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The Historical Argument for God

History

The argument from history is both stronger and weaker than the other arguments for the existence of God. It is stronger because its data (its evidence) are some facts of history, things that have happened on this planet, rather than principles or ideas. People are more convinced by facts than by principles. But it is weaker because the historical data amount only to strong clues, not to deductive proofs.

The argument from history is the strongest psychologically with most people, but it is not the logically strongest argument. It is like footprints in the sands of time, footprints made by someone great enough to be God.

There are at least eight different arguments from history, not just one.

First, we could argue from the meaningfulness of history itself. History, both human and prehuman, has a storyline. It is not just random. The atheist Jean-Paul Sartre has his alter ego Roquentin say something like this about history in the novel Nausea: "I have never had adventures. Things have happened to me, that's all." If atheism is true, there are no adventures, nothing has intrinsic significance, life is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". But life is not that. Life is a story. Stories are not told by idiots. In J. R. R. Tolkien's great epic The Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam are crawling through the slag heaps of Mordor desperately attempting to fulfill their perilous quest when Sam stops to ask, "I wonder what kind of story we're in, Mr. Frodo?" It is a great question, a concrete way of asking the abstract question, "What is the meaning of life?" That the question is asked at all shows that we are in a story, not a jumble, and a story points to a storyteller. Thus the general argument from history is a version of the argument from design.

A second argument concentrates more specifically on the moral design in history. Thus it can be seen as similar to the argument from conscience in that it uses the same evidence, morality. But in this case the premise is the justice revealed in history rather than the obligation imposed by individual conscience. The historical books of the Old Testament constitute an extended argument for the existence of God based on the history of the Jewish people. The argument is implicit, not explicit, of course; the Bible is not a book of philosophical arguments. It is not so much an argument as an invitation to look and see the hand of God in history. Whenever God's laws are followed, the people prosper. When they are violated, the people perish. History shows that moral laws are as inescapable as physical laws. Just as you can flout gravity only temporarily before you fall, so you can flout the moral laws of God only temporarily before you fall. Great tyrants like Adolf Hitler flourish for a day, like the mayfly, and perish. Great saints experience apparent failure, and emerge into triumph and joy. The same is true of nations as well as individuals. The lesson is scorned not because it is unknown or obscure but because it is so well known; it is what our mothers and nurses told us as children. And however "square" it may be, it is true. History proves you can't cut the corners of the moral square. In geometry, you can't square the circle, and in history you can't circle the square. Now is this moral design (which the East calls karma) mere chance or the product of a wise moral will, a lawgiver? No human lawgiver invented history itself. Therefore the only adequate cause for such an effect is God.

A third argument from history looks at providential "coincidences", like the Red Sea's parting (moved by an east wind, according to Exodus) at just the right time for the Jews to escape Pharaoh. Our own individual histories usually have some similar bits of incredible timing. Insightful and unprejudiced examination of these "coincidences" will bring us at least to the suspicion, if not to the conviction, that an unseen divine hand is at work here. The writers of the Bible often shortcut the argument and simply ascribe such natural events to God. Indeed, another passage in Exodus says simply that God parted the sea. This may not be a direct miracle; God may have worked here, as he continues to work, through the second causes of natural agents. But it is God who works, and the hand of the Worker is visible through the work, if we only look. The argument is not a logical compulsion but an invitation to look, like Christ's "come and see."

A fourth argument from history, the strongest one of all, is the argument from miracles. Miracles directly and inescapably show the presence of God, for a miracle, in the ordinary sense of the word, is a deed done by supernatural, not natural, power. Neither nature nor chance nor human power can perform a miracle. If miracles happen, they show God's existence as clearly as reproduction shows the existence of organic life or rational speech shows the existence of thought.

If I were an atheist, I think I would save my money to buy a plane ticket to Italy to see whether the blood of Saint Januarius really did liquefy and congeal miraculously, as it is supposed to do annually. I would go to Medjugorge. I would study all published interviews of any of the seventy thousand who saw the miracle of the sun at Fatima. I would ransack hospital records for documented "impossible", miraculous cures. Yet, strangely, almost all atheists argue against miracles philosophically rather than historically. They are convinced a priori, by argument, that miracles can't happen. So they don't waste their time or money on such an empirical investigation. Those who do soon cease to be atheists—like the skeptical scientists who investigated the Shroud of Turin, or like Frank Morrison, who investigated the evidence for the "myth" of Christ's Resurrection with the careful scientific eye of the historian—and became a believer. (His book Who Moved the Stone? is still a classic and still in print after more than sixty years.)

The evidence is there for those who have eyes to see or, rather, the will to look. God provided just enough evidence of himself: enough for any honest and open-minded seeker whose heart really cares about the truth of the matter but not so much that dull and hardened hearts are convinced by force. Even Christ did not convince everyone by his miracles. He could have remained on earth, offered to walk into any scientific laboratory of the twentieth century, and invited scientists to perform experiments on him. He could have come down from the Cross, and then the doubters would have believed. But he did not. Even the Resurrection was kept semiprivate. The New Testament speaks of five hundred who saw him. Why did he not reveal himself to all?

He will, on the last day, when it will be too late to change sides. His mercy gives us time to choose and freedom to choose. The evidence for him, especially his miracles, is clear enough throughout history so that anyone with an honest, trusting, and seeking heart will find him: "All who seek find." But those who do not seek will not find. He leaves us free. He is like a lover with a marriage proposal, not like a soldier with a gun or a policeman with a warrant.

A fifth argument from history is Christ himself. Here is a man who lived among us and claimed to be God. If Christ was God, then, of course, there is a God. But if Christ was not God, he was a madman or a devil—a madman if he really thought he was God but was not, and a devil if he knew he was not God and yet tempted men to worship him as God. Which is he—Lord, lunatic, or liar?

Part of the data of history are the Gospel records of his life and his character. Reading the Gospels is like reading Plato's accounts of Socrates, or Boswell's account of Dr. Johnson: an absolutely unforgettable character emerges, on a human level. His personality is distinctive and compelling to every reader of the Gospels, even unbelievers, even his enemies, like Nietzsche. And the character revealed there is utterly unlike that of a lunatic or a liar. If it is impossible that a lunatic could be that wise or a liar that loving, then he must be the Lord; he must be the one he claims to be.

This is the progress of the argument in Scripture: you meet God through Christ, and (as the next argument will show) you meet Christ through Christians, through the Church. The logical order is: first prove the existence of God, then prove the divinity of Christ, then prove the authority of Christ's Church. But the actual order in which an individual confronts these things is the reverse: he meets Christ through Christians (first, the apostles and writers of the Gospels; then the saints, past and present) and God through Christ. Once again, the "argument" is more like an invitation to "come and see."

A sixth argument is the saints, especially their joy. G. K. Chesterton once said that the only unanswerable argument against Christianity was Christians. (He meant bad and sad Christians.) Similarly, the only unanswerable argument for Christianity is Christians—saintly Christians. You can argue against Mother Teresa's theology if you are skeptical of mind, but you cannot argue against Mother Teresa unless you are hopelessly hard of heart. If there is no God, how can life's most fundamental illusion cause life's greatest joy? If God didn't do it, who put smiles on the lips of martyrs? "By their fruits you shall know them." Illusions do not have the staying power that the Faith has.

And that brings us to our seventh argument from history: the conversion of the world. How to explain the success of the Faith in winning the hearts of men? Hard-hearted Romans give up worldly pleasures and ambitions, and often life itself. Worldly men pin their hopes on otherworldly goals and do it consistently, en masse, century after century. If Christianity is not true and there are no miracles, then the conversion of the world is an even greater miracle. Greek philosophy won converts through rational proofs, and Mohammed through force of arms in the jihad, or holy war, but Christ won the hearts of men by the miracle of "amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."

The eighth and last argument from history is from our own individual history and life's experiences. The Christian faith is verifiable in a laboratory, but it is a subtle and complex laboratory: the laboratory of one's life. If God exists, he wants to get in touch with us and reveal himself to us, and he has promised that all who seek him will find him. Well, then, all the agnostic has to do is to seek, sincerely, honestly, and with an open mind, and he will find, in God's way and in God's time. That is part of the hypothesis, part of the promise.

How to seek? Not just by arguing but by praying, not just by talking about God, as Job's three friends did and did not find him, but by talking to God, as Job did, and found him. I always tell a skeptic to pray the prayer of the skeptic if he really wants to know whether God exists. This is the scientific thing to do, to test a hypothesis by performing the relevant experiment. I tell him to go out into his backyard some night when no one can see and hear him and make him feel foolish, and say to the empty universe above him, "God, I don't know whether you exist or not. Maybe I'm praying to nobody, but maybe I'm praying to you. So if you are really there, please let me know somehow, because I do want to know. I want only the Truth, whatever it is. If you are the Truth, here I am, ready and willing to follow you wherever you lead." If our faith is not a pack of lies, then whoever sincerely prays that prayer will find God in his own life, no matter how hard, how long, or how complex the road, as Augustine's was in the Confessions. "All roads lead to Rome" if only we follow them.
 
 
Excerpted from “Handbook of Catholic Apologetics", copyright 1994, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, published 2009 Ignatius Press, used with permission of the publisher. Text reproduced from PeterKreeft.com.

(Image credit: Roasted Locally)

Dr. Peter Kreeft

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Dr. Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a noted Catholic apologist and philosopher. He is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 60 books including Making Sense Out of Suffering (Servant, 1986); Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (Ignatius, 1988); Catholic Christianity (Ignatius, 2001); The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion (IVP, 2002); and The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (Ignatius, 2005). Many of Peter's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Find dozens of audio talks, essays, and book excerpts at his website, PeterKreeft.com.

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  • Peter

    There is another argument from history. The Church has historically maintained that creation had a beginning in the face of constant opposition through the centuries which claimed that the universe was eternal. So far there is no evidence which refutes the discovery that the universe had a beginning at the big bang.

    • Mike

      And evolution where genesis describes us as being created out of the dust of the earth.

      • Caravelle

        It sounds like you're confusing the theory of evolution with abiogenesis. Abiogenesis is an open question, and I don't know of any abiogenesis hypothesis that involves dust. Some do involve clay but I don't know how much currency those have at this point.

        • Mike

          But genesis could have said something like "god created men and women in a flash of lightening; they came from him on a cloud of divinity surrounded by angels of gold in purple robes and lo and behold straight from the majesty of God there were now Man and Woman"...instead what you get is an almost bland description whose only detail seems to be implying God created us (our bodies) from "the earth" ie material thereby implying evolution of matter not miraculous creation "out of thin air".

