Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A new Christian apologist – Part 1 trying to show that the “supernatural” exists

rapture anyday nowThe author of the blog I’ve been commenting on, Ben,  has chosen not to post my last response.  I offered to post it on my blog if he wished to respond to it and now it’s here!  Ben has said that “I’m trying to set a tone[at his blog] that will be comfortable for family and friends to interact without being intimidated.”  Which seems indicate I’m too intimidating and that he wishes to not expose his friends and family to much that could dare make them question their beliefs.  That is completely understandable and happens on pretty much every blog based on Christian apologetics there is.  The apologist wants his fellow Christians to think that their arguments are unchallengable.  He was nice enough to make sure I had a copy of my post before ignoring it. That was very considerate and I appreciate it very much.  I do always keep copies of my posts to Christian blogs. 

He also asked me to post my “most pressing concern”.  I have given him that and now we’ll see if it’s ever addressed. You’ll see it below in the rest of the post, in bold. The original post has been altered to be more generalized and the explanations clearer.  This post will be in two parts: Ben’s attempts at showing his god exists, and then the evidence he has cited.  

Initially Ben has made the following attempt at a logical argument for the existence of his god as a refutation to the god of the gaps argument, where the theist claims that “if we do not know the cause for “x”, then it’s their god”.  With the advent of the scientific method, we have discovered causes for many many things, and as of yet, this god has caused nothing.  We have gone from God causes rain, disease, war, etc, to the laws of physics cause rain, bacteria etc cause disease, humans cause war, etc.  But let’s take a look at the following (bolds are by me, italizied in parens my comments):

(1)   Natural means cannot explain event E.

(1a) No natural means we know of can explain event E. (depends on ignorance and not knowing “yet”)

(1b) If there were natural means to explain event E, we would probably know that this is the case. (why would we probably know this? There is no mechanism.)

(1c) Therefore probably no natural means can explain event E.

(2)   Therefore there is a supernatural explanation of event E. (here is the old god of the gaps argument.)

2a) There is an explanation of event E.

(2b) Every explanation is either natural or supernatural.

(2c) Therefore, it is probably the case that there is a supernatural explanation of event E (again, no mechanism)

It’s not terribly hard to see how this argument fails.  All of these claims depend on the word “probably”.  To claim something is “probably” true requires that there is a way to know the likelihood of an event and a mechanism of how one knows about such an event.  Since the likelihood of supernatural events appears to be zero since we have *no* evidence of such things (the evidence claimed will be addressed in part 2), claiming that the supernatural is the answer with the highest probability is based on nothing.    

Many theists seem to get confused when it comes to claiming something is probable and/or possible.  The Russell’s teapot argument is an example of how theists fail at this.  They wish to claim that their god, the coyly refered to “supernatural”, exists because it is possible and, they usually get to the point arguing it is possible to imagine it (e.g. the ontological argument).  It is also possible that there is a silver teapot in orbit around Zeta Reticuli but it is not very probable.  Ben also claim that there is something called “probabilistic evidence” which seems to be no more than “well, it could happen so it did”.  He may rebut this if he wishes. 

Ben also tries another common Christian apologist’s tactic, by insisting that since I don’t know exactly the particular event he is are claiming a supernatural cause for, then I can’t possibly argue against the supernatural being nonsense.  

I can argue against it easily, for the simple reason that there is no reason to think that the supernatural exists at all.  Humans have been around for thousands of years and *still* have no evidence that any supernatural force has done *anything*.   Now, this could be considered the “absence of evidence isn’t the evidence of absence”.  However, the utter lack of evidence for *any* supernatural event is a good reason to doubt the existence of such things.  The one problem that Christian apologists often forget is that they apply the same reasoning to every other supposedly supernatural claim, be it other gods, humans who claim magical powers, etc.  Later we’ll see what Ben considers evidence for his god.  It’s nothing new. 

For instance, I have no reason to think that the sun will be eaten by a giant space dragon tomorrow.   There are events that simply do not happen, no matter if one can say that they could “possibly” happen.  I can and do think hypothetically (wouldn’t it be cool if the laws of physics would break down just for me!) but there is no reason to think that I’ll suddenly gain the ability to fly to Alpha Centauri on my own like Superman.  There is no reason to think that magic will suddenly work when it never has.  Could it?  Technically yes, there is the possibility.  However, who bets that the possibility will occur with such frequency that one can depend on it?  Will Ben bet his life that gravity will not affect him and throw himself off a cliff?  If horribly injured by a bomb, will Ben take the possibility that he will be magically healed or will he demand to be helped by medical personnel?   I’m going to guess he’ll go for the doctors.  Now what does that say about a Christian apologist’s “faith”?  

Ben also uses some typical excuses for your god when it comes to its existence and evidence for it. He asks “Why do you think that God would make himself obvious to a skeptic on demand?” is nothing new and demonstrates a certain convenient ignorance of his own bible.  If you are a Christian or have read the bible, you’ll remember Thomas?  The problem for apologists who use the “God doesn’t give evidence excuse is why it was okay for Thomas to ask for evidence and not someone else, like me, Vel.  I ask him to tell me why JC said that it’s better to have just faith, but also indicated that it’s okay to ask for evidence.  He didn’t damn Thomas. 

