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Why Believe?

Sam Harris

"Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all of its conquerors," wrote G. K. Chesterton.

Faith is the Christian word. Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., in his masterful theology of faith, The Assurance of Things Hoped For, writes, "More than any other religion, Christianity deserves to be called a faith". He points out that in the New Testament the Greek words for "faith" and "belief" occur nearly 500 times, compared to less than 100 for "hope" and about 250 for "charity" or "love." Which is not to say, of course, that faith is more important than love, since Paul makes it clear that love is the greatest of the three theological virtues: "So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13).

But there is no doubt—pun intended—that faith is essential to being a Christian and to having a right relationship with God, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews states, emphatically and succinctly: "And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Heb. 11:6).

The daunting work of defining and analyzing faith has been described, with perhaps a dose of knowing humor, as the "cross of theologians." As with hope and love, the virtue of faith can appear initially rather simple to define, often as "belief in God." But some digging beneath the surface suggests a far more complicated task, as some basic questions suggest: What is belief? How is faith obtained? Is it human or divine in origin? How should man demonstrate his faith? What is the relationship of faith to the will, to the intellect, and to the emotions?

The Catholic, meanwhile, must respond to charges against faith: that it is "irrational" or that it is the cause of conflict and violence. In recent years a number of popular, best-selling books written by atheists have called into question not only tenets of Christianity—the historical reliability of the Bible, the divinity of Jesus, the Resurrection, and so forth—but the viability and rational soundness of faith itself.

One such book is The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris, which repeatedly—mantra-like—uses words such as "ignorant" and "irrational" in making the case that religious faith is not only outdated, but overtly evil. Every religion, Harris muses, "preaches the truth of propositions for which no evidenc e is even conceivable. This puts the ‘leap’ in Kierkegaard’s leap of faith" (Harris, The End of Faith, 23). He adds: "Religious faith represents so uncompromising a misuse of the power of our minds that it forms a kind of perverse, cultural singularity—a vanishing point beyond which rational discourse proves impossible" (Harris, The End of Faith, 25).

Calling Christians and other religious believers stupid and unreasonable is often the default argument for Harris; it is also an approach, crude yet often effective, embraced by many who believe that religious faith is an offense to enlightened, modern man. With that basic opposition in mind, let us take up two basic tasks: defining what faith is and answering some of the charges against belief.

Do I Trust the Chair?

A witticism goes: "Everybody should believe in something; I believe I’ll have another drink." It is more accurate to say that everybody does believe in something, even if it is belief in the ability to live without belief. Of course, even the skeptic understands that life in the material world requires certain types of belief or faith, using those terms broadly and non-theologically: the belief that stop lights will work correctly, faith that I will be given a paycheck at the end of the month, the trust that my grasp of basic math will keep me on the good side of the IRS.

One argument posits that sitting upon a chair is an act of faith, so even atheists have faith when they sit on a chair in, say, a home they are visiting for the first time. If for some reason I doubted the chair in question would hold my weight, I could ascertain its load-bearing capabilities by asking my host to sit in it first, thereby ridding myself of concern (and likely puzzling or offending my host). The argument only goes so far when it comes to faith in what cannot be seen, touched, or proven by scientific means. It does, however, suggest what many people are reluctant to admit: that all of us have beliefs and we live our lives based on those beliefs, even if we never articulate or define them. As Joseph Ratzinger observes in Introduction to Christianity, "Every man must adopt some kind of attitude to the basic questions, and no man can do this in any other way but that of entertaining belief." (Introduction to Christianity [2nd ed.], 71)

We, as creatures, have limited, finite knowledge, and so must make decisions—practical, relational, philosophical—without the luxury of proof. We use common sense and rely on our experience and, significantly, on the experience and testimony of others. I may not know for certain that the chair will hold me, but I conclude it is rational to think it will, based on certain observations: The chair looks well-constructed; it appears to be used on a regular basis; and it is in the home of someone who isn’t the sort of person to ask guests to sit on a chair that might fall apart upon human contact. Sitting on the chair is a reasonable thing to do. Implicit here is the matter of trust. Do I trust the chair? Do I trust my host? And, more importantly, do I trust my perception and assessment of the chair?

Consider another example. You receive a phone call at work from your best friend, who is also your neighbor. He exclaims, with obvious distress, "Your house is on fire! Come home quickly!" What is your reaction? You believe your friend’s statement—not because you’ve seen a live shot of your house in flames on a Channel 12 "news flash" but because of your faith in the truthfulness of the witness. You accept his word because he has proven himself worthy of faith in various ways. Trust in testimony and witness is an essential part of a theological understanding of faith.

God’s Gift and Our Response

The Old Testament emphasizes trusting in God and obeying his utterances, which were often (although not exclusively) entrusted (there’s that word again!) to patriarchs and prophets: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah, and others. But while there are many men and women of faith in the Old Testament, trustworthiness and faithfulness are most clearly ascribed to God: "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments …" (Deut. 7:9). The well-known narratives of the Old Testament are accounts of faith and faithfulness (and much faithlessness), all deeply rooted in a covenantal understanding of God’s revelation of himself to man. It is God who initiates and it is God who gives wisdom, understanding, and faith.

The New Testament places more emphasis on the doctrinal content of faith, focusing upon man’s response to the message and person of Jesus Christ. Again, faith is a gift that comes from God, accompanied by God’s promises of life. "No one can come to me," Jesus declares, "unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:44). Paul repeatedly states that faith is intimately linked with trust and obedience, referring to the "obedience of faith" (Rom. 1:5), exhorting the Christians at Philippi to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12), and telling the Galatians that circumcision is not the issue of concern, "but faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6). Faith is portrayed as a living, vital movement that brings man into a grace-filled union with the Father, through Jesus, in the Holy Spirit. According to James and John, while faith is distinct from good works, it is never separate from them, for they display the reality of faith: "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith" (Jas. 2:18), and "this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us" (1 John 3:23).

Needless to say, the Old and New Testaments together present a complex and rich tapestry of understandings of faith, including elements, Cardinal Dulles writes in his study, "such as personal trust, assent to divinely revealed truth, fidelity, and obedience" (Assurance, 17).

At the Threshold of Belief

Augustine and Aquinas stressed that the object of belief cannot be seen or directly perceived, nor proven by mere logic. If you can prove it, you don’t need to believe in it. And yet, as Josef Pieper explained in his essay, "On Faith," the believer must

know enough about the matter to understand "what it is all about." An altogether incomprehensible communication is no communication at all. There is no way either to believe or not to believe it or its author. For belief to be possible at all, it is assumed that the communication has in some way been understood. (Faith Hope Love, 24)

God has revealed himself in a way that is comprehensible to man (in an act theologians call "divine condescension"), even if man cannot fully comprehend, for example, the Incarnation or the Trinity. Reason and logic can take man to the door of faith, but cannot carry man across the threshold. "What moves us to believe," explains the Catechism, "is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: We believe because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived" (CCC 156).

Belief can also rest upon the testimony of someone else, as Paul states: "But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14). Aquinas succinctly remarks: "Now, whoever believes, assents to someone’s words…" (Summa Theologiae II:2:11). Pieper points out, however, that this leads to a significant problem: that no man is superior enough spiritually to serve as "an absolutely valid authority" for another man. This problem is only solved when the One who is above all men communicates with man. This communication, of course, reaches perfection in the Incarnation, when God becomes man—that is, when the Word, God’s perfect communication, becomes flesh. And this is why, to put it simply, the historicity of Jesus Christ and the witness of those who knew him is at the heart of the Catholic faith.

Faith is ultimately an act of will, not of emotion or deduction. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Aquinas, teaches, "In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace" (CCC 155). This submission is called "the obedience of faith" (CCC 143). Logic, reason, and recognition of authority go only so far; an act of will, dependent upon God’s grace, is required for faith to be realized. Yet this response of the will is not an impersonal act, like selecting numbers for the lottery, but an intensely personal response. "We believe, because we love," wrote John Henry Newman in a sermon titled, "Love the Safeguard of Faith against Superstition." "The divinely enlightened mind," he continued, "sees in Christ the very Object whom it desires to love and worship,—the Object correlative of its own affections; and it trusts him, or believes, from loving him."

So much for understanding what faith is. What are some of the popular, common criticisms of faith that need answering?

Faith is contrary to reason. Harris puts it in this provocative form: "And so, while religious people are not generally mad, their core beliefs are. This is not surprising, since most religions have merely canonized a few products of ancient ignorance and derangement and passed them down to us as though they were primordial truths" (The End of Faith, 72). Yet the claim, "I don’t need faith!" is ultimately a statement of faith. If reason is the ultimate criteria of all things, can the skeptic prove, using reason, that reason explains everything about reality? To say "I will only trust that which I can logically prove" begs the question: "How do you know you can trust your mind and your logic? Aren’t you placing your faith in your reason?"

Thus atheism requires belief, including faith in (choose one) the perfectibility of human nature, the omniscience of science, the equality of socialism, or the steady conquest of political, technological, and social progress. But reasoned observation shows that the "truths" produced by these philosophies and systems of thought are lacking and incomplete; they cannot provide a satisfactory answer to the big questions about life, reality, and existence. The belief in science is a good example. The Catholic Church recognizes that science, the study of physical realities through experimentation and observation, is a valid source of truth. But this is quite different from believing that science can and will provide the answers to every question put forth by man. That is a belief—commonly called scientism—that cannot be proven but rests upon the unstable premise of materialism, which is a philosophical belief, not a matter of proven scientific study. For example, Harris writes that there "is no reason that our ability to sustain ourselves emotionally and spiritually cannot evolve with technology, politics, and the rest of culture. Indeed, it must evolve, if we are to have any future at all" (The End of Faith, 40). If that isn’t an overt statement of dogmatic faith, what is?

Put simply, the Church believes that reason is limited and not contrary to faith. True faith is not irrational, but supra-rational. In the words of Blaise Pascal, author of Pensées, whose rational genius is difficult to deny (unless one wishes to be unreasonable about it): "Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them" (Pensées, 68). So faith does not contradict the facts of the material world, but goes beyond them.

Faith is a crutch for those who can’t handle the difficulties of life.I once worked for a delightful Jewish lady who was married to a self-described atheist. She once told me, with obvious frustration, that he would often tell her that faith in God was simply "a crutch." This is not an argument at all; it is simply of way of saying, "I’d rather trust in myself than in God." But belief in self only goes so far; it obviously does not save us from death, or even suffering, disease, tragedy, heartache, depression, and difficulties. Everyone has a "crutch," that is, a means of support we turn to in the darkest moments. These can include power, money, drugs, sex, fame, and adulation, all of which are, by any reasonable account, limited and unsatisfying when it comes to the ultimate questions: What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Who am I? Harris, for his part, spends a considerable portion of the final chapter of his book arguing that Eastern mysticism is a thoroughly rational and legitimate means for living a full life. In the end, his book says, "Religion is evil. Spirituality is good." But spirituality does not provide answers; religion does.

Faith is the source of superstition, bigotry, and violence. We’ve all heard variations on this theme, mouthed by the increasing number of people indoctrinated to believe that nothing good ever came from Christianity and that every advance in human history has been due to the diminishing influence of Christian thought, practice, and presence. Never mind that the bloodiest and most savage century in human history was dominated by forms of atheistic Marxism (e.g., the Soviet Union) and neo-pagan Fascism (e.g., Nazi Germany), accounting for the deaths of tens of millions. Harris insists that Communism and Nazism were so bad because they were religious in nature:

Consider the millions of people who were killed by Stalin and Mao: Although these tyrants paid lip service to rationality, communism was little more than a political religion. … Even though their beliefs did not reach beyond this world, they were both cultic and irrational. (Harris, The End of Faith, 79)

This is actually quite true, and provides further evidence that every "ism"—even atheism, materialism, and the "pragmatism" endorsed by Harris—is religious in nature. History readily shows that man is a religious animal who thinks religious thoughts and has religious impulses. As Chesterton wrote in Heretics:

Every man in the street must hold a metaphysical system, and hold it firmly. The possibility is that he may have held it so firmly and so long as to have forgotten all about its existence. This latter situation is certainly possible; in fact, it is the situation of the whole modern world. The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly that they do not even know that they are dogmas. ("Concluding Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy")

Chesterton suggests elsewhere that if you wish to be free from contact with superstition, bigotry, and violence, you’ll need to separate yourself from all human contact. The choice is not between religion and non-religion, but between true religion and false religion.

Christian faith, then, is not contrary to reason. Nor is it merely a phantasmal crutch built on pious fantasies. Neither is faith the source of evil. Faith is a supernatural virtue, a gift, and a grace. Faith is focused on God and truth; it is the friend of wisdom. "Simple secularists still talk as if the Church had introduced a sort of schism between reason and religion," wrote Chesterton in The Everlasting Man, "The truth is that the Church was actually the first thing that ever tried to combine reason and faith" ("Man and Mythologies"). The challenge for every Catholic is to give assent and to have faith, while the Catholic apologist must strive to show that such assent is not only reasonable, but brings us into saving contact with the only reason for living.
 
 
Originally posted at Catholic Answers.
(Image credit: The Daily Show)

Carl Olson

Written by

Carl E. Olson is the editor of Catholic World Report and IgnatiusInsight.com. He is the best-selling author of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? (Ignatius, 2003), which was selected by the Associated Press as one of the best religious titles of 2003, and co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius, 2004). He's also the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? (Ignatius/Augustine Institute, 2016) and co-editor and contributor to Called To Be the Children of God: The Catholic Theology of Human Deification (Ignatius, 2016). Raised in a Fundamentalist home, Carl attended an Evangelical Bible college, and entered the Catholic Church in 1997. He holds an MTS from the University of Dallas. A well-respected author, Carl writes a weekly Scripture column, "Opening the Word" for Our Sunday Visitor, and has also written for First Things, This Rock/Catholic Answers Magazine, Envoy, Crisis, National Review Online, and National Catholic Register. Find Carl on Twitter @carleolson and visit him online at CarlEOlson.net.

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  • Doug Shaver

    I may not know for certain that the chair will hold me, but I conclude it is rational to think it will, based on certain observations: The chair looks well-constructed; it appears to be used on a regular basis; and it is in the home of someone who isn’t the sort of person to ask guests to sit on a chair that might fall apart upon human contact. Sitting on the chair is a reasonable thing to do. Implicit here is the matter of trust. Do I trust the chair? Do I trust my host? And, more importantly, do I trust my perception and assessment of the chair?

    Right. So far, so good.

    You accept his word because he has proven himself worthy of faith in various ways. Trust in testimony and witness is an essential part of a theological understanding of faith.

    I've seen plenty of theological commentary on faith. I don't see a connection between what the theologians are talking about and my willingness to take my neighbor's word for it that my house is on fire.

    The Old Testament emphasizes trusting in God and obeying his utterances, which were often (although not exclusively) entrusted (there’s that word again!) to patriarchs and prophets: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah, and others.

    This assumes facts not yet in evidence. The OT stories emphasize the need to trust certain people who claim to be speaking on God's behalf. Anybody can say, "Thus saith the Lord" and then accuse any skeptic of questioning God himself. The issue whether, when a man says "Thus saith the Lord," we should just take his word for it.

    "No one can come to me," Jesus declares, "unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:44).

    Those words are attributed to Jesus. Why should I believe that he actually spoke them? Because church tradition says so? Can we talk about the differences between church tradition and my neighbor's claim that my house is on fire?

    If you can prove it, you don’t need to believe in it.

    I think I see some equivocation here. If I can prove something, then I most certainly do believe it. I do also believe many things that I cannot prove, but I don't stop believing when I find proof.

    And yet, as Josef Pieper explained in his essay, "On Faith," the believer must

    know enough about the matter to understand "what it is all about." An altogether incomprehensible communication is no communication at all. There is no way either to believe or not to believe it or its author. For belief to be possible at all, it is assumed that the communication has in some way been understood. (Faith Hope Love, 24)

    Obviously, I cannot believe a proposition that I do not understand at all. But I need more than understanding. I need a reason to believe. The authority of the person uttering the proposition might be sufficient reason, but then I need to understand how he got his authority.

    "What moves us to believe," explains the Catechism, "is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: We believe because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived" (CCC 156).

    And how do I know that God has revealed those truths? Because the church says so, right?

    And this is why, to put it simply, the historicity of Jesus Christ and the witness of those who knew him is at the heart of the Catholic faith.

    The claim that certain documents were produced by men who knew him is at the heart of the Catholic faith.

    Faith is ultimately an act of will, not of emotion or deduction. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Aquinas, teaches, "In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace" (CCC 155). This submission is called "the obedience of faith" (CCC 143).

    Translation: Faith is willingness to do what the church tells you to do.

    If reason is the ultimate criteria of all things, can the skeptic prove, using reason, that reason explains everything about reality?

    This skeptic does not say, and never has said, that reason explains everything about reality. And he has rarely, if ever, heard any other skeptic say it.

    Thus atheism requires belief, including faith in (choose one) the perfectibility of human nature, the omniscience of science, the equality of socialism, or the steady conquest of political, technological, and social progress.

    No, it does not. This is a caricature, not a characterization. Atheism requires none of those things.

    This is not an argument at all; it is simply of way of saying, "I’d rather trust in myself than in God."

    I cannot either trust or distrust an entity that I don't believe exists. When a man tells me what God will do or has done for me, it is he whom I am not trusting.

    Faith is the source of superstition, bigotry, and violence. We’ve all heard variations on this theme, mouthed by the increasing number of people indoctrinated to believe that nothing good ever came from Christianity and that every advance in human history has been due to the diminishing influence of Christian thought, practice, and presence.

    Yeah, we've all heard it, and some of us atheists disagree with it as strongly as Christians do.

    But we disagree only with use of the definite article. Faith is not "the source" of those things. It is "a source." Another source would be any secular ideology that thinks itself incapable of error.

    Harris insists that Communism and Nazism were so bad because they were religious in nature:

    Harris is mistaken. He seems to think that if A and B share certain characteristics, then A must be of the same nature as B. Political ideologies can be like religions in certain respects, but that doesn't make them religions.

    the Catholic apologist must strive to show that such assent is not only reasonable, but brings us into saving contact with the only reason for living.

    Apologists have been striving for two millennia. I have not seen one succeed yet.

    • David Nickol

      I can think of two memorable occasions on which someone sat on chair with "faith" that it would hold them, only to have experiences that led to a loss of that faith! When I was a child, my grandfather married after my grandmother died. His new wife must have weighted somewhere north of 300 pounds, and when she sat down at our backyard picnic table, the bench cracked and broke off. (I assume faith in chairs may be extended to faith in benches.)

      The point is that faith can be unwarranted, even in empirical matters such as how much weight a bench or chair might support. And of course only a fool would assume that every chair would support his or her weight.

      I do not doubt for a minute that there are people of authentic religious faith whose faith tells them the Catholic religion is false or even pernicious. (By "authentic religious faith," I mean something that definitely fits the definition of religious faith, not something that is authentic in the sense of being true.)

