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From Atheism to Catholicism: An Interview with Jennifer Fulwiler (Video)

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In Augustine's Confessions, the first Western autobiography ever written, we discover the probing journey of a brilliant man, traveling through a maze of philosophies before emerging into the light of Christianity. The destination brought him to tears for though he sensed Christianity to be true, it was the last place he expected to turn.

Years later, when Oxford professor C.S. Lewis embarked on his own pursuit of truth, he too ended up at Christianity, converting with great hesitancy: "I gave in, and admitted that God was God ... perhaps that night the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."

And then there was Jennifer Fulwiler. When Jennifer stood in a Catholic Church on Easter 2007, preparing to become Catholic, there was hardly a more unlikely convert. Born and raised in a skeptical home, which valued Carl Sagan more than Jesus, Jennifer developed an ardent atheism. She rejected God and joyously mocked religion.

But then she met Joe. Joe was brilliant. He had multiple degrees from Ivy League institutions and was rapidly climbing the corporate ladder. Yet, strangely, he identified as a Christian. "How could such a smart man believe something so ridiculous?" Jennifer wondered.

Something Other Than GodThat led her to rigorously examine the claims of Christianity, if only to prove them wrong. She gorged on books. She frequented online comment boxes and discussion boards. She even started a blog which invited Christians to counter her atheism. This painstaking research, combined with difficult questions about meaning, death, and existence, slowly led Jennifer to believe that God existed, and even more that Jesus was God in the flesh. Though obviously troubling, she could have accepted this "mere Christianity" and moved on. But after exploring many Protestant churches, she distressingly realized that the evidence was pushing her toward a far more unsettling destination: the Catholic Church.

Like Augustine and Lewis before her, Jennifer recounts her compelling journey of conversion through a colorful and stirring memoir, Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It (Ignatius Press). The book's deep soul, humor, and addictive readability help explain why Dean Koontz admitted to enjoying the entire book in just one sitting.

I recently sat down with Jennifer to discuss how she moved from atheism to Catholicism, what books influenced her journey, and why she describes her conversion as "a discovery of a long lost home."

Watch or download our interview below:

 

Video


Watch the video here (10 minutes)
 

Audio

[audio:https://strangenotions.com/wp-content/uploads/Jen-Fulwiler-Interview-SN.mp3]
Download the interview here (10 minutes)
 

Topics Discussed:

1:14 - Were you really an atheist growing up?
2:57 - What was one of the first chinks in your atheist armor?
4:41 - Can you describe your first attempts at prayer?
6:51 - What suggestions would you have for an unconvinced atheist?
 
 
Follow Jennifer's writing at ConversionDiary.com and read her many articles at Strange Notions. Also, be sure to pick up her magnificent new book, Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It.
 
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Brandon Vogt

Written by

Brandon Vogt is a bestselling author, blogger, and speaker. He's also the founder of StrangeNotions.com. Brandon has been featured by several media outlets including NPR, CBS, FoxNews, SiriusXM, and EWTN. He converted to Catholicism in 2008, and since then has released several books, including The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011), Saints and Social Justice (Our Sunday Visitor, 2014), and RETURN (Numinous Books, 2015). He works as the Content Director for Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Brandon lives with his wife, Kathleen, and their five children in Central Florida. Follow him at BrandonVogt.com or connect through Twitter at @BrandonVogt.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Geeves

    This video is private :/

  • Clifton Wolfe

    Cannot watch video. :)

  • Michael Murray

    The audio works. Just out of interest I wonder how many of the Catholics posting here are adult converts having grown up non-Catholic. No particular reason for asking. I just know a number of the non-Catholics here grew up Catholic. I was wondering if the reverse was also true.

    I'll nail my colours to the mast:

    Atheist raised Catholic.

    • Peter

      I thought atheism was an absence of colours.

      • Michael Murray

        No we believe in all colours except octarine.

    • Several of our main contributors grew up atheist, or adopted atheism as young adults, before converting to Catholicism later in life.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Fun question. I imagine we all could write a book on that, but I'll try to state it as one sentence with only one paragraph of elaboration:

      Catholic raised by loving but bitter ex-Catholics. Plenty of lively and edifying discussion about spirituality around the dinner table, and plenty of encouragement to respect all faiths, though with a not-so-subtle unspoken understanding that no thinking person would practice "classical" Catholicism in this day and age. Encouraged primarily to find God in nature. Family bookshelves had lots of content on Buddhism, especially Zen Buddhism, and some new-agey spirituality, as well as tomes by Hans Kung, Paul Tillich, and (my favorites, covered in dust until I found them ...) Teilhard de Chardin.

    • NicholasBeriah Cotta

      I was raised without any religion and would have counted myself a materialist like Jen. Although I had definite deistic tendencies, I liked the "watchmaker" idea and I definitely didn't like the idea of the supernatural and despised astrology-mysticism-6 creation days and probably even poetry and sentimentality, haha. I generally thought these things went hand-in-hand.
      Matter of fact, I like Brandon's comment in the beginning of the interview- I too struggled with prayer the most (and was the last major thing I incorporated in to my daily life). I had to get a book on it, "Prayer for Beginners" by Dr. Kreeft, and have been working out from the Jesus prayer.
      I became Catholic at the ripe age of 28 years old (Easter Vigil 2013, woo woo).

      • D. Havas

        If talking directly to some deity is really productive, then you should be doing it constantly for every good imaginable. At least, that's the way I saw it as a kid growing up. I doubt that an adult convert would develop such a problem.

        Looking back, I think my prayers did have value as an inner dialogue. I'm very good at talking to myself!

        My main problem with prayer: I was never accepting reality. It was a whirlwind of "oughts".

        • NicholasBeriah Cotta

          I would say your objection is pretty typical of the one dimensional thinking that many nonbelievers have toward Catholicism.
          Prayer is not "productive" in the sense that it helps acquire things - prayer conforms your will to God, and the reality is that it is not the only way to do this so why would you just do it repeatedly?
          If a boxer wants to become a better boxer, would he just keep boxing every minute of every day? This would be the absurdity of your proposal.
          In a certain sense, I agree with you that prayer is a whirlwind of oughts because God does not speak to us directly. But like Jen said in the interview, it is a different form of communication - it is like if you and I had a 5 minute conversation but it took 5 million years, what would that *feel* like? That is the space of prayer, and to expect it to be like human dialogue makes it easy to dismiss from the get-go.

          • D. Havas

            I would say your objection is pretty typical of the one dimensional thinking that many nonbelievers have toward Catholicism.

            What can I say, I'm a one dimensional kind of guy.

            prayer conforms your will to God, and the reality is that it is not the only way to do this so why would you just do it repeatedly?

            You've gotta be kidding! Why would I do it repeatedly?!

            If a boxer wants to become a better boxer, would he just keep boxing every minute of every day? This would be the absurdity of your proposal.

            I did think of prayer as a powerful action, but certainly not the only action I could ever take or that mattered. It's your proposal that's absurd.

            But like Jen said in the interview, it is a different form of communication - it is like if you and I had a 5 minute conversation but it took 5 million years, what would that *feel* like?

            I imagine it might feel a lot like the conversation we're actually having.

            That is the space of prayer, and to expect it to be like human dialogue makes it easy to dismiss from the get-go.

            Trust me dude, I did not dismiss it from the get-go.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Haha, I reread everything and my reply was poorly thought out. I deserved the sarcasm.

    • Linda

      Raised Catholic and am practicing now, but have dropped out at least three times through the years. I often feel quite close to God and "in tune" with things, then other times struggle to feel His presence. I enjoy the give and take at this site and the different perspectives and ideas that are presented both as posts and follow-up comments as they help me work through my beliefs and practices. In seventh grade I told the priest that sometimes I doubted whether God exists. He said that was good, that I shouldn't just take it for granted one way or the other, but to keep searching for the truth of things. That advice has held up perfectly. Good job, Father!

    • Moussa Taouk

      I was a non-Christian for the first month or so of my life. Then I copped a drenching of water in baptism and so I became a Maronite Catholic, ready to keep the faith of my forefathers in times of peace or persecution.

      I sometimes have doubts, but then I chat with some atheists and then that usually strengthens my faith again :).

    • severalspeciesof

      My mast is: Baptized and raised into a believing Catholic, then defected, then baptized into a Christian Fellowship church, then defected, then baptized into a Baptist church, then defected... 3 strikes and I'm out...

      Glen

      • Glen - what made you "defect" the first time?

        • severalspeciesof

          That was in a land far far away so I'm a bit fuzzy on exact details, so bear with me... Looking back I remember coming across Protestant criticisms against Marion theology and they made sense (and still do), I began to seriously doubt the 'infallibilty' of the Pope (and I don't mean in the ill defined sense of everything he says is infallible) and I no longer believed in transubstantiation. Kinda knocks one out of the party if three major tenets/dogmas are dismissed...

          • Well, on the bright you side you did eventually see the error of your Protestant ways.

          • severalspeciesof

            I know you're joking, but why the dig at Protestants? Do they look at the 'wrong' evidence? Will this site eventually post an interview with someone going from atheism to Protestantism and then show how that's wrong? Just thinking out loud here... I'm not being terse (I can see how my comment could be construed that way)...

            Glen

          • Just a bit of levity (and self-parody).

          • severalspeciesof

            I'll take it... ;-)

            BTW, were you Protestant (thinking of the self parody part)?

            Glen

          • No, just poking fun at our Catholic selves. (Chesterton said the mark of a good religion is whether it can laugh at itself!) Also reminds me of a great Irish joke that I think Dakwins references in The God Delusion:

            A journalist, researching for an article on the complex political situation in Northern Ireland, was in a pub in a war-torn area of Belfast. One of his potential informants leaned over his pint of Guinness and suspiciously cross-examined the journalist: "Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?" the Irishman asked. "Neither," replied the journalist; "I'm an atheist." The Irishman, not content with this answer, put a further question: " But are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?"

            In all seriousness, thanks for answering the original question. I think it's just as fascinating (and important) to learn about the turning points in a long journey of deconversion like yours as a long journey of conversion like Jennifer's.

          • Ignorant Amos

            That'll be Christopher Hitchens there Matthew...ironically, it isn't even a joke in certain parts of Belfast.

  • David Nickol

    It was a pleasant interview, and I hope I don't sound like I am nitpicking to object to the phrasing of one of the questions—"What was one of the first chinks in your atheist armor?"

    The implication seems to me that atheists artificially isolate themselves from the (alleged) truth of theism and put up barriers to prevent themselves from being influenced by other points of view. This may be the case with some atheists, but it seems no more likely to me to be true of atheists than of believers. In fact, it seems to me more likely to be true of believers than of atheists. I think religious people whose faith is challenged have much more cause to feel seriously threatened than atheists who begin to suspect there is a God.

    There are clearly believers here who seem quite convinced that atheists know down deep in their hearts that there really is a God, and they are either lying when they say they don't believe in God, or they are deluding themselves. I think it should be acknowledged that most atheists and most religious people authentically believe what they say they do. It really doesn't facilitate dialogue to imagine that we can psychoanalyze people who disagree with us and find some pathology that prevents them from believing what we do.

    • I think you're reading too much into the question, David. It was just a turn of phrase. I could have easily asked, "What was the first dagger in your atheism?"

      "It really doesn't facilitate dialogue to imagine that we can psychoanalyze people who disagree with us and find some pathology that prevents them from believing what we do."

      This is precisely what you've done with the question: you've psychoanalyzed an innocent question thinking it betrays some deeper bias or pathology.

      • David Nickol

        This is precisely what you've done with the question: you've psychoanalyzed an innocent question thinking it betrays some deeper bias or pathology.

        I am not talking about analyzing sentences and pointing out the implications of language. I am talking about psychoanalyzing people.

        You seem to agree with my basic point, and if I had accused you personally of claiming that atheists deep down believed in God but erected barriers to prevent people from causing them to admit it, you would have a complaint. But I did not accuse you personally of anything, and I put forward my comment very tentatively ("I hope I don't sound like I am nitpicking . . . . The implication seems to me . . . ."), even acknowledging that it is sometimes true ("this may be the case with some atheists . . ." ). I also did not search for quotes to show that some commenters here do indeed believe that atheists—knowing deep down that God exists—claim to deny his existence because they do not want to do what is required of believers. I apologize if you found my comment was in some way critical of you, but I honestly was focusing on what I thought the phrase in your question seemed to me to imply, without accusing you of intentionally implying anything.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          David, not looking to pick a fight, but just to give you a sense of what this looks like from the other side. I am one of those who once posted something along the lines of: "I think many (not all) self-described atheists are not really atheists". To me, it was clear from the overall context of my message that I was NOT accusing anyone of self-delusion or deception, and that I was instead trying to say something like: "I think there is a shared human experience that theists describe using God language, and that atheists also have this experience but they don't think it makes sense to describe it using God language". However, you criticized that remark of mine based on the assumption that my intent was to say "atheists know down deep in their hearts that there really is a God".

          My point is simply: there is a need on both sides to cut each other some slack. Where there is a reasonable possibility of assuming that a comment is meant to be constructive, we should go ahead and choose that charitable interpretation. Some remarks are going to be poorly phrased and insufficiently thought out (a valid criticism of my remark, in that case), but we shouldn't impute malice or distrust when lack of finesse is just as plausible an explanation.

          • David Nickol

            My point is simply: there is a need on both sides to cut each other some
            slack.

            I think this was my whole point. As I said,

            It really doesn't facilitate dialogue to imagine that we can
            psychoanalyze people who disagree with us and find some pathology that
            prevents them from believing what we do.

            Where there is a reasonable possibility of assuming that a
            comment is meant to be constructive, we should go ahead and choose that
            charitable interpretation.

            Here I disagree. We should be charitable toward people, but if language in a comment seems problematic, there is no need to bend over backwards to give it the best possible interpretation. Much of what we are engaged in here is either philosophical or something akin to it. Precise meanings make a difference. If a comment raises a question in anyone's mind, that person should feel free to ask for clarification. That is what dialog is all about.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Fair enough.

  • severalspeciesof

    "You're not going to find God under a microscope"

    For a being that's supposedly omni(.....) and supposedly loves us 'totally'.... well, that's a shame...

    Glen

    • Glen, your comment is really confusing to me. Can you elaborate or rephrase it?

      • severalspeciesof

        My apologies if this comes across as being obtuse, but think it through...

        Glen

        • I tried to think it through, but it didn't seem coherent. Perhaps you can clarify it?

          • David Nickol

            My interpretations is something along the lines of, "If God is all knowing, all loving, and all powerful, why does he hide when he could make himself known to people looking at the universe on the microscopic scale, on an astronomical scale, and on every level in between"?

            I once began a book by a beloved Christian author in which he tried to answer the question of why God was so visible in the Old and New Testaments but so invisible today. As I recall, he said, "Well, when he made himself so visible back then, look how badly it worked out." I stopped reading the book.

          • "My interpretations is something along the lines of, "If God is all knowing, all loving, and all powerful, why does he hide when he could make himself known to people looking at the universe on the microscopic scale, on an astronomical scale, and on every level in between"?"

            After considering this interpretation, and re-reading Glen's confusing comment, I'm still not sure this is what he meant.

            But if so, I'd highly recommend Marc Barnes' article on this topic (i.e., on "divine hiddenness"):

            If God Is Real, Why Won't He Show Himself?

          • David Nickol

            I think a somewhat better way to put the question is, "If the Bible is true, and God is real, why did he show himself and/or communicate directly with human beings up until about two thousand years ago, and then stop?"

          • "If the Bible is true, and God is real, why did he show himself and/or communicate directly with human beings up until about two thousand years ago, and then stop?"

            It's a good and intriguing question--and one that many theologians have answered down through the centuries--but it's irrelevant to the question of God's existence.

            We simply aren't in a good position to determine whether God could or does have good reason for revealing himself in the specific ways he has.

            And whether God has chosen to reveal himself gradually or immediately, rarely or often, that's independent of whether he exists.

          • severalspeciesof

            "We simply aren't in a good position to determine whether God could or
            does have good reason for revealing himself in the specific ways he has."

            This actually helps in clarifying my previous thoughts: We ARE in a good position to determine whether god could or does have good reason for revealing itself in the specific ways he has. If we accept the 'omni' tributes (and the notion of hell), god has no good reason, especially if there is supposed to be a relationship going on between it and us.
            If god is 'all good' and has created all things, from whence did evil come? Is evil actually just an inferior good?

            Glen

          • Glen, thanks for the reply! I'll respond to each part:

            "This actually helps in clarifying my previous thoughts: We ARE in a good position to determine whether god could or does have good reason for revealing itself in the specific ways he has. If we accept the 'omni' tributes (and the notion of hell), god has no good reason, especially if there is supposed to be a relationship going on between it and us."

            Merely asserting that we're in a good position to adjudicate God's prerogative doesn't make it so. The fact remains that because we're limited by space and time, we simply can't see the full scope of history--we can't see the "butterfly effects" that occur because of God's specific decisions.

            In order to determine whether God has revealed himself in the most ideal way possible, we'd have to grasp all the possible effects of different alternatives. But again, we're simply not in a position to do that.