          • Caravelle

            God creating men and women in a flash of lightning would also have been consistent with an abiogenesis hypothesis, though I'm pretty sure that one is well out of favor now.

            That illustrates how such simple, bland descriptions can be interpreted to mean so many different things, it's completely trivial to map some of them to one scientific fact or other. It isn't a very meaningful exercise.

          • Mike

            I think it implies that our bodies came from the earth which considering the amount known about evolution back them is amazing.

            It couldn't be interpreted to mean that our bodies were created out of thin air in their current form or that they were created from some mysterious substance or that we were transplanted to earth.

          • Caravelle

            Right, so between our bodies coming from Earth, or being created out of thin air, or of an unearthly substance... I could add the option of being created out of water... That's one chance in four of getting it right, hardly "amazing", especially since the fourth option is probably more accurate than the first.

            As it is, given humans are Earth-dwelling and solid, attributing our origins to earth instead of air, water, some kind of energy (fire, light, lightning), nothingness, or otherwordly elements is the most natural choice. Which might explain why most mythologies do it.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I think in Genesis, God told the sea and the earth to bring forth the living kinds, and they did. But that's only for those who insist one finds one's beliefs in a literal reading of an English translation of an ancient text, rather than from the Traditions of the Church which of course form the reading of those texts.

          • Caravelle

            Except that once you bring the sea into it as being distinct from the earth then no, the earth probably didn't.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You must have been hell on wheels in poetry class. Instead of wooling over semantic distinctions in modern English technical writing, why not ask about synechdoche and parallelism?

            How did the Christians actually interpret the matter?

            "It is therefore, causally that Scripture has said that earth brought forth the crops and trees, in the sense that it received the power of bringing them forth. In the earth from the beginning, in what I might call the roots of time, God created what was to be in times to come.
            Augustine of Hippo, De genesi ad literam, V.4:11

            That is, the "earth" (matter) was given the power to act directly on other matter. Hence, the idea of secondary causation, mentioned in an earlier post on this site, an idea without which no natural philosophy would be possible.

          • Caravelle

            You said :

            I think in Genesis, God told the sea and the earth to bring forth the living kinds, and they did.

            And then you said:

            But that's only for those who insist one finds one's beliefs in a
            literal reading of an English translation of an ancient text, rather
            than
            from the Traditions of the Church which of course form the reading
            of those texts.

            The first sentence, including the "and they did", is CLEARLY an example of "literal reading of an English translation of an ancient text", while your "How did the Christians actually interpret the matter?" just as clearly refers to the "superior" Traditions of the Church which form the reading of those texts.

            You explicitly made a literal interpretation of a phrase, and then added that making such a literal interpretation was silly, and it was better to use the interpretation found in the Traditions of the Church or whatever.

            I added that the literal interpretation wasn't just silly, it was wrong.

            Replying about the superior interpretation found in Augustine is completely irrelevant to that, since you'd originally offered that sentence in the context of a literal interpretation, and I replied in that context.

            I absolutely agree that trying to look at individual sentences in Genesis and searching for some way in which they're consistent with one modern scientific fact or another does violence to the text and completely ruins its poetry, its theological and allegorical messages and how its original authors intended it to be viewed. Mike is the one who's arguing otherwise.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The first sentence, including the "and they did", is CLEARLY an example of "literal reading of an English translation of an ancient text"

            But the power of any imagery lies in the literal words. To say "Life is just a bowl of pistachios" simply would not carry the same meaning as "Life is just a bowl of cherries." It's just not literal in the naive fashion you seem to prefer. It's like puzzling over a passage in which the hands round up thirty head of cattle. Surely more than the heads were rounded up! Surely more than hands were involved!

            The passages in Gen1 are a poem in honor of the Sabbath and carry in addition various lessons regarding creation, secondary causation, diversity of species, etc.; but they need not be a factual history of events.

            Now, for so long as there was no particular demonstration to the contrary, there was no objection to a historico-narrative reading of the text, so long as its moral and anagogical meanings were not neglected, but as Augustine further cautioned, one should not hold a particular historico-narrative reading in such a way as to be unable to abandon it if it is demonstrated to be untenable.

            There are of course passages in the scriptures that actually are (or attempt to be) straight historical narratives of events; but even here they are subordinate to the anagogical and moral readings.

          • Caravelle

            Way to miss the point of my reply. And to write four paragraphs agreeing with everything I said but in the most condescending tone possible as if you were correcting something but who knows what. Why are you talking to me and not Mike again?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Because these are showing up in my in-box.

            It is easy to "read" tone in a written text. That's why the Internet is famously touchy.

            What exactly has been agreed to?

          • Caravelle

            Um, you're the one who started making replies to me.

      • Peter

        I don't think that is Church teaching.

        • Mike

          No i know it doesn't but it does say that evolution is compatible with the faith or something to that effect.

      • Howard

        I'm not sure about the nuances of words in ancient languages, but sometimes Adam is said to have been made of clay, and the idea that clay was important in the origin of life does have some support.

  • I actually thnk most of the theist commenters on this site will see the problems with these "arguments". I will point out a few things.

    One is there really is the claim that when God's laws are followed people prosper, when they are violated, they perish. One need look no further than the story of Jacob and Esau. Esau did everything right, he was first born and was entitled to his birthright. Jacob demanded his brother give this up or he would let him starve. He then intentionally masqueraded as his brother to cheat him out of his birthright again. This is taking advantage of the vulnerable and lying. Jacob doesn't perish but becomes the revered 3rd patriarch.

    • Roman

      I think Kreeft means its true "in general". We can always find individual exceptions to a rule

      • He should say in general. Of course then there is Lot, who offers his virgin daughters to be raped, and is saved by the angels because he and no one else in Sodom is worth it.

    • Nick Cotta

      This is a simple reading of Jacob and Esau. Esau most certainly didn't do everything right, and he proved to be rash, disobedient, and the obviously worse choice in the end (he acquires foreign wives at the time where God is beginning to form the people Israel.)

      While Jacob engaged in some deception to be sure, he still was the right choice as heir to the Israelites because of his ultimate fidelity to God and his plan for Israel. He also repented of his deception and offered to give back the birthright to Esau, who by that time had clearly shown he wasn't worthy nor wanted it.

      Must the better candidate be the perfect candidate? That's not really the grand narrative of the Bible and it is not what Kreeft is arguing here. Right wins in the end, even with regard to Jacob and Esau.

      • Sorry, I thought lying was utterly inconsistent with God, but I Guess you are saying that it was in fact the right path for Jacob in these circumstances?

        So letting your brother die if he doesn't sell you your birthright then, lying repeatedly to your father, then marrying two of your first cousins (as well as their handmaids) then tricking their father out of all of his livestock is okay if you and your Mom are convinced you are the best person to lead your people?

        These stories are fables. They are filled with ridiculous stories that make little sense. The leaders Yaweh arbitrarily picks as his follower prosper as long as they are faithful and unquestioningly obedient to him. Saul is wrong for not killing babies on his command. He seems to not bat an eye at slaughtering thousands of Egyptians and Cananites to help his chosen family. He lets them have atrocious laws such as stoning disobedient children, allowing slavery, and having women marry their rapists. Even those perfectly faithful, kike

        • Continued, like Job are might be tortured and see their families killed, in a bet God has with the devil.

          These are the stories that populate the Old Testament, it truly is a chronicle of people behaving consistent with Bronze Age morality, where power was all that mattered. A tribal, vengeful genocidal time.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You fundies are sooo literal.
            http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/12022.htm

            And it's always the Jews that come in for this chronocentric prejudice; always stories from the Jewish scriptures that excite the dudgeon. But never with any understanding of how Jew have historically used these cultural artifacts, let alone how Christians later used them.

            And it was the Early Iron Age, not the Bronze Age

          • David Nickol

            Well, the nonbelievers who comment on Strange Notions are in a pickle when it comes to the Bible. If they take it to be true, they are fundies. If they take it not to be true, they are rejecting the inspired word of God.

            I am sure all of the nonbelievers here would be perfectly happy to read the Bible in the very same manner they read other texts from 2000 plus years ago, but of course to do that would be "secular"—like the heretics who wrote the notes to the New American Bible!

            And it's always the Jews that come in for this chronocentric prejudice; always stories from the Jewish scriptures that excite the dudgeon.

            Gee, why would anyone single out the Jews in the Old Testament? They are only God's chosen people who are most of the time following his orders, and everything they do is taken to be exemplary unless specifically condemned. (And sometimes even then—as in the sin of Adam and Eve—it works out for the best! O felix culpa!)

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            If they take it to be true, they are fundies. If they take it not to be true, they are rejecting the inspired word of God.

            "True" to what?

            The dichotomy is false once you realize that "truth" does not mean "fact" and that there are other approaches, such as the one taken by the Orthodox and Catholic churches (which together comprise about ⅔ of all Christians).

          • Caravelle

            Why don't you take that up with the author of the OP, he's the one who brought up Old Testament stories as examples of history.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The OP took it up as a matter of history, not to engage in anachronistic Jew-bashing.

          • David Nickol

            You seem to be doing something along the lines of trying to "play the race card." Who is "Jew bashing"? What does that even mean in this context? It would be no problem to any nonbeliever to simply judge the behavior of people in the Bible that we today would consider appalling by the standards of the time and society in which they lived. But it makes a big difference whether an Israelite army slaughtered men, women, and children (and animals) because that was considered necessary and right at the time, or whether God told them to slaughter men, women, and children.

            One of the best series of posts ever on Strange Notions was by Matthew Ramage discussing "dark passages" in the Bible. Let's not now pretend that there aren't any.

          • I don't take it literally or metaphorically. It think it is fiction. But in either sense the story of Job describes a God obsessed with unquestioning obedience based on power. The same can be said of the binding of Isaac, the murder of the Egyptians, the slaughter of the Amalkites and other passages of the Old Testament.

  • Caravelle

    First, we could argue from the meaningfulness of history itself.
    History, both human and prehuman, has a storyline. It is not just
    random.

    This argument always intrigued me but I could never get much more detail about it. Stories are very interesting things. They're representations of reality and are similar to it in that sense, but they're also a social act of communication between humans and thus have additional purposes such as to entertain, to edify, to inform, etc. This leads to specific differences between stories and reality, to the point that making stories better representations of reality involves its own layer of artifice, as anyone who's ever tried to make a story more "realistic" knows. We can also see those differences when we talk about truth being stranger than fiction, or talking about an real-life event being "right out of a fairytale/romantic comedy/mafia flick"; we make those comments because there's an unspoken assumption that reality usually isn't quite like a story.