      In an case, I do not buy the idea that "faith" that a chair will support my weight is in any significant way comparable to religious faith. It seems to me the argument of those who tout religious faith and argue that disbelieving in religious faith is the intellectual equivalent of religious faith are making a "tu quoque" argument: "You call us stupid and ignorant for believing, but unbelief is simply another kind of believing, so if we're stupid and ignorant, so are you!"

      Having said that, I do not claim to be an atheist, and I do acknowledge having certain religious beliefs and a kind of religious faith. However, it has few (if any) certainties.

      • Krakerjak

        "You call us stupid and ignorant for believing, but unbelief is simply another kind of believing, so if we're stupid and ignorant, so are you!"

        I don't believe that Doug said or implied any such thing. I am chalking this up to you being in your cups or frustrated due to the tension created between agnosticism and belief in god.

        • David Nickol

          I don't believe that Doug said or implied any such thing.

          I did not mean to imply he did. I had intended my message to stand on its own as comment on the OP, but I accidentally entered it as a response to Doug's message. I also did not intend to put words into the mouth of Carl Olson. However, I do stick by my opinion

          It seems to me the argument of those who tout religious faith and argue that disbelieving in religious faith is the intellectual equivalent of religious faith are making a "tu quoque" argument: "You call us stupid and ignorant for believing, but unbelief is simply another kind of believing, so if we're stupid and ignorant, so are you!"

          Note that saying "If we're stupid and ignorant, so are you!" is not calling anyone stupid and ignorant when those saying it do not, in fact, believe themselves to be stupid and ignorant.

          • Krakerjak

            I did not mean to imply he did. I had intended my message to stand on
            its own as comment on the OP, but I accidentally entered it as a
            response to Doug's message.

            Ok.....accepted.....Just misunderstood what you said and in which context you meant it.

      • Michael Murray

        In an case, I do not buy the idea that "faith" that a chair will support my weight is in any significant way comparable to religious faith.

        I've always liked this comment from Q Quine who no longer posts here. He says he doesn't have faith he has reasonable expectations based on prior evidence.

        http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/reasonable-expectations-based-on-prior.html

        • David Nickol

          It is interesting to note that even the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not buy into the idea of "faith" as presented in the OP:

          179 Faith is a supernatural gift from God. In order to believe, man needs the interior helps of the Holy Spirit.

          I am certainly willing to acknowledge that no human being can personally verify every single thing that he or she takes for granted or claims to believe. We all need a certain kind of "practical faith" (if you want to call it faith at all). But that is not the same as religious faith, even according to the Catechism. And even if it can be demonstrated that we all can't get by without some kind of religious faith, it still remains to be shown what the content of that faith should be.

          • Michael Murray

            I wonder if this

            Raised in a Fundamentalist home, he attended an Evangelical Bible college, and entered the Catholic Church in 1997.

            has any impact on his position? I've noticed there are lots of ex-evangelical Protestant converts amongst the Catholics here both posting and commenting. It seems the norm rather than the exception. Growing up Irish Catholic in Australia we never saw this kind of thing so I find it an interesting phenomena from a sociological point of view.

          • "Sometimes it seems like the the atheists are they only ones here born Catholic :-)"

            I agree with that pattern as I've noticed something similar. I do find it intriguing that most of the atheists I've encountered at SN were born and baptized Catholic, but then after being served a warped and inadequate Catholicism, rebelled as teenagers or young adults. However, many of the Catholics here were raised in non-Catholic homes (including many atheists and agnostics) and then converted to Catholicism in adulthood after a rational search for truth.

            If I had to throw my lot with one group--either those who left Catholicism for atheism as young people or those who left atheism for Catholicism as adults--I'd choose the latter.

          • Doug Shaver

            I do find it intriguing that most of the atheists I've encountered at SN were born and baptized Catholic

            That is an interesting correlation.

            Before I came here, the only apologetics forums I had frequented were run by evangelical Protestants. I'm not sure whether most of the atheists posting there were former Christians of any kind, but many were, and of those who were, nearly all of them had been evangelicals.

          • David Nickol Michael Murray • 6 hours ago

            It is interesting to note that even the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not buy into the idea of "faith" as presented in the OP:

            179 Faith is a supernatural gift from God. In order to believe, man needs the interior helps of the Holy Spirit.

            That is only one mention of the word "faith" in the Catechism. The OP speaks of faith in a manner which is consistent with the Catechism. But I don't think it was the OP's intent to recite all the elements of faith discussed in the Catechism.

            In other words, there is nothing in the OP which contradicts the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If you see something which you think does so, please point it out. But I'm pretty sure it is completely in line with Catholic Teaching.

            I'm sure also, if you ask the author, he will agree that faith is a gift of God.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          The trouble with that is that his "reasonable expectations" are grounded in a metaphysical definition of evidence, and he has no way of justifying that definition of evidence. I'm continually amazed that so few people seem to understand the obvious fact that there can be no evidentiary basis to support a definition of evidence! A justification for a definition of evidence can only be obtained if one engages in metanoia, or "going beyond the mind". That which is beyond the mind is the justification.

          We must go beyond our minds in exactly the same way that the first man to eat an oyster had to go beyond his mind. He perhaps had some faint idea of what would happen (after all, he too had his own not-rationally-justifiable definition of evidence). But in the end, he had to go beyond the evidence (well beyond the evidence, if we are talking about oysters) and have the courage to taste it. The truth is a quality after all (at least, according to one common definition, it is the "quality of being true"), and the way to know a quality is to taste it directly. Of course, many others tasted different things and died, but their just-nearly-but-not-quite insane faith in the goodness of life lived on and is still with us today. That faith will die again and again, but if you believe in The Gospel, then you believe that faith will be resurrected every time.

          As the Church-going among us heard today, scripture instructs us to: "Test everything; retain what is good". As with oysters, so with epistemology, and so also with the Ultimate Belonging that we all want to believe exists.

          I recently wrote on EN that I would refrain from further exchanges for the rest of Advent, and I'm going to do that here on SN as well, so to all wish to be wished a Merry Christmas, I say, "Merry Christmas"!

        • Good point. A Muslim said it to me this way. If I hear a knock at the door, I expect that someone will be there because my experience tells me that when someone knocks at my door, someone is there.

          So, how did I come to experience God in order that I might have faith in Him?

          Here is what happened to me. And it was a matter of minutes. I went from Atheist to Believer in a matter of minutes.

          My wife informed me that she had conceived our first child. I don't remember what I said to her. I do remember that I went for a walk and the entire world looked different to me.

          Now, you might characterize it as my setting my natural skepticism aside and becoming gullible. But, I don't. My skepticism merely changed sides.

          I looked around and I said to myself, "what made the veins in this leaf? What made the clouds in the sky? what made the child in my wife's womb? I know I didn't. What did? Randomness is disorder. It couldn't be a random event."

          Then I came to understand, that as a child, when I decided to reject the existence of God because I couldn't see Him, I had merely replaced belief in one unseen Force for belief in another unseen force. Certain people who conferred upon themselves the title of scientist said to me via various means that we are a result of unseen random events.

          That's when my natural skepticism kicked in again, but this time against those who claimed that they knew that God doesn't exist because of so-called scientific evidence. That scientific evidence which they claimed proved that God did not exist, when I looked at it again, proved the existence of an Intelligence far superior to our own.

          And, now, I had PROOF that God does exist. Here was a very common, yet miraculous event. A child was conceived. I don't give a &^%$ how many people claim that this happens by random events. They are wrong, prima facie. Random events are disordered and create disorder. No series of random events can create a living organism. None. If you believe that, you have greater faith in random events than most believers have in God.

          But that is just one facet of "religious faith". Believing that God exists. The other, trusting in God, took more time. One of the reasons I had become an atheist was the existence of suffering in the world. I assumed that a good God would not permit it. The Catholic explanation of suffering is the one that finally satisfied me and convinced me that I could "trust" completely in God.

          • Michael Murray

            You are wrong that random events have to create disorder. Random events plus some process for selecting amongst them (such as natural selection) can create order. They created you and me!

          • Michael Murray De Maria • 10 hours ago

            You are wrong that random events have to create disorder. Random events plus some process for selecting amongst them (such as natural selection) can create order. They created you and me!

            God created us, Michael. And He created us permitting seemingly random actions which adhere to universal laws.

            That which looks random to you is the result of dna codes and instructions which would fill millions of supercomputers.

            There is really nothing random about it, but there is so much of it that our puny minds can't comprehend it so we call it random because we have no other explanation.

          • No. They didn't. God created us.

            You said:

            Random events plus some process for selecting amongst them….

            Random events by themselves create chaos. But, something else can direct events in a manner that creates order.

            The events might appear random to us due to the sheer magnitude. But they are not random at all. They are guided by a Higher Intelligence who has established universal laws which guide all events of life.

          • Krakerjak

            /blockquote>those who claimed that they knew that God doesn't exist
            because of so-called scientific evidence. .

            First
            of all....I don't believe that there is any scientific evidence that
            God does not exist. And secondly I don't know of any atheists that think
            that there is any scientific proof or evidence that god does not
            exist. I would be interested to see what evidence that you have that
            they say provides evidence for the non existence of god. Seriously.

            I respect that you are a man of faith and religious conviction and believe that the world is a better place because of people like you who take their faith seriously especially in the areas of justice, love and compassion for the suffering and the poor.

          • Krakerjak De Maria • 5 hours ago

            those who claimed that they knew that God doesn't exist because of so-called scientific evidence. .

            First of all....I don't believe that there is any scientific evidence that God does not exist,….

            Excellent! I'm glad we agree on that point.

            nor that he does exist.

            But, in my opinion, science does provide evidence of phenomenon which can not be explained except by the existence of God. Phenomenon such as the existence of Thermodynamic laws.

            I would be interested to see what evidence that you have

            That I have?

            that they say provides evidence for the non existence of god. Seriously.

            They had none. That's my point. They interpreted evolution and the Big Bang as proof that God does not exist.

            But, your admission that science can't disprove the existence of God, leads me to another question. If you don't use science to support your belief that God does not exist, what support do you have for that belief? I'm assuming you're an atheist since you are venturing into Buddhism.

            I respect that you are a man of faith and religious conviction and believe that the world is a better place because of people like you who take their faith seriously especially in the areas of justice, love and compassion for the suffering and the poor.

            Thank you. The feeling is mutual.

          • djs56

            Hi De Maria,

            I'm interested in this statement:

            "...science does provide evidence of phenomenon which can not be explained except by the existence of God... such as the existence of Thermodynamic laws"

            Can you expand on this? Which laws of thermodynamics can only be explained by the existence of God? Thanks in advance.

          • Which laws of thermodynamics can only be explained by the existence of God?

            All of them. The existence of laws require the existence of a lawmaker. The existence of laws of nature, not just the laws of thermodynamics, but all of them, prove that the universe was created logically, orderly and in an intelligent manner. A manner which we could discover and come to understand and which would reveal to us the existence of the Creator.

          • Michael Murray

            The existence of laws require the existence of a lawmaker.

            Really ? Have you got any justification for that statement other than the existence of a lawmaker making you feel good ?

            "Laws" just require some regularity in the structure of the universe. As for that matter does life. So not very likely that we would be sitting here having this discussion without the universe looking like it had laws. So I would conclude nothing from their existence.

          • Really ? Have you got any justification for that statement other than the existence of a lawmaker making you feel good ?

            Yes. The Constitution of the US. The laws of any country, they were all written by men.

            "Laws" just require some regularity in the structure of the universe. As for that matter does life. So not very likely that we would be sitting here having this discussion without the universe looking like it had laws. So I would conclude nothing from their existence.

            That's you. But I conclude that an Intelligent Being established this structure (i.e. laws) and then created the universe in accordance with it.

          • Michael Murray

            prove that the universe was created logically, orderly and in an intelligent manner.

            So remind me why this logical, orderly and intelligent creation ended up with so much of the "design" of living species looking like a botch job

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_poor_design

            Just for fun try not to mention serpents or apples.

          • Hi Michael,

            I guess I didn't see these other messages.

            So remind me why this logical, orderly and intelligent creation ended up with so much of the "design" of living species looking like a botch job

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A...

            Just for fun try not to mention serpents or apples.

            They look like a botch job to you. But you're not the designer. That is why scientists bandy about the term, "random process". They can't see the design goal, so they assume there is none. And they label the process "random". When in reality, there is a purpose to the process. That is why it is called a process.

          • djs56

            The existence of laws require the existence of a lawmaker.

            implies, maybe, but i can’t agree it ‘requires’ unless, similar to …

            …The laws of any country, they were all written by men.

            the ‘Laws of nature’ were written by people too, as approximations describing natural events.

            That is why scientists bandy about the term, "random process".

            Do you know much about how randomness is incorporated into humanities ‘laws of nature’? Thermodynamics? Quantum mechanics? Bell’s inequalities? Why do you think the term is bandied about?

          • implies, maybe, but i can’t agree it ‘requires’ unless, similar to …

            I don't expect everyone to agree.

            the ‘Laws of nature’ were written by people too, as approximations describing natural events.

            That is simply confirmation of what I said. Those who wrote them recognized the intelligence they saw in the design of nature.

            Do you know much about how randomness is incorporated into humanities ‘laws of nature’? Thermodynamics? Quantum mechanics? Bell’s inequalities? Why do you think the term is bandied about?

            Because I hear it quite often and have heard it since I was a child in public school and through college. But feel free to show me that it isn't so. I'd like to see this novel concept.

        • bbrown

          That's certainly one aspect, a very important one, of faith.

      • Doug Shaver

        I do not doubt for a minute that there are people of authentic religious faith whose faith tells them the Catholic religion is false or even pernicious.

        I used to be one of them. Back in the days when I embraced scriptural inerrancy, I believed that the Catholic Church was the whore of Babylon spoken of in the book of Revelation.

        • I hope you've set that aside. I've met many Protestants who believe that. But, from a strictly Scriptural perspective, there is more evidence for Catholicism than there is for Protestantism. In fact, Protestant doctrine contradicts the Scriptures whenever it contradicts Catholicism.

          When I say, "strictly Scriptural", I'm not advocating Scripture alone. I'm merely stating that Scripture disproves Protestant doctrine. So does Sacred Tradition.

          In fact, the Protestant doctrine of Scripture alone is disproved by Scripture uh, alone.

          2 Thessalonians 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

          • Doug Shaver

            I hope you've set that aside.

            I set it aside as soon as I set aside my commitment in scriptural inerrancy.

            In fact, Protestant doctrine contradicts the Scriptures whenever it contradicts Catholicism.

            This might come as something of a surprise to you, but evangelicals claim that Catholic doctrine contradicts scripture whenever it contradicts evangelicalism.

            I'm merely stating that Scripture disproves Protestant doctrine.

            According to Protestants, scripture disproves Catholic doctrine.

          • Doug Shaver De Maria • a day ago

            I set it aside as soon as I set aside my commitment in scriptural inerrancy.

            This might come as something of a surprise to you, but evangelicals claim that Catholic doctrine contradicts scripture whenever it contradicts evangelicalism.

            No surprise whatsoever. I've been debating Scripture with Protestants for close to twenty years.

            According to Protestants, scripture disproves Catholic doctrine.

            I'm sure you'll agree that saying it is not the same as proving it.

            I know that you no longer have a dog in this fight. But I'll just give these examples for the purpose of illustration.

            Protestants teach Scripture alone. But they can produce not one verse to defend that verse. The reason being that Scripture teaches something else. Scripture says:

            2 Thessalonians 2:15 KJV Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

            Protestants teach that one is justified by faith alone. But Scripture says:

            James 2:24 KJV Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

            Protestants teach that one should add nothing to faith. Scripture says:

            2 Peter 1: (KJV)5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

            Those are just three examples. We can compare Protestant doctrines which contradict Catholic Teaching to Scripture all day long. And all day long, Scripture will back up Catholic Doctrine and disprove Protestant doctrine.

          • Doug Shaver

            According to Protestants, scripture disproves Catholic doctrine.

            I'm sure you'll agree that saying it is not the same as proving it.

            Of course I will, but I haven't seen you prove the contrary yet.

            We can compare Protestant doctrines which contradict Catholic Teaching to Scripture all day long.

            Yes, we can, and we might have some fun doing it. But not here and not now. You have stated your position and I've stated mine. For this particular issue, let's let it go at that.

      • In an case, I do not buy the idea that "faith" that a chair will support my weight is in any significant way comparable to religious faith.

        It is for me.

        You don't claim to be atheist. But I once did, so, I believe that I understand what you mean when you say that you don't buy the idea above.

        What is the difference between me as an atheist and me as a believer?

        When I was an atheist, I thought believers were saying that if I believed in God, He would give me everything that I asked for. But, I could see that God rarely gave believers everything that they asked for. So, that was an inconsistency in my view. Religious faith did not support my weight, so to speak.

        But, when I came to believe in God, the same inconsistency remained. The only Religion which explained it satisfactorily was Catholicism. Catholicism says that we are here to do God's will. Not our own. And God will answer our prayers insofar as our prayers agree with His will.

        Scripture says it this way:

        James 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

        That chair supports my weight. I understand now, why my prayer to win the lottery, has not been answered.

        The Catholic theology of suffering is also very compelling for me.

    • Doug Shaver

      Hello Doug, I am a former atheist convert to Catholicism.

      Right. So far, so good.

      I've seen plenty of theological commentary on faith. I don't see a connection between what the theologians are talking about and my willingness to take my neighbor's word for it that my house is on fire.

      I understand. But we who have faith in God trust Him do see the connection because we believe God is as real as our neighbor and we trust Him more than our neighbor.

      However, when I did not believe that God existed, I couldn't trust in Him. Goes without saying, doesn't it?

      This assumes facts not yet in evidence. The OT stories emphasize the need to trust certain people who claim to be speaking on God's behalf. Anybody can say, "Thus saith the Lord" and then accuse any skeptic of questioning God himself. The issue whether, when a man says "Thus saith the Lord," we should just take his word for it.

      Those words are attributed to Jesus. Why should I believe that he actually spoke them?

      Because of the eyewitness testimony of those who wrote the Gospels.

      Because church tradition says so?

      That too.

      Can we talk about the differences between church tradition and my neighbor's claim that my house is on fire?

      Please.

      I think I see some equivocation here. If I can prove something, then I most certainly do believe it. I do also believe many things that I cannot prove, but I don't stop believing when I find proof.

      Precisely why I now believe in God. And I don't just mean believing in His existence. I trust Him totally. I trust Him more than my neighbor.

      Obviously, I cannot believe a proposition that I do not understand at all.

      Agreed.

      But I need more than understanding.

      ???

      I need a reason to believe. The authority of the person uttering the proposition might be sufficient reason, but then I need to understand how he got his authority.

      I'm not sure why you need more than understanding to believe? Nor why you would need someone of authority. If a child tells me something which makes sense to me, I believe it.

      If I understand, and agree, I believe.

      If I think I understand, yet disagree, then I won't accept and will reject. Therefore, I won't believe. This is the process I went through to reject atheism.

      And how do I know that God has revealed those truths? Because the church says so, right?

      That is the logical conclusion which I drew after much study.

