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Pope Francis on Atheism

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Pope Francis

Before he was elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio spent fourteen years as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. During that time he built a strong friendship with Abraham Skorka, an Argentinian rabbi and biophysicist. Together they promoted interreligious dialogue on faith and reason, seeking to build bridges among Catholicism, Judaism, and the world at large.

Last month, Image Books released the English translation of On Heaven and Earth, originally published in Argentina in 2010. The book contains several conversations between both men where they discuss various theological and worldly issues, including God, fundamentalism, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and globalization. From these personal and accessible talks comes a first-hand view of the man who would become pope to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world in March 2013. In the excerpt below, the two men share their thoughts on modern atheism and agnosticism.


Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis):

When I speak with atheists, I will sometimes discuss social concerns, but I do not propose the problem of God as a starting point, except in the case that they propose it to me. If this occurs, I tell them why I believe. But that which is human is so rich to share and to work at that very easily we can mutually complement our richness. As I am a believer, I know that these riches are a gift from God. I also know that the other person, the atheist, does not know that. I do not approach the relationship in order to proselytize, or convert the atheist; I respect him and I show myself as I am. Where there is knowledge, there begins to appear esteem, affection, and friendship. I do not have any type of reluctance, nor would I say that his life is condemned, because I am convinced that I do not have the right to make a judgment about the honesty of that person; even less, if he shows me those human virtues that exalt others and do me good.

At any rate, I know more agnostic people than atheists; the first are more uncertain, the second are more convinced. We have to be coherent with the message that we receive from the Bible: every man is the image of God, whether he is a believer or not. For that reason alone everyone has a series of virtues, qualities, and a greatness of his own. If he has some vileness, as I do, we can share that in order to mutually help one another and overcome it.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka:

I agree with what you have said; the first step is respecting your fellow man. But I would add one more point of view. When a person says, “I am an atheist,” I believe he or she is taking an arrogant position. He who doubts has a more nuanced position. An agnostic thinks that he or she has not yet found the answer, but an atheist is 100 percent convinced that G-d does not exist. It is the same arrogance that leads some to assert that G-d definitely exists, just like the chair I am sitting on.

On Heaven and EarthReligious people are believers, but we do not know for certain that He exists. We can perceive Him in an extremely profound sense, but we never see Him. We receive subtle replies from Him. According to the Torah, Moses was the only person to have spoken directly, face to face, with G-d. As for everyone else—Jacob, Isaac, etc.—the presence of G-d appeared to them in dreams or by some messenger. Even though I personally believe that G-d exists, it is arrogant to say that He exists as if it were just another certainty in life. I would not casually affirm His existence because I need to live the same humility that I demand of the atheist. The right thing to do would be to point out—as Maimonides did in his thirteen principals of faith—that “I believe with complete faith that G-d is the creator.”

Following Maimonides’ line of thought, we can say what G-d is not, but we can never be sure of what G-d is. We can talk about His qualities and attributes, but in no way can we describe His form. I would remind the atheist that the perfection of the natural world is sending us a message. We can gain an understanding of how it works, but not its essence.

Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis):

The spiritual experience of encounter with God is not controllable. One feels that God is there, one has the certainty, but he cannot control God. We are made to subdue nature; that is what God commands. We cannot, however, subdue our creator. As a result, in the experience of God there is always an unanswered question, an opportunity to be submerged in faith.

Rabbi, you said one thing, which in part, is certain: we can say what God is not, we can speak of His attributes, but we cannot say what He is. That apophatic1 dimension, which reveals how I speak about God, is critical to our theology. The English mystics speak a lot about this theme. There is a book by one of them, from the thirteenth century, The Cloud of Unknowing, that attempts again and again to describe God and always finishes pointing to what He is not. The mission of theology is to reflect and explain religious facts, and among them, God.

I would also classify as arrogant those theologies that not only attempted to define with certainty and exactness God’s attributes, but also had the pretense of saying who He was. The book of Job is a continuous discussion about the definition of God. There are four wise men that elaborate this theological search and everything ends with Job’s expression: “By hearsay I had heard of you, but now my eye has seen you.” (Job 42:5) Job’s final image of God is different from his vision of God in the beginning. The intention of this story is that the notion that the four theologians have is not true, because God always is being sought and found. We are presented with this paradox: we seek Him to find Him and because we find Him, we seek Him. It is a very Augustinian game.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka:

I believe with complete faith that G-d exists. As opposed to the atheist who is sure that He does not exist and does not entertain any doubts, I implicitly reveal a margin of uncertainty by using the word “faith.” At a minimum, I have to acknowledge what Sigmund Freud wrote: that we need the idea of G-d to temper our existential angst. Nevertheless, after having done an in-depth analysis of positions that negate the existence of G-d, I still believe. When my work was done, I still felt G-d’s presence. I retain a certain amount of doubt in any case since this is an existential problem and not a mathematical theory, although there is some room for doubt in mathematical theories as well.

That said, when we think about G-d we have to do so with special terminology. Everyday logic does not apply. Maimonides put forth that idea long ago. Agnostics will continue to create their famous paradoxes. For example, if G-d is omnipotent, surely He could create a rock that He Himself could not lift; but if He created such a rock, that would mean He is not omnipotent. G-d is above and beyond any logic and its paradoxes. Maimonides explains that He knows everything in its complete form. We have only limited knowledge. if we had the same understanding that G-d has, we would be Gods ourselves.
Excerpted from On Heaven and Earth by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka. Copyright © 2013 by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka. Excerpted by permission of Image, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
(Image credit: The Telegraph)


  1. Apophatic is a term that refers to an intellectual approach to God through what is known as “negative theology.” Through this way, one attempts to describe god by what He is not, that is, what may not be said about His perfect goodness (“God is unknowable”). It stands in contrast with cataphatic or “positive” theology.
Pope Francis

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Pope Francis is the Bishop of Rome, elected on March 13, 2013. As such, he is the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church, the head of the worldwide Catholic Church, and sovereign of the Vatican City State. Follow Pope Francis's writings and teachings at Vatican.va or connect through Twitter at @Pontifex.

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  • Some interesting perspectives. I have to say though, as an atheist, I do not state that I am 100% convinced that there is no god. I just don't believe in any of those that have been proposed by men over the short amount of time we've existed in the universe. Any intellectually honest person has to allow for the fact that we can't entirely disprove a notion, especially one so diversified and with differing global definitions as that of god(s). If there is a god, and peer-reviewable, experimentally repeatable evidence is found, then I'll entertain the notion based on the strength of the evidence. Until then, I'm okay with saying there isn't, just as these men are okay with saying there is, based on their interpretation of the world.

    • Derek, thanks for your kind and thoughtful comment. A few things in response:

      1. Your humble decision to identify as an agnostic, rather than an atheist, is admirable. I think it's a more honest position than atheism.

      2. You say, you're not convinced there is *no* god, but you "just don't believe in any of those that have been proposed by men" so far. Would you at least agree that there is a transcendent Creator of the cosmos?

      3. To prove God's existence you demand "peer-reviewable, experimentally repeatable evidence." Yet this betrays your misunderstanding of what Catholics mean when we say "God". Precisely because God is not within this universe, and is thus immaterial, you cannot find empirical proof. That would be like demanding empirical proof for love.

      I'm also not sure what you mean by "peer-reviewable." Do you mean defenses for God's existence that have been vetted and published in peer-reviewed journals? If so, these philosophical arguments exist and are many. See this article for several of them:


      • 1. I'm certainly not an agnostic (I don't think the question of god's existence is unanswerable), but my atheism has a degree of agnosticism to it, as I do not believe in any kind of creator behind the universe though I remain open to the fact that there is much in the universe which we do not know.

        2. Answered above.

        3. When I say peer-reviewable, I mean outside of revelation or personal experience; something that can be tangibly examined and found to be of no other explanation than divine. Occam's razor and David Hume's arguments (that when evaluating two explanations for a miracle that it is most prudent go with the least miraculous explanation based on the consistency of nature) makes this a difficult task; you could investigate a million reports of miraculous occurrences only to find none of them have inexplicable origins, and still not have conclusive evidence for the divine. But if the question is so important and the answer has such important repercussions for how we view ourselves and our universe, I'd rather be skeptical and not take things on faith and just live a good life regardless. Unfortunately, if you separate god(s) from logical enquiry, then it is difficult to even argue FOR the existence of it/them, because you've already removed the hypothesis from the realm of evidence.

        "To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise... without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams and phantasms. I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence."
        — Thomas Jefferson

        I have to say though, the love comparison is a weak one (although it is commonly used, even by Carl Sagan in his book Contact), because I can run brain scans and test neurotransmitter levels in a person and show that love DOES exist as a result of chemical and electrical interactions in the brain. That it is a physical process grounded in reality doesn't demystify it; I'm awed by the fact that something like love could evolve and give me the chance to experience it. That doesn't mean though, that I want to jump to a divine argument for its source.

        • "...though I remain open to the fact that there is much in the universe which we do not know." This is an admirable attitude. Thanks for being here! : )

          I'm curious what you would think about someone levying similar but reverse skepticisms toward scientific materialism? For instance, while scientific materialists will claim that for anything apparently "immaterial" they can point to a material explanation (thus seeming to eliminate the need for immaterial explanations), what about idealists, eastern mystics, or die-hard Matrix movie fans who would say that for anything apparently "material" they can point to a mental/spiritual/immaterial explanation?

          I am not any of those three types of people (lol) but in my humble opinion, assuming scientific materialism as the default is potentially as dogmatic as anything else - it must defend itself as well.

          (Thanks for the great conversation, all!)

          • The brain in a jar scenario (Matrix) is a problem for everyone. Even if you met God one day, he would have the same problem. There is no way to know that you aren't a computer simulation.
            Everyone has the same problem, but it is not a big problem.
            We simply assume that the world is real and proceed from there. If you assume that the world is not real, there is no point in continuing to think at all.
            It is a very practical reason why we must all make that assumption and so it is not irrational or dogmatic in any way.

        • 1. I'm sensing we're defining terms in different ways, so let me just ask this: does God exist? The only three possibilities are yes, no, or I don't know.

          2. Your last sentence exposes the fundamental problem with your proposal: "Unfortunately, if you separate god(s) from logical enquiry, then it is difficult to even argue FOR the existence of it/them, because you've already removed the hypothesis from the realm of evidence." What you (and Hume) propose is to begin with the assumption that God is extremely (and perhaps infinitely) unlikely to exist. But this begs the question since it assumes the very thing you're trying to prove: whether God exists.

          3. The Jefferson quote is full of logical misteps. For example, he argues that "To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul." This is only true if materialism is true (i.e. if only material realities are real.) If that was the case, then if something had no physical form then Jefferson would be right, it would be nothing.

          But immaterial entities exist all around us. Consider, for instance, love. It is immaterial yet certainly exists--it is certainly more than "nothing." Your last paragraph aiming to explain how love manifests itself biologically. But that doesn't tell us *what* it is or *where* it comes from (i.e. what's its original cause), just how we experience it.

          If you prefer other examples of non-nothing immaterial entities, consider your will. Your will definitely exists since you have the ability to will some things and not others. Yet this will, because it is *something*, cannot also be *nothing*.

          3. A little earlier you define "peer-reviewable" as "outside of revelation or personal experience; something that can be tangibly examined and found to be of no other explanation than divine." Besides this being a wildly different definition of "peer reviewable" than most scientists use, I see several problems. I'll point out two:

          1. Tangibly examined - Here you make the same mistake as earlier, assuming that God is a tangible being that be measured. Yet this is not what Catholics believe when we say "God." Thus your criteria for evidence implicit excludes the possibility of God from the beginning. It's another example of begging the question--assuming what's being discussed.

          2. No other explanation - How could you make this determination? The only way would be to exhaust all known natural explanations. But *even then*, couldn't you say, by this rubric, that perhaps there are more natural explanations we just don't know about? In that case you face the same problem as the "tangible" requirement: you rig your own criteria in a way that God can never be proved, even if he exists.

