Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Evidence and personal experience

atheist evidenceRecently, I’ve been crossing swords with some Christians. A Calvinist, an evangelical American Christian fundamentalist, a Christian whose God doesn’t really punish people for sins by sending them to hell, a Quaker who doesn’t like to call himself a Quaker, quite a motley lot. They are all very different in what they claim is the objective truth of Christianity, and also quite sure that their version is the correct one. If they weren’t, they’d not be the type of Christian that they are, eh?

(as usual, this is a riff on some themes I’ve discussed before. You have been warned  🙂  ).

The Christian, equippedcat, whom I met on Hessian With Teeth’s blog, was indignant that I asked for evidence from Christians and claimed that I wasn’t presenting evidence for what I supposedly believed (the whole very long discussion can be found in comments here). I had presented this evidence, but it got me thinking, what evidence would my opponents consider valid? EC said that he was looking for “universally valid evidence” too. I wondered what that exactly was to him. He of course has not yet explained what that is. I’ve invited him here to do so. ( and he has which I do appreciate.  See down in the comments).

Evidence is considered at its base “something which shows that something else exists or is true       ( You can get more refined with what a court might consider evidence, but for my purposes, I think this is a pretty good definition. Many Christians claim that their personal experiences should be considered evidence, as valid as anything else. However, let me present a situation: Drugs can give hallucinations. Someone near and dear to me had hallucinations that there were giant mosquitos attacking him after taking lithium. I, after smoking salvia, saw the entire world as constructed out Twizzlers (yes, the candy). Now is this evidence? And evidence for what?   Well, it *can* be considered evidence, no doubt about that.   The hallucination shows that *something* occurred. The question is what was that *something*?

The two most obvious possibilities are that giant mosquitoes exist/ Twizzlers really are the foundation of the universe *or* that drugs can really screw with your brain chemistry. Now, which conclusion is supported by even more evidence? This is what is crucial to further support the claim. We know that brains work by chemicals. If a new chemical is introduced and always causes this occurrence, then we have causation, not just correlation. If no further evidence of giant mosquitoes or my steam radiator being constructed of Twizzlers can be found, then the possibility of giant mosquitoes and universal Twizzlers diminishes.

People can of course give reasons why I can’t find these giant mosquitoes and Twizzlers. That quickly becomes a version of Carl Sagan’s “dragon in my garage” argument, where more and more ridiculous excuses are offered to explain why I can’t find the mosquitos or Twizzlers. These excuses start to eat into the claims of the Twizzlers and mosquitoes because the items in question start losing their innate attributes. What started being very firmly defined as a real object, a far larger than usual blood sucking insect of the family Culicidae and now becomes more and more vague. Twizzlers are one of my favorite candies, a fruit flavored licorice-oid strip of sugar and well, I’m not sure what. They are kosher though J

If the mosquitoes and Twizzlers now become invisible, floating, incorporeal, unable to be eaten, unable to drink blood, etc, they cease to be mosquitoes and Twizzlers. If no evidence can be offered other than personal experience, there is little reason to believe that those bugs and candy existed.

This is why I do not find the claims of believers in god/s to be true. We have believers of ostensibly the same religion being unable to show that the religion is true or that their particular version of it is true. They may have personal experience, as many believers of many faiths claims, but they have nothing else. Those personal experiences can be explained by other means, which further weakens the argument and the fact that most, if not all believers, doubt the personal experiences of other believers weakens their argument again. They do not apply the same standards to their own religion but expect others to accept claims that they do not accept.

We have some Christians who are sure predestination is true.

We have Christians who are sure that free will is ultimately important to this god.

We have Christians who are sure that “Sex between man and wife is a gift. Other sex has potentially serious negative consequences, so even if God does not care about it, or does not exist, such sex should still be avoided. Not Puritan, common sense to put the good of ones self and the good of the world above ones own pleasures.”And Christians who are sure that God really doesn’t give a damn on how we use our genitals.