            As creatures limited in space, time, and intellect, we don't have the right vantage to question God's decision-making.

            "If god is 'all good' and has created all things, from whence did evil come? Is evil actually just an inferior good?"

            As has been explained several times on this site, through both featured articles and careful comments, Catholics do not believe that evil is a form of good (i.e., an "inferior good".) We agree with St. Augustine that evil is a privation of the good. Thus it's not a thing but a lack of something, much as coolness is not a thing but really a lack of heat.

            It's true that God is all good, but his creation is not. Humans were created with free will which, ideally, could be used to freely love and commune with God. But free will also allows a privation of the good--or what we call "evil."

          • severalspeciesof

            Merely asserting that we're in a good position to adjudicate God's prerogative doesn't make it so.

            I didn't assert it. The 'omni' tributes to god asserts it.

            It's true that God is all good, but his creation is not.

            You might want to rephrase that, unless you believe in married bachelors or square circles...

            Glen

          • Kyle S.

            The fact that God's activity has decreased as human knowledge has increased is a bit suspicious, isn't it?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't think most of the theists here think that God's activity has decreased at all. Our understanding is that He is totally and completely active in every moment.

            However, it is true that the catechism teaches that "no new public revelation is to be expected", which implies a sort of transition in the way that God interacts with his creation. Brandon is of course correct that we don't know God's plan exactly, but we can make reasonable guesses based on what we do know. The Church teaches that God's relationship to us is like that of a parent to children. It also teaches that creation, and humanity in particular, is in a state of journeying and growth.

            There is an intimate connection between a parent and an infant child that is never quite recovered as the child grows older. The style of communication between the parent and the child changes. Not for better, not for worse. It just changes. I think even non-theists can sign up for the idea that maybe humanity is just growing up.

          • Kyle S.

            I appreciate the insufficiency of metaphor, but the idea that you can have an intimate connection with an invisible and non-communcative being is just...I don't get it, man. What kind of parent is that? Of all the places where Catholicism loses me, that's where it really loses me.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You have intimate connections with invisible beings all the time. Your friends are known to you symbolically, through the signs of their bodies. Those symbols, their bodies and their voices, are inextricable from who they are, but the symbols are pointing a deeper reality that is not visible and cannot be assayed in any way.

            We can similarly get to know God by paying attention to the physical symbols in His creation. Those symbols point to who God is, in the same way that your friend's smile points to who your friend is.

          • Kyle S.

            Okay, let's say for the sake of argument that physical symbols say something about who God is. What do tornadoes say?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Disclaimer: I do not work in any official capacity as God's translator, so I can't really comment on what God is saying to any specific person in any specific event. That said, the Catholic interpretive tradition suggests that one of the things that God sometimes says is [paraphrasing] : "I cannot fully explain why you need to suffer through this now. It is beyond your grasp. I will reveal it some day and you will understand. In the meantime, just trust me that it is leading you to a better place and do the hard, even painful work." It is, almost word for word, what I tell my kids every night when they are doing their (clearly painful) homework.

          • severalspeciesof

            "I cannot fully explain why you need to suffer through this now. It is
            beyond your grasp. I will reveal it some day and you will understand. In
            the meantime, just trust me that it is leading you to a better place
            and do the hard, even painful work." It is, almost word for word, what I
            tell my kids every night when they are doing their (clearly painful)
            homework.

            Is this in the same way that a Nigerian who, in desperation, sent me an e-mail requesting my personal info, because he was fearful that his money would be taken by his government, and if he got my personal info, he would be able to stow away his riches and after all is said and done would then send me part of his riches?

            Glen

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I suppose it is a similar plea, but I come at it with very different prior information. You are talking about a person whose only interaction with you is an email out of the blue. It's not like natural disasters are my sole interactions with God.

          • severalspeciesof

            You are talking about a person whose only interaction with you is an email out of the blue.

            I'm going to ask you a question that you need not answer. Hopefully it will make you and others understand why it is that many atheists find it odd that Christians (indeed almost anyone with a religion) claim to be in communication with their deity. Here it is: "You mean, your god sends you e-mails along with other types of communication?"

            Glen

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, very funny. Now I'm going to ask you a question that you need not answer: "Is email your gold standard for what constitutes real communication?"

          • severalspeciesof

            Not a gold standard, but better than mind reading, that's for sure, and it can be shown to others... and as this is starting to get off the discussion of what's in the video, I'll leave this particular part of this thread with a quote from Sam Harris. “The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one
            occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to
            God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I
            fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more
            ridiculous or offensive.”


            Sam Harris,

            Letter to a Christian Nation

            Glen

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            What if the president said he was searching his heart before making a decision. Would that trouble you? What if he said he was searching his heart using new GPS technology? Would those two statements be equally acceptable to you?

          • severalspeciesof

            In the quote I posted, the implication is that the president has based his decisions on what god said to him (however that occurs... (if you're thinking a hairdryer is goofy, then what do you make of a burning bush?) and that we're supposed to believe that, because he said that god said (however that occurs) 'whatever' and that the president agreed (because who's to question god?). Essentially the president is absolving himself of responsibility. No one can actually be sure that god is in 'dialogue' with him (however that occurs). Saying 'I searched my heart' is conceding to a sense of self responsibility. So yes, I would have no problem with a president 'searching his or her heart', but would with one that needs a GPS device, as GPS devices aren't used for that. We have precedence in stories on goofy communications from god (again, think 'burning bush').

          • David Nickol

            I don't think most of the theists here think that God's activity has decreased at all.

            Earlier in the thread, Brandon recommended that I read an earlier post titled If God Is Real, Why Won't He Show Himself? Brandon also said the following:

            I think Blaise Pascal had it right: "In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." If you're open to the evidence, God has provided enough to draw you to him. It won't compel you--you can resist the evidence if you want--but there's enough there for those who genuinely seek.

            The problem is that the explanation given in the earlier post and in the Pascal quote is that they are manifestly untrue of the way God acts in both the Old and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, it was not uncommon for God to speak directly to human beings (Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Jonah, David, etc.) and did not hesitate to manifest himself or his powers (for example, consider the plagues in Egypt, parting the Red Sea, appearing as a pillar of clouds by day and a pillar of fire by night to Moses and the Israelites in the desert). And in the New Testament, according to Christians, Jesus was God himself and preached to crowds as large as five thousand people at a time. If the New Testament accounts are actually true, Jesus healed the sick, calmed storms, raised the dead, and himself was risen from the dead, all right under the noses of the Apostles.

            It seems to me we must either conclude God clearly manifested himself until about 2000 years ago, or the Old and New Testaments must be somehow interpreted in a way that the actual events (if there were any) were not undeniable and dramatic self-manifestations by God.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If I understand correctly, you think my statement that, "most theists here [don't] think that God's activity has decreased at all" is contradicted by Brandon's remark and Marc Barnes post? If that is what you are getting at, I don't really see it. Whether God is active in every moment and whether his essence is hidden are two separate issues.

            While I take your point about God's sometimes dramatic and forceful appearances in the Old Testament, I think you know that is only half of the story. The Old Testament has many reflections on God's hiddenness, some of which Matthew Becklo touched on in his nice post, "No One Sees God". I am very surprised that you would claim that Barnes' post is "manifestly" at odds with the Old Testament.

            I am more than ready to sign up for your statement that the actual events underlying both Old and New Testament narratives were not in any sense undeniable manifestations of God. The gospels themselves attests to this, telling us that the disciples did not believe, even when they saw the risen Lord. I allow for the possibility that God had once had more of a parent-infant type of relationship with humanity, but my understanding is that doubt has always been inextricable from the faith experience.

            I also have no trouble agreeing that propaganda (in the good, original sense of the word) and history (in the modern sense of the word) are inextricably intertwined in the gospels and in many other parts of scripture.

          • Michael Murray

            As the song says:

            Why'd you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?
            If you'd come today you would have reached a whole nation
            Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication

          • severalspeciesof

            David, yes that's one way of looking at what I said...

  • Susan

    I'm not sure what we're supposed to be discussing here. "There is compelling evidence for God if you're willing to look for it."

    Not very helpful. That claim is repeated here frequently.

    The evidence has not been compelling so far.

    • Steven Dillon

      I think one issue here is that people's minds are not satisfied by the same intensity of investigation or quality of evidence. So, while the evidence which one person found compelling may well be there, the bar may have been placed too low for others. This was one point driven home by J.L. Schellenberg: some folks spend their lives plumbing the depths of natural theology and end up simply unconvinced. Though, the same thing goes for non-theistic positions as well. The problem of what to believe in light of what our epistemic peers and superiors think is puzzling.

      • Susan

        So, while the evidence which one person found compelling may well be there, the bar may have been placed too low for others.

        No good accepting a low bar for ultimate claims. Especially given our proclivity for confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance.

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

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

        • Steven Dillon

          I agree, especially when there's a lot at stake. Have you given classical theism much thought? It purports to rest on proper metaphysical demonstrations of God's existence, rather than just an inference to the best explanation, or a probabilistic induction.

          • Susan

            . Have you given classical theism much thought?

            You mean this?

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

            The assertion of an omniscient agent at the back end of everything? Without explaining or justifying its terms? Ground of all being... first cause...omniscient agent.

            Have you given event horizons much thought? Neuroscience on the mind/brain topic? The nature of mind? Quantum gravity? ( Steven. I assume you have. I know you aren't arguing for Yahweh or Jesus.

            But how do the questions that arise on those subjects square with classical theism? "Immaterial" minds at the back end of an explanation. How does that work? There's no reason to think it's the only explanation. Not even a reason to think it's a good explanation.

            Shadows are not necessarily "immaterial" minds. Even if they were, "immaterial" minds are not Yahweh. Ask a Hindu or a Navaho or a New Ager or a traditional aborigine of Australia.

            Yahweh does not get you that Jesus is the son of god. Ask a muslim or a Mormon. Jesus being the son of god does not get you a trinity.

            First, show me an "immaterial" mind.

            Factor in inherent human bias.

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

            Better, define "immaterial" in terms that mean something.

            Not what it is "not" or what it is "outside" of.

            Show me why agency is required for the universe, not a result of the universe.

          • Steven Dillon

            Classical theists embed their case for God within a network of metaphysical theses. So, it's only in learning those theses that one could appreciate their deductions. Edward Feser's Aquinas is simply sine qua non for this. If you're interested in how classical theists might understand the mind and its immateriality, Feser also wrote a guide to philosophy of mind. I'd of course be willing to talk about this stuff here , but there's simply no supplementing reading cases for classical theism like Feser's or Hart's The Experience of God.

          • Susan

            No. Go ahead. Talk about it.

            I'm not being dismissive. I've read enough of Hart's writing that I want to unpack the definition of every word, in every sentence he uses. Post-modernist theology. Murk.

            Feser in every article I've read that he has written in defense of "classical theism" seems intent on keeping long ago falsified physics alive through analogy and treating that as metaphysically sound.

            I'm not saying that they don't have something to offer but you would have to explain why you think it has something to offer to entice me to keep reading. I've read enough to make me stop reading for now.

            What is mind? Why a mind at the bottom of it all? Why assume there is a bottom to it all?

          • TwistedRelic

            Pretty general, shallow and insulting, questions and assumptions regards any commenter.....Pax

          • Steven Dillon

            I'd be surprised if half of the atheist commenters here have read a book on classical theism. It's not because they're uneducated or unintelligent, but because classical theism is such a minority position. And Susan admitted to not having given it much thought, beyond some articles that is. Nothing to get defensive over.

          • severalspeciesof

            I've read THE book on classical theism... I find it wanting...

            It's the bible...

            Glen

    • "The evidence has not been compelling so far."

      Are you making an objective or subjective judgement? There are many, many here who do find the evidence for God compelling.

      • Susan

        There are many, many here who do find the evidence for God compelling.

        Exactly. So, now here is a video where someone else says they find it compelling. There are plenty of people who find the evidence for UFO abduction compelling.

        What are we supposed to be discussing? That there is someone who finds the evidence compelling?

        • It's not clear to me whether you actually watched the whole interview, but the emphasis was clearly not on the evidence in question but on Jennifer's personal journey from atheism to Catholicism.

          You're criticizing this interview for *not* doing something it never intended. Perhaps instead of trying to fit the interview into your desired box, you could enjoy it and appreciate others' experiences.

          PS. It should be noted that you had no problem with Strange Notions interviewing atheist philosopher Michael Ruse about his own journey through atheism, even though he was never asked to detail the evidence or reasons which grounded his non-belief.

          I don't remember you commenting, on that interview, "What are we supposed to be discussing? That there is someone who doesn't find the evidence compelling?"

          • Susan

            It's not clear to me whether you actually watched the whole interview,

            I did.

            the emphasis was clearly not on the evidence in question but on Jennifer's personal journey from atheism to Catholicism.

            I know.

            You're criticizing this interview for *not* doing something it never intended.

            I asked what we're supposed to discuss. I have met many lovely (and not so lovely) people here and am well aware of their personal experiences. What about this interview contributes to discussion?

            PS. It should be noted that you had no problem with Strange Notions interviewing atheist philosopher Michael Ruse about his own journey through atheism,

            You jumped in early and strawmanned a Dawkins article about the potential damage done to children when you teach them that hell is real. So, there was something to discuss. I participated in that (more than you did) but it had very little to do with the article.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Hi Susan,
            I might take the opportunity to apologise for not following up on a couple of previous conversations with you. It's because I don't have much time of internet access, and by the time I can reply adequately the heat of the conversation has become cool.

            I asked what we are supposed to be discussing here.

            I thought Steven Dillon's response (to your question) was a good one. How is it that one intelligent and resonable person (Jennifer) finds some kind of evidence compelling, while another intelligent and reasonable person (Susan) finds the same evidence non-compelling? The video is a bit of a launch pad for that very interesting question and I think is worthy of some discussion

            MT.

          • Susan

            How is it that one intelligent and resonable person (Jennifer) finds some kind of evidence compelling, while another intelligent and reasonable person (Susan) finds the same evidence non-compelling?

            That has been standard from the beginning of this site. The fact than so many worthwhile contributors were purged and in the last purge, a month's worth of their contributions were purged, means starting over on a site that is intent on promoting catholic apologetics.

            This interview seems to be nothing but a claim that an ex-atheist has become a catholic without introducing new evidence or new arguments. It contributes nothing new to the discussion.

            Here is a lovely graph showing migrations between beliefs of all sorts in deities and non-belief in deities.

            http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/MichaelBellInternetMonkChart.gif

            I'm more interested in why people believe things, not in how many believe them.

          • "That has been standard from the beginning of this site. The fact than so many worthwhile contributors were purged and in the last purge, a month's worth of their contributions were purged, means starting over on a site that is intent on promoting catholic apologetics."

            And yet despite her cranky and constant complaints, she returns to the site more than almost anyone ;)

          • Susan

            And yet despite her cranky and constant complaints, she returns to the site more than almost anyone ;)

            Most of my participation here has been in the interest of discussion. If you would like to interpret that as "constant and cranky", you'll have to make a case. It's your site. What has happened here is evident to those who have been here from the beginning.

            she returns to the site more than almost anyone ;

            I think the discussion is necessary in general. I am fond of many catholics here and many atheists. The manner in which you have conducted your site (which is entirely up to YOU) is on the record.

            I'll give you credit for toning down your language. You used to tell atheists who didn't like it to lump it and accused at least one of them of spending his "precious time" here.

            Now, you're down to calling me "cranky". That's subjective. You'd still have to make a case. "Constant". That's objective. That would be an easy enough case to make, if you can make it.

            That's some sort of progress. ;-)

          • Susan, I'm just curious why--if the site is *really* as bad as you persistently insinuate--you repeatedly come back. It's like you can't stay away.

            I'm genuinely curious why, as an atheist, you spend so many of your limited hours on this site?

          • Ben Posin

            I'm not sure I believe you're genuinely curious, because atheists have answered this sort of question here before.

            I suspect you have an idea in mind regarding what Susan's (or my?) posting on this site means.

            I'm just not sure what it is. My top contender is that you might think it suggests that maybe we're not really that confident that atheism is the reasonable belief.

          • Susan

            I'm not sure I believe you're genuinely curious, because atheists have answered this sort of question here before

            Yes. I'm skeptical about Brandon's curiosity too.

            Also, I asked a few genuine questions that he could easily have answered but decided to accuse me of being critical, cranky and tossing red herrings instead.

            So, I'll await his answers before I waste another second of my "limited hours" responding to a question he likes to ask but to which he never seems particularly interested in the answer.

            He has certainly been given genuine, thoughtful and detailed answers in the past. I'm not sure how my answer will satisfy him or even why he's asking it.

            Does anyone have any idea what we're supposed to be discussing based on this interview?

          • "I'm skeptical about Brandon's curiosity too.

            I asked a few genuine questions that he could easily have answered but he decided to accuse me of being critical, cranky and tossing red herrings instead.

            So, I'll await his answers before I waste another second of my "limited hours" responding to a question he likes to ask but to which he never seems particularly interested in the answer.

            He has certainly been given genuine, thoughtful and detailed answers in the past. I'm not sure how my answer will satisfy him or even why he's asking it.

