The Center For Inquiry has a new billboard up here in Grand Rapids, MI, touting happiness without religious belief. On one of their websites, they explain, “It’s really quite simple,” that is, being human is good and wondrous and we live in an amazing time and place. A video outlines their thoughts:

As I, a believer in God, watched this video, I found myself nodding: “I agree, yup, uh-huh.” We are here for only a brief period of time, we are trying to better our world, we do share in each others’ joys and sorrows. Christians are also just as fascinated and intrigued by the wonders of science: water found on Mars, the ability of scientists to find markers on our DNA that may make it possible to eradicate diseases and create healthier lives for us. It’s amazing how much we Christians and atheists have in common.

Of course, there is a “but.” The video says that those without religious faith seek to live lives based on honesty, dignity, compassion and…truth. There it is. The “but.” But what is “truth” when there is no moral foundation, when there is no guidance other than one’s own desires and wishes, when there is no restraint placed on the unfortunate human tendencies towards narcissism, self-satisfaction and selfishness? As a Christian, I hear the echo of Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?” (John 18:38)

The “Living Without Religion” website attempts to tackle this question:

Do people really need a divine commandment to know it’s wrong to hurt people? No. Basic moral rules are common to all cultures.

We know we can choose on our own to be kind and compassionate. These virtues have intrinsic value, and showing kindness and compassion often leads to kindness and compassion by others. We recognize our responsibility for making the world a better place for everyone.

For more complex issues, especially ones that touch on public policy, we have science and reason to help guide us. We study different behaviors, and we use facts and data to help determine which behaviors are truly harmful and which ones are actually benign. We decide right and wrong based on real-world experience, not on tradition or what a god wants or doesn’t want.

Moral rules are indeed common to all cultures, but one can make the argument that they are rooted in religious beliefs. For instance, the idea of “do unto to others as you would have them do unto you” can be found in every major world religion. We certainly can choose to be kind and compassionate, but we often don’t. As people of faith, we have a way to re-orient ourselves, to find our way back to the right path, to the truth. And the truth we have is not one we decide upon for ourselves, but one that has been given to us by a loving, compassionate, creator God who knows us better than we know ourselves. Left to our own devices, devoid of “what a god wants or doesn’t want,” we are much more likely to behave as schoolchildren when the teacher is called out of the room: How much can we get away with?

I don’t mean to reduce atheism to immaturity. As I said, the video shows that believers and non-believers have a great deal in common. But that question of truth is one we cannot dismiss lightly. Is truth something we can each decide for ourselves, or is Truth a fundamental, unchanging, transcendent, objective reality that exists whether or not we acknowledge it?

I’m sure there will be much conversation about this billboard in Grand Rapids, and that’s a good thing. Believers and non-believers have much in common, and much to discuss. Perhaps a good place to start would be the question of Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?”

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  • http://bit.ly/glUAR7 Calladus

    So, wait, I don’t understand this. You are saying that without God, you wouldn’t know that murder is wrong?

    Personally, I know that murder is wrong because I don’t want to be murdered.

    If “truth” requires a deity in order to exist, then anything that deity says or does is “truth”.

    Genocide, even of babies, becomes “good” (Numbers 31). You must love that deity so much that in comparison the affection you feel toward your own child is merely “hate” (Luke 14:26).

    What happens to “truth” and “morality” if they are based upon a “jealous God”, who is willing to wipe the planet clean with a flood, who is willing to condemn the soul of a good person, merely because they lack belief in that deity?

    Lastly, I will posit that what you have is not ethics, or morality. What you have is a set of laws that is interpreted in many different ways by many different flavors of Christianity. You put no thought into your ethics, which makes you little different than one of the little robots that I’ve built.

    • thursday

      You should not use the Bible to support your point when you clearly are ignorant about it. This is such a tired approach. I know it plays to other peoples ignorance but it does not further a pursuit of truth.

      • James Cook

        You should not defend the Bible as the sole source of morality when it is so clearly not. For example, nowhere does the Bible outlaw the act of rape itself. It outlaws it when it involves a married woman, but this is only for the purpose of punishing the rapist for defiling another man’s property. The Bible states that if a man rapes a woman who is not betrothed, he must marry her. This is most objectively immoral. Thus, how do you know that it is wrong to rape a woman?
        Why not, if you are interested in a girl, rape her? She will then be forced to marry you and you can live happily ever after with her. This is condoned by the Bible, and yet I’m sure you would sense it to be immoral. From where does this sense come? And how do you reconcile that with your belief in the Bible us the ultimate and only source of morality?

        • maturallite

          Great point, and so far I see no reply.

        • Elise Hilton

          Catholics – at least – do not use the Bible as the sole source of morality.

          • James Cook

            An odd attitude, isn’t it, given that the Bible is supposedly the true word of God?

          • Elise Hilton

            Not odd at all. The Bible is more like a library than a book. There is historical documentations, poetry, allegory, parables and stories, etc. While Christians believe it is true, the truth found in a poem is understood differently than the truth of a historical document. Interpretation is everything. Catholics believe that the Church has been given the responsibility to interpret the Word of God.

          • Steve Greene

            “While Christians believe it is true, the truth found in a poem is understood differently than the truth of a historical document. Interpretation is everything. Catholics believe that the Church has been given the responsibility to interpret the Word of God.”

            So – at least according to Catholics (and I’m quite familiar with this argument) – morality is not actually even determined by a god, but by a council of men base on certain religious traditions.

            This does not improve your argument. Surely you see that?

        • thursday

          i have not attempted to defend the Bible as the sole source of morality.Jesus did not leave us a book he left us a Church. The Bible is a collection of books written by many authors in different genres. Why would you expect a book about the journey of a people through history not to include the same human foibles that any other historical account of mankind would include. This journey is not just historical but spiritual as well. The words of the Bible are to be read in a way that respects history and the long traditions of Biblical and literary interpretation. Read this way there is no way a sane Christian comes away with the idea that God’s okay with rape.

        • JohnE

          Jimmy Akin has addressed many of these “dark passages” of the old testament in a series of posts on his website:

          http://jimmyakin.com/2012/10/the-dark-passages-of-scripture.html

      • GubbaBumpkin

        You should not use the Bible to support your point when you clearly are ignorant about it.

        “I don’t have a good response to your point, so you are not allowed to make it.”

        • thursday

          There are many good responses but they will not be entertained by those who insist on reading the Bible in a way that rejects interpretive scholarly and historical traditions. People are allowed to make any point they want. If the point of discussion is to come to a better understanding and to get to truth then these subjects need to be approached with intellectual honesty and openness.

  • Brian Westley

    Even if there is some objective morality that a god has created, humans don’t agree on what that morality is, or how to determine what it is, so you still end up with humans making the decisions.

    I would also argue that claiming a particular set of morals are from a god actually makes things worse — if person A says that god wants everyone to do X, and person B says that god doesn’t want anyone to do X, there is no way to reconcile these positions.

    • thursday

      If there are many gods then you would be correct but there is only one God. An understanding of God is attainable by the application of faith and reason.

      • Patrick Ethen

        Truth & Reason are tricky. Here are some basic questions in an attempt to reason this out with you. To someone not indoctrinated with your religion, why would anyone believe you vs a muslim, a hindu, a buddhist, etc.? You have no way to convey your truth to us without evidence of some kind – Can you can’t show us? Can you tell me why someone should believe your god is the correct one? Do you hold a monopoly on the truth? The video below is fairly short & is the best example of reasoning that I can think of on this topic.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJRy3Kl_z5E

        • Elise Hilton

          I never made a claim on the monopoly to truth. And the post was quite kindly and gently worded to engender discussion. When you use words like “indoctrinated”, your prejudice shows.

          • Patrick Ethen

            I apologize if I came off as being rude. I simply can’t find a better word to describe it.
            Wikipedia Definition: Indoctrination is the process of inculcating ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology (see doctrine).[1] It is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned.[2] As such the term may be used pejoratively, often in the context of education, political opinions, theology or religious dogma. The term is closely linked to socialization; in common discourse, indoctrination is often associated with negative connotations, while socialization refers to cultural or educational learning.

        • thursday

          The Dragon in My Garage is a cute little story but ignores so much of the reason that fuels a belief in God. I am sure that you are familiar with many of those reason based arguments. Those reason based arguments are not addressed by the dragon analogy the only thing that is addressed is that God is invisible. Truth is not tricky. The trickery usually appears when people try to mess with it. The truth exists independent of us. God exists independent of us. We can try to create him in our image or try to understand who He is. Either way He remains God, eternal and unchanging. Reason isn’t tricky either. Reason can get us quite far in understanding God and the physical world but when it comes to belief or unbelief it doesn’t get us all the way there, for that we both need faith.

          • Patrick Ethen

            You speak of truth, yet you talk about your god as if it exists. That’s just not a truth… If it were, I would be able to examine your evidence and come to my own conclusion. It’s really quite simple… there are no gods. Faith isn’t something I need, it’s something a lie needs.

          • Patrick Ethen

            Right and circular reasoning works because circular reasoning works. You say it’s a cute story, yet it gets right to the heart of the matter. A delusion might be to believe you have an imaginary friend that you can talk to, but with religion, you have to believe in other people’s imaginary friend. Of course different cultures have dif’t imaginary friends so we can be sure all gods are created by man.. Yet nobody sees that. This belief is confusing to atheists because we simply don’t see anyone there & move on. Theists talk to their gods all the time but they never talk back… If they do it’s a mental illness. If a booming voice inside my head told me to kill my son or some such nonsense I’d go commit myself. If I were religious maybe I’d try to do it? I’ve heard of some such stories ;)

      • Patrick Ethen

        Also, I think what he said would work even if we are only talking about 1 god. 2 groups of people can claim they have access to that god. They can claim that god told them to do certain things that are in conflict with each other. There’s no way to tell which group is right because there’s no way to provide evidence of “talking to god”.

      • Savoy47

        Your God disagrees with you. Exodus 20 2) I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3) “You shall have no other gods before me.

        Your God clearly states that there are other Gods.

        • Elise Hilton

          Unless of course, you study Scripture (as many scholars have) and understand this to mean that we humans have the tendency to make idols of things (money, power, etc.) that get in the way of our relationship with God.