God now has multiple and contradictory attributes.

We have Christians who are sure that their god interfered constantly with humanity in the bible (killing millions for sin), but when asked why it doesn’t now when the bible claims the mere thought of sin is worthy of the same punishment as the actual act, this god suddenly changes attributes to the point it is no longer recognizable. This god is so mysterious, no one knows what it does or why it does it. “It is clear that punishment may not be applied until after death. A system which seems to suck, I agree. But neither of us is God, so our opinion does not matter..”

God becomes remade to reflect reality and claims about this god cease to be knowledge but only metaphor.

We are still stuck looking for evidence for religion. I posed these questions to EC, but will pose them here again for others to perhaps take a shot at:

“There is no evidence whatsoever for the exodus, not even a date [something I have repeatedly asked Christians for and have not gotten], no evidence of an Egyptian kingdom that lost its entire army, no evidence for a resurrected man/god, no evidence for the sun going dark magically during an earthquake, where the dead walked around, etc. I have mentioned all of this before. Now, we can again postulate that some god that does nothing and is hiding under a rock on Zeta Reticuli V. Is this your god? Is this any god ever worshipped by humans? Is this a god at all per the definition?”

“Please also tell me how you would like things to be “proven”. Is objective evidence enough? For example, the evidence that Egypt never lost its entire army as the bible claims? That the city of Tyre was never destroyed by your god to the point that no one can find it and a quarter of a million people live there right now and archaeology digs are going on right now there? That there was no darkening of the sun on a day that there was an earthquake in the eastern Med, where the dead walked, but just regular human activity on any date that Christians might claim as the passion and resurrection? What would be “universally valid” evidence be?”

So, how do you want me to produce evidence here on the ‘net, EC? If me writing out all of the evidence that exists isn’t good enough, then what is? Would pictures be okay? Would links to articles? If so, I have told you these things are on my blog which you can easily search. But since you seem to need to ignore that offer, I shall put links to those things:


14 thoughts on “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Evidence and personal experience

  1. Just some small corrections. As I’m probably the person you identify as the “Quaker who doesn’t like to call himself a Quaker”: (a) I’m not a member of the Religious Society of Friends in Aotearoa although I do attend Quaker meetings from time to time. (b) At no time have I made claim to any objective truth, nor do I claim that what I believe is correct for anyone other than for myself. (c) Just as I don’t claim to be a Quaker, I don’t clam to be Christian. While some Christians (mostly liberal Christians) are comfortable identifying me as such, a great many more (especially fundamental and evangelical Christians) would say I’m most definitely not Christian, as I don’t consider the Bible an authoritative text, nor do I believe in a deity.


  2. This is a response to EC. Rather than torment Hessian With Teeth with our discussion, I am hoping to move it here. Here’s EC post that this is a response to:

    I still have no idea why you don’t think I still stand by my statement and quote from the bible that your god punishes people equally for thought and action. Again, you are the one who has added that the thoughts have to be ‘heartfelt’ which the bible does not. It says thinking about lust, a sin, is just as bad as acting on the lust, adultery, also considered a sin. In this vein, thinking about working on the Sabbath, thinking about killing someone, etc is just as bad as the act. Now, where does one find a very convenient list of sins in the bible? The commandments, those commandments that Jesus said everyone should follow right in the sermon of the mount, that not one jot or tittle of this god’s law is to be ignored. I can then show that in context, Jesus is exactly saying that thinking about sin, any sin, is just as punishable as any action on those sins. JC himself refers right back to Exodus. So, there, I’ve done as you’ve asked. Again, this is a great way to demonstrate that you are sure that I am wrong, belying your claims to the contrary.

    Amazing. You are indeed claiming that you know what your god is and that it is that this god does not punish simple thoughts. Since there is no way other than from claims of Christians to know anyting about God, you are stuck with the claim being about both your god and you. I can reject your claim about your god as baseless. And where did I say you lied about what you believe?

