Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – “expectations” of evidence or how presupposition can really screw you up

amazing what you can "expect" when you think you "know" something

amazing what you can “expect” when you think you “know” something

The following is my response to Ben’s comment on the Part 2 part of my interactions with him.  This was the one about the evidence that Christians apologists think they have for their god.  We got a bit off topic in the comments but it’s worth a post on its own.  My response has gotten rather long, so I’ll split it into two parts.   This one deals with “expectations” of evidence or how presupposition can really screw you up.

I agree with Ben in that critically examining human expectations for gods is crucial.  It allows us to understand humans better and that’s always a good thing.   The results from that examination will help us understand the world around us.  However, when Ben says that our expectation determines whether evidence supports or doesn’t support a hypothesis, he fails badly.   As the quote goes “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” (attributed to various sources).

Expectations are expectations.  Apologists only add “justified expectations” when they want to claim that their version of their religion is the only true religion ever.  Every religion thinks that their expectations of their god/gods are justified because they are *sure* their god exists, aka a presupposition that forms all of their claims. Ben may expect a god, but unless he can show it exists, it’s like expecting to see Sekhmet striding 100 meters tall leading the tanks in the modern Egyptian army.

Now, the scientific method does not and cannot work like this, and neither do my expectations about some supernatural force.  For example, Ben has tried to claim that this world is what one should expect if there is a god.  I don’t agree, and every bit of evidence points against the supposed existence and actions of a god in this world.

Ben believes that there is evidence for his god, and by this one would assume that he thinks he knows that there is no evidence for any other god or he would be worshipping those gods too.  He doesn’t expect those gods to be real though.  And here is where expectations of gods gets interesting.

How our expectations of gods formed?  Since there is no evidence of the supernatural, despite the always vague and secret claims of theists of their supposed experiences, we are left with stories told to us by people we trust.   We think that this trust can be applied to all situations with these people who we have deemed trustworthy, so we think that this trust justifies our belief, e.g. proves the belief,  in what they tell us.  However, it proves nothing, except that we have had reason to trust people in the past.   If those people who have told us a questionable claim have no evidence, no facts, then we have no reason to believe their claim.

Ben unsurprisingly disagrees with my interpretation of the Christian bible.  He thinks that I expect too much from it when I point to it as the only source of information on his god that he has and point out that this god does not do what it says it will do.  He of course has no evidence that his interpretation is any more accurate or valid than mine or billions of other Christians.  He pulls out a verse from the bible and uses it to claim that his version is the right one “Truly you are a God who has been hiding himself, the God and savior of Israel.” Isaiah 45:15  And claims that this shows that his God has always been revealing itself selectively to people “carefully selected”.   That would be a very nice bit of evidence for his claims but alas, the bible says that this is wrong “18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:18-32

It also amuses me that Ben picks his verse from Isaiah 45, that is such a lovely example of how this god claims that its going to do all of these impressive things and not one scrap of such events are found (funny how the “tall Sabeans” etc didn’t all decide that this version of God was the one to follow).   What the apologist’s usual answer about *this* little problem is that those claims haven’t happened yet, since that’s what their magic decoder ring has told them.  It’s also great for being a the origin of the claims in Romans 9, where this god supposedly has no care about giving its humans a choice, but considers them all pots to be destroyed or saved according to its whim. Not exactly the best chapter to pick when claiming that this god is supposedly so careful to keep hidden.

Rather than have a monster post, we’ll end it here and I’ll post its second half in a moment.

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9 responses to “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – “expectations” of evidence or how presupposition can really screw you up

  1. Hello,

    I’m a bit confused. Maybe you can help me out by clarifying.

    You agree with me that we should examine our expectations of god or gods. You then criticize me for seeking to have justified or reasonable expectations. This is confusing.

    You also say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but facts are facts. You say “every bit of evidence points against the supposed existence and actions of a god in this world.” I naturally disagree. I see the same evidence out there in the world as you. What then am I missing?

