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Top 10 Tips for Atheists When Engaging Christians

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Filed under Atheism

Two men in living room arguing

As an intellectual movement, Christianity has a head start on atheism. So it's only natural that believers would find some of the current arguments against God less than satisfying.

But in the interests of a more robust debate, I want to offer my tips for atheists wanting to make a dent in the Faith. I've got some advice on arguments that should be dropped and some admissions about where Christians are vulnerable.

Before beginning, though, I want to point out that these tips don't necessarily concern all atheists in general. My goal isn't to straw-man atheists as a group. Obviously, there are vast and varied beliefs among atheists. But the advice here applies to some of the most common beliefs I've encountered.

Tip #1. Dip into Christianity's intellectual tradition

 
This is the 1,984th year since April 7, AD 30, the widely accepted date among historians for the crucifixion of Jesus (the 1,981st if you find the arguments for April 3, AD 33 persuasive). Christians have been pondering this stuff for a long time. They've faced textual, historical, and philosophical scrutiny in almost every era, and they have left a sophisticated literary trail of reasons for the Faith.

My first tip, then, is to gain some awareness of the Church's vast intellectual tradition. It is not enough to quip that "intellectual" and "church" are oxymoronic. Origen, Augustine, Philoponus, Aquinas, and the rest are giants of Western thought. Without some familiarity with these figures, or their modern equivalents—Pannenberg, Ward, MacIntrye, McGrath, Plantinga, Hart, Volf—popular atheists can sound like the kid in English class: "Miss, Shakespeare is stupid!"

Tip #2. Notice how believers use the word "faith"

 
One of the things that becomes apparent in serious Christian literature is that almost no one uses "faith" in the sense of believing things without reasons. That might be Richard Dawkins' preferred definition—except when he was publicly asked by Oxford's Professor John Lennox whether he had "faith" in his lovely wife—but it is important to know that in theology "faith" always means personal trust in the God whose existence one accepts on other grounds. I think God is real for philosophical, historical, and experiential reasons. Only on the basis of my reasoned conviction can I then trust God—have faith in him—in the sense meant in theology.

Tip #3. Recognize the status of Six-Day Creationism

 
Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss have done a disservice to atheism by talking as though Six-Day Creationism is the default Christian conviction. But mainstream Christianity for decades has dismissed Six-Day Creationism as a misguided (if well-intentioned) project. Most Christian theologians and seminaries have taught for years that Genesis 1 was never intended to be read concretely, let alone scientifically. This isn't Christians retreating before the troubling advances of science. From the earliest centuries many of the greats of Judaism (e.g., Philo and Maimonides) and Christianity (e.g., Clement, Ambrose, and Augustine) taught that the "six days" of Genesis are a literary device, not a marker of time.

Tip #4. Repeat after me: few theologians embrace a God-of-the-gaps

 
One slightly annoying feature of New Atheism is the constant claim that believers invoke God as an explanation of the "gaps" in our knowledge of the universe: as we fill in the gaps with more science, God disappears. Even as thoughtful a man as Lawrence Krauss, a noted physicist, did this just last month on British radio following new evidence of the earliest moments of the Big Bang.

But serious theists have always leaned on philosophical, theological, and personal arguments for God, instead of proposing a God-of-the-gaps. They've also welcomed explanations of the mechanics of the universe as further indications of the rational order of reality, and therefore of the presence of a Mind behind reality.

Thus Krauss and others battling against the mythical God-of-the-gaps sound like a clever mechanic who imagines that just because he can explain how a car works he has done away with the Manufacturer.

Tip #5. "Atheists just go one god more" is a joke, not an argument

 
I wish I had a dollar for every time an atheist insisted to me that I am an atheist with respect to Thor, Zeus, Krishna, and so on, and that atheists just go "one god more". As every trained philosopher knows, Christians are not absolute atheists with regard to other gods. They happily affirm the shared theistic logic that there must be a powerful Mind behind a rational universe. The disagreements concern how the deity has revealed itself in the world. Atheism is not just an extension of monotheism any more than celibacy is an extension of monogamy.

Tip #6. Claims that Christianity is social "poison" backfire

 
Moving from science and philosophy to sociology, I regard New Atheism's "religion poisons everything" argument as perhaps its greatest faux pas. Not just because it is obviously untrue but because anyone who has entertained the idea and then bumped into an actual Christian community will quickly wonder what other fabrications Hitchens and Dawkins have spun.

I don't just mean that anyone who dips into Christian history will discover that the violence of Christendom is dwarfed by the bloodshed of non-religious and irreligious conflicts. I mean that those who find themselves, or their loved ones, in genuine need in almost any country in the Western world are very, very likely to become the beneficiaries of direct and indirect Christian compassion. The faithful account for an inordinate amount of "volunteering hours", they give blood at higher-than-normal rates, and the largest charities are mostly Christian organizations. This doesn't make Christians better than atheists, but it puts the lie to the claim that they're worse.

Tip #7. Concede that Jesus lived, then argue about the details

 
Nearly ten years after Richard Dawkins said that "a serious historical case" can be made that Jesus "never lived" (even if he admits that his existence is probable), it is astonishing to me that some atheists still agree with him. Even the man Dawkins cites at this point, G.A. Wells (a professor of German language, not a historian), published his own change of mind right about the time The God Delusion came out.

New Atheists should accept the academic reality that the vast majority of specialists in secular universities throughout the world consider it beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus lived, taught, gained a reputation as a healer, was crucified by Pontius Pilate, and was soon heralded by his followers as the resurrected Messiah. Unless skeptics can begin their arguments from this academic baseline, they are the mirror image of the religious fundamentalists they despise—unwilling to accept the scholarly mainstream over their metaphysical commitments.

Tip #8. Persuasion involves three factors

 
Aristotle was the first to point out that persuasion occurs through three factors: intellectual (logos), psychological (pathos), and social or ethical (ethos). People rarely change their minds merely on account of objective evidence. They usually need to feel the personal relevance and impact of a claim, and they also must feel that the source of the claim—whether a scientist or a priest—is trustworthy.

Christians frequently admit that their convictions developed under the influence of all three elements. When skeptics, however, insist that their unbelief is based solely on "evidence", they appear one-dimensional and lacking in self-awareness. They would do better to figure out how to incorporate their evidence within the broader context of its personal relevance and credibility. I think this is why Alain de Botton is a far more persuasive atheist (for thoughtful folk) than Richard Dawkins or Lawrence Krauss. It also helps explain why churches attract more enquirers than the local skeptics club.

Tip #9. Ask us about Old Testament violence

 
I promised to highlight vulnerabilities of the Christian Faith. Here are two.

Most thoughtful Christians find it difficult to reconcile the loving, self-sacrificial presentation of God in the New Testament with the seemingly harsh and violent portrayals of divinity in the Old Testament. I am not endorsing Richard Dawkins' attempts in chapter 7 of The God Delusion. There he mistakenly includes stories that the Old Testament itself holds up as counter examples of true piety. But there is a dissonance between Christ's "love your enemies" and Moses' "slay the wicked".

I am not sure this line of argument has the power to undo Christian convictions entirely. I, for one, feel that the lines of evidence pointing to God's self-disclosure in Christ are so robust that I am able to ponder the inconsistencies in the Old Testament without chucking in the Faith. Still, I reckon this is one line of scrutiny Christians haven't yet fully answered.

Tip #10. Press us on hell and judgment

 
Questions can also be raised about God's fairness with the world. I don't mean the problem of evil and suffering: philosophers seem to regard that argument as a "draw". I am talking about how Christians can, on the one hand, affirm God's costly love in Jesus Christ and, yet, on the other, maintain Christ's equally clear message that those who refuse the Creator will face eternal judgment. If God is so eager for our friendship that he would enter our world, share our humanity, and bear our punishment on the cross, how could he feel it is appropriate to send anyone to endless judgment?

This is a peculiar problem of the Christian gospel. If God were principally holy and righteous, and only occasionally magnanimous in special circumstances, we wouldn't be shocked by final judgment. But it is precisely because Jesus described God as a Father rushing to embrace and kiss the returning "prodigal" that Christians wonder how to hold this in tension with warnings of hell and judgment.

Again, I'm not giving up on classical Christianity because of this internally generated dilemma, but I admit to feeling squeamish about it, and I secretly hope atheists in my audiences don't think to ask me about it.

In the end, I don't think there are any strong scientific, philosophical, or historical arguments against Christianity. Most of those in current circulation are nowhere near as persuasive as New Atheism imagines. Contemporary skeptics would do well to drop them. Paradoxically, I do think Christianity is vulnerable at precisely the points of its own emphases. Its insistence on love, humility, and non-violence is what makes the Old Testament seem inconsistent. Its claim that God "loves us to death" (literally) creates the dilemma of its teaching about final judgment. Pressing Christians on this inner logic of the cross of Christ will make for a very interesting debate, I am sure. Believers may have decent answers, but at least, during this season, you'll be touching a truly raw nerve of their Easter Faith.
 
 
Originally posted at ABC. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Good Enough Mother)

John Dickson

Written by

John Dickson is co-director of the Centre for Public Christianity. He has an honors degree in theology and a PhD in ancient history and is also a Senior Research Fellow with the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University where he teaches in the MA in Early Christian and Jewish Studies program.

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  • Ben Posin

    Oh my goodness. This is the most impressive atheist catnip I have ever seen. It's so powerful that even the fact that it looks as if it was designed to draw in apoplectic atheists doesn't actually diminish from the draw.

    There are a lot of things to jump on here, and each could be done in depth. Here's a first glance summary of what pops into my head:

    1. This is basically the purest example of the Courtier's Reply that I have ever seen. One does not need to be an expert in 8 centuries of Parisian fashion to notice that the Emperor has no clothes, and one does not need to read through a laundry list of theologians to come to grips with the basic lack of evidence supporting existence of a God. There are a lot more problems with this part of the article, and man is the tone insulting, but that's one to get people started.

    2. Believers are welcome to write any definition for the word faith they want. That doesn't change what's actually happening when they think about religion, and whether or not there's a tendency to be willing to accept things when in religion mode with more strength than the evidence supports.
    3. Six day creationism is goofy. Glad we agree. Mormonism is goofy too. I bet we could agree about all kinds of things that are goofy--and that we'll disagree about where to draw the line. There are aspects of Catholocism that, to an atheist, seem equally goofy. So I'm not really sure what this one is about. Happy to talk about the goofier parts of Catholocism if you prefer, and not talk about six day creationism.
    4. As a practical matter, God of the gaps comes up a huge amount in discussions iwth Christians, whether Catholics or otherwise. It's great to say that serious Catholic theologians don't believe in this idea, but what are atheists to do when Catholics they are talking to exercise God of the Gaps reasoning? Not mention it?
    5. It's a bit of a joke, but there's also some real truth there. It strikes me as a very meaningful and useful exercise for a theist of any sort to think about all the reasons they disbelieve the claims of other religions. At the very least, it provides you with a lense through which to understand atheists. I get that you think your religion is different in some way than all the others, which can be rejected out of hand, but get that this is not apparent from the atheist perspective.
    6. It's hard to do the numbers on this one. Lots of Christians do great things. Christian religions have also, as institutions, been responsible for terrible things, and lots of Christians have done terrible things. Strikes me as a good idea for Christians to be aware of the horrors done in Christ's name, or under the apparent authority of the Catholic Church, especially when claiming the Catholic Church is an unassailable, by definition correct authority.
    7. I think it more likely than not that some sort of person fit some sort of roughly Jesus shaped hole, and I accept that this seems to be where the greater weight of scholarly opinion lies. But I think it's a bit silly to pretend it's been proven, or that the subject isn't open for discussion.

    8. I agree that it's very hard to reason someone out of a position that they didn't actually reason themself into. One of the reasons religion is so pernicious.
    9. Someone hasn't been paying attention. We ask about this all the time. It's discussed on this very website all over the place. From this atheist's perspective, I've never seen an answer that passes the laugh test.
    10. See 9.
    In closing, this piece is full of smarm such that I would expect the poster to be banned from this website if he wrote in such a manner. I'm at a loss at how to fully express how unproductive I think following any of this "advice" would be.

    • Andrew Jeffrey Patrick Gangidi

      Hey, I can try to share some thoughts on #9 and 10.

