paul never repeated any of the miracles recorded in the gospels. Paul never specifically addressed a bodily resurrection, and he chided churches for believing in a bodily resurrection, explaining that they would get a "glorified" one later on. The visions Paul saw are consistent with an entirely different interpretation of the Jesus stories. Atheists are simply not convinced by Paul, or anyone else, who makes grand claims without evidence. You feel the same way about other religions -- you disregard LDS miracles, and Jehovah's Witness miracles, a priori. Why? Why are you skeptical (meaning, you don't "just believe" without evidence) about Hindu gods? Why are you skeptical about Zeus? What makes Jesus any different, in your approach to believe what these anonymous writers wrote in their gospels? Why are you NOT skeptical there?

Most atheist arguments are misconceptions of Theistic teachings or arguments from absurdity.
First, there is nothing wrong with reductio ad absurdum logic. Why do you disagree with using this logical tool to examine presuppositions? Do you not apply it every day in all aspects of your life, in extrapolating causes and effects from presumptions, and either accepting or rejecting their validity?

At least what I read.
Well, then you must not read too much.

Any way to avoid conclusions that could lead to a belief in Christ and God in general are avoided at all costs because of these underlying beliefs.
Again, you seem to have things backwards. The burden of proof is always on a claimant making an argument. Theists make the argument, "there is a God". Atheists say, "Okay, why?" Christians make the argument, "Jesus was God," and ditto from atheists. None of us is born with a faith in Jesus, we have to be convinced. In the same way, we start out with our "underlying beliefs" -- assumptions about the nature of reality, consciousness, science, etc., and we have to use or lose those convictions based upon the strength of argument against them (esp. reductio ad absurdum).

This is just a random comment, but yes, in our brains these areas may occasionally have some overlap but our neo-cortices are regions more or less linked to higher thought or intellect, while our limbic system is tied to emotional response, generally.
And the two are interdependent. You can't excise one and leave the other wholly functioning. So?

I'm not denying there are converts to atheism, but it's a lie to say sceptics and the like dont often come to Christianity or Theism.
Unfortunately, the statistics are firmly against you.
Between 1990 and 2001, 6.6 million people went from some religion to "no religion". Only 1.1 million went from "no religion" to some religion. That's 5.5 million net people losing their religion. Now, if you consider that out of all the surveyed religions, MANY of the Christian denominations lost members, and the highest gain among any Xian denomination was "general Christian" with 1.4 million net gains, followed by 610,000 net gains in "Pentecostal", you'll see why I would say that those who become skeptics are much more likely to remain skeptics than those who become Christians. In general, the trend in our country is towards polarization: the only real growth is in the fundamentalist regime of Christianity and in the completely secular sector.

Well for one thing I wasnt trying to convert any of you folk with my comments, just trying to understand how taking any position on anything existentially is not a belief.
Existential is not the same as ontological. Existential propositions (existence precedes essence) come under the presuppositions of one's ontology. I am an ontological materialist/physicalist -- I do not believe in immaterial objects, or in immaterial substances. Matter and energy are all there is. Call that a "faith statement" if you will, but each of us must make sense of the universe with fundamental assumptions. From there, my monist outlook relies upon the interpretation of logic as a concept, morals as a concept, etc., but real, objective concepts.
Seeker said…
I'm reading a lot of dancing around and subject changing, but what you originally posted hasn't changed.

You advised that if a Christian doubts his faith, read pro-Christian sources and avoid anti-Christian sources until the doubt goes away.

That's not intellectually honest, no matter which side of the fence you sit on.
Siamang said…
Lurchling,

If you look closely at the reasons why you don't subscribe to the beliefs of the LDS Church, you may be on a road to understanding why I haven't been convinced by the claims of mainstream Christianity.

The rest of your comment seems to center around this:

"It just seems like you really want the atheist title. Atheism is very much a religion, I went over this, and agnostics don't claim to have any theistic religion, but they are not atheists. "

I'm sorry if it's confusing to you, but it's the definition of atheist in the atheist community. What if I told you you weren't a "real Christian", because "real Christians" by the Bible's definition, can take any poison and can perform miracles?

I don't go around saying Christians aren't "real Christians." Atheists self-identify similarly. Within the atheist community, I am very much a mainstream atheist in my beliefs. And we call ourselves atheists.

From WIkipedia:

In early Ancient Greek, the adjective atheos (from privative a- + theos "god") means "without gods" or "lack of belief in gods".

So let this be hopefully a new thing you learn about atheists here: that we decide what we are called and how we are defined. If you want respect from us, please respect us in turn. The dominant Christian culture has defined the word "atheist" so narrowly that nobody could be called an atheist. We're bringing the term back to the original meaning.

If you want to learn more about atheism the word, and the rationale and various arguments for the various types of atheism, I do recommend the Wikipedia entry on the subject:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism
Layman said…
"Because the Book of Mormon has signed eyewitness testimony that paints one coherant picture."

The testimony of the eight or the testimony of the three? Because the setatements are rather brief and later statements by the witnesses do not really expound on the event clearly.
The eight claim they saw gold plates. Fine. Nothing very miraculous about that.