          • Savoy47

            Seems to me that the most powerful and all knowing God could have said- you shall have no other things before me- but He said no other gods. If God can’t be clear when He is giving a direct commandment written in stone, then any other words attributed to Him in the bible are meaningless. The word of bible scholars overrules the word of God..

          • Patrick Ethen

            Wouldn’t that imply that someone was simply trying to corner the market on this so they could exploit it? I mean… Talking to a burning bush… At least it wasn’t a magic stone in a hat I guess.

          • Elise Hilton

            More bizarre than a lake in Tanzania that turns creatures into stone? Look it up…

          • Patrick Ethen

            I was just reading that – beautiful pictures! I read the article and what they did was pick up the dead carcasses & pose them (I the position they died) for photography. The remains were calcified & completely explainable.

            http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/artscience/2013/10/this-alkaline-african-lake-turns-animals-into-stone

        • JohnE

          Yes, people have many gods which are not really God. They are false gods. That is the clear meaning.

      • jfigdor

        Hear that, almost a billion Hindus? Thursday says you’ve got it all wrong.

        Thursday, you really come off shockingly arrogant in this thread as you sort out the incorrect religious beliefs of a few billion people.

      • twinbeech2

        Make that “unreason.”

  • Patrick Ethen

    I believe I can help with your confusion about “Truth”. We simply use the word differently.

    Truth, when used by an atheist is based on empirical evidence & inductive reasoning. We see no evidence for omnipotent beings so we have to assume it isn’t true. We get to that conclusion using inductive reasoning and we’ve never seen a god, so the default position is that there are none. The scientific method always starts with the null hypothesis.

    Truth, when used by the theist is based on a “Belief in” or a faith that they hold true REGARDLESS of evidence. Some simply have a belief in a belief, others have been indoctrinated so heavily by people they trust (their parents, church, friends) that they assume that faith is the default position. They believe this so strongly that they don’t consider the god they believe in is strictly chosen by where they were born, or what religion their parents are.

    Give this a read & see if you can appreciate what I am trying to get at. “Truth” can be subjective based upon how it is you’re using it, or what type of truth you’re talking about.

    https://sites.google.com/site/skepticalmedicine/believe-in-or-believe-that

    Also mentioned is “do unto to others as you would have them do unto you”. I consider this heavily flawed. I wouldn’t want a masochist doing unto me as he would have done unto himself. A Sadist is just a Masochist following the golden rule. Logically I believe that the Platinum Rule is much better. It basically means the same thing, except you have to ask first ;)

    • Elise Hilton

      The video in the post talks about the happiness of atheists, as well as their compassion and search for dignity. What is the empirical evidence for “happiness”? How does one scientifically prove “dignity”?

      • Patrick Ethen

        Happiness is simply the state of consciousness you’re in, in the absence of things like fear, pain, etc. It can be increased with the introduction of chemicals in the brain like oxytocin when you’re with the ones you love, adrenaline when you’re doing something exciting, etc. The evidence is your own experience & yes, inductive reasoning tells me it’s not contingent on believing in someone’s particular god to have it.
        Dignity, again, is much simpler. Dignity is simply doing the right thing, being consistently moral without the threat of hell or the promise of heaven. In the case of dignity I would posit that atheists have more of it than theists because we are good without gods.
        The article I posted was to help you understand how we can both believe what we think is correct, we’re just getting their through different paths. I think it’s silly that people believe in whatever god they worship without evidence and I think it’s demeaning to their humanity that they give up all that is good within them to some omnipotent super being they’ve never talked to. Meanwhile, the believer can’t understand how I can be a good person & not believe in this deity they give all the credit to… It’s really irrational to try to cross these 2 meanings of belief into 1 conversation. I can tell you’re struggling with it based on how you asked about basic things like human characteristics, emotions, etc…

        • Elise Hilton

          “Dignity is simply doing the right thing”: but how is “the right thing” decided upon? If we don’t have a moral ethic based on established Truth, then “the right thing” becomes “what I like doing”.

          • Patrick Ethen

            “Doing the right thing” is a fairly easy concept to come by. Don’t oppress people, don’t hurt people, be honest.
            I will try to give a current example & point out that there are topics like gay marriage where the objectively moral thing to do would be to allow 2 consenting adults to marry the person they are in love with. This tends to beat out the popular theistic morality of oppression by discriminating in legal ways (social security benefits, power of attorney, etc.). This is how religion can be harmful… when 1 religion is given legal authority over those that don’t share that belief. This is a perfect way to show that even though I am not gay, objectively I can see the moral thing to do where a religiously based morality, based on doctrine thousands of years old doesn’t work.

          • Elise Hilton

            But we can easily turn this around: must I – as a religious person – participate in something (a gay wedding, for instance) that goes against my religious beliefs? If I am asked to photograph such a wedding, but decline, as a Christian, I am then punished. Is this objectively moral? If I, as a Christian who works in a prison, refuse to take part in an execution and lose my job, is that objectively moral?

            If “doing the right thing” were so “easy to come by”, we’d live in a much better world. And I’m afraid we religious folks are just as culpable as non-religious.

          • Brian Westley

            If I am asked to photograph such a wedding, but decline, as a Christian, I am then punished.

            If you’re referring to Elane Photography v. Willock lawsuit, they weren’t punished for being Christians, they were punished for violating the New Mexico Human Rights Act, which prohibits commercial businesses from denying service on the basis of (among other things) sexual orientation. The outcome would’ve been the same if they had refused to photograph a mixed-raced marriage, or a Jewish-Christian marriage, as race and religion are also included in the NM Act. This same act, of course, means that commercial businesses likewise can’t refuse to do business with you because you’re heterosexual, or a Christian, or a woman, or caucasian, etc.

          • thursday

            Don’t oppress people, don’t hurt people, be honest. Why do you think those things seem so right to us today? Were those moral tenets as obvious 12,000 years ago? How about 6000 years? It was the influence of Judaism and Christianity that led to the notion of the dignity of the human person.

          • Patrick Ethen

            Morality is innate and can be guided, reinforced or damaged by environmental factors such as upbringing, indoctrination, culture, etc. There are no gods involved, just humans.

          • thursday

            I agree!!! The only thing I would add is that innate morality is there because God made us in His image.

          • Patrick Ethen

            I would like to simply subtract that “in his image” thing. It makes no sense given evolution, our genetic makeup, etc. There’s no evidence for that. :)

          • twinbeech2

            So….did God have a belly button? What purpose did it serve?

          • Benjac

            God became man about 2000 years ago. He walked the earth for about 33 years, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. So, yes, God had a belly-button. It was the remnant of his umbillicus, which connected him to his mother’s placenta. After his birth in Bethlehem, we can only assume some sharp object was used to cut his umbilicus; it healed and became a belly-button. And they say Christians are anti-science!

          • twinbeech2

            No, actually we say you are delusional. Delusion: “A persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of a psychiatric disorder.”

          • Benjac

            You forgot “blissfully” The atheist talking-points, say you are supposed to call me “blissfullt delusional”!

          • JohnE

            If so, my innate morality and my reason says that it is good and true and right to believe in God. Is it good or bad to follow one’s reason and innate morality?

          • JohnE

            I think I can agree with you Patrick that there is at least a certain amount of innate-ness to morality. I just disagree with it being solely natural and subjective. If morality doesn’t transcend nature, then why should one feel compelled to obey it?

      • Patrick Ethen

        This is an example of scientifically explaining how you feel. It is only 1 of many of the amazing chemicals our brains utilize, produce to alter our state of consciousness. It is used in combination with many, many others. http://io9.com/5925206/10-reasons-why-oxytocin-is-the-most-amazing-molecule-in-the-world

      • Patrick Ethen

        Did you get a chance to read the google site on belief types? I’m curious to know if that helps in our communication… Getting on the same page when it comes to terminology.

        • Elise Hilton

          I did; thank you. It does clarify the terminology. One thing that caught my eye was “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. While one might say the statement “God exists” is an extraordinary claim, the same can be said for “God does not exist” or “The universe came into being via evolution and only evolution.” One might even say, “I love my teenage son” is an extraordinary claim, given that he is in an unresponsive state (just an example!) following an accident.

          • Patrick Ethen

            I see what you mean about certain claims being difficult to understand, describe or internalize. I will try to touch on why “God does not exist” is the default position for many of us. Proving something doesn’t exist is proving a negative, which is an irrational position to take. There are an unlimited number of things that you can’t prove don’t exist. I can’t prove there isn’t a iPhone 5s orbiting a planet in the Andromeda galaxy, but the inability to prove otherwise doesn’t make it reasonable for me to believe it…
            My honest answer about how the universe came into being might be as simple as “I don’t know, but I think the tools & progress of science might someday allow us to find out.” Not knowing the answers to big questions is one of the things that makes life interesting! :)
            I love my family for the same reason you love yours. We evolved as social animals that put great value in our families & friends. Our memories of loved ones don’t diminish the feelings we have towards them when they are injured, comatose or dead… But just because it’s difficult to describe to someone, just because it’s explainable, doesn’t make it any less real. Just reading about brain chemistry, oxytocin & its many roles that dictate our feelings of love, trust & rejection helps us understand we’re not as spiritual as we might think ;)

          • Elise Hilton

            I do not wish to see humans as simply a sum of our biological parts – that every action and reaction we have is simply a neurological mechanism. If that is so, it leaves one to wonder why art is created, or why one chooses to cuddle with a child and watch a movie together or choose to treat someone one doesn’t like with kindness. Here is an interesting discussion: http://www.strangenotions.com/morality-is-not-a-biological-issue/

          • Patrick Ethen

            Interesting read. I can’t agree with the conclusion though. “Gifts of creation” seems like a cop out in understanding a very interesting, complex quality in animals. I understand that it’s humbling to think about humanity as just another species of animals, albeit the dominant one. I don’t think it matters what we “wish to see humans as”, rather, I think we should strive to be better than we are. Art, music, and many aspects of our culture are what we call “Emergent” much like a snowflake is an emergent, complex system arising out of relatively simple interactions.