      This is a quote from Saint John Paul II on Genesis:
      "Following the contemporary philosophy of religion and that of language, it can be said that the language in question is a mythical one. In this case, the term “myth” does not designate a fabulous content, but merely an archaic way of expressing a deeper content."

      (Actually, there's an entire blog written on "The Literal Reading of Genesis" right here if you're interested: http://www.ucssp.com/blog--our-voice-history/on-the-literal-reading-of-genesis )

      And as for Hell - I (as a Catholic) was not satisfied with this blog post. Here's the easiest way for me to describe the Catholic train of thought:

      - God is Love, and all about Love. Love cannot exist without free choice, right? That's why God gives us the choice to choose him. It's also why he still creates people he knows will choose not to love him. It's not really allowing free will if he only creates those who would choose him, right?

      - So if God allows us to choose to be with him and Love him, he has to let the other choice be a possibility too. That is what Hell is. Hell MUST exist in order for our free will to not be violated. If somebody truly wants to be apart from God they must be able to do so, or else God would not be allowing us to Love.
      "I don't want to be with you, God" "TOO BAD GET INTO HEAVEN"
      ^not how it goes. Catholics don't (*shouldn't, you may run into the ignorant) believe of a hell that people get sent to kicking and screaming.

      Also, it even says in the Catechism that if you are a good person, even if you aren't a Christian, you are still doing God's will and can go to heaven.

      The Catechism says this in 846-848 (http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a9p3.htm)

      also, here's another blog on Hell if you're interested:
      http://www.ucssp.com/blog--our-voice-history/the-basics-of-hell

      • jason bladzinski

        So what you are saying is that people would willingly choose an eternity of torture? You might find people who claim that but in the moment of actual choice I doubt many would stick to that. Free will doesn't make sense to me if God has an individual plan for everyone. How can free will and a plan work in tandem?

        • Andrew Jeffrey Patrick Gangidi

          Not quite - I think the understand of hell as "fire and torture" is both archaeic and allegorical. Hell is simply "without God" the pain and suffering comes from our understand that man's TRUE happiness and fulfillment can only come from God - or in other words, in unity with God. Hell would be forever being unable to be in that happiness - also only being allowed to exist in a state apart from him because God loved you enough to let you be there. I agree that at moment of choice, I don't see how anybody would choose Hell. It's a mystery, and it's also where conscience comes in. How aware are we of what we do and it's place in God's plan? How much does immaturity, stupidity, and ignorance factor in to judgement?

          And Free Will is definitely confusing - the simplest way to describe it is that while God indeed does want us to never sin, we will - and God's plan will be able to make the most of any given situation. Perhaps not in terms of THIS world's happiness, but in the next. Our choices have consequences, but we can always be forgiven if we ask.

          • jason bladzinski

            And you make this observation about hell under what evidence? I'm an atheist, and God isn't in my life, and I don't believe in him. So he is not there, for me now, in the same aspect as would be for those in hell as you describe, and I'm doing just fine. In fact, my life improved significantly when I deconverted to atheism, and you will find many atheists say the very same. I don't think free will exists in biblical sense, it contradicts the idea that God has an individual plan for everyone. In such a case, how could a person have enough power to destroy God's plan? It doesn't make sense.

          • Andrew Jeffrey Patrick Gangidi

            Surely we aren't saying that not noticing the presence of something is the same as it not existing, right? It appears you are saying the evidence God isn't in your life is that you haven't seen him. I mean, if that were the case I could say viruses don't exist because I don't believe in them and haven't seen them, or that Homeopathy is a better alternative to normal drugs since somebody took them and felt better afterwards.

            And God's plan for each person is Holiness. But we must cooperate. Having the freedom to choose something apart from Love isn't destroying God's plan, it's destroying ourselves. This falls under the "Can God create a rock so big he can't move it?" God *can't* do everything. For instance, he can't, or won't, do something against his nature. God can't limit himself. God can't choose evil (by definition not a thing itself but the absence of something else (good)), and God can't, or won't, force us to do what HE wants, for that would not be Love, as love can't exist without a free choice.

          • jason bladzinski

            No, where did i say I don't believe in God because I can't see him? What you are saying is misguided . I can't see atoms and neither can the scientists who make us aware of their existence. However what I can perceive is the way in which atoms are shown to exist, how what was described and predicted about them behaving in the manner of which these scientists described. I can see their application in nuclear power, electricity, chemistry, and so on. I can't see the wind, but I feel it blow. I can't see gravity, buy I can witness it behave in the way described by picking up and dropping a pen. I can't see a virus, but I can feel and witness its effect, I can get vaccinations that make me immune. I know when someone recovers from an illness, that such things occur everyday, through examination I can discover why.
            Instead of God revealing himself to us, he wants us to believe in him despite of no evidence, and if you don't, you spend an eternity in hell no matter what good things you did in your life? Does that sound like a moral, just, perfectly benevolent being to you? You are just lying to yourself. It's easier to believe you have powerful force looking out for you, and providing you with a place to be with loved ones after death, but there are more negative effects. Religion controls you, shakles your life, your true nature, makes you feel both very important while being flawed and feeling guilty at the same time. You don't need God for love. That's a crazy notion, plenty of people live on this earth without belief in God, and all of them are capable and do love. Ask yourself, what would change in your life, if you took your belief in God away from it?

          • Andrew Jeffrey Patrick Gangidi

            Except Catholics don't believe only Catholics can go to Heaven. Section 847 of the Catechism states: "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation". So no, I'm not lying to myself. You are simply incorrect about what Catholicism teaches. Sorry if that wasn't clear. It seems a lot of your questions are based off of incorrect assumptions of what Catholicism teaches, or is based on what other organized religions teach. Maybe you should look into that more - I can tell you that many of your concerns are misguided.

            Also, I was saying you saying that your life is better now and that God "is not there for you" does not lead to the conclusion that God is't real.

            And ironically enough, so many people would say the exact same thing about God as you opened up with. Millions have witnessed God in their lives. Millions witness miracles small and large, from incorruptible saints, Eucharistic miracles, flowers from St. Therese, etc. And several people don't. But they see God in his works as a painter is reflected in a painting. You don't look at a painting and say "Show me Picaso in this painting". Of course science is based on empirical proof and religion on the supernatural, so obviously science can never "disprove" religion and religion can never "disprove" science.

            And yes, you don't need to believe in God to love, but that's where love comes from. Belief in something, as with science, as with God - does not change its reality. Keep in mind I speak of Catholicism solely - I am against what many other religions and even other forms of Christianity (such as ones that teach creationism) teach.

          • jason bladzinski

            No my friend it is you that misguided. I used to be Roman Catholic, belief in Jesus was the only way to heaven. There is nothing about my statements are based off incorrect assumptions, and if they were you could provide evidence for this, and You haven't.
            Science is not unable to report on the supernatural because nothing that was attributed to supernatural power or beings has actually turned out to be supernatural in origin. Every action theists proclaim to have a supernatural origin has proven false. Theists continually fail to the God of the Gaps, and god is slipping further through the gaps, to become obsolete if you will.
            If miracles are happening every day, why don't we have evidence for them? We live in a time where we all carry little video cameras in our pockets, but I have yet to see a real miracle on YouTube.
            Love doesn't come from God, that's rediculous. What do you tell Hindus, or Buddhists, that their love isn't real or is coming from a source they don't believe in? What about my dog and cat who display a very unconditional love for me, but according to Christianity don't and can't ever know of god, or have a soul?

  • GCBill

    Atheist here. I agree with #1, #2, #4, #5, and #6. I disagree somewhat (though not entirely) with the remaining points.

    #3: "mainstream Christianity for decades has dismissed Six-Day Creationism as a misguided (if well-intentioned) project."
    You're referring to the positions of clergy and theologians, so you're technically correct. But what about ordinary Christians who are more likely to believe in creationism than theistic evolution? When atheists criticize Six-Day Creationism, we're not aiming to persuade the theologians; we're aiming at convincing the people that theology has failed to convince. In some cases, these are the people who fill your pews. Theologians certainly deserve to be addressed, but so do these ordinary people. So please consider the intended audience of the critiques.

    #7: I agree that atheists are sometimes guilty of disregarding legitimate Biblical scholarship in favor of convenient (but false) theories. However, from my understanding, the scholarly consensus on Jesus isn't really in line with the Catholic Church's teaching either. For instance, She teaches Christ's resurrection as dogma; yet amongst scholars, this conclusion is far less certain. Scholars also disagree over whether Jesus was (or even intended to portray himself) as God, yet again, this is dogmatically settled for Catholics. So we're not the only ones who put "metaphysical commitments" ahead of the available evidence.

    #8: No one denies that persuasion usually involves more than just "objective evidence." But I (and other atheists) argue that this is a weakness in human reasoning. We aspire to base our conclusions off of evidence to the highest degree that is humanly possible. We realize that we're not perfect at doing this (no one is!), but that's no reason not to aspire to the highest rationalistic standard. We should actively try to minimize the effects of "pathos" and "ethos" when determining what is true of the world.

    #9: Here I suspect we will find little common ground. I do consider God's actions in the OT repugnant enough that I can see no reason that omnibenevolent Being should ever prefer them. So long as it is logically possible for God to acquire the same good without having to bring it forth from such great evil, then He would have done so were He omnibenevolent. It seems logically possible that God could have revealed himself without ever having to condone genocide; all it would have taken is different historical circumstances. So I do think it's particularly devastating that He instead chose the means of revelation that ended in death for so many.

    #10: I don't consider the Problem of Evil a "draw." In fact, in my objection to #9 (and elsewhere on this site when discussing free will), I have alluded to a much more extreme view: I think it might be possible for atheists to resurrect the Logical Problem of Evil. I will attempt to outline the argument briefly here, although I admit that my formal logic is rusty (so you shouldn't regard my formulation here as definitive):

    1) God allegedly has free will
    2) God does no evil
    3) (via 1,2) Free will is compatible with moral perfection (i.e. logically possible)
    4) God is omnipotent (i.e. can do anything that is logically possible)
    5) (via 3,4) God can create morally perfect beings with free will
    6) God is allegedly omibenevolent (infinitely good)
    7) An omnibenevolent being would not choose a lesser good over a greater one
    8) (via 6,7) God would not choose a lesser good over a greater one
    9) Humans have free will, but can do evil
    10) P9 (what is actually true) is less good than P5 (what God could have done).
    11) (via 8,10) God does not exist

    I think this argument is valid. If so, which of these premise(s) would you (or Catholics in general) deny? If not, can you tell me which moves are invalid?

    In any case, this was a thoughtful article, and (unlike some others that are reposted here) is actually quite respectful. I judge it to be a good contribution to Catholic-atheist dialogue. Thanks for your time reading and (if you so choose) responding.

    • Ben Posin

      While I find myself nodding along at many points, I'm amazed at how differently we see the tone of this article. When I read the article, I see a Christian not trying to provide insight on the Christian mindset and ways on how best to reach him, but instead a smug attempt to chastize a caricature of atheists, which seems to attempt to dismiss certain broad swathes of argument with a derisive tone where the author lacks a defensible position.

      • GCBill

        I gave it a charitable reading, in line with the author's stated intentions. I do think some of his points venture into caricature, but I don't think that was intentional. The only part of the article that came across as strongly condescending to me was actually the first two sentences, but the more I read the more I decided that it probably wasn't intentional.

        Maybe the comments section will prove me wrong, but I'd rather err on the side of charity. Have you read any of his other material? I admit that I have not, and so if you have you might be in a better position to judge his character than I am.

        • Ben Posin

          I'm not familiar with his other work. I certainly respect your attempt to take this as well intentioned. If others don't see it in the same way I did, I'll have to give the issue some more thought.

        • Scott Fahle

          While I'm sure there may be some caricature going on, I know at least a half dozen people personally who wholly fit the stereotype! I would like to have more productive conversations with them, but that doesn't seem to be possible, largely because of the mistakes the author points out.

          Perhaps it is a question of audience. You point out that the average Christian is more likely to believe in a six day creationism. More theologically sound Christians are frustrated when atheists lump them in with that group. Perhaps the same thing is happening here.

          I'm hoping this post will be useful for helping some of my atheists friends to have a better conversation with me about Christianity, and I think its a good fit for where they are at. Maybe the average atheist at Strange Notions has already moved beyond that level.

          Either way, I think a charitable reading is called for.