Ben has asked me what kind of evidence I would expect for his god.  Well, I’m not greedy so how about a burning bush?  An amputee getting his limb back? And sure, a neon sign in the sky, why not?  The commandments carved in letters 60 feet high along the walls of the Grand Canyon?  All sound good to me.  Now, here is where a Christian will usually say “then you’ll just say it’s aliens” or something like that.  If I witnessed something that I could not explain, I would definitely examine it as well as I could.  If there was no answer left but a supernatural event, something entirely against the laws of physics, then I would accept it (I may still not worship such beings if they are genocidal asses). Of course, the problem then becomes, how do I know it was a particular  god doing it?  But we’d at least be half way there.  I rather like the Egyptian pantheon myself.   

He also tries the claim that it is “clear” that there has to be “different evidence” for his God and a dog.  That’s the usual hand-waving that theists use when they can’t explain what this “different evidence” is, they always try to claim it’s “clear’ or it’s “obvious” when it is anything but.  Ben, I ask you: tell me what this “different” evidence is. What distinguishes it from regular ol’ evidence? 

Ben knows his apologetics are nothing new, which is refreshingly honest.  They are excuses for a god that supposedly showed itself all of the time in the OT and NT.  Christians need to claim that God suddenly has changed its modus operandi to excuse why it does nothing.   Christianity and all of it’s supposed “truths” has changed repeatedly thanks to reality, not the other way around.  It’s no surprise that this god is vanishing into the gaps.  

The creationist claim of “fine-tuning” was brought up by Ben as an example of how he thinks that the scientific method will fail and thus his “logic” will prevail.  I brought up a handful of failures contained in such nonsense: “First, please indicate how you know it is your god and second, please explain why the vast majority of the universe is inimical to human life. I would say that you would have a much easier time claiming that the universe is “fine-tuned” for bacteria more than us complex and breakable humans. I can’t live in a pool of highly acidic water that is nearly at boiling; bacteria can.”

Ben would prefer to ignore them for a post about fine-tuning at some time “later”.  I hope we see it and he explains why my points are wrong. 

Now onto Part 2 – the “evidence”

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56 responses to “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A new Christian apologist – Part 1 trying to show that the “supernatural” exists

  1. Young Ben is proving himself extremely disingenuous. He’s, in fact, as inept as his hero, William Lane Craig, simply ignoring that the cosmologists they both cite repeatedly contradict their claim of an absolute beginning to the universe. Without the ‘absolute beginning’ the cosmological argument has no grounding, so their response is to ignore all things that counter the claim and pretend their version of events is correct. It’s a classic case of religious delusion.

    • Hi John,
      I intend to address your concern in my next post as directly as I can. It is true that Vilenkin for example interprets the origin of the universe differently than Christian apologists. I’ll discuss why that isn’t actually a problem for the case at hand. Your feedback has helped me to sharpen my case. Hopefully this will get us past “yes it is, no it isn’t”. Take care,

    • Yes, I saw that post too. The false information willfully told is just pathetic. One wonders about people who claim to be following a god that hates lies and liars but who go out of their way to do so.

      • Good point. He’s young, though, so i won’t (yet) dump him in with the likes of Craig who’re just willfully ignorant and self-serving. It’s actually quite sad to see the denial in action.

  2. Hello,

    The goal of my post was to show how to correctly argue i.e. (1a) to (2c) rather than (1) to (2). Briefly, (1) to (2) is an argument from ignorance since it is almost impossible to affirm (1). However, (1a) to (2c) is a sound “hypothetical argument”. You won’t find any errors in the argument form. You can just disagree with a premise. Since I haven’t even specified what E is, it’s hard to disagree or agree.

    You could say “let E be fine-tuning (or human consciousness, or ….)” and then tell my why (1a) and (1b) are not true in that case. As it is, you’ve evidently misunderstood my post, arguing about E–a place holder.

    You complain about the word probably. It’s difficult to discuss my argument with distinguishing between a deductive and inductive argument.

    Thanks for your interest in my blog!

    • Oh I’m not complaininga bout the word “probably”. I love it. And the reason I love it is because it makes your argument fail dramatically. All your religion is based on is nonsense and baseless claims. I am pointing out how “probably” shows that religion is all make-believe.

      And we can happily subsitute whatever you want for E. The argument *still* fails. There is no evidence that there is fine-tuning by a god. There is no evidence that consciouness is magical. There is no evidence to support this so your “probably it’s supernatural” is nonsense. Let’s take consciousness. It ends when the brain is destroyed. It changes if the brain is harmed. There is nothing that shows that there is somekind of “soul” that exists, only the vain baseless claims of theists.

      Unfortunately for you, Ben, I have not misunderstood your argument at all.

      • I’m doubt this exchange is unlikely to go anywhere. I don’t feel as if my ideas are being handled with care or respect. I’m more interested in a dialogue than a debate at this point. Nevertheless, I am still open to specific sincere questions. All the best,

      • Ben, a dialogue is a debate if the people involved don’t agree. And I’m sure you don’t feel your ideas are being handled “with care or respect”.