    So given that, in what sense is history like a story, i.e. what characteristics does "like a story" imply, and does history always display those characteristics? Or, if it sometimes displays them and sometimes doesn't, does it display those characteristics more often than we'd expect if it weren't "like a story" and how did we calculate that?

    The first argument doesn't give any details that could answer these questions. The second might, in that it talks about history being "moral", with good guys ultimately triumphing and bad guys failing. It's true this is generally considered to be a lot more common in stories than in reality. But history also features good guys failing horribly and bad guys dying of old age in their beds. It involves proverbs like "history is written by the victors". So if it's not that history always displays morality, it must be that it displays morality more often than we'd expect if it weren't "like a story", if there weren't a "storyteller". So that gets into "how did we calculate that".

    If I were an atheist, I think I would save my money to buy a plane
    ticket to Italy to see whether the blood of Saint Januarius really did
    liquefy and congeal miraculously, as it is supposed to do annually. I
    would go to Medjugorge. I would study all published interviews of any of
    the seventy thousand who saw the miracle of the sun at Fatima. I would
    ransack hospital records for documented "impossible", miraculous cures.
    Yet, strangely, almost all atheists argue against miracles
    philosophically rather than historically.

    What a bizarre claim. Searching the internet for any of those phrases and the word "debunking" will give you tons of skeptics (atheist or not) arguing against those miracles "historically". Regardless of how convincing you think those arguments are, they're there.

    But if Christ was not God, he was a madman or a
    devil—a madman if he really thought he was God but was not, and a devil
    if he knew he was not God and yet tempted men to worship him as God.
    Which is he—Lord, lunatic, or liar?

    Part of the data of history are the Gospel records of his life and
    his character. Reading the Gospels is like reading Plato's accounts of
    Socrates, or Boswell's account of Dr. Johnson: an absolutely
    unforgettable character emerges, on a human level. His personality is
    distinctive and compelling to every reader of the Gospels, even
    unbelievers, even his enemies, like Nietzsche. And the character
    revealed there is utterly unlike that of a lunatic or a liar. If it is
    impossible that a lunatic could be that wise or a liar that loving, then
    he must be the Lord; he must be the one he claims to be.

    And this seems to be written by someone who doesn't think much of human beings. Apparently, telling a lie not only brands one A Liar, but it means you can't be "that loving", as if having told a lie put a cap on one's capacity for love. And being delusional brands you A Lunatic, and means you cannot be "that wise", as if wisdom were the province of the neurotypical. This might have been good enough for C.S. Lewis but I would have hoped we were a bit more enlightened on the subject of mental illness nowadays, if not the complexity of human nature.

    How to seek? Not just by arguing but by praying, not just by talking
    about God, as Job's three friends did and did not find him, but by
    talking to God, as Job did, and found him. I always tell a skeptic to
    pray the prayer of the skeptic if he really wants to know whether God
    exists. This is the scientific thing to do, to test a hypothesis by
    performing the relevant experiment. I tell him to go out into his
    backyard some night when no one can see and hear him and make him feel
    foolish, and say to the empty universe above him, "God, I don't know
    whether you exist or not. Maybe I'm praying to nobody, but maybe I'm
    praying to you. So if you are really there, please let me know somehow,
    because I do want to know. I want only the Truth, whatever it is. If you
    are the Truth, here I am, ready and willing to follow you wherever you
    lead."

    I did that a few years ago. God didn't see fit to let me find the Truth then, or since, but I'm sure They'll get around to it sometime.

  • Argument form miracles. Find me one historian who will ever say we can establish miracles by professional historical standards and methods. Historians apply methodological naturalism and for very good reason.

    The conclusion from historical facts that a miracle occurred can be a personal conclusion or a theological conclusion, but this is not history.

    • Maxximiliann

      Ponder, if you will, the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ:

      Historical fact (1): After being impaled on a stake, Joseph of Arimathea entombed Jesus’ corpse.

      Historical fact (2): On the third day following his murder, Jesus’ tomb was discovered vacant by a group of his female disciples.

      Historical fact (3): Distinct individuals as well as groups, on multiple occasions and under various circumstances, personally witnessed the resurrected Christ. Even his enemies and detractors testify to this fact.

      Historical fact (4): His very first disciples believed Christ was resurrected from the dead despite having every predisposition to the contrary.

      As I've shared before, no naturalistic hypothesis explains these four historical facts better than the obvious: God Almighty resurrected Christ.

      Prominently, in his book, “Justifying Historical Descriptions”, historian C. B. McCullagh lists six tests which historians use in determining what is the best explanation for given historical facts. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” passes all these tests:

      1. It has great explanatory scope: it explains why the tomb was found empty, why the disciples saw post-mortem appearances of Jesus, and why the Christian faith came into being.

      2. It has great explanatory power: it explains why the body of Jesus was gone, why people repeatedly saw Jesus alive despite his earlier public execution, and so forth.

      3. It is plausible: given the historical context of Jesus’ own unparalleled life and claims, the resurrection serves as divine confirmation of those radical claims.

      4. It is not ad hoc or contrived: it requires only one additional hypothesis: that God exists. And even that needn’t be an additional hypothesis if one already believes that God exists.

      5. It is in accord with accepted beliefs. The hypothesis: “God raised Jesus from the dead” doesn’t in any way conflict with the accepted belief that people don’t rise naturally from the dead. The Christian accepts that belief as wholeheartedly as he accepts the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead.

      6. It far outstrips any of its rival hypotheses in meeting conditions (1)-(5). Down through history various alternative explanations of the facts have been offered, for example, the conspiracy hypothesis, the apparent death hypothesis, the hallucination hypothesis, and so forth. Such hypotheses have been almost universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. None of these naturalistic hypotheses succeeds in meeting the conditions as well as the resurrection solution.

      • I do not accept your historical fact as facts. If I did, only one would be evidence that Jesus resurrected. The statements people made about seeing Jesus alive after his death.

        Certainly the naturalistic hypothesis that the claims of viewing Jesus alive after he died are not accurate. They could be mistaken, fraudulent, or exaggerated. ,

        Concluding that a body resurrected is a poor explanation for not finding a body where you expect to find one. If you worked at a morgue, and a body was missing you would not jump to the conclusion that it resurrected. Similarly, if you met someone today who claimed to have met someone recently dead but was bodily alive and was telling them to do things, would you conclude immediately that it really happened and they were telling the truth? I would not.

        • I don't find resurection plausible. It requires the violation or suspension of physical laws. It is by definition implausible. It may account for the claims of people seeing Jesus, but this works the other way round. The conclusion he resurrected may be a result of these stories. These stories may indeed reflect dreams or mystic experiences of some of the followers of Jesus, which over the centuries have been interpreted and interpolated to say they witnessed a resurrected human. I find the latter more likely than a "being itself" somehow existing as human born of a woman and being able to "die" and the. Not being dead anymore, but back in a material body, but still also not being a "being" in the world but being changeless, timeless being itself.

        • Maxximiliann

          Why don't you accept them as facts? Do you have evidence that contradicts these facts?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There is a teapot that is in orbit somewhere between earth and mars. Do you have any evidence that contradicts this fact?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot

          • Maxximiliann

            Russell's teapot has no basis in reality because space is an extremely hostile environment. The constant bombardment alone of meteorites, cosmic and/or solar radiation would be enough to obliterate it.

            Want one more?

            Spaghetti has defined physical properties, thus, a monster cannot be created from it. Moreover, our understanding of aerodynamics makes it glaringly obvious that spaghetti cannot travel sustainedly through the air. As such, the Flying Spaghetti Monster also has no basis in reality.

            Now try and do the same for God ...

          • Caravelle

            The constant bombardment alone of meteorites, cosmic and/or solar radiation would be enough to obliterate it.

            Cosmic and solar radiation would affect the teapot but would hardly "obliterate" it, and it would be too small for meteorites to "bombard" it.

            But if you're going to go by rational evidence-based reasoning it's much simpler to say that "teapots are a very rare class of object, occurring exclusively as tools created by certain human societies, and there is no event in known history that could have sent a teapot from Earth to a Solar orbit between Earth and Mars".

            Spaghetti has defined physical properties, thus, a monster cannot be created from it. Moreover, our understanding of aerodynamics makes it glaringly obvious that spaghetti cannot travel sustainedly through the air. As such, the Flying Spaghetti Monster also has no basis in reality.

            Life is a metabolic process that involves chemical reactions, some of which do "useful work" like building tissue, signalling between cells, movement, etc, and some of which "power" the previous kind which would be thermodynamically impossible otherwise. In aerobic organisms the latter require oxygen as the last electron acceptor in the chain. Multicellular organisms like humans keep all their cells alive and active by transporting nutrients and oxygen to them via the circulatory system. Without oxygen metabolism cannot continue, and without metabolism the cell cannot contribute to human behaviour or repair itself and eventually decomposes. In humans, neurons are particularly active and require a lot of oxygen, and a few minutes without oxygen or blood flow is known to incur irreversible brain damage. Brains are necessary for complex behavior in all observed species, and in humans in particular brain damage results in impaired function, the more damage the more impairment, up to and including having no behavior at all (persistent vegetative state, death). Moreover, neurons don't reproduce much and while the brain is capable of recovering from damage, this capacity is limited and takes a lot of time and effort (years). Thermodynamics make it impossible for modern eukaryotic cells to self-assemble from their constituent parts; all modern cells are the outcome of the division of previous living cells, going back to the first living things which may or may not have been simple enough to self-assemble but were in any case completely unlike today's life (which its itself the outcome of billions of years of evolution, so modern cells can self-assemble if we want to put it that way, and billions of years is how long it takes).

            As such, a human who has been dead for three days and didn't die in a way to stop decomposition (like extreme hypothermia) cannot come back to life. Nor can they behave as if they were alive, so zombies or other undead have no basis in reality either.

          • Maxximiliann
          • Caravelle

            Thank you for those links Maxximiliann, they're very cool ! And perfect examples of what I was talking about. Little reminder of what I wrote :

            In humans, neurons are particularly active and require a lot of oxygen, and a few minutes without oxygen or blood flow is known to incur irreversible brain damage.

            and:

            As such, a human who has been dead for three days and didn't die in a way to stop decomposition (like extreme hypothermia) cannot come back to life.

            Some quotes from those articles :
            http://abc11.tv/1rPKkg7

            A quick response from paramedics gave her a chance to live and UNC
            doctors induced hypothermia, hoping to minimize the damage to her brain.

            Note the poor woman did suffer some brain damage, though thankfully not enough to keep her from a normal life.

            http://abcn.ws/1pfyXx2

            Melissa and Lawrence performed CPR until an ambulance could arrive, and first responders found a heartbeat after shocking Yahle several times.
            (...)
            He "coded" for 45 minutes as doctors tried to revive him, but eventually Nazir realized it was time to call the time of death.