          • GCBill

            I am sorry that your friends do not take your position more seriously. I'd probably have a difficult time staying friends with someone who wouldn't at least engage my arguments. Perhaps that's why I mostly debate with strangers...

            I admit that I'm a bit disconnected from the "average" person's religious views (whether Christian or not), mainly because I've read a bit about theology and taken collegiate philosophy courses. I certainly wouldn't assume that the "average" Strange Notions reader is like the "average" Christian or atheist. On this site, I can afford to assume more sophisticated views than I can when talking with people elsewhere.

            The appropriateness of critiquing creationism is definitely a "question of audience." Anti-YEC arguments are certainly appropriate for forums that are read and/or populated by YEC believers. Yet they are not appropriate here, because virtually no one here is a creationist.

            If Dickson's piece were written specifically for this site, I'd merely take it as an admonishment against discussing YEC in an inappropriate venue. But (correct me if I'm wrong) in his original context, he's speaking more generally about the dialogue between Christians and atheists. And that dialogue still needs a place for criticism of YEC views. So in that context, I disagree with his 3rd point. In the context of discussions on this site, creationism is really just a sideshow event.

    • Steve Law

      To my mind 5) is incoherent. I don't see how God could create morally perfect beings with free will who are guaranteed to always remain morally perfect. Free Will means a real choice and a potential for immorality, and it is not logically possible for their to be free will with no potential or possibility of immoral behaviour.

      • GCBill

        If moral perfection cannot logically coexist with free will, and free will "means a real choice and a potential for immorality," then God also cannot have free will as alleged by 1). This move defeats my argument, but lets in another objection in the process. It would mean that "God" lacked something that was eminent in His creation. In that case, we're probably not even be justified in calling Him "God" anymore. If you take this route, the same conclusion follows for different reasons.

        A more successful objection to 5) would have to show that just because God can possess free will while being morally perfect, does not mean that God's creation can. I'm not sure how this objection should go, but I think that you have to make that distinction in order to deny 5) and maintain 1) - something you need to do in order to maintain "God's" Godhood.

        • Scott

          I don't find your arguments logical. You're saying that, if God can't do something (or chooses not to do something), then God does not have free will. What about logical inconsistencies? Can God create a short, tall person? Or, a living, dead person? Free will means "free," you get to decide. Not, you get to decide from a limited set of acceptable choices. An unlimited God can choose to be self limiting (i.e., to allow creations their own free will).

          To your second point: God isn't just morally perfect, God creates and therefore defines what is morally perfect. Something isn't wrong because God said so, something is wrong because it is deficient to how it was created. God allows us that choice. It is a much more loving act by God than to create robots that can only do exactly what God allow them to do.

          • GCBill

            I'm not saying that "if God can't do something ... then God does not have free will." In fact, my argument hinges on the exact opposite proof. I'm saying that God's inability to perform "evil" or contradictory actions is no obstacle to His free will. From that, we can conclude that the inability to do something evil is compatible with free will.

            And once we conclude that, your line of reasoning falls apart. The fact that God cannot choose evil effectively "limits" his set of "acceptable choices," in your own words. But that's not an obstacle to his free will. Why won't you extend that same line of reasoning to humans? Why do we have to be able to commit evil in order to have free will, when the same is not true of God? It's a double standard that no one here has attempted to defend.

          • Scott

            Because God is both the definer (by being the Creator) and the doer. Human beings are doers (by having free will), but they are not the definers. I can say that touching a hot stove will not burn me, but I can not make it true.

            It seems that it would be logically inconsistent for God to create something a certain way, and then to act in a way that diminishes that thing (i.e., evil as an absence of good).

            Now you see the Christian argument for evil. We struggle with God, trying to be the creator. It seldom works out well for us.

          • Susan

            Because God is both the definer (by being the Creator) and the doer.

            But you haven't addressed GCBill's point that the inability to perform evil is not an obstacle to free will.

          • Scott

            I guess that's because I was missing Bill's point because I would not agree with the premise. I would say that, with human beings, free will and moral perfection do not coexist (i.e., 100% of the time). But, human beings can choose the morally perfect thing sometimes. This is a difference between some Christian traditions. Some of the Reformation theologies state that human beings are incapable of choosing good without God's grace. Catholic theology disagrees, and says that human beings are capable of choosing good. We just don't achieve that 100% (some do better then others, and some aren't really trying).

            God, on the other hand, does not perform evil. Is God incapable of performing evil? Or, does God just not perform evil? I guess that comes down to how you define evil. The Christian tradition defines evil as the absence of good (Augustine compares evil to a rip in a shirt. The rip is not a thing in itself, it is the absence of a thing...wholeness). At other times, Christianity has talked about evil as acting against God's will. Neither of these ways of speaking about evil really creates much room for God doing evil (by choice or accident). God is good. All goodness flows from God. We can block that goodness like a shadow (absence), but that is our "creation," not God's. Also, God can't act against God's will because that would be self-contradictory. God's will is free, but it is also God's. So, only in God are free will and evil incompatible. That is a property of God, not a property of all free will.

          • Candy Smith

            God cannot do evil! All that does is make his FreeWill mean he can't do evil, and he can't contradict himself, can't lie, and can't stop being God, and can't sin! And that's it!

          • Candy Smith

            Why do we have to be able to commit evil in order to have free will, when the same is not true of God?

            Because how would it be freewill if we were not allowed to do wrong things! If a person has freewill, he does good and bad! If humans only do good, how is it freewill!?

          • jason bladzinski

            Can God create a rock so heavy he can't lift it? Could he create another being as powerful or more powerful than himself?

          • Scott

            Yes, these are good examples of logical inconsistencies that people like to ask as if they are an argument for anything.

          • jason bladzinski

            They are and argument about the nature of God. Christians claim God is all powerful, an omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being. The point is that it is impossible for a being of such power to exist, for the reasons put forth in those questions. What you are doing is attempting to distract from the fact that you cannot answer those questions while still asserting that God is all the things he is claimed to be.

          • Scott

            It seems more like the problem is yours. You have a distorted definition of "all." There is no "more" than "all." It is a logical inconsistency. You seem to have redefined "all" to allow for "more than all" ("all = some" for you). Then you get all excited because you've created ridiculous question that proves nothing (except that you can create ridiculous questions).

            The real problem is that you can only imagine a very human god, and you've rejected that god. I agree. I reject the god you imagine too.

          • jason bladzinski

            No, no no no. You are being defensive and rude now by Claiming I have a problem, I never accused you of having a problem. The reason you are offended is because of the psychology of humans, god is a projection into the self, we our are own gods. What you are committing here is the special pleading logical fallacy. According to Genisis, god created man in his own image, after eating the forbidden fruit Adam an Eve hide from God and he has trouble finding them, God tests people like Abraham and Job, Jesus is both his son and his equal as God in human form, he breathes life into Adam an Eve, there are many instances including those which I have mentioned here in which God clearly operates like a person. These are direct contradictions with the claim that God is an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient being. In The Bible God condones genocide, rape, slavery, and murder these are characteristics of a immoral human behavior negating the claim that God is omnibenevolent.
            It is not for human traits that I reject God. So this isn't my problem either. I reject all theistic claims about god(s) because of the lack of objective demonstrable evidence. Not one single religion on the planet can produce a single shred of evidence for the existence of a supernatural power and deity. Belief is not something you choose. You are either convinced or you are not. People are born into a culture and their religion is almost always a product of the particular culture they live in. Had you been born in the middle east you most likely would have been a Jew or Muslim. It's the powerful indoctrination you are given as a child that makes it difficult to think analytically and critically about your religion. In those unwilling to fully examine the validity of the claims of their theistic beliefs questions that may cause doubt create a strong anxiety for the individual. I don't care to deconvert anyone, atheism has no agenda to build up its numbers as religions like Christianity do to bolster "God's Army. " However, I do hope to influence others to really think about what they have been told and believe in regards to their particular denomination. Its no small thing to devote your life to a religion which demands certain parameters within our lives here. We only get one, why waste it on something that causes you to devalue this life you have here in preparation for one supposedly that will begin at the end of this one?

          • Scott

            Now who is being defensive and rude ;-) Yes, I pointed out a problem in your use of language (i.e., requiring there to be something more than all). You don't seem to think that is a problem. If you'd like to ignore that and shift the discussion to biblical interpretation, that's fine with me. It seem like you are rejecting fundamentalism. Fundamentalists believe that God is the author of scripture, and they have to explain many of the things you pointed out. Mainline Christianity has always recognized the inspiration of God and the human author. We see the times we've projected our human limitation onto God, but we also see the growth in understanding (e.g., there is much less of that in the New Testament than in the Old...thank you Jesus!).

            I appreciate that you think that because I disagree with you I haven't thought it out. My religion does not devalue this life (contrary to your understanding). I believe that it calls me to value this life (mine and others) even more. If your atheism calls you to love more, to value others more, and to embrace all that is good, and true, and beautiful, then it is a blessing. If it calls you to think of others as dupes who are wasting their lives, then I'm afraid it is doing more harm than good.

          • jason bladzinski

            You are misrepresenting again. First off, if I found your previous statements to be rude, which they were because you made the claim that, "yes, these are good examples of logical inconsistencies that people like to ask as if they are an argument for Anything" You didnt think i would take offense to that? However, my response to that statement wasn't defensive or insulting, I just stated a refute of that argument. Following this post, you said, "It seems more like the problem is yours." At no point did I accuse you of having a problem as an individual, I stated the problem in the inconsistencies of God's nature. I never even used the word problem. Your statement was an attack on me having a problem as a person. Do you think i was unjustified to take offense to such an implication?
            Im not aware of any Christian sect that believes The Bible was written directly by God. I'm pretty sure that in all cases the implication is that God directly inspired and guided the word through human vessels, in the old testament. In the New, Jesus essentially being God, any claimed direct words spoken by him would be equivalent to the direct word of God, but the Gospels were supposedly written by disciples. The time in which the books of the New testament were writing was some good deal of time after the events had supposedly occurred. I don't know why you are assuming that Catholicism is seperate from Christianity, it's not Catholicism is a sect of Christianity.
            Jesus acts much like a human throughout the New testament despite his claimed divine nature. Even to the point of committing blasphemy during his crucifixion in which he asks God why he has forsaken him.
            I think that the fact of the nature of the supposedly all powerful God not being reflected in his attributed behaviors and actions in Bible makes a strong case against the existence of God. The fact that it is necessary for God to be an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being for the claims of his nature as the perfect eternal being and yet he is unable to act as this type of entity within The Bible speaks to the fact that God is an invention of humanity. You must remember, The Bible isn't evidence of the truth of your religion, it IS your religion. There is no other source, or at least no other source sanctioned by Christianity.
            I don't believe the Abrahamic God exists. If you are indeed unwilling to admit these flaws and contradictions that are so obvious, and that which you have adopted circular logic in an attempt to reconcile, demonstrates that you haven't really thought it out. If I am calling anyone dupes, than you have to realize that I don't assault individuals for this issue, and I made this clear by addressing the powerful indoctrination that starts at a young age and makes it hard for anyone to let go of those things that keep you compliant to this indoctrination. I do not think that theists are completely waiting their lives worshipping an imaginary power, yet I do think that theists are sabotaging elements of their life by holding faith in religion. What would you hold to be good and true as a Christian, is undoubtedly different from what I hold good and true as an atheist. The source of morality for you comes from God, the source of my secular morality has its source in the natural evolution of human understanding and culture. My morality is based on the ethics of human empathy and society where yours is based on a deity that you cannot question or rise above. I don't like to see anyone taken advantage of, taken hostage of by powers that intend to keep you controlled and manageable as a population. If you intend to control a population, putting the fear of a wrathful deity in their minds is an excellent way of doing so .

          • Candy Smith

            He does not have trouble finding them!

          • Candy Smith

            It is not for human traits that I reject God. So this isn't my problem either.

            Yeah it is a problem that u choose to reject God, because the Evidence is obvious!

          • Candy Smith

            . I reject all theistic claims about god(s) because of the lack of objective demonstrable evidence.

            The Moral argument! That is objective basis for Morality! Not subjective! That right there is an example of Objective!

          • jason bladzinski

            Please explain to me where I got all excited because I have asked what you deem to be ridiculous questions? Then explain to me where I redefined all to allow for more than all? You win my argument for me with your wording. Of course there cannot be more than all, and that is what makes the concept of an all powerful being logically impossible. If such a being cannot do something than this being is not all powerful.