        You see, Ben, many theists think that their claims are inviolate. They’ve had thousands of years where everyone kept their mouth shut about how much religion fails, mostly due to the threats of violence against anyone who dare be a heretic or an atheist.

        Your ideas do not deserve any special care and they do not deserve respect just because they are yours and that they are religious. Respect is earned not freely given. If you can defend your claims, then you can earn my respect. If you cannot, I have no more respect for your claims than I do the claims of some Muslim imam; both are sets of myths that have no thing to support them. And both use many of the same arguments claiming that they are the one and only “truth”.

      • Hi Club,
        You have not earned my respect as a sincere dialogue partner. There can be no dialogue without respect. I do not mind that you disagree. It bothers me that you are disagreeable in your tone. Our conversation is unlikely to rise above “Yes it is” “no it isn’t.” Try and put yourself in my shoes and see why I believe what I believe.

      • there can be dialogue without respect. I think you confuse politeness with respect. You see, I could be polite (with effort) to these two parents who allowed their child to die because they thought prayer would work, but I do not respect their failed beliefs: http://xfinity.comcast.net/articles/news-national/20130423/US–Prayer.Death-Children/

        It is no surprise that you accuse me of being insincere. I am sincerely looking for answers and have asked you direct hard questions so you may support your claims. I have given you ample opportunity to tell me “why” somthing is and that is much beyond “yes it is, no it isn’t.” To claim that is all I am doing is unfair and untrue. To call me insincere because I do not blindly accept your claims is unfortunate.

        I am sorry you find that direct honest questions are a “tone” you don’t like. If you thought you had the answers and you thought you were spreading truth, some imagined “tone” would not deter you.

        I have been in your shoes, Ben. I was a Christian, Presbyterian in sect. I know how good it feels to beleive that you have the only right religion and that some omnipotent being loves you and takes care of you. I know how easy it is to create excuses about why this god fails in its promises. I’ve done the same thing, sure that this god must have a good reason to allow children to starve, to allow women to be abused, to keep amputees unable to function etc. I used all of the excuses for why prayers fail, but I knew that the bible says they won’t and it doesn’t use any excuses at all. There is no “wait”, there is no answering in god’s good time, there is no answering with something that wasn’t asked about at all. The bible says that prayer will be answered quickly (the mountain doesnt’ hang around), positively (a father would not give his son a snake if asked for a fish) and for what was asked for (whatever you ask in my name, you shall receive it). it is only modern Christians who have realized that their bible fails, that have had to make up an entirely new god that hides and has changed the rules on how prayers are dealt with. That shows that the religion is man-made, because it changes with the times, not the other way around.

        I prayed and prayed when losing my faith, asking for help to understand from the “horse’s mouth” as it were. I was looking like Thomas was for help. And I didn’t get it. I know, you’ll still probably claim I wasn’t doing it “right”. EAch theist claims this when their claims about prayer and about how their god reaches out to people fail. It’s never that their god might not exist and all of their claims are wishful thinking, it’s that the puny human doesnt’ do the right magical spell or have some attitude acceptable to this mysterious god.

        The only chance this has of degenerating into “yes it is, no it isn’t” is if we both run out evidence to present to support our claims. I am in no danger of that. If you are, you may want to consider why.

  3. Hi,
    If you are sincerely interested, I’d recommend reading Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief. It’s not perfect, but it goes a long way towards discussing the issues you bring up in a systematic manner. I found it quite helpful personally. It can be downloaded as a pdf for free at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/plantinga/warrant3.html. Look at what he writes about faith, pluralism, evil, etc. There’s no way that I can rigorously answer all your questions on a blog. I can just give short summaries of what I’ve learned.

    • I have read Plantinga’s nonsense and I have already told you why. Reading it again will change nothing. All his claims boil down to a baseless insistence that the belief in god is a “basic” belief aka “warranted” and magically doesn’t need evidence to support its existence. That’s, as I’ve said before, is akin to a three year old insisting that its imaginary friend exists. It’s just more ontological nonsense, with the failed claim that “if we can think of it, it has to exist” to be just dressed up with fancier words.

      His argument about evil is even worse. He attempts to redefine omnipotent, so we suddenly have a kind of omnipotent god. That’s rather like being a little bit sterile. This god for some reason can’t create creatures that would only choose things that are “good” or for some reason there needs to be evil for a supposed “moral goodness” aka the usual Christian “we can’t understand god so we have to pretend that the ends justify the means when it comes to our god”.

      All of this is pretty amusing when you compare that excuse to the claims of heaven and angels. Again, Christians cannot agree what their religion really is, so we have these constant contradictions.

      I find it very interesting that you have claimed you wanted your blog to tell Christians how to answer atheists but now, you suddenly can’t do *exactly* that on your blog or in my comments. I’m also not asking for a “rigorous” answer, which appears a word you’ve included so you can have yet one more excuse. I want an answer. Do your best and realize where the flaws are in your claims. I’ve pointed them out. Rebut my points and no, you don’t have to do all of them. I know full well that I write a *lot*.