            CPR, if you didn't know which many people don't, is a way of keeping the blood and oxygen circulation going until the heart starts again on its own or something else can be tried.

            http://bit.ly/UvVeey

            Doctors refused to give up and used a compression device called a Lucas 2 -- the only one of its kind in Australia -- to keep blood flowing to her brain while cardiologist Wally Ahmar opened an artery to unblock it.

            http://dailym.ai/1qD2Mv4

            In a desperate bid to revive him, his quick-thinking partner Lynette Crozier immediately began CPR, which medics say saved his life.

            Paramedics and then hospital staff continued the resuscitation and shocked him 16 times before his heartbeat returned.

            http://bbc.in/1nEY8uz

            By that evening, he was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania’s hospital, where Benjamin Abella, a physician and the clinical research director at the Center for Resuscitation Science, ordered that Conrad should undergo a 24-hour cooling treatment to reduce inflammation and slow metabolism – two components that seem to be key for helping the body recover from resuscitation injury. Following that treatment, Conrad lay in a medically induced coma for several days, during which time he received post-arrest care, including blood pressure support, cardiac catheterisation and mechanical ventilation. On Friday, he regained consciousness.

            All of these examples involve using up-to-date medical techniques to keep the blood flowing to the body despite the heart being stopped, or to slow decomposition. The actual examples we have of people surviving on their own for hours after their brain stopped involve specific circumstances (i.e. cold ones), some more cutting-edge technology to keep them going after they're found (like the Japanese woman in the last article), and, I'm pretty sure, some brain damage, though this kind of article doesn't usually spotlight it. Those examples of survival are also quite rare, rare enough to make the news and journals, though as technology improves we can hope for them to become more common.

            None of these things would have applied in 30 B. C. Jerusalem. Even if they'd had the technology and knowledge, and they very much didn't, it wouldn't have been used for an executed criminal. It couldn't be a case of "mistaken for dead" either (something that happened a lot more often before the stethoscope was invented), again because it was an execution, and the Gospels make a point of showing the Romans made sure he was dead. Even if we think the tomb was cool enough to keep him revivable, by the time he was brought there it would have been much too late.

            The scientific understanding of the human body that allows us to constantly push past previous limits on life and death is exactly the same scientific understanding by which we know that the Resurrection described in the Gospels is physically impossible.

            But that's why most Christians would say it's a miracle. I'm intrigued - are you really arguing that the Resurrection was a naturalistic event?

          • Maxximiliann

            How do you know God did not resurrect Christ via natural processes? Are
            you trying to claim you possess absolute knowledge about how all natural
            law work?

          • Caravelle

            How do you know a monster can't be created from spaghetti? Are you trying to claim you possess absolute knowledge about all the physical properties of spaghetti? And how do you know aerodynamics means it cannot travel through the air, do you possess absolute knowledge of how all natural law work?

          • Maxximiliann

            Nice try but I've eaten more than enough of my fair share of spaghetti to know that a living, breathing monster can't be made from it. That said, I'll be more than happy to concede that one could be made if you present me with evidence for one :)

          • Caravelle

            Eating spaghetti gives you absolute knowledge of how all natural laws work?

          • Michael Murray

            Funny how eating bread and drinking wine doesn't let you disprove transubstantiation.

          • Michael Murray

            Well obviously the Flying Spaghetti Monster isn't a living breathing monster in the scientific sense. That is just a silly naive point of view typical of apastists. Have you read any of the modern, sophisticated pastathologists like Dr Rigattoni or Father Canelloni ? The Flying Spagnetti Monster is more correctly understand as the ground of all pasta.

          • Caravelle

            The "ground of all pasta", what kind of weaksauce New Age bullshit is this. The Flying Spaghetti Monster IS a living breathing monster, as anybody would know who had truly been touched by His Noodly appendage.

            Don't confuse science with "methodological naturalism"; mainstream science is full of rabid apastists who refuse to even consider supernatural explanations, when we know true science is open-minded. You should read up on Scientific Pastalogism and the Pastalogical Institute; they do tons of research into things like the aerodynamic properties of spaghetti.

          • I've just looked at the first two of your links and in both cases the person did not die, though they were pronounced dead.

            They lost vital signs for a short period of time.

            This is completely at odds with what is claimed about Jesus. At minimum it is claimed that his brain was without blood for at least 24 hours. We know that this alone would have damaged his brain, after about 15 minutes, there is unlikely to be any possibility of recovery.

            But surely you are not suggesting that Jesus was resuscitated? But that he resurrected, and that this was done not by any natural process.

          • Maxximiliann

            How do you know God did not resurrect Christ via natural processes? Are you trying to claim you possess absolute knowledge about how all natural law work?

          • I don't know that. I don't know what a god is, whether one exists, or whether one would be inclined to take such action. If that were the case, I don't see any point in calling it miraculous, using the term god.

            What we have to deal with here is what do the passages mentioning resurection in ancient documents. Do they describe some one living, dying and being resurrected by unknown natural process or supernatural processes, or are the passages, mistaken, exaggerated or outright fabrication. I am going with the latter. Based on what I know about what happens when people die and how often people exaggerate, fabricate and make mistakes.

          • Maxximiliann

            Think it through, though. It's not the ardor of the disciples which shows the veracity of what they believe—Muslims are arduous, too, after all—rather it is the fact that they came to believe something radically contrary to their Jewish beliefs, namely, that Messiah had been executed by his enemies and raised by God from the dead.

          • That's not how this works.

            If you have evidence supporting these claims I'll look at it.

            What is your source for fact number 1 for example? I've never even heard this proposed by Christian apologists.

          • Maxximiliann

            See John 19:38-40; Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46 & Luke 23:50-53.

          • Sorry, I do not find the bible to be a reliable basis to accept that someone survived their own death.

          • Maxximiliann

            Why not?

          • Because I need more than an ancient text claiming vaguely claiming something happened before I accept that something that violates the laws of nature occurred.

          • Maxximiliann

            So someone coming back to life after being dead is a violation of the laws of nature? I wonder, then, what you make of these real-life events:

            http://abcn.ws/1pfyXx2

            http://bit.ly/UvVeey

            http://abc11.tv/1rPKkg7

            http://dailym.ai/1qD2Mv4

            http://bbc.in/1nEY8uz

  • David Nickol

    A third argument from history looks at providential "coincidences", like the Red Sea's parting (moved by an east wind, according to Exodus) at just the right time for the Jews to escape Pharaoh.

    I am a little puzzled by this one. Is Kreeft claiming a possible naturalistic explanation for the parting of the Red Sea—it didn't really part at Moses' command, but was dried up by the wind—and then "remiraclizing" the occurrence by saying it's just too great a coincidence for this naturalistic event to have been so favorable to the Hebrews and so unfortunate for Pharaoh?

  • Mike

    I've never heard these arguments laid out like this, organized and presented; i just always assumed there seemed to be too much meaning in historical events and lessons to learn for there to be no actual intrinsic meaning to any of it; plus history seems to be on some kind of trajectory, the "on the wrong side of history" progressives like to make. Now that could be "god's will" or "divine will" or the "survival of the fittest" or most probably some combination of the 2; but either way it does seem to have some telos some "goal".

  • David Nickol

    If I were an atheist, I think I would save my money to buy a plane ticket to Italy to see whether the blood of Saint Januarius really did liquefy and congeal miraculously, as it is supposed to do annually. I would go to Medjugorge.

    This was written in 1994 when perhaps events in Medjugorge looked a little bit more "miraculous" than they do now. As someone who doesn't rule out the possibility of miracles, I personally would not go to Medjugorge.

    I know nothing about the alleged miraculous liquefying and congealing of the blood of Saint Januarius, but (a) it seem creepy and (b) the miracles of Jesus were never tricks or stunts meant as mere demonstrations of power. Why should anyone looking for an all good, loving God be in any way personally touched by the creepy behavior of 600-year-old containers of blood?

    • David Nickol

      There are now literally thousands of "messages" alleged to come directly from the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje. Are any of them anywhere near as impressive or elegant as the Magnificat? The word count of the Medjugorje messages must exceed by far that of all the sayings of Jesus in the four Gospels. Is it really possible that the Mother of God herself could speak at such great length without saying anything striking or memorable?

    • Roman

      I agree with you on Medjugorge....clearly a hoax in my opinion. Wondering though why you think the congealing of wine in the manner of blood is creepy? If true, couldn't it be a clue that the wine consecrated during the Catholic mass is truly the body and blood of Jesus?

      • David Nickol

        If true, couldn't it be a clue that the wine consecrated during the Catholic mass is truly the body and blood of Jesus?

        I think the alleged miracle under discussion involves the actual blood of a saint, collected centuries ago as a relic, liquifying and solidifying several times a year in its original container. So it is not a eucharistic miracle. Eucharistic miracles involving such things as bleeding hosts raise their own problems, since reception of the eucharist is not—and is not intended to be interpreted as—cannibalism. Catholicism explains the real presence as Jesus being present "body, blood, soul, and divinity" in both the bread and the wine. I do not pretend to have a deep understanding of this doctrine, but I believe that it is not consistent with bloody bits of tissue or real human blood appearing.

        • Roman

          That's true....strictly speaking it is not a eucharistic miracle but I tend to think of it in the general category of eucharistic miracles since there are a number of them where the wine that was consecrated during a Mass starts to congeal, much like blood. The most famous of these is the miracle of Lanciano which also had tissue grow out of a consecrated host which was later analyzed by two Pathologists as being human heart tissue with components of fresh blood with no trace of preservatives.
          Not clear on why the bleeding hosts present a problem, or implies cannibalism since no one is actually eating the bleeding hosts. It seems to me, if I were God, and I wanted people to believe in transubstantiation without interfering with their free will, I might produce some subtle clues such as a bleeding host, or congealing wine, or even the heart tissue on the host.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        No, because only the substantia is changed, not the accidents.

        • David Nickol

          Additionally, according to Catholicism, the "substantia" is not changed to gobs of flesh and oozing blood. To imagine that a consecrated host is "really" a disguised slice of the flesh of Jesus, or that a chalice of consecrated wine is "really" a cup of Jesus's blood, and we could recognize them as such if we could really see beyond the "accidents," is not what the doctrine of transubstantiation is all about.

          • Roman

            That's true, but I think that misses the purpose of this type of miracle which is not to duplicate the real miracle of transubstantiation which admitedly requires a lot of faith since it has the appearance of bread and wine. The purpose, I think, is to provide a more visible miracle that is more easily recognizable as a miracle that points back to transubstatiation.