          • Scott

            I'm not sure I can explain this in a way that will satisfy you, but I will give it a try.

            It is possible to make a statement that is logically inconsistent: "The empty space was full of stuff." An empty space cannot be full of stuff without ceasing to be empty. The statement can never be true because it has two parts that cannot be true at the same time. It would be true to say that even God cannot create an empty space that is full of stuff. Why? Is this a limitation of God? God is so weak that he can't even create an empty space full of stuff. It seems like you believe that this is a limitation of God (i.e., God cannot be all powerful). I would say that it is not a limitation of God. All we've done is create a statement with two parts that cannot be true at the same time (by definition...in this case the definition of "empty").

            In the case we've been discussing you've said, "If such a being cannot do something than this being is not all powerful." The thing that cannot be done in this case is for an "all powerful" being to create something "more powerful" (note: the stone question is just a variation on this theme). That's why I said that it is an issue of definition. The definition of "all powerful" is that there is not something "more powerful." I know that you feel that this disproves God. I just find it a logical inconsistency that doesn't prove anything (other than an ability to create a statement with two parts that cannot be true at the same time).

            http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/index.php/logical-fallacies/113-inconsistency

            So, now we've settled on a difference that I doubt we'll resolve. There are people who believe that logical inconsistencies are proof, and those who do not. I do not expect to change your mind. I do not expect you to change mine.

          • jason bladzinski

            The problem with this is a point being made by you in which you are actually proving my argument. To be a being that is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient nothing can be outside of this power. There can be no limit. This is where the problem lies, if there is something that cannot be achieved by that which is all powerful, than being all powerful is impossible. Much like infinity, this concept is without limit. Is infinity plus infinity more than infinity? Is infinity times infinity greater than infinity? No, infinity is limitless. This is why infinity cannot exist. We can examine this from the claim that our universe is infinite. We now no that isn't accurate, the universe is a finite thing. There is no edge because it folds back onto itself. Much like how you cannot walk off the edge if the Earth, there is no edge because it is a sphere. If God is an infinite being, there is no end to his ability. If he is the eternal creator than he defines what we see as finite empty space, and that which is not empty. If he cannot overcome limitations, even those presented by his own existence than logically he cannot be an all powerful being. The problem is that an all powerful being cannot exist, same as how infinity cannot exist. They can't even truly be perceived. If God exists, he would negate his own existence, he cannot be. I think we are more in agreement than you realize. I just see a being if this quality being impossible where you see a being of this quality as limited. God cannot be what the religion claims him to be, for me this is a contradiction that causes me to not accept the claim if his existence.

          • Scott

            So the good news is that I think I better understand where you're coming from. It's taken me awhile because I don't think like you do. I'm comfortable with a definition of "all powerful" that doesn't include the "power" over logical inconsistencies. I do realize now that you're not. Even if I were to adopt your viewpoint, I don't think it would prove much to me. I can't say that God can't do something (e.g., create a God more powerful than all powerful) because I can't observe it. I can only argue it from a logic perspective and logical inconsistencies are the divide-by-zero error that invalidate logic arguments. Anyway, you've made a lot of comments I'd like to respond to, but I going to bed now. I'll have to try to find time tomorrow. If you're looking for something more to chew on. Here's a video that explores the existence of God through scientific arguments (not the logic ones we've been discussing):

            http://www.magiscenter.com/science-god-creation-video/

          • jason bladzinski

            The power that is attributed to God is infinte. If he cannot overcome a situation no matter how logically inconsistent it might be, this means that he has limits. An infinte being with infinite power should have no limit. If indeed your God is powerless to do something, this is a contradiction about his supposed nature. This can mean that whatever power this is is described incorrectly by humans unable to perceive or understand a force of this nature, or that it is a fabrication. I cannot know for sure that a power like God doesn't exist, I am an agnostic atheist, however I do think that being claimed by Christianity, or any other supernatural power as described by all and any of the theologies of this world do not exist. The reason for this lack of belief, for me, is that the nature of such beings as described by the various theists of this world are completely devoid of empirical data, and objective demonstrable evidence. That is my position. There aren't as many people like minded to me as theists in this world, but we do exist.

          • Scott

            I do think we agree on one thing: A limited God cannot be God. You feel that a logical inconsistency disproves an all-powerful God. I don't. Here's the problem. The only argument that I can make that God can't do something is to day that he can't do it because it is a logical inconsistency. I don't actually know that he can't do it. So, it'd doesn't disprove an all-powerful God. It just proves that I can't imagine how he could do it. I'm comfortable with that.

            My comfort comes from other evidence. There is the philosophical/logical evidence like the argument from cause and effect. Even more compelling in this day and age are the scientific arguments for a creator. Those are much better articulated in the link I posted above.

            I've never heard an atheist articulate a credible reason for why physical reality exist at all. We've known it didn't always exist since at least 1927.

          • jason bladzinski

            No, I think it's a little different. I can't believe in your God because The Bible declares him acting as an all powerful agent, but he clearly doesn't act as one making for a contradiction. I also believe it is philosophically impossible for a being with this power to exist and I have already stated why.
            I don't think cause and effect can be used as evidence for God. I'll explain why: you can't use an infinite regress to explain God's existence. Christians will claim that something cannot come from nothing, and so why we can't explain how the event of big bang started existence, the answer means that God did it. This falls to two logical fallacies. The first being an argument from ignorance, just because you can't know how something works does not mean the answer must be God. You don't have enough information to make that judgement either. The second fallacy is that of special pleading. You say something can't come from nothing, therefore there must be an agent of power that brought about the event of big bang, and that agent is God. The problem with that is where did god come from? You can't claim that something cannot come from nothing except in one case, for which god doesn't need to have had an agent that brought him into existence, as be would have had to come from nothing.
            I'm not aware of any mainstream science or scientists that claim compelling scientific evidence for God. The hallmark of science is testable, observable, objective, demonstrable evidence. There is no evidence of an objective nature for the existence of God. There only exists subjective and anecdotal experience. Christian apologetics are pseudo science. Instead of collecting data and basing a model on that data, Christian apologists attempt to bend science to there pre-concieved notions of how things work. That isn't science. The creationist views put forward ideas that the Earth is 6000 years old and that radiometric dating is flawed. The creationist theory would have us believe that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. It's rather silly.
            You will never hear an atheist articulate a reason for existence, because there isn't any reason. Atheists are cosmologists, we aren't theists. There is no part of atheism that is concerned with explaining things like the purpose if existence or the reason or meaning of life. That's not an atheist agenda. Atheism is mearly the un-belief in a deity, it is the rejection if theistic claims, and that's it. However if you ask an atheist their opinion on the matter of how and why in regard to existence, they would answer that they don't know. Truth is we don't, and I don't see a problem with that. We will wait until we know more to begin to tackle a problem like that. We don't presume to already know based on that which we can't verify. I think believing you do know Is rather arrogant.

          • Scott

            It seems like we're mostly in agreement then. Yes, there is an argument about what caused the Big Bang, and we have no way of observing it. All we do know is that there must have been a cause. There are various theories. The BGV proof simply gets us to the point that at some point there must have been nothing.

            http://creationwiki.org/Borde-Guth-Vilenkin_singularity_theorem

            And yes to your second issue. If only nothing can come from nothing, then Christians see this as evidence for God. As philosophy has been saying for at least 800 years, there must by something eternal that transcends physical reality (i.e., something that doesn't need a creation, just always existed). We call that thing God. Yes, the main evidence for this is the existence of physical reality itself.

            I am with you about "creationists," but please don't equate their "pseudo science" with the view of all of Christianity. Christians have been scientists for as long as modern science has existed. The "pseudo science" you and I would disagree with is a relatively modern outgrowth of the Reformations emphasis on Sola Scriptura (Bible as the answer for everything). On the other hand, it was a Belgian Catholic priest and scientist who gave us the Big Bang (although the name came from someone else).

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre

            I seriously recommend that video link I posted in a previous message. He goes through four things that point us to God. I'm not saying that you will agree with him, but you might enjoy listening to some more coherent Christian arguments than those put forth by the "creationists."

          • jason bladzinski

            You are misrepresenting what I am saying or ignoring it. I didn't say Christians believe nothing came from nothing, I said that Christians assert that something can't come from nothing. To say God is eternal and has always been is a cop out. This means that God came from nothing, his being eternal and outside of time doesn't change the fact that he came from nothing. If you are going to claim that something can't come from nothing and then say, except for God, you are breaking your own assertion.
            The Belgian priest who was the father of big bang, Georges Lemaître, kept his scientific ideas and study completely separate from his faith.
            I have heard many Christian arguments that attempt to incorporate science, and the more there are the more I think that they are opposites. Faith is the realm of religion. There is no objective demonstable evidence for god, instead there is subjective experience, anecdotes, and scripture.

          • Scott

            Well we agree that there is a cop out, we just disagree who is doing said copping out. Yes, Christians claim that God is eternal and uncreated. The nothing we're referring to is related to physical reality (time, space, matter, energy, physical laws, etc.). Yes, the claim is that there was a point when there was nothing and then physical reality began. For that physical reality to begin, something that transcends physical reality made it begin. We call that thing God. As Thomas Aquinas put it (800 years ago), the essential characteristic of God is existence.

            Yes, Georges Lemaître kept his science separate from faith. He knew full well that people would not take him serious as a scientist if he brought his faith into the mix. That doesn't meant that his faith was separate, it just means that he was only making scientific claims.

            Yes, science is its own discipline. It uses specific tools and asks specific questions. Religion is about understanding God and God's creation. There is plenty of room for science in religion, as well as other forms of reason. Reason can correct our interpretation of scripture (St. Augustine argued this in the 4th century). Religion does ask questions that science cannot answer. Some people (and I know you've stated that you're one of them) do not find these questions compelling. I suspect many others (and I count myself among them) find the questions that religion is asking very compelling.

            To quote Pope John Paul II: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves."

          • jason bladzinski

            I can't agree on their being any room for science in religion. Religion above all else is the arena of faith. Science cannot operate in such a manner. The hallmark of science is the scientific method, this is about the acquisition of data, applying the data to models to test its validity, this is based on objective demonstable evidence. Scholars, philosophers, clergy, and scientists have all posed and attempted to demonstrate God. Assertion and opinion allows clergy, metaphysical philosophers,and scholars have all been successful using assertions and anecdotal subjective exsubjective in attempting to define and claim the existence of God. But none have been successful at objectively demonstrating real evidence for God. This is the realm of science, and no scientific study has ever Benn able to demonstrate proof of supernatural events, powers, or beings past or present. Science and religious faith are completely at odds with each other. I don't have any problem with that idea, and I don't have any problem with a theist admitting that they cannot prove or demonstrate evidence for god and own the truth that faith is that which is the realm of their belief system. It simply is, and the doctrine of Christianity makes this a very important tennent. Faith is rewarded by the Christian god, it is the most important aspect of the dogma. Science cannot operate on the principal of faith. Faith is believing in that which you have no evidence for, science cannot rectify itself with faith.
            I agree religion attempts to answer things that science has yet to answer, but not that religion can answer things that science cannot. Science is honest, if there is something that scientists or skeptical people don't have enough evidence to explain, the answer is simply that we do not know. Religion takes the route that because we don't know how something came to be or how it works, the answer is god. There is a big difference.

          • Scott

            I don't agree with many of the definitions that you're using. You've limited "faith" to things that one has no evidence for, and yet, you've demonstrated great faith is science. Faith is trust in something. You trust the scientific method. Me too. But I also recognize the limitations of the scientific method. It is limited to the observable. The scientific method can contribute to the exploration of something like history (e.g., carbon dating), but it can't answer questions about what it can't observe. Science focuses on the natural. I don't expect it to prove the supernatural (point me there, but not prove).

            The reality is that religious people throughout history have paved the way for science. They had faith in an intelligible universe, and the sought to understand it (e.g., Copernicus). Yes, science cannot observe God, but science is pretty good at observing an intelligible universe. Why is the universe intelligible? Yes, it is fair for the scientist to say I don't know. Yes, the religious person has stepped outside of the realm of science when they say they believe it is the work of an intelligent creator. It's not the biggest leap (not really any other good theories).