    Again, EC, you claimed that your god would only act on someone whose thought about sin was “heartfelt”. So, I am asking why your god didn’t act on Hitler, if punishmenet can be meted out because of a thought. Why did your god need to allow the thought to come to fruition, when if punishment could have been given and millions of people wouldn’t have had to have died horribly? It’s nic that you can pretend that your god punished Hitler “as God deemed appropriate”, which is again an excuse. You need to believe that your god punished anyone and you need to hope it was appropriate, because your belief in a just and fair god depends on it. If this didn’t happen, then your god isn’t what you claim. It is BS on your part that my question of why your god didn’t take Hitler out early is a “completely unrelated question”. It is entirely related, because it demonstrates that your god doesn’t do what Christians claim. You wish to ignore it because you have no answer.

    Again, what is this good of the world and for one’s self? It’s not hard to note that you have avoided answering this. Sex between a man and a woman lead to just as many diseases so your claims that only that type of sex is okay is nonsense. And whwat “forced marriage” are we talking about? Who is “encouraging” these marriages to be failures? What are the “optimal circumstances in life” for a child, EC? Is this again something that you believe only an approved pair of a man and a woman who do only approved sex can provide? It certainly seems so. Do show these facts that support the odds that you claim, EC. If marriage is so great, then I do expect you are entirely for gay marriage. Are you?

    Where are the facts that show that casual sex “results in a culture where we think of people as sexual partners rather than people”? Who is this “we” that you claim tend to judge people sexually rather than humanly?

    Disagreement does have intrinsic implications of wrong and right. If I disagree with a Nazi, am I saying he is wrong or right, EC? I have no idea what the heck you are talking about when you claim that disagreeing with you would make me wrong? Wrong about what? No, disagreeing with you would indicate that I think you are wrong, not that I am wrong for disagreeing with you.


    1. If you are right, then we are royally screwed. If even thinking about sin is a sin, then when God (or anyone else) tells us what He considers a sin, then we immediately commit that sin. (try NOT thinking about a purple elephant). Moses not only sinned in specifying the Law (613 commandments), but caused all of Israel to sin throughout all time. Especially those who God judged to be “righteous” which sounds unreasonable of Him. Same with the 10 commandments. You HAVE to be able to think about sin in order to attempt to avoid it. And it would mean that Jesus sinned in specifying the “two commandments”, yet it is claimed that Jesus never sinned. It also means that when we repent a sin, we would be committing the sin again.

      The Sermon on the Mount was where Jesus explained that sin was not only in the action, but in the heart as well. We do agree that there is a difference between thinking about something and lusting after it. Is it not reasonable that God sees those separate activities as different?

      As for Hitler, what makes you think he was NOT punished? Just because he did or caused to be done horrible things? I don’t think your question is about punishment at all; I think you are asking about “prevention”. Why did God, who allegedly knew what Hitler desired to do, not prevent him from doing it? Who knows what positive effects for all are the result of horrible effects for some? For one thing, would Israel have been re-established if it were not for the decimation of the Jewish people at the hand of Hitler’s minions?

      I don’t think Christians (or at least most of them) claim that God is standing over us with a cosmic yardstick to whack our knuckles the instant we step out of line. Anyone who claims that is the case should be brought to their knees by your question about Hitler.

      I don’t think I said anything about sex between a man and a woman; I think I was talking about sex between a man and his wife. In the case that a man and women are virgins when married and only have sex with each other, the odds of a STD are very low, and of spreading it are even less. If pregnancy occurs, then the child has the greatest chance (of course, it is not guaranteed) of having the optimal environment for their development as a positive member of the human race. That is, that they have the better odds of having a good male role model and a good female role model.

      “Forced marriage”, where an unmarried couple decides (or are “encouraged”) to get married because of pregnancy irrespective of any indications that they should NOT get married. Such marriages are often not successful, with the potential for damage (mental, emotional) to the participants and/or their children.