      The claim that certain documents were produced by men who knew him is at the heart of the Catholic faith.

      Agreed.

      Translation: Faith is willingness to do what the church tells you to do.

      Only if and after you come to the conclusion that the Church speaks for God.

      This skeptic does not say, and never has said, that reason explains everything about reality. And he has rarely, if ever, heard any other skeptic say it.

      Agreed.

      No, it does not. This is a caricature, not a characterization. Atheism requires none of those things.

      Agreed.

      I cannot either trust or distrust an entity that I don't believe exists. When a man tells me what God will do or has done for me, it is he whom I am not trusting.

      Agreed.

      Yeah, we've all heard it, and some of us atheists disagree with it as strongly as Christians do. But we disagree only with use of the definite article. Faith is not "the source" of those things. It is "a source." Another source would be any secular ideology that thinks itself incapable of error.

      Ok. But I'm pretty sure that the majority of atheists call religion (i.e. Faith), THE opiate of the masses. You are the first atheist, in memory, who does not agree, wholeheartedly, with this axiom.

      Harris is mistaken. He seems to think that if A and B share certain characteristics, then A must be of the same nature as B. Political ideologies can be like religions in certain respects, but that doesn't make them religions.

      I agree. I consider them "ideologies".

      Apologists have been striving for two millennia. I have not seen one succeed yet.

      I'd say that depends upon how you count success. Just because they have failed to convince you, does not mean they have failed to convince everyone.

      • Doug Shaver

        But we who have faith in God trust Him do see the connection because we believe God is as real as our neighbor and we trust Him more than our neighbor.

        If you wish to debate the existence of my neighbor, we can do that, but I assume you'll stipulate it for the sake of discussion. And this discussion began with the issue of why I should believe that your God exists.

        Those words are attributed to Jesus. Why should I believe that he actually spoke them?

        Because of the eyewitness testimony of those who wrote the Gospels.

        What eyewitness testimony? I think I have good reason to doubt that we have any.

        Can we talk about the differences between church tradition and my neighbor's claim that my house is on fire?

        Please.

        You can start by telling me how they are relevantly similar.

        I'm not sure why you need more than understanding to believe?

        If understanding were sufficient, then for every belief I held, I would also believe its contrary. I would believe that Barack Obama was president of the United States, but I would also believe that he was not the president. I would believe that I was born in California and that I was born somewhere else, and I would also believe that I had never been born. I would believe that I was a Christian and that I was not a Christian. I understand every one of those statements. If I could believe anything I understood, without needing a reason to believe it, I would believe all those things and countless other contradictions just like them.

        Nor why you would need someone of authority.

        I did not say that an authority was necessary. I said that an authority could be sufficient under certain conditions.

        If a child tells me something which makes sense to me, I believe it.

        I can make sense of many things that I don't believe. The statement "My wife is out shopping for groceries" makes perfect sense, but at this moment I know that it isn't true.

        And how do I know that God has revealed those truths? Because the church says so, right?

        That is the logical conclusion which I drew after much study.

        Sounds like your faith actually is in the church.

        Translation: Faith is willingness to do what the church tells you to do.

        Only if and after you come to the conclusion that the Church speaks for God.

        Suit yourself. I will not equate the word of any man with the word of God.

        But I'm pretty sure that the majority of atheists call religion (i.e. Faith), THE opiate of the masses.

        I have no idea. Maybe they do.

        You are the first atheist, in memory, who does not agree, wholeheartedly, with this axiom.

        It should not be regarded as an axiom, and I would strongly disagree with anyone who does so regard it. Insofar as it might be true, it would be only an observation. But in this thread, it have neither affirmed it nor denied it.

        Apologists have been striving for two millennia. I have not seen one succeed yet.

        I'd say that depends upon how you count success. Just because they have failed to convince you, does not mean they have failed to convince everyone.

        If they had convinced everyone, there would be no atheists. There are atheists. Therefore, they have not convinced everyone.

        I don't judge an argument by the number of people who find it persuasive. What I mean by a successful apologetic is one for which no cogent counterargument exists.

        • If you wish to debate the existence of my
          ….
          neighbor, we can do that, but I assume you'll stipulate it for the sake of discussion.

          Funny.

          And this discussion began with the issue of why I should believe that your God exists.

          No, no. I would never put myself in that situation. I can't control what you believe. I am explaining why I believe in God by using your responses as counterpoints.

          I am writing to you, but I am writing for those who may be reading these exchanges and seeking to understand their faith (or lack thereof).

          If, by any chance, you also are moved by my responses, it is simple gravy for me. But I don't seek to convince you of anything.

          I do, however, intend to show why I consider your logic in regards to God's nonexistence, false. Again, simply for the benefit of others who may be reading the exchange.

          What eyewitness testimony?

          The Gospels.

          I think I have good reason to doubt that we have any.

          What are your reasons?

          Can we talk about the differences between church tradition and my neighbor's claim that my house is on fire?

          Please.

          You can start by telling me how they are relevantly similar.

          Hm? When you asked, "Can we talk about the differences between church tradition and my neighbor's claim that my house is on fire?" I thought you were going to expound upon the differences that you see between the two.

          Is this an admission that you see no differences?

          If understanding were sufficient, then for every belief I held, I would also believe its contrary. I would believe that Barack Obama was president of the United States, but I would also believe that he was not the president…..The statement "My wife is out shopping for groceries" makes perfect sense, but at this moment I know that it isn't true.

          That is why I said, "if I understand and agree, I believe.

          So, we seem to agree on that point.

          I did not say that an authority was necessary. I said that an authority could be sufficient under certain conditions.

          I agree with that point.

          Sounds like your faith actually is in the church.

          It is both. My first step, was actually composed of two, simultaneously. I accepted that God must exist and simultaneously, without comment or fanfare, rejected Atheism.

          My next step was long and arduous. Since I now believed that God exists, and I'm not the first man to step on this earth, there must be somebody who can tell me about Him.

          So, I sifted through many religions before I finally came to trust in one. The Catholic Church.

          So, I have faith in both God and what I have come to believe is His Church.

          Suit yourself. I will not equate the word of any man with the word of God.

          ??? It kind of sounds as though you're saying, "I believe God exists, but I don't believe any man can speak for Him". But I don't want to put words in your mouth, so please explain what you actually mean.

          As for me, I believe that God exists. I believe the definition of the word "God" includes "omnipotence". Therefore, I believe that God can speak through rocks if He wants to.

          If they had convinced everyone, there would be no atheists. There are atheists. Therefore, they have not convinced everyone.

          But, in my opinion, they may have convinced some. That is what I was actually intending to convey. And, in fact, I've read many conversion stories that assert this truth.

          I don't judge an argument by the number of people who find it persuasive. What I mean by a successful apologetic is one for which no cogent counterargument exists.

          Is the word "cogent", a subjective or objective term?

          As for me, when I was atheist, I thought I had many cogent arguments against the existence of God. I now know that I had none at all and that none exist. Not for me.

          • Doug Shaver

            I can't control what you believe.

            I haven't asked you to. What gave you the impression that I had?

            I am writing to you, but I am writing for those who may be reading these exchanges and seeking to understand their faith (or lack thereof).

            I, too, am writing as much for the people reading these exchanges as I am for my interlocutors.

            But I don't seek to convince you of anything.

            Indeed? Do you not believe that I will suffer an eternity in hell if I die in my unbelief, or do you just not care that such a fate awaits me?

            I do, however, intend to show why I consider your logic in regards to God's nonexistence, false. Again, simply for the benefit of others who may be reading the exchange.

            OK. Go for it.

            What eyewitness testimony? . . . I think I have good reason to doubt that we have any.

            What are your reasons?

            The existence of the canonical gospels is not unambiguously attested before the late second century. If they had been written by eyewitnesses, or by people acquainted with eyewitnesses, I think an earlier attestation would have survived.

            When you asked, "Can we talk about the differences between church tradition and my neighbor's claim that my house is on fire?" I thought you were going to expound upon the differences that you see between the two.

            Is this an admission that you see no differences?

            Hardly. My point is that the differences are enough justify my believing one source and not the other. If my neighbor calls me at work and says my house is on fire, and if I believe him, it is because I know that (a) he is in a situation that provides him firsthand knowledge about my house, (b) because of that situation, it is improbable that he would be mistaken about the house being on fire, and (c) it is even more improbable that he would lie about such a thing. I know none of those things about the people among whom any church tradition originated. I don't even know who those people were, let alone what kind of information they had access to, how careful they would have been to avoid making mistakes, or how honest they were.

            That is why I said, "if I understand and agree, I believe.

            But, you said to me: "I'm not sure why you need more than understanding to believe."

            It kind of sounds as though you're saying, "I believe God exists, but I don't believe any man can speak for Him". But I don't want to put words in your mouth, so please explain what you actually mean.

            I'm not saying that no man can speak for God. I'm saying I do not believe that any man does speak for him.

            Of course, if there is no god, then it follows trivially that no man can speak for him. And, being an atheist, I don’t believe there is a god. But I acknowledge my human fallibility. It is possible that a god exists, and if he exists, then it is possible that he uses some people to convey certain information about himself to the rest of the world. It is only possible, though, and not certain. If the real god is the god of deism, then he isn't using anybody as his messenger. But now suppose for the sake or argument that there is a god and he does use some people to inform us about him. I have no reliable means of identifying those people. Anybody can say "Thus saith the Lord," and countless people throughout history have said it, and not one of them has provided any reason beyond their own say-so for thinking that God actually told them anything at all.

            I believe that God can speak through rocks if He wants to.

            If I heard both a rock and a man say, "I have a message for you from God," I'd believe the rock before I'd believe the man.

            But, in my opinion, they may have convinced some.

            I don't think that's a matter of opinion. I think it's pretty obviously a fact that some people who are Christians were not always Christians, and something had to change their minds. Some percentage of those converts will say that they were persuaded by apologetic arguments.

            Is the word "cogent", a subjective or objective term?

            Logicians define it in terms of probability. Some probabilities are more subjective than others.

          • I haven't asked you to. What gave you the impression that I had?

            When you said that this conversation was about, "why (you) should believe". That gave me the impression that you thought I was trying to convince you to believe as I do. I'm not. I entered the conversation in order to explain why I believe. The topic of the article is "why believe". I'm explaining why I believe.

            I suppose I could have responded to anyone, but I like to use counterpoint. Sort of a way to compare and contrast points of view that are opposed.

            I hope you're not offended.

            I, too, am writing as much for the people reading these exchanges as I am for my interlocutors.

            Awesome! Great minds, they do think alike! ;)

            OK. Go for it.

            Our opinions will unfold as our discussion continues.

            The existence of the canonical gospels is not unambiguously attested

            What do you mean by the term, "unambiguously attested"?

            before the late second century. If they had been written by eyewitnesses, or by people acquainted with eyewitnesses, I think an earlier attestation would have survived.

            So, its really just a gut feeling that you have. There is no objective rule which says, "the Gospels must be unambiguously attested before a certain time or they are not authentic."

            Hardly. My point is that the differences are enough justify my believing one source and not the other. If my neighbor calls me at work and says my house is on fire, and if I believe him, it is because I know that (a) he is in a situation that provides him firsthand knowledge about my house, (b) because of that situation, it is improbable that he would be mistaken about the house being on fire, and (c) it is even more improbable that he would lie about such a thing. I know none of those things about the people among whom any church tradition originated. I don't even know who those people were, let alone what kind of information they had access to, how careful they would have been to avoid making mistakes, or how honest they were.

            Ok. Great. Thanks for your explanation. For the sake of comparison, I 'll give my reason for trusting the Church.

            I know that (a) he is in a situation that provides him firsthand knowledge about my house,

            I believe that the people who wrote the Gospels were in a situation that provided them firsthand information about Jesus Christ.

            (b) because of that situation, it is improbable that he would be mistaken about the house being on fire, and

            Because of that situation and because of the corroborating evidence in the four eyewitness testimonies, I believe it is very improbable that they would be mistaken about their accounts of the life and times of Jesus Christ.

            (c) it is even more improbable that he would lie about such a thing.

            Because they held the same moral code which I believe in, in fact, I learned it from them and believe in it. I find it extremely improbable that they would lie about that which they have written. Especially, since they would be persecuted on all sides for their testimony.

            I know none of those things about the people among whom any church tradition originated.

            How about the people who taught you about the origins of the United States? Do you know anything about them?

            I'm assuming you believe in the history of the United States and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, etc. etc.

            But, you said to me: "I'm not sure why you need more than understanding to believe."

            That's correct. Do you see some sort of inconsistency there? Or what?

            I'm not saying that no man can speak for God. I'm saying I do not believe that any man does speak for him.

            Of course, if there is no god, then it follows trivially that no man can speak for him. And, being an atheist, I don’t believe there is a god. But I acknowledge my human fallibility. It is possible that a god exists, and if he exists, then it is possible that he uses some people to convey certain information about himself to the rest of the world.

            Ok. Sounds as though you understand my position. I believe in God and I believe that the Catholic Church speaks for God.

            But I acknowledge my human fallibility. It is possible that a god exists,….

            I repeated this quote in order to ask, what is the difference, in your view, between your professed "atheist" point of view and that of an agnostic?

            As I understand, an agnostic admits the possibility of the existence of God. Whereas, an atheist, does not.

            If the real god is the god of deism, then he isn't using anybody as his messenger.

            I'm not really sure what you mean by the "god of deism". But the God described in the Scriptures is using people whom He chose to reveal Him to the world.

            2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

            But now suppose for the sake or argument that there is a god

            Ok.

            and he does use some people to inform us about him.

            Ok.

            I have no reliable means of identifying those people.

            I understand.

            When, I came to believe that God exists, I also had no means of knowing whom I should believe. So, I had to buckle down and study the different versions of God throughout the world. Hinduism, Islam, Reformed Christianity and those led me to Catholicism.

            Anybody can say "Thus saith the Lord," and countless people throughout history have said it, and not one of them has provided any reason beyond their own say-so for thinking that God actually told them anything at all.

            As for Judaism and Christianity, they both spoke in the context of an existing community. And the existing community did not contradict their testimony.

            However, for me, the most convincing element is the consummate logic of the Teachings they attribute to God.

            If I heard both a rock and a man say, "I have a message for you from God," I'd believe the rock before I'd believe the man.

            I understand. But, you'll forgive me, I hope, when I don't believe you if you claimed that a rock spoke to you.

            Logicians define it in terms of probability. Some probabilities are more subjective than others.

            I had no idea that it was a matter of probability. As for me, I consider "cogent" a subjective term. 100% subjective.

            Why? Because when I was an atheist, I found all arguments for atheism to be clear, logical and persuasive. i.e. cogent. But, now that I believe in God, I no longer find them so.

            I understand. But I no longer agree.

          • Doug Shaver

            I can't control what you believe.

            I haven't asked you to. What gave you the impression that I had?

            When you said that this conversation was about, "why (you) should believe". That gave me the impression that you thought I was trying to convince you to believe as I do.

            I have never regarded efforts to persuade people as tantamount to attempts at mind control, but I guess I can see why some people would think they were the same thing.

            The topic of the article is "why believe". I'm explaining why I believe.

            And I'm explaining why I don't. Some people -- maybe not you, but some people -- think there is something so wrong with not believing that it deserves eternal punishment.

            I suppose I could have responded to anyone, but I like to use counterpoint. Sort of a way to compare and contrast points of view that are opposed.

            I hope you're not offended.

            Not in the least.

            What do you mean by the term, "unambiguously attested"?

            I mean referred to in such a way that, considering the context, it would be intellectually perverse to think that the author might possibly have had any other documents in mind.

            So, its really just a gut feeling that you have. There is no objective rule which says, "the Gospels must be unambiguously attested before a certain time or they are not authentic."

            Gut feelings can be mistaken. You're welcome to show me a reason for thinking that mine is mistaken in this case.

            And I said nothing about an "objective rule." I am talking about what is reasonable to infer about the gospels' provenance from whatever facts we have about their existence. It is a fact that orthodox Christian tradition makes certain assertions about their provenance. It is not a fact that orthodox Christian tradition either is, or ought to be regarded as, infallible.

            I know that (a) he is in a situation that provides him firsthand knowledge about my house,

            I believe that the people who wrote the Gospels were in a situation that provided them firsthand information about Jesus Christ.

            OK, you believe it. Since I don’t believe it, I cannot know it. Do you understand the difference between belief and knowledge?

            How about the people who taught you about the origins of the United States? Do you know anything about them?

            If you're referring to the teachers in all the history classes I've attended, I know practically nothing about them. However, I do not rely solely on what they said in those classes for what I think I know about the origins of the United States. In fact, I've discovered that some things that some of them told me were probably wrong.

            I'm assuming you believe in the history of the United States and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, etc. etc.

            I believe that the United States has a history. The accuracy with which any particular document reports that history is up for debate.

            But, you said to me: "I'm not sure why you need more than understanding to believe."

            That's correct. Do you see some sort of inconsistency there?

            Yes. You acknowledge the possibility of understanding and not believing. If that is so, then understanding is not sufficient for belief, and to say that it is not sufficient is to say that one needs more.

            As I understand, an agnostic admits the possibility of the existence of God. Whereas, an atheist, does not.

            Words are defined by usage. That is how most people use those words.

            But most people are not themselves atheists. Most of us who call ourselves atheists do not use those words in that way, and we don't think that our intellectual adversaries should be telling us how to use a label that we apply to ourselves.

            Anyway, other unbelievers will have to speak for themselves. Here is what I mean by "athiest" and "agnostic," based on my reading of a considerable amount of relevant literature.

            An atheist is a person who does not believe that any god exists. It does not matter why he does not believe that or whether he thinks there is some logical possibility of some god's existence. If he does not believe, then he is an atheist. He may also believe, and most atheists probably do believe, in a positive sense, that there is no god, but this is consistent with my primary definition: If a person believes that "X exists" is false, then he necessarily does not believe that "X exists" is true.

            An agnostic is a person who denies knowing whether a god exists. There is an important distinction between belief and knowledge. We cannot know what we don't believe, but we can, and we all do, believe many things that we do not know. Some agnostics claim that it is impossible for any person to know that a god exists, and that those who claim such knowledge are simply mistaken. Other agnostics, probably most, affirm only that they themselves lack such knowledge.

            I'm not really sure what you mean by the "god of deism". But the God described in the Scriptures is using people whom He chose to reveal Him to the world.

            The God of the Bible, as you interpret the Bible, is not the only God that people believe in, and I have no reason to presuppose that no other God could possibly exist. Deism affirms the existence of a being who created the universe and, since the moment of creation, has not intervened in its workings. This noninterference, according to deists, entails the nonoccurrence of miracles and of special revelation.

            As for Judaism and Christianity, they both spoke in the context of an existing community. And the existing community did not contradict their testimony.

            The community was in no position to contradict anything. When the priests said, "Thus saith the Lord," nobody could have known that the Lord has actually said something else, or had said nothing at all. And in some of those communities, there were health hazards associated with questioning anything a priest said.

            Logicians define it in terms of probability. Some probabilities are more subjective than others.