          Finally, I encourage you to read the article here titled "20 Arguments for the Existence for God" and wrestle with the philosophical and scientific evidence. You may be surprised at what you find.


          • SDM


            The default assumption with any question--in absence of evidence--is "no". If there is no evidence for something, then there is no reason to believe it. If there is no evidence of any sort of god, then there is no reason to believe in it. If there can't be any evidence of a god then there is no reason to believe in it...whether it exists or not.

            Love is material: It is intense emotion. Emotions are functions of the brain, nothing magical or mystical involved. The same goes for the "will" (a word you did not define... conveniently). There are no "immaterial beings" floating around, no minds that exist without brains. If you have any evidence for such, by all means present it. I won't hold my breath, though.

          • SDM - You say there are "no minds that exist without brains." Are you conceding that mental activity is a distinct, non-physical phenomenon, even if its functioning is tied with the hardware of the brain? Or should I assume that you advocate a strict materialistic view of the person, and that this was a slip of the tongue? If you do, I would point you to the work of Thomas Nagel and David Chalmers - both atheists - who argue very convincingly that subjective conscious experiences ("qualia") are simply not reducible to material interactions.

          • HI SDM:

            I would have to disagree that our response, by default, MUST always be "NO" in the absence of evidence. In fact, even many scientific projects start with the assumption of "YES", and then later see if their prediction is confirmed by the evidence.

            It is, for example, possible to say "YES" to God in our lives -- and then live by that idea. Now, it WOULD be reasonable to abandon an idea if it could be demonstrated with certainty in overwhelming evidence that it is in fact false!
            One would never forward in life if we always started with "NO". See Michael Polanyi on the idea of tacit knowledge: http://infed.org/mobi/michael-polanyi-and-tacit-knowledge/

          • Mikel Syn

            1. Does god exist? This is an important question, but never 100% verifiable, just as if you replace "god" with anything (maybe except yourself) An atheist stand is not a question of fact, but a question of belief. I do not believe a god exists, but I'm agnostic about his existence. This is the most common stand of atheism and can safely be used sweepingly. Gnosticism runs on a separate scale from belief: knowledge. It measures how much one knows (or on a broader scale, how much one thinks one knows). I can make a belief statement without knowing anything about it, or I can make no stand while knowing everything about it.

            2. "materialists" as you seem to like to call them is based upon a single belief: in that reality is predictable. I'm sure you believe that too, or you won't trust that your computer does exist, or that you can sit on a chair. From this, the entire scientific method is built, and so is logic. The problem with accepting that there is something that exists that does not conform to the scientific method (aka, completely unverifiable), and is outside logic (aka completely unpredictable), is that on one hand, you accept that there exists something that can neither be predicted/understood, nor detected (meaning no interference with the universe at all), and then acting as if your actions can affect its interference on the universe. You do all these while still believing that nothing else is subjected to such properties: outside science, and outside logic. This is known as cognitive dissonance.

        • Dcn Harbey Santiago

          " I can run brain scans and test neurotransmitter levels in a person and
          show that love DOES exist as a result of chemical and electrical
          interactions in the brain." I have encountered this argument and done some research about it. The most you can prove is that the brain exhibits physiological reactions to stimuli(i.e. production of Oxytocin neurotransmitter) you can not prove that the production of these IS the cause of love.

          At the objective level I rater think that the love I feel for my children originates from that part of me which is transcendent and not from the Burritos I had for dinner last night. (But that is just me :-)

          • Longshanks

            It is an odd thought, isn't it?

            But how many days does one go without burritos, or food of any kind, before one's "feelings" towards fellow beings begin to change?

            I know I'm cranky before my first cup of coffee.

        • I wrote a post a while back on this because it comes up so often.


          physics drives chemistry drives organic chemistry drives biology drives brain drives your mind. It is a fallacy to jump from that very strong conclusion of modern science to 'well, if we're just chemicals then nothing matters'. To do so is to commit a category error because the complex behaviors of things have properties like 'love' that the underlying components do not.

          A simple cellular automata running 'rule 30' http://mathworld.wolfram.com/CellularAutomaton.html can be setup to be a completely universal computer that can emulate any other computational system. No part of the system understands this nor is any part, in itself, a universal computer - it is the collective action of the whole that takes on the new property of 'universal computation'.

          And yet it can play a darn good game of chess, even though it's just a collection of little state machines flipping on and off.

          So saying you don't think love comes from mere physics/biology is committing the same category error. You won't find 'love' in any physical equation but in the collective action of the whole.

          • Great explanation Dark Star! Hear Hear! This is a mistake that gets made with a number of concepts. When one applies the correct levels of analysis there is no real issue at all. All networked systems exhibit emergent properties due to the interactions of the individual components and the collective effects that these interactions cause. People in Society and the organs of the human body are perfect examples of networked systems in which the combined interaction of components causes novel properties to emerge at the collective level, such as societies and people.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            "A simple cellular automata running 'rule 30'http://mathworld.wolfram.com/C... can be setup to be a completely universal computer that can emulate any other computational system. No part of the system understands this nor is any part, in itself, a universal computer - it is the collective action of the whole that takes on the new property of 'universal computation'.

            And yet it can play a darn good game of chess, even though it's just a collection of little state machines flipping on and off."

            Dark Star, where did you hear these things?

            I haven't done much work with cellular automata, but I am a mathematician, and both these claims seem patently false to me. I did a quick literature search and I can't find anything that comes close to supporting what you've said. I'm not even sure what you mean by the statement, "a completely universal computer that can emulate any other computational system."

          • Dark Star

            Sorry, I should have said 'rule 110'. Here is the published proof on Rule 110 http://www.complex-systems.com/pdf/15-1-1.pdf

            But the argument doesn't depend on the arbitrary mapping of some integer to the CA ruleset. The point is, numerous of even the most trivial CA's fit the bill, here are some other examples with proofs: http://blog.wolfram.com/2007/10/24/the-prize-is-won-the-simplest-universal-turing-machine-is-proved/

            And you should check out:

            Qian, L., Soloveichik, D., Winfree, E., “Efficient Turing-universal computation with DNA
            polymers”, Proceedings of DNA Computing and Molecular Programming 16, Lecture Notes in
            Computer Science 6518: 123-140 (2011)

          • Geoffrey Miller

            Oh, okay. I think I understand where you're getting tripped up.

            In mathematics, a Turing machine is a very specific kind of thing. That cellular automata are universal means that you can always find a cellular automata that functions equivalently to any given Turing machine. You shouldn't confuse Turing machines with Turing tests and the like, and you must remember that they are abstract mathematical concepts, not practical computing devices. For instance, Turing machines have unbounded storage space.

            Turing machines are useful for studying and defining algorithms, but they aren't very useful for examining non-algorithmic things. Or for looking at non-computable sequences, which roughly translates in laymen's terms to "pretty much everything out there." They are not intended to model computers, but only certain forms of computation itself.

            I don't know about using automata in programming chess games. There is a configuration with a "chess" name...maybe that's what you're thinking about?

          • Andrew G.

            I think you're missing the point, which is that an arbitrarily large set of Rule 110 cells or Life cells or any other universal cellular automaton has the property of being a universal computer, but that no subset of it has this property. (This is a good way to demonstrate the fallacy of composition.)

            A real computer is strictly less powerful than a Turing machine or other universal automaton because it has bounded memory; furthermore, a function which computes the result of executing one instruction on some given real computer is a computable function and therefore any real computer can be emulated by any universal one. (Modulo the problem of handling I/O.) If a real computer can play chess, which is clearly the case, then a Rule 110 network can, too.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            Okay, right. I follow you now. But is that what Dark Star was saying?

          • Andrew G.

            Given that he said it two months ago, I guess we'll just have to see if he pays attention to his notifications.

          • Geoffrey Miller

            Oh darn it. I did not notice the timestamp. That's rather disappointing.

          • Dark Star

            I don't, you got lucky or unlucky depending on your perspective :).

          • Dark Star

            Yes, in the CA example, computational behaviors emerge from the extremely simple CA rules (not from all CA's but specific patterns engender computation)... just as human behaviors emerge from the relatively complex (but computational) behaviors of neurons (and they in turn operate based on their computational chemistry).

            BTW: I've been programming since 1979, I have a fairly decent understanding of computational paradigms from silicone to falling dominoes (yes, falling dominoes can also perform computations http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5d1R0zr91Ao )

            A Turing-Machine (simulation) implemented inside the 'Game of Life' CA rules -- you can download software to run this on your computer also (you'll have to Google for it, I don't have time at the moment):

            Proof that Rule 110 is Universal: http://www.complex-systems.com/pdf/15-1-1.pdf

            Lots of other simple CA's are also proven: http://blog.wolfram.com/2007/10/24/the-prize-is-won-the-simplest-universal-turing-machine-is-proved/

          • Dark Star

            Correct... and if you think Windows is slow try waiting for a true Turing-Machine to give you an answer to an infinite problem.

            Fortunately, finite subsets are reasonably passable for the kinds of finite challenges we put them up to today, until some newbie types:
            10 Print "Hello"
            20 Goto 10

        • Joseph R.


          Given the experiment you described to show that love exists, there are at least two related problems with this experiment: 1) it requires some external stimulation, so it presupposes the existence of that which it is determined to prove; 2) however its data is distributed, at best one has only demonstrated that the brains electro-chemical "love" interactions were evident in a particular region of the brain. So the experiment hasn't proven love exists. It has only shown that localized chemical/electrical phenomena and neurotransmitter levels in a subject's brain occur when subject has been externally stimulated by something associated with love, i.e. asking the subject to think about love, or showing subject someone that it loves. Because the experiment is flawed, Brandon's love comparison is not weakened.

      • Mark Hunter

        I can give evidence where I might start to or even accept the existance of a God or Gods. Can you give any situation where you would change from belief to non belief?

        • Sure, if all the arguments and evidence *for* God's existence I've encountered were proven to be fallacious or fabricated, and if my own personal experience and relationship with God was shown to be definitively delusional, then I'd denounce my belief in God.

          I'm curious though: what evidence would you require *to* believe in God?

          • Mark Hunter

            Mimicing JBS Haldane, finding a fossilized rabbit in the Precambrian would make me seriously doubt evolution.

            Finding a clinical double blind study (like the 3 million dollar Templeton one that just finished) that shows the efficacy of prayer. (Note the Columbia study doesn't count, the main researcher is in jail for fraud).

            Seeing a uniformity of beliefs in religious adherents similar to what one sees in the science community over the basics of the knowledge base instead of thousands of sincerely held but greatly different beliefs.

            What is your evidence for God?

          • There is plenty of philosophical proof for God. Please see this article:


            For scientific evidence, please read:

            "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy" by Robert Spitzer

            Amazon --> http://bvogt.us/16UHpdH

          • Mark Hunter

            I asked what is your evidence for God. After all your God has "hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." (Matthew 11:25). Very few children, let alone educated adults can understand Aquinas' five proofs for the existence of God.

            And I'v read parts of Spitzer and his "new proofs" are rehashes of old proofs dressed up in modern physics and pointing to where physics doesn't have answers. Can only assume that when physics finds answers to the gaps he points out, he, and other believers will, fold up their tents and say well I guess I don't need to believe in God?

          • you start with philosophy to develop theory and then you look for the evidence to check does your theory hold up against the real world. How can you get proof FROM philosophy?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Doubting evolution would certainly make me doubt God- evolution HAS to be true if God is true, it is His primary engineering method.

            And I do see a uniformity of beliefs, once I translate the names, so thank you.

          • Iris

            Your very statement is evidence to me. "Seeing a uniformity of beliefs in religious adherents similar to what one sees in the science community over the basics of the knowledge base instead of thousands of sincerely held but greatly different beliefs."