        • Roman

          Don't quite see what that has to do with it. I said "clue". A clue does not have to be literally the same thing as what normally takes place during transubstantiation. It can be analogous in some way or a "shadow" of the real thing

  • David Nickol

    Whenever God's laws are followed, the people prosper. When they are violated, the people perish.

    This sounds kind of like a globalized version of the "prosperity theology." It is so vague as to be meaningless. How do we measure the extent to which people "prosper"?

  • David Nickol

    Which is he—Lord, lunatic, or liar?

    It's long past time to retire this one.

    Here is a man who lived among us and claimed to be God.

    It is not at all clear to me that Jesus claimed to be God, but even if he did, "Lord, lunatic, or liar" has been done to death. It is an insult to the intelligence of the audience it is typically aimed at. It is a falsely formulated set of alternatives meant to trap nonbelievers into insulting Jesus if they don't agree with the apologist.

    • Mike

      What's the other alternative? Anyone else claiming God in history has surely been either a lunatic or a liar no?

      • Caravelle

        Sure, if you want to use those words, which you shouldn't because it's setting up some people as "other" when in fact all humans lie, and all humans sometimes have their brains play tricks on them.

        • Mike

          Oh i see what you mean; yes in our ultra pc days it does sound insulting but i don't think it's meant that way - not in terms of the sceptic anyway. Maybe delusional would be more apropos as Dawkins likes to say believers are delusional so JC would then just delusional not a lunatic with its 19th century images of a slobbering wild man in chains.

          • Caravelle

            The problem is that the argument relies on those 19th century images, because the rest of the argument goes "no lunatic or liar could have acted like Jesus in the Gospels, hence Lord". That's what makes the trilemma work.

            Which, either you're arguing that no human being could have acted like Jesus in the Gospels in which case you shouldn't be bringing lunacy or lying into it at all, or you're saying, as the article does, that liars or lunatics cannot be as loving or wise as other people.

          • Mike

            Yes i see i thought you were going to say there's another alternative.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But then there would be no poetic alliteration. Not that a Late Modern would know or care.

      • David Nickol

        What's the other alternative? Anyone else claiming God in history has surely been either a lunatic or a liar no?

        I think one important thing to note is that even if Jesus did make claims to be divine in some sense, he did not make explicit claims to be God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. It seems clear that the earliest Christians had some kind of belief that Jesus was divine, or maybe even that Jesus was somehow God, but how or in what way he was divine (or God) is something that took centuries to be worked out. My Dictionary of the Bible says, in part,

        The trinity of God is defied by the Church as the belief that in God are three persons who subsist in one nature. The belief as so defined was reached only in the 4th and 5th centuries AD and hence is not explicitly and formally a biblical belief. The trinity of person within the unity of nature is defined in terms of "person" and "nature" which are Gk philosophical terms; actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The long controversies in which these terms and others such as "essence" and "substance" were erroneously applied to God by some theologians. The ultimate affirmation of trinity of persons and unity of nature was declared by the Church to be the only correct way in which these terms could be used.

        Jesus certainly did not claim to be God, since he acknowledged God as his "Heavenly Father" and preached about the Jewish God during his entire earthly ministry. Whatever connection or even identity he may have claimed with the Jewish God would have had to be an understanding known to him alone, and certainly not the understanding of 4th or 5th century Christianity.

        So one has to define exactly what the self-understanding of Jesus was before making any judgments of Jesus for having that understanding. Of course, I suppose if you are a very literal-minded Christian and believe Christianity is true, you might actually think that Jesus, in his own thoughts, was indeed God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. But if Christianity is not true in the sense that Catholics believe it to be true, it does not make sense to assert that Jesus was claiming to be the Second Person of the Trinity, because (a) that would be anachronistic and (b) it would be false.

        So once again, before making a judgement about the character of Jesus based on the claims he made for himself, we have to know precisely what claims he did make for himself, which is difficult to do, since we have nothing directly from him. And whatever claims he did make, we would have to understand how he understood them in terms of 1st century Judaism, not in terms of 4th or 5th or 21st century theology of Christology.

        • Mike

          I see, thanks.

      • Mike O’Leary

        The fourth L is "legend". We can not attest to the accuracy of the quotes cited in the Bible. It's quite possible Jesus never said what it is claimed he said.

        • Mike

          Well anything's possible i suppose.

    • Roman

      It is a falsely formulated set of alternatives meant to trap nonbelievers into insulting Jesus

      That's quite an accusation. So, you think that C.S. Lewis really didn't believe the Lord, Lunatic, Liar argument he wrote about....he was just trying to trick people?

      • David Nickol

        I have the greatest respect for C.S. Lewis, and in the context of his writing or his radio talks 50+ years ago, the "trilemma" was no doubt challenging to many nonbelievers. However, plucked out of context and repeated over and over and over, it has become tedious. And it has been adequately answered. Should I ever reread Mere Christianity, i shall be pleased to see the argument again as laid out by Lewis. Aside from that, I hope never to encounter it again.

        • Roman

          There is a modern day version of that argument called the quadrilemma, i.e., Lord, Liar, Lunatic, or Legend. Its a recognition of the fact that the historicity of Jesus of the Gospels is challenged by some. I don't know if that changes your opinion of the argument. I can't think of any other possible options to consider regarding Jesus' divinity.

  • Mike O’Leary

    Regarding the first proof, it seems to suggest that because people believe there may be a grand meaning to their existence that this proves that it exists. What does it mean to say each of us has a storyline or that humanity as a whole has a storyline? To me, it means events happened which can be described and in some instances that earlier events can impact later events. That's it. An earthworm who has never seen a human has a story. Inanimate objects like my couch have stories (including the riveting adventure when it wouldn't fit through my apartment door). Just because the earthworm or the couch doesn't ponder its place in the universe doesn't mean its "story" has or doesn't have any supernatural meaning.

    "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." This quote demonstrate how susceptible we all are to outside forces, mostly random. Could there be godly forces in play? Possibly, but it's certainly not a proof.

    Just as believers often confuse coincidence with divine intervention (look at half of the conversion stories out there), they sometimes confuse a search for meaning with meaning itself.

    Edited to good words me write.

    • Jim Dailey

      The epic story of your couch may have meaning in that it clearly provides both you and I with a point of commonality. That is, I would love to compare the story of your couch and the epic story of my couch. My couch did not survive the encounter by the way, it ended up on Craig's list.

      To the extent that the shared experience of the couch in the door could provide a talking point, which may blossom into a friendship, etc. etc., is it not possible that the couch does indeed have deeper meaning?
      I think skeptics often confuse divine intervention with mere coincidence.

      • Mike O’Leary

        It's possible there is some deeper meaning out there, whether it be one man, humanity in general, or even our couches. But these were presented as proofs, not as fanciful ideas which can't necessarily be ruled out.

        • Jim Dailey

          What "deeper meaning" are you looking for? I mean, here we are, a Big Bang out of nothingness, which somehow put a planet on a exact orbit around a burning sphere of gas, said planet full of chemicals that somehow lined up into strands of proteins, said proteins somehow got hit by lightning and became replicating DNA, etc. etc. etc. all the way to two guys who have nothing more in common than cursing at a couch in a doorway forming a friendship over a system of electrons flying around the world, bouncing off satellites. You really do not see ANY miracles in that scenario?
          I dunno Mike, but the idea that it all happened by accident seems pretty fanciful to me...

          • Caravelle

            What does "somehow" mean to you?

            And to make two responses in one reply, what logic does friendship defy?

          • Jim Dailey

            What does "somehow" mean to me? In my usage above it is the highly improbable combination of circumstances which conflated (did I use it correctly there?) to form a bucnh of stinking, burning gases into a planet with air and water, or tooka bunch of chemicals, and arranged them just so to get strings of proteins lined up just so, in such a way....

            As for friendship defying logic, friendship does not really exist does it? It is simply a construct of our will to survive. One can never say "I did it out of friendship" to another person - can one? one can only say "I am advancing you these goods and/or services without a specific request for repayment because I trust that you will repay this in some unspecified way some time in the future." Am I reading my Dawkins incorrectly?

          • Caravelle

            What does "somehow" mean to me? In my usage above it is the highly improbable combination of circumstances which conflated (did I use it correctly there?) to e form a bucnh of stinking, burning gases into a planet with air and water, or tooka bunch of chemicals, and arranged them just so to get strings of proteins lined up just so, in such a way....

            Okay, so how are you calculating those probabilities ? To take an example, according to astrophysics the combinations of circumstances conducive (no, you did not use "conflate" correctly there at all, if you want to use the word so badly why don't you look it up?) to forming a bunch of gases ("stinking", "burning" or otherwise) into a planet are not only probable, but extremely common. All such planets above a certain size can have air, and all those that attain a certain temperature (whether from being "in the Goldilocks zone", or from tidal forces like Europa, or any other factor) can have liquid water. The highly improbable thing would be if out of all of the planets in the Universe none of them had air and water.

            As for friendship defying logic, friendship does not really exist does it?

            Uhhhh what?

            Am I reading my Dawkins incorrectly?

            About as incorrectly as your use of "conflate" :)

            I'm going to guess you're reacting to some argument or other for why friendship would have evolved that involved utilitarian concerns (like, friendship promotes cooperation and cooperation can be useful), and concluded this means friendship doesn't exist. Which is like saying that if eyes evolved for seeing because seeing is useful, that means eyes don't really exist.

          • Jim Dailey

            Thanks for getting back to me Caravelle. Actually I did look up conflate, and the first definition I saw Merriam-Webster was "to bring together; FUSE'. So, in terms of disparate forces (gravity, chemistry, etc.) all coming together to form a "Goldilocks zone" which can create and sustain life, I am pretty sure I used it correctly.
            As for the probability of a "Goldilocks zone" even occurring, I am pretty sure my interpretation of the statistics ("highly improbable") is fair, considering that the only evidence I have seen suggests that the closest planet that might even support life is 450 light years away. Note this does not say the planet actually supports life. But even if this planet supports life, I think a planet supporting life once every 450 light years counts as "improbable"? Can we get a ruling from Ye Olde Statistician on my interpretation?

            As to friendship existing, would you mind explaining the rational reason for friendship since I have apparently misinterpreted Dawkins?

          • Caravelle

            d the first definition I saw Merriam-Webster was "to bring together; FUSE'.

            Fair enough; looking through various internet definitions I see some agree with this, and some use the word in a way I wouldn't. I still doubt that "conflate" is used for non-abstract concepts but who knows.

            As for the probability of a "Goldilocks zone" even occurring, I am
            pretty sure my interpretation of the statistics ("highly improbable") is
            fair, considering that the only evidence I have seen suggests that the
            closest planet that might even support life is 450 light years away.