            I had no idea that it was a matter of probability.

            I can suggest some reading material, if you'd like to learn more.

          • And I'm explaining why I don't. Some people -- maybe not you, but some people -- think there is something so wrong with not believing that it deserves eternal punishment.

            I believe that God is the Judge of all mankind.

            And the Church teaches that some people who claim to believe will also suffer eternal punishment.

            I mean referred to in such a way that, considering the context, it would be intellectually perverse to think that the author might possibly have had any other documents in mind.

            Ok.

            Gut feelings can be mistaken. You're welcome to show me a reason for thinking that mine is mistaken in this case.

            I'm really just trying to establish that it is only a gut feeling, at this point. I'll do my best to explain my reasons for believing as the conversation unfolds.

            And I said nothing about an "objective rule." I am talking about what is reasonable to infer about the gospels' provenance from whatever facts we have about their existence. It is a fact that orthodox Christian tradition makes certain assertions about their provenance. It is not a fact that orthodox Christian tradition either is, or ought to be regarded as, infallible.

            Ok. Thanks for those answers. I'm really just trying to establish that it is your subjective opinion there are not enough "unambiguously attested" mentions of the Gospels before the 2nd century.

            As for me, It is a time in history when writing implements and tools were very primitive. Storage of information and its preservation was crude. The way I look at it, it is a miracle that those few things which we have from that century survived at all.

            I think the Christian community would be focusing the bulk of its energy to preserving the Scriptures themselves. But only a few would consider commentaries on the Scriptures valuable enough for perpetual preservation.

            OK, you believe it. Since I don’t believe it, I cannot know it. Do you understand the difference between belief and knowledge?

            Yes, you're saying that you can't believe it because you don't know it firsthand. However, there is much which people believe which they don't experience firsthand.

            I believe that France exists. Yet I don't know it firsthand.

            If you're referring to the teachers in all the history classes I've attended, I know practically nothing about them. However, I do not rely solely on what they said in those classes for what I think I know about the origins of the United States. In fact, I've discovered that some things that some of them told me were probably wrong.

            I believe that the United States has a history. The accuracy with which any particular document reports that history is up for debate.

            So, what is the difference between that which those folks whom you know practically nothing about told you, but you believed their history of the US? and those who told you about the authors of the Gospels?

            As for me, there's a great deal of difference and I trust the those who told me about the authors of the Gospels more than any teachers of history because they are doing their best to live according to the same moral code to which I adhere.

            Yes. You acknowledge the possibility of understanding and not believing. If that is so, then understanding is not sufficient for belief, and to say that it is not sufficient is to say that one needs more.

            That is only a partial quote of what I said. My statement has to be taken in context. Let me quote my entire statement to see if you still see the same inconsistency:

            I'm not sure why you need more than understanding to believe? Nor why you would need someone of authority. If a child tells me something which makes sense to me, I believe it.

            If I understand, and agree, I believe.

            I also said later:

            That is why I said, "if I understand and agree, I believe.

            So, we seem to agree on that point.

            I have made it very plain that I must agree with something, before I believe it, even if I understand it.

            Do you need any further clarification or do you still see an inconsistency?

            Words are defined by usage. That is how most people use those words.

            But most people are not themselves atheists. Most of us who call ourselves atheists do not use those words in that way, ….

            Ok. I understand your view point. I was one of those atheists who did use the words in that way, so I was just curious.

            The God of the Bible, as you interpret the Bible, is not the only God that people believe in, and I have no reason to presuppose that no other God could possibly exist. Deism affirms the existence of a being who created the universe and, since the moment of creation, has not intervened in its workings. This noninterference, according to deists, entails the nonoccurrence of miracles and of special revelation.

            I still don't get it. You said:

            If the real god is the god of deism, then he isn't using anybody as his messenger.

            I didn't propose that the god of deism is the real god. Nor did I say that the god of deism would use messengers.

            And, neither you nor I consider that deity to be God. Soooo?

            The community was in no position to contradict anything. When the priests said, "Thus saith the Lord," nobody could have known that the Lord has actually said something else, or had said nothing at all. And in some of those communities, there were health hazards associated with questioning anything a priest said.

            On the contrary, the entire Jewish community witnessed God's miracles and hear His voice in a powerful way. In the same way, the people who lived in Christ's vicinity were witnesses of His miracles and many of them heard His Teachings.

            They were very much in a position to contradict and some did.

            I can suggest some reading material, if you'd like to learn more.

            No thanks. Its not a matter of probability for me.

          • Doug Shaver

            Some people -- maybe not you, but some people -- think there is something so wrong with not believing that it deserves eternal punishment.

            I believe that God is the Judge of all mankind.

            All Christians say that. Some them also say they know very well what God's judgment will be for unbelievers, because -- so they assure me -- they have God's own word as to what is going to happen to people who die as unbelievers.

            The way I look at it, it is a miracle that those few things which we have from that century survived at all.

            It did happen, and I am aware of no reason to regard it as even improbable, let alone miraculous.

            It is a time in history when writing implements and tools were very primitive. Storage of information and its preservation was crude.

            In forming a reasoned judgment about what happened in the past, we must limit ourselves to evidence we actually have. The reasons why we don't have some evidence that we wish we had are irrelevant. It is illogical to argue: If we had X, then we could infer Y, and therefore we ought to believe Y even if we don't have X.

            I think the Christian community would be focusing the bulk of its energy to preserving the Scriptures themselves.

            Maybe, but you're assuming that they believed what you believe about which documents were scripture. I know of no good evidence to support that assumption.

            Do you understand the difference between belief and knowledge?

            Yes, you're saying that you can't believe it because you don't know it firsthand.

            No, I am not saying that. And if I were saying it, it would not mark the difference between belief and knowledge.

            I believe that France exists. Yet I don't know it firsthand.

            I believe it, and I also know it. I don't need to know something firsthand in order to know it, and neither do you. Firsthand knowledge is not the only kind of knowledge.

            So, what is the difference between that which those folks whom you know practically nothing about told you, but you believed their history of the US? and those who told you about the authors of the Gospels?

            While I was growing up, I believed what my teachers said because they were authorities and I thought it was wrong to disagree with any authority. Nowadays, I no longer believe anything that my teachers told me just because they said it. What I now believe about American history, I believe because I have confirmed it through other sources whom I regard as more reliable than were my teachers in elementary and high school. But I have found no sources that corroborate what the patristic writers say about the gospels' provenance.

            I trust the those who told me about the authors of the Gospels more than any teachers of history because they are doing their best to live according to the same moral code to which I adhere.

            Why? What is it about your moral code that would endow anyone with reliable insight into who wrote any document?

            Do you need any further clarification or do you still see an inconsistency?

            I need you to clarify what you meant when you said, "I'm not sure why you need more than understanding to believe."

            I didn't propose that the god of deism is the real god.

            I have said nothing to imply that you did. My point was that it is possible to prove that atheism is a mistake without proving anything about how any scripture came to be written.

            the entire Jewish community witnessed God's miracles and hear His voice in a powerful way. In the same way, the people who lived in Christ's vicinity were witnesses of His miracles and many of them heard His Teachings.

            So says your dogma.

          • All Christians say that. Some them also say they know very well what God's judgment will be for unbelievers, because -- so they assure me -- they have God's own word as to what is going to happen to people who die as unbelievers.

            Catholics who know their faith do not judge anyone's eternal fate. As proof I provide Pope Francis comment to the atheist:

            The Pope wrote: "The question for those who do not believe in God is to follow their own conscience. Sin, even for a non-believer, is when one goes against one's conscience.

            But this is nothing new. Pope JPII wrote:

            The Church knows that the issue of morality is one which deeply touches every person; it involves all people, even those who do not know Christ and his Gospel or God himself. She knows that it is precisely on the path of the moral life that the way of salvation is open to all. (Veritatis Splendor).

            Which, I believe, means that salvation is open to ALL. God is Judge.

            It did happen, and I am aware of no reason to regard it as even improbable, let alone miraculous.

            I believe the rudimentary implements they had available are a very good reason to regard it improbable.

            In forming a reasoned judgment about what happened in the past, we must limit ourselves to evidence we actually have. The reasons why we don't have some evidence that we wish we had are irrelevant. It is illogical to argue: If we had X, then we could infer Y, and therefore we ought to believe Y even if we don't have X.

            You're contradicting yourself and confusing your x's and y's.

            First, it is I who am quite content with the amount of evidence provided by the ECF's for the Gospels.

            Second, It is YOU who is not satisfied by the existing evidence but wishes that more should be available. Therefore, it is you who is drawing a conclusion based upon YOUR irrelevant wishes.

            Maybe, but you're assuming that they believed what you believe about which documents were scripture. I know of no good evidence to support that assumption.

            Again, I point to the Early Church Fathers, who quoted extensively from the same books which I consider Scripture.

            No, I am not saying that. And if I were saying it, it would not mark the difference between belief and knowledge.

            While I was growing up, I believed what my teachers said because they were authorities and I thought it was wrong to disagree with any authority. Nowadays, I no longer believe anything that my teachers told me just because they said it. What I now believe about American history, I believe because I have confirmed it through other sources whom I regard as more reliable than were my teachers in elementary and high school.

            What makes them more reliable than your other teachers?

            But I have found no sources that corroborate what the patristic writers say about the gospels' provenance.

            I have the Church throughout history.

            Why? What is it about your moral code that would endow anyone with reliable insight into who wrote any document?

            I can rely upon the veracity of the information being passed down. As for who wrote what, the ancient Church was in the best position to know who wrote the Scriptures and they left a record.

            What is it about your moral code

            Catholics live in a manner that would please God and therefore obey His will as expressed in the Ten Commandments.

            I need you to clarify what you meant when you said, "I'm not sure why you need more than understanding to believe."

            I've explained it to you three times. You seem to be intentionally ignoring the words, "understand and agree". But if you are not and still consider it inconsistent, then tell me what it is that you need besides understanding and agreement in order to believe?

            I have said nothing to imply that you did.

            Ok.

            My point was that it is possible to prove that atheism is a mistake without proving anything about how any scripture came to be written.

            Very true. But all I'm doing is providing the reasons why I believe. And one of the reasons I believe that Jesus Christ is God is because of the eyewitness testimony of the authors of the Gospels.

          • Doug Shaver

            Catholics who know their faith do not judge anyone's eternal fate

            People who have told me explicitly that I'm going to burn in hell say they don't judge my fate, either, and in a way I agree with them. Just because they have no authority to make the decision doesn't mean they cannot know what the decision will be.

            Which, I believe, means that salvation is open to ALL. God is Judge.

            When God tells me what my options are, I will choose one then. As long as people are telling me what my options are, I will keep asking, "Why should I believe that those are my options?"

            The reasons why we don't have some evidence that we wish we had are irrelevant. It is illogical to argue: If we had X, then we could infer Y, and therefore we ought to believe Y even if we don't have X.

            You're contradicting yourself

            You say so. Prove it. A contradiction is the simultaneous assertion of, or implication that, "X is true" and "X is false." Show me how I have done that.

            First, it is I who am quite content with the amount of evidence provided by the ECF's for the Gospels.

            I get it that you're satisfied. I'm just explaining why I'm not satisfied.

            Therefore, it is you who is drawing a conclusion based upon YOUR irrelevant wishes.

            I agree that my wishes are irrelevant, and that is my point. Logic doesn't care what I want to be true. The evidence either is or is not sufficient to support a given conclusion, quite regardless of whether I want it to.

            What I now believe about American history, I believe because I have confirmed it through other sources whom I regard as more reliable than were my teachers in elementary and high school.

            What makes them more reliable than your other teachers?

            I didn't say that those other sources were also teachers. They were professional historians. Some of them, though not most, also taught the history classes I took in college. None of my teachers in elementary or high school was required to have even an undergraduate degree in history.

            I have the Church throughout history.

            You accept the church's authority. I don't.

            As for who wrote what, the ancient Church was in the best position to know who wrote the Scriptures

            You say so. Can you give me a better reason to believe it?

            Devout Catholics do their best to live in a manner that would please God and therefore obey His will as expressed in the Ten Commandments.

            What do the Ten Commandments have to do with who wrote the gospels?

            I need you to clarify what you meant when you said, "I'm not sure why you need more than understanding to believe."

            I've explained it to you three times. You seem to be intentionally ignoring the words, "understand and agree". But if you are not and still consider it inconsistent, then tell me what it is that you need besides understanding and agreement in order to believe?

            I don't think either of us can say any more than what we've already said. The lurkers will have to figure out for themselves which of us is making more sense.

            But all I'm doing is providing the reasons why I believe. And one of the reasons I believe that Jesus Christ is God is because of the eyewitness testimony of the authors of the Gospels.

            You believe we have eyewitness testimony because the church says we have eyewitness testimony. I'm not prepared to take the church's word for that.

          • People who have told me explicitly that I'm going to burn in hell say they don't judge my fate, either, and in a way I agree with them. Just because they have no authority to make the decision doesn't mean they cannot know what the decision will be.

            Big difference between that and Catholic Doctrine. Catholic Doctrine teaches us that only God can read the heart and only He can judge a man's eternal destiny.

            But, you sound as though you agree with those who condemn you. So, there's no sense in continuing that line of discussion.

            When God tells me what my options are, I will choose one then. As long as people are telling me what my options are, I will keep asking, "Why should I believe that those are my options?"

            But, you don't believe in God. Therefore, you've painted yourself into a corner. The only option you have is the people whom God has sent you to teach you His will.

            You say so. Prove it. A contradiction is the simultaneous assertion of, or implication that, "X is true" and "X is false." Show me how I have done that.

            That's not what I'm talking about. And I think we've gotten past it but I'll go over it again for the benefit of other readers

            You said:

            The existence of the canonical gospels is not unambiguously attested before the late second century. If they had been written by eyewitnesses, or by people acquainted with eyewitnesses, I think an earlier attestation would have survived.

            Thereby claiming that you didn't believe because there should be more evidence.

            Then you accused me of wishing for more evidence:

            The reasons why we don't have some evidence that we wish we had are irrelevant.

            But I never said I wished for more evidence. I merely said that I understood why we didn't have more evidence and that I felt the evidence we had was more than enough.

            That's why I said that you contradicted yourself and got your x's and y's mixed up because you should have applied them to yourself.

            So, we can probably let that go unless you have a further objection.

            I get it that you're satisfied. I'm just explaining why I'm not satisfied.

            Ok.

            I didn't say that those other sources were also teachers. They were professional historians. Some of them, though not most, also taught the history classes I took in college. None of my teachers in elementary or high school was required to have even an undergraduate degree in history.

            So, what makes professional historians more reliable in your eyes than the eyewitness testimony of people who were walking with Christ?

            You say so. Can you give me a better reason to believe it?

            I think, before you find my reasons worth believing, you'd have to make a cognitive shift and begin to believe in God.

            That's what happened to me. Before I believed in God, I didn't have any reason to trust any religion. After I came to believe in God, I put my trust in the religion which had the most logical, consistent and systematic Teachings.

            What do the Ten Commandments have to do with who wrote the gospels?

            They have to do with whom I trust.

            You believe we have eyewitness testimony because the church says we have eyewitness testimony. I'm not prepared to take the church's word for that.

            That's what I meant by a cognitive shift, above. You have no reason to believe the Church, yet. But if you ever come back to faith in God, you will need to research which religion best represents God.

            That's what happened to me and I came to believe in the Judeo/Christian God because no other religion comes close to the logic and beauty of Teachings which those religions provide.

            I came to faith in Christ because I believe He fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament and because of the eyewitness testimony of the Gospels.

            I came to believe that the Catholic Church best represents Christ because it follows the Word of God in Scripture better than any other Christian religion. Just to cite one example, the Catholic Church is the only one which unabashedly says that She speaks for God through Christ. Scripture says:

            2 Corinthians 5:20

            Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

          • Doug Shaver

            Big difference between that and Catholic Doctrine.

            I have not said otherwise. What I said was: "Some people -- maybe not you, but some people -- think there is something so wrong with not believing that it deserves eternal punishment." Does Catholic doctrine deny the existence of some people who claim that unbelief deserves eternal punishment?

            But, you sound as though you agree with those who condemn you.

            Up to this point, I have done nothing more than acknowledge their existence. If I agreed with them, I would no longer be an unbeliever.

            When God tells me what my options are, I will choose one then.

            But, you don't believe in God.

            When God decides to communicate with me, he will fix that.

            The only option you have is the people whom God has sent you to teach you His will.

            My options do not limit the range of God's options. If there is something he wants me to know, he can bring it about that I know it.

            Then you accused me of wishing for more evidence:

            That was not my intention. I apologize.

            But I never said I wished for more evidence.

            Your wishes, or lack thereof, are irrelevant. And so are mine. Without more evidence, I cannot believe, and nothing that I might wish can change that.

            I felt the evidence we had was more than enough.

            Very well. We have identified a key source of our disagreement. We have some evidence. You regard it as sufficient. I do not.

            So, what makes professional historians more reliable in your eyes than the eyewitness testimony of people who were walking with Christ?

            I have not denied that eyewitnesses might be more reliable than professional historians. I deny the existence of any eyewitnesses.

            As for who wrote what, the ancient Church was in the best position to know who wrote the Scriptures

            You say so. Can you give me a better reason to believe it?

            I think, before you find my reasons worth believing, you'd have to make a cognitive shift and begin to believe in God.

            The world is full of people who believe in God but don't accept what the ancient church had to say about who wrote the Bible. How would you defend your position to those people?

            But if you ever come back to faith in God, you will need to research which religion best represents God.

            One reason I lost my faith in the first place was that it became obvious to me that no religion has any defensible claim to be representing God. What every sect says about God is what that sect wishes were true about God.

          • I have not said otherwise.

            Perhaps. But to the casual reader, it might seem that you equated the two and that I agreed with you. Therefore, I wanted to make the difference plain.

            What I said was: "Some people -- maybe not you, but some people -- think there is something so wrong with not believing that it deserves eternal punishment." Does Catholic doctrine deny the existence of some people who claim that unbelief deserves eternal punishment?

            No. But that's not my position. You originally said:

            People who have told me explicitly that I'm going to burn in hell say they don't judge my fate, either, and in a way I agree with them. Just because they have no authority to make the decision doesn't mean they cannot know what the decision will be.

            My position is that:

            1. The Catholic Church teaches us not to condemn people to hell, even if they are atheists, since we are not the Judge of their souls.

            2. We do not know what God's decision will be. Tax collectors and prostitutes will go into heaven ahead of many people who proclaim themselves saved. The Catholic Church teaches it is sin against charity for us to presume to condemn anyone because we simply don't know why people do what they do. Only God can read the heart.

            3. God judges a man's heart by His actions, not by His words. Every sin will be forgiven a man except the blaspheme of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, as I understand my Catholic Faith, if you deny Jesus by your words, but obey the commandments of God, God will manifest Himself to you.

            4. But, by the same token, I can't judge your salvation either. I can't say, "that's enough. You've done enough to satisfy God. Your faith in God is speaking through your actions if not through your words." I can't say that.