            As for other animals, please don’t underestimate them, they are like us, just not as evolved.
            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=jailbreak-rat

            Emergence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence
            I must say I’m quite enjoying this discussion. It’s nice to be able to talk about multiple aspects from different perspectives without the conversation devolving :)

          • Elise Hilton

            I appreciate your civility and your willingness to discuss as well. As for the animals, how much time should we give them to “evolve” to the point that they are “like us”? For instance, domesticated dogs have been around for thousands of years, yet my dog has yet to greet me at the door saying, “Hey Mom, come see the picture I drew today!”

          • Patrick Ethen

            I don’t see any potential of dogs evolving to become “like us”. Even though they are intelligent, social animals, they lack the advantages of primates. The manipulative dexterity of fingers to create & use tools, the voicebox capable of complex sounds for communication, etc. Also, evolution is mostly driven by pressure and dogs have it pretty good. The only evolutionary pressure dogs have been exposed to is driven by humans in the way we breed them for preferred traits. You might say we’ve “played god” in the course of their evolution :)

            Other animals in the past have evolved to our level & died out. Neanderthals, Denisovan hominin, to name a couple (I think there are 5 total including us). These, with the greatest potential are gone, but not entirely. Now that they’ve mapped the genome of those older primate cousins, they have discovered we carry a small percentage of their DNA within us – we are, to some extent, hybrids.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/17/science/chris-stringer-on-the-origins-and-rise-of-modern-humans.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      • jfigdor

        People deserve to be treated with dignity because people want others to treat them with dignity.

        Game theory gets you there pretty quick.

  • Patrick Ethen

    Truth – is subjective. Let’s start with “do unto to others as you would have them do unto you”. This is the golden rule & it is flawed. The platinum rule is much the same but you need to ask if it’s ok first. e.g. A Sadist is just a Masochist following the golden rule.

    Truth – is different for people of faith than it is for those that require evidence. If I were to say I see no evidence of any gods, therefore, I don’t believe that gods exist, it would be the truth. If a believer says he/she “believes in” a god or gods, it would be the truth. This is simply a misunderstanding… Truth to an atheist is based on empirical evidence & inductive reasoning. Faith is believing something regardless of evidence. Both believe they are correct.

    There is a great article on the difference between “believe in” & “believe that” that I’m sure you can Google – I think it got my previous post removed. It’s under Skeptical Medicine. If you give it a read, I think you’ll understand why believers & atheists disagree on what Truth really means…

    • thursday

      “Truth – is subjective.” If that is objectively true then your argument fails.

      • Patrick Ethen

        What is meant by that, is simply that the definition of truth is subjective. Theists tend to think their belief in something is true based on faith. Atheists don’t accept something as true until we see evidence for it. “I don’t believe there are fairies in my garden” is true where someone that believes in fairies thinks they are correct (even though they are not) because of their “belief”. Their belief defines what’s true to them, not what’s true objectively. That’s why theists & atheists have trouble discussing religion. I say there are no gods, you say there is, and I say prove it & you say you can’t and I say ahah! And you say well I believe in it, I believe it to be true. You aren’t lying… You really do believe in it and believe it to be true… It’s just not. And you can’t even show me… It must be frustrating.

  • Patrick Ethen

    Stop removing my post.

  • Pingback: ‘It’s Really Quite Simple’: Being Truthful About Atheism – Acton Institute (blog) | What Would Science Say

  • http://rdmckinney.blogspot.com/ Roger D. McKinney

    Atheists are totally dishonest in the extreme.They claim to base their atheism on objective truth, but they limit truth as nothing but the findings of the natural sciences. Of course, if you can’t see God through a microscope or a telescope then he must not exist. That assumes away God instead of disproving him by assuming a nothing but the material world exists.

    Objective truth is much more than the natural sciences. In fact, science is the least reliable of all the paths to truth. Anyone who has even read a primer on epistemology knows that. And the knowledge gained by the natural sciences is trivial.

    Much more reliable to objective truth is reason. Aristotle and Christian philosophers have used reason for centuries to demonstrate the existence of God. Atheists rule out reason as a method only because they can’t defend atheism against it.

    But philosophers have known for centuries that the only sure truth would come from a deity. If a deity doesn’t exist, then no objective truth is possible. But with a deity, the only real truth is possible.

    rdmckinney.blogspot.com

    Atheists are not scientists. They are devotees of scientism.

  • http://rdmckinney.blogspot.com/ Roger D. McKinney

    “Do people really need a divine commandment to know it’s wrong to hurt people? No. Basic moral rules are common to all cultures.”

    That statement proves how dishonest atheists are. No Christian apologist has every claimed anything remotely close to that caricature. All Christians know that fabricating “morality” is a trivial matter: what we like is good and what don’t like is immoral. That is how atheists determine morality.

    Christian philosophers have always said that without God then we have no objective reason for deciding what is moral or immoral. If I don’t like atheists, killing them might be moral for me. rdmckinney.blogspot.com

    • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

      So, you’d do that if you didn’t think your god wouldn’t like it? Wow.

      • Patrick Ethen

        I think what he’s saying is that if his god told him that was moral, it would be a good thing to do because objective morality doesn’t apply when a deity is in charge.

        • JohnE

          I think what he’s saying is that if God doesn’t exist then morality is just a function of the brain and therefore it’s neither good nor bad to follow it. It’s all subjective. What would make an act good or bad?

    • Steve Greene

      Well, besides the fact that your usage of the word “like” is rather problematic – actually, the only difference between Christians and atheists is *not* that Christians don’t decide what is moral or immoral based on what they “like” or don’t “like” (because they do) but that then on top of that they pretend that what they “like” or don’t “like” came from a god even though it didn’t. But it’s that god pedestal thing that makes such belief about morality more dangerous.

      • http://rdmckinney.blogspot.com/ Roger D. McKinney

        Most atheists are so unbelievably ignorant about atheism. I find I have to spend most of my time educating them. As a primer, read “Atheists Guide to Reality” by the atheist author and philosopher Alex Rosenberg. I’m saying nothing that he doesn’t say. Christians have reason and revelation to provide objective morality. Atheists have nothing but personal likes and disgusts.

  • slowe11

    “I don’t mean to reduce atheism to immaturity”. funny you would say this because that is what I can do with Christianity. : reduce it to immaturity, a re-experiencing of the relationship of a child, an infant with its parent. God is to a believer, as a parent is to an infant. Both the infant and the Christian believer are: dependent on ( God /Parent). Both the Christian and the baby see the parent as: all powerful, all knowing, their safety net, their rescuer (savior), their teacher, their rule giver and judge,wise, loving, the one who knows best, eternal, and as their creator. to practice Christianity is just a way to prolong childhood, to re-live the feeling of being an immature human, a baby with a parent; a loving parent. Constantly practicing that imaginary psychological relationship with a God/Parent prevents the human from truly maturing into a self actualized, independent mature person. Christianity prevents maturity. God is a substitute or replacement parental figure for an adult. To maintain and celebrate a relationship with a parental figure as an adult prohibits true maturity.

    • Elise Hilton

      “To maintain and celebrate a relationship with a parental figure as an adult prohibits true maturity.” Gosh, I’ll guess I’ll have to cut off my relationship with my mom and my adult children, then. Do you not have mature relationships with family members? If you do, then your argument here falls apart.

      • James Cook

        I think his (rather obvious) point is that Christianity ~prevents maturity~ that is, it stops the child from growing up and being capable of forming the mature relationships you talk about. So even if he does have such relationships, no, his argument does not fall apart at all.

        • slowe11

          James, Yes. It is true that many adults have adult relationships with others coincident with the Christian child/parent relationship. But many Christians live with their perceived relations with Jesus/God/Father in Heaven very close at hand and it is always available to be called upon in times of stress or for a hit of “love” when they need it. I don’t mean to say the Christians are completely immature, just that they fail to mature completely by maintaining this dependency relationship as a crutch.

          • James Cook

            I completely agree.

      • slowe11

        Elise, I am talking about if that relationship is still as a dependent child to the parent as provider, savior, caregiver, etc. Most healthy relationships between parents and children evolve into a more equal one, where the father & mother become like adult friends of their offspring. The child is no longer dependent upon them and the parents are not ‘responsible’ for their children. I am saying that to continue to behave as a child with a parent in adulthood is a kind of immaturity. To have a child like relationship with a god/parent substitute is equally immature. I see the relationship of a Christian to Jesus/God as a child/parent paradigm. Sorry I was not clearer about that. Do yo agree with what I am saying now?

        • Elise Hilton

          No, I don’t. I see your point, but I will always be my mother’s and father’s child. Even when my father was dying, and I was caring for his every need, I was his child, not his equal. As a parent, while my relationship with my children evolves and matures, they will always be my children, and I’ll never see them as just another “buddy” or peer in my life.

          • slowe11

            Sorry you don’t get my point. Surely you don’t treat your adult children the same as when they were very young. Surely your parents don’t treat or relate to you, nor you to them as when you were under two years old. If grown adult children are completely dependent on their parents, or if parents discipline their grown children as they did when they were young, or if grown children accept, without question the rules, or statements of their parents as they did when they were 2 years old, they there is some immaturity going on!. Roles change as children mature. Surely you agree with that. My point, again is that the relationship of a Christian, during prayer is VERY much like the relationship of a young child addressing its adult parent. Christians even call God:” Our Father, who art in heaven….” Christians call themselves “children of God”. These are just two very explicit examples of which there are hundreds. I suggest reading: “Becoming God’s Children” by M. D. Faber if you or anyone else is interested in my claim. Of course I expect Christians to object to it, for it is embarrassing for an adult to be caught behaving in childlike ways. Sorry if this offends you. It is my theory of theism.

    • Carol L Hargett

      Actually, I see quite the opposite. The most mature and grown up people I see are believers, the most selfless are the one’s who have the stronger faith. Selfishness is childlike and growing in a relationship with God teaches you to let go of the child and grow up, putting others in front of yourself. Which is what Jesus did for us. He paid for what we owed, though he did not even partake in what caused the debt. Now Jesus says – do the things i did – and more. NOt go be like the world again. but yet people keep failing, thank GOD we have a GOD of mercy and is patient. He has been with me and is with you too.