The three claim they saw an angel and gold plates. Though it is hard to tell from their brief statements added to the book of mormons, it appears these were specifically sought after revelations which were subjective visions. Harris said he saw them with his "spiritual eye" and that "I never saw the golden plates, only in a visionary or entranced state."

Brigham Young clues us in to additional dissent by the big three:

"Some of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, who handled the plates and conversed with the angels of God, were afterwards left to doubt and to disbelieve that they had ever seen an angel."

And all three of the big three left the church, though two returned to it.

Comparing all of this, and much more, to the usual apologetics for the resurrection would be an interesting exploration. But one that would require more than a one-sentence omment on a blog.
Layman said…
Bruce,

So you admit that you are not using the popularly understood meaning of the term "atheist." Why the fuss then? He's just taking the word for what you admit it means in our culture.

I know the definitions can be more technical in atheist circles, but the fact is most Americans are going to think you are better classified as an "agnostic" than as an atheist. Or, as a "soft atheist" rather than as a "hard atheist."

And citing analysis of Greek terms from Wikipedia doesn't help your case about the "real" meaning of atheist. Heck, if the ancient Greek understanding of the term is controlling, then Christians are atheists too, because they rejected the Roman and Greek gods. According to the Martrydom of Polycarp, the Emperor demanded that Polycarp, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists."

So if we are going back to the original Greek to define the term "atheists" then we are all atheists here.
Siamang said…
WRT the book of Mormon, you seem to be skilled at detecting reasons not to believe it, as any non-christian could equally do with mainstream Christianity. But yes, it's a deeper discussion.

Layman wrote: "So you admit that you are not using the popularly understood meaning of the term "atheist." Why the fuss then? He's just taking the word for what you admit it means in our culture."

No, he's using it as a cudgel to beat me with and claim that I have a faith position. He DID smoosh together non-belief with active denial. He's changed his understanding since that post. I'm using this discussion as an educational opportunity that it is possible to be an atheist in practice and an agnostic with regard to the specific claims of religions. It is a perfectly respectable non-faith position to be in practice a person following no god(s).

I know the definitions can be more technical in atheist circles, but the fact is most Americans are going to think you are better classified as an "agnostic" than as an atheist.

Heck, the fact is most Americans are going to think I'm better classified as "closed-minded hellbound God denier." Which is why I don't allow myself to be classified by other people.

Here's an idea, rather than letting other people classify us, how about we each get to say what we believe and what we are?
Layman said…
"WRT the book of Mormon, you seem to be skilled at detecting reasons not to believe it, as any non-christian could equally do with mainstream Christianity. But yes, it's a deeper discussion."

I have other reasons for not accepting Mormonism. As I suspect you have other reasons for not accepting Christianity or Mormonism. And although I'm no specialist in Mormonism, based on what I know about it and Christianity, I find the case for the resurrection stronger than the case for the divine revelation of the Book of Mormon. Might make an interesting article.

"No, he's using it as a cudgel to beat me with and claim that I have a faith position. He DID smoosh together non-belief with active denial. He's changed his understanding since that post. I'm using this discussion as an educational opportunity that it is possible to be an atheist in practice and an agnostic with regard to the specific claims of religions. It is a perfectly respectable non-faith position to be in practice a person following no god(s)."

You just admitted that "[t]he dominant Christian culture has defined the word "atheist" so narrowly that nobody could be called an atheist. We're bringing the term back to the original meaning." So you admit that the broader use of the term in this culture is contrary to what you insist it should mean (ie, the alleged "original" meaning).

"Heck, the fact is most Americans are going to think I'm better classified as "closed-minded hellbound God denier." Which is why I don't allow myself to be classified by other people."

The fact remains that your claim to be using the "original" Greek-Wiki meaning of the word is a shoddy attempt at verbal manipulation.

"Here's an idea, rather than letting other people classify us, how about we each get to say what we believe and what we are?"

By all means.

But you don't get your own special meaning for words we all use. Choose words that will convey your beliefs to others, but don't chide them for not sharing your definition. Especially when you admit that the broader culture uses a different definition.

Frankly, I'm usually happy to call people what they want. I have no pressing need to call people an atheist if they prefer agnostic, or an agnostic if they prefer atheist, or a skeptic if they prefer that. It just gets tedious to see the verbal warfare so many atheists/skeptics/agnostics engage in about the term "atheist." It smacks of simply trying to inflate their numbers to include people who wouldn't like being called an atheist but who are not sure about God's existence.
Siamang said…
Layman wrote: "The fact remains that your claim to be using the "original" Greek-Wiki meaning of the word is a shoddy attempt at verbal manipulation. "

How is it that? The original meaning, according to wikipedia is "a" without "theos" gods. "Without gods" according to the pre 5th century BC definition. By "without gods" I mean speaking literally as a modern person, not projecting myself back in time to call myself what I'd be called in ancient greece. Not trying to apply an ancient greek philosophical view. Merely looking at the words literally. Without. Gods. Not anti-God.

But you don't get your own special meaning for words we all use.

Christians have had the luxury of defining the words for non-christian since christianity became dominant in western culture. Don't be peeved if atheists, wiccans, pagans and other people of differing beliefs don't like your definitions. It's nothing personal.


Choose words that will convey your beliefs to others, but don't chide them for not sharing your definition.