      No, I am against gay “marriage”. I have nothing against an equivalent gay relationship. Many gay people have turned out to be wonderful parents, but I wonder how much better their children could have turned out if they had good role models for both sexes (which is not to say that some of them DIDN’T have a good role model besides their parent(s)).

      Really? You can look at the world and not see how sexuality is one of the main components? You really think that rape, discrimination, self loathing, latchkey kids, gender confusion and the like are positive aspects of society? Or that they are not increasing? And the “we” is most everyone in this world. I think. I mean, I have no interest in that person over there, because I already have the best person there is. Even though there is no chance I would get involved with them, I still “check them out”. Do you know of anyone who does not do that?

      Disagreement does not have a one to one correspondence to right or wrong. Imagine we have a sealed cup with two dice. We shake it up. I claim that the dice have the same number up. You claim that the numbers up add up to six. One of us may be right and the other wrong. Or we could both be right, or we could both be wrong. But lets be more restrictive. Replace the dice with a single coin. After shaking, I claim it is heads and you claim it is tails. One of us is right and one is wrong, and neither of us can know which is which unless we unseal the cup. It is not the disagreement which makes us right or wrong; it is the physics of the situation.


      1. For one thing, would Israel have been re-established if it were not for the decimation of the Jewish people at the hand of Hitler’s minions?

        If that’s the best method this hypothetical god could come up with to re-establish Israel as a nation, it doesn’t say much for its godly powers—does it?


      2. If that was the only purpose of the whole Hitler mess, then it certainly does raise questions. But just because we don’t know all the “benefits” which resulted from the encounter with Hitler and his minions does not mean that there were not any. And we only see things from our point of view; it is not possible to see things from God’s point of view. I agree that I would have preferred that Hitler never grew to adulthood (I lost my uncle to him), but I have the hope that in the grand scheme of things, the way things happened was for the overall best.


      3. Your argument depends on a circular one, EC. You are using the old “If God did it, then it MUST be good and if I can construe it to be good, then God did it” nonsense and there is no evidence for this just like there is no evidence for your god.

        Now for your excuse that no one can see things from your god’s point of view: Per your bible, it is indeed possible to see things like this from your god’s point of view, in that it claims that humans know good and evil just like your god does. Of course, I suspect you’ll insist that part of the bible is wrong or “misinterpreted” too. As Ron has pointed out, you have a rather poor god that has to rely on the actions of a madman, or worse, causes the actions of a madman if some Christians are to be believed when they say God controls all things, to supposed achieve something “beneficial”. your fantasy has this god saying “well, it’s much better to murder people than control a couple of British ministers minds and just give Palestine to the Jews.”

        To have hope that the Christian god does heinous things for the “best” is a very convenient way to excuse oneself from having any responsibility. Oh, darn, God must have wanted those people to starve to death because it’s for the “overall best”, so I don’t have to do anything. Any action to thwart God’s will means that I am thwarting the “overall best”.



      4. Yep, if the bible is correct, we are indeed “royally screwed”.. This why theists have continually changed what their god “really means” because most of them, as humans improve in our morality, find the god unpalatable as written. We have a god that makes mistakes, makes impossible requirements, controls people, still fails, and picks and chooses some people to believe and some to be damned for reasons not of their making, approves of slavery, approves of genocide, etc. Then we get other versions created to say that this god doesn’t really do this, claiming that those parts are misinterpreted or simply aren’t what this god “really meant”. None of these versions of God are any more believable than the next, as I have pointed out in the blog post above.