      • twinbeech2

        He “paid” for what we owed. If he did, he would still be agonizing in hell instead of “sitting on the right hand of the father” in your imaginary heaven.

        If there is a god who created all things, including the
        human race, would he/she/it give you a highly developed brain and then punish
        you for using it? Would a Supreme being who created the Universe with its
        trillions of suns and planets, DNA, nuclear fusion and quantum mechanics, spend his time sitting around brooding about whether you sing to him?

        If there is a god, you should consider your brain his greatest gift. Not using it is tantamount to rejecting a gift which is the worst insult you can hand him/her/it.

        Don’t forget, the first murder in recorded (biblical) history was committed over a rejected gift. (KJV Gen 4:8.) And if your god will strike Uzza dead because he reacted with good intentions just like God programmed him to react (see function of amygdala) there is no telling what he/she/it has in store for you for the reprehensible sin of rejecting his gift.

        • Carol L Hargett

          I can understand some of your views expressed, as I have struggled with some of those myself. I didn’t realize I would go so long in my explaining below, but I wanted to fully answer, because for me short, trite answers never helped. So, my point here is to explain what I believe is the truth, but I fully recognize your right to your own. Sharing of thoughts, ideas, beliefs and conversing about them is productive, I believe. If anything I write is offensive then please bring that to my attention, so I can correct myself.

          1. rejecting his gift – God is all knowing, he knows our intentions, that is why He rejected Canes gift. – Have you ever received a gift that was given because someone either felt they had to or in some half hearted way? I have, and I would rather get no gift then that gift. The point of a gift is the heart of the person behind it, not the actual gift itself. As a parent, I easily understand this.
          God gave us a gift, His son Jesus, the consequences of not accepting Gods gift are laid out in the Bible. Wailing and gnashing of teeth. Separation from God.

          2. “God programmed him” – God gave us free will – it is the ultimate gift of love – He gave us life and then the ability to choose what we wanted – He knows what is best for us – to be with Him – to follow his ways, since he created everything, but He gives us the choice. We can decide who we believe, what we do with our minds and bodies. It is our choice. He has laid out all the prescriptions for the best life, in the bible, but we all get to choose. Like a good parent He tries to woo us and call us in the right direction, to Him. But He is loving and patient and prompts. He does not force, Force comes from God’s opponent.

          3. Our minds and using them – I believe you are talking about Faith vs Facts or visible evidence – I understand this thinking, as I went through a time in my life of wondering if this “Christianity” was man made. A true scientist, I believe would agree that if you want to discover something you have to go in without an agenda in mind, without have pre decided the conclusion. Faith is something that even believers struggle with, but over the course of 10 years now, I have seen enough physical and historical proof to convince me that it takes more faith to believe that this world was created by happenstance or atoms crashing together. Any follower of Christ that would not have you seek out the Evidence of God is misguided themselves. Yes, unfortunately even His followers are not made perfect yet. That is why the bible is there, check everything out with the bible. I invite you to read the book of proverbs and see if it is not filled with truths about life.
          Our minds are part of this earthly body we have, and it seeks out the things of this world. But this world is the pit stop to eternity. There are some good books and videos out there, one is called The Case for Christ, it was written by a man who started out not believing and through his journalistic research methods changed his mind. He actually has several books.
          Our minds are a great gift and we can use it how we please, God would like us to use it for good and not evil. God is perfect and good – God’s opponent is the creator of everything opposite of good – Since everyone has had the same freedom to choose, we live in a world mixed with the consequences of good and evil acts & ideas. This world is the place you get to decide which side you want to be on for eternity.

          4. God needing us to sing to Him. I don’t have an answer to that exact statement, as I feel it would be more my guessing based on knowing His nature a little bit, but it would only be my guessing, so I’ll just say what i do know as truth for me.
          God served us – that’s who He is, He is perfect and just. Being those things, good and just, He cannot exist alongside evil. He would be unjust not to punish evil. He gave us the choice, because love isn’t love unless its a choice. When we chose evil (even the smallest wrongs are evil) – what did God do? He had a plan in place for that, He humbled Himself, the creator of the Universe, and came down to our level, in the same manner we are born, He was born as a baby, Jesus, He went through life with same temptations we all have, yet did not do evil. He gave himself as the sacrifice, upon the cross to pay for all our sins. So giving us the choice, but knowing we would fail, he gave us a way to be with Him anyway. This way we get to choose and even tho we choose wrong by doing wrong things, we can still be with him. But before He did that, He spent time here with people teaching them and showing them how to live. The 4 Gospels are the life of Jesus, If you read them you can begin to see what Jesus was like, don’t count on us imperfect people to be examples all the time, we are not yet perfect. Read the red letters in some bibles, those were His words, out of his human mouth. God is a God of service, we are fallen because of our own choices. God desires all to come to him and spend eternity with him, away from evil, but He gave you the choice. Anyone who forces you is not acting in God’s way. God’s way is prompting, teaching, showing, revealing, peaceful. In the end-and we are not at the end yet- God will do away with all evil – but He has many people He wants to bring into His house first. All those who desire to live in eternity with Good, and away from evil. I can tell you, as long as you have breath, God is there wanting you to choose Him. He loves you so much, there is nothing you’ve done that He won’t forgive. That is crazy to me, but it’s true. He’s forgiven me and he’s forgiven much worse acts then i’ve done. It’s about His work on the cross and not ours. His gift is free – but we have to accept it. We believe Jesus was God’s son and died for our sins and turn from wrongdoing (evil) and follow Him and what He tells us in His word and His Holy spirit that we now have. The Holy spirit is the prompter, the small voice inside that wants you to do good when there is a choice between good and evil.

    • twinbeech2

      In fact the bible tells us “unless ye become as little children.”

      I say, unless ye become a thinking adult.

      Its terribly sad that believers think their god will punish them for using the same large brain he endowed them with.

  • thursday

    Truth is not a matter of consensus.

    • Brian Westley

      But gods never show up, so there’s no consensus on what the “truth” is.

    • Patrick Ethen

      True – I mean check out how many gods mankind has come up with over the years: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_gods_and_goddesses_are_there
      I know people that believe in around 11 of these, including Odin! I’m not joking… But consider this, if I’m on the outside, looking in at this collection of people & their gods, they all look the same to me, you all believe you are worshipping the correct god. Typically the specific god you worship is tied geographically to where you were raised, what religion your parents are. Objectively speaking, it seems rather obvious you can’t all be right, but it seems that you can all be wrong.
      If you can humor me for a moment you might understand. Of those 2,870 gods, you believe in 1 of them, but you’re atheistic towards the other 2,869. The way you feel towards those 2,869 gods is exactly how the other 2,869 followers feel towards your god. Atheists simply go 1 god further & complete this feeling towards all of them. So you might say atheists & theists feel exactly the same towards all 2,870 gods with only a 1/2870th discrepancy :)

  • http://andybreeden.com Andy Breeden

    A loving, compassionate, creator-god? So, not the god of the bible, huh?

  • Garrick Greathouse

    Are you saying that religious people are less likely to treat others poorly than non-religious people? Care to cite some statistical data that proves your point?

    Any statistical data showing that religious people are less likely to become repeat offenders than non-religious people? Are you just making assumptions with no evidence to back it up?

    • Elise Hilton

      The article never says any of that, nor is it even implied.

      • Garrick Greathouse

        I’m going to quote the very article in question.

        “Left to our own devices, devoid of “what a god wants or doesn’t want,” we are much more likely to behave as schoolchildren when the teacher is called out of the room: How much can we get away with?”

        Focus on the phrase “we are much more likely”. Is there any evidence that shows non-religious people behave worse than those that follow religion? The quote presents such behavior as fact without any data to back it up.

        Here’s another quote from the article.

        “As people of faith, we have a way to re-orient ourselves, to find our way back to the right path, to the truth.”

        This suggests that people without faith have no “Way to re-orient ourselves”. Re-orienting implies changing destructive behavior. Is there any data to suggest people of faith are any more or less likely to “re-orient” themselves with a higher rate of success than those without faith?

        I look forward to your reply, complete with peer reviewed data and cited
        sources.

      • Garrick Greathouse

        I’d been over 24 hours, I’d really like to hear your response. Have any data to share with us yet?

        • Elise Hilton

          I apologize. I’ve not been ignoring you, but I have many duties to attend to. I certainly invite others to jump into this discussion.

  • Steve Greene

    When a religious believer trots out an old canard of a rhetorical question/statement like “But what is ‘truth’ when there is no moral foundation, when there is no guidance other than one’s own desires and wishes, when there is no restraint placed on the unfortunate human tendencies towards narcissism, self-satisfaction and selfishness?” to attack atheism with blatant straw-manning, then you already know by that alone that that religious believer really isn’t all that interested in the truth, or reality.

    Frankly, I expected better from the aegis of the Acton Institute.

    • Patrick Ethen

      I took it as her having honest questions and I tried answering them without getting tribal. I think the key to understanding how believers can ask questions that presuppose they are correct is the same as them understanding why we can’t believe what they were brought up to believe. We have different versions of the word “belief” that we’re using. I’ll repost the link, give it a bit to sink in, think about the 2 different perspectives. Let me know what you think? I seldom see people addressing this barrier to communication between the different types of beliefs. It seems like Theists have a belief in, Deists have a confusion of a epistemic nature and atheists are looking for proof.
      https://sites.google.com/site/skepticalmedicine/believe-in-or-believe-that

      • Steve Greene

        Context is everything. (I love that “tribal”, by the way.) If I was dealing with a “Christian on the street” I would indeed deal with such a response on the individual basis. When I’m dealing with a representative of the Acton Institute posting an allegedly reasoned discussion on the subject, I’m holding her to a higher standard. What Elise Hilton wrote turns the word “truth” into a dirty word because then it means the opposite of what it is supposed to be in the first place. It is one of the many nefarious results of an ideology that is constructed from the circular reasoning of believing that your beliefs are “truth” because they were given to you by a god.

        “Oh, and how do you know what you are saying is the truth?”

        “Because it is from God.”

        “How do you know it is from God?”