            Oh, how this must wound the Lord. It is why He prayed that we 'be one'. "That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." John 17:21

            Looking to the beliefs/actions of others for reasons to believe in God reminds me of C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. One of the 'tricks' of the demon is to make the target look at all the other 'believers' and see how flawed they (we) are, so that the target will doubt he/she needs or wants to be part of a group that would be so pathetic. To me, your very statement is yet another tiny piece of evidence of the Truth in Scripture and thus in God.

            Likewise, the warnings given by St. Paul in his letter to the Romans are evidence. Everything he wrote is happening to us now. We are Romans 1. I believe if we do not turn from our path, if it isn't already too late, we will be doomed, just
            as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah he wrote about were. I see the results in our world today of rejecting the warnings in Scripture as evidence.

            I get the impression this is a blog for scientist types and I am certainly not one of those, but I do find some evidence of a scientific nature. Look up 'Comparative Study of the Sudarium of Oviedo and the Shroud of Turin' and also
            the 'Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano'. The Comparative Study is a bit dry, as it is a scientific paper, but it should be interesting to some here if they are truly searching for truth. One of the main arguments against the Shroud of Turin's authenticity, the erroneous carbon dating, is refuted by the links to the Sudarium, which has been documented since long before the time suggested by the carbon dating. However, the most interesting bit, and strongest evidence for the fact that Jesus is God, and His resurrection caused the image in the Shroud, is the blood type found in all
            three of these relics. All are type AB, and they could not be hoaxes, since they have all been around far longer than the ability to type blood. I suppose it could be a fantastic coincidence, but combined with the other miraculous
            features of the Shroud and the Eucharistic Miracle, I find it impossible to accept it is.

            Jesus is God; he suffered death and rose again (causing the inexplicable image on the Shroud), saving us from death by shedding His precious type AB blood for us. Deo Gratias!

            My faith does not depend on these things, but it is edified by them. Jesus did not condemn Thomas to unbelief. I think that He offers miracles from time to time, for the doubters along the way.

            I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your heart to Him, on this Pentecost Sunday.

      • SDM

        "God is not within this universe, and is thus immaterial, you cannot find empirical proof."

        How very, very convenient. The usual dodge: Redfine the Big Guy to the point where he "just happens" to be indefinable. Until, of course, it comes to deciding that it has a will as humans understand it, with likes and dislikes and opinions on human politics and sexuality...and of course insist that everyone else ought to obey or else get smacked around by Big Daddy after death...

        Oh, wait...Catholic dogma is so much more sophisticated than that...

        No, not really.

        • mephis

          I don't think this is about redefining God. God *cannot* be a part of this
          universe in the same way that we are if he's the God that catholics
          believe in, e.g. creator of all. A painter is not part of his painting,
          nor an author of his novel. If God created everything, including time
          and space, he could not be a "slave" to it. That is, it would make zero
          sense if he was limited or defined by things like physical laws: he
          *created* them, so logically came "before" them. To continue the painter
          analogy: a painter is not restricted to the two dimensions of his

          Any "god" that could be empirically proven would not be
          what catholics understand by "God" - an empirically proven "god" would
          just be some sort of alien, a creation and not the ultimate creator.

          • mephis

            Sorry about the weird line breaks, no idea how that happened :(

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            @mephis: Copying & Pasting from MSword for the sake of the auto-spell always does it to me. You should consider using Firefox as a browser, it provides an auto-spelling plugin. But enough with the technobable. Back to the unmovable mover or was it the first cause?...Hmmm :-)

          • Joycey

            I dislike Firefox. Chrome is the best for now.

        • No, it's not a "convenient dodge" -- I think it's a vital definition of who/what God is. He's not merely one being among many (to which questions of empirical proof apply -- like a floating teapot or flying spaghetti monster), but rather -- He is the ground of being itself. His existence is in himself -- not dependent on anything else. For some people - it is the "physical laws" of the universe which exist in themselves, independent of anything else.

          Conceptually, the idea of a self-existent, un-caused "entity" is not controversial in itself. What IS more controversial is whether this "entity" is a personal being, with powers of agency, intentions, purpose, etc.

      • W. J. G.

        This is simply demonstrating a lack of understanding of basic definitions.
        Agnosticism is a position on knowledge, not on belief. An agnostic claims not to have knowledge, but this says nothing about what they believe.
        One can be an agnostic theist - they can believe in god but recognize they have no way to prove it.
        One can be an agnostic atheist - they can disbelieve claims of gods but not claim knowledge that no gods exist.
        One can be a gnostic theist - claim belief in god, and that they know god exists.
        One can be a gnostic atheist - claim belief in no gods, and that they know no gods exist.

        Of the four positions, the gnostic positions are just outright intellectually dishonest, both on the theistic and atheistic side. Without the ability to provide credible evidence for a claim, one cannot have knowledge that claim is correct.

        • melo8

          It's not intellectually dishonest to be a gnostic atheist.

          What does it mean to say you know something? It doesn't mean you are absolutely 100% certain!

          Gravity could reverse tomorrow. However the chance is less than 1% because we've never witnessed it or seen any evidence that would make us think it has happened or will happen. I'm 99+% sure gravity will not reverse tomorrow.

          Then if someone asks me, Will gravity reverse tomorrow? My reply will be No, I know it won't. My reply would not be, No, but I'm not sure.

          When you stop at a Stop Sign, are you 100% sure your brakes will actually stop? Of course not, yet you will say you know your brakes are going to work and stop the car.

          • W. J. G.

            It is intellectually dishonest to be a gnostic atheist. There is no way to know that no gods exist, because there's currently no way to test for any gods' existence.
            You can disprove some god claims, and many god claims have been disproven. It is not provable that there is no god.

            You're conflating unrelated ideas.

            Gravity's sudden reversal is not the same as the claim that no gods exist. There is evidence to demonstrate that it is highly likely gravity will maintain the same function that it always has; a long history of observing gravity. There is not evidence to say that no god exists. The same with brakes (although it's less certain that brakes will work than that gravity will not reverse)

            You can state relative certainty about gravity because there are ways to test for the likelihood of gravity. There are no ways to test for the likelihood of no gods.

            What can be said is that the universe, from what we understand, works just fine without needing to invoke a god, and that it's logical to believe that no gods exist.

            It is not honest to say that you know, for a fact, that no gods exist.

      • melo8

        1. You don't understand the difference between agnostic and atheist. Agnostic and atheist do not conflict with each other. Agnostic means you do not know. It says nothing about belief in god. Atheists say they do not believe in god.

        There are 4 things someone can be:

        Agnostic Atheist, Agnostic Theist
        Gnostic Atheist, Gnostic Theist

        Gnosticism does not require 100% certainty. Almost nothing is 100% certain that isn't defined so.

        I'm only 99.999% sure God does not exist. I acknowledge a chance :P

        2. You're talking about being a Deist vs a Theist. An Atheist of any sort does not believe in god including a transcendent creator.

        3. Right, you need faith to believe in things that you have no proof for. You simply extrapolate god from things like love or nature without any evidence to support it.

        • You are right about gnositc and agnostic but wrong about atheism. Atheism is a rejection of theism not deism. Top tip, the dictionary is merely a reference to how words are generally used not what they actually mean, especially logically.

          If atheist meant 'does not believe in god' then theism would mean 'god'. But it doesn't, theism is a dogma based upon a all powerful all knowing all present god that can answer prayers etc. Deism is a description of a god that is not all powerful all knowing and all present and merely 'started things off'.

      • Valkr

        Did you really just assert, on a site allegedly committed to real dialogue between Catholics and atheists, that you find atheism dishonest (as compared to agnosticism)? What a really lovely and revealing statement.

        Why, in the face of this attitude, would any thoroughgoing atheist choose to engage you?

        • honest dialogue Then why was my concise comment moderated within 8 minutes of posting?

          Seems religious apologists do not like logic and they HATE linguistics.

      • Michael Murray

        Out of interest what is your definition of "atheist" Brandon? Mine, and many others, is that an atheist is a person who holds no beliefs in gods. How could that be a dishonest position when it isn't even a position but a statement just about the beliefs a person holds.

        • atheist = rejection of theistic claims of a god. adeist = rejection of any kind of notion of a god.

          • Michael Murray

            Nope sorry not my definition. atheist = holds no beliefs in gods. Its the difference between lacking a belief and holding a disbelief. Or if you prefer call it weak atheism or lack of theism. There is a wikipedia discussion here


            My kids where born atheists. Or if you believe the RCC they have been atheists since conception.

      • why do you keep deleting my posts?

    • Mark Hunter

      Technically almost all atheists are agnostic. Richard Dawkins proposed a 7 point scale ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability ) with 1 being total belief and 7 being total disbelief. He rates himself a 6.7 or 6.9 depending upon the day. Saying One is agnostic is similar to saying one is agnostic about astrology. In theory one is, in practice, one isn't.

      I wonder where the Pope and Rabbi would place themselves. Would they add a decimal number to their rating?

      • Longshanks

        "Technically" is a tricky word to use here, given all the different shades of meaning of the various terms.

        I would agree that almost all people who are atheists, that is lacking a belief in god, also acknowledge the impossibility of proving that to a certainty, that is they are agnostic.

        But in every day speech, if someone labels themselves primarily as "agnostic," my sense is that they don't have a belief one way or another about the existence of deities, not that they're adhering to strict definitions and saying that they would not be able to know one way or another with complete certainty.

        • Mark Hunter

          I think the everyday speech is the problem. If I said I was agnostic about God, many people would take it as a 50/5 proposition. Rather I live my life without any reference to God, don't wonder on any given day if there is a God and don't look forward to an afterlife. In practice, my life is one of non belief or atheism.

          As to not proving God's existence, I'm in the same boat as not proving that homeopathy works. It's not up to me to do either. It's only up to me to be responsive should someone offer evidence to the contrary.

          • Mark, with all due respect, your indifference to pursuing the question of God--"It's only up to me to be responsive should someone offer evidence to the contrary"--perhaps reveals your misunderstanding of what Catholics mean by "God." By "God" we mean a being that is the embodiment of all Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, the fulfillment of all man's yearning. Therefore *if* true, his existence would be the greatest fact you could ever know; you should want nothing more.

            Consider, for example, this statement from the renowned twentieth-century atheist Bertrand Russell, who displays none of the indifference or passiveness you promote:

            “The centre of me is always and eternally a terrible pain…a searching for something beyond what the world contains, something transfigured and infinite. The beatific vision—God. I do not find it, I do not think it is to be found—but the love of it is my life…It is the actual spring of life within me.”

            -- Bertrand Russell to Colette O’Niel, October 21, 1916; Bertrand Russell, The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell, ed. Nicholas Griffin, vol. 2, The Public Years 1914-1970 (London: Routledge, 2001), 85.

            There's a man who recognizes the stakes at play. If God is really as Catholics describe him, you should not only *want* him to exist but should never stop pursuing that possibility.

          • Mark Hunter

            But I don't have to subscribe to your version of God, do I? That may have been the problem for Bertrand Russell, as we found out, after her death. it was for Mother Theresa who suffered severe doubt and emptiness and dark night of the soul for most of her life.

            My approach to life is embodied in a quote attributed (probably apocryphal) to Marcus Aurelius :

            "Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."

          • Mark, a few things in reply:

            1. Your first sentence presumes there are multiple "versions" of God. Again, that's not what Catholics believe.

            2. You're misrepresenting Mother Teresa (and it's Teresa, not Theresa.) The "dark night of the soul" is a mystical experience during which one feels no spiritual consolation. It's not a doubting of God's existence and Mother never doubted God's existence (nor Christ's divinity.)

            3. The Aurelius quote is sadly misguided. It assumes that God could care less how much you know, love, and worship him since all he really cares about is whether you were a good man (Good by what standard? Aurelius doesn't say.) This is a bold and unsubstantiated assumption. It doesn't describe the Judeo-Christian God; it describes a God of Aurelius' own imagination.

            Finally, let ask this question which I was hoping you'd answer in your previous comment: even though you don't *believe* God exists (and by God I'm referring to God as Catholics know him), do you *wish* he did?