      However, if you don’t want to try, admit that. You can have your blog where you make claims without evidence and you can controll the comments so you never see a question about your claims again. Many Christians do, you won’t be the first. It was nice that you allowed my first post. You do not *have* to think about any of this again if you choose not too.

      • I feel like you’re starting to warm up a little. Here’s how I see our discussion. You are arguing something like,
        1. The world is XYZ.
        2. If God exists, the world would not be XYZ.
        3. Therefore God does not exist.

        I would challenge you on 2. I agree that the world is XYZ. We live in the same world. But I will probably not just take your word for it that if God exists he ought to do XYZ.

        Let’s get specific. XYZ = divine hiddenness. You say that God would make himself obvious – heal some amputations, neon sign in the sky, whatever. As a Christian, I see no reason to agree with you on 2. I’ve offered Paul Moser’s thoughts on divine hiddenness and mentioned Jesus’ deliberate decision to not do miracles on demand.

        You have scoffed. I get it. You believe 2. That doesn’t help me to see why I should believe 2. I still have good reasons not to. Much of your case against theism rests on justifying what you would expect out of God if he existed. I am not yet convinced. I’d recommend focusing on justifying 2.

      • Here’s that divine hiddeness again. I would like to know, Ben, why I shoudl take *your* word on what this god of yours does since you can’t even show it exists? All I have are your opinions with baseless claims and “evidence” that consists of the same claims all religions make, personal anecdotes just like every other religion, etc, etc.

        Divine hiddeness claims that God exists and that this god for some reason wants to remain hidden, and evidently hidden from people seeking it out. This is a curious claim since this god at one point had no problem in being seen (even it’s backside) and supposedly interfered constantly in human affairs *if* one is to believe the bible. The usual reasons given for this god choosing divine hiddeness is that this god doesn’t wnat to interfere with free will, that if we knew all about it, we would “have” to believe. Unfortunately this god cannot be demonstrated to be interested in free will again, *if* the bible is to be believed and *if* people like Ben are to be believed when they claim that this god has interfered in their lives, aka miracles. We are left with either coming to the conclusion that the bible is full of nonsense and it is inaccurate, or that the Christian is making up things to cover the failings of his religion and its claims. Ben, why does your god supposedly hide now for the reasons you wish to claim, and didn’t before? Wasn’t it concerned with free will? Concerned with interference? We are given by your bible the epistemological expectations for this god, we did not come up with them ourselves. Why does your god fail even what the bible says? Shall we not believe it? Or perhaps we should only believe parts? Then, which parts?

        This god is also supposed to want all people to come to it, and again, hiding is not a method to achieve this with. Finally, the last reason often used is that we can’t understand god and thus cannot understand why he would remain hidden, even if it seems stupid to us humans, this god *might* have a good reason.

        The claims of understanding this god and then not understanding it are conveniently used by most, if not all Christians. They wish to claim that their god loves everyone, that their god is just and fair, but when it’s actions are pointed out as not just and not fair, then they quickly claim that no one can understand their god.

        And by the way, Jesus did do miracles on demand. Mothers do often get their way.

      • Thanks for the links,
        I’ll take a look. That’s more my style. I wouldn’t call Plantinga “nonsense”. It made sense to me when I read it. You may disagree, but there’s still room to respect a good philosophical book. I for example, don’t consider Nietzsche to be an idiot. He seems like a smart dude to me.

      • Ben, I would offer that the reason it made sense to you because it said you were right.

        And no there is not room to respect a lot of talk and no evidence. For all the words that Plantinga says, it’s no more valid than the words of Augustine or Ravi Zacharias or Dr. Phil.

        I like Nietzshe and I like him largely because I agree with him on most things (he was a bit of a nut about women, though there are arguments that what he said could be construed otherwise).

        However, me liking him does not make his claims true, not unless we have evidence to support them.

        In case you didn’t see it, Ben, but another thing you could address is how your god hides but then we suppoedly can see evidence for him everywhere. If this is so, this god doesn’t hide so well at all.

  4. How does he get to 1c from 1a? What would stop us from knowing in future? And I think this whole argument is an argument from ignorance because how does his stipulating supernatural causes as an explanation for the event serve as an explanation?

      • Well, logic doesn’t always mean right. Your logic requires a presupposed base.

        1 postulates that there is an event that cannot be explained by natural means

        1 a repeates this, no natural causes can explain the event. This depends on humans knowing everything there is to know *now*. It does not accomdate the concept of learning new things over time.

        1b. depends on humans beings having the above nigh infinite knowledge of the universe. We know a lot but not everything.

        1c. depends on such nigh impossible knowledge above to come to the conclusion that the *only* answer is your god.

        If we do not have this complete knowledge base, the internal logic might be intact, but it has no application to reality.

      • (1) Natural means cannot explain event E.

        (1a) No natural means we know of can explain event E.

        (1b) If there were natural means to explain event E, we would probably know that this is the case.

        (1c) Therefore probably no natural means can explain event E.