            Does anyone have any idea what we're supposed to be discussing based on this interview?"

            All this and yet no answer to my simple question. How can we have a dialogue if you evade basic queries?

            I wasn't aware that you've answered this before. Perhaps you can just copy-and-paste your previous answer? It should take just a couple seconds and it would have saved you the several sentences above.

          • Susan

            All this and yet no answer to my simple question. How can we have a dialogue if you evade basic queries?

            I asked a sincere question about what this interview is supposed to contribute to a discussion between atheists and catholics.

            Rather than answer it, you accused me of being critical, of using a double standard and of tossing a red herring.

            I explained in clear and polite terms why I couldn't find anything to discuss about the interview.

            I wasn't aware that you've answered this before.

            I didn't make myself clear. I haven't answered it. Many others did and. you didn't seem interested in their answers. I don't think it is a sincere or relevant question.

            Why didn't you just answer my question, (which was sincere and relevant to discussion) in the first place?

          • Susan

            My top contender is that you might think it suggests that maybe we're not really that confident that atheism is the reasonable belief.

            That's one of my top contenders, too. It's up there with the fact that it would be much harder to be a "dialogue between catholics and muslims" or between catholics and pentecostals.
            Because pulling out a faith card is inevitable, no one can say when it's fair to pull it out. Noah's Ark or Jesus's resurrection?
            God could do any of it. No matter what the world looks like, a deity hiding in the white noise could be behind either story.
            Best to tackle sceptics. Accuse those who plea for evidence of "scientism". Reply to logical problems by invoking "mystery".
            Claim that one can't disprove a pet deity because one can't prove that a murky premise that isn't necessarily true isn't necessarily true.
            Call that a proof.
            The greatest danger is to "faith" itself.
            If catholics were really concerned with the truth of their own beliefs, they would take on a majority that makes different ultimate claims but is willing to accept things on "faith" (all the other religions), not a minority who is busy challenging the fact that humans like to make ultimate claims, despite the evidence that at our best, we can make excellent provisional claims if we learn how to recognize our inherent biases.

          • Danny Getchell

            Brandon, if your intent in creating this site was to bring atheists to Christ, I can't imagine why you would begrudge Susan (or any other skeptic) one single minute of time spent here.

          • "Brandon, if your intent in creating this site was to bring atheists to Christ, I can't imagine why you would begrudge Susan (or any other skeptic) one single minute of time spent here."

            That wasn't my primary intent, though as a Christian it's a persistent desire. I want to help others to discover the source of truth and joy that I've found.

            And I'm not begrudging Susan. I just asked an honest question, one she's creatively avoided.

            I can understand why serious, open-minded atheists would enjoy dialoguing on a site like this because they're hunting for truth. But the substance of many (most?) of Susan's comments are little more than a rant against this site, its posts, or its comments. She's appears (from my view) to be more interested in cranky criticism than respectful truth-seeking.

            If she really thought the site was as bad as she insinuates, why keep coming back? Why spend hours reading and commenting everday?

          • Kyle S.

            You keep using words like testy and cranky, Brandon. Precisely how does the baseless ascribing of emotional states to others contribute to respectful truth-seeking?

          • "You keep using words like testy and cranky, Brandon. Precisely how does the baseless ascribing of emotional states to others contribute to respectful truth-seeking?"

            First, they're not baseless. I meant those adjectives literally: the majority of Susan's comments are "irritated and annoyed" and her many comments here provide basis. I'm confident she'd be the first to affirm her irritation and annoyance with this site.

            Second, I am respectfully engaging in truth-seeking by trying discern why Susan, someone so consistently irritated and annoyed by Strange Notions, keeps returning. I'm genuinely seeking to understand her reasoning, which despite simple requests, she has not provided.

          • TwistedRelic

            You are being an ass in your zeal to protect the Catholic "faith" Brandon. I will give you points for consistency. Methinks the emperor has no clothes on.

          • Susan

            the majority of Susan's comments are "irritated and annoyed" and her many comments here provide basis.

            I disagree.

            I'll let my interactions speak for themselves.

          • David Nickol

            I'm genuinely seeking to understand her reasoning, which despite simple requests, she has not provided.

            I read a great little story once, and I have been looking for the source for a long time without success. So I am probably not going to do it justice, but I will try. There was a little village somewhere, and every day without fail the village atheist visited the village rabbi, and they argued all day about the existence of God. After this went on for years and years, the rabbi's wife finally couldn't bear it any more. She confronted them both and said, "What is the point? You argue hour after hour, day after day. Neither of you convinces the other. Neither of you is going to change your mind. This is a complete waste of time!" And the rabbi and the atheist both turned on the wife and began to argue with her, because the rabbi and the atheist were agreed as to one thing—the importance of the question!

          • Ignorant Amos

            Brandon, all your atheist contributors are "irritated and annoyed".It is par for the course...it is the reason why we are here. The site's continuous misrepresentation of atheists, or igtheists for that matter, is a continuous irritation and annoyance for starters. But as I've stated elsewhere, the ignorance and irrationality here is like catnip to the likes of myself, Susan, and all those better than I at constructing the Iintellectual argument you seem to abhor, and subsequently banhammered, to use Rick DeLano's term, just can't let go of. Perhaps I am seeing how far ya can be pushed, Susan has certainly ruffled yer feathers. Eepist was banal in comparison, but he was erudite.

            You can talk the talk all ya like, but us skeptics are all about tangible evidence. Who got binned and for what reasons?

            You won't Give your audience that, and for very good reasons, but then don't insult the intelligence of everyone here, believer or not, that your reasons are sound, it doesn't fly.

            Be careful what you wish for, a one armed man clapping makes very little noise.

          • TwistedRelic

            Hmmmm.....Brandon....interesting that I cannot vote your insulting comment down.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So what WAS your primary intent in creating this site? You agree that it's not bringing atheists to Christ, and you don't seem happy with the dialogue you're getting with atheists.

            Would you be happier if the atheists simply left? That's a serious question. Some of the problem may simply be one of style: those of us atheists who are scientists are used to and encourage in a ruthless pursuit of the truth - which is demanding, often painful, and characterized by humor and a generally snarky air. That's because conversations that change ideas and hearts can't be conducted in the sort of 'raised-pinkie on your teacup' model that you give the air of wanting to encourage. And you need to realize that snark and humor and sometimes harsh language are NOT disrespectful - the opposite in fact, since they show that your opponent cares enough to REALLY engage.

            You're providing a site to supposedly change minds; that's going to foster heated and often peculiar discussion IF IT'S GOING TO DO ANY GOOD AT ALL.

            Try working in the sciences; Susan's comments wouldn't even rise to the level of the radar.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I can understand why serious, open-minded atheists would enjoy dialoguing on a site like this because they're hunting for truth. But the substance of many (most?) of Susan's comments are little more than a rant against this site, its posts, or its comments. She appears (in my view) to be more interested in cranky criticism than respectful truth-seeking.

            I don't think that's entirely fair. Susan spends a lot of time enaging with the commenters - perhaps that's what you're characterizing as ranting against posts? I don't actually see how you can rant against a post.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I know you didn't ask (you never would; I get the impression you don't like me very much), but I'm here because I find echo chambers boring, and I'm fascinated with why people believe in god and what rationalizations they use to support their particular religious narrative.

            I keep hoping someone will surprise me with an argument that's actually convincing. No luck so far, but I'm an eternal optimist.

          • Loreen Lee

            Well, M. Solange. I wonder how I would fit into the 'nexus'. Say I believe in God merely on the basis of the First Cause argument of Aristotle. That is I accept that I can't explain either the existence of the universe/multiverse out of nothing, nor can I explain the existence of God, which is an explanation of why we can't explain the former. You might see this as a circular argument.
            But then I've got to stop. I have to admit that you as a scientist have more 'evidence' than I, because you can simply point to the empirical 'evidence' of the 'existing' world, although you can't explain it. I really really should therefore simply give up my argument at this point, and say, yes, OK I accept the existence of the external world. Let's call it quits and forget all about this 'God thing'.

            But then I have my thoughts to deal with. I have my interior life, for which I can offer no evidence to friend or foe alike. I have my ability to make deductive argument, (although as I appreciate that this is not my strong point, I do not generally involve myself in argumentation). I have the ability to make inductive generalizations, such as that which is involved in the supposition of a God/gods, as well as the basis of scientific theories. I have the ability to recognize beauty, and from this subjective experience, believe that my perspective is universal in scope, and that my ideals of beauty would be held by all others. It is this characteristic which possibly explains why the proofs of God existence, as well as the subjective experience of beauty, moral good etc. are put forward with such 'enthusiasm' by both theists, and other views regarding the 'existence of God'. Indeed, it is ironically the explanation of why the psychosis is held by the mentally ill, (please I don't want to be derogatory here) as the 'absolute' truth.

            So yes, perhaps it is relevant that the term evidence is dropped from the discussion. Perhaps the theist will admit that according to your criteria, there is no 'such evidence'. But if I'm talking to someone who disagrees with me, without without witness', there is no way to prove even that the conversation took place. (Thanks goodness these remarks are in the 'comment' section.) We also have no 'proof' for such things as 'beauty' and 'honesty', and any of these other personal characteristics, that would (at least within current research) satisfy scientific standards of evidence.

            So may I conclude this little 'rant', by suggesting that the arguments put forward are possibly more important than the search for 'evidence' that can 'never' be forthcoming.

            In this way, I have recently found an explanation for 'miracles' as being a 'kind of evidence', that are needed on the basis that only such 'extravagant explanations' could satisfy the theological/metaphysical parameters of 'belief'. I would understand them within this context to be 'purely imaginative' 'interpretative elements'. Some people can see signs or miracles that account for their explanation of even the most mundane observations. Thank goodness we don't have these admitted into scientific discovery. But I am not at all surprised that they will account for personal explanations of why that meeting over a cup of coffee turned out to be the initiating moment of the love of one's life. Such is the characteristic of miracles. And I believe that we all have our 'beliefs' in this regard, and indeed that it is these beliefs which are the basis of most 'human' interaction. But I can't 'explain' that either. I have no proof or scientific evidence for most of my life's endeavors. That's why I'm glad there is both natural faith as well as the theological kind.

            The best.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Nice graph. Oh well, I guess at least the "Black Protestants" are consistent!

          • Danny Getchell

            Susan:

            My guess (completely without evidence) is that SN was supposed to be like a "parish of the net" in which the occasional curious atheist would wander into the social hall to be met by a whole bunch of friendly-but-determinedly-evangelizing Catholics.

            The numbers didn't quite work out that way, hence the purges.

          • Moussa Taouk

            My guess (completely without evidence) is that SN was supposed to be like a "parish of the net" in which the occasional curious atheist would wander into the social hall to be met by a whole bunch of friendly-but-determinedly-evangelizing Catholics.

            Danny, you might be right. I don't know. But I do know that I (a Catholic) have learnt a lot from chatting with atheists on this site and feel rather enriched by the encounters. In particular I've learnt way more than I knew before as to how atheists generally think. And... I think that's an essential step in the process of dialogue. Therefore I can assure you that (at least with one user on this site) this site is fostering dialogue whether or not that was its intended purpose.

          • "My guess (completely without evidence) is that SN was supposed to be like a "parish of the net" in which the occasional curious atheist would wander into the social hall to be met by a whole bunch of friendly-but-determinedly-evangelizing Catholics.

            The numbers didn't quite work out that way, hence the purges."

            I know you're aware that banned commenters (both atheist and Catholic) were not purged to "balance the numbers." They were removed because of their caustic tone and inability (or unwillingness) to follow our basic commenting policy. I know you're aware of this because it's been explained countless times.

            (It should also be pointed out that we've removed a roughly equal number of atheists and Catholics, thereby debunking your suggestion.)

            Insinuating that we removed certain commenters to "balance the numbers" is unfair, untrue, and beneath you, Danny. You're better than that.

          • Danny Getchell

            I know you're aware of this because it's been explained countless times.

            I'm aware that you have explained this many times. That does not oblige me to accept the explanation.

          • Susan

            I might take the opportunity to apologise for not following up on a couple of previous conversations with you. It's because I don't have much time of internet access, and by the time I can reply adequately the heat of the conversation has become cool.

            No apology necessary. It happens to me all the time. But we have to remind ourselves that we can't move on as though those points aren't held in question. If the subject comes up again, those points are still relevant.

            I hate the reset button.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Because faith has nothing to do with reason. Jennifer finds the evidence compelling because it fits with the faith (the particular neurological mechanisms) in her mind. Susan doesn't because she lacks that faith. And the argument, "well, she was an atheist, so the arguments were good enough to convert her," is lacking. Faith seems to be a quality that can appear and develop (or disappear and atrophy) over one's lifetime. But you can't reason your way to faith. To a particular religion, maybe. But not to faith.

            The arguments themselves are not particularly convincing.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Jennifer finds the evidence compelling because it fits with the faith (the particular neurological mechanisms) in her mind.

            Would you say it's the same scenario for reasoning one's self out of faith (given that it's a matter of particular neurological mechanisms)?

          • Susan, thanks for the reply. I sense you're getting a little testy, so I'll let this be my last reply.

            I simply pointed out the double-standard you're applying here. You say, "At least [Ruse] made some points" in his interview, insinuating that Jennifer made no points in her ten minute interview, or at least none worth discussing. I find this a bit audacious, but also strange since my interview with Dr. Ruse contained no substantial argument against God, just as my interview with Jennifer contained no argument for God. That simply wasn't the point of the interview, despite your ardent desires.

            I just found it inconsistent that you'd criticize one interview for not providing "evidence" while giving the other a free pass.

            "You jumped in early and strawmanned a Dawkins article (no indication that you read THAT whole article) about the potential damage done to children when you teach them that hell is real. "

            This is a really confusing accusation.

            First of all, I did not straw-man Professor Dawkins. I read the article in question and quoted the relevant section directly.

            Also, the quote in question came only indirectly from that article; it was originally published in his book, The God Delusion, which I've also read and from which I clearly cited in that very same discussion.

            Thus your accusations are not only wrong, they seem to be a red herring in this current discussion.

          • Susan

            I sense you're getting a little testy,

            Can you show me where? I am trying to address specific points you made as accurately as I can

            "At least [Ruse] made some points" in his interview, insinuating that Jennifer made no points in her ten minute interview, or at least none worth discussing.

            What points did she make that we should be discussing? That is a genuine question. Does that mean I'm getting testy?

            I simply pointed out the double-standard you're applying here

            You call it a double standard but you have not demonstrated that I have relied on one.

            I read the article in question and quoted the relevant section directly.

            You quote-mined the article, never responded on a very direct question about teaching children about the unevidenced existence of hell, ignored the nuances of the article and generally failed to engage. I wasn't under the impression that you were interested in discussion, just in accusing "some atheists" of claiming that "teaching children the basic tenants of Catholicism is more evil than child abuse". Anyone interested in reading the article and the article you used to make that statement is free to do so.

            Thus your accusations are not only wrong, they seem to be a red herring in this current discussion.

            You brought up the Michael Ruse article and accused me of using a double standard. I explained that it is a discussion and that you threw that hand grenade early on in that article, sending things off in a different direction.
            So, what do you mean by red herring?

            I asked you what we are supposed to discuss. I am neither testy nor tossing red herrings.

            It's a simple question What are we supposed to be discussing based on this interview?

  • I agree that the existence of God does not meet the scientific standard of proof. It was interesting that she also alluded to a legal standard. It utterly fails on that standard as well.

    • I don't think so. I think there is stronger evidence for God than against his existence.

      • Susan

        I think there is stronger evidence for God than against his existence.

        Brian's point was that if fails scientific and legal standards. No mention of Brandon's standards. We all know that you find the evidence compelling.

        • All legal standards are subjective, and therefore to say that the case for God, when measured by a legal standard, "utterly fails" is to make an audacious, but subjective claim. What Brian is essentially saying is: "In Brian's opinion, if the case for God was examined using a legal standard, the evidence would be utterly lacking."

          My point was to highlight the confusion that might arise when Brian says, without qualification: "It utterly fails on that [legal] standard as well."

          I wasn't sure whether he was just sharing a personal opinion or attempting to make an objective statement. If the latter, I'm curious to know the supporting reasons.

          While Brian may subjectively think the evidence for God is lacking, I and many others think the evidence is overwhelmingly strong, and that when measured by a legal standard it would emerge triumphant.

          • David Nickol

            I see a problem. God's existence or nonexistence would have to be decided by a jury of His peers. :P

          • Susan

            I and many others think the evidence is overwhelmingly strong, and that when measured by a legal standard it would emerge triumphant

            Courtroom standards are not the highest standards But I'm curious. Which evidence would you introduce in a courtroom that would triumph?

          • I find most of the arguments summarized at the link below to be strong and defendable. While perhaps not compelling, or individually comprehensive, together they present a cumulative case which I believe is stronger than it's opposite. I'm convinced the weight of the philosophical, scientific, and historical evidence leans far more toward God than against him:

            https://strangenotions.com/god-exists/

            (In addition to those, I'd also add the evidence of Jesus' historical resurrection, which I consider one of the strongest reasons to believe in God.)