        “Because it is the truth, because it is from God, and it says it’s from God.” (Determined by Bible – or Pontifical Edict in the case of Catholicism.)

        I mean, seriously, when Christians use these kinds of arguments as we see above in the apologetical context against atheism, it is a way of showing how Christianity is a kind of “unexamined life”, or unthinking, certainly. An entire epistemology based on circular reasoning built around an unquestioned and unquestioning assumption.

        Truth is determined by reality, and reality alone. Not by beliefs, including not by belief in a god, not by belief in a book allegedly by a god, and not by belief in a council of wise men pontificating about belief in a book allegedly by a god.

        “Atheists don’t have any basis for morals” is straight out of the ‘Here’s an insulting piece of false rhetoric Christians have been using to trash talk atheism for centuries’ department. This is the 21st century, not the 18th. Elise should know better. Not to mention that anyone who has something like the book of Joshua in their holy book about their god really has no business talking about god-based morality in the first place.

        Okay, *now* I’m starting to get tribal. ;-)

  • http://fluidmind.org/ Dan Delaney

    Hello Elise. Thank you for expressing your thoughts on that video. You concluded with, “Believers and non-believers have much in common, and much to discuss. Perhaps a good place to start would be the question of Pontius Pilate: ‘What is truth?’ . . . That question of truth is one we cannot dismiss lightly.” I quite agree. So I’ll happily begin with that. Unfortunately it’s all I have time for tonight (it’s 2:30 am), but I’ll get to the question of morality as soon as I can this weekend.

    Words, of course, are merely symbols. And unfortunately, we often use the same symbol to refer to different concepts. I’m not suggesting the New Age notion that truth is whatever we want it to be. Rather, just like many other words, we regularly use the word “truth” to refer to different concepts, and sometimes we conflate them, which leads to confusion. For the purposes of this conversation, I suggest we consider only two and see if we can agree that they really are different concepts even though we use the same word (symbol) when we talk about them: (1) factual (objective) truth, and (2) experiential (subjective) truth. In the first sense, individuals argue about the truth of propositional statements—that is, claims that can only be either true or false, with no gray area. Sometimes the truth or falsity of a proposition is difficult to establish beyond a reasonable doubt, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is a “fact of the matter,” a true answer to our query—whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not, it is what it is. That’s the case with history, for example. History is what it is. What happened happened. Something either happened or it did not. It may be difficult or impossible for us to determine which is the case, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is indeed only one true reality of what happened at any given place and time. In this usage, it doesn’t make sense to speak of something as being “true for me” but “not true for you.” Either Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy or he did not. Either homeopathic sugar pills have a direct physiological effect or they do not. Either one or many supernatural deities exist or no supernatural deities exist.

    In the second sense, we often speak of our experiential or emotional truths. The most obvious are our feelings toward others. The statement, “I love my wife and children,” is a personal truth for me. It is not affected by, nor does it depend on, anyone else or anything else in the universe. Likewise with statements of value. I might say, “Autumn is a wonderful time of year.” That, indeed, is “true for me.” Every year, on the first cool, crisp Autumn day, when the air smells clean and fresh, I experience a feeling of rejuvenation, a sense of hope for the future, a peaceful calm. Due to certain experiences I had during the Autumn months in my late teens and early twenties, that time of year just makes me feel that way. And so, for me, Autumn is, indeed, a wonderful time of year. Someone else, on the other hand, might experience feelings of dread and despair every Autumn. These are personal, subjective “truths” based upon our own experiences and emotions. It would make no sense to argue about them. It would be preposterous, for instance, for me to insist that everyone must feel rejuvenated when Autumn days arrive, and that anyone who claims otherwise must be either lying or delusional.

    Again, these are different concepts, but we use the same symbol—the word “truth”—when we refer to them. So, when we speak of truth, we need to make sure we’re explicit about which sense we’re using. With this in mind, let’s consider your final two questions: (1) “Is truth something we can each decide for ourselves[?]” Factual truths about the universe, no. We can’t each decide for ourselves whether the Earth is almost five billion years old or only 6000 years old. It can’t be both. One proposition is true and the other false. Truths about our own subjective experiences and emotions, on the other hand, yes, we can decide those. Although, sometimes we don’t so much “decide” them as have them thrust upon us by our history of experiences.

    (2) “[I]s Truth a fundamental, unchanging, transcendent, objective reality that exists whether or not we acknowledge it?” First, let me just say: no, “Truth” (with a capital T) is not something that exists. It’s just a concept. But please forgive me for that. Sometimes I can’t help being philosophically pedantic :-). I too was raised and educated Catholic. This habit of referring to the concept of “truth” as if it has some kind of ontological existence seems to me to be a peculiar intellectual leftover from Aquinas and the Scholastics. But I digress. To answer your question: yes, I certainly think that there is a true, objective reality that exists whether or not we acknowledge it. I wouldn’t say that it’s “unchanging,” as the universe is constantly changing. As I said, sometimes it is difficult to determine what exactly is true in reality. It took humans thousands of years to finally figure out the truth that the Earth goes around the Sun rather than the other way around. A few people continue to believe that the Earth is the center of the universe. But the objective truth of the universe doesn’t rely on whether they believe it or not. Planets were revolving around stars, and stars around galaxies, long before life ever arose on Earth. And after all life on Earth has gone extinct, planets will continue to revolve around stars, and stars around galaxies. To pretend that the universe revolves around and depends upon us, only betrays our own hubris. I also wouldn’t refer to reality as “transcendent,” unless by that you simply mean it transcends any individual’s subjective perspective on it. But if, by “transcendent,” you mean “supernatural,” then no, I see no reason to think that there is some kind of supernatural realm of existence where some form of non-corporeal, sentient beings live, somewhere above, beyond, outside of, or coexistent with the universe we experience every day.

    I’m sorry that’s all I have time for tonight. I’ll try to address the questions of morality within the next few days.

    –Dan

  • Brian Westley

    Now all you need to show (and convince everyone else in the whole world) is that he actually existed and that he was a god.

    This will be particularly difficult for people who belong to religions where the idea of a human being a god is blasphemous.

    • thursday

      If you are trying to say that Jesus did not exist then you are in conflict with historians. Where is your evidence to challenge them. Even unbelieving historians do not question the historicity of Jesus. I know that accepting the reality of Jesus may be particularly difficult for those who adhere to a world view where the idea of God is preposterous and the person of Jesus is difficult to reckon with but nonetheless it is clear that he was a real person.

    • thursday

      Are you suggesting that the historicity of Jesus is in question? If you are then you need to consult the historians because they do not agree with you. As to whether he was god, a liar or a lunatic(to borrow from C.S. Lewis), you have to look at the evidence and make a decision for yourself.

      • Brian Westley

        Lewis’ false trichotomy, if followed for every god written about, demands that people believe in all of them (or believe that every other religion was started as either a mass conspiracy or a mass hallucination).

        My point still stands — there is NO consensus as to what gods exist, so attempting to use gods for morals will always break down into what humans decide, not gods.

        • JohnE

          Jesus is not like the other “gods”. He wasn’t just written about, but was a real historical person (unless you can’t trust history and are a great fan of conspiracy theories). The other “gods” never show up. Many of Jesus’ followers, if they weren’t all crazy or greatly deceived, would have known that Jesus was NOT God if it was in fact all just an elaborate hoax. Most of them were martyred. People throughout history of differing beliefs have died for their closely held beliefs, but if these disciples were not crazy or greatly deceived and were in on a hoax, then they chose to die for what they KNEW to be false. And thus the non-believer must choose conjecture and conspiracy theory to hold on to their faith in no-God. What other religious figures or disciples were threatened with death and also would have known their religion was made up?

      • Patrick Ethen

        There are many historians that disagree on the existence of the Jesus character of Christian mythology. The thing you have to realize with an atheist perspective is that is irrelevant whether there was actually a man named Jesus or not, and it doesn’t matter that the gospels were written many decades after his death by people that had never met him. We simply don’t accept that there was anything supernatural happening back then, that it was superstition and exaggeration.

        My favorite historian with this stuff is Bart Ehrman – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3N4ymHO-eA

        • thursday

          There are not “many” historians that disagree on the existence of Jesus (only Carrier comes to my mind though there might be a few others) and Bart Ehrman is certainly not one of them. You are also not up to speed on who wrote various books of the New Testament and when.

          Do you not see that you are doing the exact thing you accuse theists of doing. You are clinging to your dogma no matter what evidence might come your way. You have a world view that would never allow you to even consider the claims of Jesus or the people who knew him. No evidence would be valid for you because for you there can be no God. What are you so afraid of? Why is that such an absolute for you? I can and have entertained the arguments of atheists(I’m old school, I prefer to get my info from whole books rather than youtube, I have read two of Bart’s. I just think you get a broader understanding of a topic that way) I simply do not find their reasons for atheism more compelling than the reasons for belief in God.

          We are not so different from each other. We both disregard fake gods and place a high value on reason and truth. We are both of us believers, you in nothing, and me in something.

          • Patrick Ethen

            I have to disagree. I’m not clinging to dogma. I never made a claim to knowledge of your religion. I never said I cared if Jesus existed or not. I simply said that I’ve listened to a few and Bart Ehrman’s my favorite. I like him because he’s honest about how translations dilute the original messages in religious doctrine over time. I make zero claims based on this. I never said I wouldn’t accept evidence, so it isn’t an absolute (If I was presented with evidence I’d have to accept it), I am not afraid as you say… You are reading all of those lies into what I say to what end? Is it really just how you feel?
            What you did say here that’s true is that I’m not up to speed on various books of the New Testament. There are so many good books to read, I simply don’t see the point in wasting my time on those old, out of touch myths.
            I am sure we are quite similar, but I have to stress my point yet again – I don’t have a “belief in” nothing. Did you bother to read the article I posted on belief? It explains the difference… I think that’s the reason you can’t understand why I simply don’t believe it. I do believe that you believe it to be true though.

      • jfigdor

        Richard Carrier makes a good case against the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Start with the fact that all the evidence comes from the “big book of Jewish & Christian fairy tales,” and you should be able to figure out why people are skeptical about extraordinary claims from 2,000 years ago that come from a book that is the product of translation, retranslation, editing, and reediting for 2000 years.