        (2) Therefore there is a supernatural explanation of event E.
        2a) There is an explanation of event E.

        (2b) Every explanation is either natural or supernatural.

        (2c) Therefore, it is probably the case that there is a supernatural explanation of event E

        Ben, lets have a second go.
        In premise 1, you have made a statement of fact/ belief. So to proceed to 1a and consequently all other premises is not logical. The question therefore is how would you be certain that natural means can’t explain event E?

        To get from 1c to 2 is a leap of faith. The statement you make in 2 isn’t a premise. It is a conclusion arrived only by taking a leap of faith.

        Lastly, describe to me 2 supernatural explanations to anything. Just 2.

      • I’d refer you to the original. The argument has been jumbled while copying. I say that argument (1), (2) is fallacious, it appeals to ignorance. Argument (1a), (1b), (1c), (2a), (2b), (2c) however, is valid. Notice that (2c) is a careful claim compared to the reckless (2). This is all about methodology. We should be able to agree on it. I anticipate that the disagreement will happen over whether it is possible to justify (1b).

      • Ben anyone can come up with logical statements. The second test is whether they are true.
        Having omitted 1 and 2 let us now consider the rest of your premises.

        Accepting that we may not have an explanation now, what stops the answer we will arrive at with more knowledge from being natural? Why appeal to the supernatural?

        I asked you to describe just 2 supernatural explanations. Am still waiting.

      • Suppose E is the beginning of the universe. Any natural explanation must come from within. But it would seem in this case, the cause is outside of space time. There may be reason to affirm 1a and 1b along these lines.
        The mind is not identical to the brain. Many attempts to explain the mind in terms of physical processes seem to face fundamental difficulties. Perhaps there’s a case to be made there as well.

      • Ah, here we go, the common Christian claim that their god is “outside of spacetime”. it’s a lovely bit of special pleading but it has some problems with making that claim.

        1. Per the bible, this god is limited by time and space.
        2. If this god is beyond time and space, how does it interact with time and space?
        3. How does it know when to do an action?
        4. How can it respond to a human action if it is not working in time since it has no reference?
        5. How does it interact with matter?

        And yes the mind is identical to the brain. Unless you wish to claim that a computer can also have the possiblity to have a mind aka an intelligence.

        If the mind is not identical to the brain, why does injury to the brain change the “mind”? If the brain was just a useless energy hungry organ, why do we have it? I have seen the hilarious claims by some Chrsitians that it is some kind of a “receiver”, like a radio. However, there is a problem that there is nothing to be shown being “received”. If the brain is just a receiver, then the energy received must then interact with physical matter and we should be able to see a result in our various CAT, PET, etc. We don’t. What we do see is electrical energy produced by the body and carried by neurons. We see that when the brain is injured, this energy and neurons are damaged and the damange is directly related to the problems caused.

        And, at best you are misinformed and at worst you are a liar when you claim that “many attempts to explain the mind in terms of physical processes seem to face fundamental difficulties.” This is the usual vague attempt by someone to claim “science has done this” but has no evidence of the things they claim. What are these “many attempts” and what are these “fundamental difficulties”?

      • From your answer I infer you are a dualist, believing that mind and brain are separate entities. This is my understanding of brain and mind. Brain is that physical mass enclosed in your skull, while mind is the result of interactions of neurons within that mass depending on the sensations it receives.

        The second example of the universe that you give. You should look at big bang cosmology. That said however, I will be more than willing to say I don’t know whether the universe had a beginning and how this beginning was initiated for even if you were to postulate a god as an explanation, it doesn’t explain how many gods were involved, whether this gods are still alive and even greater still why did the gods create the universe.

      • Yes I am a dualist. You seem to subscribe to the view that the mind supervenes on brain states. I would call the brain state the physical description of the electromagnetic interactions between neurons. A third person perspective of the physical state of the brain. I struggle to see how the mind is identical to brain states since they have different properties. I hope to do a blog post on that in the future (after some research).
        I’m actually talking about the big bang right now on my blog. I say it happened and represents a physical beginning of spacetime.
        You are quite correct to say that a god at the beginning is quite vague. I need to believe in Jesus to be a Christian, not just a deistic deity. But we are talking about God of the gaps arguments. I think there’s a case to be made for extra-natural involvement shall we say in the physical beginning.

      • so, Ben, you are claiming that a magical being outside space/time was “involved” in the big bang. This would mean you could show evidence of this god, yes? This would also indicate that you think you know how the big bang occured that you could pick out the “fingerprints” of the Christians god. What would this evidence be and what would make it definitely divine in origin? By that, I mean that scientists can point to bosons, charm quarks, neutrinos. They all have been predicted and fit the current theories. What part wouldn’t fit and be “god”?

      • When was the last time you read anything on the big bang cosmology?

        So finally we have come to it, a god of the gaps arguments. You know this is what I call intellectual laziness. Running to god for whatever you don’t have an answer for.

        Because you are struggling to see how the mind represents brain states doesn’t mean that your gut feelings are now right. Please, get your emotions out of the way and look at information we have currently on the matter and where we have come from and please don’t use the bible or apologist literature as your only source!