            5. I am taught to say, "Hey Doug, you're on the wrong road man. Come to the Church and make your election sure. There is a God and He loves you."

            Up to this point, I have done nothing more than acknowledge their existence. If I agreed with them, I would no longer be an unbeliever.

            I meant that you believe they have a right to judge your soul.

            When God tells me what my options are, I will choose one then.

            When God decides to communicate with me, he will fix that.

            My options do not limit the range of God's options. If there is something he wants me to know, he can bring it about that I know it.

            That reminds me of the old joke of the woman who was besieged by a flood. She climbed the roof of her house to escape the waters and prayed to God to save her. A man in a canoe came by and said come, "Come on. I'll save you." But she refused. "God is going to save me!" Then a man in a boat, but she still refused, "God will save me!" Then a helicopter, "No, God will save me!"

            Then, waters overcame the house and swept her away. When she found herself standing before God, she said, "God, why didn't you save me?"

            God answered, "Well, I sent a man in a canoe, a boat and a helicopter…."

            Throughout salvation history, God has sent priests and prophets to communicate His Word to mankind.

            That was not my intention. I apologize.

            No problem. I just mention it by means of explanation.

            Your wishes, or lack thereof, are irrelevant. And so are mine. Without more evidence, I cannot believe, and nothing that I might wish can change that.

            Very well. We have identified a key source of our disagreement. We have some evidence. You regard it as sufficient. I do not.

            Agreed.

            I have not denied that eyewitnesses might be more reliable than professional historians. I deny the existence of any eyewitnesses.

            On what basis?

            You say so. Can you give me a better reason to believe it?

            Because they were present when it happened and soon thereafter. Those who weren't present learned from those who were.

            The world is full of people who believe in God but don't accept what the ancient church had to say about who wrote the Bible. How would you defend your position to those people?

            This discussion is between you and I, Doug. When I find a believer who denies what the ancient Church has to say, I'll examine their reasons and give them mine.

            One reason I lost my faith in the first place was that it became obvious to me that no religion has any defensible claim to be representing God.

            I can't say I blame you for that. I was born into a believing family and that was part of the reason I also fell away. I remember reading that in a book by Jack London. He said, "every man makes up his own god."

            I believed that for a long time.

            What every sect says about God is what that sect wishes were true about God.

            That's how you see it.

            The way I see it is that the various religions try to explain the facts of this life in various ways. Most recognize the existence of a Creator and from creation try to draw a parallel to that Creator.

            The difference between them and the two which I believe, Judaism and Christianity, is that these two developed a systematic Theology based upon the Teachings of their God who communicated to them. And they made a detailed record of this communication.

            Christianity also organized a hierarchy which has stood for two thousand years and which has consistently taught the same thing. Although, the Teachings are more fully developed and explained in more detail today than they were originally.

          • Doug Shaver

            My position is that . . . We do not know what God's decision will be.

            OK.

            I am taught to say, "Hey Doug, you're on the wrong road man."

            How can you be sure of that? Or do you say it only because you've been told to say it?

            I have done nothing more than acknowledge their existence. If I agreed with them, I would no longer be an unbeliever.

            I meant that you believe they have a right to judge your soul.

            I believe they have the same right to their religious beliefs as you have to yours.

            That reminds me of the old joke of the woman who was besieged by a flood.

            I've heard that joke many times. There is a crucial difference between her situation and mine. She knew she needed rescuing, because she could see the floodwaters rising around her. I don't see any water. All I see is somebody saying, "A flood is coming. If you will trust me, I can tell you where to find a boat."

            God has sent priests and prophets to communicate His Word to mankind.

            You say so.

            I have not denied that eyewitnesses might be more reliable than professional historians. I deny the existence of any eyewitnesses.

            On what basis?

            I've already answered that question. There is no evidence where there ought to be some evidence.

            You say so. Can you give me a better reason to believe it?

            they were present when it happened

            You say so.

            What every sect says about God is what that sect wishes were true about God.

            That's how you see it.

            Maybe I just haven't seen enough. Do you know of a counterexample?

            Christianity also organized a hierarchy which has stood for two thousand years and which has consistently taught the same thing.

            If I can find another religion that has consistently taught the same thing for a few centuries more than two thousand years, should I regard it as more probably true than Christianity?

          • How can you be sure of that?

            Again, you're taking one of my sentences and reading it out of context of the entire message. Here's what I said and I'm sure of the entire message.

            I am taught to say, "Hey Doug, you're on the wrong road man. Come to the Church and make your election sure. There is a God and He loves you."

            If you take the first sentence, by itself, it sounds as though I'm saying what the others have said to you. It sounds as though I'm judging your eternal destiny.

            But if you add the rest of the message, you see that I am simply giving you a more sure way of being saved. To be precise, I believe it is more sure than the road you're on, but it is not guaranteed.

            Or do you say it only because you've been told to say it?

            Only because? No. I say it because I believe its true. If I didn't believe it were true, no one could make me say it.

            I believe they have the same right to their religious beliefs as you have to yours.

            Ok. And to be clear, I'm just clarifying the Catholic position.

            I've heard that joke many times. There is a crucial difference between her situation and mine. She knew she needed rescuing, because she could see the floodwaters rising around her. I don't see any water. All I see is somebody saying, "A flood is coming. If you will trust me, I can tell you where to find a boat."

            Good point. However, you are similar in the sense that you both both claim to need direct communication from God. And that's the point I was making.

            You say so.

            Not just me. It is recorded throughout history.

            I've already answered that question. There is no evidence where there ought to be some evidence.

            Ok. We agreed above. Very well. To paraphrase:

            We have identified a key source of our disagreement. We have some evidence. I regard it as sufficient. You do not.

            Maybe I just haven't seen enough. Do you know of a counterexample?

            We've seen the same things. We just have a different opinion. As for me, when I was atheist, I couldn't get it through my skull why anyone would want a God who died upon the Cross. In fact, I thought it was plain silliness since God can't die, by definition.

            Then, also, in the OT, why would anyone create a God who punished them so severely.

            I remember having that conversation with someone. I asked him, "why would anyone follow such a God?"

            And now, here I am.

            If I were to make up a God, I would do it more like the Greeks and Norse people. I'd make one up who would have exciting adventures. Not one who would tell me to knuckle down and do the dull things that matter, like keep the Commandments.

            But that's just me.

            If I can find another religion that has consistently taught the same thing for a few centuries more than two thousand years, should I regard it as more probably true than Christianity?

            You won't find one. But again, you've only taken a part of what I said. I said,

            Christianity also organized a hierarchy which has stood for two thousand years and which has consistently taught the same thing.

            Now, if you can find one with an organization that has stood for more time than the Catholic Church's. And who also has a systematic theology which has consistently taught the same Doctrine for longer than the Catholic Church. Be my guest. I'd say it is worth you checking it out.

            But as for me, I have looked and couldn't find one. All paths led me back to the Catholic Church.

            It is the one whose Teachings are more logical. Whose Teachings are more consistent. Whose Teachings have stood the test of time. And whose Organization has stood the longest.

          • Doug Shaver

            you're taking one of my sentences and reading it out of context of the entire message. Here's what I said and I'm sure of the entire message.

            I am taught to say, "Hey Doug, you're on the wrong road man. Come to the Church and make your election sure. There is a God and He loves you."

            What part of that context was supposed to tell me that when you said, "You're on the wrong road," you meant to tell me something other than that I was on the wrong road?

            If you take the first sentence, by itself, it sounds as though I'm saying what the others have said to you.

            No, not by itself. It sounds that way because of the context in which it appeared. The context was a discussion about whether you believe that God will judge me according to what the Bible says about unbelievers.

            But if you add the rest of the message, you see that I am simply giving you a more sure way of being saved.

            What do you think I need to be saved from?

            Do you know of a counterexample?

            We've seen the same things. We just have a different opinion.

            That doesn't answer my question. Have you seen anything that, in your opinion, constitutes a counterexample?

            As for me, when I was atheist, I couldn't get it through my skull why anyone would want a God who died upon the Cross.

            Your previous ignorance of people's motivations doesn't mean they aren't motivated.

            Then, also, in the OT, why would anyone create a God who punished them so severely.

            Most people don't create a God who punishes them. They create a God who punishes other people.

            But then, there are some people who are sick enough to think they themselves need to be punished, and so they create a God who makes sure they get punished.

            If I can find another religion that has consistently taught the same thing for a few centuries more than two thousand years, should I regard it as more probably true than Christianity?

            You won't find one.

            That wasn't my question.

            Now, if you can find one with an organization that has stood for more time than the Catholic Church's. And who also has a systematic theology which has consistently taught the same Doctrine for longer than the Catholic Church. Be my guest. I'd say it is worth you checking it out.

            What about their teachings do you think I should be checking? Do you think I should be interested in whether the organization can offer me any reason to believe their teachings other than, "We've been teaching our theology consistently for a longer time than the Catholic Church has been teaching their theology"?

            What I don't get is why I should think there is some correlation between the truth of some teaching and the length of time it has been consistently taught.

          • What part of that context was supposed to tell me that when you said, "You're on the wrong road," you meant to tell me something other than that I was on the wrong road?

            No, not by itself. It sounds that way because of the context in which it appeared. The context was a discussion about whether you believe that God will judge me according to what the Bible says about unbelievers.

            I guess I read too much into your words.

            What do you think I need to be saved from?

            Saved "for" God.

            That doesn't answer my question. Have you seen anything that, in your opinion, constitutes a counterexample?

            Again, you responded to only part of my statement. You said you were a Christian in the past. So, I know that you've heard that we believe that Jesus is God and that He was crucified.

            Is there another religion outside of Christendom that claims that their God was killed upon the Cross for the sake of sinners?

            So, I gave you two counterexamples which both you and I know about.

            That wasn't my question.

            Keep reading. Your question was answered.

            What about their teachings do you think I should be checking?

            Consistency, logic, reasonableness, evidence. The regular things that you check about any teachings.

            Do you think I should be interested in whether the organization can offer me any reason to believe their teachings other than, "We've been teaching our theology consistently for a longer time than the Catholic Church has been teaching their theology"?

            I would. I didn't just go by the longevity of Catholic Doctrine. I studied their internal consistency, their logic, their wisdom.

            What I don't get is why I should think there is some correlation between the truth of some teaching and the length of time it has been consistently taught.

            Truth stands the test of time.

          • Doug Shaver

            Truth stands the test of time.

            Yes, but it does not follow that whatever stands the test of time is true.

          • Yes, but it does not follow that whatever stands the test of time is true.

            1. Yes, actually, it does. Truth is absolute.
            2. Time isn't the only test to apply to ascertain if something is true.
            3. Some errors and lies stand for a long time, but eventually, they fall.

          • Doug Shaver

            but it does not follow that whatever stands the test of time is true.

            1. Yes, actually, it does.

            No, actually, it doesn't. To demonstrate "If A then B" is not to demonstrate "If B then A."

            Truth is absolute.

            That is irrelevant to your argument.

            Time isn't the only test to apply to ascertain if something is true.

            It was the one you decided to use. If you want to try another, go ahead.

          • No, actually, it doesn't. To demonstrate "If A then B" is not to demonstrate "If B then A."

            Often, it is. Let me explain. I Jack is a bachelor, then he is an unmarried man. Jack is an unmarried man, therefore, he is a bachelor.

            Truth is absolute. Therefore, truth stands the test of time.

            We can also say, if it is true, it stands the test of time, if it stands the test of time, then it is true.

            Truth is absolute.

            That is irrelevant to your argument.

            On the contrary, that is precisely my argument. One of the qualities of being "absolute" is that it will stand the test of time.

            It was the one you decided to use. If you want to try another, go ahead.

            But not the only one. Reread my message. I also said that truth is consistent and logical. And there are still more tests you can apply.

          • Doug Shaver

            To demonstrate "If A then B" is not to demonstrate "If B then A."

            Often, it is.

            No, it never is.

            I Jack is a bachelor, then he is an unmarried man. Jack is an unmarried man, therefore, he is a bachelor.

            Both statements happen to be true. However, neither follows from the other. You need one more premise to make that a valid argument.

            Truth is absolute. Therefore, truth stands the test of time.

            Whether or not truth is absolute, it does not follow that whatever stands the test of time is true.

            I also said that truth is consistent and logical.

            Indeed it is. But it does not follow that whatever is consistent and logical is true. I'm afraid you have a thing or two to learn about logic.

          • Indeed it is. But it does not follow that whatever is consistent and logical is true. I'm afraid you have a thing or two to learn about logic.

            Be that as it may, those are the tests which I applied to Catholic Doctrine and which convinced me of its veracity.

            As I said before, Atheists are reduced to denial as their only argument. If you want to provide something substantial, give me an example of a teaching which has stood the test of time and is consistent with observable facts and with a logical premise and conclusion, which is not also true.

            Or do you just want me to take your word for it that such a teaching exists?

          • Doug Shaver

            those are the tests which I applied to Catholic Doctrine and which convinced me of its veracity.

            That leads me to suspect that you very much wanted to be convinced.

            As I said before, Atheists are reduced to denial as their only argument.

            You can call it denial as often as you wish. I'm just not believing what I don't have a good reason to believe.

            Or do you just want me to take your word for it that such a teaching exists?

            That would be the height of hypocrisy on my part, wouldn't it?

          • That leads me to suspect that you very much wanted to be convinced.

            Nope. Of all the religions which I studied, Catholicism was the last precisely because I distrusted it the most.

            You can call it denial as often as you wish. I'm just not believing what I don't have a good reason to believe.

            I call'em as I see'em. You don't have arguments nor reasons to back up your beliefs.

            That would be the height of hypocrisy on my part, wouldn't it?

            I didn't say that, you did.

          • Doug Shaver

            I didn't say that, you did.

            I have not said or implied that I wanted you to take my word for anything.

          • Ok, great. I guess we've talked past each other, again. Thanks for the discussion, always a pleasure to misunderstand each other. wink ; )

      • Krakerjak

        I'm pretty sure that the majority of atheists call religion (i.e. Faith), THE opiate of the masses.

        Well I suppose I have to agree to the thing you said above...that is what most atheists think alright....but they would be right in the sense that religion has the "opiate" effect of easing psychic pain stess and anxiety. No doubt about it. Even many in the medical profession admit to that fact. However the point being is....should one "believe" or have "faith" just because it may be better to believe....or is it more honest to retain one's integrity rather than accept a comfortable delusion?

        As I have indicated in other comments on SN....One can allow for the possibility of a loving, caring God entity who is just, fair and compassionate in the sense that this entity has those characteristics and will see that fairness and justice prevail in the end, for all sentient and self aware creatures throughout the universe including humans, and may not necessarily depend on persons believing in or having faith in the Judeo Christian god of the Bible or any other revealed religion. The concept of a just and loving god may be too small if confined to a particular belief system. You seem to be a decent guy, and all faiths could use more tolerant individuals such as yourself.

        • Well I suppose I have to agree to the thing you said above...that is what most atheists think alright....but they would be right in the sense that religion has the "opiate" effect of easing psychic pain stess and anxiety. No doubt about it. Even many in the medical profession admit to that fact. However the point being is....should one "believe" or have "faith" just because it may be better to believe....or is it more honest to retain one's integrity rather than accept a comfortable delusion?

          I've been on both sides of that equation. And I know from experience that atheists get comfortable simply denying everything with which they don't agree and they put it under the label, "skeptic".

          I think if one is going to call himself a skeptic, he should be skeptical about things that don't make sense. Is it more honest to retain one's integrity or to accept every nonsensical idea that comes down the pike simply because one claims to be "skeptical" about the existence of God?

          As I have indicated in other comments on SN....One can allow for the possibility of a loving, caring God entity who is just, fair and compassionate in the sense that this entity has those characteristics and will see that fairness and justice prevail in the end, for all sentient and self aware creatures throughout the universe including humans, and may not necessarily depend on persons believing in or having faith in the Judeo Christian god of the Bible or any other revealed religion. The concept of a just and loving god may be too small if confined to a particular belief system. You seem to be a decent guy, and all faiths could use more tolerant individuals such as yourself.

          Thanks. I can't, however, give the same allowance in return. There is no way that atheism can be true. It is impossible.

          If you want to claim that another deity is true and deny the Judeo/Christian God exists, you are closer to the truth than atheism.

          As for me, I've studied several religions in detail and I believe that the Judeo/Christian God is the one and only.

    • bbrown

      " I have not seen one succeed yet."
      Surely you must be speaking only for yourself with that statement. Which makes me wonder how much you have really looked into apologetic arguments. You present simplistic caricatures of the Christian position that indicate that you have not really looked very deeply into the concerns outlined in the essay.
      As an aside: When someone like Harris speaks and writes, it's just so much genuinely ignorant blather, or even worse, patently dishonest attempts to deceive his pop culture audience - he's a great example of a man who is entirely closed to evidence (or, again is a really evil man who will lie about reality to make money and be popular). He cannot even present opposing arguments with any remote semblance of accuracy or fairness. His is a hateful agenda, IMO.

      • Doug Shaver

        Surely you must be speaking only for yourself with that statement.

        Well, yes. When you use the pronoun "I," are you ever speaking for anyone but yourself?

  • Vicq Ruiz

    —mantra-like—uses words such as "ignorant" and "irrational" in making
    the case that religious faith is not only outdated, but overtly evil.

    Carl,

    Anyone using such language on this site has already been banned, or is a candidate for banning. I doubt that Sam Harris would be welcome as a participant here.

    So may I suggest that you deal with the few remaining skeptics left on this board in terms of what they themselves have said??

    • Krakerjak

      Personally I don't think muzzling participants is the way to go. The fact that that was done in the past so often is the reason that there is dearth of atheist participants on this site. Should not discussion be a reflection of all facets of an issue rather than just like minded echoes off the canyon walls?

      • I personally agree with banning people who have no self control. I've been on atheist websites where ad hominem passes for civil discussion. Apparently, the one with the most vulgar and insulting responses, wins.

        Should not discussion be a reflection of all facets of issues rather than just like minded echoes off the canyon walls?

        Sure. But no one needs to be subjected to irrational diatribe. They can go bounce those off of canyon walls.

  • This essay fails to mention the faith required by science. We all have firsthand experience of technology, but we accept science on faith in the testimony of others. Who could demonstrate the existence of one element of the periodic table without resorting to the testimony of others? I think no one. Many could refine gold, but identifying it as an element in the table requires demonstrating its properties including its atomic structure. Not relying on faith in others would require the design, the justification of the design and the construction of all of the instrumentation employed.

    • No, we don't accept science based on the testimony of others. We require that the show us how and why they reached their conclusion, and we require that we repeat what they did and get the same result. Only then do we give the claim the credibility of scientific standards. Even then we don't say it is "true", we just say that this claim is consistent with other claims that have passed the same rigour. We never say things like, go and act like it is true and meditate on it being true for at least 30 minutes a day and act like it is true and the truth will be shown to you.