          • Susan

            I'd also add the evidence of Jesus' historical resurrection

            Which is what again?

          • Susan

            I find most of the arguments summarized at the link below to be strong and defendable.

            I asked one measly, specific question. Which evidence would you introduce in a courtroom that would triumph?

          • Danny Getchell

            Brandon:

            With only a couple of exceptions, the arguments posted by Kreeft in the article you cite make a case for the sort of god in which I am inclined to believe, the god who was believed in by the likes of Tom Jefferson, Ben Franklin and Tom Paine.

            There is next to zero evidence presented there for the sort of God in which you and Jennifer believe. (To his credit, Kreeft once or twice mentions this).

            The request I have made here more than once is for evidence that the God of Christianity (and specifically of Catholic Christianity) is the only God. Not for additional attempts to substantiate some indeterminate sort of god-type being. I'm already OK with the latter.

          • D. Havas

            I think the missing link connecting deism to theism will always be some kind of faith matter. It's not satisfying to me. I'll reconsider when supercomputers start showing up for communion.

          • Loreen Lee

            The 'leap from deism to theism' i understand is the leap from rational explanation alone to the acceptance of 'revelation'. I understand this to be the 'metaphysical/supernatural' element. Thus I can accept revelation, but not its empirical evidence put forward as exemplification of the revelation with miracles, which seem to define what constitutes an appropriate empirical reality which would explain such 'revelation. Thus I can consider that I may have 'faith' (since it is a gift can I know?) and belief which I define within the rather more narrow compass as what constitutes the 'evidence' for any particular metaphysical ideality or revelation. (Just my way of working through these conundrums).

          • D. Havas

            Thus I can consider that I may have 'faith' (since it is a gift can I know?)

            I used to expect "the gift of faith" would be knowable in some way. A lot of people around here seem to think that it is, but, like you said, maybe it's not. If so, then I'm not the least bit concerned about it!

            Thus I can accept revelation, but not its empirical evidence put forward as exemplification of the revelation with miracles, which seem to define what constitutes an appropriate empirical reality which would explain such 'revelation.

            So you don't necessarily accept claims about miracles, but you accept certain principles that may foster belief in the miraculous?

            I hope I'm not misunderstanding you, Loreen.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks D. Haves for letting me kind of test out my 'view of religion' on you. Yes. You have not misunderstood me. I feel like I can distinguish, for instance, the metaphysical necessity of a Virgin Birth from the miracle of how Jesus was brought into the world. (Conceived! by the Holy Ghost) Won't go into detail here. I'm sure you understand.

            It's the separation of what I consider the 'Faith' which I understand as the metaphysics, etc. from the belief, which I understand is the relation to the empirical evidence, which is in the Catholic tradition usually given as miracles, whether it be the miracles of the loaves and the fishes, or the resurrection. The ideas or realities on which the Faith is based are something I have 'faith' in. But, like the atheists, in most cases, I just can't visualize the 'empirical evidence'. Yet despite my difficulty with 'belief', Catholicism remains for me the most comprehensive and developed religion there is.

          • D. Havas

            Thanks D. Haves for letting me kind of test out my 'view of religion' on you.

            Likewise.

            I'm with you, to an extent. Poetically, I like christianity. I don't mind considering that there may be some deep allegorical truth/truths to it. I wonder what it/they would be. A love that can overcome death? True justice in the world? Mankind's oneness with a godhead? Speculations like these fascinate me, but I don't want to feel any necessity in them. I want a quiet mind. I want to defuse the catholicism in me. (I'm part Irish. It's in us deep!)

          • Loreen Lee

            I thought I recognize the Irish blarney.in you. Same for me, but I'm at least a generation older for you. I have recently returned 'to the fold', but I make exceptions to the diligence of attending mass every week. And I don't confess any more. I have 'faith' in God....But I'm hoping to make my peace, and I expect to have the burial rites when I die. (Am I 'taking no chances'. No really, I think.)
            On allegory, analogy, moral and literal translations, - I have learned this and much more. Catholicism is a fascinating study. These possible interpretations I have learned about here and on New Advent. But I'm not exclusively of the idea that it is the reality of ideas alone that we are dealing with.

            Although I find it difficult to accept that the human race is 'so important' and God did become Man, to what - save only us...when I saw a graph of the different transformations of the cosmos, I thought it was highly possible that there could be a 'final transformation' in which the materiality could become 'glorified'. (For instance.) I came back to 'the church' when I discovered that Kant's three critiques were perfectly aligned with the Trinity, in all of its interpretations, from Beauty Truth and Goodness to the dialectics also found in Philosophy.

            P.S. I stay away from the priests at the Church. They are 'very conservative', and I'm sure they would expect confession from me for even being on this 'site'. But I won't tell Brandon. grin grin. All the best. Thanks.

          • Susan

            A love that can overcome death? True justice in the world?

            We tell a lot of stories about these things A cursory examination of mythology will give you a good look at us on these subjects.

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

            How does christianity stand out in terms of justice or love even on the story level?

            And they are, as far as we can tell, just stories among thousands of stories.

            Not a basis for ultimate claims. This is where things get awkward.

          • D. Havas

            We tell a lot of stories about these things A cursory examination of mythology will give you a good look at us on these subjects.

            I have a "cursory" knowledge of mythology. I think christianity fits well within the category.

            How does christianity stand out in terms of justice or love even on the story level?

            I think most christians would say they believe in perfect love and perfect justice while openly declaring that they can't fully comprehend such things. That's a faith-based position and a tough one to dissuade someone from.

            To me, the story of a god dying for his creation as his creation does take the notion of love pretty far. Now, say that particular god burned for us in the hell he made for us, that might take the notion even further. These are just crude stories, but I won't rule out that they could vaguely represent something real.

            Not a basis for ultimate claims. This is where things get awkward.

            I think you're barking up the wrong tree. I said I don't mind considering that there may be some deep allegorical truth in christianity. I then basically said that all we can do is speculate and that I don't see any necessity in believing in speculations.

            Are you so entrenched in atheism that you can't allow for any agnosticism?

          • Susan

            Hi D.

            Ultimate claims? If anyone's proposing them, it's you, not me. I said I don't mind considering that there may be some deep allegorical truth in Christianity.

            Apologies. I did understand what you wrote. I didn't mean to suggest that you were making ultimate claims. Bad writing on my part.

            I was speaking more generally about the errors we can make when we turn our stories into ultimate claims, which is what goes on at this site and elsewhere. I don't think you do that.

            Are you so entrenched in atheism that you can't allow for any agnosticism?

            I'm an igtheist.

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

          • D. Havas

            For my part, I made some unnecessary assumptions.

            I like the distinctions igtheism makes.

          • Susan

            Hi D.

            For my part, I made some unnecessary assumptions.

            I don't really blame you. Like I said, my comment was not well written.

            I like the distinctions igtheism makes.

            So do I.

          • None of these arguments would work in court. They are arguments from ignorance, or special pleading or circular. For example, the fine tuning argument shows us that certain constants appear very specific to us. There is no evidence in science about why or how they came to be so specific, whether it is by necessity, design or chance. Even if we accept that it is design, there is no reason to think a supernatural being is the designer. It will always be more reasonable to think we are in a matrix-like simulation.

            If we follow the courtroom analogy, all of the natural law arguments do is try to establish that such a thing as a god exists in the first place. It is like trying to prosecute a murder and most of your arguments and evidence go to showing that humans exist in the first place.

            Each piece in your cumulative case must be established to be more likely than not the case and then together establish some other fact. Taking the fine tuning argument, the only thing we rely on to rule out chance or necessity is out intuition and this doesn't make it more likely the case that it is design by a god.

          • Ben Posin

            I don't want to try to rewrite the comments thread of that article, but glancing through it should remind you that to a lot of your readers the arguments listed there seem hilariously unconvincing and fallacious. Frankly, the idea that they are foundational to anyone's belief in God is somewhat alarming.

          • Susan

            All legal standards are subjectively applied, and therefore to say that the case for God, when measured by a legal standard, "utterly fails" is to make an audacious, but subjective claim

            Jennifer said that scientific claims wouldn't do which apply a methodology which is as '"objective" as humans are capable of having in any organized fashion. She brought up legal claims as being different than scientific claims. I would say they are inferior as their conclusions are more dubious and the rules are limited to the laws that humans have successfully made so far.

            She never laid out the standards of evidence by which she accepted the multiple ultimate claims of your church.

            What are they?

          • I was responding to the comments about evidence that Jennifer made in the video. She said something to the effect that there are scientific standards which she suggested God could not attain, but then pointed to how courts of law treat evidence. I am just pointing out that none of the evidence usually put forward would not be admissible in court. The Gospels for example would be excluded as in admissible hearsay, there are no witnesses.

            On your interpretation all standards applied by humans are subjectively applied, whether science, history or theology. You may say there are spiritual standards or something that are absolutely objective. But these are unknown to humans and even if they were, we could only apply them subjectively. Again I was responding to the comments Jennifer made about evidence, which suggested there was a way for humans to assess the evidence of God in some kind objective way.

          • I am making an objective statement as much as any human can make one, that the evidence of a god would not be admissible or convincing in a court of law.

            This is why, I would argue, that theists never try to actually prove that god exists in legal cases. If the evidence that a god exists is so compelling, that the Bible is his word etc., why not call this evidence in support of keeping Ten Commandments on courthouse lawns etc? why do theists who commit crimes on the clear understanding that god was telling them never stand by this story in court? We hear here that god speaks to theists all the time in little ways, that the evidence is overwhelming. Well some believers actually think god is speaking directly to them and all believers accept that god does this. He has even many times commanded killing. Yet these defendants almost universally choose to claim insanity. This is because when it comes right down to it the idea of a deity actually speaking to us and telling us to do things sounds insane.

          • It would not emerge as triumphant. All of the bible documents would be excluded as hearsay in court. There are very good reasons to exclude hearsay, it is one of the most important rules of evidence.

            There are ways to admit hearsay, but none of what you need are present in this case. Quite the opposite.

            Essentially we would be asking a court to accept the word of ancient documents, where we have none of the originals, don't know who wrote most of them. We know that they are not independent, many copy large portions from each other word for word. We know large portions are fabricated or could not have been witnessed by the authors (e.g. the nativity stories, the trial, the empty tomb, anything when Jesus was alone). We know some are forgeries, we know those copying them altered them for theological purposes.

            I have blogged on this.

          • Ben Posin

            "I have blogged on this."

            Link?

          • Ben Posin

            Brandon,

            I'm starting to suspect you don't have much experience of the legal system outside of TV, which is fine! I get the impression that to you "legal standards" means convincing a jury that something is more likely to be true than not. But legal standards are actually supposed to be quite rigorous, and before you can even get to the jury you have to survive motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment, where the court evaluates whether you have sufficient evidence to present triable issues of fact to a jury in the first place. And there are rigorous standards as to what constitutes admissible evidence, what topics require expert testimony, what expert methods can be relied upon, etc.

            I'm at a loss as to what admissible evidence you think is going to get you past the summary judgment phase.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            A collection of generations-old, literarily-worked, belief records by followers of a particular religious sect do not constitute evidence for god. They constitute evidence of belief. And in that sense are no more convincing than similar documents elsewhere, such as the Qu'ran, the Upanishads, the Tao, the Analects, etc. To an outsider, they all look pretty much the same: opinion pieces that founded religions.

            But the existence of religions is not evidence of god.

  • Loreen Lee

    acts 5:17-26 This is the epistle for today (New Advent). It talks about Apostles being in prison, but are set free by an angel, return to the temple to convert more people, and are discovered by the Sadducees and returned to jail.
    This text gave me much pause for thought, and it gave me reason to be most skeptical of the many reports of miracles after the Resurrection, produced by the Apostles.

    I am coming to some mid-ground, where I am wondering whether Aristotle's First Cause should be the sufficient ground of extra-material causation. I am also questioning whether the worship of the Son has acquired over the centuries more importance than the original worship of God - The Father. But such comments as S. Dillon's information on the Two Pillars of Israel, and subsequent information regarding the growth of Christianity, suggest to me that I'm still in the process of 'figuring things out'. This IS a good informative site, and I believe the dialogue is generally very productive.

  • Kyle S.

    I would expect an omnibenevolent God to provide more than subjectively compelling evidence when the consequence of non-belief is eternal punishment. If God doesn't delight in tormenting the wicked, then why not proof?

    • Kyle, thanks for the comment! A few thoughts in response:

      First of all, I'm curious how would you define "subjectively compelling". By compelling do you mean to describe a certain piece of evidence pointing to God that no reasonable person would deny? If so, I see no reason to expect that God would necessarily provide such evidence. If he *compelled* people to believe in him, that would seem counter to his purposes.

      I think Blaise Pascal had it right: "In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." If you're open to the evidence, God has provided enough to draw you to him. It won't compel you--you can resist the evidence if you want--but there's enough there for those who genuinely seek.

      Second, Catholics don't believe that non-belief necessarily leads to eternal punishment. I'd encourage you to read paragraph 16 of Lumen Gentium. That's where the Church's teaching on the possible salvation of non-believers is most clearly expressed.

      Third, your last sentence seems to assume, without clear reason, that there is no proof for God. Yet Catholics disagree. If by "proof" you mean good reasons for belief, we think there is plenty. For example, the contingency of the universe (i.e., the fact that it didn't have to exist but does); the fact that all things that begin to exist require an external cause; the extreme fine-tuning of the human universe for life; the historical evidence pointing to Jesus' resurrection. All of this is objective proof for God--not compelling, but proof nonetheless.

      • Susan

        By compelling do you mean to describe a certain piece of evidence pointing to God that no reasonable person would deny? If so, I see no reason to expect that God would necessarily provide such evidence.

        I see no reason why she wouldn't.

        If you're open to the evidence, God has provided enough to draw you to him.

        Which is what?

        • Moussa Taouk

          Which is what?

          One is forcing one to believe, the other is inviting one to believe.

          • Susan

            One is forcing one to believe, the other is inviting one to believe.

            No. I mean what is the evidence? And one can't claim "reason" on the one hand and then suggest that providing evidence "forces" one to believe something.

          • Moussa Taouk

            what is the evidence?

            I think I've given you my idea of some of the evidence that I find moves me to reflect on a power behind creation and that thereby leads me to God. (Amongs the images were butterflies and mountains etc if you recall). But you find this kind of evidence to be [if not totally pathetic then at least] uncovincing.

            So here again is that mighty interesting question. Why is it convincing for me and not for you? That really is a fascinating question.

          • Michael Murray

            Forward slash. Not backslash.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Michael, you're under-paid around this place. I ought to start paying for your service. Thanks!

      • Ben Posin

        "If he *compelled* people to believe in him, that would seem counter to his purposes."

        This strikes me as a very strange thing to say. What does it mean to compel someone to believe in a true fact about reality? How does giving someone accurate information or sufficient evidence to form a true belief "compel" them?

        One's free will is enhanced by having better information. More information means more understanding and intentionality in one's choices. My ability to make meaningful choices about what kind of relationship I want with god, whether to make him part of my life or be obedient to his will, etc., is enormously diminished by God's choice not to reveal his existence to me--which, from my perspective, translates to the apparent non-existence of God.

        It would be wrong for a politician to try to compel people with threats or drugs or brainwashing or what not to "believe" in him in the sense of becoming his followers or ascribing to his ideology--but it would be looneytunes to suggest he is diminishing the electorate's free will by giving them enough evidence to know he exists, has such and such a history, and stands for certain policies.

        • NicholasBeriah Cotta

          To use Jen's explanation of "prayer as a different way of communication", God is essentially communicating to us in a different manner -intuition, testimony, feeling, trust - and not using the physical senses.
          It would be like if you had a child you knew would go deaf by 18, and then decided that you wouldn't speak to her in any other manner than sign language in order for her to understand in a fundamental manner how to speak that language. You could teach her much quicker about language, reading, or anything by speaking directly to her but you know that she'll be operating in sign language for most of her life so the lesson, although painful and inefficient, will benefit her in the end.
          Personally, I feel that when I rejected the metaphysical, it lead me to embrace solopsism, materialism, myopia, etc. I feel like my own personal relationship to God has been to learn to speak a language (the one of the metaphysical) that has opened up my existence. I feel a greater sense of freedom having learned this language that I don't think would be there had I not had the growing pains of learning to develop my tongue for those particular phonemes.

          • Ben Posin

            This strikes me as a a bit backwards. Putting it in your terms, it seems like God is insisting on speaking out loud to that portion of the world that is deaf, instead of just passing them notes or sending them texts, which he is more than capable of doing.

            And I think it's more likely the lack of a verifiably existant God that moves people towards "solopsism, materialism, myopia," and that if God proved his existence it would drive these things out. Hard to be a solopsist or materialist after meeting God.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Well my analogies are always meant to illustrate a situation that would describe the counter intuitive nature of my claim while being a real world situation. It is not really meant to mirror the reality of the situation; i realize it can break down quickly.
            I agree that created materialists, solpsists, etc. are a consequence of a hidden God but don't you think it's remarkable how many people continue to be religious despite the "lack" of physical evidence - even this poll from the other day (http://www.vox.com/2014/4/28/5659984/only-30-percent-of-kids-raised-as-atheists-stay-that-way-as-adults) shows that many (if not most) non-religious people eventually seek out religion, which goes to show that maybe the narrative that we are moving toward a "post-religious" world is really a world that is finding the incompleteness of living a materialist existence. I can only say with certainty that this was the path of my own conversion.
            I think you make a good point that a non-hidden God would eliminate those things, but there would be no "discovery" or "journey" - to go back to my analogy, the metaphysical language would be unexercised. Obviously, God values the learning process itself, not merely the outcome, and this would be impossible without a hidden God.