        I have no idea how you think Moses “sinned in specifying the law”. This god told him to do this so it’s rather hard to sin in following the commands of your god if your god tells you this is the right thing to do isn’t it? I also have no idea how you’ve now invented that Moses “caused all of Israel to sin throughout all time” if this god is the one to declare that the actions in Exodus and Leviticus were sins (if this god of yours is unchangeable, these must have been sins always by defintition). You seem to be trying your best to conflate thinking about sin to avoid it with thinking about sin as something that you want to do. Matthew 5 is that JC is saying that thinking about doing something is equivalent to doing it; it does not say that thinking about *not* doing a sin is equivalent to doing it. So all of your gyrations to claim that I have to be wrong fail since you misrepresent what is actually said.
        I do agree, it’s pretty unreasonable for a deity to invent a list of sins that demonstrates that what is called “righteous” is anything but. One might come to the conclusion that all of this was written by humans and has not one scrap of evidence for a god that you have invented. Since your god said that there was no difference between thinking about doing a “sin” and doing the action in the bible, and Christians claim that the bible contains truth, there is no reason to believe your invention that your god sees action and thought as different. You don’t even have the bible to back you up. You have again tried to rewrite what is said in your bible. It does not say “sin was not only in the action, but in the heart as well.” It says that the thought of the action and the action are equivalent.

        I know that it is very likely that Hitler killed himself. There is evidence for that. There is no evidence that your magical god did anything at all. You have made the positive claim, EC, it is up to you to support it. Can you? There is plenty of evidence that there is no reason to expect divine punishment, now or in some magical afterlife, which reflects my weight of evidence argument in the above blog post. No evidence for your god, no evidence for some magical afterlife and divine punishment.

        My question is indeed about punishment no matter what you wish to pretend. You don’t want to be about punishment because you can’t answer that question. You need to invent another that I have not asked. I am asking why, if this god repeatedly kills people for what they have done, and if action is the same as thought, why this god of yours doesn’t kill people for what they will do? It does not abrogate free will, that nonsense that theists claim exists, since action equals desire per your bible.

        Please do tell us what you would say that the positive effects of murdering millions of people is, EC. Now, I know I’m silly for asking this because you’ll just insist that we can’t know and if God did it, why it MUST be positive, a lovely circular argument. If we are to believe your bible, humans know exactly as your god what good and evil is. Since I’m quite sure that murdering millions is evil, does this mean it is indeed evil? Or is your bible wrong again, or “misinterpreted”?

        Wow, your god is so inept that it required the deaths of millions to orchestrate the founding of Israel, per your claim. So, rather than just control a few minds as it supposed did in the past, perhaps with the British government at the time, this god MUST kill millions, INCLUDING, the deaths of millions of his supposed chosen people. Do you realize just how bad that sounds, EC? Your excuse sounds like the typical Christian one, a lovely selfish claim so you can get your magical end times, the reason that so many Christians smile and clap hands with Jewish people when they insist that they are going to hell.

        You again try to lie and misrepresent reality when you say “I don’t think Christians (or at least most of them) claim that God is standing over us with a cosmic yardstick to whack our knuckles the instant we step out of line. Anyone who claims that is the case should be brought to their knees by your question about Hitler.” If you don’t think this, it is because you ignore anything you don’t like that other Christians say. You depend on willful ignorance again when pastors repeatedly claim that anyone who doesn’t do what God wants will be harmed by this god. We know from the bible that this god is supposedly standing over humanity to “whack our knuckles”. Again, we have where this god murders people constantly for this. We are told repeatly that the United States is being “punished” for ignoring some Christian god. This poll, taken in the US, indicates that the religious do believe that this god does what you say they do not believe: An excerpt
        • “7-in-10 Americans see God as a person with whom one can have a relationship, and a majority (56%) say God is in control of everything that happens in the world.
        • However, less than 4-in-10 (38%) believe earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters are a sign from God; and even fewer (29%) believe that God sometimes punishes nations for the sins of some of its citizens.
        • The one exception to this pattern is found among white evangelical Protestants.
        • Nearly 6-in-10 (59%) white evangelicals also believe that natural disasters are a sign from God. Only about one-third of Catholics (31%) and white mainline Protestants (34%) believe natural disasters are a sign from God.
        • A majority (53%) of white evangelicals believe that God punishes nations for the sins of its citizens–a view held by just 1-in-5 white mainline Protestants and Catholics.”