    Are you suggesting that your expectations concerning all hypothetical deities are also facts? If so, where did you get these expectations from? Certainly not science. Theology perhaps? Put simply, what makes your expectations correct and my expectations incorrect?

    • Ben,

      I do agree that we should examine our expectations of god or gods. I criticize you for forming presuppositions about your god and then trying to make the evidence fit your baseless claims. Your expectations are justified (aka presupposed). And your claim that your and only your expectations are “reasonable” is false.

      Everyone is entitled to an opinion, however when that opinion comes up against facts and can affect others badly because it is a delusion based on nothing, that’s when it needs to be stopped. I don’t care at all if you just claim that you disagree; I want to see why you disagree, not just “but but I see things differently than you.” Yep, so does a Muslim, a Wicca, a Shintoist, an animist from one of the native religions in Africa, etc. All of you have exactly the same amount of evidence, nothing more than your personal opinions that are entirely subjective. Ben, I’ve repeatedly said that the claims you make for your god, e.g. that one can see it in the universe around us, etc, is the same that other religions use. I want to see you show me why I should accept that *your* religion is the only right one. You obviously think it is or you would not call yourself a Christian.

      I do love when you want to call gods you don’t believe in “hypothetical deities”. That indicates that you think yours is the only one that isn’t hypothetical. Then show the evidence, Ben. I have expectations of all deities from the claims of their believers and their supposedly holy documents. Those expectations have been proven wrong when the claims of both believers and books fail to be shown to be true. For example, the bible is full of nonsense about how “creation” was formed, how there was a magical flood, that this god has x, y and z as attributes. All of those claims have nothing to support them as actual events or beings. Sekhmet has the same nonsense told about her, the Wicca Goddess about her, Tezcatlipoca about him, etc. Your god is no different.

      I can support my conclusions with evidence, and yes, Ben, the lack of evidence is a kind of evidence. Since we see no evidence for reptiloids (the aliens that some lunatics claim are masquerading as Queen Elizabeth, etc) there is no good reason to think that reptiloids exist. Do you believe in reptiloids? Why or why not?

      That lack of evidence on your part, nothing that shows that a deity exists as you describe, is what makes your expectations incorrect and nothing more than wishful thinking that you have some special knowledge about the universe that no one else has unless they believe just like you. It’s an addictive thought and that’s where most, if not all, conspiracy theories and myths come from.

      • “baseless claims, nothing more than wishful thinking” – such rhetoric! Why the sour tone? Can’t we have a ‘polite’ dinner conversation?

        It is far from clear to me that your expectations of each and every God you disprove are accurate. If you base your expectations on an uncharitable, hostile, literal reading of the Bible (for example), you will certainly not find such a God.

        That’s because the strictly literal interpretation is no more likely to be true than any other interpretation. One must first understand the context in which the passage was written, who the original audience was, what they understood it to mean, and then attempt to draw conclusions that are still relevant today. The bible places the value of pi at 3 on the literal interpretation (I forget where but you may remember). That’s not surprising since were it to tell us the literally true value of pi the book would never be finished. Examples like this are easily multiplied.

        And no, I do not need a literal interpretation to avoid total relativism. The art and science of hermeneutics is required to get as close to the intended meaning of Scripture as possible.

      • Ah Ben, how nice to see you try to claim that I have a “sour tone” Nice false claim there. How will you back it up? And hmmm, seems you’ve missed the “not so” part about the dinner conversation.

        It’s also fun to see a Christian being so sure rhetoric is a bad thing. You know, rhetoric? “Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the capability of writers or speakers that attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations.” Tsk, Ben, since you use it too, I wonder why take offense at it.