          • Ben Posin

            If there's an important fact about the universe that has a lot of consequences, why in the world would you want people to have individual "journeys" towards it, instead of just giving them the necessary evidence?

            I wouldn't want surgeons to make individual journeys of discovery regarding the connection between dirty instruments and infection. I don't want people to have to make individual journeys of discovery regarding the effect smoking has on their lungs, or the dangers of unprotected sex with strangers.

            Ignorance of these facts has incomparably low consequence to ignorance that a God exists, at least under the Christian view. But with evidence showing that God exists, one could still have the "journey" of developing a relationship with God, with figuring out God's place (if any) in one's life.

            "Obviously, God values the learning process itself, not merely the outcome, and this would be impossible without a hidden God."

            I want to suggest to you that this is a problematic way of thinking about this issue. You seem to be buying what I'm selling, to a certain extent: that on its face, it doesn't make sense for God to hide. That we wouldn't expect a good God to be hidden. And yet we don't see clear evidence these days that God exists, certainly not the sort we find discussed matter of factly in the bible. My suggestion is that the "obvious" conclusion to draw from this is that it's a piece of evidence weighing against the existence of a Good God. Not proof (a brick is not a wall), but something that goes on the No-Good-God side of the scale. Saying that "obviously" God must have an important reason for hiding is not actually drawing a conclusion from the evidence/arguments, but instead is working backwards from your already existing belief that God exists, and looking for a way to fit this in.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Sorry this is long, I will let you have the last word after this.
            Because the “journey” IS life. If you didn’t have to learn anything or discover anything, you really wouldn’t be alive. Even a surgeon doesn’t just “know” how to do surgery – anything worth knowing takes a long time to truly understand. “Knowing” is an incremental process, not a light switch. All of the examples you gave took quite a long time to figure out- knowing to sterilize your tools relies on a mountain of knowledge and in regards to “smoking causes cancer,” it took thousands of years after we started smoking tobacco to learn it (most of our history, we thought it was healthy). The danger of unprotected sex with strangers is a lesson many people take a long time to learn as well (and some may never figure out). You are forcing the “knowledge” of God in to a comparison with knowledge that took your whole life to learn (and relies on the compendium of knowledge of civilization over thousands of years) that are not obvious truths of the universe – how much bigger is our concept of God? Why would it not take your whole life to learn He is there?

            The imagined consequences of not knowing God are not really known by Christians so any time people use the theology of eternal life as a point of argument, it is silly because the one dimensional understanding of it is so far from knowing what we believe – the Church doesn’t claim to know even ONE person is not in heaven, not even Judas, the betrayer of Christ, because “the Church cannot teach what it cannot know.” The fact is that the Church teaches what was revealed to us- the reality of heaven, sin and hell – the exact formula of judgment is up to God – we can only give you tools to get to heaven. Most theologians will tell you that regardless of where you are in life, your search for God is real and people who live lives outside of themselves and try to find his will (even unconscionably), will get to heaven. Here is a great summation on our theology of “how many are saved” (http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/02/will-all-be-saved)

            “You seem to be buying what I'm selling, to a certain extent: that on its face, it doesn't make sense for God to hide.”

            Absolutely I am buying in to what you are saying and you are right to sense that I feel that way. It is counter intuitive that we have an all-good and yet a “hidden” God – it doesn’t make his existence not true though; I see it more as an indictment on my own myopia rather than evidence for His non-existence. There are many things that I “don’t think should work that way” but eventually I come to understand them. At the end of the day, there are many mysteries about why God does what He does, but my knowledge that He exists doesn’t come from “what I think I would do if I were God.”

          • Ben Posin

            Hmmm. I'm ready to admit that analogies are tricky things, and am willing to cut you more slack regarding your! We could bicker over mine, which were intended to make a very different point than what you're drawing from them, but I'd rather get to the nub:

            you agree with me that it doesn't make sense that God doesn't just come out of hiding and show us he's real, that we would expect a Good God to do this.

            I appreciate your open mindedness in this regard. What I find frustrating is you assume that any evidence that is inconsistent with the Good God hypothesis is just a sign of your "myopia" rather than, well, evidence inconsistent with the Good God hypothesis. As I said above, I'd urge you to consider that this is not the best way you could go about things.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It depends on the size of the brick though....you have a pretty big brick there IMO

          • severalspeciesof

            Hard to be a solopsist or materialist after meeting God.

            This reminds me of the oft asked question to an atheist: "What evidence would make you believe in god?" My answer now is "The evidence that the ones that supposedly are in heaven now, have."

            Glen

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I think in the good stories, the boy goes to kiss the girl, or the girl goes to kiss the boy, and you don't know if the move will be requited. That's the whole adventure. If the pursuant waited for certain scientific proof that the kiss would be returned, it would make for a boring movie.

          • Ben Posin

            Well, yeah, but usually the boy/girl has sufficient evidence to believe the girl/boy exists. That usually comes first, before the adventure part you're interested in. You know, the "boy meets girl" part.

        • "This strikes me as a very strange thing to say. What does it mean to compel someone to believe in a true fact about reality? How does giving someone accurate information or sufficient evidence to form a true belief "compel" them?"

          Wouldn't you agree that evidence could be sufficient but not compelling?

          This is true in the overwhelming majority of court cases.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It is called beyond ALL REASONABLE doubt for good reasons.

          • Ben Posin

            Brandon:

            You use the word "compel" in two different ways in your post.

            First, you talk about "compelling evidence," which you describe as something no reasonable person would deny. That seems like a not terrible definition of "compelling evidence," which is another way of saying very strong evidence. But as you and I know from spending time on the internet, there''s often no argument or evidence that can bring someone around to the reasonable position.

            Second: you state that "if [God] *compelled* people to believe in him, that would seem counter to his purposes." This is the bit that struck me as really odd, and that I devoted my post to. It struck me as having connotations about God removing someone's free will by providing them with evidence, and having more of the negative connotations of "compulsion" which aren't really found in the phrase "compelling evidence."

            And I made what I thought were some pretty reasonable points about why it WOULD'NT seem contrary to God's purposes to reveal his existence, why it wouldn't diminish human free will, in fact the opposite is true. And indeed, all throughout the Bible, God seems very much ok in revealing himself to the world in various ways.

            But rather than discuss any of these points, you want to quibble over the meaning of the phrase "compelling evidence." That's...not reflecting you at your best.

  • TwistedRelic

    I suppose that the concept of a transcendent intelligence that created the universe or multi-verse is attractive, interesting and may even be "compelling" to many to believe in a creator, given the vastness of the universe and the mystery of quantum physics and the evolution of life and consciousness. However compelling that the idea of a creator may be.....there is no compelling evidence to attribute to this entity the characteristics and attributes of the God of the old and new testaments or the God of the Christian religion.

    This Strange Notions site exists...not to discuss the concept of whether or not god exists in any sort of objective manner, but it's clear purpose and raison d'être seems to be to convince the participants that Jesus is god...the entity that created the universe and life, and to convert the participants to Catholicism...through a subtle...and at times not so subtle indoctrination process. May as well call a spade a spade. Yes....the site is interesting most of the time and the discussions lively.....but let us not lose our perspective as to what it really is about. Most of the topics and articles and the comments from the apologists are in defence of Catholicism....and and many don't seem much interested in anything other than defending the Catholic church and it's teaching.

    "The Universe/nature/god...... is not malevolent.....just indifferent!"

    • "Most of the topics and articles and the comments from the apologists are in defence of Catholicism"

      Thanks for the comment, TwistedRelic! We have a standing policy here that we'll post guest articles from any of our interested atheist commenters.

      (If you're interested, please send yours to contact@strangenotions.com)

      We're especially interested in articles from atheists willing and able to defend their own worldview. We've posted several atheist articles already, but unfortunately we haven't received many defending atheism itself--hence the several articles defending Catholicism.

    • Moussa Taouk

      I actually would love to read more articles from atheists presenting their reasoning for atheism. Most of what I've learnt about atheist philosophy has been through chatting with people like yourself. But it would be good to have more methodical and substantive articles.

      The one on God not wanting to do what He is forced to do (recently by Steven Dillon) was one that I enjoyed reading very much.

      Maybe you can have a go?

      MT

      • Susan

        I actually would love to read more articles from atheists presenting their reasoning for atheism

        It's very simple. I don't believe your assertions. Nor the assertions of the tens of thousands of other deity claims promoted by humans across history.

        The burden is on the one making the claim and they have not met it, as far as I have seen.

        Not a big deal. You don't believe most of the other deity claims. I don't either. It's just that I don't accept yours, either.

        Gimme a reason.

        • Moussa Taouk

          The burden is on the one making the claim and they have not met it, as far as I have seen.

          Fair enough. And I agree. When I put myself in an atheists' shoes I would be flat out trying to defend my position apart from pleading skepticism. So I sympathise that atheists probably don't have a whole lot to say on the matter, except to continuing to ask for evidence/proof. And this makes it difficult to write too many atheist articles.

          But I suppose that addresses "twistedrelic"s comment that most articles are from Catholic apologists. i.e. it's only natural that most articles should be from the Catholic side, on whom is the burden of proof. (Mind you I'm not convinced that the burden of proof is on the theist).

          • TwistedRelic

            You said "Mind you I'm not convinced that the burden of proof is on the theist)."
            Fair enough the burden of proof may not be on the theist to provide compelling scientific or archaeological evidence for "god" in the broad or theoretical concept...generic or deist sense may exist. But don't you think the burden of proof is on the theist who says that a particular deity such as Jesus is actually god to the exclusion of all other mystical theories and that he rose from the dead? Should he/she not have the burden of proof to provide at least credible, verifiable if not compelling historical, scientific or archaeological evidence for their claim that Jesus is god and rose from the dead.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The evidence should be credible, yes, but per our own texts the resurrection is definitively not verifiable in the sense you are talking about. According to gospels (at least in Luke, I think?) the disciples themselves, even upon seeing the risen Lord (!) did not believe. Even according to the catechism, the empty tomb is only an invitation to believe, not a proof of anything. What you can know based on logic and even first-hand experience just does not take you all the way. You either choose to interpret historical events through the lens of faith, or you choose to interpret that same data through a different lens. The data themselves don't force you to pick a particular lens through which to interpret the data.

            An affirmation of Jesus's divine nature does not exclude all other conceptions of God, or other insights, found in other religions (though it does seem to exclude some of them). Reasonable believers disagree on what it means to give primacy to Christ, but let's just say there is a very wide range of valid interpretation.

          • TwistedRelic

            In the lives of the adherents of Catholicism and certain other religions..."faith’s passion usually wins over reason’s sobriety."

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It may look like that from the outside, but that's not the way we are taught to approach it. Nothing is supposed to win OVER reason. "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth." (JPII). Use either wing alone and you end up flying in circles.

          • Moussa Taouk

            ...don't you think the burden of proof is on the theist who says that a particular deity such as Jesus is actually god to the exclusion of all other mystical theories and that he rose from the dead?

            Yes, I suppose it is. But again, it depends on what is meant by "verifiable evidence". I've asked a couple of times what kind of evidence would be satisfactory, but I guess it's a difficult question to answer. Unless we know what evidence would be adequate in pointing to the truth of the matter then I don't really know where to begin, or whether there's any point beginning.

            For example "the tomb was empty". I would have thought is evidence. And it WAS verifiable (though maybe not now... I'm not sure). For example "a disciples saw the risen Lord". I would have thought that multiple witnesses is a form of verifiable evidence. But maybe not today because they all died 2000 years ago.

            I don't understand what kind of evidence is required. It seems to me it exists (and/or existed), but that some find it unconvincing depending on how firmly they hold to their world view.

          • David Nickol

            I don't understand what kind of evidence is required. It seems to me it exists (and/or existed) . . . .

            If verifiable evidence existed, it was not sufficiently preserved to be convincing 2000 years later. For an event so unprecedented as the resurrection, 2000-year-old accounts written decades after the event happened do not constitute proof. They may be a basis for faith, but they do not constitute proof. Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary gives as one definition of proof the following: "the cogency of evidence or of demonstrated relationship that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a fact." Proof does not merely mean evidence. It means such conclusive evidence that it "compels acceptance by the mind."

          • Moussa Taouk

            "compels
            acceptance by the mind."

            I think we all agree that there's no such proof available for everyone.

            Even when I think of miracles, they really only compel the mind of the person that experienced the miracle or the mind of the person that was fluid enough in their world view to accept the testimony/investigations surrounding the miracle.

            But then I think of something like the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the Bible says that not all people that were there believed. I find it curious that the Bible should say such a thing. Firstrly because I would think the authors would overlook such a detail. Second because it testifies to the thought that even if a corpse is rased from the dead before one's very eyes, one can still refuse to believe. (I think it's a testimony to the power of free will).

            And so I do a circle back to the beginning and find myself still confused as to what evidence is required.

          • Ignorant Amos

            In 22 of the New Testament books, including the oldest Christian writings, there is not a single mention of an empty tomb. In what is known as the apostolic Jerusalem tradition, not a mention of a tomb, let alone one that was empty. Over 100,000 words, even where knowledge of said empty would support a particular writers position, the empty tomb is nowhere to be found. Yet believers don't find this at all daunting.

            There is no my multiple witnesses to anyone having seen a risen Jesus. There is hearsay in the form of the gospels and Acts. Hearsay is not acceptable. Otherwise, Elvis is alive and we have been visited by aliens from who knows where.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But you have provided the very reason why believers should indeed be undaunted by the equivocal historical evidence for the empty tomb! St. Paul, who just couldn't shut up about the resurrection, and who gave us our first complete theology of the resurrection, apparently could have cared less whether there was an empty tomb or not. If it wasn't central to his belief in the resurrection, why would it be central to ours?

          • Ignorant Amos

            He couldn't care less about an empty tomb because it hadn't been invented yet. Paul, or any of the epistles, talk of an historical Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth is nowhere to be found...no miracle's, no nativity, no passion, none of of the stuff of the Galilean tradition is found in the Jerusalem tradition. The NT is a conglomeration of a spiritual Christ with a later human figure.

            The empty tomb is central to yours for an historical Jesus, it !matters not to Paul because he knew nothing of oy and it is irrelevant to his message of a spiritual Christ in the heavenly realm...the same as the rest of the historical Jesus is nowhere to be found in 22 of the 27 NT books, many of which predate the first gospel.

            Read the NT without Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, or Acts and the Jesus described is a far different animal entirely.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I have seen some of the chatter about mythicist theories between you and others but have never really read those threads or thought about it. So, on this theory, spiritual Jesus was invented first in someone's (Paul's?) imagination? And then human Jesus was a later invention by either a single person or a community (do mythicists agree on whether one or multiple people were involved in this latter invention?) who then managed to influence both the Synoptic and the Johannine traditions? Is that kind of how mythicist theories work? I'm not trying to say your crazy, I'm just trying to understand what the theory is here.

          • Ignorant Amos

            So, on this theory, spiritual Jesus was invented first in someone's (Paul's?) imagination?

            I'm going to be a bit facicious her Jim, just because I can't gat a book into a combox you understand, bcourse?'t that how you view thethe all other religions origions and assertions? Are you special p!leading for your own here?

            And then human Jesus was a later invention by either a single person or a community...

            Well it certainly seems apparent. Human Jesus is not known prior to the Mark tradition...or Q if ya like.

            ...(do mythicists agree on whether one or multiple people were involved in this latter invention?)

            Mythicists are as broad a spectrum as historicist, it doesn't help to generalise. Perhaps reading an argument might
            help.

            ...who then managed to influence both the Synoptic and the Johannine traditions?

            There are many Christian treatise of the first three centuries that got binned for one reason or another, but forget about those and the religio-political reasons they are not regarded with reverence. Look at the NT in its entirety and work it out for yourself.

            Is that kind of how mythicist theories work? I'm not trying to say your crazy, I'm just trying to understand what the theory is here.

            Have you even sussed out any mythicist theories? I'm guessing not. I'm not going to say you are crazy either, but I will say you believe in some crazy shit....in my opinion of course. Why do you think youR shit is any less crazy than mine, in the interest of balance of coursecourse?

          • Ignorant Amos

            So, on this theory, spiritual Jesus was invented first in someone's (Paul's?) imagination?

            Well if you believe Paul, was the last. 1 Corinthians 15.

            And then human Jesus was a later invention by either a single person or a community (do mythicists agree on whether one or multiple people were involved in this latter invention?) who then managed to influence both the Synoptic and the Johannine traditions?

            Just like there are thousands of Christianities and a variety of different Jesus', there are a number of mythicist theories. Some are as ridiculous as some of the cult that it relates to, others fit what is known about the early church.