          • Mark Hunter

            1) There are multiple versions of God. They are the types of Gods that various religions/denominations believe. They are either all wrong or all but one wrong. I state the former, you state the latter.

            2) Mother Teresa (sorry about the typo), through the revelations of her correspondence after her death, said that for most of her life she felt no presence off God either in her heart or in the Eucharist. Neither did I when I finally admitted it to myself when I was a Catholic but I had a option of leaving the faith, for her it was much more difficult.

            3) The fact that God wants worship and praise, both in this life and for all eternity, is, without being flippant, God's issue that he needs to deal with. As an example, there is a good chance within a 100 years or so that humans will create artificial silicon based life. That would be amazing if we do. What would be sad if we do is to command it to worship and praise us for all time.

            Do I wish God existed? Not the Catholic God, not a God that says humans are born sinful through a sin of two people who never existed and then requires himself to be sacrificed to himself to redeem his creation. Not a God who apparently created us in his image and what separates us from other life on this planet is our ability to reason yet doesn't provide any evidence for his existence, instead relies on faith alone. And lastly (and I remember the pre-Vatican II influenced sermons) allows his creation to be tortured forever in hell simply because of lack of evidence of his existence. I am a prime candidate for hell as I willfully turned away from the Catholic Church because I found no evidence to support the beliefs I held for almost 40 years. Not only do I not want a God like that, like Marcus Aurelius, who despite not having the Judeo-Christian morals, has enough morals to say, as do I, that that God should not be worshiped.

          • Randy Gritter

            The trouble with the Marcus Aurelius quote is he leaves out one possibility. That is that we can't live a good life unless we are connected with God. Otherwise he is close to Pascal's wager. Most atheists hate Pascal's wager.

            Even the question of what is good is more difficult now than it was then. The Romans were OK with massacres and orgies but there had a morality. Today "live a good life" immediately brings up the question of how do you know what is morally good.

          • Mark Hunter

            Catholics believe there is only one version of God, but so do Mormons, and Muslims and Buddhists. There are many versions of belief in God and all or all but one are wrong.

            As for Mother Thersa (who I actually met many years ago) it was revealed that "for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, "neither in her heart or in the eucharist."
            ( http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1655720,00.html#ixzz2SdlPOCMf )

            Most atheists hate Pascal's wager and if there is a God, I would wager she would too. It's being good to get a reward or avoid punishment, one of the lowest forms of morality.

            As for being good without God, atheists do it quite nicely every day.

            As for God, and not wanting to be flippant, if he needs worship and praise, look elsewhere. I'm not into that and I really don't any God would be either.

          • Mark, this latest comment was filled with even more misunderstandings:

            1. The fact that many different religions purport to believe in the true God does not refute the possibility that one of them is right. In fact it suggests it's highly likely that if the overwhelming majority of people believe in some transcendent being(s), then one (or more) exists.

            2. Despite *meeting* Mother Teresa, you misspelled her name (again, this time with a second variant spelling.) And your quotes confirm precisely what I said earlier: that Mother Teresa, for a long period, had no felt experience of God. That doesn't mean she doubted his existence, for if you read her diaries (see "Come Be My Light") she writes eloquently of her love for God and her desire to obey him. Your suggestion that Mother Teresa doubted God for most of her life is completely baseless.

            3. As with many atheists who "hate" Pascal's wager, you misunderstand it's point. We have a few posts on Pascal's Wager coming up, however, to help clear things up.

            4. Nobody here has argued that atheists can't be good without God--that's a straw man argument. What we've claimed is that atheists have no objective basis to determine what *is* good.

            5. God doesn't *need* worship and praise. And nobody has suggested this. You again resort to building up straw-men and then triumphantly tearing them down. Also, you propose to know how God feels about praise and worship "I really don't think God [is into that]." I'm curious what your knowledge is based upon. Assuming you don't believe God exists, I wonder how you could possibly know anything about him.

          • Mark Hunter

            Brandon - Yes I did "meet" Mother Teresa. I was doing computer consulting for a Catholic charity at the time and Mother Teresa was visiting. I was in the back doing computer work when a colleague said come out into the lobby because Mother Teresa is here. I came out and stood apart from the rest who were all lined up to meet her. She met with each one and gave them each a little pamphlet and as her handlers encouraged her to leave to move on to the next event she broke with them, walked off to the other side of the lobby to make sure I got a pamphlet too. She smiled and I thanked her. Years later I gave that pamphlet (which may one day be a 3rd class relic) to a friend who was an ardent Catholic and appreciated it greatly. So yes I did "meet" Mother Teresa.

          • Mark Hunter

            Pascal's wager is an insult not to atheists but to theists. To say why not believe in God because what do you lose if you do believe and God doesn't exist, very little, but if you don't believe and God exists you go to hell for all eternity. Is that a fair assessment of the wager?

            Leaving aside the fact that what you pick the wrong God (In Pascal's time it was assumed that the Catholic or Christian God was the right one) what does it say about a God that values false commitment over true commitment? If Christians would counsel someone for marrying for money rather than love why would they advocate believing for reward rather than true commitment?

          • Pascal's wager is fallacious on many levels. It's been dealt with in this post and I'm not going to retype it all.


          • melo8

            I don't like to hate anything, but Pascal's Wager is very dishonest. Do theists really think God will think kindly of believing in him based on a bet?

          • QuanKong

            Buddhists do not believe in a supreme creator God. They do believed in devas - gods/godesses, who are beings 'above' human in the many planes of existence. Such devas are not all powerful and they can desist.
            Judaism, Christianity and Islam shared a similar root Abraham and they each have their own God known by specific name.
            Ancient civilizations have patheons of gods/godesses. The concept of a supreme one god is a recent one.
            Looking at the characterisitcs (attributes) of these gods and Gods, they all seemed to be what humans want them to be!

          • " how do you know what is morally good"

            Empathy. Being able to put your place in other people's shoes.

            Sometimes it's called the golden rule. An idea that existed well before Jesus apparently spoke the words.

            If we can't have morality without a god, how on earth would the Jewish nation make it to the bottom of Mount Sinai to receive those morals in the first place?

            In fact any species that didn't have a moral code, or empathy, wouldn't survive very long.

            Indeed, I find it insulting (not personally, as I know I am a moral person) but an insult to humanity, and specifically to yourself, that you think that without god, you'd go around murdering and raping.

          • SDM

            "Truth, Goodness, and Beauty" are concepts in the human mind only. You are trying to claim that your god is the personification of three human concepts.

            That...among other things...doesn't want people to masturbate,

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Why aren't theologians considered peers on the subject of God?

      • melo8

        Because they don't agree with each other. You ever listen to a Biblical Christian?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I don't consider them to be theologians to start with. Theologians study God, no matter where the data comes from (the Bible, Tradition, Science, other religions). Biblical Christians study the 30 or so favorite verses of their pastor.

          To claim them as theologians is kind of like claiming that an AGW politician like Al Gore is a "Climate Scientist".

    • QuanKong

      Let's go back to the first humans (cavemen), the primitive conditions, the challenge of survival, and the many phenomena which they lacked knowledge or understanding. Ignorance and fear would drive them to conjure some ‘beings’ having supernatural power or superlative qualities. These 'beings' began as spirits, deities, etc. which took shapes and forms these early humans encountered. All these are evidenced in archeological
      finds, cave paintings, artifacts, folklores and mythologies. Veneration and worship of spirits, deities, the departed ones and gods occupy the lives of these early humans and are evidenced in tribal rites and rituals which persisted till today. Every tribe or social group (society) had its god and interestingly, the gods/goddesses were quite similar to their creators!

      The concept of a supreme being (God) or whatever it is called is a modern
      one considering the thousands of years of human existence. Superlative qualities such as omnipotence and omniscience were attributed to God as well as divine attributes like love, forgiveness and so forth. All these can
      be summarized as mental construct otherwise called make-belief. If the construct (God) does not possess such supernatural and divine qualities, there will be no faith! The flip-side to this is there is also the Devil who is supernatural but possesses no divine qualities.

      Now, the million$ question: Why is there no 20 arguments that the Devil

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I've seen the arguments that the Devil exists, it is throughout Christian literature. I have to wonder why you have not.

        A much more interesting theological question is this: Why do people west of the Kashmir Valley detest the Devil when people east of the Kashmir Valley worship the Devas?

        • QuanKong

          True, there are arguments that the Devil exists and mostly in Christian literature. My question was: why there aren't 20 arguments that the Devil exists thought of in this forum?
          If you contemplete deeper the question begged something more. Perhaps, something like this: the Devil is supernatural, must be omnipotent, omipresent and omniscient too. Is the Devil the First Cause or Second Cause? What is the Devil doing now? Destroying vs Creating?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Not just in Christian. Also in Zoarasterian, Greek, Islamic, even Druid and Norse literature, under different names of course. On the Eastern side of the Kashmir valley, evil spirits aren't unknown either, as in the Americas.

            My only guess is that you haven't been paying much attention, or are one of those New Atheists who thinks that the entire knowledge of man started with the European Enlightenment and is confined to that culture.

          • QuanKong

            On the contrary you are quite far off. In my part of the world, we believed in all kinds of devils! The Abraham faith shared the same belief in the Devil. Ancient cilivlisations also believed in evil spirits. I see all these as human constructs and evils come from human nothing else.
            What I was interested to know is that while there are so many arguments for the existence of God, I would like to see if there are also 20 arguments for the existence of the Devil. Then it would be interesting to compare God and Devil.

          • TheodoreSeeber
    • Olivia Dubay


      here watch this it is a simple beginners proof of God. It won't prove everything but it is a start. Feel free to do more research.

    • We can not disprove deism. We CAN disprove theism.

      • Longshanks

        I'm fairly sure that this isn't true.

        I would never argue with the claim that all theistic beliefs are far fetched, absurd, but that does not make them logically impossible.

        Many of them have a beautifully articulated, and exquisitely silly, internal structure and logic that make it extremely difficult for those inside to understand a lack of belief, let alone a claim to be able to attack the foundations of belief logically.

        What are the premises and the deductive steps you take to support this claim?

        • They are logically impossible. And i will demonstrate, i had previously but my comment was removed. Here are the requirements for theistic gods:-

          1.omniscience (all knowing)
          2. omnipotence (all powerful)
          3. omnipresence (everywhere)
          4. Free will

          If you have free will then god can not be omniscient and so does not exist. If you do not have free will then the god isn't required in the first place. It is a logical paradox and it is why theists are so confused.

          Its why they 'thank god' when they win at football or say 'god moves in mysterious ways' when something bad happens. Its because they do not know if they have fre will. And its not surprising because if they do there god can not possibly exist and if they don't they are merely machines and such a god is not required.

          • Longshanks

            Where did you get those 4 requirements? I mean, I know most flavors of theism agree to them, perhaps all, but 'requirement'?

            Let's make up a new class of theist, right here and now, I'll even convert for argument's sake.

            I believe in an all knowing god, who is everywhere, but not all powerful, and free will.


          • if your god is all knowing then he knows what you are going to do therefore it is impossible for you to have free will because your actions have already by pre determined by gods knowledge of them.

            If you do have free will then your god could not possibly know what your actions will be and so couldn't be all knowing.

            Logical paradox, its why theism is demonstrably false.

            And those are requirements of all theistic gods. Al powerful because he 'created everything' all knowing because he can 'answer prayers' and all present because he can answer prayers from everyone at the same time.

          • Longshanks

            "if your god is all knowing then he knows what you are going to do therefore it is impossible for you to have free will because your actions have already by pre determined by gods knowledge of them."

            This makes no sense. How does knowledge remove intention or action? What if I claim that he(it) exists outside time, so that his knowledge has no effects on linearity?

            I know that you're going to respond with some more partially nonsensical claims, does that mean that you will not have written them? (tongue-in-cheek)

            Logical paradox demonstrates falsehood? I thought it demonstrated a lack of understanding of either a) logic itself or b) the mechanics attempting to be described in the logic statements. See: Zeno.

            Have you been going to theism conferrences that I haven't? I never seem to get invites in the mail.