Definitions change all the time. This is how they change. I did not chide him. My posts are purely meant to enlighten. I repeated myself 4 times, and provided numerous cites to show that within the broad atheist community the term agnostic is regarded as within the umbrella of atheism.

Each time I repeated myself, he nevertheless continued to smoosh together nonbelief and active disbelief as a faith stance. He still hasn't stopped.

"It smacks of simply trying to inflate their numbers to include people who wouldn't like being called an atheist but who are not sure about God's existence."

So tell me, am I, as an individual, trying to inflate my number (one!) by claiming to be an atheist when I'm merely agnostic? I mean, does that make logical sense? Why should I boost the numbers by co-opting fence-sitters if I myself AM a fence-sitter?

Or are you arguing that I'm only pretending to be unconvinced of the evidence for an interactive God? Are you arguing that I'm really an active God-denier who has a faith position that there is no God, but I pretend to be neutral and am arguing my position dishonestly?
Siamang said…
Lurchling,

I may be reading you incorrectly, but you seem angry with me. If I have done anything to cause offense, I apologize. I have nothing but the highest regard for your personal experience with faith. I'd give anything to have a similar experience. I know you probably don't believe me.


All I can ask is that you give me the respect I try to give you.
Layman said…
"How is it that? The original meaning, according to wikipedia is "a" without "theos" gods. "Without gods" according to the pre 5th century BC definition. By "without gods" I mean speaking literally as a modern person, not projecting myself back in time to call myself what I'd be called in ancient greece. Not trying to apply an ancient greek philosophical view. Merely looking at the words literally. Without. Gods. Not anti-God."

And, as I showed, once we move beyond WikiExegesis we see that the ancient Greeks who spoke the term defined it much more narrowly than you do.

I guess we do not share the same philosophy of language. I tend to give great wait to usage and you completely ignore usage. Atheist is not a compound word, nor was it in Greek. So it is tricky and often inaccurate to simply take the different root terms used in a word and say "THIS IS WHAT IT REALLY MEANS."

"Christians have had the luxury of defining the words for non-christian since christianity became dominant in western culture. Don't be peeved if atheists, wiccans, pagans and other people of differing beliefs don't like your definitions. It's nothing personal."

No, a Christian culture may have produced such meanings, but Christiand did not go around arguing about the term on discussoin boards trying to change the meaning. The term developed over hundreds of usages in a Christianized culture. That's a far cry from some conspiracy to use terms that atheists don't like.

"Definitions change all the time. This is how they change."

It is? Are you a linguist? Words changes by arguments on discussion boards? I would suspect that most word changes are subtle and simply develop over time.

"I did not chide him. My posts are purely meant to enlighten. I repeated myself 4 times, and provided numerous cites to show that within the broad atheist community the term agnostic is regarded as within the umbrella of atheism."

Neither he nor I are bound to use the term as it is understood by the "broad atheist community," whatever that is. (and who is its spokesperson?).

"Each time I repeated myself, he nevertheless continued to smoosh together nonbelief and active disbelief as a faith stance. He still hasn't stopped."

I have no comment on whether your particular belief system entails "faith."

"So tell me, am I, as an individual, trying to inflate my number (one!) by claiming to be an atheist when I'm merely agnostic? I mean, does that make logical sense? Why should I boost the numbers by co-opting fence-sitters if I myself AM a fence-sitter?"

You've latched on to an argument often made by the "broader atheist community." I don't presume you are being logical about it.

"Or are you arguing that I'm only pretending to be unconvinced of the evidence for an interactive God? Are you arguing that I'm really an active God-denier who has a faith position that there is no God, but I pretend to be neutral and am arguing my position dishonestly?"

I have no comment on right now on whether atheism (hard, soft, etc) requries a "faith position." Nor am I calling you a liar.

Do I think you are "neutral"? Not in the sense that you have the same charity towards both sides of the debate. But it appears that you may be neutral in the way that the US was "neutral" between Germany and Britian before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Siamang said…
Layman wrote: "Atheist is not a compound word, nor was it in Greek. So it is tricky and often inaccurate to simply take the different root terms used in a word and say "THIS IS WHAT IT REALLY MEANS.""

I should know better than to get into an argument about ancient greek with a Christian. I'll let it go. Can we call it a neologism and leave it at that?

"Are you a linguist? Words changes by arguments on discussion boards? I would suspect that most word changes are subtle and simply develop over time. "

Words change by usage. A discussion board is part of usage. Wikipedia backs me up, this is a common usage. Care to call me a "Bright?" "Non-Theist?" "Ignostic?" "Skeptic?" You might quibble with any of those as neologisms as well. As was "agnostic" when it was coined. I'm sure Christians bristled at the creation of the word "agnostic" and wished Huxley would just cut to the chase and admit he was an atheist! ;-)

Neither he nor I are bound to use the term as it is understood by the "broad atheist community," whatever that is.

Of course not. But you could grant it for the length of this discussion as a measure of courtesy.

"Do I think you are "neutral"? Not in the sense that you have the same charity towards both sides of the debate."

I do my best to maintain as much charity as I can for your point of view. I am sorry if I have failed, I will try to do better.