            I guess I just have a hard time imagining living life with only being able to accept as real those things that science can prove to me. Don't get me wrong, I love science. But science does little for me in the area of love. The next time my child tells me he loves me, perhaps I should ask him for scientific evidence to back up that statement. Maybe I'll just take it on faith.

          • jason bladzinski

            Faith is not trust in something, not in the context of religion. The faith you using is that in which a husband might have in his wife, faith, or trust in her fidelity. This us not the faith required in religion. Are you claiming that faith can serve as evidence? Evidence is that which is objective and demonstratable. It can be quantified, it can be tested. The hallmarks of science is that which can be tested, demonstrated, can be shown to work repeatedly, and is objective. This is the scientific method. This is very different from religion. Religious claims cannot be tested, they cannot be demonstrated, quantified, they are not objective, it is not repeatable, they are based on what you are told to by scripture and sermon, and projected hopes and wants. Religion and it's claims are blind faith. Love is a real thing, and it can be demonstrated scientifically. It is just like any and a of our emotions, products of the amazing electrochemical system that is our psychology. And that doesn't mean it's not amazing, because it is. God is a personal projection, of our hopes, fears, wants, and that is what makes it so easy to offend. God is your personal construct, and when someone questions or attacks your belief in God, they are questioning and attacking you, and that us why the theist is defensive and the atheist is not.
            Faith is the realm of religion, not science. You must be honest and own that. I have no problem with you having faith, but when you claim that science is faith in the same manner, I must point out your dishonesty.

          • Scott

            Faith is trust in something. You and I have faith that the scientific method produces objective evidence as long is it is followed. Science produces good evidence, but it has its limits. I'm not saying that science is faith, only that you and I have faith in science (trust it).

            I appreciate that you have a pretty negative view of religions. Obviously there are many different religions, and it is hard to make a claim that universally applies to all of them. So, I'll only attempt to speak for my religion. As a Catholic, I have faith in reasons (philosophical and scientific). I also have faith in scripture (revelation). I recognize that these are two very different things. That's why I'm saying that reason can correct our interpretation of scripture. You can say that religion has no place in science, but you can't say that science has no place in religion. You don't get to dictate the parameters of my religion. I won't dictate the parameters of yours. Catholics have always used all paths to seek to understand God and God's creation. Science clearly plays in the latter.

            Science can definitely observe something about love (the electrochemical part). I don't believe it can fully explain love, at least not the interesting parts.

            Do you agree that science has limits?

            BTW, I do agree that the god (and religion) you've rejected is your personal construct. I reject that god too.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't have faith in science. I have

            reasonable expectations based on prior evidence

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

          • Scott

            Yes, I get that people don't like the word faith because some of the uses of the word are too religious. But not all of them are. It does feel like we're just dickering over different, valid uses of the word. Dictionary.com lists "confidence or trust" first. I don't find "reasonable expectation" noticeably different than "confidence."

            If it helps, I'm willing to concede that people don't have confidence in science. I do.

          • jason bladzinski

            I don't reject that god, I reject all gods.

          • Scott

            I can only comment on the ones you express. But I trust there are more notions of God that you've rejected.

          • jason bladzinski

            And I would reject those too. Again, reject that any gods exist, of any kind.

          • jason bladzinski

            I'm not dictating the parameters of your religion, that would be more like dogma which is existant in religion itself. What i am doing is setting a value on that which should be found credible and reasonable. The scientific method might be a basis for this, but it can just be logic and a sense of reality that can serve as markers in determining the validity of a claim. I'm not a scientist, and used to be a Roman Catholic. There are elements to the religion that led to my deconversion that have nothing to do with science, or at least not directly. Contradictions, immorality, and philosophical arguments are much of what informed my move to un-belief. Most theists believe their religion is the correct one of all the denominations of this world, and the basis of this is tremendously false considering that usually your religion is based on the culture you were born into. Having been born in the middle east instead, I would have most likley been Muslim and would believe that religion was the right one. The lack of moral and ethical behaviors of the Christian god, a divine being shouldn't act the way he does. My moral superiority to God, was a great reason to reject his existence. Historical inaccuracies in The Bible served to my un-belief.
            I want to be clear, I'm not an anti-theist, I don't think anyone should have control over what someone believes. I just think that they should have their beliefs criticized if only to keep their minds evolving.

          • Scott

            I'm happy to discuss biblical interpretation. The purest image of the Christian God is Jesus Christ. Which moral and ethical failings are you referring too?

          • jason bladzinski

            The sanctioning and even instructions of slavery. Genocide, rape as spoils of war, forcing a raped woman to Marry her rapist, the infinite punishment for finite crimes. Sacrificing himself to himself as a loophole to allow passage to heaven. Atrocities commuted against Job. Killing of all first born sons of Egypt, even those of slaves, because the Pharaoh wouldn't let the Hebrews go having his heart hardened by the same god punishing him for not complying. Drowning of the earth's animals and humans. Attaching a sin to all humans innocent, because if something two humans did long ago. The sending to hell of all people's not Christian and despite of their deeds in life. Stoning of misbehaved children. Jesus himself sanctioned slavery, and threatened people with eternal damnation. Then he commited blasphemy himself, one who was supposedly divine.
            You say Jesus is the purest image of the Christian god, how do you know he is God?

          • Scott

            Sorry, I got busy, but I haven’t forgotten you. This is quite a litany. It’s hard to respond to because it arises out of a very different reading of the Bible. Let me start with some general comments. There are two broad ways to read the Bible:

            1) The literalist or fundamentalist approach says that the Bible comes from God and is easily interpreted by any casual, modern reader. All one needs to do is find a single statement on a given subject, and it reveals the totality of the thought on said subject. Some use this method to justify their own bigotry. Others use this method to reject the Bible as ridiculous.

            2 ) The meaning approach recognizes that the Bible is a library of 73 books (in Catholic Bible, 66 in most Protestant Bibles), of many different genres, written over at least a 1000 year span of time, and to cultures very different than our own. The Bible texts are written by human beings inspired by God (we believe). Inspiration is not dictation. Inspiration does not eliminate human bias or limited understanding or even cultural backwardness. We have to work to understand the meaning of the text (understand the genre, the meaning conveyed in its original context, etc.).

            You clearly support the first approach towards reading the Bible. To make a statement like, “drowning of the earth's animals and humans,” means that you’ve read the story of Noah literally. You’ve failed to understand the genre of the first eleven chapters of Genesis (this include the statement you made about Genesis 3). You’ve completely missed the meaning of the text, and you’ve rejected the god you see there as ridiculous. I would too if I read the Bible that way.

            You see God as condoning everything done in his name or written as if it is his words. Take slavery for instance. Slavery in the ancient world had little to do with our modern slavery. Slavery was an economic reality. If you fell into debt to another, the only thing you had to use to pay your debt was your labor. Yet, in the early legal codes of the Bible we find the institution of a redeemer, your nearest relative who had the responsibility to pay your debt, to buy you out of slavery. Other legal codes institute the jubilee year when all debts would be forgiven and slaves freed.

            The legal codes of the Bible are an ancient way that society began to organize itself (we believe under the inspiration of God). They may seem harsh to our modern ears, but society has evolved beyond them. We have a hard time imagining a society without a legal system, a police system, and even a penal system. This is a broader comment. I don’t mean to let you off the hook for completely over reading Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29. Depending on the translation, it is not completely clear they are talking about rape. It is clear that the man must offer money and marriage, but the father does not have to accept. None of this makes sense to our modern ears. In fact, nobody (even fundamentalist) attempt to implement most of the archaic legal codes.

            The comments you’ve made are the result of a complete misunderstanding of the biblical text. If your interpretations were correct, you’d think that people who claim to be Christians would believe them. I’m sure you might find a fringe group that believes some of these, but mainline Christians do not (e.g., “sending to hell of all people's not Christian” is not a belief that Catholics hold).

            The biblical interpretation method you seem to prefer is described by the Catholic Church as leading to a form of intellectual suicide. I get that you are welcome to choose your own method of understanding the Bible, but you started this conversation by saying that you just wanted religious people to think for themselves. I now understand that you assume all Christians interpret the Bible like you do. If that were the case, I would agree with you. It is not a “thinking” approach to the Bible.

          • jason bladzinski

            I'm sorry but you are wrong. You are just providing lip service to The Bible. I was a Catholic once, went to church, ccd and everything. Why would there ever be a justification for owning other people as property? If something is universally immoral, than it is universally immoral. I'd god is an omnibenevolent being, how could he sanction slavery? It's not like he hasn't made rules about things related to immoral unethical behaviors. Like I said before, how does one decide what parts of The Bible are valid or not? Where does the authority to make such claims derive from?
            In the end, none of this matters. I'm not an atheist because of these things in The Bible, I'm am atheist because no theist has been successful in providing me the evidence needed to prove the existence of a deity. No worldly religion has convinced me. We don't choose our beliefs, we are either convinced or we are not.

          • Scott

            I'm sorry but you are wrong. I don't believe that God sanctions slavery or that the Bible sanctions slavery. Human beings sanction slavery, and God and the Bible helped move us beyond that notion of human beings as property. It takes awhile. We're pretty stubborn.

            You ask about authority to interpret the Bible. Well, the Catholic Church compiled the New Testament and carried it through history (along with the Old Testament). The Jewish people did the same for the Hebrew Scriptures. The Christian and Jewish people have authority over the Bible because it is their story. If you write your story, I don't get to come in and tell you what it means.

            It's probably not worth arguing over. You are going to read the Bible in a way that confirms what you believe. You are going to rail against Christians who do the same. That said, Christians (at least those with a historical connection to the writing and compiling of the text) have more claim to the authority of their interpretation.

            Do you believe in universal morals (e.g., people should not be owned as property)? If so, where do you believe those universal morals come from? How do you argue with other atheists over what those universal morals should be? To me, the existence of universal morals are evidence of a Creator? I don't think they can be or should be easily derived from a 3000 year old library. That said, I'll take the direction that the Bible points us in over that of ancient writings like the Enumma Elish any day.

          • jason bladzinski

            If it has never been able to prove or observe the supernatural, this may be because there is no such thing.

          • Scott

            Yes, that is one possible explanation. Although, since the tools of science are limited to observation of the natural world, it would be a big leap to say that because science can't observe something it therefore doesn't exist.

            If you have scientific proof that God does not exist, I'm all ears.

          • jason bladzinski

            I m an agnostic atheist, I don't think anyone can be 100% sure of anything, I can't be 100% sure God doesn't exist, I just think that beyond a reasonable doubt, he doesn't.

          • Scott

            Ok, it doesn't have to be proof. Just any scientific evidence would be fine.

          • jason bladzinski

            I don't think there can be evidence of a negituve claim. I don't believe unicorns exist, I haven't the slightest on how to prove they don't exist.

          • Michael Murray

            Proving unicorns don't exist would be hard. But you can note that

            (1) we have examined a lot of the world and not seen unicorns, unicorn horns, unicorn fossils, unicorn hair or any physical sign of unicorns

            (2) the supposed abilities and properties of unicorns such as the horn making poisoned water drinkable seem to contradict basic chemistry and

            (3) we understand how myths and legends arise and what purpose they hold in societies.

            Taken together these facts, at least to me, strongly support the hypothesis that unicorns are a myth.

            Exercise: repeat with "unicorn" replaced by "God".

          • jason bladzinski

            I don't disagree with you, but still we cannot prove up to 100% that unicorns don't exist, and the same with god. I just think beyond a reasonable doubt, god nor unicorns exist.

          • Michael Murray

            Agreed but you can't prove anything about the real world. 100%. You can't even prove there is a real world !

          • jason bladzinski

            Actually, given that i trust my senses, the only thing I can be sure of is that I exist. I can't prove the real world to anyone else because I can't prove that the world isn't something that is going on as assertions construct in my mind. Solipsism and existentialism have a lot of truth to me.

          • jason bladzinski

            If we cannot break the veil of the supernatural, how would you know god exists at all?

          • Candy Smith

            The point is that it is impossible for a being of such power to exist, for the reasons put forth in those questions.

            Actually it really isn't impossible It is impossible for humans to have those attributes but not God!!

          • Candy Smith

            Because he is all that he claims to be! U do not get to say otherwise! All u can do is give an opinion!

      • David Nickol

        I don't see how God could create morally perfect beings with free will who are guaranteed to always remain morally perfect.