            The fact that the major theistic traditions that you and I are aware of on the tops of our heads does not mean that all theisms must adhere to similar rubrics. All squares are rectangles, not so in reverse.

            In any case, I just disproved you with my fabricated god. He created the universe, time, being itself, buuuut he can't tie shoelaces. Something about fat fingers, anyway, he's not omnipotent.

          • How is it relevant whether god exists in our 'time' or not? If god is all knowing he knows everything that can and will happen. Therefore he has already pre determined your actions. So your actions are not acts of your own free thought you were always going to do them.

            Therefore you do not have free will if he is all knowing. Everything you have said is irrelevant to this basic logic.

          • Longshanks


            "Nobody has even remotely adressed what I have said."

            Let's try to be accurate here okay? Whether or not you liked or agreed with the responses you've been getting from myself and others doesn't matter, the questions and challenges you've been posing have and are being addressed.

            You may not be finding the backing you believe your *logical* point of view deserves, but that's beside the point. If you feel like I'm not noticing the strongest/most relevant points you're raising, please re-emphasize them, maybe I'll get them this time.

            Although to be fair, I think I understand your argument, and unsurprisingly because it doesn't seem that difficult -- to me, anyway.

            Your Argument, in My Words:

            1) If God exists, he is:
            a) omniscient
            b) omnipotent
            c) omnipresent
            d) having granted us free will

            2) Free will:
            a) implies that humans make instantaneous choices
            b) to humans the outcomes have unknown potential
            c) each choice collapses the tree unknown potential down to the thread of presently known reality
            d) we call that ability to collapse unknowns into reality free will

            3) A contradiction arises between 1a) and 2b), God knows "ahead" and so the outcomes are not unknown, your choice collapses nothing, the thread is already extant, thus no d).


            First of all, it's entirely possible that I missed some or all of the nuance of your argument, I would appreciate it if you could let me know where you think this has occurred.

            (as a side note, I think this is my favorite part of these discussions and, I think, the most fruitful. I have no desire to argue against a straw man, so I work hard to try to understand the people I'm talking with.)



            Part 1, a through d, I disagree with.
            I can posit any kind of god, and a universe without free will, this does not make me a non-theist. If theism is merely the believe in a supernatural being which does interfere in some way with the universe, we have a pretty big field to pick from in terms of characteristics. Just because the Big Three worship a deity that is posited to have those four traits, doesn't mean that all must. That's why I brought up squares/rectangles.

            I would call this a composition/division logical error.

            If you do happen to believe in 1a-d, I don't understand how your arguments work. I suppose if you thought God was a being inside the universe that knew the score, fair enough, but that's not what they believe. To them God is the thing (not a thing) which causes space and time to exist (it's not in space/time). It didn't do this causing "once," as there is no before or after to give a "once" meaning, it is causing existence in what we can best describe as "eternity" or "endless present" or somesuch.

            Whether or not it's nonsense doesn't matter, it logically holds up. It's not, for the most part, interfering in the natural progression of time...and even when it does in "miracles," it's not really breaking the laws of nature since it has decided and is deciding what they will be always from now into the past and the future.

            I want to throw out a rough analogy that helps me conceptualize: take a movie that you've watched 5 times before. You know the plot, you know the dialogue. You can pause it to get up and get popcorn or a drink without ruining your enjoyment of it. You know what's going to happen, but you can focus on the present of each scene and enjoy them for what they are.

            Does the fact that you know the outcome of the movie mean that the characters in the movie do? Of course not, assuming "they" could be said to "know" anything, you would have to say that they have no idea. (If that thought intrigues you, check out Stephen King's the Dark Tower series)

            You can pause the movie, rewind it, etc, but it's still the same movie.

            Just because YOU experience it non-linearly doesn't mean that the CHARACTERS do.

            That's what you're fighting against. The theists believe in a person so far outside reality that none of the tools we learn in here can help us to know/understand it.

          • Hey Longshanks, it's great to see you arguing on behalf of theists haha. But seriously, that response about sums it up. I would only again take this opportunity to plug Van Inwagen's book Problem of Evil.

            It goes into it at some length, and while I don't agree with all his premises, his system is entirely consistent.

          • Longshanks

            Just a side note, the only reason I'm picking on you is that logic, reason, a questioning mind...these things I take very seriously and I believe are very important.

            If you're going to be the champion of "logic" around here, you'll have to adhere to incredibly strict standards of rigor in your thinking and writing.

            The first step should, I believe, always be to question what you're about to post severely, for others will do so for you.

          • Nobody has even remotely adressed what I have said. If you have a refutation present it.

          • Michael Murray

            Can't you have free will even though god knows what you you are going to choose ? As long as god doesn't tell you.

          • How does it matter whether you know or not? if your actions are pre determined by god you were always going to make them.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes I see what your saying. But I think there is a difference between god predetermining my actions and god forseeing my actions. Let me think about it.

          • What's funny is that you think you've found some grand refutation, but you're no better than the theists who claimed they "disproved atheism" and reference the cosmological argument. Nobody buys it, man.

            Read Van Inwagen's The Problem of Evil. I'm not saying it "solves" the question, but it more than answers every objection you've raised in this thread big sammy.

  • Derek, your opinions aside, the correct way to reason through something is to start with fundamental questions and systematically step through the logic.

    If you cannot be 100% certain there is no God, then it's illogical to conclude that you are 100% convinced of such a claim. Don't you think that level of certainty needs evidence or proof? Until you have it, why refuse to even search for it? It's like someone saying they are 100% convinced evolution never occurred, but they never bothered to open a biology book. The more honest position, like Brandon said, is to at least admit agnosticism and be open to searching for answers until you have them. If nothing else, you'll learn a lot, which is exciting.

    As for materialism, it is true if -- and only if -- there is proof that atoms and voids are all that exist. No cogent demonstration for that claim has ever been made. There are plenty of reasons to explore immaterial realities. Even science points to it at the smallest and grandest limits.

    • Longshanks

      This...is simply too poignant. Bravo.

      "I do not approach the relationship in order to proselytize, or convert the atheist; I respect him....I am convinced that I do not have the right to make a judgment about the honesty of that person ... I would also classify as arrogant those theologies that not only attempted to define with certainty and exactness God’s attributes"


      "Some interesting perspectives. I have to say though, as an atheist, I do not state that I am 100% convinced that there is no god."


      "your opinions aside, the correct way ... it's illogical to conclude ... why refuse to even search ... but they never bothered ... the more honest position ... at least admit agnosticism ... no cogent demonstration"

      One of these things is not like the other.

      • Ah, I missed the word *not*. Sorry, Derek. Thanks Longshanks.

        Still, it's a good question to ask. Is there really such a thing as an atheist? If you say you only lack a belief in God, that's agnostic. If you say you know for sure there is no God, that's unfounded.

        • Longshanks

          With respect, you may choose to label the position "I lack a belief in God" as agnostic, after all words are just sequences of letters. However the people who actually hold that belief, in general, do not use the words you are labeling them with.


          The etymologies might be helpful in choosing terms here.

          A - theos (without gods)
          A - gnosis (without knowledge)

          Which term more closely tracks the statement "I lack a belief in God?"

          • Longshanks, I think the problem with definitions in this case--especially with the Freethinker article you linked to--is the insertion of the word "can" into the traditional definition of "agnostic."

            Traditionally, an agnostic was someone who said "I don't know whether God exists." But according to Freethinker, that has since changed to "I cannot know whether God exists."

            Regardless, though definitions are indeed important in this case they mostly distract from the fundamental question at hand: does God exist?

            However you define your system of knowledge and beliefs, that's the real question and the main concern of this site.

          • Longshanks

            I don't pretend to be an expert on etymology or the history of the language of philosophy. Additionally, I am sympathetic to your desire to get back to the "real question."

            I don't see how we can have intelligent conversation about these topics if we're not using the same words to mean the same things though. The original post talked about agnostics and atheists, so it seems to me that the definition of those terms is pretty important to the exchange of ideas.

            Again, I am no expert, but if "agnostic" doesn't traditionally mean what you say it does, but rather what


            says, then I think articles like the Freethinker one are incredibly helpful. It helps, at least it helped me, in visualizing the different areas of knowledge and certainty.

            And claims about knowledge and certainty are exactly what motivated a great deal of the conversation between the rabbi and the father.

            And let me add that reading these remarks by the then-Cardinal, and his responses to the rabbi, was a pleasure.
            His thoughtful and humble tone was exactly the kind of disposition that spurs the exchange of ideas, in my opinion.

          • CBrachyrhynchos

            "But according to Freethinker, that has since changed to "I cannot know whether God exists.""

            Which is a key difference between agnosticism according to Spencer vs. Huxley. Both of which should be considered to be key players in the "traditional" development of agnosticism.

            These definitions are not trivial, but central to the epistemological turn that characterizes most of modern atheism. Insisting on arguing against an atheism that's irrelevant to how most atheists discuss and experience our atheism isn't much of a dialogue.

          • agnostic means 'unsure' it has nothing to do with 'god'. You have to be agnostic or gnositc about something. I don't mean to knit pick but it seems you do not understand the meaning of many of these words and in order to have a discussion understanding what definitions mean is important.

    • Mark Hunter

      "As for materialism, it is true if -- and only if -- there is proof that atoms and voids are all that exist." We know know there is dark matter and dark energy. Does that mean materialism is false? :->

      Clearly it's up to you to demonstrate any evidence for immaterial realities, not the other way around. Under your scheme it would be up to us to prove that astrology, homeopathy, crystal therapy, etc. are not true.

      • The point is (and I take this from Mortimer Adler the pagan philosopher) that either way it requires a leap of faith. You have to decide what you believe is true and go from there. He explored spiritual matters because he understood that unless he did, he couldn't decided. He also noted that cogent demonstrations have been made for immaterial realities, but none have been advanced for a strictly material existence. I recommend his book "Angels and Us." He wrote about angels even though he couldn't say whether they exist or not as a philosopher. Very interesting.

        • Mark Hunter

          I'm missing something here. Mortimer Adler was a convert to Catholicism, albeit late in his life. He aligned himself with Catholic teaching for much of his professional life but left off being received into the Catholic Church until late in life.

          • He converted the last year of his life in his 90's. As a philosopher (self-described pagan) he understood the importance of comparing theology with philosophy since theologians make use of philosophy, but he was critical of any theological conclusions he found faulty. He did not believe the soul lived after the body, for instance.

  • Longshanks

    While I would never claim that atheists are uniformly humble and have never made arrogant claims, the rabbi has something wrong here.

    " An agnostic thinks that he or she has not yet found the answer, but an atheist is 100 percent convinced that G-d does not exist."

    That is not the definition of atheism, and I have yet to come across anyone claiming to be an atheist who has ever said that they were entirely certain of the non-existence of a supernatural being, the general correlation between education levels and atheism would make such a position statistically unlikely, I believe.

    • "I have yet to come across anyone claiming to be an atheist who has ever said that they were entirely certain of the non-existence of a supernatural being."

      I have. It's actually defined by atheists as strong/hard/positive atheism.

      • Longshanks

        "I have."
        You will forgive me if I doubt that you have ever heard an atheist, especially of any prominence, declare that they know for certain that there is no god. I would be delighted by evidence to the contrary.

        In keeping with my earlier reference to a rough correlation between education and atheism, I would argue that there is a correlation between education and willingness or ability to see issues as shaded, instead of black and white.

        "It's actually defined by atheists as strong/hard/positive atheism."
        An explicit assertion that, not only do they not believe that gods exist, but that in fact they do not has been rigorously defined by all atheists? As three different terms?


      • Mark Hunter

        Can you name an atheist (except Victor Stenger) who maintains that God doesn't exist with 100 percent certainty. I know of no one else.

        • Dr. Stenger's pretty prominent. I'm familiar with his work. He holds that our intelligence is the result of the Newtonian machine called brains, and that there is no free will.

          Sam Harris also states "There Is No God, And You Know It."