About atheists, Pagans and Wiccans being subject to definitions created by the dominant Christian culture you wrote...


"No, a Christian culture may have produced such meanings, but Christianity did not go around arguing about the term on discussion boards trying to change the meaning."

No, they burned those people and hung the word on their ashes. I prefer the discussion board version.

Sorry for the sharp reply there, but I couldn't think of a better way to get you to see it from my point of view for a second.

It's all about mutual understanding, that's why I'm posting here. People who call themselves atheists crave the understanding of the society at large. I crave atheist-Christian mutual understanding. I think it's the only thing that can save our society.

That's why I'm here. I'm not trying to convince you of anything. I am trying to get you to engage atheists with respect and sympathy. I joined this thread for one simple reason: BK wrote that 90% of doubt is not honest intellectual doubt. BK later said that 95% of it is related to rebellion. He said that perhaps atheists hadn't thought through the issues.

So as an atheist who considers myself an honest seeker, I wanted to engage this conversation. I'm quite used to the Christian stance that atheists are rebelling against god, and that their doubt isn't honest intellectual doubt.

So anyway, I'm here to try and foster some understanding if I can. If I come off too brusque, I apologize. I'm taking I think, quite a lot of guff here sometimes with the statements about atheism, and I'm working hard to minimize what I give back. I realize I'm a guest here, and so hopefully that keeps me circumspect and polite.
Layman said…
"I should know better than to get into an argument about ancient greek with a Christian. I'll let it go. Can we call it a neologism and leave it at that?"

I don't think its a neologism but we can leave it at this.

"Words change by usage. A discussion board is part of usage. Wikipedia backs me up, this is a common usage. Care to call me a "Bright?" "Non-Theist?" "Ignostic?" "Skeptic?" You might quibble with any of those as neologisms as well. As was "agnostic" when it was coined. I'm sure Christians bristled at the creation of the word "agnostic" and wished Huxley would just cut to the chase and admit he was an atheist!"

I think "Bright" is a tactical mistake on the part of the supposedly Bright.


"Of course not. But you could grant it for the length of this discussion as a measure of courtesy."

Or you could be courteous and let us used the term we are accustomed to and which is supported by the broadest culture usage.

"I do my best to maintain as much charity as I can for your point of view. I am sorry if I have failed, I will try to do better."

Let me rephrase because I do not think we understand each other here. I do not mean politeness, I mean having the same level of appreciation for the proposition that God exists as you do for the proposition that God does not exist.

"No, they burned those people and hung the word on their ashes. I prefer the discussion board version.

Sorry for the sharp reply there, but I couldn't think of a better way to get you to see it from my point of view for a second."

Stupid reply is more like it. And hardly what I would call as completely neutral towards Christianity.

How many people did Christians burn to death for applying the wrong term for atheism?

"It's all about mutual understanding, that's why I'm posting here. People who call themselves atheists crave the understanding of the society at large. I crave atheist-Christian mutual understanding. I think it's the only thing that can save our society."

I do not accept you as a spokesperson for all of atheists. Most atheists I have met online do not see understanding, they seek to combat Christianity which they consider an irrational meme that is destructive to civilization.

And the misunderstanding of atheists, agnostics, and skeptics is hardly threatening to destroy our country. So I'm not sure how this will save our society.

"That's why I'm here. I'm not trying to convince you of anything. I am trying to get you to engage atheists with respect and sympathy. I joined this thread for one simple reason: BK wrote that 90% of doubt is not honest intellectual doubt. BK later said that 95% of it is related to rebellion. He said that perhaps atheists hadn't thought through the issues.

So as an atheist who considers myself an honest seeker, I wanted to engage this conversation. I'm quite used to the Christian stance that atheists are rebelling against god, and that their doubt isn't honest intellectual doubt."

Actually, my understanding of BK's post was that those %s applie to Christians experiencing doubt, not to all atheists or hindus or Muslims or Jews who doubt Christianity. Big diff.

"So anyway, I'm here to try and foster some understanding if I can. If I come off too brusque, I apologize. I'm taking I think, quite a lot of guff here sometimes with the statements about atheism, and I'm working hard to minimize what I give back. I realize I'm a guest here, and so hopefully that keeps me circumspect and polite."

I'm not sure how insisting we use certain terms to refer to certain people when we are in fact using terms of broad usage that are not inflammatory or derogatory is meant to promote understanding. Its just nitpicking.
Siamang said…
Lurchling wrote:

crud! I'm doing it again. I need to stop this. This needs to stop. Unless this is about atheism as a belief system involving faith-based assumptions or the definition of atheism, please drop it for another post if you want to respond to me.

Agreed, the off-topic stuff isn't helpful. I'll abstain.

Atheism is the belief, conviction, there is no God or gods. Agnosticism is not knowing if there is a God or not, or not being sure if we can ever know. Atheism is a belief system, it has mental constructs and assumptions, just like Christianity.

If you insist on using that lexicon, then under that definition I'm an agnostic, not an atheist.

Most atheists would disagree with that, but your guys' playground, your guys' rules.

So now what do we have to discuss? You seem to have a beef with strong atheists. Since there aren't any strong atheists here, do you care to discuss agnosticism?
Siamang said…
Layman wrote:

"I think "Bright" is a tactical mistake on the part of the supposedly Bright."