      • The intellectual laziness charge does very little to commend your case or discredit mine. You presume that you are thinking clearly and that I am not. Have you even read my post about God of the gaps? Not sure what I can say to further the conversation. Take care,

      • I said the god of the gaps argument is intellectual laziness and that is a charge I can’t withdraw whether it applies to you is a different question.
        Why should I read your god of the gaps post?

      • Just so you know, I had read your post and I see it as a defense of the basic premises and conclusions that are here to which I already responded to. That said, you realize the book you quote is a feel good book written by an apologist trying to marry science and religion. This fails all the time.

        So as I said then and now, you are free to quote as many apologists as you deem fit, I will not withdraw the charge that postulating god as an answer to a question in which we do not have an answer currently is intellectual laziness.

      • Makagutu,
        I feel like our conversation is drawing to a close as we are talking past each other. I sincerely regret that since you are generally thoughtful. Nevertheless, we need common ground upon which to build a conversation. I’m not sure where we will find that common ground. I for one am not appealing to the authority of Scripture. What can you offer to meet me part way between atheism and Christianity? Could you entertain the possibility that God exists? What do you think we can agree on from the outset?

      • Ben.

        You accuse me of things am not guilty of, that is, talking past you. It was you who said for you to consider my criticism seriously I have to read your post on god of the gaps argument, a post that I have read at least twice. In the post you try to justify the movement from 1a to 2c. A move that I did show you I had issues with.

        You also tried to defend B, or rather rehash what the Blackwell guide to science and Christianity had, which I pointed out is apologists trope and nothing more. So you have to point me to the point where am talking past you.

        On a side note, do you ask yourself, why, if Christianity were true does it have apologists?

        I give gods a small % of existence. Is that enough for our discussion, like 0.00000000000001%?

      • Perhaps I have been talking past you then (I may be a bit lost in the comments).

        It seems to me that argument (1a) to (2c) is logically sound. The only question is whether the premises could be true (specifically 1a and 1b) for an event E. Would you agree? If so, then maybe we can discuss 1a and 1b specifically.

        You discredit my references. That’s fine. I’m still going to use them because I don’t really see them in the same light as you. I’ll try not to appeal to their authority, but I will give credit for where the ideas I mention come from.

        Why does Christianity have apologists? Because not everyone believes it. The same is true for atheism (i.e. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Bertram Russell, David Hume, etc.)

        You give God a non-zero possibility of existing? Good. Why so low a percent? Perhaps you could share why you are so confident in your atheism.

      • Hello Ben,

        You asked me do I grant god the possibility of existence, I answered, now you have issue with my answer! All the same, you realize the burden of proof for the existence of gods lie with the proponent. That said, I will tell you confidently that at least to the best of my knowledge god has not been defined in a coherent manner to even begin to question whether the being described can exist.

        In one of my responses I did say that anyone can come up with a logically sound argument, the question that we must also ask is whether the premises are true. Do you think your premises meet that requirement especially with regards to the universe?

        I find it interesting that you say Christianity has apologists because atheism has without seeing something inherently wrong with this statement. Christian belief is based on a belief in the existence of an all knowing, all powerful and all loving god. Why tell me, would such a belief with such a base need apologetics? Atheists just make a simple claim- we lack a belief in gods due to insufficient to know evidence for their existence. With or without apologists, this would remain true. Christianity can’t make the same claim. It needs missionaries to convince people they are born evil and need salvation, that is, it creates a problem and offers a prescription. The two are worlds apart!

        And while you are here, it is an act of cowardice and a show of holding fringe beliefs not to allow comments just because it represents a dissenting opinion. You have to allow your ideas to be put to the test on the market place of ideas or keep the blog private. I know it is your blog to do what you please with it, but I think it would be good for the choir that you preach to to hear dissenting opinion!

      • Hello again,

        Burden of proof. If you define atheism as the lack of belief in God then perhaps you are correct. Not enough evidence you would say. That’s fine. I recommend shifting that to the conversation I’m having with Vel on the other post. Not sure what to say about apologists.

        Do I think 1a and 1b are true in the case of E=the origin of the universe? I suspect that they are but I have yet to justify it. It will take some time and work to do so. I’m reading about that now (and yes I do know about the Big Bang. My education is in math and physics and I have a working knowledge of the topic).
        I was hoping with my God of the gaps post to point out (to myself and others) that 1a and 1b are not so easy to justify. I need a reason to believe that if there were a natural explanation I would know that is the case. That’s no easy task. But I don’t yet see why it is impossible.

        My opponents ought to offer a reason to disbelieve 1a or 1b. Either provide a natural explanation or provide reasons why one is likely forthcoming. Care is required here lest the presumption of atheism rule out 1b a priori. Care is required on my part lest the presumption of theism render 1b true uncritically. I suspect we can agree on something in this neighbourhood.

        My blog policy? I know it won’t be popular. I respect your criticism but I think it’s for the best right now. It may change in the future. In the mean time, here I am to argue.