        According to the Catholic view, once people die, their choice of either God or not-God is irrevocable. The people in heaven will not sin, and the people in hell cannot repent. The same is said of the "fallen angels." Those who fell made an irrevocable choice against God, and they cannot repent. Those who did not rebel, as far as I know, are said to be forever faithful. Yet they all still have free will.

        The Christian idea seems to be that God wants to be loved "freely," and that he is so good, if anyone were to perceive him clearly, they would love him. Hence he must remain partially hidden, otherwise he is "coercing" love. That makes no sense to me. If Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia Ice Cream is my favorite dessert in the whole world, and you offer me that, guano, or pig slop for dessert, my choice of the ice cream is not coercion. To give someone a clear-cut choice is not coercing him or her into selecting the good choice and rejecting the bad one.

        • Ben Posin

          I have argued this point concerning free will repeatedly on this site, and tried relatively recently to engage Brandon on what he meant about it not being in God's interest to "compel" people to believe in him, though Brandon ducked the issue with word play. It's one I'd like to get some serious engagement on from Christians hanging out here. Though to me the focus has always been on information: I don't see how having better information on which to base one's decisions diminishes free will, or is coercive.

          • GCBill

            Indeed, the more complete the information, the more responsible the decision. I can't imagine why God would want people to make a habit of making all-or-nothing decisions in scenarios where relevant fact(s) are missing.

          • Ben Posin

            I of course agree. To me, the fact that the existence of God is not clear, obvious, well supported by evidence, etc. is itself very meaningful evidence that a "Good God" does not exist. This strikes me as particularly true in light of how frequently God is ok with making his existence obvious throughout the Bible, whether it's performing nationwide supernatural plagues, speaking to people out of burning bushes, leading them with columns of smoke and pilars of fire, performing miracles, or in the form of Jesus walking around doing miracles and coming back from the dead.

            Brandon and others, to excuse the lack of God's presence, invent supposed rationales why God might want to keep his existence unconfirmed. But I find the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal instructive in this regard, as expounded on by Elizer Yudkowsky: http://lesswrong.com/lw/i8/religions_claim_to_be_nondisprovable/

            When the Israelites faith in their God waivered and the Baalites beckoned, God was completely amenable to taking part in a demonstration of his existence and power at Elijah's behest, that they might know God was powerful, and very much around--as opposed to that useless Baal fellow, who apparently wasn't able to show up when called.
            Actually, hey Brandon!!!!! That above link is an article I'd love to see cross-posted here, if Eliezer Yudkowsky gave his permission would you be down for it?

          • Susan

            I don't see how having better information on which to base one's decisions diminishes free will, or is coercive.

            Exactly. Effective coercion is about controlling information. Better information is the enemy of coercion.

            So, why would a deity hide in the white noise looking every bit like a product of the hyperactive agency detection device, of confirmation bias and of cognitive dissonance that seem to be symptoms of our misses?

            It doesn't make any sense. That's not snarky. It's sincere.

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

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

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

      • jason bladzinski

        If God is wholly benevolent how could he created beings that have the capacity for evil? Why is that hard to understand?

        • Steve Law

          Well as I say you cannot grant an individual free will and at the same time guarantee that that individual won't perform evil acts. That's impossible and a logical contradiction. You're either free or you're not free.
          It can be argued - persuasively to my mind - that creating moral agents that can autonomously choose good over evil (rather than being puppets/robots that obey your commands to do good things) is a greater good, even if some of those moral agents may fall into evil ways. To create such free moral agents would be a gamble certainly, but not an evil act in itself. No more than having a child is an inherently evil act, even though there's a chance that child may become a serial killer or a totalitarian despot.

          • jason bladzinski

            Perhaps you are correct. However, I do think there is a problem, secular morality is far superior to biblical morality. So, if god indeed is real and we have free will, we were granted with an ability to be above him in moral thinking. How can god be the authority on morals and ethics if things like slavery, rape, and genocide are sanctioned by The Bible, when our society identifies those things as evil? I don't think biblical free will exists, if god had an individual plan for each of us, how could we choose paths that would deviate from the plan? This is one reason I'm an atheist.

          • Steve Law

            I'm not a biblical literalist - I think people who are are either misguided or just plain dicks. The few Old Testament biblical references to slavery and rape and genocide represent the values of a beleaguered iron-age tribe (and were seen by most tribes and races back then as noble virtues when applied not to their own people but to their enemies) at the beginning of a long spiritual, ethical and intellectual journey. To me the bible tells the slow story of a growing understanding and revelation of universal human values, which culminated in the teachings of Jesus. Therefore I don't think it is in any way fair or representative to claim that slavery and rape and genocide are somehow central to the lessons of the bible or teachings of christianity. Christianity as I understand it (and it's not just me, I'd argue it is pretty mainstream outside of evangelism and fundamentalism, both of which are modern movements) teaches a radical, self-sacrificing love for ALL others that is sometimes almost unimaginable, but is surely admirable.
            I don't understand your last sentence. 'Biblical' free will is just free will. If you acknowledge that we are able to choose paths at all, then you believe that we have free will, regardless of whether there is a God or not.

          • jason bladzinski

            Except if you are gay, an atheist, or an interracial couple. No, you are committing a special pleading and cherry picking logical fallacy. Either The Bible is correct or it isn't, you don't have the authority to decide what isn't true and what is. If God is truly omnibenevolent, than slavery,rape, and genocide would always have been immoral because they are immoral. The new testament condones slavery as well, Jesus himself had things to say about slavery that weren't negative. Choice is not free will. You can create the illusion of free will through choice. Let's say you come to an intersection and first you meant to make a right turn, but at the last minute you decide to continue straight. Can you say for sure that the plan God has for you was altered by you continuing straight? Despite your inner process the truth would be that God's plan for you included your thought process, but ultimately your destiny was predetermined.

          • Steve Law

            I think you should go pick a fight with a biblical literalist.... Historically (and to anyone with any sense) the bible has been interpreted according to whether the nature of any particular text is, for example, legal, narrative, polemic, poetry, wisdom, gospel, logical discourse, or prophetic literature. The Song of Solomon in the OT is a *poem* - poems are by their nature metaphorical. Ordinary language itself is full of metaphor and allegory, simile, allusion etc etc etc. In fact almost every word in the english language is a dead metaphor, metaphors that are now taken as 'literal'. We talk of grasping the sense of things, catching the meaning, getting the point, following an explanation, cottoning on to an idea, seeing the difficulty etc etc. When Stevie Wonder wrote 'You are the Sunshine of my Life' did he mean the one he adored was the radiation ejected from a gigantic ball of super-heated exploding plasma?
            NO ONE can read a text purely as the literal truth. Yet stories and poems that describe what may be purely fictional events can still carry profound and inspirational meaning and address fundamental human concerns to the extent that they change lives.

            Not sure I follow your free will argument. Your original point was to argue that 'God could have made people so that they weren't evil, so why didn't he?' I argued that he gave us free will so we had control over our own lives and the ability to make moral judgements or not, and that is a greater good because it produces individuals capable of moral self-determinsation, even with the risk that they may perform evil acts. You are now arguing that there is no free will, it's only an illusion. If that's the case this argument (and all arguments) are pointless, because God is controlling everything we do and our experience of reasoning for ourselves is wholly unreal. Also, if there's no free will there's no evil either, only puppets having their strings pulled by God. Neither your complaint that God created evil, nor evil acts in themselves, have any reality without the capacity to make free moral choices. Without that there can be no responsibility, no criminality and no morality. It would not be "wrong" for a person to persecute someone for their beliefs or race or sexuality, because the persecutor would not be responsible for their actions and the victim would have no freedom that could be taken away. Deny free will and you undermine everything, even reason itself.

          • jason bladzinski

            What gives you the authority to decide what should be taken literally? What you are doing is committing a cherry picking logical fallacy. You don't get to pretend that certain scripture is meant to be taken figuratively and others literally as it suits you. The Bible is either an accurate document for your religion or it is not. Many sects of Christianity look to The Bible as the ultimate authority as its origins are divine inspiration and humans are falable beings. Just because something is a poem doesn't mean that there isn't literal meaning found within. There is a difference between something that is an epic poem,( the anied, the Iliad, the divine comedy, the Bible) and symbolic poetry. The Bible is a document of guidence and rules for a religion, not a work of art meant for entertainment value. It isn't meant to change lives, it is meant to gain dominion over them.
            I don't believe in your god, so that illogical assertions about free will is really a non-issue for me but for you it isn't so I'll explain the contradictory nature. How can you both claim that God has an individual plan for everyone and still have free will? Let's say that you come to a traffic light and intend to turn left after it turns green. At the last moment you end up continuing straight. The fact of the matter would be that in God's plan you were never going left so straight you went thinking that was an individual decision that involved your free will but in actuality that was part if God's plan for you. Where is your free will?
            You are right in regards to things not making sense, that God doesn't seem to make sense in regards to the situations I put forward. That's because it is logically inconsistent. The idea of god is illogical, and this is just another example that the God you assert exists is incompatible with reality. I agree, that's part of the reason I reject the claims and an an atheist.

          • Steve Law

            It's not a logical fallacy! :-D What's illogical about it? It is a historical fact that traditionally, going back to the earliest days, there were multiple levels of exegesis (ways of interpreting a biblical text) of which "literally" was only one. No less a church father than Augustine in the 4th century warned of overt literalism and stated that, for example, the Genesis story was not to be taken as literally true.

            You only want me to be a literalist so you can get all angry and self-righteous about slavery and genocide etc. That you should tell me I don't 'have the authority' to read the bible in one way or another is deeply ironic. Are you an ex-fundamentalist? Many angry atheists are...

            On the free will issue you haven't said anything new, just repeated what your previous post. I already answered it.

            The idea of God is not illogical. The idea of a four-sided triangle is illogical, but there's nothing inherently self-contradictory about the idea of God.

            Bye

          • jason bladzinski

            You are right, there are many interpretations of Bible and it's meaning an that is exactly what makes it illogical. Who has it right? You claim you do, but I have met many others who feel differently and many of them have credentials higher than yours. The fact that there are so many conflicting views based on the interpretation and conflicting passages in Bible itself go again long way to invalidate it. You would think God would want it to be as precise as possible so as not to confuse his followers with the very source of the religion. What you are doing is called cherry picking, you are taking out what you like and omitting what you don't to serve your particular agenda, and that is in fact a logical fallacy.
            I assume they didn't want you to take genesis literally because there are two accounts that have differing stories. Another fault of book.
            I don't want you to be anything, except truthful. I have no agenda as an atheist, as a Christian you do in attempt to "save" the souls of others. I just ask you to think critically and analytically and don't just accept what you are told. I'm not angry, at all. Of the two of us, only you have shown anger by asking if I'm an ex-fundementalist, and stating most atheists are.
            I don't get what you are saying about free will. I gave you an example, and you are saying that I just restated my argument. I did but I gave evidence of the illusion of free will with the example I gave. You can ignore it, that's your choice, but I certainly did give evidence to refute your assertion.
            You are attempting an absolute statement when you say there is nothing illogical about god. The reason being, we have triangles, we can view them and have a definite definition of what a triangle is. Something that is four sided ceases to be a triangle. Do we have an example of god that we can see? Do we have any way to demonstrate what god is to make a comparison to what god isn't? No we don't. Your argument is moot.

          • Steve Law

            Ok then....

            "A 2011 Gallup survey reports, "Three in 10 Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God. That is similar to what Gallup has measured over the last two decades, but down from the 1970s and 1980s. A 49% plurality of Americans say the Bible is the inspired word of God but that it should not be taken literally, consistently the most common view in Gallup's nearly 40-year history of this question. Another 17% consider the Bible an ancient book of stories recorded by man."[9]"

            http://www.gallup.com/poll/148427/say-bible-literally.aspx

            So only 30% of Americans are biblical literalists.

            "Before the modern period, Jews, Christians and Muslims all relished highly allegorical interpretations of scripture. The word of God was infinite and could not be tied down to a single interpretation. Preoccupation with literal truth is a product of the scientific revolution, when reason achieved such spectacular results that mythology was no longer regarded as a valid path to knowledge."
            Karen Armstrong, Best-selling religious historian.

            As I say, biblical literalism (a.k.a biblical inerrancy) is a modern phenomena, associated with evangelical and fundamentalist movements. Read some history. You might like Tim O'Neill's historical blog "Amarium Magnus" at http://armariummagnus.blogspot.co.uk. Tim's a fearsome australian atheist, one of the strongest debaters on the web. Classical and medieval history is his thing, and woe betide you if you make a claim that can't be supported by respectable academic references.