    • JohnE

      “Now all you need to show (and convince everyone else in the whole world) is that he actually existed and that he was a god.”

      Not sure why I need to convince everyone. I never said that I was God. Even if I could, I wouldn’t try to convince them that Jesus was a god, but that he is THE God. I am satisfied with giving it a try and leaving the rest in God’s hands.

      Proving that Jesus existed brings up a good point. To believe in the existence of any historical person relies on faith at some point. Evidence and reason are a big help along the path to belief, but they only take you so far. At some point you have to put faith in the evidence and what others say the evidence means. Even if it was something you directly experienced yourself, you have to put faith in your memory’s reliability and your judgment of what is sufficiently reliable. Let me just reiterate thursday’s point that history scholars who actually believe that Jesus did not exist are in the extreme minority, whether they are Christian or not. Other theories about who Jesus was eventually involve some sort of conjecture or conspiracy theory regarding him or his followers, with little evidence to support it. You would have to show that Jesus was crazy and/or evil, or that his followers were crazy and/or evil.

      “This [convincing everyone that Jesus was a god] will be particularly difficult for people who belong to religions where the idea of a human being a god is blasphemous.”

      Agreed — as it would also be difficult to convince everyone in the whole world that there is no God. These difficulties are not useful in determining what is actually true, especially since either the existence or the non-existence of God MUST be true.

      • Brian Westley

        “Not sure why I need to convince everyone.”

        Because of what I originally wrote in this thread:
        Even if there is some objective morality that a god has created, humans don’t agree on what that morality is, or how to determine what it is, so you still end up with humans making the decisions.

        And as to this remark of yours:
        Jesus is not like the other “gods”. He wasn’t just written about, but was a real historical person (unless you can’t trust history and are a great fan of conspiracy theories). The other “gods” never show up.

        Other gods show up all the time, if you believe writings of other religions. I see no reason to believe any of them.

        • JohnE

          “Because of what I originally wrote in this thread:
          Even if there is some objective morality that a god has created, humans don’t agree on what that morality is, or how to determine what it is, so you still end up with humans making the decisions.”

          Yes, that’s free will. And that’s why I try to convince others that Jesus is God and that there are objective truths — because there is still a subjective component: the free will to accept or reject the truth. But I still don’t see why that means I would have to convince everyone that Jesus is God. I would need to convince everyone because…(it can’t be true unless everyone agrees, or at least a consensus agrees?) Should I not try to convince others of what I believe to be objectively true?

          I agree that just claiming that a god showed up is not convincing. However, I’m specifically referring to any god that is widely considered to be a real historical figure who actually claimed to be God and was put to death for it, or whose disciples chose to be put to death rather than giving up on something that they would have made up. The fact that people don’t usually choose to die for what they know to be false (or even to have doubts about) is what makes the case for Jesus convincing. The first disciples were convinced of a preposterous claim that even they didn’t even appear to believe in at first, and then chose to die rather than deny it. Why? Only equally preposterous claims could explain it.

          • Brian Westley

            And that’s why I try to convince others that Jesus is God and that there are objective truths

            But that will never succeed, and as I pointed out, if you have people who think their morality is absolute, there’s no way to reconcile these views with other people who have different “absolute morality”

            The fact that people don’t usually choose to die for what they know to be false (or even to have doubts about) is what makes the case for Jesus convincing.

            Lots of people have died defending lots of religions. That doesn’t make any of them true.

          • JohnE

            “But that [convincing others that Jesus is God and that there are objective truths] will never succeed…”

            It certainly has succeeded and continues to succeed. Conversions happen all the time. Maybe not with EVERONE — not you and maybe not even a majority of people I talk to. As I said before though, I’m satisfying with trying and then leaving the rest in God’s hands.

            “Lots of people have died defending lots of religions. That doesn’t make any of them true.”

            Nor does it make them false. I know that people have died defending other religions. What I was looking for and still haven’t found is where someone dies for a religion that they would have known to be false, as would be the case with Jesus and/or his disciples if Christianity is not true. That’s part of what makes Christianity convincing. You mentioned Zeus in another post, but he is not widely considered to be a real historical figure as Jesus is.

            ‘…and as I pointed out, if you have people
            who think their morality is absolute, there’s no way to reconcile these views with other people who have different “absolute morality” ‘

            I agree. Thus the need for convincing.

          • Brian Westley

            “But that [convincing others that Jesus is God and that there are objective truths] will never succeed…”

            It certainly has succeeded and continues to succeed.

            No, no, you don’t understand what I mean by “succeed”. Unless you have 100% agreement, you don’t “succeed” because any absolute moral system clashes with different absolute moral systems. That’s why I said you have to convince everyone.

            What I was looking for and still haven’t found is where someone dies for a religion that they would have known to be false, as would be the case with Jesus and/or his disciples if Christianity is not true.

            How about Joseph Smith? He made up a religion and ended up being killed by a mob. Is Mormonism true?

          • JohnE

            “No, no, you don’t understand what I mean by “succeed”. Unless you have 100% agreement, you don’t “succeed” because any absolute moral system clashes with different absolute moral systems. That’s why I said you have to convince everyone.”

            I’m sorry Brian. You’re right, I still don’t understand. Can you add some meat to this sentence?:
            Unless you have 100% agreement [on an absolute moral system?], you don’t “succeed” at…[what?]. All I can see is that I don’t succeed in having 100% agreement, but I know you must mean something else.

            “How about Joseph Smith? He made up a religion and ended up being killed by a mob. Is Mormonism true?”

            That’s not a bad example. Mormons would say he was a martyr for the faith, and since he made up Mormonism he certainly would have known whether or not it was true. But I don’t think Joseph Smith had a “death or deny your story” situation. He was killed for having sexual relations with other men’s wives. If he would have admitted Mormonism was made up, he probably would have been killed all the more quickly.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_joseph_smith

          • Brian Westley

            Unless you have 100% agreement [on an absolute moral system?], you don’t “succeed” at…[what?].

            At imposing (or showing) that absolute morals exist. Any dissent is a problem for anyone who thinks absolute morals are a good idea.

            And if you just want a list of martyrs for various religions, you can start at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martyr

          • JohnE

            ” ‘Unless you have 100% agreement [on an absolute moral system?], you don’t “succeed” at…[what?]‘.

            At imposing (or showing) that absolute morals exist. Any dissent is a problem for anyone who thinks absolute morals are a good idea.”

            My subjective morality is that it is good to believe that there are absolute moral truths that apply to everyone and to convince others of these moral truths. Now I don’t need 100% agreement. I just need to convince as many as I can to have the same subjective view. Problem solved?

            Law is the imposition of morals, whether they are absolute morals or not and whether the law is just or not. I don’t see why belief in objective morals that apply to everyone should prevent me from pushing for certain public policies. In fact it’s more honest because at least I actually believe there are morals that apply to everyone. Yet believing in purely subjective morals hasn’t stopped others from trying to impose their morality on me. Is it bad to impose your personal, subjective morality on others? Or is that purely a subjective belief? And is the belief that it is purely subjective also a purely subjective belief? And so on…?

            Thanks for your responses Brian.

          • Brian Westley

            My subjective morality is that it is good to believe that there are absolute moral truths that apply to everyone and to convince others of these moral truths. Now I don’t need 100% agreement. I just need to convince as many as I can to have the same subjective view. Problem solved?

            How is that different from just using subjective morals, besides keeping the worst parts of absolute morals (virtually no compromising between competing moral systems)?

            Law is the imposition of morals, whether they are absolute morals or not and whether the law is just or not. I don’t see why belief in objective morals that apply to everyone should prevent me from pushing for certain public policies.

            You can certainly try, but I’ll disagree with any “objective morals” on principle.

            In fact it’s more honest because at least I actually believe there are morals that apply to everyone. Yet believing in purely subjective morals hasn’t stopped others from trying to impose their morality on me.

            Why should it? Subjective morality doesn’t mean that.

            Is it bad to impose your personal, subjective morality on others? Or is that purely a subjective belief? And is the belief that it is purely subjective also a purely subjective belief? And so on…?

            It’s all subjective, including everyone who thinks their morality is objective.

          • JohnE

            If someone said that it is good to believe that 5 + 0 = 50 (he thinks it makes addition easier), I would say that it is NOT good, not just for me, but for everyone, because it does not conform to objective truth and that belief has bad consequences (someone might get ripped off when breaking a $50). Now that person’s subjective morality might still stubbornly say that it is good to believe 5 + 0 = 50, yet I and others with similar beliefs “impose” our subjective morality by making it illegal for banks to take out $50’s from your account and replace them with $5’s. I do this because I believe my subjective morality applies to everyone — that is, my subjective morality conforms with objective truth that applies to everyone. Objective morality just means that it’s good for one’s subjective morality to conform with objective truth.

          • Brian Westley

            If someone said that it is good to believe that 5 + 0 = 50 (he thinks it makes addition easier), I would say that it is NOT good, not just for me, but for everyone, because it does not conform to objective truth and that belief has bad consequences (someone might get ripped off when breaking a $50).

            That doesn’t work with many other moral questions, such as is gay sex moral? Is polygamy moral? Is interracial marriage moral? Is slavery moral? Is being Jewish moral? Is abortion moral? Are blood transfusions moral?

            Do you think every one of your answers to these questions (and many more) are all absolute morality that should be imposed on everyone?

          • jfigdor

            “No religion” is the fastest growing religious demographic in every state in the US. You sure how effective this proselytizing is?

  • thursday

    Well, I have never heard a legitimate Christian congregation interpreting the bible in a way that makes rape okay.

    • http://bit.ly/glUAR7 Calladus

      Really? You missed the book of Numbers?

      • thursday

        The book of Numbers was not written by, nor is it about Christians. It is part of the Old Testament, before the birth of Christ.

        • http://bit.ly/glUAR7 Calladus

          The book of Numbers is about God, what God willed, and what he was happy to allow.

      • thursday

        The book of numbers was not written by or about Christians.

  • http://bit.ly/glUAR7 Calladus

    So how far from the median does a person have to misinterpret the Bible before they are “Not Christian”? Are Catholics “Christian”? Are Lutherans? What about Jim Jones?