            "Highly improbable" is on the scale of the Universe, remember. Rolling a 20 on a 20-sided die is pretty improbable, but doing so at least once over several DnD games is a virtual certainty. Similarly the odds of one given planet being within a certain range of distances from their star is pretty low, but there are a lot of planets.

            But even if this planet supports life, I think a planet supporting life once every 450 light years counts as "improbable"?

            The observable Universe - observable - is 27 billion light-years wide. "Once every 450 light years" counts as "going from one end of the Universe to the other you'd run across 60 million of them".

            There are thought to be 100 billion galaxies in the observable Universe, that's trillions or quintillions of stars or whatever. It's thought there's a planet per star on average, but let's be ridiculously conservative and assume there's one planet per galaxy, or 100 billion. We've discovered under 2000 exoplanets to date, over the last few decades, knowing our techniques have been improving all this time; for a long time we could only discover huge gas giants that were close to their star. Now that we are able to find smaller rocky planets, we're finding planets that are more and more Earth-like all the time.

            Also, the closest bodies that "might even support life" aren't 450 light-years away, they're Europa. Possibly Titan.

            As to friendship existing, would you mind explaining the rational reason
            for friendship since I have apparently misinterpreted Dawkins?

            I don't understand the question at all. You're the one who claimed friendship defies "all logic" without explaining what logic that was. I can't respond without knowing what you're talking about; your reference to Dawkins gave me a vague hint, so I tried to address what I thought your argument was but now instead of responding to that part of my reply you're just putting the question back to me, so I still have no idea whether I'd understood your argument correctly or not.

            Look, I can clearly see you think friendship is incompatible with some aspect of atheistic thought. And I'm sure you can just as clearly see that I think friendship exists, and that I don't think it's incompatible with any part of my worldview. Knowing this, it would be nice if you could cut out the "friendship doesn't exist, eh? eh?" and just tell me what aspect of atheistic thought you think friendship is incompatible with and why.

          • Jim Dailey

            Hey - sorry it took a while to get back to you.
            Well I guess we could argue all day about the odds of intelligent life existing somewhere else in the universe. I suppose it would surprise you to hear that I would not be surprised if someday we do in fact find intelligent life. I also suppose it would not surprise you to hear that I do not think finding life somewhere else proves that God does not exist. I just wanted to say I think it is ironic (am I using THAT correctly?) that you are arguing for the likelihood of the existence of a heretofore unseen life force in the sky, and I am arguing against said likelihood.

            As to friendship, I am saying that in the atheist world man's "better nature" (i.e. friendship, love, nobility yada yada) can not logically exist. That is, you may think you are doing something out of goodness, but, really, consciously or subconsciously, you are expecting repayment, even if it is simply to perpetuate the species.

            Sorry I got behind in my correspondence. Thanks for posing good questions. I am going to move on to other posts. Maybe we can butt heads (apologies to Beavis)) in another comment section.

          • Caravelle

            I suppose it would surprise you to hear that I would not be surprised if someday we do in fact find intelligent life.

            Why would it surprise me, when you suggested there might be potentially life-supporting planets only 450 light-years away from here ? Then again you also claimed that the formation of Earth was so improbable as to suggest a "miracle"; the surprising thing is that you don't seem to have noticed those two positions are mutually exclusive.

            The difference between us is that I am arguing likelihoods based on the evidence we observe. I don't know what you're basing your likelihood claims on.

            As to friendship, I am saying that in the atheist world man's "better nature" (i.e. friendship, love, nobility yada yada) can not logically exist.

            Yes. I know you are saying that. You've said it three times now, and I've said in my previous reply that I understood that was your position, so I'd think that's established by now.

            What I'm asking, and you've yet to provide, is the reason why those things can not logically exist in the atheist world. "Logic" is a word that means something. If I said "carrots cannot logically be blue" you'd be justified in asking me which aspect of logic this statement is based on. What are the premises involved here, what's the syllogism that allows you to reach this conclusion?

          • Jim Dailey

            My arguments about "likelihood" are allowing for the fact that simply because there is a planet "only" 450 million light years away, that has a few features that suggest it may be able to support life is an enormous leap of faith to the idea that the planet actually does support life. That is, looked at from 450 million miles away, Mars looks like an planet that might support life.
            Since a few criteria are fulfilled only every 450 million light years, I think that getting down to the nth factor in a planet actually supporting life is going to prove pretty rare. Miraculous actually.
            Again, I find it funny that the theist is arguing against the likelihood of unseen, unproven life in the sky somewhere and the atheist is arguing for this phenomena, but hey, it's a funny old world.
            As to a reason that friendship can not exist, it is because in a world without spiritual life, all actions are an attempt at a zero-sum game. I do not ever give freely of myself, I give expecting repayment. That is not friendship, it is a business arrangement. Like many business arrangements, there is the possibility that both sides leave the transaction happy, but just because two people are getting mutual benefit through their association, there is not necessarily a friendship.

          • Caravelle

            Let me remind you that you used "somehow" not only on life forming, but on Earth forming. In the same context you've also asserted the massive improbability of gases combining to form a planet with air and water.

            It's the likelihood of those specific things I'm talking about here. You're asserting likelihoods left and right; surely you have a general method of estimating them, and if that method leads you to absurd statements on the likelihood of planetary formation then what they tell you about life is the least of your problems.

            Not to mention, you yourself have said you wouldn't be surprised to find intelligent life elsewhere, which means you do think its likelihood is higher than once-in-a-Universe! ... Or you would if you were using "likelihood" in its standard manner, which you don't seem to, so again: how are you calculating your probabilities?

            As to a reason that friendship can not exist, it is because in a world
            without spiritual life, all actions are an attempt at a zero-sum game.

            And yet another rephrasing of the same point. Game theory is pure maths and logic. It doesn't include a "spiritual life" variable. And it can consider positive-sum and negative-sum games as easily as zero-sum games. There is no logical necessity for all games to be zero-sum, spirituality or no spirituality.

          • Jim Dailey

            It's the likelihood of those specific things I'm talking about here.
            You're asserting likelihoods left and right; surely you have a general
            method of estimating them, and if that method leads you to absurd
            statements on the likelihood of planetary formation then what they tell
            you about life is the least of your problems.

            Do you want me to put a mathematical proof together on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? You don't seem like a silly person, and I don't want to insult you, but sorry, all I hear is a silly question, and a semantic argument over "likelihood".

            I am also missing your point over friendship existing in a world devoid of spiritualism. I think it probably comes down to a semantic difference over "friendship". though. That is, for me, a friendship has a spiritual component that transcends a mathematical formula of mutual benefit.

            I am getting very confused about who I am talking to and what I am talking about on these damn blogs though. Somebody noted somewhere that "Facts" and "Truth" are two separate things. Was it you, or was it a guy you were arguing with? I assume it was a guy you were arguing with sice it was a pretty good argument, and I think you are a "facts" kind of guy. Anyway, in the absence of having the same understanding of the difference between "facts" and "truth" I doubt we are going to persuade each other of our cases.

          • Caravelle

            Do you want me to put a mathematical proof together on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? You don't seem like a silly person, and I don't want to insult you, but sorry, all I hear is a silly question, and a semantic argument over "likelihood".

            "Likelihood", like "logic", is a word that means something. That thing isn't "an intuitive feeling I pulled out of my ass", but it's looking increasingly like that's exactly what you mean by it. Semantic arguments are perfectly appropriate when someone bases their argument on an egregious misuse of a word.

            I am also missing your point over friendship existing in a world devoid of spiritualism. I think it probably comes down to a semantic difference over "friendship". though. That is, for me, a friendship has a spiritual component that transcends a mathematical formula of mutual benefit.

            Yeah, if you define "friendship" as being spiritual then obviously it won't exist in a non-spiritual context. However this does not explain all the other nonsense you've said about how things would be in an atheistic world (like everyone interacts with others as if it were a zero-sum game, etc).

            Somebody noted somewhere that "Facts" and "Truth" are two separate things. Was it you, or was it a guy you were arguing with?

            I don't remember seeing that argument anywhere recently, so it looks like "neither". But quibbling over whether "facts" and "truth" are different or not does look like a not-very-pointful semantic argument to me.

          • Jim Dailey

            "Likelihood", like "logic", is a word that means something. That thing isn't "an intuitive feeling I pulled out of my ass". Ha hah hah - there are so many variables and assumptions that you need to conflate (ahhhhhh - got to use it one last time!) that ANYTHING said by either side of the issue is tantamount to "an intuitive feeling I pulled out of my ass"! Let's go back to your assumption that a planet in the "Goldilocks Zone" exists every 450 million light years, because there is arguably one 450 million light years from earth. An N of 1 potential planet in 450 million years that may be in a particular orbit around a particular star is the basis for YOU calculation of "likelihood"? Now I REALLY want to invoke Ye Olde Statistician!

            Ha ha ha - take a chill pill friend! You sound like you have been wrestling with a couch stuck in a doorway.

          • Caravelle

            You're the one who brought the 450 light years; you even brought it up as evidence for the improbability of a habitable planet forming. I merely pointed out that number doesn't support that argument, if anything it undermines it. It's like a tree in a forest saying "trees are so mind-bogglingly improbable! Why, the closest thing to me that even looks like a tree is a whole two meters away!"

            My own calculation might be based, say, on the frequency of planets forming in a star system (on the order of one per star IIRC), and the odds of that planet occurring in the habitable zone, based on the width of the habitable zone vs the width of the system.

            Those numbers depend on a star's size and temperature (which is related to its size), so let's consider only Sun-like stars for convenience. Say 50,000 AU for the size of the Solar system (distance of the Oort cloud), 0.01 AU for the width of the zone (most conservative estimate I could find), knock off an order of magnitude to account for excentricity (another massive overestimation; most planets' orbits have low excentricity) that's one planet in 50 million expected to be in the Goldilocks Zone. Sun-like stars are apparently 3 to 8% of all stars in the Milky Way; let's round it down to 1%. Out of 100 billion stars in our galaxy, that's 20 planets in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star in our galaxy alone; the observable Universe, again, contains billions upon billions of galaxies.

            Of course that estimate is ridiculously conservative and assumes completely wrong things about solar system formation (for example planets aren't uniformly distributed between the star and the outer edge of its gravitational influence; because the whole system is caused by the collapse of the proto-stellar disk of gas and dust, planets will be closer to the star where the gas is thicker. The very closest ones being rocky planets if they're close enough for the solar wind to blow the hydrogen and helium away, gas giants a bit further where the solar wind is weak enough to be counteracted by gravity, and smaller and smaller bodies as we get further from the center of the disk after that).