      • The burden of proof is on the one who is making the fantastic claims e.g. the theist. http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/burden-of-proof.html

        You say that you need a reason to believe that if there were a natural explanation, you would know it was the case. That is rather silly since the natural explanation may not be known *yet* or known by *you*. Unless you think you can know everything and you will live forever, this cannot happen. It is impossible unless you can fulfill both of the conditions.

        We may not know if a natural explanation is “likely forthcoming”, one cannot always predict such things. Adding the term “likely” strikes me as another weasel word for a Christian to say “well, if it’s not likely, then God.” How “likely” does it have to be?

  5. Ok Val.
    This is quite a tangled web. I need to know whether or not to invest time discussing my faith with you. I have one question,

    If Jesus were in fact God, would you be willing to worship him, i.e. dedicate your life to him in all aspects: obey, serve, and love him?

    If so, then I’d be happy to tell you why I think that Jesus is God. If not, then sadly this conversation was over before it began.

    • It’s Vel. and I don’t see the purpose of the question considering the current issues but I’m quite willing to give it a go.

      “If Jesus were in fact God, would you be willing to worship him, i.e. dedicate your life to him in all aspects: obey, serve, and love him?”

      As depicted in the bible? No. If Jesus were as claimed by some Christians, those who ignore that he said his father’s laws are *all* still in play, who said that those who do not believe in him should be brought before him and killed (Luke 19), basically a nice guy who is concerned for the poor and the weak, who said “if you do for the least of these, you do for me”, then maybe. However, even Christians can’t agree on what this Jesus Christ character really is and really teaches.

      “If so, then I’d be happy to tell you why I think that Jesus is God. If not, then sadly this conversation was over before it began.”

      So, what does this question of yours have to do with you telling me why *you* think that Jesus is god? It appears that you think I need to be a christian of exactly your kind to accept the reasons you give and *that* shows that your reasons are not somemthing that can convert anyone. They are not some magical truth that anyone can see, it is just the various claims by various Christians that do not agree.

      • Apologies Vel,

        So I see you are not sure which “Jesus” I mean. It is true that many causes (and even religions) try to commandeer Jesus for their own purposes. So good point.

        I’ll try to be more specific. I believe Jesus claimed to be divine and vindicated that claim by rising from the dead (the rest of what he taught is open for endless debate so I’ll put that aside for now). If Jesus does turn out to be divine, would you worship him as such?

        I ask because I believe that no amount of evidence will compel belief from an individual unwilling to worship Jesus no matter what. Examining Jesus has huge personal implications. There were many in Jesus’ day who saw all of the evidence but rejected him nonetheless. If one isn’t even open to the possibility that he could be divine, then no amount of evidence will suffice.

        You correctly perceive that I have not told you why I think Jesus is God. That’s because I want to know whether you would listen to my reasons. The reasons I would present to an agnostic, however, consist mainly in a historical argument. The argument does not rely on biblical inerrancy or even religious experience. It is just a matter of honestly examining the historical evidence. If you are interested, then I’d be happy to share.

      • Ah, so you are claiming to be the OneTrueChristian, since you gladly talk about how wrong everyone else is, like how they “commandeer” JC? If I may ask, why should I accept your version of Jesus over others?

        No, I would not worship something that is divine, just because it is divine. I do not hold to the might makes right nonsense. If it was demonstrated as divine, I would accept that, not worship it. Divine doesn’t mean good. Let me ask you a similar question, if Zeus was shown as divine, would you worship him? Why or why not?

        If you believe that no amount of evidence will *compel* belief, I’m with you there. However, evidence can convince (not compel) someone to accept something as valid. Now, you said that you don’t believe any amount of evidence will compel someone who is unwiling to worship Jesus. If Jesus is shown to be a good being, one that helps humanity, one that ameliorates harm, etc I can certainly be devoted to it and I would revere it. If it is not these things, is it worth worship simply based on “might makes right”?

        Ben, I’ve listened to all of your reasons so far, why would I not listen to more? I will listen, I will consider and I will critique.

        It’s not a good thing when you intimate that I would not “honestly” do something. When have I shown dishonesty to you? Now, I do understand that many Christians will use “honestly examining” when they know their claims will fail. Then they can convince themselves that a non-Christian was not “honest” if they dared come up with another answer than the Christian wanted. That tactic *is* dishonest.

      • Hi Vel,

        I just wrote a long response on the other page. Maybe we can move it all over there for now.

        Have I offended you? I apologize. I don’t claim to be “doing it properly”. Hopefully I’ll improve. I am recognizing that you do take the time to read and respond. I regret that I can’t fully keep up with the volume of your points.

        Briefly, I take divinity to involve worthiness of worship. You are quite right to reject “might makes right” as worthy of worship. I agree. I do however think that divinity requires goodness. An evil God would not be worthy of worship.

        On that terminology, I wouldn’t necessarily regard Zeus as worthy of worship (I don’t know much about him in any case). We can pick that up later if you’re interested.

      • No, Ben, you haven’t offended me. You are claiming to be doing it right and you are claiming to be the only TrueChristian. If you attack others versions of Christianity, you are saying that they are wrong (just like those Mormons).