            You wrote:
            "I don't get what you are saying about free will. I gave you an example, and you are saying that I just restated my argument. I did but I gave evidence of the illusion of free will with the example I gave. You can ignore it, that's your choice, but I certainly did give evidence to refute your assertion."

            You didn't give any evidence, you just floated the idea that unbeknown to us God might be controlling everything we do. That's just a hypothesis, a thought-experiment. It could be true, although you don't provide any evidence to support it. It could also be true that me and you are brains in vats being experimented on by a mad scientist. Neither hypothesis refutes my argument, or has any bearing on it whatsoever. My intention in this conversation has been to show that there are, in theory, rational reasons why a benevolent God (if such a thing existed) might allow there to be evil in the world. I am not trying to PROVE that there is a God, or that he's good, or that he allows us free will; I am only trying to show by argument that the existence of evil in the world is not a knock-down argument against a benevolent god. And I'm doing so because that was your original question: "If God is wholly benevolent how could he created beings that have the capacity for evil?"

            You wrote:
            "You are attempting an absolute statement when you say there is nothing illogical about god. The reason being, we have triangles, we can view them and have a definite definition of what a triangle is. Something that is four sided ceases to be a triangle. Do we have an example of god that we can see? Do we have any way to demonstrate what god is to make a comparison to what god isn't? No we don't. Your argument is moot."

            Actually we don't need to see, touch and hold a triangle in order to reason about triangles. A triangle is an abstract concept. There are material versions of triangles, all of them imperfect in one way or another, and there is the mathematical definition of a triangle. We can theorise about the properties of a triangle with needing to have a wooden one in front of us, just as physicists theorise about the properties of ten dimensional objects in superstring theory.
            What you've done is shift your ground. You originally asked how a good God could allow bad things to happen (i.e. the 'Problem of Evil') but when I provide a possible explanation you then ask me to prove there is a God, and if I can't then my argument is somehow moot. But we weren't discussing whether the existence of God can be scientifically proven! That's a totally different question.

            In your previous post you wrote:
            "I don't believe in your god, so that illogical assertions about free will is really a non-issue for me but for you it isn't so I'll explain the contradictory nature. How can you both claim that God has an individual plan for everyone and still have free will?"

            You've inserted this idea that 'God has an individual plan for everyone'. I didn't say any such thing. Even so, it's not a contradiction. Parents can have plans for their child's future, but that doesn't mean their child has no free will. The child might think 'My parent's plan is a good one, I will go along with it for my own benefit'; or he/she might decide 'Their plan doesn't suit me, I will follow a different path'. The parents have plans, the child might folow them: there is nothing illogical or contradictory in either scenario. I guess it's quite likely that, if he (or she - gender is redundant really) exists then God would have plans for each of us, but they might be a general desire for us to grow and develop and use all our talents to do good and make the world a better place. How does that impinge upon our free will?

          • jason bladzinski

            You got cut off before you could finish I think, but I'll try to respond as much as I can to what you did write I don't care the numbers or percentages being the debate on the literal acceptance of biblical scriptures. It doesn't change the fact that the multiple interpretations and conflicting views based on the actual content dilutes the word, and makes for such a divide when it comes to what is important and what us not. Why would God want a document that is the total foundation of his religion to be anything but perfectly clear? This is an inconsistency that makes it impossible for me to be convinced of the accuracy of the document, and that God is a real entity. Percentages of acceptance one way or another is an appeal to popularity logical fallacy.
            We know triangles are real, we can demonstrate them, explain how they work, give mathematical geometric formulas for them. God, we can't, we have no compare it to, no true definition, no way to demonstrate his supposed effect and evidence in reality. Nothing to define him by. There is a big difference in the nature of reality as that which we can reconcile a triangle and God.
            I haven't shifted my ground at all, you misunderstand and misconstrue. You assert Christian god is omnibenevolent. Any being who would eternally punish a person for finite offenses is immoral. Any being who sanctions genocide, rape, and slavery, is immoral. Any being who attaches a sin to New born innocents because of what other humans did in the past is immoral. The Christian god requires only one thing for a person to be granted access to heaven: belief in him through his son Jesus. As am atheist, I can live a good, ethical life, but according to god and Jesus I will go to hell after death because I don't believe. However a rapist, a murder can still go to heaven their only requirement is belief of god through his son Jesus, and repentance. The rapist or murder or whatever never makes good with his/her victims, they allow god to take the responsibility of the offense onto himself, which is in itself immoral. What benefit is there in this system? It doesn't teach anything about justice. This god is immoral, can't be omnibenevolent and even if he did exist, I would reject him for these reasons.You and I, and pretty much everyone I know is superior in their moral and ethical principals and behaviors to this god. And you claim him omnibenevolent? I think you are being lied to, by both the religion, and to yourself. This god is undoubtedly an illogical idea and being.

          • Steve Law

            You wrote:
            "I don't care the numbers or percentages being the debate on the literal acceptance of biblical scriptures. It doesn't change the fact that the multiple interpretations and conflicting views based on the actual content dilutes the word, and makes for such a divide when it comes to what is important and what us not."

            But you claimed I had no authority to read the bible in a non-literal way. I responded there is a long tradition of doing so (i.e. in a mixed way according to the material) and that tradition represents the mainstream. And I presented evidence for that. Biblical literalism is a minority position and a relatively modern one.

            "Any being who would eternally punish a person for finite offenses is immoral."

            I haven't stated that. I agree with you.

            "Any being who sanctions genocide, rape, and slavery, is immoral."

            Agreed. We've already covered this: it only pertains to those who read the bible literally, and even if you did you'd find multiple other bible verses saying the opposite. You are the one who is cherry-picking small sections of the bible that are the most damning, claiming they reflect the entire thrust of the bible's teachings and core christian values. It's a straw man.

            "Any being who attaches a sin to New born innocents because of what other humans did in the past is immoral."

            I didn't claim that. I think a literal reading of original sin is ludicrous. Nevertheless it is true to the extent that we are not perfect beings and have to constantly battle against our baser and meaner drives and emotions. A writer I admire called it the HPTFTU: the Human Propensity To Fuck Things Up.

            "The Christian god requires only one thing for a person to be granted access to heaven: belief in him through his son Jesus. As am atheist, I can live a good, ethical life, but according to god and Jesus I will go to hell after death because I don't believe."

            I don't believe that, and never said it. I reject any God who values allegiance to him over and above an individual's worth or actions. I don't believe in a hell of demons where one spends an eternity with a red-hot poker up your arse. CS Lewis' defintion of hell (and he was a very mainstream writer) was that hell is self-imposed: from a believer's point of view God is entirely benevolent and the ground of all goodness in the universe; therefore to reject him is to reject all goodness and to imprison ones self into a self-imposed hell.

            I suspect you'll now claim that I'm not a proper christian, right? But it seems to me that your concept of christians is restricted to all the loony right-wing biblical inerrancy holy-roller nutjobs that currently infest the US, and anybody who is one deserves condemnation and derision, anyone who isn't one isn't a true christian. But that's the No True Scotsman fallacy and another straw man.

            In bringing up this hodge-podge of poorly-defined allegations it seems to me you are again switching your ground. How do you answer my response that there is evil in the world because God made us free agents with the ability to choose between good and evil, and that if he hadn't done so (in order to ensure there was no evil) we wouldn't be rational free agents at all, just robots obeying commands? Please note: in attacking the concept of free will or demanding evidence for its existence you will be failing to address the point. Your original challenge was that christian beliefs are incoherent or illogical, so you have to prove that WITHIN those beliefs. If you subsequently ask for proof there's a God, or proof that free will exists, you are switching your ground. It's a fair question, but it's a different question. My point is that what I've said above about free will & free agents & good & evil is not inherently illogical or nonsensical.
            This situation is analogical to if I'd claimed that two space aliens plus two space aliens equals four space aliens, and you replied that my argument was illogical because there are no space aliens. You'd be wrong: my argument is not illogical, because two space aliens plus two space aliens does equal four of the little green anal-probing bastards. Space aliens may well not exist, but that's a different debate.

          • jason bladzinski

            No, i'm not flopping and I'm not cherry picking, but you are. Let me explain: what you are doing is picking out the things within The Bible that serve your particular needs and throwing out that which you don't like. The problem is, how can you make that judgement? How do you know what should be taken seriously and what you can ignore? Under what authority do you decide that you know better than the document supposedly sanctioned by your god? The catholic sect of Christianity believes that the Pope is the ultimate authority on the interpretation of Bible. So the Catholics have an ever changing opinion on the word. Presbyterian Christians want to attach contextual elements into deciding what is to be accepted and what isn't. They also claim that it is not for the average worshipper to make judgements on the interpretation but instead that authority comes to those who are studied biblical scholars. I find this all to be entirely to convenient for Christians to use scripture for the agenda they require in particular situations as in the questions of immoral unethical content from within The Bible. It's a cop out. Again I have to ask the question, if god puts specific parameters required by worshippers to guide them to live lives in the way he deems best, why sanction a book that is unclear and imprecise? This is a being requiring you to love him above all others and you must believe in him despite the complete lack of evidence of his existence. Why confuse your children more? I make this point in recognition that these contradictions show that The Bible was written by men who were not divinely inspired and who were separated by many years and multiple cultures. Just because there is a long history in regards to poetic interpretation of The Bible does not erase the inconsistencies and blatantly immoral edicts sanctioned allegedly by your god. Sanctioning of slavery doesn't occur only once, it is present in multiple places within both the old and new testament. Jesus himself gives instructions to slaves and their slave masters. Plantation slavers in the southern United States were quite aware of these passages, and used them to help brainwash and control their slaves.
            God endorses genocide, especially in situations where the Isrealites were on the path to conquer cities, going so far as instructing these barbarian Jews to take the virgin women of sacked cities as spoils of war. There are instructions about selling and buying slaves, the owners right to beat them, and loopholes to make temporary slaves permanent including automatically enslaving the children of their slaves. At what point at any moment of history is it ethical to own human beings as property? This is a highly immoral and unethical deity. None of us choose our beliefs, we are either convinced or not, and I remain unconvinced and these are part of the reasons why. The Christian god, has lots of issues, or doesn't exist because it is illogical for an omnibenevolent being to operate in such a manner.
            Free will is an illusion. Choice is what makes us act in situations of our lives. Biologically, there can be no free will, we are tied to the electro-chemical reality of our existence. Those of us with psychological afflictions know the truth of this. Despite not wanting to act in a certain way, the chemical imbalance makes that an impossibility and medication is necessary. Free will is a construct of the human brain, without the illusion of this, sanity would be very hard to maintain. Spiritually you cannot claim free will believing that god has a predetermined plan for each person, especially if he is in fact omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent . How could any person disrupt the plan of a being of that power? It's illogical.

    • Moussa Taouk

      Hi GCBill,
      I think I like your argument from evil. Although unlike you not only do I think this argument to be a "draw" but I actually think that at the end of the day everything is a "draw" (and hence I'm a fan of Pascal's Wager).

      If I were to have a shot at picking a flaw in your reasoning, I would pick 10. It could be that the way God has ordained creation is the most beautiful (and in that sense "good") result possible. Because although there is pain in tragedy, that pain interwoven with the glory is what makes the artwork all the more beautiful as a whole. It's just an example, but the point is that (10) is an assumption that could be incorrect.

      • GCBill

        I hadn't anticipated that anyone would deny 10), so your response is very interesting. However, I worry that it conflates subjective perceptions with objective reality. Perhaps the evil that results from free choice can make goodness seem more good by comparison. If I've been sick for a few days, I feel better than before upon recovery, because the state that is most available to my memory is one of sickness. Yet objectively speaking, my health would be better if my body didn't have to divert resources to fighting off illness. In the same way, pain and suffering might make the goodness seem better than if there were only goodness. Yet when I abstract away from the experience of evil, I find myself wishing that there was no such thing. I think that increased appraisal of goodness by contrast may only be a quirk of our psychology, instead of an actual fact about reality's value.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I think I'm with Moussa on this one.

          Maybe this is indeed a quirk of my psychology, but it does seem to me that there is something objectively good about the trajectory of a comedy. Our distance from goodness is what allows us to experience the movement toward goodness. I wonder if it would be possible to experience goodness without the experience of moving *toward* goodness in time.