            Is that kind of how mythicist theories work? I'm not trying to say your crazy, I'm just trying to understand what the theory is here.

            Call me crazy if you like, I'm agnostic on the subject because the evidence is inconclusive either way...most mythicists would probably be of a similar bent, I know Carrier would agree.

            You'd really need to read something on the subject, which I assume you be hesitant to do, seeing it as a waste of time.

            A synopsis of Earl Docherty can be found at...
            http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/home.htm

          • Kyle S.

            Because the empty tomb is something even non-Christian scholars like Bart Ehrman say is well attested to? Because Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if the resurrection didn't happen then Christians are to be pitied?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Because the empty tomb is something even non-Christian scholars like Bart Ehrman say is well attested to?

            I'm not saying it's not an important historical question, and I'm not saying it didn't happen. I am just saying that it is not the lynchpin of resurrection faith. It seems like a reasonable thing to believe based on the historical evidence, but it's not like some slam dunk proof of the resurrection, or of Jesus's divinity.

            Because Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if the resurrection didn't happen then Christians are to be pitied?

            Yes, the resurrection is the sine qua non of Christian faith. But it is not proved or disproved according whether there was an empty tomb.

            CCC 640 : The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ's body from the tomb could be explained otherwise.

          • Kyle S.

            Interesting perspective. Can't imagine ever hearing that from an evangelical.

          • Danny Getchell

            atheists probably don't have a whole lot to say on the matter

            Christians have of course what is called a "great commission", which has been summed up nicely by an agnostic writer (and I cannot remember who - sorry) like this:

            System X
            (1) Those who do not believe in System X will suffer for eternity.
            (2) It is your duty to prevent others from suffering.

            This is a pretty strong motivational system when internalized.

            I don't think that many atheists have a mirror universe version of this running inside their heads. There are a few who very publicly declare it their mission to destroy the religious faith of others, and I find that reprehensible.

            Most atheists I know would be perfectly happy just to reach a point where religious faith is not the "default position" for all of society, so that unbelievers would feel perfectly free to publicly declare themselves so.

    • D. Havas

      "The Universe/nature/god...... is not malevolent.....just indifferent!"

      I'm one of the critics here, but I can't agree with this statement right now and I'd like to tell you why.

      Is the seeming endlessness that we arise from human-like in nature? No. I don't think so. Except maybe in the sense that we are a part of it. If we are inseparable from it, is it not in some sense good for us? Is our very being bad for us? Maybe we would be better off never having been. Jesus thought so: "...but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for the man if he had never been born." How is it good for you if you never existed? To me, that's a non sequitur, but I'd probably be stuck thinking it if I found that I'd locked myself inside somewhere with the full knowledge that I was too dumb or too stubborn to ever figure a way out; Hell does not make sense! Suffering ("badness") does. We're not here without it. So, in that way, it's good for us. Our world is good for us.

    • Peter

      "This Strange Notions site exists...not to discuss the concept of whether or not god exists in any sort of objective manner, but it's clear purpose and raison d'être seems to be to convince the participants that Jesus is god."

      I don't think you can separate the two. Non-Catholic Christianity is essentially creationist, which means that God supernaturally intervened to kick start creation into existence whether that be 13.8 billion years ago or 6000 years ago. The consequence of this is that atheists justify themselves as atheists by being proponents of natural evolution which disproves new earth creationism or, more recently, of cosmological naturalism which seeks to disprove big bang creationism.

      Atheism derives its oxygen not from opposition to Catholic teaching, which says that God is knowable through his works, but from its opposition to Protestant creationism. Inasmuch as creationism is shown to be false, God is deemed not to exist. Catholic teaching, on the other hand, does not rely on creationist belief for the existence of God. Therefore the atheists, with their anti-creationist arguments, have no defence against it.

      If Catholic teaching about the existence of God is not falsifiable, it becomes a far more plausible explanation than Protestant creationism which is. And if Catholic teaching is plausible regarding the existence of God, why then can it not be plausible regarding the existence of God made man?

      • Michael Murray

        Atheism derives its oxygen not from opposition to Catholic teaching, which says that God is knowable through his works, but from its opposition to Protestant creationism.

        We've seen His works and we are not impressed. I certainly wouldn't hire Him to make a Universe let along a sentient species. Have you not been following the posts on the Problem of Evil ? Have you never looked at at the Argument by Poor Design ?

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

        • Peter

          God's works cannot be that bad if they result in you being here and capable of deciding that you are not impressed by them. As regards my comments on evil and suffering, see my posts on the previous thread. As for alleged poor design, instead of leading us away from God it leads us closer to God.

          Poor design is another example of an atheist argument against creationist belief. Creationists believe that humans are unique in the cosmos, and that God therefore focussed all his efforts into creating humans. Atheist then argue that God can't be that competent if his best efforts have resulted in a design which is not biologically optimal. Such an omnipotent God therefore cannot exist.

          If you move away from the creationist belief that man is unique in the cosmos and adopt the position that God has preconfigured the universe for widespread sentient life, then the fact that any form of sentient life arises and survives, irrespective of its biological optimality, as we have done, is testament to the sheer creative power of God.

          The optimal outcome of God's creative power is not the biological perfection of millions of individual sentient species, but the perfection of a universe which is exquisitely preconfigured for the widespread creation on sentient life.

          • George

            "widespread sentient life". that's pretty vague. what do you mean specifically? Do you know how much life there is in the universe? Do you mean widespread over a planet? Over a given megaparsec? Do you know how much distance there is between pools of life?

            and for the sake of intellectual honesty, let's look at the contra-position. if hypothetically somehow, science determined that we were alone in the universe, or at least that life existed but in levels below whatever constituted "widespread" to you, or that we did indeed count as "unique" life, would that falsify your belief?

            is the catholic church willing to put it's foot down, and make a concrete falsifiable prediction about what humans will find as we continue to observe the universe?

          • Peter

            Atheists share with creationists the belief that man is unique in the universe. However, unlike creationists who believe man is uniquely fashioned by God, atheists believe that life on earth is a one-off freak occurrence in an otherwise hostile, meaningless and indifferent universe. Consequently atheists ascribe no purpose whatsoever to the existence of the universe.

            Here again we have that creationist-atheist duality. The latter believing man is alone and God created the universe for man, the former reacting to that belief by saying man is alone because he is a freak of nature in a hostile universe.

            Creationists are wrong because the universe we can see is only a fraction of the universe which has expanded beyond our sight. So why would God create a universe just for man if the vast bulk of it could never be experienced by man?

            Athe

          • Susan

            Atheists share with creationists the belief that man is unique in the universe

            I have no such belief. I can see the history of life on this planet and that we are part of it. It seems to be a Christian belief that it is all about humans.

            Atheists are wrong because the universe is not hostile to life.

            It's not?

            In fact the galaxy is brimming with the building blocks of life and teeming with planets on which it can be established.

            Not sure what you mean by brimming. Or teeming. That life might exist elsewhere in the universe is not ruled out, by any means. That it does exist requires evidence.

            None of this has to do with atheism. I'm an atheist because I don't accept unevidenced claims of deities. Technically, in discussions about deities, I have to classify myself as an atheist. I don't believe lots of things about lots of things.

            Atheist don't accept claims made about gods by humans.

            That's all.

          • Peter

            Atheism hinges on whether or not the universe has a purpose. If the universe has a purpose, a motive, a design, then that suggests a deity. A universe with a purpose is anathema to atheists who ascribe no purpose to the universe whatsoever.

            Technology and time are against atheism. Slowly but surely the universe is being revealed to have a purpose. The jigsaw pieces are coming together. Successive generations of stars with increasing metallicity; complex organic compounds in nebulae; protplanetary discs with their as yet to be uncovered secrets, exoplanetray atmospheres with even greater secrets to disclose.

            It looks as though the universe is configured to create life denoting a definite purpose to its existence. If and when that is confirmed beyond doubt, instead of being strongly suspected from the evidence, that will leave atheists in the awkward position of trying to claim otherwise.

          • George

            how do you know there is a purpose?

            "It looks as though the universe is configured to create life denoting a definite purpose to its existence." - what is your standard to determine that?

            you keep asserting that, so can you tell me how you could know if the universe did NOT have a purpose?

          • Peter

            If and when we find signs of life elsewhere, even rudimentary, we will have established a condition which makes intelligent life in the universe all the more probable.

            A universe configured for the creation of intelligent life is a universe which suggests a purpose. A universe preordained from the very beginning to evolve progressively and irreversible from lesser to greater complexity, culminating in the complexity of a sentient brain, is a universe which indicates a purpose. A universe prearranged from its inception to produce widespread self-awareness and understanding is a universe which denotes a purpose.

            I would be far more hard pressed to explain how the universe could not have a purpose in the light of the above discoveries.

          • George

            "A universe preordained from the very beginning to evolve progressively
            and irreversible from lesser to greater complexity, culminating in the
            complexity of a sentient brain, is a universe which indicates a purpose."

            Do you think we're living in that universe though? Do you agree with the current model of the cosmos which points to a heat death? I'd be very interested in seeing a model that bypasses entropy!

            do I have this right? after any discovery of other life, that will mean the universe is configured specifically for life? how do you know that? what is your standard? the ratio of life vs non-life? help me out here.

            and what purpose? how do you know what all that life is supposed to do?

            what burden of proof am I under, after reading all those assertions?

            "As soon as the first signs of life are found, the walls of atheism will start to come tumbling down."

            okay, so everything that came before now and that eventual day hasn't done anything to atheism? Thomas Aquinas's Five Ways, reported miracles, etc?

          • Peter

            Athiesm is still a potent force because otherwise this blog wouldn't exist to respond to it. But those days are numbered.

            As regards ratio, what is the ratio of the earth's total mass to its biomass? 10 billion to one. Yet that doesn't stop earth from being a paradise for life. Therefore ratios are irrelevant.

            We know that space is full of complex organic compounds which form the building blocks of life. If and when we find the first instance of microbiological life, it could only have come from these compounds. The fact that these compounds are ubiquitous and have resulted in at least one case of extraterrestrial life, means that extraterrestrial life has the potential to be ubiquitous.

            The missing link is protoplanetary discs where we expect to see the organic compounds which form the building blocks of life being synthesised into the precursors of life itself by the intense radiation and extreme tidal forces of a young star.

            This will demonstrate that the mechanism of the universe is configured towards the creation of life. Its just a question of time.

          • Ignorant Amos

            But those days are numbered.

            Peter, you are delusional if you really believe that.

            The Faith Survey released on June 26, 2013, shows clearly that the Catholic Church is in a state of terminal decline. According to the 2012 edition of the Catholic Directory for England and Wales, the number of ordinations has plummeted to just 16 in 2010, with a predominantly high number of elderly priests left who will not be replaced.

            http://www.communigate.co.uk/ne/catholichome/page3.phtml

            So 40 per cent of people in Boston have no religion at all, and it's more than half in many counties. As for the 47 per cent of Bostonians who are Catholic "participants" – well, there isn't much participation going on come Sunday morning. We're talking about 17 per cent Mass attendance these days – and it was only 20 per cent before the clergy scandals broke. The story is the same in many other supposedly Catholic cities – fewer than one in five Catholics go to church regularly. Compare that to the 70 per cent in the 1950s (itself much higher than in the 19th century.)

            http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100250598/lots-of-atheists-more-muslims-fewer-christians-and-jews-this-is-the-new-america/

            Take a look at the figures for that once bastion of Catholicism, Ireland, if you have any doubts.

          • Michael Murray

            Take a look at the figures for that once
            bastion of Catholicism, Ireland, if you have any doubts.

            A graph I find amazing is this one from wikipedia

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(law)#Extramarital_births

            It shows the percentage of babies born out of wedlock by country. One of the more heinous sins once upon a time as I'm sure you remember.

            It is notable that traditionally-conservative Catholic countries in the EU now also have substantial proportions of extramarital births: Portugal, 45.6%; Spain, 35.5% ; Ireland, 35.1%;Italy, 28.0% , all numbers for the year 2012.

            Recent figures from Latin America show non-marital births to be 74% in Colombia, 70% in Paraguay, 69% in Peru, 68% in Chile, 66% in Brazil, 63% in the Dominican Republic, 58% in Argentina, 55% in Mexico. In Chile, non-marital births increased to 69.7% in 2012, up from 48.3% in 2000.

            Somethings gone wrong. Perhaps the marriage certificates have all been stolen by homosexuals.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It makes me laugh too when I read nonsense like atheism's days are numbered.

            I can see Sant JamieJamie's chapel from my balcony. To get there I have to pass a plethora of sex shops and bars displaying the rainbow standard. The nights are filled with the revelry of young Spaniards, Catholic I presume, getting up to all sorts of hedonistic hijinks into the wee small hours, including Sundays and the recent religious festivals. They are drinking and smoking weed openly, and the young ladies are wearing next to nothing on. There are shops all over selling the paraphernalia to grow ones own weed, tobacconists sell bongs and marijuana grinders...and there are strip clubs abound.

            All this in a once so conservative a Catholic country that as recently as the 50's women could be jailed for wearing a bikini.

            Catholicism has lost its grip on the educated first world democracies, hence its in roads to the third world.

          • Peter

            Of course there will still be atheists, non-believers and agnostics around, but the intellectual bastion of atheism will start to crumble as soon as the first extraterrestrial microbe is found.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The issue of extraterrestrial life is not a problem non believers, we look forward to such a day. It might be a bigger issue for theists though, especially if the life is a lot older and far superior to that of humans.

          • Peter

            Extraterrestrial life per se may not be a problem for atheists, but it's implication that the universe has a purpose is.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Two things Peter. Why would any purpose you percieve be a problem for atheists? We are already aware of life on at least one place in the universe without it causing Any great shakes to universal purpose. Multiple clusters of life will make no difference to purpose just because you assert it. Second, you make an assution on that purpose and the extrapolate a God, not just any god, but the parochial one you just happen to follow.

            As I said earlier a more ancient, more intelligent super extra terrestrial will see Christianity in the bin. That is why the Holy See's attitude to these parts of things is having to adapt. Have you read "Exovaticana"?

            Petrus Romanus, PROJECT LUCIFER,
            and The Vatican's Astonishing Exo-Theological Plan
            for The Arrival of An Alien "Savior"

            http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vatican/exo-vaticana/exo-vaticana.htm

            The question is, will they be good aliens or evil aliens...or should that be angels?

          • Peter

            Leaving aside your conspiratorial link, how will a more ancient, more intelligent super extra terrestrial see Christianity in the bin? Quite the reverse, in fact.

            Even though the likely viscosity of interstellar space may prevent even the most advanced races from travelling at relativistic speeds to reach us, they will have advanced telescopes which can see us and presumable other life in the galaxy.

            This will have led them to the unavoidable conclusion that the universe has a purpose which is to create widespread sentient life. Their greater comprehension of the workings of the cosmos and its profound rational order will lead them not further away from but closer to the mind of God.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Leaving aside your conspiratorial link,...

            I thought it would be right up your street Peter. The Vatican manned big telescope looking for the elusive to support your thesis. Except the anti-Augustine part by the head Jesuit on alluding to scripture and looking foolish part.

            ... how will a more ancient, more intelligent super extra terrestrial see Christianity in the bin? Quite the reverse, in fact.

            Anything that predates human life with a superior intelligence makes the good book story rubbish. As Arthur C Clarke put's it, even godlike. Imagine the scenario, "I'm Kronos from Zorg, your deity tales are based on me". At any rate, the creation of all things for human use is moot, and god creating man first of all living things in his own image would require a reassessment too.

            Even though the likely viscosity of interstellar space may prevent even the most advanced races from travelling at relativistic speeds to reach us, they will have advanced telescopes which can see us and presumable other life in the galaxy.

            Nothing like a nice bit of conspiracy theory of the Sci-fi genre.

            This will have led them to the unavoidable conclusion that the universe has a purpose which is to create widespread sentient life. Their greater comprehension of the workings of the cosmos and its profound rational order will lead them not further away from but closer to the mind of God.

            More conjecture and cart before the horse. If my granny had have had wheels, she might have been a motorcycle.

          • Peter

            CCC 356 says that "of all visible creatures only man is able to know and love his creator. He is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake." This then does not exclude creatures on other planets willed by God for their own sake.

            Your understanding that creation is exclusively for man is a creationist interpretation. This is not surprising since as an atheist this is the position you will have been reared to challenge.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Peter, please stop making false statements about atheists; it undermines your credibility.

          • Ignorant Amos

            CCC 356 says that "of all visible creatures only man is able to know and love his creator. He is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake." This then does not exclude creatures on other planets willed by God for their own sake.

            What creatures are you talking about? You are away on one Peter. Where did CCC 356 come from?

            Your understanding that creation is exclusively for man is a creationist interpretation.

            How many times already....I have no such understanding, I'm an evolutionist. It is your scripture that infrs that creation is exclusively for man, whether he creatd it specifically for mans arrival, he gave man free will to use the creation as wanted, no matter what interpretation you want to impose. I'm not bothered, it is all nonsense whether allegorical or whatever. The universe was once immensely dense and now it is immensely large, either state was not with mans interest as a thought, stop making stuff about me up.