I thought you might. Now you have one more clue to why I call myself an atheist.

"Let me rephrase because I do not think we understand each other here. I do not mean politeness, I mean having the same level of appreciation for the proposition that God exists as you do for the proposition that God does not exist."

I'll bet you a donut that I appreciate your proposition of theism more than you appreciate my position of neutrality. I'll bet you two that I appreciate your position more than you appreciate strong atheism.

"Stupid reply is more like it. And hardly what I would call as completely neutral towards Christianity. "

Not toward Christianity as a theology, but rather toward the historical rule of Christendom, which at times bore little resemblence to the teachings of Christ. I recognize the historical horrors of inquisitions and witch-hunts are counter to Christ's teaching.

"I do not accept you as a spokesperson for all of atheists. "

Not sure I applied for the job.



"And the misunderstanding of atheists, agnostics, and skeptics is hardly threatening to destroy our country. So I'm not sure how this will save our society."

I think that mutual distrust along "culture wars" lines are causing a lot of problems in our country. I think polarization and not listening to your neighbor are at least aggrivating many if not most of America's problems, as they are an active barrier to finding solutions.

"Actually, my understanding of BK's post was that those %s applie to Christians experiencing doubt, not to all atheists or hindus or Muslims or Jews who doubt Christianity. Big diff."


I'll let BK clarify his(her?) own post. My impression is that it isn't limited only to Christians. BK wrote:

And what exactly do you understand me to be saying that says that atheists don't believe that they came to their conclusions rationally? I do think that they came to their conclusions using their intellect -- I just think that it was used more for rationalizing than actually thinking through the issues.

Since most atheists in America are former Christians, I took that post to mean that their doubts while christians were 90% or 95% intellectually dishonest. Which of course begged the question "what is intellectual honesty when dealing with doubt?" And then you have the posts that I got into the conversation with.

"I'm not sure how insisting we use certain terms to refer to certain people when we are in fact using terms of broad usage that are not inflammatory or derogatory is meant to promote understanding"

Well, understanding is a journey of many steps. Learning what people call themselves is a step toward respectful dialogue. You probably know that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints don't appreciate their church being called "The Mormon Church". It may, however, be the phrase with the broadest cultural usage.

So step one in an open dialogue with a Latter-day Saint is to let them tell you how you should refer to them.

I've told you that for me. Take it or reject it as you see fit, but that's why it was part of my dialogue.


"Most atheists I have met online do not see understanding, they seek to combat Christianity which they consider an irrational meme that is destructive to civilization."

Can I say ditto to that and the reverse as well? Care to work to change that?
nsfl said…
Lurchling,

Your posts would be much easier to read if you'd try using paragraphs.

Mormonism and Christianity are very different. Intellectual honesty seems to be running short on your part. I don't see any valid parallel between Mormonism and Christianity being presented.
You're completely missing his point, and mine above, in that if you'd apply the same standards of proof to convince you of Christianity that you do to Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, etc., you wouldn't be an Xian. That's his point.

There is quite a bit of evidence in the NT to support my belief.
And of course, they say the same thing about their Scriptures.

If you want to actually stop your random tangents and try to make a real point about history and logic, I encourage you to do that instead.
It's sad to watch this sail over your head so blatantly. His point is about the position of skepticism in general.

I've been reading books, online articles, and blogs for the past 2 and half years on the ongoing debate between atheism and Christianity.
So?

You probably don't know much of what you're talking about if the reasons you don't believe in Christianity are the same as Mormonism. You are making statements but not supporting them with any reason or detail.
And what did you just do with this first sentence?

Tell us why we should NOT accept the miracles of, say, Joseph Smith or a Jehovah's Witness or a Hindu or an African witch doctor, while we SHOULD accept the miracles written in your Book.

I've read and been shown how Epicurus proof doesn't quite work out in the end. I challenge C2 in a way. What we perceive as "evil" is really just nature cycling itself. Without the elements and the earth maintaining itself, could any life be here at all?

? Once again, all you're talking about is death. You're becoming mildly annoying. Address pain and suffering, disease and insanity, incest and rape..etc etc. Are those necessary?

Death is not evil, it's natural, and only those who fear death as the end really consider it an evil.
Oh my. That's one I'm going to have to write down. Seems to counter your very own beloved book, which labels death as a "curse" and it's supposed to be the last "victory" of Jesus.

The rest of what you go on to write is basically:
1) Evil isn't real, because you can't say death or murder are evil, just natural
2) Evil no longer exists because of Jesus' death

I'm not going to waste time in responding to either of these. If you deny the existence of evil, then there's not much I can say to try to reason with you.

The proof doesn't prove much. It's used too often by low level sceptics.
Hilarious! The Argument from Evil is a "low-level" argument. The bedrock of atheism, as it's called. You're a laff riot, dude. You ought to call Richard Swinburne and tell him he's wasted way too much of his time trying to respond to this "low-level" argument...

It's emotional in basis.
It's an argument, silly. Arguments are either rationally valid or they're invalid. They aren't "emotional".