        Ben, I really don’t care what you claim to be “clear to you” since you’ve yet to show why it’s so supposedly clear. It is sweet though, that you think that everyone must have a charitable, friendly, metaphorical reading of the bible to get the answers you want them to from your supposed holy book. You are so certain that they cannot possible have a literal reading of the bible to get the god you want them to get. Alas, Ben, that requires the same magic decoder ring you have created for yourself, because I know that for all of your complaining that I take the bible “too literally” there are parts that you pick and choose to be just as literal as I take them. For example, is the resurrection of Christ literal or metaphor? You have claimed it is literal and have claimed that there is evidence to support your claims. Not so strangely, this part of the bible cannot possibly be a metaphor because then it would make your religion nothing special, just one more myth that depicts a human sacrifice for some divine gift. yep, that “strict literal interpretation” is ever-so bad for you, UNTIL you need it for your own version of Christianity.

        Unsurpisingly, now you want to claim that one must understand the “context” of a passage. Funny how I do understand the context of the bible very well. I know the history, the psychology, the anthropology, the audience, the meaning from the past and the meaning claimed now in the present by modern believers and the words of the rest of the bible to know the context of it. But most Christians don’t mean the context of the bible at all, they want to claim that the context is what the Christian believes the bible to be. I would have to agree with you to ever get you to agree that I accurately “knew” the context. And each Christian afterward would tell me that it wasn’t Ben’s context that was right, but their own. And all without evidence as usual. Yep, the bible claims the value of pi to be 3, not 3.14….. And your claim that if the bible told us the literally true value, the book would never be finished is amusing. Alas, the book could have said the forumula and never tried to claim that the forumla’s answer was three. So again, your supposed omniscient god that supposedly wrote/inspired the bible, could have avoided the issue if it were what the bible claims, all-knowing. If it’s all knowing, it would have known better than to put a verse in that is so handy for non-Christians to use against it.

        Hermeneutics is just apologetics, Ben. Using a new word doesn’t make it any more valid. And funny how each Christian claims that they use hermeneutics and get different answers. Again, we see that your claim that hermeneutics is “required to get as close to the intended meaning of Scripture as possible” to be false since there is no one meaning that is arrived at. We only have Christians again all insisting that their version of hermeneutics is the only “right” one. So your magical formula called “hermeneutics” is no more impressive than some theist who claims that their “bible code” is the only way to get the “right answer.

  2. Also,

    You seem to criticize Calvinism a great deal–suggesting that God can do without human free-will, bringing up Romans 9, Paul’s “mandatory” conversion. I don’t know your church background, do you know what Calvinism is?

    I’m not a Calvinist. Lots of Christians aren’t and so I won’t defend it. I look at Christianity from another perspective, one that makes more sense to me. Calvinists are part of my family of believers, but I am free to disagree with their particular way of seeing the bible and the world. We agree on the essentials and both try to follow Jesus as we best understand him and his teaching.

    • Calvinism is just as much BS as other versions of Christianity. I should know, I was a Presbyterian. So, yes, Ben, I know exactly what Calvinism is. It’s so nice to see you disregard your fellow Christians again. Any evidence your version is the “right” one?

      Yes, Ben, I know you look at all of Christianity from the perspective that makes sense to Ben, and that’s been my point all along. You all do that, each Christian has their own “perspective”. Some have others follow it too and that’s called a religious sect. That’s what causes religious wars and none of you have any more evidence than the next. Benist Christianity is no more valid than Calvinism, Catholicism, Methodism, etc.

      You do not agree on the “essentials” even remotely so don’t try to blow smoke up my skirt with such obvious nonsense. There is nothing more different and contradictory than claiming free will and claiming that this god has already chosen those who will go to heaven before they were even born. There is choice, achieving salvation by the free willed acceptance of Jesus Christ as savior and there is no choice, where God has already stacked the deck. This would be like me saying “Oh, you have an even chance as me as winning the poker game” when I knowingly marked the cards. Me saying that would be a lie. And as it stands, there is no religion that has shown it’s not a lie.