            This is not surprising since as an atheist this is the position you will have been reared to challenge and therefore the only position you recognise.

            This is why engaging with you is exasperating. I was "reared" in the Protestant tradition, hardly anti creationist.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not in the slightest. Atheism has no position on the number of life forms in the universe. Utterly irrelevant.

            Peter, do you actually know ANYTHING about atheists? What we think? What we believe (or don't)? 'Cause you don't seem to understand anything at all about atheists.

          • Mila

            I'm glad you at least equate immorality with the lack of Catholicism. Good observation.
            That leaves the conclusion that the so-called developed nations who moved away from Catholicism are immoral. Just like Rome before it collapsed.
            Excellent observation and correlation.

          • Michael Murray

            You won't get a reply from Ignorant Amos. He was banned over a year ago as part of the great purge of atheists. You can find him posting over here sometimes

            http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com

            Strange, after all the child abuse scandals to see anyone try to claim the moral high ground for Catholicism. I would have thought the immorality in the Church looks just like Rome before it collapsed.

          • Mila

            Can atheists really claim moral high ground?
            I was observing that correlation that the commentator did and that was a good one actually.
            And I do claim moral high ground for Catholicism. Can you tell me where in Catholicism is pedophilia allowed? Oh and we had scandal in the Church but it is miniscule compare to what the secular world has. Atheist just get a pass and nobody attacks them. And those who abused, etc. didn't do it because of Catholicism but a lack thereof.

          • Michael Murray

            Where did I claim the high moral ground for atheists ?

            As for the priests I was judging by their labours. Isn't that what I am told to do ?

          • Mila

            Then judge the 99% of priests who do incredible labors. The irony is that you won't hear about them in the media. I wonder why.... nope I don't actually.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Atheism isn't an ethical system or an institution. Roman Catholicism is an institution that also has an ethical system.

            You are comparing apples and oranges.

          • Mila

            I'm not comparing at all.
            I just asked for him who accused Catholicism to find me where in Catholicism that behavior is allowed. In fact, the opposite. So in essence those who abused were anti-Catholics who called themselves Catholics but didn't follow the religion they professed to follow. We have many of those today. The new fad is to not be Catholic at all and even hating the Church but remain inside to try and change it from within. Not going to work.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think the truth is a lot more complicated than that.

            Yes, you did compare. A moral high ground means you are comparing one with another or others.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So Fr. Maciel lacked Catholicism? His order was universally lauded by conservative Catholics....

          • Mila

            Yes, if he misbehaved not in accordance to the moral teachings of the Church he lacked Catholicism. I don't know who he is or what he supposedly did but we have a clear moral teaching and anyone who violates it is going against it. Whether that is because of a weakness or a temptation is irrelevant. The teaching is one and it doesn't adjust to circumstances or it gives a free pass to anyone who calls themselves Catholics. Many people call themselves Catholic but are not. Especially if they reject what they don't like about it.
            There are some people who call themselves Catholic but have no clue as to what that entails. There are others who call themselves Catholic only because their grandma was Catholic.
            But the point here is that Catholicism is one thing and Catholics are another. You must distinguish the two. I have friends who profess they are protestant but misbehave. Do I think Protestantism produces people to misbehave because of its teachings or is it the protestants themselves who misbehave.
            The only reason why anyone should believe in anything is because they believe it to be true and not because of other human beings.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think the moral code of the church needs substantial revision.

            I think the point in Murray's comment was that Rome and Greece were known for their pederasty. Hence the comparison.

          • Mila

            I personally don't think it needs revision at all. That's the part of the Church I actually love the most. If someone doesn't like it they can leave. It's not up for grabs or changes with the first wind or accommodates to modern-day ideologies as if truth itself could adjust to more perfect "truths" as if the one before it wasn't true at all.
            That's another thing I love about the Church. It doesn't accommodate to passing ideologies that claim to be modern but are in fact ancient and tried over and over.
            I understood his point but I think pederasty is more prevalent outside the Church and the Church herself doesn't teach that.

          • Michael Murray

            Of course the Church doesn't teach pederasty. Nobody is suggesting it does. However the Church defended pederasts and moved them to new parishes with the result that they continued their abuse and rape of children. The Church put the protection of itself as a political organisation above that of children.

          • Mila

            You mean the Church of the people in the Church? Again there is a clear distinction between people and a belief.
            Like I told the other commentator if one relies his/her beliefs on the behavior of human beings then one is doomed from the get go with anything not just Catholicism. I don't believe in Catholicism because of the people in it. In fact, that is the strongest argument for the Church. How can something that is so bad have lasted 2000 years. Maybe because the truth in it is not of human origin.

          • Michael Murray

            I mean the political organisation which is the Church. The one that moves priests, the one that refuses to pay adequate compensation and browbeats victims of rape by priests.

            http://www.brokenrites.org.au/drupal/

            Like I told the other commentator if one relies his/her beliefs on the behavior of human beings then one is doomed from the get go with anything not just Catholicism.

            Neither Ignatius or I are doing this so why keep bringing it up ?

          • Michael Murray

            In fact, that is the strongest argument for the Church. How can something that is so bad have lasted 2000 years. Maybe because the truth in it is not of human origin.

            Or maybe, as its behaviour over the child abuse scandal so clearly demonstrates, the Church will protect itself politically no matter what the cost in human suffering.

          • Michael Murray

            There is also a link between the demands of celibacy and child abuse admitted to here by the Catholic Church

            http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-12/catholic-church-concedes-celibacy-may-have-contributed-to-child/5962358

          • Mila

            Actually that is the most absurd thing I keep hearing. If so, then explain how come fathers have the largest abuse percentages in society?

          • Michael Murray

            I'm just telling you what senior members of you Church say. You need to take it up with them.

          • Mila

            As I stated before Cardinal Pell is in disobedience to the moral teachings of the Church. All the other Cardinals disagree with him. Besides, and I don't expect you to understand this, but I'm going to try and explain it. Clergy can have their opinions about anything. Sometimes and all throughout history many clergymen went against the Church's teachings, however as a Catholic I am not obliged to believe in the personal opinions of anyone. Only in the teachings of faith and morals that are ex-cathedra. Meaning that have a seal of infallibility on it. Heck I don't agree with my local parish priest on many things.
            The funny thing is that the news media says "The Church".... As a Catholic I find that very funny.

          • Michael Murray

            As I stated before Cardinal Pell is in disobedience to the moral teachings of the Church.

            I guess that's why the Pope appointed him Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. He knew he couldn't be trusted.

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

          • Mila

            Cardinal Pell hates the celibacy discipline among other things. The Pope has appointed many people including him, but did the Church teachings and disciplines on celibacy change? Does the Pope think celibacy is the cause? Nope. Do most of all the other Cardinals think it is the cause? Nope.

          • Michael Murray

            Cardinal Pell hates the celibacy discipline among other things.

            Not sure where you get that from

            http://www.americancatholic.org/News/Synod/Synodpell.asp

            Pell's an arch-conservative.

          • Mila

            You will find articles telling you that he is conservative other liberal but the truth is that he is very conservative in some but progressive in others.

            "In the Australian context, Pell is regarded as progressive on many social issues"
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Pell

            I also got it from the very first article you linked. oops

            Let me give you an advice not all sources that state they are Catholic are actually Catholic or in obedience to the Church. For example National Catholic Reporter is not but claims to be Catholic.

          • Michael Murray

            You forgot to finish the sentence.

            In the Australian context, Pell is regarded as progressive on many social issues but a conservative on matters of faith and morals.

            Oops.

            Pell, like many Catholics could be regarded as progressive on social matters like looking after the poor and homeless. But my definition of liberal doesn't include someone opposed to marriage equality, contraception and abortion. Yours might. I guess it's all relative to where we think we sit ourselves.

          • Mila

            Right but your first article implied the opposite view. To concede to a linkage between celibacy and abuse is a liberal view and contrary to the Church's position. So which article you posted is not lying? The one that portrays Pell as a conservative or as a progressive?
            You are the one posting the articles that contradict themselves.
            See that's why I laugh when people post links about the Catholic Church. Particularly from media that has a sole purpose to destroy the Church that opposes their views.
            They've been doing it for 2000 years.

          • Michael Murray

            Which first article ?

            The statement by Pell conceding that celibacy might be an issue is not "media that has a sole purpose to destroy the Church" it's a Government report recording what Pell said in evidence. If it is incorrect then he can get it corrected.

            Not problem the Church has is an anti-Catholic conspiracy. They do quite a good job of tripping over their own vestments.

          • Mila

            Again tell me why did you even bring that issue up implying that there is a link between celibacy and child abuse....
            Here are some statistics for you
            75% of child abuser are married
            https://www.childadvocacycenter.org/about-child-abuse.php

          • Michael Murray

            Maybe study carefully my previous lesson in logic.

          • Mila

            The same Australian government report you posted states:
            "Two final
            points just at this stage: as we all know, of course, most of the paedophilia is acted out outside institutional
            settings and by married people, so marriage is no necessary deterrent to the paedophilia; also — and I am sure
            we will come back to this — the entry procedures, the criteria, the searching and the investigation of candidates
            back, say, in the middle of last century was much too loose."
            Now why omit that. Is that your logic? To omit half the paragraph? To take things out of context.
            Some logic.

          • Mila

            No offense but I also find it ironic that it is you who said "There is also a link between the demands of celibacy and child abuse admitted to here by the Catholic Church"
            According to what Church? The Church the media portrays or the real Church. Because you posted contradicting articles. Which one is lying?
            And another thing I find it funny you even brought it up but you can't answer why you did that since clearly there isn't a linkage given that married men abuse way more or even other pastors who marry as well.
            So why bring it up? Out of spite?

          • Michael Murray

            According to the evidence given by a senior Cardinal of the Catholic Church. I am happy to clarify that and say it isn't the Church. Just a senior representative of said Church.

            And another thing I find it funny you even brought it up but you can't answer why you did that since clearly there isn't a linkage given that married men abuse way more or even other pastors who marry also do.

            Oh dear. You really do fail on the logic front don't you. If I told you that smoking caused heart disease would you say "no that isn't true because cholesterol causes heart disease". Hint: one thing can have two causes.

            So why bring it up? Out of spite or are you just repeating what some of the media says without giving it a thought?

            Nope. I'm just repeating what a senior Cardinal in the Catholic Church said in evidence to a government inquiry. Do I need to repeat that again for you ? Oh I have already.

          • Mila

            Here is the second half of the quote from the government link you posted
            "Two final points just at this stage: as we all know, of course, most of the paedophilia is acted out outside institutional
            settings and by married people, so marriage is no necessary deterrent to the paedophilia; also — and I am sure
            we will come back to this — the entry procedures, the criteria, the searching and the investigation of candidates
            back, say, in the middle of last century was much too loose."

            oops

          • Michael Murray

            What oops ? Again and again you seem to confuse that saying that celibacy is a cause must rule out anything else is a cause. Nobody is claiming that Pell said that celibacy is the only cause.

          • Mila

            Tremendous logic there. Pell states that celibacy can be a cause yet he immediately states that the main cause of the abuse is not it by showing how the opposite of the suspected cause (celibacy) produces double the effects.

            Still love how the first article you posted declared how "The Church conceded" that's hilarious.

          • Michael Murray

            Still no oops. He says quite clearly that

            But one of the suggestions is that it is because of the celibacy of the clergy. That might be a factor in some cases.

            The fact that marriage doesn't deter paedophilia does not contradict Pell's statement above.

            Logic fail again.

            Sorry this is becoming silly so I am done. I'll let you have the last word. I'm guessing it will be "oops".

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You make a lot of claims, but give little evidence. As I understand, priests abuse children about as often as the general population. The abuse is upsetting, but the cover up, which came from the highest levels, is what I find to be disturbing.

            The media isn't some monolithic propaganda machine. There are many voices and opinions within the media.

          • Mila
          • Ignatius Reilly

            Actually 75% are married or have consenting sexual relationships. Why isn't that particularly interesting, if celibacy is just a possible cause among other factors? Maybe a large percentage of the adult population is married or is in a sexual relationship. Maybe the amount of celibate adults is much less than 25%.

          • Mila

            Also did you actually notice that the first article said that Cardinal Pell thought there was a link between celibacy and abuse but the last article stated that Pell said that it is not?
            Very funny. Thanks for pointing that out. I will use the articles you gave me to prove a media myth point I want to make to a friend.

          • Michael Murray

            Which article says he thinks it isn't an issue ?

            I can substantiate the other claim as it is was evidence to an Inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations by the Victorian Government. You can find it here

            http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/images/stories/committees/fcdc/inquiries/57th/Child_Abuse_Inquiry/Transcripts/Catholic_Archdiocese_of_Sydney_27-May-13.pdf

            be searching for celibacy. The actual quote is

            But one of the suggestions is that it is because of the celibacy of the clergy. That might be a factor in some cases.

            My guess is the discrepancy is one of timing.

          • Mila

            Another question I have. Why is it that protestant pastors, especially baptists, have a much higher rate of abuse than Catholics and yet they are married?
            I really wonder why you even implied it in the first place by linking the original article.
            The real connection is homosexuality and abuse. They try to hide how most of the priests who abused were homosexuals by saying it is a celibacy problem.

          • Michael Murray

            Did I claim that celibacy was the only cause of child abuse ? Fathers (who I guess you are implying are not celibate) abusing children only demonstrates that you don't need to be celibate to abuse children. Does that make the Church less responsible for creating a system that causes more child abuse ? Less responsible for treating victims with contempt ? Less responsible for moving priests so they can offend again ?

          • Mila

            Nope it doesn't make the people in the Church less responsible and sorry but you did imply by posing that article that there was a connection. Which is in fact laughable....
            Actually, let me save you some time unless you post some Catholic media I will not pay attention to it. It is most likely false, slander, pretentious, or vicious. I guess attacking a Church for 2000 years and never succeeding brings out the worst in people.

          • Michael Murray

            I guess attacking a Church for 2000 years and never succeeding brings out the worst in people.

            I'm not that old.

          • Mila

            I love it how the article says "The Church conceded" no it hasn't. It just takes the words of a Cardinal who is in disobedience.
            Oh I love it how the media tries and tries to create a myth about the Church. Constantly attacking it.....
            It takes the words of Cardinal Pell who says things that 99% of all Cardinals don't agree with as "The Church conceded", right?
            In fact, if anything, the Church should concede that homosexuality has anything to do with abuse as the majority of the priests who abused were homosexuals. But hey let's not wait for the media to make that correlation. Or even Pell to say so.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Good thing scientists don't just hold to the one truth that they found hundreds of years ago.

          • deck

            "Can atheists really claim moral high ground?"

            Yes, atheists can claim the moral high ground, depending on the moral system they subscribe to, and how diligent they are in following that system.

            The problem with Catholic morality is that in most cases, it stems from a self serving imperative; effectively "don't do bad things or god will punish you" or "do good things to attain the love of Christ". Both of these propositions position a moral decision with a punishment or reward outcome. An action taken to conform to the code these cases is no more of a moral decision than a murderer refraining from killing because he fears reprisal from the law.

            Catholic morality may guide people toward an ostensibly moral outcome, but if a decision is made to avoid punishment from god, or to attain things from Christ, it is not a moral decision.

            An moral atheist, on the other hand, makes decisions based on the right thing to do.

            "Can you tell me where in Catholicism is pedophilia allowed?"

            My moral system does not condone pedophilia either. So your point here is moot and you cannot claim moral high ground on this basis.

            "Oh and we had scandal in the Church but it is miniscule compare to what the secular world has."

            Do you prejudice all of the secular world into a single group? That would be very naive, as atheism does not define a specific moral system. An atheist as an individual defines their own moral code, and it is up to them to adhere to that code. In the same way that it is wrong for a previous poster to point out the transgressions of a single Catholic, it is wrong to associate atheism with the crimes of every non-religious person.

          • Mila

            Oh I do claim moral high ground for Catholicism. Unless you can tell me where in Catholicism is pedophilia allowed?
            Those who abused did it precisely because of a lack of Catholicism.
            Haven't people been saying the Catholic Church is immoral since the collapse of Rome yet everyone around it collapsed like Rome except the Catholic Church?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Moral high ground for Catholicism verses what? Liberal Democracy?

          • TwistedRelic

            It is pointless to attempt any sort of discussion with one who is imbued with such intransigent certainty.

          • Peter

            From where I'm standing the intransigence is on the part of atheists who refuse to consider that the universe has a purpose despite the mounting evidence.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            We don't refuse to consider it; you refuse to provide evidence.

          • Peter

            You refuse to consider the evidence.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Finding life elsewhere in the universe will make no difference to atheists at all, since it will not provide evidence that the universe has a purpose.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It only looks that way to you because you already believe it.

          • Peter

            Or perhaps it doesn't look that way to you because you refuse to believe it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You have admitted you have neither logic nor evidence for your opinion; but you are making the assertions. The burden of proof is on you.

          • Peter

            No, you have admitted it for me. I have done no such thing.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You need to reread your own posts. You agreed that the vast bulk of the universe is completely hostile to life. And you have admitted you cannot prove your assertions; that only future research could establish that life even exists elsewhere, for example.