      Rather, religion asks us to do something entirely different. It tells us that long ago, some incredible things happened, a man died and then was no longer dead. One person who rejected this was granted the opportunity to meet this man and poke a finger in his wounds, another had a road to Damascus experience. When I ask what to have similar experiences I am told they don't happen reliably like scientific facts. If I want to meet this resurrected man I must pray to him and act as if he exists. Repeatedly. I won't visible see him or hear his voice in the way that I see other humans. I won't be able to test this like I can test other things. Basically, I need to brainwash myself. Even then I will probably have serious doubts and the world will be indistinguishable from one where this is all mythical.

      • Garbanzo Bean

        "We require that the show us how and why they reached their conclusion, and we require that we repeat what they did and get the same result."

        Emphasis on the 'we'; the social aspect of science is important: this is why a brilliant fellow like Archimedes (for example) would not qualify as a scientist. Still, the 'we' excludes the overwhelming majority of us. Rather, 'we' put a lot of faith in the small group of people doing the empirics, and we hope they are trustworthy and have integrity. Sometimes they are not, and falsify data... and we hope in these cases that this is discovered when attempts to do the same are repeated by others. Of course, often enough the "results of a study" are released prematurely into the media (as though someone had an interest in concocting and distributing falsehoods--imagine that) but those results are then later shown to be difficult/impossible to repeat... and this is hardly publicized at all.

        Sadly, the current state of science today, as an embedded social practice, is that it is beholden to the oligarchies and elites, the corporate and statist interests.

        For an interesting site which discusses this matter (largely around the matter of climate change, but for the love of protons let's not get into that here) I would recommend http://joannenova.com.au/

        • Sure the scientific method can and is repeatedly misapplied. This does not mean it has any use for a concept like "faith". It simply does not. The very fact that we can identify science that is wrong, badly communicated and so on are the point of these reality checks. It has, in my view the best method of checking and correcting itself. Science explicit: do not trust, do not take my word for it, do not accept my claim based on my "elite" status or any such thing, check for yourself, in fact don't accept what I claim until you and other independant scientists can repeat what I say I have done. If I am wrong please prove me wrong and we will both have learned something.

          • Brian Green Adams Bob Drury • a day ago

            No, we don't accept science based on the testimony of others. We require that the show us how and why they reached their conclusion, and we require that we repeat what they did and get the same result.

            Then, how do you come to believe in things like the so-called, "Big Bang theory"? Did somebody reproduce that in the laboratory? Or did you simply take someone word for it that these particular sounds which they were listening to, had to be the result of the Big Bang?

          • Krakerjak
          • So, you came to believe in these things because of the Pope? You do realize that the Pope is speaking of Theistic Evolution, right? Not atheistic evolution.

          • Krakerjak

            No. I believed in both long before the pope said this and was just trying to make the point that th pope says that the big bang and biological evolution as understood by scientists are not incompatible with belief in god.

          • I agree.

            The point I was making is that you never saw the Big Bang, nor can it be reproduced in the lab. Therefore, you're merely exercising a type of faith in believing that it occurred.

          • I trust the word of scientists who are expert in this field. The reasons I trust them are many, but one of the most important reasons is that they claim that I can look at the evidence and do what they did to reach their conclusions. I further thrust them because a community of professionals with the requisite training agree that they have done this and reached the same result, and tell me to is not generally in dispute. I am aware of a number of controversies related to Big Bang cosmology, about which there is insufficient agreement in the mainstream scientific community. I see no reason to call this "faith", nor do they.

            But whatever the labels are, it is the rigorous process of science that makes me confident to accept the word of the scientific community on this.

          • Brian Green Adams De Maria • 3 hours ago

            I trust the word of scientists who are expert in this field. The reasons I trust them are many, but one of the most important reasons is that they claim that I can look at the evidence and do what they did to reach their conclusions.

            How did they reproduce the Big Bang?

            As I understand it, someone heard a noise and said, "hey, that's the noise the Big Bang made." And someone else heard the noise and said, "You're right!"

            Is that a fair summary?

            I further thrust them because a community of professionals with the requisite training agree that they have done this and reached the same result, and tell me to is not generally in dispute. I am aware of a number of controversies related to Big Bang cosmology, about which there is insufficient agreement in the mainstream scientific community. I see no reason to call this "faith", nor do they.

            I do. So far, that's all you're really describing is your faith and trust in a community which you believe knows what they are talking about. You have not seen any of this for yourself.

            But whatever the labels are, it is the rigorous process of science that makes me confident to accept the word of the scientific community on this.

            Well, good. But, although you don't want to consider this a form of "faith". I think most reasonable and independent people would agree that you have just described your "faith" in a certain process as applied by a certain community.

            I, actually, have much the same faith in that community. But I believe there are limitations to what they can reproduce. And I also believe they have misunderstood much of what they found. Not all of them. There are some scientists who believe in God. I trust them the more for realizing that the complexity of this universe could not have come about by "random forces".

          • Ignatius Reilly

            As I understand it, someone heard a noise and said, "hey, that's the noise the Big Bang made." And someone else heard the noise and said, "You're right!"

            I am assuming you are talking about cosmic microwave background radiation? There is also redshift, which indicates the expansion of the universe. Much (some) of the physics behind the Big Bang can be understood by an undergraduate. I remember going over some of it in modern physics and astrophysics in college. You can look at the Wikipedia page for observations.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang

            Well, good. But, although you don't want to consider this a form of "faith". I think most reasonable and independent people would agree that you have just described your "faith" in a certain process as applied by a certain community.

            No, it is not faith. We can actually understand the science with enough study. There are different methods of knowing truth. Deductive logic and science are two. Faith is also a method of knowing, but I don't think we can have much trust in its efficacy in discovering truth.

          • I am assuming you are talking about cosmic microwave background radiation? There is also redshift, which indicates the expansion of the universe. Much (some) of the physics behind the Big Bang can be understood by an undergraduate. I remember going over some of it in modern physics and astrophysics in college. You can look at the Wikipedia page for observations.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B…

            are you asking me to replace faith in God with faith in wikipedia?

            No, it is not faith.

            Sure it is.

            We can actually understand the science with enough study.

            you believe you can.

            There are different methods of knowing truth. Deductive logic and science are two. Faith is also a method of knowing, but I don't think we can have much trust in its efficacy in discovering truth.

            Faith is the most powerful. All methods of knowing truth include faith. As someone else admitted, "they have faith in the stringency of the scientific method".

          • Ignatius Reilly

            are you asking me to replace faith in God with faith in Wikipedia?

            Well, the latter has the advantage of actually existing, although I don't think it is wise to put one's trust in Wikipedia as an infallible source of knowledge. It is a good place to start though, when one doesn't know a lot about a topic. The advantage of Wikipedia as a source of knowledge is that we can actually know the truths that Wikipedia. God works in mysterious ways, which makes the truths he teaches nearly inscrutable.

            Are you saying that I have equal reason to believe in what I learn from science, which I understand, and God, whom I do not understand, see little evidence for his existence, and much evidence for his nonexistence?

            You are equivocating on the word faith. We trust the scientific method because it is reliable, it makes verifiable and repeatable predictions, it has given us great advances in technology, and it works at what it is supposed to do - i.e. describe the natural world. Can you say the same thing for faith in Roman Catholicism?

            The second thing that we put our trust in is deductive logic. The axioms of logic are self-evident. It does not make sense to deny the law of non-contradiction. However, it makes sense to many people to deny the truth of Roman Catholicism. Trust in logic is not the same thing as faith in Catholicism.

            The third thing that we put our trust in is mathematics, which is related to logic. The axioms of mathematics are also self-evident. Mathematical propositions, once proved rigorously, are not subject to revision. This is vastly different from Roman Catholicism.

            Faith is the most powerful. All methods of knowing truth include faith. As someone else admitted, "they have faith in the stringency of the scientific method".

            You should replace faith with self-evident axioms. There is nothing self-evident about Roman Catholicism nor does Roman Catholicism make reliable predictions or ever move beyond faith. By beyond faith, I meant that even if you want to say that we have faith in science or logic (which is really quite an equivocation), science and logic stand on their own terms once we have moved beyond the initial acceptance of their axioms. Science and logic begin to generate truth without recourse to faith. Roman Catholicism never leaves the faith wagon. Every important proposition is taken on faith. For the reasons outlined above, there is a massive difference between trusting science, logic, mathematics, and faith in Roman Catholicism.

          • Well, the latter has the advantage of actually existing, although I don't think it is wise to put one's trust in Wikipedia as an infallible source of knowledge. It is a good place to start though, when one doesn't know a lot about a topic. The advantage of Wikipedia as a source of knowledge is that we can actually know the truths that Wikipedia.

            You go ahead and believe in wikipedia. I'll keep my faith in God.

            God works in mysterious ways,

            God works in mysterious ways, which is why you are having trouble discerning His presence in His majestic creation.

            which makes the truths he teaches nearly inscrutable.

            Some of His Teachings are inscrutable. But most aren't. The most important of which, have to do with living according to His precepts.

            Are you saying that I have equal reason to believe in what I learn from science, which I understand, and God, whom I do not understand, see little evidence for his existence, and much evidence for his nonexistence?

            First, you have no evidence that He doesn't exist.

            Second, you and every other atheist has only your denials of the evidence for His existence. You deny the evidence because you deny His existence.

            Third, you neither understand the science nor God.

            Fourth, you simply agree with the purported science because you think it confirms your belief.

            You are equivocating on the word faith.

            I know what the word "faith" means. It is you who don't.

            We trust the scientific method because it is reliable, it makes verifiable and repeatable predictions, it has given us great advances in technology, and it works at what it is supposed to do - i.e. describe the natural world.

            Thank you! But it does not claim to disprove the existence of God. So, why do you claim to use it as proof for the your denial of God's existence?

            Can you say the same thing for faith in Roman Catholicism?

            I can say more about the Catholic Faith. It is from the Catholic Faith that the scientific method was born. It is because of the Catholic Faith that the greatest universities began to study the natural world. Therefore, it is because of the Catholic Faith that many of those advances in science and technology came about.

            The second thing that we put our trust in is deductive logic. The axioms of logic are self-evident. It does not make sense to deny the law of non-contradiction. However, it makes sense to many people to deny the truth of Roman Catholicism.

            The axioms of logic are self-evident. It does not make sense to deny the law of non-contradiction. However, it makes sense to many people to deny atheism.

            Trust in logic is not the same thing as faith in Catholicism.

            Who said it was? What we have here is a straw man argument.

            Logic is a tool, a method of reasoning, which if you used it, you would come to faith in God and in His Church.

            The third thing that we put our trust in is mathematics, which is related to logic. The axioms of mathematics are also self-evident. Mathematical propositions, once proved rigorously, are not subject to revision. This is vastly different from Roman Catholicism.

            On the contrary, Catholicism teaches the absolute Truth about God and His revelation. The Teachings of the Catholic Church are not subject to revision.

            And, Mathematical propositions do not disprove Catholicism nor the existence of God. They go hand in hand.

            You should replace faith with self-evident axioms.

            Why should I? You don't.

            Faith is universal. There are things in which you have faith which you believe without any evidence for that belief. For instance, you believe in abiogenesis. Yet, there is no evidence that non-living matter can spring to life of its own accord.

            You claim to believe this because of your faith in the stringency of the scientific method. But there is nothing there but an assumption without any proof.

            There is nothing self-evident about Roman Catholicism

            Virtually everything in this world needs to be explained. There is nothing self-evident about atheism. Most people have to be taught not to believe in God.

            nor does Roman Catholicism make reliable predictions

            On the contrary, Catholicism teaches a great deal about human behavior and how to live better and healthier lives.

            or ever move beyond faith.

            You are equivocating on faith.

            Devout Catholics move beyond faith to love. You understand faith according to your caricature of "believing in something which doesn't exist." But we know it differently. We believe in Someone whom we love and trust.

            By beyond faith, I meant that even if you want to say that we have faith in science or logic (which is really quite an equivocation), science and logic stand on their own terms once we have moved beyond the initial acceptance of their axioms. Science and logic begin to generate truth without recourse to faith.

            Faith, science and logic do not contradict. But your application of science and logic faith when you claim to prove that God doesn't exist in the use of those disciplines.

            Science and logic agree with faith. Your misuse of science and logic leads to conclusions that contradict the Revelations of the Faith of God.

            Roman Catholicism never leaves the faith wagon.

            And doesn't need to. Because it is from faith that science and logic sprang. They are not siblings of faith, but daughters.

            Every important proposition is taken on faith. For the reasons outlined above, there is a massive difference between trusting science, logic, mathematics, and faith in Roman Catholicism.

            For reasons stated above, science, logic, mathematics and faith in God through the absolute Teachings of the Catholic Church, go hand in hand. Your misuse of those disciplines is the problem.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            God works in mysterious ways, which is why you are having trouble discerning His presence in His majestic creation.

            Yes, because the creation is full of ugliness, chaos, and fear.

            Some of His Teachings are inscrutable. But most aren't. The most important of which, have to do with living according to His precepts.

            The fact that there are all sorts of religions in this world sort of belies that point. Furthermore, prayer is an ineffective means of discovering God, as witnessed by the numerous people who do not get insight by prayer, and by the people who draw undesirable conclusions in their prayer. Exactly how is one to know God's teaching on how to live?

            First, you have no evidence that He doesn't exist.

            Are we talking about the all-everything God of Catholicism?

            1) Problem of Evil.

            2) Poor Design in Creation.

            3) Biblical Contradictions

            4) God of OT is irreconcilable with the God of philosophy

            5) God of NT is not all-loving

            6) Problem of Hell

            It appears that I do have some evidence that your god does not exist.

            Second, you and every other atheist has only your denials of the evidence for His existence. You deny the evidence because you deny His existence.

            I did not say that there was zero evidence for a God. I said that the evidence for your god (the God of Abraham) was scant and greatly outweighed by the evidence against your God. I will consider other gods as they come up. You actually have yet to provide any evidence for the existence of any God, beyond asserting that natural laws require a law giver. I have given 6 reasons to deny the existence of your god.

            Third, you neither understand the science nor God.

            I have an undergraduate degree in physics and an advanced degree in mathematics. I do not understand everything that scientists are discovering these days, but I am sophisticated enough to read and gain some understanding. I don't think it is possible to understand things that don't exist - I am still waiting for you to provide evidence that this God exists.

            Fourth, you simply agree with the purported science because you think it confirms your belief.

            Exactly what in science do I think confirms my belief? I don't recall ever saying that some proposition in science confirms my belief that the Abrahamic God does not exist.

            Thank you! But it does not claim to disprove the existence of God. So, why do you claim to use it as proof for the your denial of God's existence?

            I gave you reasons as to why we should trust the scientific method. Reasons that are absent in our trust (faith) in Roman Catholicism. I never said that science was proof that the Abrahamic God did not exist. Please stop misconstruing my statements. You have done it several times already.

            I can say more about the Catholic Faith. It is from the Catholic Faith that the scientific method was born. It is because of the Catholic Faith that the greatest universities began to study the natural world. Therefore, it is because of the Catholic Faith that many of those advances in science and technology came about.

            The history of science is a lot more complex then you are making it out to be. You are also ignoring the negative effects the Church had on Science as well as the impact of the reformation and humankinds natural curiosity. It is also a distraction from the main point. Science uses the method of science (observations, predictions, and verification) to prove its assertions. The catholic church simply uses faith to prove its assertions. We have reason to believe that science is a reliable - I have not yet seen reason to believe that the faith you are placing in Catholicism is reasonable.

            We are comparing methods here. There is the method of science, the method of deductive logic, and the method of mathematics. We for various reasons believe that these methods work. You have not yet given reason to believe that the method of Faith in Roman Catholicism will generate reliable truths.

            Logic is a tool, a method of reasoning, which if you used it, you would come to faith in God and in His Church.

            I guess most of the world uses logic rather poorly. Why aren't the great logicians all Catholic then? I find it interesting that you so boldly claim that only Catholicism is reasonable and justified by logic.

            On the contrary, Catholicism teaches the absolute Truth about God and His revelation. The Teachings of the Catholic Church are not subject to revision

            That sounds rather Orwellian. I think the Church's teaching on Slavery has certainly evolved.

            Why should I? You don't.

            Faith is universal. There are things in which you have faith which you believe without any evidence for that belief. For instance, you believe in abiogenesis. Yet, there is no evidence that non-living matter can spring to life of its own accord

            Why are you misconstruing what I am saying? My point is that you claim that I have faith in logic, science, and mathematics. However, I consider that that Faith is more along the lines of belief in self-evident axioms, or in the case of science a system that makes verifiable predictions. My next point is that Catholicism does neither of these.

            I have reasons for believing that supernatural forces do not intervene in the material world. Therefore, I think it likely that non-living matter underwent some natural process that changed it into living matter. However, if I was shown wrong on this account, I would only believe in some sort of deistic god. You still have a long way to go to show that your god is God. This is completely unlike the faith that you put in the Catholic Church. The method of religion in general is faith.

            You claim to believe this because of your faith in the stringency of the scientific method. But there is nothing there but an assumption without any proof.

            Never said that. I think you are confusing me with someone else. As I said earlier, my studies have lead me to believe that the material world is left untouched by supernatural forces, so I believe that living matter came to exist from natural processes. There is a little more nuance to my belief system than you and the original post claim.

            Devout Catholics move beyond faith to love. You understand faith according to your caricature of "believing in something which doesn't exist." But we know it differently. We believe in Someone whom we love and trust.

            We are talking about how Faith in Catholicism generates truth. Not whether or not you love your god. You have yet to show how Catholicism moves beyond faith it its truth generating capacities. This has nothing to do with love.

            Faith, science and logic do not contradict. But your application of science and logic faith when you claim to prove that God doesn't exist in the use of those disciplines.

            Science and logic agree with faith. Your misuse of science and logic leads to conclusions that contradict the Revelations of the Faith of God.

            They actually do contradict depending on what you have faith in. There are some Christians (and some of them are Catholic) that believe that evolution is false. Science and faith does contradict for them at least.

            Again, you are missing the main point. We are talking about methods of discovering truth. We have logic and science on one hand, and faith in Catholicism on the other. You have yet to show that faith in Catholicism generates truth like science and logic do. Making assertions about what faith does and does not contradict is not the thesis of the original piece or what we were originally discussing. You claimed that faith in science/logic was just like faith in Catholicism. I have shown that we have greater trust in science/logic, because of the method employed in science and logic.
            You have yet to give evidence that the method of faith in Catholicism generates truth. Asserting that it goes hand-in-hand with logic or that it is not subject to revision is completely beside the point and Orwellian.

          • Hi Ignatius Reilly,

            I don't mean to give short shrift to your entire message. But I would almost have to write a book to address all your objections. And as I said to Doug Shaver, I'm not here to convince you of anything. I'm here to present the reasons why I reject atheism and believe in God.

            However, I have to admit, those arguments you present are the same ones I had against the existence of God when I was an atheist.

            As I mentioned before, I used to be an atheist and from one moment to the next, I became a believer. It was that sudden.

            After that moment, I unconsciously did what I had learned to do in all my years of learning. I applied the scientific method.

            The scientific method is summarized thus.