    What really amuses me is that Harold Camping, (before his own prophesy was shown to be false) gave excellent reasons why everyone else in a Church today wasn’t really “Christian”. And even now, I find excellent evidence in the bible that all Church-going “Christians” are actually damned.

    Predestination is a lot of fun. The cult of John Calvin often tells me that I was “never truly Christian” because if I were, it would be impossible for me to backslide.

    Lots of flavors, lots of splits. I’m just glad that Christians have stopped killing heretics for having the temerity to have a different interpretation.

    • thursday

      I thought I already replied to this but for some reason it is no longer showing up. Anyway, I wouldn’t say that those who misinterpret because they are confused, mentally ill or extreme are not Christians I would say that they are confused, mentally ill or extreme. There are some who are intentional in their misinterpretation in which case they are frauds. The Church has always taken heresy very seriously because, as you can see, it has the effect of distorting truth. The New Testament never condoned the killing of heretics. That this ever happened at all is a source of sorrow and remorse in the Church. Even so such acts must be viewed through the lens of the time period in which they occurred. The political and cultural realities of the time must be considered and the frequency of such events should not be overstated.

    • jfigdor

      What about Mormons? What about Atheist Christians (people who think Jesus had a brilliant moral philosophy, but wasn’t god)?

      • http://bit.ly/glUAR7 Calladus

        What about them? Mormons can certainly call themselves Christian, and not only use the bible as their evidence, but the next book of teachings given to them by God.

        As for Atheist Christians – I think you’ve described Thomas Jefferson.

  • thursday

    I didn’t say the Bible was not a source. The source of all morality is God. Like Him and because of Him truth just is. It is our reason which lead us to a knowledge of God like it leads to knowledge about all things created by God. These truths do not “become” true because people “agree” that they are, they are true whether people agree or not.

    • Steve Greene

      While it is true that the truth is true whether people agree or not, that’s a vacuous point because it tells us nothing about what that truth is.

      Reason only leads to certain aspects of knowledge. Reality determines so much more. And it is precisely reason and reality that do not provide good evidence for belief in a God – oh, and that point is completely independent of any considerations about morality.

  • Brian Westley

    Well actually no they didn’t but I’d love to hear what examples you think you have to offer.

    You don’t seem to have glommed onto the fact that I’m an atheist — I don’t believe any of them, including yours. But if your knowledge of other religions and gods is that limited, many rulers claimed to be gods (Roman, Egyptian, Japanese), Zeus supposedly visited the earth many times in disguise, etc. There are plenty more examples.

    • thursday

      Yes, your worldview will not even entertain the idea of God. No matter what evidence or reasoning you might encounter, THERE CAN BE NO GOD. I get it.

      I know nothing I say will change your belief system. I’m not interested in that, I will leave that to God. My problem is with the inaccuracies I find in your statements. I, like you, am interested in what can be known.

      I, like you, do not believe in the gods found in fanciful literature, the rantings of lunatics and the calculating claims of tyrants. These are easy to dismiss. The God of the Bible and the Church is distinguishable. Jesus is distinguishable. Jesus did not claim to be a god. He claimed to be the God. This was not a claim others made about him. It was a claim he made about himself. This is unique among sane men with selfless motives.

      There are many fictional stories about war. Does this mean there were never really any wars waged? There are many heroic figures in such stories. Does that mean no real heroic people ever existed? This is the fallacy you are engaging in.

      It is a fallacy, along with many others, that then is parroted by all the skeptics, who think that this “title” alone makes them smarter and cooler and freer than everyone else. They are ill-informed.

      • Brian Westley

        Yes, your worldview will not even entertain the idea of God.

        Oh, I’ll entertain it, but I need better evidence than old myths.

        • thursday

          ‘Thinking’ and ‘doubting’ are not the same things, they lead in opposite directions. Stories about God are distinguishable from myth even from a purely literary perspective. You don’t believe in God, but don’t pretend it is because of “reason” and “evidence”. You do not even understand the theology you reject. You willfully ignore evidence and so I leave you to your doubt.

          • Brian Westley

            ‘Thinking’ and ‘doubting’ are not the same things, they lead in opposite directions.

            I’ll stick with both. I like to have an open mind, but not so open my brains fall out (quoted from Night Court)

            Stories about God are distinguishable from myth even from a purely literary perspective.

            So you believe in, say, Hindu gods? Or are these stories about gods different from the ones you consider special?

            You don’t believe in God, but don’t pretend it is because of “reason” and “evidence”.

            Don’t pretend you can read my mind, oh superstitious one.

      • jfigdor

        Atheism is not the belief that there can be no god.

        Atheism is the lack of belief in gods.

  • Patrick Ethen

    All gods look the same to me in that they do not exist. This isn’t a comparison of the religions themselves.

  • Patrick Ethen

    If there were timeless deities ruling over the heavens & the earth, why would they only present themselves to bronze age humans in the desert regions where people were illiterate? Why not present yourself to the modern day skeptics with evidence? Why not exist throughout all of our history, present & future? How is it that the timespan your god showed up is so brief in 1 specific culture? After all, if not believing is a sin, you would save the most people by providing a little evidence, rather than hiding yourself as best you can within the obfuscation of history. Sorry but this makes no sense and it simply isn’t true.

    • thursday

      For you, what difference would it make how or when God revealed himself? No revelation would satisfy you because God doesn’t exist. The God of the Bible and the Church was always present throughout all of our history, present and future. It is the creature who turns away. This is a consistent theme throughout the Old and New Testament. It also seems to be a consistent theme here.

      • Patrick Ethen

        That’s not true. The god of your bible wasn’t around for at least a couple hundred thousand years of human history. It’s fairly recent.

    • JohnE

      First, just because something doesn’t make sense doesn’t necessarily mean it must be false.

      Second, I don’t think non-belief is necessarily a sin. It is in a sense because it is a separation from God. But it is not a sin in the sense of an intentional evil act. I suppose it could be if reasonable explanations were intentionally ignored or not honestly considered.

      Third, if there was some way of knowing with absolute certainty that a particular religion was true, say Catholicism, would you be at Mass next Sunday and make whatever other life changes that may need to be made? Of course I could put the question to myself with another religion such as Islam or Mormonism. I know for me it would be difficult. I might be sad and follow this newly-revealed “correct” religion, but I’m sure I would do so grudgingly and with sadness. I don’t know the answer to your question. Perhaps God allows doubts so that he might be freely chosen rather than begrudgingly obeyed. Wouldn’t that be a more respectable way?

  • Patrick Ethen

    Thursday – your view of atheists & agnostics is narrow minded. You assume that because someone doesn’t believe in your deities, that it’s because we don’t want to be told what to do? Laughable.

    • thursday

      I don’t believe in “my deities” I believe in God. My view was not an assumption it was based on many years of observation and investigation. You also left out some stuff. I am aware that many have honest difficulty with faith and I trust in God’s mercy toward them. I’m glad you found something to laugh about. We all need to laugh more. Its good for us.

      • Patrick Ethen

        Sorry – I just assumed you believed in the 3 deities of the trinity. As for “honest difficulty with faith”… The default position is not to have faith – in other words there is no reason to assume your deity is the correct one. There’s no reason to believe it exists & because there is no reason, no evidence, there is no difficulty. I have no faith in your deity for the same reason you have no faith in Odin. If you can imagine, just for a moment, how you feel about Odin, that is how I feel about your deity. It’s the same for both of us.

  • Patrick Ethen

    I guess you just have to have faith eh? The fact of the matter is simple, kids are indoctrinated prior to developing mentally. They are told things that do indoctrinate them. They are promised heaven & threatened with hell through the doctrine of your religion. It’s coercion.

  • Patrick Ethen

    Religion has been used to exploit people, especially when combined with the power of a governments. As for a deity making himself known… If there were a all-powerful, timeless deity, it’d be no problem to pop in each generation & keep the knowledge up to date so no message could get lost in translation, etc. Hanging out here should be fine.
    Revealing a god would be an interesting challenge. There are so many powerful illusions or powerful possible tricks with science that another civilization might be able to perform. Just showing someone an iPhone 100 years ago would likely have been thought of as magic. I think a true god should be able to figure it out. My favorite trick would be total conversion of everyone on the planet to the same god at the same time.

  • Patrick Ethen

    If a student “didn’t buy” evolution after being introduced to it I could understand that. If the education continued and the evidence accumulated in several branches of science, all pointing to the same answer, becoming insurmountable, then the child will likely see that evidence as proof that it’s true. Indoctrination provides no such evidence and it does tend to apply coercion. The promise of heaven or the threat of hell is a evil thing to push on a child, especially by the people that child trusts most.

  • twinbeech2

    What is truth? Christians get their “truth” from revelation. Revelation requires no evidence. Non-believers get their truth from falsifiable evidence.

    • JohnE

      Christians get truth from reason, both through revelation and scientific evidence. I bet you do too. Most people accept on faith and reason that Grant truly is buried in Grant’s tomb. Science tells you there is a body in the tomb. Faith and reason tell you it is Grant’s body.

      • twinbeech2

        I highly recommend Thomas Paine’s little book, “The Age
        of Reason.” In it you will find a superb examination of the word, “revelation.”
        It can be found starting on page 51.

        For those who may not remember Paine, his writings inspired
        our nation when our revolution was hanging in the balance. Even though he was
        clearly a deist, years later, Teddy Roosevelt referred to him as “that filthy
        little atheist.”

  • Steve Greene

    First of all, it is precisely the whole “God revealing himself” that is, to put it mildly, highly questionable.

    Second, your comments in regard to “ignorance about how the Bible…” is just blatant condescension, based on apparent ignorance about those who disagree with the Christianity (which makes it rather ironic). But that is all 100% red herring.

    The Bible *is* filled with human stuff. That is precisely the point.

  • Brian Westley

    I think the same principles apply — there is objective truth and we need to seek to discover it to guide our decisions: the inherent dignity of human beings and the human body, avoiding unjust harm to others, etc.

    I’d say that’s identical to subjective morals, but worse because it foments fanaticism.