      Ben, you’ve made the claim that by being “hidden” God allows free will. Therefore, God did not allow free will with Paul…because…he…was…not….hidden. In Romans 9, it says that God has made those whose sole purpose is to be destroyed. If this is true, then there is *no* chance of those people to be able to freely accept Jesus Christ as savior. You are welcome to rebut this, but I do expect you to actually argue it, not just claim “but but it’s my opinion and nothing will ever change it.” You are expected to explain *why* I’m wrong.

      • Do you agree with every other atheist? Of course not. Similarly there is no reason for me to agree with every other Christian. My perspective is my own because it is what makes the most sense to me. It changes as I learn and mature. I used to be a Calvinist. I seemed to be intellectually problematic so I changed views. What else should I do?

        Cults? Religious wars? More rhetoric. Not helpful.

        Your third paragraph criticizes the “compatibility” of free will and divine determinism. I agree with you on this. As I said, I won’t defend Calvinism.

        I don’t know how to properly interpret Romans 9. You seem to defend the Calvinist interpretation. I am not convinced by you or Calvinists on this. There is too much other scripture pointing in a different direction.

        I know you know Calvinism well and can raise valid criticisms of it. But Christianity is not the same as Calvinism. I bring this up to permit you to refrain from attacking the Calvinist straw man. I suspect that nothing I will argue will depend on the truth of Calvinism.

      • Do I agree with every other atheist? Yep, atheists agree that there are no god/gods, right there in the definition of atheism. Ben, what you fail to accept or understand is that my identity as an atheist only covers that. People who are atheists are also parts of many many different other “sets” and only intersect occasionally. So, for the set of atheists, yes we do all agree.

        The problem with claiming that it’s okay that Christians agree is that this shows that Christianity is not a set that has defined attributes. Christians all make up what they want Christianity to be and thus we have thousands of distinct sets, all claiming to be the one TrueSet of Christianity aka TrueChristians. And none of them can show that this is the case. You can’t even claim to be in one set since your opinion of the “truth” constantly changes which makes it not the truth, Ben. You only have your opinions. You decided that the “truth” of Calvinism wasn’t really the truth so you changed based on *you* nothing else. Why should I care about the views of someone who changes his magical holy “truth” as often as he changes his socks? It only shows that religion is man-made and that there is nothing special about you or your religion at all. I do enjoy how you assumed I didn’t know anything about Calvinism but when I indicated I did, you suddenly agree with me on how free will and divine determinism are not compatible. And thus your claims about your god and free will are shown to be wrong since we can repeatedly see that the bible does not support free will as you have claimed it does. Now you don’t know how to interpret Romans 9 but are still sure that my interpretation is wrong and claim that there is “too much scripture that points in a different direction. Now Ben, this is when you cite the scripture. Since I know that your claim is false, I’ll demonstrate how. We have Romans 9, we have your god intentionally controlling the pharaoh and the Egyptians, we have children being murdered because of the actions of their parents, we have JC himself saying that his father has intentionally prevented some people from understanding and accepting the scriptures since he hides their meaning in parables, we have the story in Revelation where your god intentionally allows Satan to corrupt perfectly good people, those left after he kills all of the supposedly “evil” ones in Revelation 20.

        And nice that you unilaterally declare that something is “rhetoric” so you dont’ have to address the issues at all. your avoidance is nothing new, Ben, just the usual Christian being afraid of reality. Yep, those religious wars were caused by theists not agreeing about their religion. They are a fact and they are very helpful when one examines religion. We can see that religious wars also show that religion is simply human, and based on no magical being. I do enjoy when one Christian calls the others “cults”. It also shows that you certainly aren’t one big happy family. Christianity is Calvinism just as much as it is Roman Catholicism, Methodism, Mormons, Lutherans, Baptists, The Family, Seventh Day Adventists, etc. You just want to call Calvinism a “straw man” since you also find it wrong and want to make believe that your version is right.

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