            1. Construct a Hypothesis. God exists.

            2. Test Your Hypothesis. Does the scientific data disprove the existence of God?

            In my opinion, "No!" Quite the opposite. In my opinion, scientific data supports the existence of God.

            a. The Big Bang theory. Newton's first law that an object at rest remains at rest disproves the Big Bang theory. A singularity would not expand unless energy is added to it. Therefore, the best explanation for the Big Bang is that an Entity outside of the singularity added energy to the singularity in order that it might expand.

            b. Abiogenesis. Life does not spring from lifeless matter. Life produces life. Therefore, the best explanation of the beginning of life is that God had to produce it.

            c. Evolution. The intricacy and elaborateness of the design of living organism can't be explained except by the existence of a primordial super intelligence which we humans have yet to achieve.

            After I had made that cognitive shift and became absolutely convinced of the existence of God, then it followed, in my opinion, that this Being must be the most important in existence. So, I made it a point to learn more about Him.

            As you pointed out, that is a difficult task. But thank God that I live in the USA in the 21st century with much information at my disposal. After about three years of study and comparing religions, I came to the conclusion that Catholicism overcomes all the objections you listed and best explains God.

          • The Big Bang is not an experiment and is not reproducible. There are many experiments that have been conducted that provide evidence of the Big Bang, these are reproducible.

            In terms of the "noise", I assume you are talking about cosmic background radiation? As I understand it, this is a prediction of The Big Bang theory, that was confirmed, again by many different experiments.

            So no, I do not accept your summary as fair.

            No I do not just trust the scientific community, I trust in a system of empirical observation subject to reason and logic, where results are accepted only after everyone else fails in disproving them. I have seen some of this for myself. Call this "faith" if you like, but it think that is misleading. I think we need a way to distinguish this systems from ones that lack an empirical basis and peer review and so on. I would call the above beliefs based on science which distinguishes from beliefs based on say, a single subjective experience of a deity, or acceptance of a man surviving his own death based on ancient documents of questionable authenticity and reliability. I would call the latter faith-based, to distinguish it from science.

          • Brian Green Adams De Maria • 2 days ago

            The Big Bang is not an experiment and is not reproducible.

            There are many things which are not experiments which can be reproduced. For instance, the flow of electrons.

            There are many experiments that have been conducted that provide evidence of the Big Bang,

            Which provide evidence of something which some attribute to the Big Bang. But there is no absolute proof that this is so. It boils down to mere conjecture.

            these are reproducible.

            But do not prove the occurrence of the Big Bang.

            In terms of the "noise", I assume you are talking about cosmic background radiation? As I understand it, this is a prediction of The Big Bang theory, that was confirmed, again by many different experiments.

            Nothing can be confirmed except the existence of that noise. The connection to the Big Bang is mere speculation.

            So no, I do not accept your summary as fair.

            Ok. You have a right to your opinion. I think I am more fair on this question than those who dismiss the idea that God created the universe.

          • Well I do not know what to tell you other that everything we claim to know in any sense of the term is based on inducted inferences made from things we observe.

            The Big Bang theory is not based solely on the cosmic background radiation. It is based on the demonstrated fact that the Universe is expanding. This was first discovers by Edwin Hubble who noticed red shifting in galaxies.

            A theory to explain this and other observations was that the universe was once much more compact. If this theory is correct we predict a number of other things, such as the existence if cosmic background radiation. Lo and behold we discovered this. The more our observation conform with the theory, the more we say this theory is a good model. There really is nothing more to the claim than that.

            You are right, cosmic background radiation may not be from the Big Bang, it may be cosmic birds singing to us from 13 billion years ago.

            But God claims also have these limitations. We have the bible, is it mere speculation to say it is related to this God? Why do you believe that, tradition. Because the council of nicea decide these books were inspired by god, by the apocrypha was not?

            What predictions does Christianity make that are observed, that the second coming will occur within the lifetime of the disciples? That intercessory prayer works?

            The Big Bang theory is generally accepted by all cosmologists, because it conforms with what we observe. Steady state cosmology did not, and because it did not pretty much all cosmologists accept it as true.

            What about god beleif. For ten thousand years there have been millions with certainty that their theology is correct. Based on what? Tradition, old books of questionable veracity? Where are the reality checks to determine which one is right? Why aren't the millions of Hindus convinced of Chirst's divinity? Why can't Christianity make any headway in Japan. Why is it faltering in the western world? Because we have no way to confirm it. No way to demonstrate it is true other than to have faith. Other than to lower our standards of evidence and proof.

          • Well I do not know what to tell you other that everything we claim to know in any sense of the term is based on inducted inferences made from things we observe.

            Here's an inducted reference for you from things I've observed. Random violent expansions don't result in order. Not in this world. They result in disorder.

            However, human beings can target violent expansions and explosions and produce a semblance of order.

            Here's another. Life, begets life. I've never seen rocks come to life.

            Here's another. If I find a message anywhere, I don't assume it was the result of random events. I assume a human communicated the message.

            Therefore, when I am told that dna carries genetic information which is a million times more complex than any data a human can produce, I don't assume it was produced by accident.

            The Big Bang theory is not based solely on the cosmic background radiation. It is based on the demonstrated fact that the Universe is expanding. This was first discovers by Edwin Hubble who noticed red shifting in galaxies.

            The evidence that the galaxies are moving away from each other doesn't even prove that the universe is expanding. At least one scientists believes that it is evidence that the universe is shrinking.

            Not so fast, says Christof Wetterich, a theoretical physicist at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, who has just published an alternative explanation. The universe may be static, but the mass of everything is growing exponentially. Wetterich's paperhasn't yet been peer-reviewed. Moreover, his idea can't even be tested.

            However, according to Nature, no one is dismissing Wetterich out of hand. The physicist Arjun Berera at the University of Edinburgh, for one, likes the idea because it will keep scientists from getting too comfortable with one single explanation, so that they might "see if there are alternative explanations consistent with all known observation.”

            A theory to explain this and other observations was that the universe was once much more compact. If this theory is correct we predict a number of other things, such as the existence if cosmic background radiation. Lo and behold we discovered this. The more our observation conform with the theory, the more we say this theory is a good model. There really is nothing more to the claim than that.

            Thank you. Therefore, the claim can not and should not claim that the existence of God is therefore disproved.

            But God claims also have these limitations.

            No, they don't. They are much more precise.

            We have the bible, is it mere speculation to say it is related to this God?

            It contains the revelation of God.

            Why do you believe that, tradition.

            Tradition isn't simply a word to bandy around with disdain.

            Tradition means that people handed down information from one generation to another. It happens in every field of knowledge.

            Because the council of nicea decide these books were inspired by god, by the apocrypha was not?

            ??? I'm not familiar with that datum. Perhaps you can provide a reference.

            As I know it, the Catholic Church approved the 73 book Bible when Pope Damasus appointed St. Jerome to compile the Latin Vulgate. These books have been confirmed in several Church councils since that time and infallibly confirmed in the Council of Trent.

            You are right, cosmic background radiation may not be from the Big Bang, it may be cosmic birds singing to us from 13 billion years ago.

            You said it. The facts are that they claim that there is an expansion of the universe, but there is no center. Combine that with the fact that they claim the universe is infinite. Which would answer the no center part but contradicts the expansion part. Because, if it is infinite, it can't be expanding. It can only be moving within itself.

            Put on your skeptical glasses. Don't believe everything they say simply because they say it. 1 + 1 = 2. The Universe can't be infinite and expanding at the same time. And, if there is no center, there was no Big Bang.

            What predictions does Christianity make that are observed,

            Christianity teaches us how to live in accordance with God's will.

            that the second coming will occur within the lifetime of the disciples?

            Jesus Christ returns every time that we celebrate the Eucharist in the Mass. The Apostles were doing so from the moment that revealed Himself in the breaking of the bread.

            That intercessory prayer works?

            That is also true. God answers the prayers of the righteous.

            The Big Bang theory is generally accepted by all cosmologists, because it conforms with what we observe. Steady state cosmology did not, and because it did not pretty much all cosmologists accept it as true.

            They claim the best example of the universe is an expanding balloon. According to you, you make inducted references from things you observe. Have you ever seen an expanding balloon without a center?

            What about god beleif. For ten thousand years there have been millions with certainty that their theology is correct. Based on what? Tradition, old books of questionable veracity?

            Folks will question anything. You question our Tradition. I question your inducted references which resemble nothing in the known world.

            Where are the reality checks to determine which one is right?

            Everywhere. But you'll simply claim that there is no reason to believe them.

            Why aren't the millions of Hindus convinced of Chirst's divinity? Why can't Christianity make any headway in Japan. Why is it faltering in the western world?

            Because they aren't interested in a religion which instructs them to live in a manner with which they disagree.

            Because we have no way to confirm it.

            There are many ways to confirm it.

            No way to demonstrate it is true other than to have faith.

            I can 't deny that. But its the same with atheists. You do not believe therefore you deny anything that points to the existence of God.

            And anything which you believe, no matter how incredulous, you justify with manufactured assumptions, such as abiogenesis and atheistic evolution.

            Other than to lower our standards of evidence and proof.

            On the contrary, atheists have the lowest standard of any other group of people. All that they do is deny anything which they don't want to believe.

            Believers have plenty of solid evidence to prove the existence of the Creator. Atheists have nothing but denials in response.

            Denials of the evidence do not, in themselves, constitute evidence.

          • This isn't an argument its a contradiction.

            So do you deny the theory of evolution and Big Bang cosmology?

          • Doug Shaver

            Folks will question anything.

            Are there some things they should not question?

          • Brian:

            Which experiments have you verified yourself so that you aren't relying on the testimony of others? Have you, for example, tested the speed of light or confirmed the existence of neutrinos?

          • Well, I have done a number of experiments in chemistry, biology and physics in high school and have read a great deal about the work of others. Obviously, one cannot undertake all experiments for oneself, and here is the point: even if I did all the experiments myself, it still would not be enough for me to accept the findings. Science tells us to have other people do it the same and accept the findings if they are repeated.

            But of course we need to trust to a certain extent. The key difference in science is the safeguards in place so that we rely on trust as little as necessary.

            I think the word "faith" is misapplied to this kind of trust, particularly as defined I this article.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Anyone can do a multitude of science experiments by enrolling in the physics sequence at a local community college. When I took modern physics, one of the experiments we produced was Michelson-Morley.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelson%E2%80%93Morley_experiment

            We had lab once a week. We reproduced as many of the major experiments of early modern physics as time and equipment would allow.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Hi Brian, meant to come back here and comment, but I see the thread has carried on without me. I was going to bring up the issue with repeatability (most science is not repeatable, from plate tectonics to cosmology to evolution) but I see that matter has already been under discussion.
            I am under the impression that many New Atheists seem to have adopted some kind of born again logical positivism.

          • Doug Shaver

            (most science is not repeatable, from plate tectonics to cosmology to evolution)

            Plate tectonics is repeated every time an earthquake happens.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            I believe "repeat" as used in Brian's original comment above (now deleted?) refers to the ability for the same test to be conducted through human agency under controlled circumstances.
            Your claim that plate tectonics is repeated every time an earthquake happens is an example of the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

          • Doug Shaver

            Your claim that plate tectonics is repeated every time an earthquake happens is an example of the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

            I don't see how. What you're suggesting I did, assuming there is anything wrong with it, would be an example of equivocation.

      • What experiment did we do that did not rely on the testimony of others? All those I have done relied on the labels of the reagent vials and all the chemistry, which those labels implied. It would take me several lifetimes to verify those implications from scratch. I constructed none of the instrumentation I employed. My purpose was not to verify what had already been done, I took that on faith. I was attempting to expand upon what I had taken on faith. I am certain my faith in science is warranted. However, I recognize it as faith. Not so in the case of technology, the utility of which I personally experience. Also in contrast to science, philosophy is based solely on personal experience.

    • Doug Shaver

      There are some things we all assume to be true if we hear them from certain sources. You can call that assumption an act of faith if it you wish, but when I make that assumption about those sources, I do not further assume that those sources are infallible. A lifetime of rude awakenings has taught me never to make that assumption about any source.

      I could be mistaken about that. There could be some people who I should think cannot be wrong when they tell me certain things. But no one has yet proved to me that such people exist.

  • GCBill

    "If you can prove it, you don't need to believe in it."

    Oh, well I guess someone should inform Karlo Broussard that he doesn't need to believe in God. ;)

  • Krakerjak

    And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

    The word Faith is usually defined as complete trust or confidence in something or someone, and usually entails more than simply belief. It seems that simply believing in a higher power fails the test. For one who is a theist, or in other words is a believer in a Higher Power, Supreme Intelligence or Creative Force, Ulitmate Reality, or whatever name one wants to use, can have faith in or trust that this "entity" for lack of a better word, actually cares and will see that fairness and justice prevails in the end, for all sentient and self aware creatures throughout the universe including humans, and may not necessarily depend on believing in or having faith in the Judeo Christian god of the Bible. That concept of a just and loving god may be too small. The higher power who is loving, just, and creative may actually be more all encompasing than the one portrayed by any particular so called revealed religion or scripture, otherwise such an entity would be neither kind, loving or just considering the sincere adherents of so many and varied belieif systems of the people and multitude of cultures throughout history.

    Though I have been an agnostic for most of my life, of late, I find that I am becoming more open and tolerant to the possibility of the existence of a "Supreme Being". But I just don't have the details worked out yet to my satisfaction as to who or what this Entity is.....but I will remain open to the "ultimate" possibilities and will continue to seek answers......and if this "loving", "just" entity actually exists, and one makes a sincere effort to respect, and treat others with justice and love, I don't think that one need be overly concerned about "last things" or jumping through hoops and conforming to legalistic requirements and conditions as required of "revealed" religions.

    • Sounds like you're on your way.

      you said:

      I don't think that one need be overly concerned about "last things" or jumping through hoops and conforming to legalistic requirements and conditions as required of "revealed" religions.

      What if you become convinced that one of those religions authentically speaks for God?

      • Krakerjak

        What if you become convinced that one of those religions authentically speaks for God?

        I don't see that happening for me in any particular "revealed" religion. I find myself more attracted to Buddhist ideas than to any so called "revealed" religion...I was raised Catholic and was a practicing Catholic for a good part of my life...so I am no stranger to "revealed" religion. But if I ever do become "convinced" as you say, that one of those religions authentically speaks for god...then I suppose I will have to deal with it at that time. In the meantime I have to believe that if "god" exists that he is not interested in sending anyone to hell, and that he will deal fairly and justly with individuals according to the "light" that they have been given.

        • We share something in common. I fell away from the Catholic faith when I was between 10 and 13 years old. I became atheist.

          I came back to the Catholic faith when I was around thirty two or three. I had begun to believe in God again when my wife conceived our first child, I was about thirty.

          I also studied Buddhism. I dropped it like a hot potato when I discovered that it was an atheistic philosophy. The reason being that I had already become convinced of God's existence. And I was seeking to understand and to worship God. When I found out that Buddists did not believe in God, I knew that it wasn't what I was seeking. So, I sought elsewhere.

          They do, however, have some very beautiful and reasonable teachings.

  • How do I know I can trust logic? Because the logical absolutes are self-attesting. For example, the statement: "the law of identity and the law of non-contradiction are false". You need to rely on the laws you are disproving to demonstrate the above statement is true.

    How do I know I can trust my mind? I don't. I get things wrong all the time. This is why we need some reality check, some way to distinguish accurate from inaccurate beliefs. This is called critical thinking. Critical thinking identifies logical fallacies that lead us to inaccurate beliefs. Some very common ones are special pleading, (this issue does not need to meet the standards I apply to other issues), wishful thinking, (I really want this to be true, so it is more likely to be true.)

    The above article is an exercise mainly in wishful thinking, e.g. Faith is ultimately an act of will. And, special pleading, that we should accept a belief in god, even though mere logic can't get us there.

    If by faith you mean the application of reason to evidence, fine, I have faith. If you mean something more upon which to base beliefs, I do not have it. If people just mean the application of reason to evidence, we would not need articles like the one above. We could just talk about what the evidence is and whether we have applied logic correctly, like we do in science, history, law, and so on.

    All areas of human endeavour that propose an element of objectivity, except religion, are fine in justifying their beliefs through empirical and reasonable means. They never need to ask us for something described as "faith" or to believe things based on "will". What distinguishes religion is its need for us to accept important issues as true based on something more than the application of logic to evidence. I see no need to do that.

    • Papalinton

      "The above article is an exercise mainly in wishful thinking, e.g. Faith is ultimately an act of will. And, special pleading, that we should accept a belief in god, even though mere logic can't get us there."

      This statement reflects the societal trend over the past 100 years or so toward increased understanding in the truth of the matter whereby people and community are slowly but inexorably waking and coming to the conclusion that religious faith is indeed a delightful but fanciful conception. Faith as primarily practiced in religion is a failed epistemology, so eruditely observed by Prof Gary Gutting, philosopher at Notre Dame:

      "Your religious beliefs typically depend on the community in which you were raised or live. The spiritual experiences of people in ancient Greece, medieval Japan or 21st-century Saudi Arabia do not lead to belief in Christianity. It seems, therefore, that religious belief very likely tracks not truth but social conditioning."

  • If my neighbour calls and tells me my house is on fire, I would trust him, if my neighbour is generally trustworthy. If he is constantly lying to me I would not.

    If a random stranger calls me and tells me this I would not trust him. I would want to know at least a few more things before trusting.

    If my neighbour tells me that someone died and wasn't dead anymore, I would not trust him even if he were the most trustworthy person on earth. Even if I saw that with my own eyes, I would initially think it were some kind of trick, I wouldn't just trust it. I would need extraordinary evidence. Like Thomas and S/Paul.

  • Good article, but it derailed a tad at this juncture, below.

    >>>What are some of the popular, common criticisms of faith that need answering?<<<

    1) Faith is contrary to reason and your logic? The article, hereinabove, did a wonderful job describing the essential nature of faith. Countering caricatures with caricatures doesn't advance the apologetic.
    2) Faith is a crutch for those who can’t handle the difficulties of life?
    A yawner of a tautology. No need for tu quoque.

    3) Faith is the source of superstition, bigotry, and violence?
    Fallacy of misuse. Period.

    So, there's no need to engage competing stances in an over-against manner, especially not a straw-atheism (of the brand called "new").

    This is not to suggest that we
    can't both learn from others as well as deepen our own self-understanding by properly engaging other stances as a foil.
    At the same time, let's acknowledge that there are many who have well-defined their stances, positively, on strictly their own terms. The author did that in the first part of the article. Many religious naturalists have also. So, too, many in Eastern spiritualities.

    While we may refer to various of these stances as theistic,
    atheistic, nontheistic or agnostic, and mostly in terms of rational propositions, without another's self-report, their authentic existential orientations are typically otherwise not so readily apparent? whether from the quality of their interpersonal interactions or from the primary foci of their evaluative dispositions (including such as toward beauty, goodness, unity, freedom and love with their intrinsic rewards)?

    So, haven't we learned, already,
    through authentic dialogue, that others of large intelligence and profound goodwill can take different stances toward putative primal and/or ultimate realities with no discernable loss of epistemic virtues and with no absolute frustration of human value-realizations?