          Stephen Hawking says there is no god.

          This guy says it's impossible.

          • Mark Hunter

            Saying the intelligence arises from the brain (which is not ultimately Newtonian) doesn't mean free will doesn't exist. Neither does positing a God (witness the Calvinistic arguments on Predestination and the saved).

            This is not just a quibling with words. I am an atheist, you are a theist. I have some doubts so technically that makes me an agnostic, but do you have doubts as well and would that not put you in the agnostic camp as well. (That up to philosophers to parse. ) If you say there is a God does that mean you have no doubts?

          • No, no doubts, but faith is a gift and a virtue. I honestly have no doubts though. Life has a way of giving you that empirical evidence you wondered about before you had faith. :-) I'm actually of the opinion that many atheists have such high demands for evidence because they are so intelligent. Not a bad quality at all.

          • Mark Hunter

            Francis Collins, the Catholic head of NIH and a very accomplished scientist said his evidence for God was seeing a frozen waterfall. Should I lower my level of evidence to that?

          • Mark - Just a correction: Francis Collins is an evangelical Christian, and not a Catholic.

            Also, no, you needn't lower your level of evidence to that!



          • Mark Hunter

            My apologies. I was thinking of Kenneth Miller, a biologist who is a practicing Catholic who wrote the excellent book on evolution entitled "Only a Theory". I highly recommend it (as does Richard Dawkins).

          • Mark, I wasn't familiar with Kenneth Miller before your comment but I'm looking into his work now. A Catholic scientist who embraces evolution *and* has appeared multiple times on The Colbert Report?! Sounds like my kind of guy. Thanks for sharing!

          • No, but nobody has asked you, too. Subjective experience of God is perfectly valid evidence, though it's of course not reproducible for everyone.

            You make it sound like Francis Collins said, "I had an overwhelming, transcendent experience of Beauty while witnessing a waterfall and that experience pushed me over the edge into belief. Therefore atheists should merely look at waterfalls and they'll believe!"

            Yet neither he nor anyone proposes this. In fact, Collins wrote a book-length defense of a cosmic Creator using which takes into account objective evidence from the fields of biology and genetics. It's called "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief ":


          • Mark Hunter

            Stacy said that non believers have too high a bar for evidence. You say it should be subjective and up to the believer . Then do we have belief relativism. Is a Mormon's subjective experience the same as a Catholics, is a Hindus the same as a Muslims.

            If "Subjective experience of God is perfectly valid evidence" then do you have any criteria to discount proffered evidence from a believer. Do you, in other words, admit to subjective evidence relativism?

          • Mark, that's not what I said; you've twisted my words. I did not suggest that subjective experience was the *only* valid evidence for God, only that it certainly *can be* evidence for God. However as I make clear in my comment, Collins and other serious believers lean on objective philosophical and scientific evidence, too. They measure the veracity of their experiences with what we also know through reason. That's why the Catholic faith balances faith *and* reason. The two are, as John Paul II, like two wings of the same bird--you need both to fly to the Truth.

            In regard to your second question, I and most Catholics do object to "subjective evidence relativism." For example, say two people, a Catholic and a Mormon, have subjective experiences that convince them their particular idea of God is true. We know that since both ideas of God are incompatible that one or both of the two people have flawed experiences. Understanding that we can note a few things:

            - While not definitively proving a single transcendent being, the fact that two different people have a shared transcendent experience is strong evidence that *some sort* of deity exists. This does little to help the atheist position.

            - Subjective religious experience should always be measured against objective data. For example, authentic Catholic religious experiences do not conflict with known scientific realities. However, Mormon experience do. The idea of multiple, self-existing gods is philosophically problematic since the gods would be mutually contingent, and therefore there would be no single First Cause. It's easy to set objective boundaries to validate the possibility of legitimate religious experience.

            - Subjective religious experience *can be* valid evidence for God, but not always. It may be flawed. However this is not relativism. Relativism would say all religious experiences are equally true; the Catholic view says *some* subjective religious experiences may be true.

            Does that help answer your question?

          • Mark Hunter

            I see you corrected "No, but nobody has asked you, too" to "No, but nobody has asked you to" . I wasn't quite sure what the former meant.

            But I only get subjective evidence from believers, never any other kind. How do you distinquish between them? I don't presume to say that all subjective evidence is true and I assume you don't either. Let's ignore the crackpots.

            How do you distinguish between subjective evidence for God from two intelligent, sincere, good, prayerful individuals that leads to radically different concepts of God. I have relatives who are Mormon and they embodied all of the attributes mentioned in the last sentence. They give me (on every occasion I meet them) their subjective evidence for God that is so outside of anything I would be willing to accept. I smile and thank them and as quickly as possible change the subject. I cannot fault their subjective opinion except to say they are deluding themselves.

            Note : One of the objections to the Prime mover in Aquinas' argument is the requirement that there be a prime mover. This is not logically necessary and is perhaps the main weakness of that proof.

          • Mark, thanks for the thoughtful reply. You say:

            "But I only get subjective evidence from believers, never any other kind."

            This can't possibly be true since *this very site* disproves it. On this site we've already offered tons of objective arguments for God's existence. For example, on this page:


            Regarding your question though, "How do you distinguish between them?", here's the advice I'd give:

            - Your own subjective experience *may* convince you of God's existence, but you should never rely solely on the subjective experiences of others. This is primarily because they are non-falsifiable; you simply can't prove or deny those experiences happened.

            - Expand your evidential requirement beyond subjective experiences. Instead of dwelling on the veracity of subjective experiences, focus on the objective question of each truth claim. For example, examine God as understood by Catholics, in light of our philosophical and scientific knowledge. Then do the same with the Mormon system of gods. Which system is philosophically consistent (And which is historically consistent? The Mormon system certainly is not.) I think the trap you've fallen into is the belief that deciding which religion is true is little more than comparing different subjective experiences. But there are plenty of objective arguments for God, and Catholicism, that don't depend on experience.

            Finally, regarding your proposed refutation of Aquinas' First Mover argument, I'm not sure I understand your issue. Your first sentence seems to beg the question: you essentially say the argument for a Prime Mover is flawed because there is no Prime Mover. But this assumes what must be proved, namely that there is no Prime Mover. You're essentially saying, "Your argument for X is flawed because it requires there be X." Of course it doesn't *require* there to be X; it's *arguing* for X.

          • Mark Hunter

            There are all sorts of issue with the Prime mover argument (or First Cause) not the least of which is that there is no logically reason for multiple prime causes (perhaps the "We" of the early Old Testament when referring to God).

          • We Catholics agree. There are not "multiple prime causes", there is one First Cause. And that cause is God, who is one in being. The "we" refers to God's Trinitarian nature, he is one being in three persons.

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            I don't think you should lower your level of evidence. The ever ingenious Catholic philosopher Peter Kreft's expresses the same idea in his "17th Proof for the Existence of God".


            I do think that assuming you somehow utilize a higher standard for your belief system, because you do not accept some data as evidence, only serves to proves Dr Kreft's point. You just don't get it. It has nothing to do with the strength of the arguments but in your willingness and capacity to accept some event, testimony or experience as evidence.

          • Stacy, please read what you have written. How much of faith in religions other than yours is self delusion? How much evidence would it require for you to convert to Mormonism or Scientology? Intelligent atheists see them all that way.

            (P.S. How much of "praying on it" is self hypnosis?)

          • Mark Hunter

            In the Hawkings video he says "the simplest explanation is that there is no God" and then later "There is probably no heaven and afterlife either" He doesn't say there is no God. That said he lives his life as if there isn't.

            Would you be willing to say there probably is a heaven and probably an afterlife? If so you are similar to Stephen Hawking, but with different confidence levels.

          • I took it that he separated an afterlife from the existence of God, there is no God, there probably is no afterlife.

            No, I believe there is a Heaven and an eternity because I believe it is true. I considered the claims, prayed for faith, and find it all very reasonable. And joyful!

            Out of time. Nice chatting with you Mark. Later!

          • Mark Hunter

            But more so Hawkings doesn't say there is not God he says the simplest explanation is that there is not God.

            As a parallel, the question of theodicy has vexed religious thinkers for millennia. But the simplest answer of why random evil, both natural and man made, exists is that God doesn't exist. Once you say there is no God the answer to the question is easy. I'm not saying it's therefore true, but even an ardent believer would have to admit it's the easiest answer. That's what Hawking is saying.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            "No, I believe there is a Heaven and an eternity because I believe it is true."
            A finer example of circular reasoning would be hard to produce.

          • Longshanks

            Respectfully, out of the three examples you've given, the first two are not gnostic, but agnostic atheists. Although the third, admittedly and to your credit, does appears to be a gnostic atheist.

            However...it is a random person's "hub page."

            And you've listed this paragon of modern atheist thought as "this guy."

            No, you have here failed to support your claim that many (any?) prominent atheists are gnostic atheists. Do you have more examples to offer?

            I would be surprised and interested by examples of atheists claiming to know certainly that there are no supernatural beings.

            {Using these articles as a guide to terminology http://freethinker.co.uk/2009/09/25/8419/ http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Gnostic_atheism#Combining_terms -- the original claim mashed the terms "strong," "hard," and "positive" atheism together as if they were accepted at all times, in all contexts, by all atheists to mean the same thing. This is not the case.}

    • Mark Hunter

      Even the late Christopher Hitchens allowed that possibility in several of his debates, he just didn't want there to be a God.

      The only one of know of is Prof. Victor Stengler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_J._Stenger)

      • Longshanks

        Certainly Hitch allowed that he could not prove a negative, and certainly he didn't want there to be a god.

        The addition of the word "just" seems to imply that he put no more thought into the question, which I would contend that he did.

        I've never heard of Stengler before. What are his arguments for certitude re:nonexistence?

        • Mark Hunter

          Hitchens was an anti-theist. He didn't want there to be a God or I should say a theistic God. He allowed for a deistic God, and freely admitted that that could well be the case.

          A very good video on his position on that - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPlMSkSXxz4

          As for Stengler, I haven't read his books in a while and couldn't do them justice. I'm not really in agreement with his approach however.

      • Longshanks

        Victor Stenger does not appear to be a gnostic atheist.

        " The absence of that evidence allows us to rule out the existence of this God beyond a reasonable doubt.

        Now, I am not talking about all conceivable gods. Certainly the deist god who does not interfere in the world is difficult to rule out. However, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, whom I identify with an uppercase G, is believed to play such an active role in the universe that his actions should have been detected, thus confirming his existence."

        From http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-stenger/the-evidence-against-god_b_682169.html

    • QuanKong

      Why make it so complicated? Those who absolutely don't believed God exists are atheists at one end, and those who do are theists at the other end. In between there is a continuum with varying degree of belief and disbelief. Agnostics are in the middle, fence-sitter. The excuse does not matter whether 'not yet know' or 'cannot know'.

      Another group closely aligned with agnosticism is igtheism - define God first before the question about existence of God can be meaningfully discussed.

  • I remember in the UK when Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association supported the bus advertising campaign with the message: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life".

    The cororally of that, of course, is that he probably DOES exist.
    However, the whole "probability" argument is misguided in itself (whether argued from a Theistic OR an Atheistic position). Probabilities by themselves really give us no insight into reality at all. Secondly, it makes the mistake of including the idea of "God" as simply one part of the universe itself. Instead, God is understood NOT as a being within the universe, but the GROND of all being itself.

    • Longshanks

      Just a point of order, the "corollary" of "There's probably no God." is not "he probably DOES exists."

      From the wiki, "Proposition B is a corollary of proposition A if B can readily be deduced from A"

      That God DOES exist is not readily deduced from the premise that he probably doesn't.

      *Edit for more things.*
      Also, probabilities give us massive insight into reality.

      • If you're dealing mainly with statistics, numbers, games of chance -- then yes: Probabilities apply. But it is not really useful to question of God, or even of miracles.

        Yes: I stand corrected. "God Probably Exists" is not the direct corollary of "Probably does not Exist".