Deny anything that could be attributed to God because sometimes life is tough.
If you indeed believe that God is sovereign over every event in the universe, then your God becomes more evil than the theists who believe that their God has given man "true" freedom, in the sense that God doesn't predetermine man's actions. If you seriously consider this, though, it becomes somewhat intellectually untenable, if these same theists also hold that God somehow has a plan that will unfold (with or without man's active participation). I think Calvinism is a more intellectually-robust theological perspective, but it makes God even harder to believe in.

Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?
Um, no. Want me to list some things? Diseases that debilitate you for life? Rape that scars you for life? Childhood traumas that cause nightmares for life?

Good and evil are different than pain or pleasure and the somatosensory experience. Pain teaches us what to avoid. Evil teaches us what to avoid.
You seem to have stated a contradiction. Either pain = evil [which you said], or good & evil are NOT different than pain & pleasure. You can't say both.

And what if we don't need "teaching"? Does my female St. Bernard need to be mutilated to "teach" her a thing or two? Is it not possible to teach her through positive reinforcement? That sure is how we trained her. She got a reward for doing what we wanted her to, and we didn't beat her or hurt her when she didn't. But that's not good enough for God?

And despite what you think, there could be a reason for evil and suffering. To deny a reason to it is just placing oneself as the all knowing.
Ah. Now you're starting to get respectable. The only real responses to the problem of evil involve trying to suppose that God has a morally-justifiable reason for allowing evil. Of course, one serious refutation of this response is simple:
1) Let all of the pain, suffering, and evil in the universe be called E
2) Let us assume that God has some plan to unfold, and further suppose that it is for our ultimate summa bona, call it P
3) To suppose that God is all-powerful, and all-good, God will make P while minimizing E, call this the "best of all worlds"
4) Let us call pain, suffering, and evil which are unnecessary or avoidable X
5) If God chose E, rather than E-X, to bring about P, then God is not all-good, or all-powerful
6) We observe X
7) Therefore, God does not exist

If you posit that 6 is not true, then we can get into whether or not an all-powerful being could have still brought about P without allowing my friend to commit suicide, or my father to get cancer, or my wife's best friend to die at 25 of cancer...etc. etc. How many evils could God still accomplish P without, or substitute something else for? I think this refutation stops you in your tracks.

How can there be natural evils??
A God who sits in heaven and watches an earthquake approach, or tsunami, without lifting a finger to warn or help the people before it hits is an unbelievable God. (the only reason we know that hurricanes are approaching is our own hard work and science)

A bear kills a person to eat and survive. This is not evil.
Need the bear have eaten a person, rather than, say, a carcass of an already-dead animal? Could the bear have been fed manna, so that nothing had to die? You're missing the big picture. God could feed all creatures so that they don't eat each other.

The planet cycles itself so it can continue to be habitable. This is not evil.
Need the planet have had "cycles"? Did God have to make a planet in which life and death coexisted? No.

We live in a society of laws and values which fight against moral evils. Evil causes the improvement of people.
This is not a defense. Present a formal argument, all you're doing here is making a strange non sequitur. People, who commit evil, are somehow improved by that evil?

I'm going from the opposite way, friend. Jesus rose from the dead, performed miracles, and I trust his teachings, therefore, there is a God whom he represented and therefore whatever reasons there may be for suffering or "evil" are perhaps beyond our understanding.
You presuppose the truth of what you have faith in, so that you don't have to defend it. At least you're honest about it.

Remember, you and I are sacks of water and organic material. I wouldn't start thinking we have bested God when it comes to understanding existence.
This is called petitio principii, begging the question. I doubt that God exists because of what I do understand, and you tell me that my doubts are trumped by your faith. *shrug* This is "pettifogging sophistry":

Voltaire once asked, The silly fanatic repeats to me ... that it is not for us to judge what is reasonable and just in the great Being, that His reason is not like our reason, that His justice is not like our justice. Eh! how, you mad demoniac, do you want me to judge justice and reason otherwise than by the notions I have of them? Do you want me to walk otherwise than with my feet, and to speak otherwise than with my mouth?

So are you saying in a way people should not believe in God because it is easier??
I'm saying that it is more reasonable.

Ive read the article, and I'm pretty sure atheists are distrusted because they usually don't have respect for people's faith or the possible legitimacy of them - like yourself.
I used to have faith. Why are you leveling this charge of disrespect?

All you have to do is read some Richard Carrier or Robert Price and see how atheists are willing to b.s. so they can discredit other faiths.
Examples?

You practice a faith, that's why you are here defending it.
The lack of faith is not a faith, goofy.

I'm here to debate. I don't know why you are here.

There are atheists who are out there trying to convince people that atheism is the best faith to have.
Are you just repeating this because it makes you feel good? To say that atheism is "a faith"? [eye roll]

It has assumptions that are un-falsifiable.
I wouldn't say that.

I don't want to take your free speech away, I just am willing to argue my position.
Good. Me too.

Do you wish me to stop?
I wish you to think, and come to your own reasonable conclusions, as free agents should. If you have, then bravo!

Faith involves beliefs, like atheism, but I have heard some people refer to politics as the new religion. [grinding my teeth now]

If you want to argue about santa and God, make it a different discussion, but for now I will ignore that because it is polemical and not proving anything.
NO more than you declaiming the worn-out platitude, "faith involves belief, like atheism" and other solipsistic rhetoric about "atheism is a faith", because you seem utterly incapable of conceding that people can say, "I don't know." You think they have to believe stories and put faith in them.