  • Vicq Ruiz

    The chair analogy is (sorry!) a bit shaky.

    Based on my lifetime's experience with chairs and human-built objects in general, I have no difficulty whatever in concluding that this chair

    http://www.crateandbarrel.com/top-rated/top-rated-outdoor/alfresco-grey-lounge-chair-with-sunbrella-white-sand-cushion/s611492

    is liable to be a pretty safe bet, while this one

    http://www.hometone.com/old-piano-parts-transformed-into-a-chair.html

    ummm.... not so much.

    Likewise, I use my lifetime's experience of natural events (large) and my lifetime's experience of supernatural events (nil) to make an initial determination on the character of a particular event. Does this mean that supernatural events are utterly impossible? Of course not. It just means that my experience does not so far include them.

    • Does this mean that supernatural events are utterly impossible? Of course not.

      At least you are open to the existence of supernatural events.

      It just means that my experience does not so far include them.

      Would you be open to the possibility that perhaps you are not aware of supernatural events that are everyday occurrences in your life?

      To that end, do you believe in "love"?

  • "This is actually quite true, and provides further evidence that every "ism"—even atheism, materialism, and the "pragmatism" endorsed by Harris—is religious in nature. History readily shows that man is a religious animal who thinks religious thoughts and has religious impulses."

    Yep, in the end whether or not one believes in God, one ends up worshiping something and following some type of mantra if you will. Politics, environmentalism, and various forms of social activism are all examples of things that can become pseudo religions. Lovers, friends, and even things like jobs can become deities without proper restraints.

    • Krakerjak

      "in the end whether or not one believes in God, one ends up worshiping something and following some type of mantra if you will."

      I don't see how this is a "given" or normal rational response to anyone except for those who have become indoctrinated To believe such nonsense. I really hope that this attitude is not typical of Catholics or their apologists, and look forward for their rebuttals of what you have stated.

    • Doug Shaver

      Lovers, friends, and even things like jobs can become deities without proper restraints.

      They can, yes. That doesn't mean they always do or usually do. It doesn't even mean they ever do. There are lots of things I can do that I have never done.

      • Hi Doug, I think we're operating from some different mindsets here. Chapter 1 of the Catechism section 27 states: "The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for"

        I am of the mindset that all humans are creatures of worship and that regardless of whether or not one even believes in God, something is going to fill the space intended for God. One's heart is going to be captivated and drawn towards something in life. After the French Revolution much of the population's previous religious fervor went into politics. I think you can see such religious fervor towards one's political party or towards a particular cause today (e.g., global warming, same-sex marriage, etc.). Some individuals with this fervor for a political party or cause would describe themselves as having no belief in a higher power, yet regardless of their belief their hearts have been drawn to something and they do indeed end up worshipping in a way.

        Hozier's song "Take Me To Church," while metaphorical, is a very contemporary example of a lover becoming an object of worship. While he doesn't describe himself as an atheist, he very much dislikes faith and religion. His song does illustrate my point. He states:

        My lover's got humour
        She's the giggle at a funeral
        Knows everybody's disapproval
        I should've worshipped her sooner

        Again, while it's metaphorical, it very much correlates with what I believe. Regardless of what you believe, something is eventually going to take the place of a deity regardless of whether or not you worship God.

        • Doug Shaver

          You have told me what you believe. You have not told me why you believe it, unless your reference to the catechism was to indicate that you believe it because your church tells you to believe it. In any case, nothing in your post tells me why I should believe it.

          • Hi Doug,

            There are various reasons why I believe this, but to be succinct I would say this is what I have experienced in life with the people I have encountered and I have gotten to know well. This very well might not be the case with all people; you very well might be an exception to what I have observed in my life.

            So, this is a belief that is based upon both personal experience and what the church says. I do have beliefs that are very much based upon solely what the church says (e.g., the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary), but there are also things that I have come to believe through personal experience.

            "In any case, nothing in your post tells me why I should believe it."

            A very good comment. I have mixed feelings about Strange Notions. I'm very much of the opinion that one comes to know God through revelation and experience... I find the idea that one would come to God through a debate or a philosophical argument to be a very strange notion. I believe I've heard of one or two philosophers who have come to believe in God through philosophical arguments and reasoned debate, but those individuals are few are far in between. I'm of the attitude that I share my thoughts and opinions and if God so chooses to speak through them, then He most certainly will. Yes, God can work through an argument, but I don't believe many people come to know God through debates, so I don't see much reason in saying, "I believe this because of x, y, and z." I'm highly doubtful that presenting my theological/philosophical/personal/etc arguments is going to produce much more than a debate. I find the idea of entering into a debate for the sake of entering into a debate to be pointless. I hope that made sense... :P

          • Doug Shaver

            I would say this is what I have experienced in life with the people I have encountered and I have gotten to know well.

            Do you mean, you see people who say they don't believe acting as if they do believe?

          • No, I mean that regardless of whether or not an individual believes, they fill the space that is intended for God with something else. When you look at someone like Sam Harris or Hemant Mehta, both of whom would describe themselves as atheists, you see passions and behaviors intended for God going towards something else. In their cases brands of atheism.

          • Doug Shaver

            OK, that's what you see. What I see is your dogma telling you that you must see it.

          • Take care.

        • Doug Shaver

          Regardless of what you believe, something is eventually going to take the place of a deity regardless of whether or not you worship God.

          I used to believe in God. I think I would know whether anything has taken his place in my life.

  • Loreen Lee

    I have been hesitant to respond to this question because I have held it imperative within my personal understanding to distinguish belief from faith. I found that this essay, in not asking Why have Faith, has instead conflated the two concepts. In researching this I found that Christianity, specifically Catholicism, is the 'one' faith which synthesizes these two concepts, to the extent that those who 'hold the Faith', are referred to 'merely' as Believers.
    Why is it? There is the 'dictum' in Christianity that 'we are justified by Faith'. Without getting into an analysis of this proposition, this article raises as more relevant the question: Are our beliefs justified by faith?
    The term justification is familiar through Plato in philosophy in the proposition: Knowledge is true justified belief. Despite the difficulties raised by Gettier (see Google) this definition of knowledge is still upheld: justification defined as based on either l. empirical evidence 2. theory, principles, etc. and for the purposes of this comment may I ask: faith? and 3. logic.
    Seen in this light the examples given in the essay regarding the chair, and the house on fire, are correctly analyzed by the scientifically minded as dependent on justification on the basis of the three criteria above, with the elimination of 'faith'.
    But what is 'faith'. This essay does not bring into consideration the understanding that it follows the Aristotelian personal morality when it is defined as a 'theological virtue'. Perhaps this only applies to faith in relation to God. Perhaps theological could be placed within a coherent understanding of such concepts as transcendental, ideal, teleological, and yes even 'eternal', (even as analytic philosophers use the word within respect to empty propositions!).
    So in what sense could such faith justify my beliefs? Certainly not in considering the evidence or reason for choosing whether or not to sit on a particular chair.
    But what of the situation of a loved one, in which a particular choice they have made will or will not bring them incomparable difficulties? Can we not have faith in this regard, that things will work out for the best, despite the paradoxical situation that results from not knowing what the 'future will bring'? We can have faith in that person, no matter what the situation? We can have faith in science, even though the evidence of statistics does not always cover the particular case, that even theoretical paradigms are replaced by more comprehensive theories or principles, that even in the failure of logic, and apparent contradiction, things can work out for the best.
    Do we not therefore in these cases, often justify ourselves and our beliefs on the basis of a justification by faith? This question is asked within the contest of the distinction made between reason and faith. Even Kant seems to have run into a paradox regarding this question however. In answer to Hume he announced that reason had to make way for faith. Yet later he is quoted as saying that faith had to be held 'within the bounds of reason'. But this is another question. And my answer has already exceeded the limits in length of a reasonable response.
    In faith, I say 'this too will pass'. Onto the next question as an opportunity to test further the concepts and the dilemnas presented in these posts. Have a good day.

  • Loreen Lee • 30 minutes ago

    I have been hesitant to respond to this question because I have held it imperative within my personal understanding to distinguish belief from faith.

    How do you distinguish between the two?

    • Loreen Lee

      As I hope I implied, belief can indeed be justified by faith, as well as the other criteria mentioned.. I hope I have put forward as best as I can within the limitations of a comment box, the accepted 'justifications' of belief, which show that some qualifications can be applied strictly within a scientific context. The relation of empirical evidence, for instance differs between scientific evidence and the evidence of such things as miracles which are justified by faith withn Christian doctrines. (Not necessarily dogma, I understand). I also understand that revelation constitutes some kind of evidential underpinning, and that whereas (my understanding) a Catholic does not have to believe in miracles, that a belief in revelation is mandatory, which explains why The Credo, is called belief, as an expression of faith. (And thus the conflation of terms).
      I do not want to get into the problematic of revelation here, however, (justifiably??!!). But I believe it is possible to distinguish between whether or not to believe that your house is on fire, on grounds of empirical evidence, or witness, or a rational 'theory' (as in "I'm sure I turned the stove off") and the say, what could be called a non-religious faith in the promises of the insurance company,that if indeed the house has been reduced to ash there will be some compensation.

      In the case of scientific theories, there is a direct reference to 'real' empirical evidence. In the case of faith, within a religious context, the belief are often related to revelation as distinct from empirical reality. I do not believe this discounts their truth, but for someone who is between naturalism and religious, (as expressed by Habermas), I believe that one can see the truth of the revelation within the context of the transcendental.without a strict believe in the empirical as defined by the criteria of what constitutes scientific evidence.

      • I just want to know how you distinguish between faith and belief. You said,

        I have held it imperative within my personal understanding to distinguish belief from faith.

        Perhaps you could provide your definition for each.

        How do you define, "faith"?

        How do you define, "belief"?

        • Loreen Lee

          A clear distinction is possibly something that we need to strive for in our understanding. Perhaps it will be possible at some time to distinguish explicitly the truths of empirical 'evidence' from 'Divine Revelation'. The former I would refer to as belief; the latter would possibly fall under the category of 'faith', perhaps even within the context of what could even be described by some as a non-religious faith arising out of the paradoxes within our experience.
          As far as a definition is concerned, thanks for the idea. Am going to check out Google, for more 'illumination'.

        • Loreen Lee

          Quote: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/definitions/

          A philosophical discussion of 'definitions'.

  • Krakerjak

    I managed even to get myself banned on Atheist websites such as Outshine The Sun....Estranged notions...because I have been critical of the way they treat Christians and agnostics....so I don't expect any special treatment here. Especially ironic in light of their criticism of Strange Notions for muzzling and banning atheists. My feed is open if anyone wants to see what my sins against Estrraged Notions are that got me banned. If any theist thinks that they are not suffering enough persecution for their faith on the internet, I invite them to go to the site EN but be prepared to suffer abuse.

    http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.ca/

    • Krakerjak

      It seems that Andrew has removed my "offending" comment....but here it is for those who are curious.

      Hi Loreen...not defending anything that you have or have not said, but you have to understand that on EN, you are stepping into the quagmire of the atheistic realm of dogmatic unbelief of any metaphysical realities or concepts thereof that require a certain level of understadiing,
      Interesting to partake in the discussion no doubt, but as far as expecting fair consideration, as you have seen, One should not have to be in a perpetual state of defense of oneself as a person imbued with transcendental ideas as though those ideas were without intrinsic merit. Nor should one have to be in the constant mode of apologizing left and right for being "computer illiterate" or relatively uneducated or unsophisticated compared to the elite, participants on here who think their shite does not stink,. Abandon all hope Ye Who Enter here at EN. Some on here may perceive me as being a little harsh in my judgement, but I really don't care, as the EN commenters generally only pay the minimum
      of lip service regards respect to theists and nonatheists. So perhaps so
      this is likely going to be my encore performance or last hurrah, and
      that is ok. Just am fed up with the intolerance and contempt shown to
      theists and even some nontheists and agnostics. Oh well...this should
      give them something to chew on other than theists like Jim, Peter, Sean
      and others. Sayonora.

      • Michael Murray

        All bannings and deletions on EN and reasons for them are discussed here

        http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/the-moderation-actions-thread.html

        No need to repost anything just link to the above.

      • Loreen Lee

        Quote:

        And I thought it was only me with the infriority complex.

        Pity I have to be in such poor company.

        Thanks for your support Krakerjak. I understand that the reference to 'poor company' is directed to my comments. This is all OK. I am not offended by any of these comments. My daughter has often referred to me as a people pleaser, because of my attempts to speak the language of those with whom I am in conversation with. This is difficult to do, and thus my awareness of the inadequacy. But please be assured that I feel no 'personal' inferiority. I do believe, according to Postmodern language analysists, that it is not possible to have a complete comprehension because of the characteristic of language, (see Derrida on this). I especially find it difficult to understand the 'colloquialisms' on SN, which often take the place of an attempt to extend the comprehension of concepts within formal parameters.. Quine has been very helpful in this respect, i.e. by giving me specific links, in regard to my not being educated in science or math. I merely go with what I have, a degree in philosophy - not much - granted, but I do have a friend with a Ph.d. who considers me as well read as he is. We each see the world according to our own lights. Thanks again, Krakerjak.

    • Jim Dailey

      Ha ha - I got banned from "The American Catholic", "The Friendly Atheist", and most recently from "Catholic and Enjoying It."

      I am sort of surprised, as I really do not feel like I was trolling. I got pretty vulgar at "The Friendly Atheist" - which frankly appears to be part of the culture there - but the item that got me banished was not at all vulgar, so I was pretty surprised by that one.

      I think this site is pretty reasonable about allowing people to express whatever opinion they have as long as they stay on topic and respectful. What I like about this site and it's comment boxes is that for a good percentage of the comments, you cannot tell if the commenter is pro-Catholic or pro-Atheist. I learn a lot of new stuff here.

  • bbrown

    I really enjoyed the essay, and want to read the comments next as time permits. I have struggled a lot over what faith really is and what it means, and how to really have it and be assured that it's real, etc. These are such vital things to know. I think the greatest issue for me has been the whole idea of "saving faith" and it being a gift vs. it being a "work" of our assent or will. I think this is perhaps THE key question for me. Catholics seem to put the stress a bit more on the will and the work of man, Protestants more on the gift and pure grace of God. I really liked how this essay did not gloss over the tension, as so often occurs within Protestant and evangelical writings and sermons. I read so much that is just unclear, imbalanced, and confused about these two points. The essay seemed to present an excellent historical understanding of how these both work together in a more balanced approach than I hear or read in evangelical Protestantism. ".....even if man cannot fully comprehend, for example, the Incarnation or the
    Trinity. Reason and logic can take man to the door of faith, but cannot
    carry man across the threshold." Yes, that is well said I think. Much of the tension is resolved by a 'both/and' understanding, which I see parsed, even if it's not the direct purpose of this article.

    Just a few preliminary observations and impressions (I know I'm joining the dialogue a bit late! Just getting trying to get caught up a little with my back-log:

    1. Fabulously apropos GK Chesterton quotes!
    2. I guess I made my feelings about Harris clear in my reply to Doug Shaver below. Am I alone in thinking him very silly, very small minded, and just full of ego and hubris? He cannot be as ignorant as he makes himself out to be could he?
    3. Someone who cannot trust chairs - a great idea for a Monty Python skit :)
    4. Faith is based in reason and evidence - this is very important to emphasize to atheists who claim otherwise. Just because someone cannot clealry articulate all the reasons that they believe the God of the Bible, that Jesus is God, or the tenets of the Christain faith, does not mean that they have not arrived at those beliefs through a rational, evidence based process.
    5. The tension between predestination and free will is only touched on in some of the Bible verses quoted. This however, enters into the whole question of faith in big way, at least for me. I think that "Middle knowledge" aka Molinism (which has some other implications and nuances), as presented by Wm. Lane Craig has helped me resolve some of the seemingly intractable dilemmas presented by the two doctrines. At least there is a rational means of understanding their coexistence.
    6. Faith requires our work, our assent, our acceptance. This is true for everything we believe. It's just that the stakes are so huge when it comes to belief in God and more specifically in the claims of Christ, that everything else just places in comparison. That makes the study of the evidence probably one of the most important things we can do in this life.
    7. "The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Aquinas, teaches,
    "In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace:
    Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by
    command of the will moved by God through grace" (CCC 155)."
    I think that is well said. This covers all aspects of faith, the will, reason, logic, evidence, as well as the gift of God's grace that enables us to see and to assent and believe. We know that our rational faculties can be quite unreliable, but if we use them well, they can go far in bringing us to clarity and insight into the nature of reality. It's not so different from how we assent to anything else.
    8. Did I say that Harris strikes an astoundingly ignorant and idiotic pose? His evangelism for the evolution of "progress" through technology seems to disregard the harms done through that faith. Surely he knows about what that evolution has brought us in the 20th and 21st centuries. I don't think I need to get into the Brave New World or the rational scientific eugenics or the killing fields of modern atheism.
    A few Harris quotes.....
    "Religion is evil, spirituality is good". Is that not vacuous and banal to the extreme? He loves to hop on the pop bandwagon. It keeps the money flowing.
    "Eastern mysticism is a thoroughly rational and legitimate means for living a full life." I'm not sure a Buddhist or Hindu would agree, but look how the gullible eat it up. Sign me up Sam.
    "Consider the millions of people who were killed by Stalin and Mao:
    Although these tyrants paid lip service to rationality, communism was
    little more than a political religion". Great example of the potential consequences of a false religion.

    9. Re. the crutch objection that Freud was so fond of: Let's not forget that faith in Christ always leads to persecution; we are promised that.
    10. GKC, the apostle of common sense.....
    "Every man in the street must hold a metaphysical system, and hold it
    firmly. The possibility is that he may have held it so firmly and so
    long as to have forgotten all about its existence. This latter situation
    is certainly possible; in fact, it is the situation of the whole modern
    world. The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly
    that they do not even know that they are dogmas."

    "Chesterton suggests elsewhere that if you wish to be free from contact
    with superstition, bigotry, and violence, you’ll need to separate
    yourself from all human contact. The choice is not between religion and
    non-religion, but between true religion and false religion."

    "Simple secularists still talk as if the Church had introduced a sort
    of schism between reason and religion," wrote Chesterton in The Everlasting Man,
    "The truth is that the Church was actually the first thing that ever
    tried to combine reason and faith" ("Man and Mythologies"). The
    challenge for every Catholic is to give assent and to have faith, while
    the Catholic apologist must strive to show that such assent is not only
    reasonable, but brings us into saving contact with the only reason for
    living."

    Great stuff. This was a wonderful essay.

  • Boris

    "Every man in the street must hold a metaphysical system, and hold it firmly."

    Who says? You? And where did you get this special knowledge? From your special magical, Christian revelation powers - that we atheists don't possess? Another word for metaphysics is nonsense. Metaphysics is where they give you a 30,000 page menu and no food. There are no privileged knowers who appeal to special sources of knowledge—available to them by way of heavenly revelation, or authoritative status, or intimations to which their group was privy. This mean you.