            More realistic estimates based on Kepler data apparently point to there being billions of Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of Sun-like stars in the Milky Way alone.

          • Jim Dailey

            You know, you really do not help your case when you say things like "Of course that estimate is ridiculously conservative and assumes completely wrong things about solar system formation..." or "...another massive overestimation...".

            I get your point - there are a lot of rocks out there hurtling around stars in a manner that is pretty close to Earth.

            But there are literally millions of other variables that have to line up just so in order for the planet to support life.

            Your argument is basically coming down to "Hey, we both have little rectangular pieces of paper with numbers written on them... we must both have the winning lottery ticket!"

            You do see that don't you?

          • Caravelle

            I get your point - there are a lot of rocks out there hurtling around stars in a manner that is pretty close to Earth.

            So you don't think that burning stinking gases combining to form a planet with water and air is so vastly improbable as to constitute a miracle anymore ?

            But there are literally millions of other variables that have to line up just so in order for the planet to support life.

            A million variables need to line up "just so" for anything to happen; the whole "million" thing is a red herring. It relies on the idea that a combination of many unlikely events is even more unlikely than each event individually, i.e. the property that the probability of many events together is the product of the probability of each event, which is true only if the events are independent.

            I could just as easily say that a rock I'm holding four feet above the ground, with still, empty air between it and said ground, under standard conditions of temperature and pressure etc, contains trillions of trillions of atoms, with more trillions of trillions of atoms of air between it and the ground; for the rock to fall that would require the trillions of trillions of atoms in the rock to move in the exact same direction and the atoms in the air between it and the ground to move in that direction, or away from the rock, at exactly the right moments for the rock to move through the air... Thus, if I let go of the rock it is inconceivably improbable that it would fall.

            That doesn't say anything about the probability of life arising btw; I'm just pointing out your rhetorical use of "millions" isn't a valid argument on its own. As I said before, I want to know for sure how you're using "likelihood" before I discuss the odds of life arising with out.

            Your argument is basically coming down to "Hey, we both have little rectangular pieces of paper with numbers written on them... we must both have the winning lottery ticket!"

            Nope. Again, I haven't been talking about life at all, I've been talking about planetary formation. And as far as planetary formation goes I've been saying "the odds of winning the lottery with those tickets is millions to one, so given hundreds of millions of people have played the lottery thousands of times since it was invented, we'd expect there have been thousands of lottery winners; so the odds of there being at least one winner is pretty much 100%".

          • Jim Dailey

            Dude - I quote
            "What "deeper meaning" are you looking for? I mean, here we are, a Big
            Bang out of nothingness, which somehow put a planet on a exact orbit
            around a burning sphere of gas, said planet full of chemicals that
            somehow lined up into strands of proteins, said proteins somehow got hit
            by lightning and became replicating DNA, etc. etc. etc. all the way to
            two guys who have nothing more in common than cursing at a couch in a
            doorway forming a friendship over a system of electrons flying around
            the world, bouncing off satellites. You really do not see ANY miracles
            in that scenario?
            I dunno Mike, but the idea that it all happened by accident seems pretty fanciful to me..."

            All you have done is confirm that the very first of the events - ie "somehow put a planet on a exact orbit
            around a burning sphere of gas..," doesn't happen every day.... You in fact admit it happens every 450 million light years or so (or whatever your calculation which is full of assumptions you regard as ridiculous eventually came up with).

            I have to say I have enjoyed this discussion, but I think it has run it's course. I am sure you will disagree with me, but I hope you do not think I am rude if I do not respond. So, here it is - you can have the last word - if you like.

      • Caravelle

        To the extent that the shared experience of the couch in the door could provide a talking point, which may blossom into a friendship, etc. etc., is it not possible that the couch does indeed have deeper meaning?

        Sure, but exactly to that extent this deeper meaning doesn't require or imply the existence of a God. Only of people who share their experiences, see commonalities, grow to like each other, and give meaning to their experiences, friends and possessions.

        I think skeptics often confuse divine intervention with mere coincidence.

        Do you have any proposals for how one could tell one from the other?

        • Jim Dailey

          I guess I conflate the notion of of people who see commonalities, grow to like each other, and give meaning to their experiences with the existence of God.
          Did I use "conflate" properly?

          • Caravelle

            Well, "conflate" I believe means to treat two different concepts as if they were the same thing; it doesn't say anything about whether doing so is justified or not. If anything I'd tend to say there's a connotation of it being unjustified.

            If that's what you meant then yes, I think you're using "conflate" correctly here.

          • Jim Dailey

            Dammit! I used it incorrectly since I think the existence of friendship defies all logic. Sadly, I guess Mike O'Leary and I are doomed to simply expecting some sort of deferred compensation from each other for our hours of grunting and sweating and cursing (in my case anyway) ultimately unsuccessful attempts at stuffing a couch through a doorway.

            Makes perfect sense. Thanks!

  • Gray Striker

    The argument from history is both stronger and weaker than the other arguments for the existence of God.

    This argumentand most of the other arguments for the existence of "God" by Catholic apologists on SN and also those other Christian apologists are not
    referring to the concept of god in any general, generic or deistic senseof the word. The question on SN... Does god exist? is not really asking if there is an intelligence or intelligent entity underlying the universe and life, be that entity, malevolent .indifferent,or simply benign or otherwise. On SN....the question and arguments for the existence of god in any theoretical sense always seem to always get distilled into the Judeo Christian god....Should not both Christians agnostics and atheists first come up with some kind of generic definition of "god" and whether or not it makes sense to state that he/she, exists, regardless of religions or their insistence of god
    exists claims in the first place, before arguing about who this god is?
    and perhaps then we can begin to discuss, and not argue about who
    Yahweh/Yeshua/Jesus or Allah is after we have agreed upon who or what a
    god is!This whole thing on SN and EN seems to have devolved into an
    argument about Jesus.If however if the SN people insist that one reads and considers all the major philosophers that directly or indirectly..support the Catholic Position before one can have a legitimate opinion on whether or not "God" exists is just stupid.

    • Doug Shaver

      Should not both Christians agnostics and atheists first come up with some kind of generic definition of "god" and whether or not it makes sense to state that he/she, exists, regardless of religions or their insistence of god

      It doesn't matter much to me. If any theist wants me to change my mind, I think it's up to them to decide what I should change my mind to. If they think I'm going to burn in hell unless I believe not only that there is a God, but also that he sent his son to die for my sins, let them go for it.

    • Jim Dailey

      What is "EN""? Sorry, I am new to this site.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Should not both Christians
      agnostics and atheists first come up with some kind of generic
      definition of "god"

      Yet, one of the proofs that come along later in the various summae and compendia is that God is not a genus. He is not one being among other beings. (Not even "a supreme being," however useful the phrase may be poetically.) That sort of thing leads one to confuse the Brahma with Thor, as if they were two distinct examples of the same sort of thing.

      the existence of god in any theoretical sense seem to always get
      distilled into the Judeo Christian god....

      But not from the logical reasoning alone. Plotinus, the neoplatonic Greek pagan reasoned his way to God and to God as a trinity of "hypostases," but he could not reason his way to historical events or encounters. That is, by reason one may deduce that a class Conquerors exist, but not specifically to Napoleon.

  • Mike O’Leary

    Regarding the second proof, "Whenever God's laws are followed, the people prosper. When they are violated, the people perish," raises some questions. What does it mean to prosper. Is it in a financial sense? If so, we are a nation of coveters. It could be argued that has spurred our economy. Also we are not a nation of turning the other cheek. In fact the U.S. is known (sometimes good, sometimes bad) for retaliating when someone else's cheek gets smited.

    Maybe prosperity means stability. Buddhist nations have often remained consistent despite not celebrating the Sabbath. The Papal States were most certainly following God's laws but they eventually floundered.

    This doesn't take into account that there have been individual who have prospered while going against God's laws. In short, we need clarification as to what it means to prosper, to perish, to what scale we are to look at a particular people, and which of God's laws we are to focus on.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      the U.S. is known (sometimes good, sometimes bad) for retaliating when someone else's cheek gets smited.

      OTOH, we are constantly told that the US is not a "Christian nation." Or do these things change depending on the debate immediate?

      prosper: from Latin prosperare "cause to succeed, render happy," from prosperus "favorable, fortunate, prosperous," perhaps literally "agreeable to one's wishes," traditionally regarded as from Old Latin pro spere "according to expectation, according to one's hope," from pro "for" + ablative of spes "hope."

      A secular American would interpret that as being financial, as they can imagine no other sort of happiness or expectation.

      • David Nickol

        The problem is that this statement from the OP is far too vague to be the basis for an argument:

        Whenever God's laws are followed, the people prosper. When they are violated, the people perish.

        There's no point in even trying to debate it.

        • Caravelle

          The actual problem is that it isn't vague at all. Everyone can understand this sentence, or at least they think they can until they try figuring out whether it's true or not. That's when suddenly nobody seems to know what "prosper", "perish" or "God's law" really mean.

      • Mike O’Leary

        OTOH, we are constantly told that the US is not a "Christian nation." Or do these things change depending on the debate immediate?

        In my example above I was showing that the United States is not a Christian nation (as it thrives on the coveting of neighbors' goods and is not one to turn the other cheek), yet it prospers. I'm giving an example of how "When [God's laws] are violated, the people perish," is incorrect. I don't see how you think I was trying to show the United States is a Christian nation. It's not on the other hand, it's on the same hand.

        prosper: from Latin prosperare "cause to succeed, render happy," from...

        Thank you, although I wasn't looking for its dictionary definition or its etymology. No, I want to assess what the author meant. I find that in these topics that believers will sometimes define words and phrases in unusual ways. For example I was in a discussion where a person defined "righteousness" in such a way that someone could simultaneously be both righteous and unrighteous. In another discussion a person told me that while "burnt offering" normally means a sacrifice by flame that in this one instance it means to maintain a person's virginity. So I want to make sure how the word is being used by the person who is invoking it.

        A secular American would interpret that as being financial, as they can imagine no other sort of happiness or expectation.

        If you look at my very post that you responded to you see that I also asked if the prosperity of the people means its stability. Prosperity for some may mean having many children and grandchildren. For others it's a freedom to pursue a certain interest. Still for others it may mean finally being able to put food on the dinner table on a daily basis. Your stereotype of nonbelievers as money-obssessed ne're-do-wells is easily disproven and is laughable on its face. One of many ways to define whether one is prosperous/favorable/fortunate is financial, but we can all agree it's not the only way. It should also be noted that religious people would also define prosperity in some instances as financial.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          In my example above I was showing that the United States is not a Christian nation (as it thrives on the coveting of neighbors' goods and is not one to turn the other cheek), yet it prospers.