Well, why is Christianity a faith then, if parts of it cannot be proven without a doubt.
This seems a question, although without a question mark. Perhaps it is a question you should reflect on. Should something which is universally and absolutely true, which all of humanity needs to recognize, be so highly doubted? Does God truly want all to believe? (2 Pet 3:9)

What is the difference between atheism and Christianity that makes it a faith. absense of belief in something is taking a stance of belief, but it entails other conclusions that I don't think are nuanced by the evidence i.e. conspiracy theories about Jesus.
Conspiracy theories? Not really. No more than you concoct about other gods and prophets of other faiths. I suppose I just don't worry too much about it, just as you don't. I think the beliefs of Christians evolved over time, just as the beliefs of every other following do, and unlike biological evolution, which leaves us some fossil evidence, our first "fossils" are the 40-year-past gospels and the Pauline epistles. Even within those, we can see some evolution -- Paul's epistles don't quote anything from any gospel, or anything Jesus said, other than the one Eucharist statement, Paul never writes about a bodily-resurrected Jesus, the oldest versions of the oldest gospel don't include a resurrection narrative. John, the undisputed oldest gospel, includes not just a narrative, but Jesus eating and drinking, in order to dispel the Gnostic "heretics". And I could go on and on.

Those take a lot of faith and I'm sure you believe one of those conspiracy theories. I accept the authorship of Luke-Acts Mark 1 Peter and James, therefore if you want to have a real argument over that, then go for it.
When you say "authorship" what do you mean? Who authored them? Who was Luke? Mark? You surely don't believe that Simon Peter authored 1 Peter?

You have faith that Paul is full of it as well, when we have no reason to doubt his word on subjects of the early church. Most of what you are saying about Paul and the NT is a load of crap.
Like?

This makes me think you haven't read anything honest or serious on the NT. Paul taught a physical resurrection, the same as the church leaders like peter james and john taught - They accepted Paul and Paul says they taught the same gospel.
Interesting. Let's hear more about that:
1Co 15:35-49 But someone will say, How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, "The first man Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. [emphasis mine]

We can go back and forth all day on this, and other passages, but I tell you this -- it surely isn't as "dishonest/unserious" of me as you assume.

1 Cor 15:50-54 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, Death is Swallowed up in victory.

As Carrier and others have noted, this does not imply that Paul believed there wasn't something raised, but it does imply that the "sown seed" is forever gone, (cf Origen, "the corpse is like the discarded placenta"). THe "spiritual body" that we see in the later gospels become a "scarred" and eating body makes no sense. Jesus walks through a wall in one verse, but in the other verse, eats, and in the other verse, shows scars. This is a sort of hybridization of the two concepts. The earliest concept is the one which gave the Hellenists (all of Paul's converts) their expected type of "raised" body -- a new, ethereal, perfect one. Believing that the corpse itself is somehow raised is quite silly -- consider for a moment those persons who were incinerated, or ave decomposed to the extent that the atoms of their corpse are now in yours and mine -- part of the soil and air we breathe. Are we to expect that the resurrection event will be all of those atoms coming back together in one place, or a new body? Paul argues for a new one. And so, why would we expect a corpse to be raised, esp one with scars? That isn't a "glorified" body at all, now is it? Give the highly conflicted gospel resurrection accounts a look, and you can see the evolution of the story. The oldest gospel contains nothing of appearances, nothing of a resurrection, just an empty tomb.

There are lots of parallels between Jesus words in the Gospels and Paul's. Paul does indeed quote traditions and teachings of Jesus, but not a ton because of the high context documents he was sending.
Like? Which ones? The only other supposed quotation of Jesus occurs as "it is more blessed to give than receive", which somehow didn't make it into the gospels. We can then suspect that an earlier document "Q" or whatever, existed, with "sayings" that got "edited" and became the gospels as we know them, Mark first.

His audience already knew the basics of their historical faith. Stick with your internet infidels and secular web propaganda.
And you stick with your conservative Christian scholarship.

It seems to be what makes you happy.
It would make me happy to believe that people live forever, that I have an eternal paradise to reach for, and that one day, God Himself will "wipe every tear from their eye". It would also make me happy to believe that there is a giant diamond in my backyard, or that my poop smells like roses. Truth doesn't always make us happy.

Honesty doesnt matter much I guess.
Liar, liar, pants on fire, huh?

Yeah. I'm stopping now because almost every statement you've made about authorship and Paul I know to be horribly false and misleading.
Okay, point them out, buddy-roo.

LDS - bad parallel, Zeus-bad parallel, Hindu gods-bad parallel.
Why? Why do you disbelieve them, but believe your God? Why?

I don't make my own claims of what can and cannot happen.
Wait wait wait. So you're saying that Zeus then MAY exist? LDS MAY be true?

That is dishonest, but its what you and your atheist friends do.
What is?