            QED

          • Peter

            I repeat, inhospitableness to life does not prevent its ubiquity as earth's example shows. Only a definite find will prove the existence of extraterrestrial life, although the overwhelming evidence makes it a virtual certainty.

          • George

            are you assuming that I claimed something in my post? What is with those blanket statements about what atheists believe? I want to know what your position about life and the universe has to do with god.

            "the galaxy is brimming with the building blocks of life and teeming with planets on which it can be established." - Did you already believe this before reading about it, and did the church predict this observation before astronomers' findings became known? I'm looking for more than just vague language that would support the god assertion no matter what the facts eventually turned out to be.

          • Peter

            The Church teaches that God is known through his works (CCC 286). The evidence points to a universe with a purpose which is to create life. This denotes motive and design which denotes God.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Atheists share with creationists the belief that man is unique in the universe.

            This is false. I've never heard atheists make this claim. We don't have any evidence that we're NOT alone, but no atheist I know of has this belief.

            However, unlike creationists who believe man is uniquely fashioned by God, atheists believe that life on earth is a one-off freak occurrence in an otherwise hostile, meaningless and indifferent universe. Consequently atheists ascribe no purpose whatsoever to the existence of the universe.

            That's a bit emotional. And the universe has no purpose that we can discern.

            Here again we have that creationist-atheist duality, the former believing man is alone and that God created the universe for man, the latter reacting to that belief by saying man is alone because he is a freak of nature in a hostile universe.

            You need to spend more time listening to what atheists actually believe, instead of arguing with atheist straw-men you invent in your head.

            Creationists are wrong because the universe we can see is only a fraction of the universe which has expanded beyond our sight. So why would God create a universe just for man if the vast bulk of it could never be experienced by man?

            OK. I'll grant that point.

            Atheists are wrong because the universe is not hostile to life. In fact the galaxy is brimming with the building blocks of life and teeming with planets on which it can be established.

            99.999999999999999999999999+% of the universe is utterly and irreparably hostile to life. And claiming that the building blocks of life along with planets doesn't change those numbers.

            The irreversible trend towards greater complexity is a sign that, contrary to atheist belief, the universe has a purpose which is to create life.

            The trend towards greater complexity is not irreversible. In fact, it's the opposite. And even should life be a common occurence, that does not demonstrate that the purpose of the universe is to create life. Prove it.

          • Peter

            The vast bulk of the earth's mass is inhospitable to life, much of it being in the form of molten rock or iron, And yet earth is deemed a paradise fertile for life. Just as this inhospitableness does not affect the ubiquity of life on earth, nor too does the inhospitableness you mention the affect the ubiquity of life-building compounds throughout the cosmos.

            The trend towards increasing complexity of baryonic matter in the universe is irreversible. Population I stars, for instance, have no choice but to contain greater metallicity than the previous generation population II stars. Nebulae have no choice but to contain complex carbon based compounds. This suggests that within protoplanetary discs these compounds will have no choice but to synthesise into the precursors of life.

            I don't need to prove anything, because next generation telescopes will do it for me. It's just a question of time.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In other words, you agree with me that the universe is overwhelmingly hostile to life and always will be, and you admit that you have no evidence or logic to support your claims.

            Good to know. I will be referencing your admissions on these points in the future.

          • Peter

            No, I disagree with your inference that inhospitableness to life in the universe prevents it from being ubiquitous. I have masses of evidence which leads to a reasonable conclusion that life almost certainly exists. Definite proof will come with the first observation.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Exactly: you agree. Life cannot be ubiquitous when it cannot exist in 99.999999+% of the universe. And you agree you cannot provide evidence by claiming that only future discoveries will vindicate your claims.

          • Peter

            As I said on another post, the biomass on earth is only one ten billionth of the earth's total mass, yet life on earth is deemed to be ubiquitous even though it doesn't exist in 99.99999999% of the planet. So your point is meaningless.

            As for evidence, I have plenty of it, but what I don't have is proof which is what you originally requested.

          • mriehm

            "Atheists share with creationists the belief that man is unique in the universe" and "atheists believe that life on earth is a one-off freak occurrence"

            I don't know of any atheists who would assert that, in this unfathomably vast universe of ours, the earth is the only planet on which life began, or that humans are the only sentient beings.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            None do, that I know of. But Peter seems to be convinced - on no evidence whatever - that the mere presence if life elsewhere in the universe is proof that the universe has a purpose, and since purpose can only come from god, life elsewhere proves god exists. If god exists, then atheists are wrong. Therefore atheists must believe that life does not exist elsewhere.

            I think that's his assertion.

          • George

            "If you move away from the creationist belief that man is unique in the
            cosmos and adopt the position that God has preconfigured the universe
            for widespread sentient life, then the fact that any form of sentient
            life arises and survives, irrespective of its biological optimality, as
            we have done, *is testament to the sheer creative power of God*."

            Why though? And when did the catholic church state this? Did they make a prediction before any scientific forays were made into biology, and subsequently chemistry and abiogenesis (currently a theory, unobserved I know)?

            "arises and survives" - Okay, survives for how long? If humanity destroyed itself tomorrow, would that falsify Catholic belief?

          • Peter

            The point I'm making is that atheist arguments are essentially anti-creationist. If God fashioned man out of dust with his own hands, as creationists believe, and woman from a rib of man, then according to atheists, he didn't make a good job of it because the human body is poorly designed. Therefore such an incompetent God cannot be omnipotent.

            The Church holds this language to be symbolic not literal. This allows for the possibility that the human body evolved naturally and, in doing so, could have reached its current biological state without that state being necessarily optimal.

            If humanity destroys itself tomorrow, it may one less sentient race in the galaxy. Perhaps some races already have.

          • mriehm

            In other words, the "optimal outcome of God's creative power" is a universe full of suffering for his particularly-special (sentient) creatures. That doesn't reconcile well with The Fall.

          • Peter

            Not necessarily. There may be some races who didn't fall into original sin.

          • mriehm

            The point I was trying to make is, since God did not design life to be perfect, but only (according to your beliefs) setup obviously imperfect - but still "optimal" conditions, wherever life evolves it will be tooth and claw. It will be disease, it will be disaster. And of course it will be suffering and death. That is how evolution and nature occurs. That is how humans evolved, and that is how we live now. There was no magical hiatus in the middle where suffering and death were not present.

          • Peter

            Just because evolution was red in tooth and claw on earth, doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be so elsewhere. Just as we can't imagine what form complex life would take on other planets, nor too can we imagine the evolutionary route which that complex life would have taken.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Peter, you seem to be able to imagine all sorts of things. Imagination is one of the things human beings are particularly good, so you can't paint everyone with your own incredulity.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Just because evolution was red in tooth and claw on earth, doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be so elsewhere.

            Is red in tooth and claw, IS. And if you understand the theory of evolution, you'd know the system requires it to be red in tooth and claw, another process would not be evolution.

          • Peter

            It depends over what time scale life evolves. If life around some slow burning stars takes tens of billions of years to evolve, instead of merely billions as in our case, ,different evolutionary processes may come into play. Who are they to say what we are, unless of course, we adopt the creationist notion that man is the template for the whole universe.

          • Ignorant Amos

            There hasn't been tens of billions of years so you fail in that hypothesis.

            You are fixated with some issues Peter. Creationist notion of mans evolution is one of them. For the umpteenth time, atheist only take notice of creationists ideas in order to take the piss. They are kooks.

            The theory of evolution has a particular set of parameters. A set of different parameters would not be evolution, it would be something else. That said, internationally respected evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has stated that other life in the universe, if it exists, will undoubtedly have evolved. Other live that has evolved could "engineer" life which in theory could have been despatch in a panspermia type thesis. But there is no evidence w for any of this and no need to involve it on the God debate, it adds nothing .

          • Peter

            The universe is very young. There are countless tens of billions of years in the future.

            The evidence is against engineered life panspermially distributed and in favour of life being created anew for each star system.
            As I said on another post, protoplanetary discs are the missing link. There the intense radiation and strong tidal forces of a young star are believed to synthesise the complex organic compounds found in nebulae into the precursors of life itself which then bombard newly forming planets via comets and asteroids.

            This reinforces the picture that the natural irreversible trend across the entire universe is towards the creation of life, which clearly indicates a purpose. Where else, if it weren't a plan, would the precursors of life form except for the vicinity of newly forming planets on which they could take hold?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I thought you were asserting alien life discovery by humans.

            You are making all these unsubstantiated assertion with nothing in support.

            Some scientist's are of the notion that the universe will cease to exist about the same time our Sun will burn out, so either way, humans won't be witnessing life discovered in tens of billions of years from either the Earth, the solar system, the galaxy or the universe. It is my opinion this species will have blown the coup a long time before that. All things being equal, we will have gone extinct if the last millennium is anything to go by.

            http://arxiv.org/abs/1009.4698v1

            Creation of life by what means Peter? And what purpose does it clearly indicate? And to who does it clearly indicate this purpose to?

          • Peter

            The vast bulk of earth's history is one of simple life, therefore planets with simple life will be far more common than those with complex life. It is therefore far more likely we will discover simple life on planets through our telescopes although that could signal sentient life in the future.

            We don't need to be around to witness sentient life in the billions of years to come, but just to recognise the signs that it will occur. And in recognising those signs we discover the overall plan of the universe which is to create sentient life, irrespective of whether we, as one mere example of it, are around to witness its every occurrence.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Which all happened by natural means allowed by
            your God the Creator who never did any of the works himself but allowed the blueprint to self create.

            And you base all this on what? Because you state it is self evident.

            I've already not followed my own advice to others in avoiding getting all GBS with you. You are not Rick Delano in disguise are you?

            I have nothing more to add, you take it easy now, ya here?

          • Ignorant Amos

            That sounds a tad heretical.

      • George

        "If Catholic teaching about the existence of God is not falsifiable, it
        becomes a far more plausible explanation than Protestant creationism
        which is"

        wait, do you think non-falsifiability is a good thing?

        • Peter

          Only when compared with the evident falsifiability of creationist belief.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        The parts of Protestant creationism which are falsifiable are exactly the same parts of Catholic teaching that are falsifiable. What difference do you see?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Don't waste anymore time on this....you have been advised my friend. Peter makes stuff up.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I simply am trying to fathom how Peter thinks. The particular details are not important to me - I long ago realized that he does not support his claims. But how does that thought process work?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Gish Gallop.,.or the sound of ones own arguments to the exclusion of all else.

            Catholics are NOT creationists of any creed....good set the "idea" of a universe in motion and physics did the heavy lifting. It is all about his particular gods blueprint, but definitely no creation, other words all bets HAVE to be off.

            Anyway, good luck....I've been there.

          • Peter

            Since the raison d'etre of atheism is to counter creationism, I can understand the need of atheists to reduce all arguments for God to creationist arguments, irrespective of whether they are or not.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Atheism has no more of a position about creationism than it does about any other religious position. Atheism is just lack if belief in god.

            You're welcome to engage in straw men, but don't expect anyone to take you seriously.

          • Peter

            Atheism is indeed a lack of belief, including a lack of belief that the universe has a purpose despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Such lack of belief is tantamount to burying one's head in the sand.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The big problem you have there Peter is that you are plain and simply wrong. You keep banging the same drum over and over no matter who points out your erroneous assertions.

            The CCC is riddled with permutations of the words creation, creator, created... God the Creator...this is where you can't avoid being a creationist, granted, not a young earth creationist, but a creationist just the same.

            Catholics are at liberty to believe that creation took a few days or a much longer period, according to how they see the evidence, and subject to any future judgment of the Church (Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical Humani Generis 36–37). They need not be hostile to modern cosmology. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "[M]any scientific studies . . . have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life forms, and the appearance of man. These studies invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator" (CCC 283). Still, science has its limits (CCC 284, 2293–4).

            You might also wish to see how the Catholic Encyclopaedia defines creationism.

          • Peter

            Of course Catholics are at liberty to believe in creationism, but they must be careful not to bring ridicule to the Church as St Augustine warned 1600 years ago in his "Literal Meaning of Genesis":

            “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.
            Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn............
            Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion."

          • Peter

            It's a non-creationist thought process, something as an atheist you are not familiar with since you were reared on anti-creationist arguments.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, I wasn't raised on anti-creationist arguments. Really, Peter, if would stop making up things about people and at least TRY to understand what atheists actually think, we might have a pleasant conversation. But none of the things you are saying about atheists are true.

        • Peter

          Catholic teaching does not hold creationism as a matter of doctrine.

          • Ignorant Amos

            And yet there it is, starting at CCC279...you can dress it up in all the science jargon you like, but at the bottom, Catholics believe that God created the universe...that is creationism.

          • Peter

            Just as God created the human body by allowing it to be created by natural means, as well as the earth itself, so too would he have created the universe by allowing it to create itself naturally.

            Creationism, on the other hand, is a supernatural intervention to conjure into existence either the human body with all its functions, a planet ready-made for life, or a universe with a finely-tuned low entropy.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Just as God created the human body by allowing it to be created by natural means, as well as the earth itself, so too would he have created the universe by allowing it to create itself naturally

            How do you know? How could anyone possibly tell the difference?

            All this create and created talk sure sounds like creationism to me Peter?

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        And I would certainly arguable that god is NOT knowable through her works - otherwise we wouldn't have these discussions. :-)

        • Peter

          The Church claims that God is knowable with certainty though is works. What is important here is that that certainty increases the more we learn and understand about his works.

      • You're terribly dishonest. Atheists reject all gods, including the one you claim specific to Catholocism. In fact, that one is even more absurd than many others, and is more easily rejected.

    • Twisted - Do you consider yourself an atheist? If so this is a surprising admission nestled in a protestation - more of an agnostic position, no?

  • D. Havas

    But then she met Joe. Joe was brilliant. He had multiple degrees from Ivy League institutions and was rapidly climbing the corporate ladder. Yet, strangely, he identified as a Christian.

    I'm glad there's another happy couple in the world. I will say that I think a lot of people get into religion as a result of the mating game.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      This is true at both a pedestrian level and also at a very profound level. The longing for completeness that motivates us in the mating game is a definitive and inextricable component of the more holistic longing for completeness that pulls us into the religious dimension. I don't think they are meant to be separable.

      • D. Havas

        I don't necessarily disagree. I do think the drive to reproduce can me it hard to think clearly, though.

  • cminca

    A bit off topic, but---

    "In Augustine's Confessions, the first Western autobiography ever written, we discover the probing journey of a brilliant man, traveling through a maze of philosophies before emerging into the light of Christianity."

    Tell me--would you call Augustine "brilliant" and find his "Confessions" probing if he didn't end up with Christianity?

    • "Tell me--would you call Augustine "brilliant" and find his "Confessions" probing if he didn't end up with Christianity?"

      I'm not sure why this matters, but absolutely. You don't have to be Christian to recognize Augustine's brilliance, the magnificence of his prose, or the novelty of his project.

      I don't know if you saw it, but in my interview here with atheist philosopher Dr. Michael Ruse, he claimed Augustine as his favorite theologian.

      I have many non-Christian friends who consider his "Confessions" to be one of the premier literary works in the Western tradition.

      • cminca

        Because I frequently see a pattern of circular logic.

        A Catholic point of view is based on a history of the church heavily influenced by--say--Augustine. In discussion about a Catholic position one of the debaters supposedly "proves" his point of view by quoting Augustine.

        My point is that Augustine can't be the source of the philosophical position and the proof of that position's validity. And yet that seems to happen frequently--especially with Aquinas.

        But mostly I asked out of simple curiosity.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Indeed. I like Lord of the Rings over Harry Potter, but that is just me....others are into Game of Thrones, which I also enjoy. Of course before all such nonsense we had Robin Hood and King Arthur....anyone for the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe...C.S. Lewis, a fellow Belfast man of course, but that doesn't make him a bad person.

    • jessej

      Hi cminca. Just came across your comment. I understand your suspension of Christians looking to Christian writers for affirmation but it is common for us to look and take seriously every great mind.

      Marcus Aurelius persecuted the early church and I've never met a fellow traveler who dismissed his Meditations. In fact he is brilliant.

      In think Nietzsche was brilliant (I confess he's the only athiest I've ever understood so I might be biased) and I never shun his works when they come to my attention. His honesty makes his mind understandable to me.

      Peace be to you.

  • litesp33d

    Fulwiler is following the tradition of the charlatans of religion and just being true to form. She may have been atheist, she may still be atheist. But what sells best to the religious market. Someone who says I am an atheist and you are all wrong. Or someone who says I was an atheist but through God and the Bible I found religion and I was wrong to have been an atheist. Oh and here is my story $22.99 that proves my journey back to faith and the truth. So good luck to her as just someone else ripping off the gullible.

  • What a joke. This tale spun by Jennifer and the author of this article is exactly the type of propaganda we'd expect from people trying to peddle Christianity. No atheist who actually understands the burden of proof, history, philosophy, science, and the contradictions and inconsistencies of the Bible would ever become a Christian. Either Jennifer was never an atheist and is simply lying, or she doesn't comprehend any of what she claimed to know.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1niSH8u8v6g