        Now, I’m still waiting for you to tell me what “universally valid evidence” is. I want to know how you want me to present evidence to you since you have indicated that writing out what the evidence is not enough.

        Let’s see what you did say about sex “No, sex is not a sin. Sex between man and wife is a gift. Other sex has potentially serious negative consequences, so even if God does not care about it, or does not exist, such sex should still be avoided.” I was indeed wrong to say that you said sex between a man and a woman. My apologies. We see here that you are saying that any sex except between a “man and his wife” is fraught with potential danger, that they must be virgins and have sex with no others. I can agree that if two people are virgins, and haven’t had sex with others, then it’s very safe. These qualifiers don’t need to be between a man and a woman only. Again, nothing to show that a man/woman exclusive pairing is best for children. You also make one more vague claim “postive member of the human race”. Define that, EC. And show that children need both a “good” male role model and a “good” female role model. What is “good’ in these instances?

        You define “forced marriages” as where people get married “for the children”. I agree, they have a strong likelihood of failure. Are you then for contraception for everyone anytime they want it? Now, if marriages that aren’t for love are bad, then marriages for love are beneficial? Ah, I see that you don’t want gay marriage, but gay “equivalent relationship”. So, it’s okay to have polygamous marriages since that is okay in your bible?

        “Many gay people have turned out to be wonderful parents, but I wonder how much better their children could have turned out if they had good role models for both sexes. (which is not to say that some of them DIDN’T have a good role model besides their parent(s))”It appears you are working on the assumption that your claim is true, that somehow you can know that those kids would be so much better if they just had a EC approved of family. And I do love the qualification that it *must* have been other influences on those children who grew up as “positive member of the human race”since those gay people couldn’t have possibly done it on their own.

        Wow, dear EC, t’s great how you try to twist my words into one more strawman. I said “Where are the facts that show that casual sex “results in a culture where we think of people as sexual partners rather than people”? Who is this “we” that you claim tend to judge people sexually rather than humanly?”
        Funny how we were talking about sex (the act) and now you’ve brought in rape, discrimination, self-loathing, latchkey kids, gender confusion, etc. Rape is violence against others and it can happen to men and women. Discrimination is based on thinking that another is less than you(this being the generic “you”). Self-loathing can be from many many different reasons. Latchkey kids are from economics, parents who have to work and have no recourse other than hoping their kids can take care of themselves. Gender confusion, aka gender identity disorder may have various reasons for it, some appear to be biological. These are not positive aspects of society but they are not based on sexuality as you would try to claim.

        I don’t judge people by sexuality. I can guess that quite a few of my readers here don’t either though they’d have to state that for themselves. So you make a claim of “most everyone in the world” and have no evidence for this at all. You may need to look at strangers with the desire “check them out”. I can admire someone’s beauty (male or female) but I have no desire to have sex with them which “check them out” seems to imply. From my experience, and yes, that’s all that is, I know quite a few people who don’t need to do this. I know a number of people who identify as asexual or who don’t have to look at others as sexual objects.

        Your examples with the dice cup and coins are interesting. It does do a good job at showing that evidence e.g. revealing the result of the toss/tumble, is very important in a disagreement and the concept of what is right/correct and wrong/incorrect. You’ll note that I indicated both the idea of right and correct, which can add differences in types of disagreement, and I now agree with you at least a bit. A disagreement doesn’t have to have a direct one to one correspondence to right and wrong, but it can.

        Let’s look at what I said “Disagreement does have intrinsic implications of wrong and right. If I disagree with a Nazi, am I saying he is wrong or right, EC? I have no idea what the heck you are talking about when you claim that disagreeing with you would make me wrong? Wrong about what? No, disagreeing with you would indicate that I think you are wrong, not that I am wrong for disagreeing with you.”
        Here we have an example of me saying someone is wrong in a disagreement. Here, the disagreement is a one to cone correspondence to right and wrong. I still have no idea on how you think me disagreeing with you would make me wrong.


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