        • Andre Boillot


          "If you're dealing mainly with statistics, numbers, games of chance -- then yes: Probabilities apply. But it is not really useful to question of God, or even of miracles."

          One is tempted to point out that even this overly-limited admission of what probabilities might be good for is a significantly different stance than the one you began with.

    • Mark Hunter

      After the atheist bus his the British streets a group of clerics were so incensed that they went to the British advertising council to demand that these ads be stopped because the the atheists could not prove there probably was no God. The irony of that amused me for weeks (and still does).

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Mr. Carollo attempts the "retreat to the possible." The existence of the Christian God is highly improbable, but Carollo wishes to rely on the gap of remaining uncertainty. He probably doesn't do this for anything but God. "The Earth is PROBABLY not flat*. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

      * We do not know with 100% certainty that the Earth is not flat. But we are certain enough that that's where the smart money is.
      "God is understood NOT as a being within the universe, but the GROUND of all being itself."

      Word salad. What does it even mean? That God is outside the universe, or outside time, is not a rational position, and certainly not a well-evidenced position. It is not even a consistent position that any theist is willing to maintain. Instead, it is a dodge to circumvent arguments against the existence of any God that a theist would believe in. The theist will turn right around and make all sorts of claims about how God interacts with the world, and in particular His obsession with the sexual behaviour of one species of social primate on one tiny planet in one particular galaxy.

      First the theist will tell you that God is not understood at all. His ways are "mysterious." Then he will turn around and tell you how God is understood, "as the ground of all being." There is no consistency in the argument, and no intellectual respectability.

  • All agnostics are also atheists (as they are not theists) but some atheists are not agnostics (they contend that that they do have good reasons for non-belief in deities). Many agnostics do know that they are also atheists, but don't want to say so because of the perception of public discrimination. In some parts of the world that discrimination is not evident, but in other places it can still get you beheaded.

    • melo8

      This is wrong by definition. There are many many agnostic theists. Many don't know that there is a god have faith that there is a god. If you have faith that god exists, you are agnostic by definition. If you are a gnostic theist you would say You know god exists.

      It is funny how many people are agnostics or atheists and don't even know it.

      Have you ever spoken to a Christian Deist? They certainly exist.

      • melo8, you have a good point. I am so used to addressing agnostics who are not theists that I do forget that there is another taxonomy of believers who don't know why.

  • >>> As opposed to the atheist who is sure that He does not exist and does not entertain any doubts

    A rather disappointing Strawman.

    Not even Richard Dawkins makes this claim. He goes on at great length about doubt and even created the Spectrum of theistic probability scale: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability

    Nor is Science based on certainty but on a practical explanation of observable phenomena through a process of removing known sources of errors, biases, and illogic. Scientific claims are either falsified or they are not falsified; they are not considered 'proved'. They are always subject to revision based on future evidence and finding that evidence is the very basis upon which Scientists are most rewarded.

    Did anyone rewrite the Bible to clarify that slavery is absolutely immoral under all conditions and times; the earth isn't immobile; and so forth? Of course not, that would be to admit you were wrong -- the greatest sin in religion, and the greatest virtue in science.

    I know 100's of atheists and not a single one says they are 100% certain. I'm pretty sure such people exist but they are, by far, the exception.

    All atheism is only a position of not believing in a God, not an absolute, categorically claim that no God exists.

    >>> An agnostic thinks that he or she has not yet found the answer

    The modern usage of agnostic is that of a simple adjective meaning 'lacking knowledge'. Every atheist I know describes themselves as an 'agnostic atheist' in that sense. No claim of knowledge but rather the LACK of knowledge or evidence or any good reason to believe in the proposition (and many good reasons not to, which does not imply evidence to the negation).

    And when Bergoglio says "I know that these riches are a gift from God", it doesn't strike me as a position admitting much doubt.

    Faith has produced thousands of religions and it has burned women to death as 'witches' on the basis of ignorance and fear. I cannot see how anyone continues to have any faith in Faith given the endless multitude of examples of failure. This should be a simple methodological question, is it reliable, does it produce convergence or bifurcation?

    If you value doubt in the slightest, 'Faith' would seem the most important thing of all to have doubt in (followed by any violation of bodily autonomy; empowered and informed consent; or the initiation of force).

    I'm all for LESS certainty of the likes of Manifest Destiny, On The Jews And Their Lies (Martin Luther), and the Requerimiento.

    And no, religion is not the only source of these violations but it is the most often excused source and it holds several violations up as things to emulate and admire.

    Even in the 21st century we have to fight against the religious (who believe they KNOW God's Will) to allow gay people the CIVIL right of marriage, guaranteed them under the US Constitution on Marriage being an individual right (not a group right) and the Equal protection clause. I don't care if you think it's icky or not. When it comes to issues that aren't even any of your business all doubt suddenly dissipates into knowing the Perfect Will of God as if he is whispering directly in your ear. Maybe all those passages are really only talking about specific Pagan practices and don't apply to mutually loving couples? Are you 100% certain to the point that you would ruin millions of lives? Because that is exactly what religion has done and continues to do.

    It is has shamed and emotionally damaged millions of people (and in thousands of cases spawned actual violence against others) and this is held up as something admirable.

  • QuanKong

    To believe or not to believe? When something is a fact, a reality and obvious universally to the common man - there is no need to ask this question.

    One who does not believe God also does not believe in its existence - plain and simple. The same is said of believers. In between is a continuum ranging from some belief to some disbelief.

    A God believer must prove the existence of God. A non-believer does not have to prove its non-existence. If QuanKong doesn't exist, how do you prove QuanKong doesn't exist?

  • "but an atheist is 100 percent convinced that G-d does not exist"

    My experience in the Atheist community counters this claim. The vast majority of atheists that I have met and interviewed consider themselves to be Agnostic Atheists, where the first term represents epistemology (what can be known: i.e. "God cannot be known") and the second represents ontology (what exists: "on the balance of evidence I do not believe that God exists").

    "perfection of the natural world"...?

    The Rabbi Abraham Skorka needs to study some more biology. There are many examples that illustrate that nature is far from perfect. The blind spot in humans which is caused by our blood vessels passing through the retina is one well known example. These imperfections all point to the blind process of evolution that we now acknowledge as scientific truth. Life often gets stuck with imperfections due to the historical nature of the evolutionary process.

  • I think someone needs to send the pope back to school so he can learn some basic linguistics.

    Agnostic does NOT mean 'unsure about god' it is a linguistic term which shows uncertainty as appose to being gnostic which is certainty. So you can not be AN agnostic that does not make sense and is poor grammar.

    Atheist does NOT mean 'does not believe in god' it means the person is rejecting theistic claims of a god. It makes no mention of deistic gods.

    And so personally i am atheist. And i am agnostic about deism because i could not prove either way if a deistic god exists or not. However i CAN prove with 100% certainty that monotheistic gods, such as is worshipped by christians, do not exist because such a god is a logical paradox.

    And why? Because all monotheistic gods are omniscient and that is a direct contradiction of free will which is also a requirement. If 'god' is omniscient you do not have free will, so god is not required, and if you do have free will there is no god.

    • all monotheistic gods are omniscient and that is a direct contradiction of free will which is also a requirement. If 'god' is omniscient you do not have free will, so god is not required, and if you do have free will there is no god.

      Hey bigsammyb - I'm surprised that this is what you consider the best argument against theism. First, if you're looking for strange paradoxes, I don't think this is nearly as stunning or difficult a philosophical question as to how God and the eternal could meet in man and time in the person of Jesus, which Christians also believe. (Kierkegaard wrote some fantastic passages on the paradoxes of Christianity - and GK Chesterton wrote that true charity, "loving that which is unlovable," is itself a paradox.)

      Second, the question of predestination and free will is a very old one that has been tackled many times over, often with great intellectual success. For some solid arguments from Aristotle, Boethius, etc., I would check out the Stanford Encyclopedia; http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/free-will-foreknowledge/ The contemporary philosopher Peter Kreeft has also done some more accessible work on this subject: http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/29_lotr_fated-free.htm

      The bottom line of many of these arguments is this: God exists outside of space and time. He is present to all of history as to one instant - there is no "pre" or "post" anything for him. This apparently dissolves the problem, and even creates the possibility that God's intimate knowledge of our actions makes us more free - because he is love, and love lets the other be the other, and he is goodness, and true freedom is freedom to pursue the good. Peace!

      • Michael Murray

        because he is love, and love lets the other be the other, and he is goodness, and true freedom is freedom to pursue the good.

        And yet he crushes and drowns unborn children with earthquakes and tsunamis. There's your real paradox.

        • Hey Michael - Like I said, I was surprised that bigsammyb raised the predestination issue as paramount; the problem of evil, especially the suffering of children, is far and away the best argument against theism and I don't deny it for a second. Dostoevsky drove it home for me. My article on this problem, and how it plays out in some of my favorite movies, offers very little argumentation, because we're unfledged or else inhuman to underestimate the emotional heart of the problem. Peace!

          • You have not even remotely adressed it though have you, if so then please present it.

          • Michael Murray

            But bear in mind it's not just human suffering we are talking about which to some extent human's can alleviate. The whole of evolution by natural selection is predicated on having too many offspring and the environment weeding them out. It really is nature "red in tooth and claw". And anything one creature can do to another is fair game. Wasps implant babies into sedated alive spiders so they can eat them from the inside out. It wasn't humans who invented the Aliens plot.

            So on the one hand you have this wonderful feeling of inner joy you get from your belief and on the other hand the real world completely disregards any pretence at morality and is overwhelmed with suffering. There is a clean and simple solution to this apparently dilemma. The inner joy is inner. It's in your head. Outside the real word is purposeless uncaring about human morality. All it takes is one big asteroid impact, one nearby supernova or gamma ray burst, one supervolcano explosion or even a launch our own puny missiles and humans disappear. All the love, joy, music, justice, fear, hate, theism, atheism, science is gone. The universe moves on without even noticing.

          • Michael - I hope I didn't give you the impression that I'd hastily pass over this part of the problem. I do mention animal suffering in my article, and it's an issue that left C.S. Lewis uncharacteristically dumbfounded in his fantastic book "The Problem of Pain." Millions of years of sentient life suffering gruesome pain and death is certainly nothing for a theologian to gloss over - it's the problem of natural evil writ large, the "felix culpa" seemingly robbed of the felix. And science continues to confirm our genetic and evolutionary kinship with animals - far from the picture of "automatons" of the res extensa that Descartes gave the West.

      • THat still doesn't make sense, it doesn't matter where he is. Either he knows what you are going to do or not? If he does then you do not have free will. If he does not then he isn't god.

        There is no argument against that. If so then please try, all i hear so far is waffle.

        • There is perhaps one scientist left who believes in the concept of free will independent of causality or partly so. By scientist I mean someone with a phd in a relevant subject holding down a professorship at a non-Mickey-Mouse university.

  • How can it be that both of these learned men misunderstand what it means to be an atheist?

  • AdamF

    I've read most of the works by new atheists, and regularly follow atheist blog postings, etc., and one of the most common and false assertions made by theists and agnostics alike is that atheists are by definition certain that gods do not exist. Although there is a subset of atheists who might claim to know there are no gods, at least within a well defined framework, most seem to only claim a lack belief in gods. Lack of belief in gods does not equate with absolute knowledge that gods do not exist. I think the rabbi is playing a straw man here to assert otherwise, considering how consistently this point is clarified by atheists.

    • Randy Gritter

      Most go further than to claim they do not believe. Most would assert belief is irrational. That the evidence as is does not warrant belief. The accepting Christian morality particularly about sex is just stupid. That Christian morality about homosexuality is bigotry. It goes a little further than agreeing to disagree.

      • Michael Murray

        Yes but even not believing is not for most people the same as being 100% sure there are no gods. Anyone trained as a Talmadic scholar is surely capably of more subtle thought than that. The Rabbi is deliberately putting up a straw man.