As I said, the NT, early church fathers, and secular references to Jesus all are evidences that support my view.
I am not a "Christ myther". I think there probably was some historical man named Jesus. It's quite a leap to go from there to the story we read in the much-later gospels, though, of course. That "leap" is the "leap of faith" that I cannot make for ANY story about gods and miracles. All the "church fathers" had the same epistles and gospels (minus some edits) that you do. So? The earliest manuscripts (I'm thinking codex Sinaiticus) were discovered after the KJV, and have the unfortunate tendency to undermine some of the favored translations and beliefs about the coherence of the gospels (like Mark's missing resurrection narrative, and the pericope adulterae). The oldest fragment of the gospels we have dates to the 2nd CE, and is a fragment of John. The first recorded quoting of John was by Justin Martyr in 150 CE. Again...so?

They are my proof, though as you said NOTHING can be proven without a reasonable doubt.
Sure. And the LDS has the book of mormon as their "proof" and the "big three" and etc.

Just saying, your intellect is not your emotions and vice-versa.
But they are both me. I am a holistic organism.

1.1 million doesnt count as a lot or often?
Well, it's 5 times less than the number of skeptics made in the same time or 16 and 2/3 percent of the total number. No, I would say less than 1/5 is indeed not "a lot". I would say that more than 4/5 is indeed "a lot".

You are making existence how you want it to be.
I couldn't do that if I tried. My universe is not subject to the whim and fancy of anyone or anything, not gods, nothing. Your universe is like a cartoon, one in which God can draw in talking snakes, talking asses, stop the earth's rotation (Joshua's long day), make an axe head float, raise people from the dead...etc. You are the one living in a cartoon, which is malleable and is indeed subject to the simple willpower of the Cartoonist.

YOU COULD BE WRONG.
Sure. We all play the game of probabilities, without absolute certainty. But you could be wrong about your wife cheating on you. You could be wrong about your job being there tomorrow. Should you divorce her and quit?

And what you think is the only thing that could be REAl could not be the only thing. You're not God, and you can't tell existence how it should work.
What is the only thing that I think could be "REAL"? Why couldn't matter and energy be the only thing? Your God is eternally existent, without creation or destruction, while my matter and energy are eternally existent, without creation or destruction.

The Big Bang produced the particles we're familiar with, but not ex nihilo, as your God supposedly did. The BB is just the expansion of all of the compressed, hot, energy/matter from the singularity to what we observe. As the matter cooled, it took on the form of particles, which we're familiar with, like electrons and protons and etc. But the "stuff" that atoms are made of was already existent, and is not bounded by time.

And, you see, in my universe, neither can God "tell existence how it should work", since God didn't choose to exist, and, doesn't exist.

... for letting this long pointless dribble of argument
Drivel?

The validity of Christianity is not the topic of the post. Doubt is.
...this is quite a funny proposition. I wanted to leave it as your last "hanging chad" sort of thought.
nsfl said…
Upon reading back through, I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt:
Good and evil are different than pain or pleasure and the somatosensory experience. Pain teaches us what to avoid. Evil teaches us what to avoid.
You seem to have stated a contradiction. Either pain = evil [which you said], or good & evil are NOT different than pain & pleasure. You can't say both.

Perhaps you meant that that one "teaches" in the somatosensory sense, and another in the cognitive sense? Plus, I meant to say, "either pain = evil (in teaching us what to avoid), AND THUS good and evil are NOT different..." Or "pain /= (is not equal to) evil, and good & evil ARE different..."
Layman said…
Daniel,

There are many reasons to reject Carrier's proposed two-body resurrection belief of Paul. One is that he seriously distorts the religious beliefs of first century Jews:

See the links in this entry: http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/02/is-richard-carrier-wrong-about.html

Another is that Carrier's examples of Jewish belief in the two-body theory are unpersuasive:

On Josephus, see http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/04/is-richard-carrier-wrong-about-what_27.html

On Philo, see http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/04/is-richard-carrier-wrong-about-what.html and, http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/02/is-richard-carrier-wrong-about.html

On the Assumption of Moses, see http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/01/is-richard-carrier-wrong-about.html and, http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/01/assumption-of-moses.html.

The only other use I have found of the seed analogy being used to describe the resurrection, as Paul does in 1 Corinthians, are the Rabbis -- theological descendants of the Pharisees who clearly affirmed continuity between the old and new body. Which makes it likely more than a coincidence that Paul, who was also a Pharisee, uses the same analogy. What Paul is describing, as were the Rabbis, is that the resurrection body will be transformed into a new state of being that is much improved on the old. Thus Paul -- while still believing in some level of continuity between the old and new body -- would have no problem believing in Jesus eating fish and appearing from nowhere. This is not a hybridization, but the results of the radically transformed body of Jesus.
Siamang said…
I think the problem with the "problem of evil" as an argument is that it sounds like we're mad at God for letting our pet dog die.

It's confusing, I think, as an argument, as we are talking about God to disprove God. It assumes that we have a valid definition of God in the first place to argue against.

The POE only disproves a certain definition of God. You have not necessarily disproved other people's definition of God, Daniel, but perhaps you have disproved the definition that you believed in when you were a Christian.



Hmm.... perhaps I'm really an "ignostic!"
nsfl said…
Hey, no hard feelings.

Sorry, but I'm a bit tied up in an ethical discussion (feel free to join in at my blog) at the moment, so the BIble will have to take a backseat.

Best,
D

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