  • thursday

    I think thou dost protest too much. Read through the exchanges here and if you are objective, you will see that it is not the theist who rejects knowledge but the atheist. ‘Believe in, believe that’ may be a way you want to rationalize things and may even give you some feeling of intellectual superiority but it is a sham.

    I “think” there is a God. I am in good company. There are certainly many, many people much smarter than you or I who through out history and presently “think” there is a God. I also “believe that” ( understanding your definition of that terminology)He is the God of the Bible and of the Church. I do not “believe that” there are any other gods. I with you reject them because, based on my knowledge, understanding and experience, they are not true, even while the faiths built around them have some truth in them.

    I “think” there is God, but it doesn’t end there nor did it begin there. It began with a longing and then an encounter and then faith. God is. We can find Him and we can know Him – or not, its up to us. Truth is. We both must believe that or how would one even do science.
    Also what would be the point of any discussion on any topic.

    All of the arguments presented here have been easily dismissed. You attack the Bible but do not understand it. You attack the Church but do not know her. You critique the gods and quite reasonably dismiss them but you do not address God who has revealed himself through the Bible and the Church. You advocate for reason but do not engage in it. You cling to science. Are you trying to convince me or yourself.

    • Patrick Ethen

      I’m not protesting, just trying to get the message across and you left a great example of not understanding. You say you “believe that He is the God of the Bible and of the Church.” My response is “show me” – you can’t – because there’s nothing there to show me. So… I do NOT “believe that” as you have shown me zero evidence. No – you simply have a belief in.
      Also you lie – you say I’ve attacked your bible – I have not. I don’t attack your church either, another lie. I don’t critique the gods, I simply dismiss them based on the lack of evidence for them. This is irrational like telling me I am critical of Santa or Satan. 2 more things that don’t exist.
      Clinging to science – another statement of yours that shows you do not understand critical thinking, reason, truth… Science is but a tool. It’s irrational to say… Like saying I cling to my nail gun when I’m going to be building houses… It’s a tool that I rely on because it works, that is all.
      I don’t have a goal of convincing anyone – the OP here was discussion. I’m simply trying to get it across to you why 30% of the country doesn’t accept the supernatural as something to consider a part of our world. I have no agenda other than discussion and we’ve come to an impasse based on 1 thing. Do you know what that is?

  • lightatmidnite

    Calladus, to your point, you say that you know that murder is wrong because you don’t want to be murdered, well I ask you if you wanted to commit suicide why in your your reasoning would murder be wrong if it fulfilled your desire to bring an end to your own life?

  • thursday

    Yes you are a creature. Does this offend your sensibilities? I’m sure you would not object if I referred to you as an animal or as a machine.Which of the three do you suppose gives you more dignity, more worth, more humanity?

    • Patrick Ethen

      My sensibilities are in tact – thank you :) I was surprised you’d use “creature”.
      Whichever of the 3 you choose will matter not if you’re looking for dignity. Dignity comes from who you are, not a label.

  • thursday

    You seem to “believe” somethings “that” are in direct conflict with the evidence.

    • Patrick Ethen

      Evidence? Explain please.

  • Patrick Ethen

    No worries – You’re correct I had replied prior to your edit so my response doesn’t make perfect sense. This is a very lagged way to discuss something, it sometimes takes 2 days before I see my post appear. :( And just look at that, my reply to your post was done quickly as I was off to work out as well :)
    Down to the evidence part – you’re right, It’s just another dragon in your garage to me… My honest default position with anything is to not believe it until there’s a reason to.
    In the case of your religion I see nothing other than the coercive threat of eternal punishment for not lying to myself. I believe that all religions, all ghost stories, all supernatural claims are false.
    If science, which is the best tool to expose reality, doesn’t work, then it isn’t real. I say this with explicit meaning. Whatever deity we talk about can’t interact with our space-time or we could measure it’s effects. This puts
    that claim in a position that makes it irrational to talk about because it isn’t perceivable with our senses, our instruments, our tools. It isn’t there.

    • thursday

      You are making the philosophical claim that science is the only way to truth. I disagree. You state, rightly, that science is the tool to understand the physical world. When you say “real” that is indeed what you mean. God is not physical but His creation is. The question of why there is something rather than nothing is not explained by science (despite claims to the contrary). If science is the only thing you are interested in knowing then okay but don’t confuse a lack of curiosity with thought or reason. The “whole show” simply put cannot account for itself so how and why is it here.

      • Patrick Ethen

        Philosophically speaking, I don’t state there is only 1 way to truth. The human brain has many tools to use, science is just one of them along with critical thinking, reasoning, etc. It happens to be the most honest because it’s constantly challenging its own answers & trying to break existing theories to acquire better understanding of the truth. The typical job of a scientist is to make sure they aren’t fooling themselves…
        Religion does the opposite. To say that your god isn’t physical is to say it isn’t real and put it 100% out of our grasp, nice & safe. Again, I see you saying science is all I care about but I’m simply telling you it’s an effective tool. Again… if I’m building a house, my trusty nailgun isn’t the only thing I care about.
        I’ll try to sum this up… Gods aren’t real, man created them in such a way they can’t be disproven. There is an unlimited number of things we can’t prove aren’t real, gods are one of them. Since proving a negative is irrational, I can’t disprove your god with any tools that I use because they apply to reality, not things that are safely out of reach of reason, thinking & science.
        Having said all that, it’s perfectly honest to say “We don’t know” when referring to the origin of our universe or even if there IS an origin. If we use logic & not science, and say that having a creator is a requirement for anything to exist, then your god would need a creator & we’d end up with an endless chain of creation that makes no sense.

        • thursday

          Yes lets try critical thinking.First God is beyond science but not beyond reason. It is perfectly logical to think there is God. The universe had a beginning. There was nothing then something. Science supports this. Like it supports evolution. The evidence indicates that something outside of time, space and matter must have always existed. What was that something. Ipsum esse subsistens is a logical conclusion.

          This something appears to have a will, because it created. You say that non material things are not real yet all the evidence (including the honest science sort) of our existence points to a non material thing. Will, indicates a mind and that indicates a person. It is logical to think that a creator is interested in its creation. So now we have a personal God. Are there other logical options? I suppose though I can not think of any that make as much logical sense which is why I believe God is not only possible but probable. But this is only the beginning.

          Then we have a record of God interacting with humanity. You may not like His methods but if there is God I do not think He needs your approval. Then God, understanding mans need to see Him takes on human flesh. The incarnation is a strange story indeed. Not one I think men looking to sell a religion would come up with. It is not strange because it is fanciful(like the stories of pagan gods) but because it is planted firmly in history and reality and yet it is impossible. Paul puts it this way, unless the resurrection really happened there is NO REASON for belief. Everything about this story runs contrary to what one would expect. After examining all the evidence I conclude that there is a very good case to be made for God.

          You and I are at am impasse. If your world view as a materialist is correct then there is no truth and no real morality. There is only perspective.(which I might add makes your honest science a questionable proposition) We both are just dancing to our DNA. Free will and even our thinking are illusions. If you are right its all smoke and mirrors till it all ends in extinction. Even our little debate here is completely pointless. If we are both delusional then I will take my delusion over yours any day of the week and most especially on Sunday.(and if you are right I may not have any other choice)

          • Patrick Ethen

            I agree, we are at an impasse. I disagree with you about truth and morality without a creator. It is humanity that guides itself on these lines – it is us that make the decisions on how we live, regardless of our beliefs. Free will is a tricky one given we live in a causal universe – I love that topic.
            Anyway – I don’t think that our debate was pointless – I think I understand your side of things a little better and I hope that I at least showed you enough that you can see the reasons behind mine. They aren’t thoughtless, denialist, arrogant, tribal, insulting, they’re honest & they are simply not your beliefs. So when you see us pushing back to keep religion out of schools, government, etc. when it comes to topics regarding equal rights, education, etc. I hope you don’t think of us as bad people just because we think the burden of proof has to be something everyone can examine without “faith”.
            Have a great day :)

          • thursday

            Not once did I think, nor did you give me any reason to think, even for a moment, that you were a bad person. You have a great day too!

      • Patrick Ethen

        Also – by this non-physical definition, you can’t “know” your god. Faith is called that because it isn’t knowledge. Because of that, when you tell me he exists, you’re telling me something you “believe in”, but can’t “believe that” because there is no way to know something of such an empistemic nature.
        Having said this let’s try critical thinking skills out as a tool that isn’t the scientific method. If I am provided no evidence… When you say the study of your doctrine and the teaching of your church is a way to know him, what you’re saying is that I have to accept 2 logical fallacies as a path to knowledge. “Appeal to Authority” or “Bandwagon Fallacy”. This is a red flag & I must discard it. And to say your god is the one true god & nobody else’s is valid is the logical fallacy “Not True Scotsman”. Last but not least, to know god via “personal experience is the logical fallacy “Anecdotal”. Can you see why my perspective simply can’t accept it as true?

  • Patrick Ethen

    I fully understand and accept that your perspective is to believe your god is real, the one true god and that the teachings of your church are a path to salvation & truth, etc.
    My perspective is that your god has no more evidence to support it than any other gods. I don’t see a reason to focus a lot of time into learning all of the doctrine of your particular religion over another. This is why we atheists throw your god in with the others… It isn’t out of disrespect of your beliefs, it’s simply an accurate way to state it given my perspective.
    Questions for you… If there is 1 god for you, why is it a “He” and not an “It”? Is there a female companion we don’t know about? Why does “He” care so much about human sexuality? Why do the first 4 of the 10 commandments sound like the statements of an insecure god, that prioritizes everyone believing in him as more important than mentioning anything about civil rights or rape as being evil? If those first 4 are so important to “Him”, why only present yourself to such a minority of human population in a time that has such poor documentation, communication? I’m a stickler for documentation… I would never have put my teachings in an obscure format that gets copied poorly & needs to be translated… I’d have presented in all languages to all cultures at the same time to be consistent on things that are important to me.

  • Steve Greene

    I can’t speak for her, in particular. However, in general, at least in my experience, the defense mechanisms of religious belief are great bulwarks against rational criticism of them. Do note that I myself happen to be a former Christian – and the reason for the “former” is because I happened to consider critical thinking superior to my own religious beliefs.