        You have attempted to redefine divinity. I’m glad that you seem to know that you are wrong. Divinity has never required goodness. Ben, have you read *any* other myths? If you had, you’d know better. It is your opinion that an evil god would not be worthy of worship. For instance, to modern humans, a war god like Ares would not be worthy of worship and seen as evil, but the Greeks had no problem with worshipping it. I’m also wondering how you define evil. Many Christians define it as “that which doesn’t agree with me”.

        You should do more research into other religions, Ben. Zeus is a creator god that is very much like yours. You seem to think that Christianity is something unique and it is not. I’ve been reading myths since I was very young and have looked into a great many of religions.

  6. Pingback: Introducing the loyal opposition | Cognitive Resonance

  7. What is meant by “God”? That seems to be where we are at. I was reading Moser’s new “The Severity of God” yesterday and found some helpful points that may move our discussion forward.

    Moser writes, “Setting the bar high, indeed as high as possible, we will approach the term ‘God’ as a supreme title of personal perfection rather than a proper name”(11).

    I think this is quite sensible and should address many of the problems you bring up. For example, this title rules out God based on “might makes right” reasoning: “no mere potentiate who dominates over all others will qualify as God”(12). I hope not to defend less than perfect gods (including certain depictions of the Christian god).

    Also, God must merit worship. A morally defective god will not deserve worship (and therefore not hold the title God) even if such a being is worshiped nevertheless.

    Most importantly, “A title can be meaningful but lack a titleholder. In talking about God, then, we can give a fair hearing to proponents of atheism and agnosticism without begging questions against them or otherwise dismissing them”(12).

    The point is, I say there is such a perfect being. The atheist says there is no such being. That is a valid disagreement, but at least we can (potentially) be on the same page about the title “God” denotes (even if there is no such being). It is the existence of such a God that I wish to defend. I presume you intend to argue that no being properly bears the title “God” as described above.

    Starting with this concept of God, we can learn a great deal about his nature and intentions towards humans, should he exist. (More on that another time) That will help to generate reasonable expectations for such a being. If those expectations correspond to reality (or not), then we can talk about evidence for or against “God” so defined.

    Until next time,

    • Moser’s “new” definition is nothing new. It’s the ontological argument made even vaguer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontological_argument . And again, most, if not every, religion claims that their supreme god or only god is exactly this. This is just one more step in Christianity getting vaguer and vaguer since the god it originally worshipped has been shown to make no sense. I ask you to define “perfect” and please do tell me its “intentions”. And there is no more evidence for a being of “personal perfection” than there is for Yahweh.

      The problem is that this description: “Setting the bar high, indeed as high as possible, we will approach the term ‘God’ as a supreme title of personal perfection rather than a proper name” does not match the description of this god in the bible. That god screws up left and right. It is a god that says might makes right (the book of Job is a great one for demonstrating this attitude).

      There is nothing that says a god must merit worship or that “personal perfection” must merit worship. This idea does do a great job in showing my often cited point that “god” is no more than the reflection of the person that believes in it. God is that perfect version of ourselves that is always right because our opinions are always right. Sure….. 🙂

      Ben, you do say that there is a perfect being. No doubt about that. You also say that the bible is representative of it (in some degree, Christians vary widely on this), you say that this god made a Jesus and that belief in this being is necessary for your salvation and not to be tortured in an afterlife. This is how you define God, not only as “personal perfection. I can be pretty sure that you do not worship some vague “personal perfection”, you have very definite characteristics of this being. Or do you deny this god/jesus?

      • Hello,

        Actually Moser isn’t a big fan of the ontological argument either (don’t worry, I won’t appeal to it either). He is instead proposing an argument from religious experience.

        Moser seeks to determine what we would expect out of a God worthy of worship. Moral perfection is a must. Such a God must do what is best for everyone, even his enemies. What is best may include harsh treatment given the human propensity to spurn God. So far this seems sensible to me.

        Such a God is certainly not a reflection of ourselves. Who among us loves and does what is best for our enemies? Our instincts run counter to those of this God.

        You think that the Bible does not describe God so defined? That’s fine, I won’t quibble but I do disagree. You say that I believe that “that this god made a Jesus and that belief in this being is necessary for your salvation and not to be tortured in an afterlife.” Once again I won’t quibble about the details but I believe something like that.

        When a God worthy of worship wishes to confront his enemies without coercing them, he sends Jesus as a personal representative of what God is like. Enemy love is key here. Jesus challenges us with God’s enemy love. He is “personified evidence”, as Moser would say, of God’s perfect moral character and love for his human enemies. God in turn offers humans the power to love their enemies as demonstrated by Jesus.

        When the Christian experiences that power (a power to love enemies that is not natural), they have tangible evidence that a God worthy of worship exists. Love for enemies is not natural and points to the supernatural.

        Take care,

        Ben

      • I’m going to make a blog post of the comment above and one from the other part rather than comment here. Then we can get out of this thicket of comments and make things easier.

  8. Pingback: Not Polite Dinner Conversation – I’m free! and more on definitions of “god” | Club Schadenfreude

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