          Yet, as Walker Percy noted half a century ago or more, never have people felt as unhappy, unfulfilled, and alone.

          • Caravelle

            That's some pretty pathetic karmic returns for genocide and slavery. Imagine going back to the 16th-century and talking to Native Americans: "Yeah, those Europeans are totally going to colonize your land, kill most of you, a lot by design, and displace the rest whenever convenient, make treaties and break them, again whenever convenient.... Nah, you'll kill a lot of them but most of them will go on to live ordinary lives as respected members of their own societies. Oh no, in the 21st century their descendants will still be around and kicking, in fact some of them will constitute the most powerful nation in the world at that time, they'll even be the gold standard for prosperity throughout the 20th century. But it's OK ! The members of that nation will feel unhappy, unfulfilled, and alone. Yes, you'll have some descendants that will still be around then... No, they'll be unhappy too, more than other demographics even. Except maybe African-Americans. Oh haven't I told you about the karmic justice those guys can look forward to?"

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            What "karmic justice" is that? Is that like an Invisible Sky Faerie?

            You were confounding "pro-speri-ty" with financial power, and I pointed out that pro-speri-ty entailed happiness and in the collapse of the Modern Ages, that is a commodity in short supply. That's all. Why you think that there must be some sort of retribution for crimes committed by people long dead visited on people who did not commit them, Heaven only knows. Do you believe in Collective Guilt?

          • Caravelle

            You were confounding "pro-speri-ty" with financial power

            And you seem to be "confounding" me with someone else.

            Why you think that there must be some sort of retribution for crimes
            committed by people long dead visited on people who did not commit them,
            Heaven only knows. Do you believe in Collective Guilt?

            I'm not the one who claimed that "whenever God's laws are followed, people prosper. When they are violated, the people perish". Neither are you, for that matter; who knows what your point is, you just seem to be reflexively disagreeing with people and saying silly things about "secular Americans".

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It is well known, and greatly bemoaned on the Left, that Americans
            worship the Almighty Dollar. This has been remarked upon a long time
            since by scholars and critics; although the statistically ill-informed must sometimes be reminded of the role of variation: No not everyone, not always.

            People leapt in to reflexively disagree with Dr. Kreeft without once wondering what he meant; reading instead their own meanings into his essay. Hence, in light of the first paragraph here, equating "prosperity" with material wealth. Of course, Dr. Kreeft also noted that the so-called "Argument from History" was also the weakest argument, so I am sure he is aware of many of these points.

            It can also be argued that those societies that have in general adhered to Christianity or Judaism have also been in general the most prosperous and progressive of societies, having developed such things as parliaments, equality under the law, universities, natural science, conscience, justice (as other than as what pleases the Ruler), etc. And even after turning its back on the principles have been "coasting on the fumes" without even noticing the long, slow collapse.

          • Doug Shaver

            It is well known, and greatly bemoaned on the Left, that Americans worship the Almighty Dollar.

            That doesn't make it true, except insofar as you presuppose its truth by saying it is "known."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It can also be argued that those societies that have in general adhered to Christianity or Judaism have also been in general the most prosperous and progressive of societies, having developed such things as parliaments, equality under the law, universities, natural science, conscience, justice (as other than as what pleases the Ruler), etc.

            So I suppose Athens, Rome, Magna Carta, Common Law, Protestant Reformation, and classical liberalism have nothing to do with this trend.

            If I was to make a list of events and institutions important to the development of liberal democracy, I don't think the Catholic Church would even make the list.

      • Doug Shaver

        You have no idea what some secular Americans can imagine.

        • Michael Murray

          ... imagine

          there's no heaven
          It's easy if you try
          No hell below us
          Above us only sky
          ....

          • Caravelle

            ... imagine

            there's no possessions
            I wonder if you can
            No need for greed or hunger
            A brotherhood of man
            ....

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          You kidding? Some of them imagine that "secular" means "atheist." Some have imagined they themselves do not exist. Can't get much more way out than that. It's also the case that they piggy-back on concepts and values that originated elsewhere, as Stanley Fish pointed out a while back.

          It's also useful to distinguish between a mode and the variation around that mode.

          • Doug Shaver

            So, I gather than when you said, "a secular American," what you meant was "some secular Americans."

          • Doug Shaver

            It's also the case that they piggy-back on concepts and values that originated elsewhere, as Stanley Fish pointed out a while back.

            I have not read any of Fish's work, but I've read plenty of stuff by both secularists and their adversaries. There is no difference I can see between them in terms of original thinking.

  • Doug Shaver

    First, we could argue from the meaningfulness of history itself. . . . If atheism is true, there are no adventures, nothing has intrinsic significance,

    The significance of history is not intrinsic just because we like to think so. The only meaning history has is what we put into it. That is not to deny its instructive utility. When we see that our ancestors did certain things repeatedly and consistently got certain results, we can learn something from that observation.

    A second argument concentrates more specifically on the moral design in history. . . . [In biblical history] Whenever God's laws are followed, the people prosper. When they are violated, the people perish.

    If you're going to treat the Bible as factual history, you don’t need an argument for God's existence. The Bible itself affirms God's existence. Why would anyone believe everything the Bible says except for that one thing?

    A third argument from history looks at providential "coincidences", like the Red Sea's parting

    Anyone who regards Exodus as a work of history almost certainly is already convinced that God is real.

    Our own individual histories usually have some similar bits of incredible timing. Insightful and unprejudiced examination of these "coincidences" will bring us at least to the suspicion, if not to the conviction, that an unseen divine hand is at work here.

    Let's see now . . . If I don't see the hand of God in those coincidences, I'm prejudiced, but if you do seem them, you're not prejudiced. Looks like question-begging to me.

    The argument is not a logical compulsion but an invitation to look, like Christ's "come and see."

    I have looked. I don't see.

    A fourth argument from history, the strongest one of all, is the argument from miracles.

    If I believed that that miracles have occurred, I would not be an atheist.

    If I were an atheist, I think I would save my money to buy a plane ticket to Italy to see whether the blood of Saint Januarius really did liquefy and congeal miraculously, as it is supposed to do annually.

    Whether you would do actually that, if you were an atheist, would depend entirely on why you were an atheist. My reasons for being an atheist are the same reasons I would not spend money on a trip to Italy just satisfy myself as to whether a particular miracle story is true.

    God provided just enough evidence of himself: enough for any honest and open-minded seeker whose heart really cares about the truth of the matter but not so much that dull and hardened hearts are convinced by force.

    This is the apologetics of desperation. Being convinced by irrefutable evidence is not being convinced by force.

    He will [reveal himself to all], on the last day, when it will be too late to change sides.

    But we'll wish we had. And when that happens, we'll have changed our minds without being forced to?

    The evidence for him, especially his miracles, is clear enough throughout history so that anyone with an honest, trusting, and seeking heart will find him

    So, those who don't believe are dishonest, untrusting, or indifferent.

    He is like a lover with a marriage proposal

    Of all the people I've ever heard about or known personally who were in love and wanted to get married, not one has acted like Jesus.

    A fifth argument from history is Christ himself. Here is a man who lived among us and claimed to be God

    So says a book of unknown authorship. I have no reason to take the book's word for it that Jesus actually said he was God.

    Which is he—Lord, lunatic, or liar?

    None of the above. The trichotomy is false.

    Reading the Gospels is like reading Plato's accounts of Socrates, or Boswell's account of Dr. Johnson

    So says Christian dogma.

    His personality is distinctive and compelling to every reader of the Gospels, even unbelievers, even his enemies

    So are the personalities of Valjean and Javert to every reader of Les Miserables.

    Similarly, the only unanswerable argument for Christianity is Christians—saintly Christians.

    I've known a few good Christians. I've also known some good non-Christians. Neither group was better than the other.

    A sixth argument is the saints, especially their joy. . . . You can argue against Mother Teresa's theology if you are skeptical of mind, but you cannot argue against Mother Teresa unless you are hopelessly hard of heart.

    If you want to know how hard-hearted I am, you'll have to ask the people who've known me throughout my life. I can't expect you to accept my testimony on that issue. But I'm convinced that Mother's Teresa's moral virtue has been grossly overrated.

    how can life's most fundamental illusion cause life's greatest joy?

    Very easily, considering all have learned about human nature. To suppose that even fundamental illusions cannot make us happy is the purest of wishful thinking.

    And that brings us to our seventh argument from history: the conversion of the world. How to explain the success of the Faith in winning the hearts of men?

    I would explain it the same way I would explain the success of any other religion. Nothing important about Christianity's history is unique to it.

    If Christianity is not true and there are no miracles, then the conversion of the world is an even greater miracle.

    I see no reason to think so.

    This is the scientific thing to do, to test a hypothesis by performing the relevant experiment.

    I did the test when I was still a believer. The result was negative. That's why I'm no longer a believer.

  • Michael Murray

    If I were an atheist, I think I would save my money to buy a plane ticket to Italy to see whether the blood of Saint Januarius really did liquefy and congeal miraculously, as it is supposed to do annually.

    There are plausible non-miraculous ways of producing a red liquid that behaves in this way. See for example the discussion here

    http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/8205/does-st-januarius-blood-congeal-and-liquefy

    I think this remark is particularly telling

    Adding to skeptic's suspicions, there are some twenty other saints' bloods that liquefy, virtually every one of them from the Naples area--suggestive of some local secret.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    The argument from history is the strongest psychologically with most people, but it is not the logically strongest argument. It is like footprints in the sands of time, footprints made by someone great enough to be God.

    Of course, it appeals to people's emotions not their reason.

  • bdlaacmm

    Thank you for this, Dr. Kreeft. I most like your line about the order by which one comes to belief, because that's exactly how it was for me. I was fascinated and (to tell the truth) overwhelmed by the lives of the Saints, through whom I was introduced to the Church, where I learned of Jesus, Who brought me to the Holy Trinity.

    All these atheist commenters here ought to stay carefully away from the Saints, lest ye be drawn in. Avoid most of all Saints Francis, Dominic, Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and for Heaven's sake don't read anything by or about Dorothy Day!

  • CD-Host

    Let's start with the first claim: "History, both human and prehuman, has a storyline. It is not just random". OK how would you know that? What would a history based on probability look like? What would a biased non-random history look like? When humans later attached meaning to it how would they distinguish between the random and the non random history?

    The second, "the justice revealed in history" seems like a total crock. We have a long history of evil triumphing and good losing. The moral history of the universe is one long story that shows a universe that is morally indifferent to us and to everything in it.