      • AdamF

        My only point was in regards to what the common atheist position is regarding the non-existence of gods. Nothing more.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    "When a person says, “I don't believe in Santa Claus,” I believe he or she is taking an
    arrogant position. He who doubts has a more nuanced position"
    I presume the rabbi would agree with this; or else I would accuse him of special pleading.

  • snd

    I'm an atheist by 'definition' but it's very difficult to define atheism in the way people are trying to here since inevitably it's definition is based on the negative or 'opposite' of a believe in god. Do I believe in god? No. Can I say with absolute certainty he doesn't exist? Can you say with absolute certainty invisible unicorns don't exist even if you don't believe in them? The existance of a god is something proposed and accepted by many, but to define the absense of belief in this proposition in such a rigid manner by using statements like 'definitely doesn't exist' doesn't make sense. Myself, and many other atheists I'm sure look at god like a proposition that we reject, at least in it's current form. We don't believe there's enough, or any, evidence to support this proposition.

  • There is nothing arrogant about saying that you only believe in things
    supported by empirical evidence. What is truly arrogant is believing in
    an imaginary being based on hearsay and still thinking you are right and
    others are wrong. If there was any possibility of a being that could
    bring the whole universe into existence simply by saying (to himself?)
    "Let it be", it would most certainly be a completely unfathomable and
    unknowable being. To further claim that this being thinks you are
    somehow special in the grand scheme of the entire universe, or to claim
    to know the mind and desires (desire is a human emotion) of this being,
    is the height of arrogance. Not surprisingly, the thoughts and desires
    of this imaginary being are exactly the same as those of the believer.
    Now that's arrogance defined.

  • Cameron Fryer

    Rabbi Abraham Skorka:
    "I agree with what you have said; the first step is respecting your fellow man. But I would add one more point of view. When a person says, “I am an atheist,” I believe he or she is taking an arrogant position. He who doubts has a more nuanced position. An agnostic thinks that he or she has not yet found the answer, but an atheist is 100 percent convinced that G-d does not exist. It is the same arrogance that leads some to assert that G-d definitely exists, just like the chair I am sitting on."

    Well here is my response.
    I'm sorry, assuming someone who you more than likely don't even know is arrogant simply because they call themselves an atheist show's absolutely no respect for a fellow human being, and making such a statement show's you are just as arrogant as the atheists you are talking about.
    Furthermore Rabbi Abraham Shorka, isn't someone who says "I am (for example) a Christian (or Jew)" also 100% convinced that their god does exist? You would not be a Rabbi or Pope, if you were not also convinced there was a god.
    Finally, to believe with complete faith is a less forward and more cowardice way of saying "this does or does not exist", however your pride in oneself or belief makes you feel superior in certain ways to say it as you have.

    • Cameron, I think that is rather harsh. I don't believe in any deity or deities because I have been given no evidence to believe in such. That is why I am not a theist (I usually tell people that I am "not a person of faith" because theists understand that in terms of their own language). Not being a theist, I am an atheist, and so are all agnostics who don't believe in any deities. I am not an agnostic re Zeus or Thor or Baal or Krishna or Allah or thousands of other deities made up by humans over thousands of years, because I am quite sure those are mythical, and I bet you are too. Do I deserve the hash characterization you put in your comment?

      • Cameron Fryer

        Q. Quine, it appears that you believe my comment was directed at those without faith, that's not true.
        I am an atheist, and that's what I tell everyone when discussing religious vs. non-religious topics.

        My comment was directed to one of the Rabbi's statements in this article. The Rabbi mentioned things about atheists, while showing in his own words that he himself is no different, by proving he does exactly the same thing as what atheists out there do.

        Believers out there do actually deserve such harsh characterization, because they believe non-believers (and that is if they do follow their holy books) deserve to be tortured for all eternity for simply not believing. Not only that, but the Rabbi has made it clear in his statements that he believes atheists don't know anything when it comes to how all of what we know came into creation, yet he says he knows because of a god he cannot prove.

        So do I need to point out why my comment was not directed at people that aren't a follower of faith?

        • Sorry, Cameron, It was late at night, and somehow I got turned around. My comment should have been directed at Skorka's comment, just as was yours, and was supposed to carry the same meaning as yours. My BAD.

  • Iris

    I have read through a great many of the comments in this thread, and I find it rather sad that the argument seems to be solely in terms of atheist vs belief in a Creator God, and how one can not 'prove' the existence of this God. God is not merely a vast spiritual being. He is also a flesh and blood man, the Lord God Jesus Christ. I have never been an atheist, so I can't really relate to unbelief, but I do know that in times that I have wondered 'what if' it is my belief in Jesus that shores up my belief in God the Father or Creator.

    I think it must be common to think that belief in the Creator is easier to accept than belief in the Man-God Jesus, and thus a first step to belief. I suppose it could be, though I find it easier to contemplate doubt in an impersonal Creator, since I can not bring myself to even consider denying Christ. Far too much evidence for that! Jesus is a historical figure; He walked the earth and left evidence of Himself, through eyewitness accounts, the willingness of His apostles and early followers to suffer martyrdom for His sake, relics like the Shroud of Turin and Sudarium of Oviedo, and Eucharistic Miracles, modern day martyrs and miracles, etc...

    Factor in the evidence all around us of the consequences of turning away from the Laws of God found in Scripture and I find it hard to imagine maintaining a lack of belief. Just read Romans 1 and see the Truth happening right before your very eyes in our world today.

    For those like St. Thomas who, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand
    into his side, I will not believe...", look up the 'Comparative Study of the Sudarium of Oviedo and the Shroud of Turin, and then 'Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano.

    Jesus didn't condemn Thomas to unbelief and He leaves us 'evidence', too. The Shroud and Sudarium were wrapped around the same man, yet the Sudarium has been documented since far longer than the erroneous carbon dating allows for the Shroud. How do you explain the presence of type AB blood on all of these relics considering the ability to type blood came hundreds of years after these relics/miracles occurred or the rarity of that type blood? Just a weird coincidence? Then how do you explain the other miraculous features or even the natural ones like pollen from flowers that bloom in the Holy Land around Easter? Evidence...

    Back to the blood type...search weeping icons and blood type AB.

    Anyone looking for definitive "proof" from a very skeptical perspective will probably be unsatisfied, but if you merely want and are open to 'evidence' it is all around. Loads of it. Jesus had blood type AB. And even more curious (miraculous), AB is the universal recipient. Jesus took on all our sins through his precious type AB blood. How awesome is that? And I don't mean awesome like a really cool video game, but as in God the Almighty, defeater of death, redeemer of my soul AWESOME.

    Come Holy Spirit!

    Happy Pentecost Sunday.

  • Nikkolai Zlamancka

    Message to Agnostics & Atheists

    Thursday, November 18th, 2010

    Video Message

    To those who claim not to believe in Me I have this to say. Ask yourself this question: Can you remember a time that you did? Think back to when you were a child when you did believe in God. It does not matter what religion your parents followed. Did you believe? What changed? Was it influence by others. Did they tell you that there was a rational answer to your being in existence?

    It has, since the beginning of time, been difficult for My children to accept the other existence outside of this one. Yet look around the world and see the wonders of the creation by my Eternal Father. The sun, the moon, the sea, the rivers, the plants, the animals and all the wonders of creation and answer this. Where did all this come from? Do you really believe it emerged from something other than a superior being? Be warned when you hear the lies spread by so called fortune tellers that exist in the New Age movement. They are being led into what they believe to be the truth and the excitement of the life promised to them in a new era. This era, to which they have been led to believe, is a new Paradise. A form of man controlled, but glorious centre of the universe. It is a false doctrine. Many people of God, including those who believe, mistakenly confuse their belief in this doctrine with that of the light.

    They are being guided by the demons. Some know that they are. Others don’t. Pray that they see the truth before they continue on their futile path to emptiness.

    To the Atheists I say this. I love you no matter how you offend Me. To the Atheists who are being led and influenced by other beliefs stop and think. In their quest to follow manmade reasoning, they are simply believing in another faith. The belief that man is in control. He is not. Yet these same people, My precious children, for whom I will fight, are being encouraged to follow Satan, the Deceiver, and enemy of mankind. Ask the Atheist who goes to extraordinary lengths to pressurise God’s children why he does this?

    Is it not enough to simply deny Me? Why do these people lie? Many of these Atheist groups have an agenda to entice and seduce My children into a false doctrine. Make no mistake their belief is another form of religion. A religion that exalts the power of intelligence, reason and pride. They emulate the very traits of Satan. They, in their blindness, follow another faith – the adulation of the Dark where no love exists.

    So passionate are these Atheists, so proud of their religion, that they do not understand that what they stand for is a religion – the religion of the Deceiver who laughs at their stupidity.

    Atheists hear Me one last time. Turn back to the scriptures now. Look at the Book of John and consider the truth as it begins to unfold now. Does it not seem real to you now, as you bear witness to events as they are laid bare, layer by layer each day before you.

    Can’t you see that My word, My prophecy foretold so long ago may be the truth? Open your eyes and talk to Me once as follows

    “God if You are the Truth reveal to me the sign of Your Love. Open my heart to receive guidance. If You Exist let me feel Your Love so I can see the Truth. Pray for me now”

    As I call on you, one last time I say this. Love is not made by man. You cannot see it but you can feel it. Love comes from the Eternal Father. It is a Gift to mankind. It does not come from the darkness. The darkness that you feel is devoid of love. Without true love you cannot feel. You cannot see the Light. You cannot see any future. I Am the Light. I Am the future. I bring you glory and life ever after. Turn now and ask for My help. Do that and I will answer you and envelop you in My Arms.

    My tears of joy will save you as you become My beloved child again. Come now and join Me in Paradise.

    Your Loving Saviour Jesus Christ

  • Heb927

    What is the proof that God doesn't exist? Also, every idea and thought comes from something real. Where would the idea of God come from then?

  • John Smith

    I'm not convinced the "eucharist miracle" in Buenos Aires was a "genuine miracle", it’s disgusting. What kind of a God would turn food intended for consumption into decaying muscle tissue, Cthulhu? Nyarlathotep? Eww.

    And a priest just “found” it, did he? Knowing that it would bring vast amounts of attention and money to himself and his church?

    If this is a “miracle,” the inescapable conclusion is that those Christians who believe it either worship a God that would make even HP Lovecraft go “yuck, that’s really disgusting,” are supremely gullible, or both.

    You know a miracle that would get this nonreligious guy believing? How about having all the children who’ve lost limbs to cancer growing new arms and legs? That would be a good one, don’t you think?

    • Sample1

      Miracles need one criterion: an appeal to personal incredulity. Yesterday’s miracles are tomorrow’s scientific challenges. We could make the same error in reasoning by assigning miracle status to your hypothetical limb regeneration. We already know there are species that can regrow amputated sections of their bodies. The real issue is a problematic religious explanation that is easy-to-vary: science’s successes can be incorporated into God’s greatness.

      If the laws of nature do not prohibit more advanced kinds of regeneration technology then the only obstacle is a lack of knowledge.

      Personally, I find it very difficult to imagine a possible phenomenon of the future that without a natural explanation must mean it has an unnatural explanation.

      Mike, faith free.

  • Joseph Noonan

    I don't have a problem with what Pope Francis said here. However, Rabbi Skorka has said some things that are incorrect.

    an atheist is 100 percent convinced that G-d does not exist.

    I have never heard any atheist claim to be 100% certain of God's nonexistence. I have occasionally heard some theists say this, but all atheists I know say that it is still possible, though unlikely, that God exists.

    Everyday logic does not apply.

    The laws of logic apply to everything, including talk about God. No one can claim a special exemption from the laws of logic for a concept they believe in. Otherwise, you could make any position coherent by asserting that logic doesn't apply to it. The laws of logic are true simply by virtue of the meaning of logical terms, so it doesn't matter what you are talking about - they will always apply. The only valid response to the omnipotence paradox is the response that most theists give - rejecting the notion of absolute omnipotence. Rejecting logic instead would be to admit that the notion of God that you believe in is logically impossible.