      • jason bladzinski

        Why would you be a fan of Pascal's Wager? I don't think it is realistic to find a "draw" in that situation. Basically you would be lying to God, trying to avoid his wrath in a dishonest way. Wouldn't a being of God's power know your deceit? What if it ends up being a different God? Then you will be out if luck. Pascal's wager is a terrible position to agree with.

    • Danny Getchell

      Bill,

      Your #3 is right on point with something I have mentioned here often.

      Another frequent poster here (David Nickol I think) coined the phrase "theology of everyday piety" to separate it from the rarefied academic theology favored by the owner here and by most Catholic bloggers.

      Out there in the big room beyond the blogosphere, it's not the academic theologians that cause me any worry. It's the YEC's who want to put creation myths in the classroom. They are almost all (in the USA at least) Christians, and those are Christians with which I feel compelled to "engage", the article author's suggestion notwithstanding.

  • David Nickol

    Tip #1. Dip into Christianity's intellectual tradition.

    By all means, dip into it. It's fascinating. But, to take one example, if you have to become a Thomist before you can legitimately disagree with (or disregard) something Thomas Aquinas said, good luck to you. If you accept all of Aquinas's premises, you're going to have a very difficult time arguing against his conclusions.

    • This is a good thing to realize. It means he is rational. It is good for atheists to realize that theists are rational. Even so brilliantly rational they can annoy people who find their system oppressive.

      The way to respond to well reasoned positions is to challenge the premises. Do that. Don't just dismiss the conclusions and declare that because they are Christian conclusions that smart people can safely ignore them.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        But I think that's what most atheists here do: they challenge the truth value of basic theist premises; they also, however, challenge the soundness of theist arguments. And I think the majority of theists on this site are using unsound arguments. Look at the eurythro discussion, for example.

        • GCBill

          I'm assuming you mean "they also challenge the validity" instead of "challenge the soundness." Because to challenge the truth value of premises simply is to challenge the soundness of an argument.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            D'oh!

  • Ben Posin

    "In the end, I don't think there are any strong scientific, philosophical, or historical arguments against Christianity. Most of those in current circulation are nowhere near as persuasive as New Atheism imagines. Contemporary skeptics would do well to drop them."
    Well, I'm convinced.

    • David Nickol

      It's interesting to note that he tends to think of the debate as Christians versus atheists, not theists versus atheists. Most of the "logical" arguments for the existence of God (that I am aware of, anyway) purport to prove the existence of some kind of supreme being. Even assuming they are persuasive, getting from a supreme being to the Incarnation and a Triune God seem to me to be major steps. I do not claim to be any expert, but it seems to me the Christian arguments for a supreme being tend to be logical, but the arguments for the Incarnation and a Triune God are all based on believing the Christian version of the story of Jesus. I personally do believe that Jesus existed, but the argument that he was God Incarnate seems to me to be a lot less dependent on logical argument than the arguments for the existence of God. The "logical" arguments I know (basically the forms of the "liar, lunatic, Lord" argument) don't really rise to the level of logical proofs.

      To put it briefly, it seems to me the best of the arguments for the existence of God fall far short of justifying belief in Christianity, even if they justify a belief in God. The real debate is between theists and atheists, not Christians and atheists, although it seems to be mostly Christians who are interested in arguing the theist position.

      • GCBill

        I agree, and I wonder if it's a serious problem for the theist when considering compound error:

        The probability of A&B (B being a subset of A) will always be lower than the probability of A. If the arguments for B given A were as strong as the arguments for A, we'd simply incur the same uncertainty twice (effectively [1 - E]^2). But since the arguments for B given A are actually more uncertain than the arguments for A, the compound error problem is actually worse. You'd need a small value of E for Christianity to be a probable conclusion. And given the number of metaphysical premises you have to accept to make the classical theistic arguments work, it seems very unlikely that E can be a small number.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Based on experience, Muslims and Buddhists are just as happy to argue against atheists as Christians. Jews, Taoists, and Jainists, not so much.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Most theists feel this, but I don't think they appreciate that the problem isn't arguments against god per SE, but rather lack of arguments FOR god.

    • Indeed. As if the default position is that the universe creator's best and perfect plan was to enter time and have himself tortured to death to create a loophole in a set of rules that he established.

  • Danny Getchell

    We need some "tips for Christians when engaging skeptics"

    (1) - Do not at any time suggest that skeptics' lack of religious belief is an intentional strategy designed to facilitate a hedonistic and irresponsible lifestyle. There is no, repeat no, line of comment which will more quickly turn a dialogue into a flame war.

    (2) - Remember that if you intend to "prove God's existence" that this is not a particularly meaningful achievement to a skeptic. What the skeptic is much more likely to find objectionable are the specific doctrines and demands, and the historical track record, of your religious tradition. Not nearly so much the existence or nonexistence of an abstract creator-ish life form.

    (3) - If you adopt the "no true Scotsman" tactic when discussing any past excesses of your church, be prepared to have it identified as such (and refrain from tarring atheism with the crimes of every non-Christian tyrant in history).

  • David Nickol

    Tips #9 and #10 are traps of a sort. There are a huge number of excellent questions to be asked about Old Testament violence and hell, but they are basically questions about the Christian interpretation of God, not about the existence of God. Debates on these matters pretty much require atheists to assume, although just for the sake of argument, that God exists, and then to make him out to be so inconsistent with the "commonsense" notion of an all-good, all-powerful being that there are two seemingly irreconcilable notions of God the believer is stuck with. But the arguments pretty much have to take place on Christian "turf," and none of the "prepackaged" Christian answers about these issues accept the nonexistence of God!

  • Ben Posin

    To add/comment to Danny's post (Disqus won't let me reply)
    (4) (similar to 1): try to accept in good faith that the atheist is not angry at God or rebelling against God, does not hate God, but instead simply does not believe God exists. Some atheists may have strong feelings regarding certain Christian ideas, or certain things done by Christian institutions or individuals---this does not indicate a secret belief in God.
    (2)* I would want some clarification from Danny regarding this. I read into it that Danny is less than impressed by arguments that purport to demonstrate the existence of a "first cause" or "uncaused cause" or "non-contingent being" etc. I think it would certainly be an interesting and impressive achievement to do this, but agree with Danny that for it to have religious relevant it's not sufficent to then say "and we call tha tthing God," you have to show why this "uncaused cause" is in fact a creator God as seen in standard religious traditions, and not "empty" space or a giant space turtle that got a belly ache, upchucked the universe, and then later died of old age.
    (5) Consider passing your claims through the ousider's perspective filter before trying to put them in front of an atheist. Is this something you'd find convincing if you were raised in a Jewish household? A Hindi one? With Buddhist parents?
    More to follow.

  • OK. Thanks, John, consider the tips taken. For turnabout, here's my reversal of each tip. :) The heavy-handed parallelism is largely for humor's sake; I wouldn't normally put things quite this way.

    Tip #1. Dip into the intellectual traditions of non-Christians.

    This is the ~13.798 billionth year since the widely accepted data among physicsts for the initial rapid expansion of the universe. Non-Christians have been pondering stuff for a long time. They've invented textual, historical, philosophical, and scientific scrutiny in almost every era, and they keep accumulating a well-tested empirical trail of evidences against faith.

    My first tip, then, is to gain some awareness of the incomparably vast achievements of secular history, philosophy, and science. It is not enough to quip that the "Church" "invented" science. Physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, computer science, statistics, formal logic, epistemology are continents of human thought. With familiary with these matters, especially their modern versions, popular theists sound like the kid in Philosophy class, "Miss, Aquinas is awesome!".

    Tip #2. Notice how believers use faith in practice.

    One of the things that becomes apparent in serious Christian literature is that almost no one uses "faith" in the sense of believing things without reasons. That might be the actual usage of nearly all Christians nearly all the time, but it is important to know that in 21st century Catholic theology "faith" is declared to have always meant personal trust in the God whose existence one accepts on other grounds, the pre-21st century Catholic rejection of that idea notwithstanding. If you think that you think God is real for philosophical, historical, and experiential reasons, check to see if that is the real historical cause of your belief or merely a later rationalization. Only on the basis of observable evidence that is more plausible under theistic theories than under nontheistic theories should someone claim to have a reasoned conviction that God exists, let alone that it can be trusted.

    Tip #3. Recognize the status of Five-Ways arguments.

    Apologists have done a disservice to theism by talking as though the Five Ways arguments are accepted philosophical conclusions. But mainstream philosophy for centuries has dismissed the Five Ways arguments as a thoroughly fallacious (if well-intentioned) project. Most philosophers and scientists have demonstrated for generations that medieval metaphysics has no consistent logical interpretation, let alone scientific validity. This is atheists retreating before the noble logic of the ancients. From even the most favorable schools of secular thought, demonstrations of the fallacies of the "five ways" of Aquinas are an undergraduate exercise before moving on to more rigorous and informed arguments.

    Tip #4. Repeat after me: countless Christians embrace a God-of-the-gaps.

    One slightly annoying feature of New Apologism is the constant claim that real theologians don't invoke God as an explanation of the "gaps" in our knowledge of the universe. As we fill in the gaps with more science, any role for God disappears. Even Dr. Benjamin Wiker, with his MA in Religion and PhD in Theological Ethics, did this earlier this year on Strange Notions before new evidence of the earliest moments of the Big Bang.

    Ordinary theists have always leaned on a God-of-the-gaps, instead of proposing philosophical or scientific evidences for God. They've been hostile to new explanations of the mechanics of the universe as further indications of a nebulous conspiracy of atheist academics.

    Thus Trent Horn and others battling against the quotidian God-of-the-gaps sound like a 19th century pseudoscientist who tells people that he has evidence supporting racial prejudices and that therefore they were justified all along despite the origins of the prejudices in unjustified assumptions.

    Tip #5. "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist" is a joke, not an argument.

    I wish I had a dollar for every time a theist insisted to me that I have faith in fallible historians, philosophers, scientists, and myself, and that theists just have faith in an infallible God instead. As every secular person knows, atheists usually don't bother with faith. They affirm ordinary logic and scientific consensus as the powerful too for understanding the universe. The disagreements in history, philosophy, and science are not support for speculations about deities. Theism is not just a different choice in an uncertain world any more than mistaken-identity adultery is an extension of monogamy.

    Tip #6. Claims that atheism is social "poison" are false.

    New Apologism's scandalous attitude toward atheists is perhaps its greatest social faux pas. This is not just because it is obviously uninformed but because anyone with atheists in their lives will quickly wonder what apologists have smoked.

    I don't just mean that anyone who looks in prisons will discover that the violence by atheists in society is dwarfed beyond proportion by the bloodshed of religious convicts. I mean that those find themselves, or their loved ones, in genuine persecution in almost any country in the world are very, very likely to be the victims of religious persons. The faithful account for an inordinate amount of hate groups, they shed blood at higher-than-normal rates, and the largest charities are funded and operated by secular states.

    Tip #7. Concede that Jesus was not the figure described in the Gospels, then argue about his existence.

    Now decades after literary critics and historians concluded that the Jesus of the gospels is a fiction of theologically-motivated oral histories but likely has an origin in a historical person, it is astonishing to me that some theists completely ignore the major point and obsess over the minor point. The work of historians is not finished, however, and some are advancing evidence for mythicism; perhaps the evidence will be adequate to change minds in the future.

    New Apologists should accept the academic reality that the vast majority of specialists in secular universities throughout the world consider it beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus neither said nor did most of what the Gospels attribute to him. Unelss believers can begin their arguments from this academic baseline, they are the spitting image of religious fundamentalists--unwilling to accept the scholarly mainstream over their metaphysical commitments.

    Tip #8. Persuasion involves many factors.

    Modern psychology has discovered many factors that contribute to persuasion, including religious persuasion. People nearly always adopt a religion because of personal relationships, not objective evidence. They usually feel that they can trust the nice people who tell them religious things and need not proceed to the second half of "trust but verify".

    Christians frequently claim that their convictions develope in part due to evidence. When skeptics, however, press for details, the evidence is typically inconsistently handled or nonexistent. They would do better to understand the role of cognitive biases, especially confirmation bias, and how these help explain why churches attract more enquirers than the local skeptics club.

    Tip #9. Ask us about communist violence.

    But don't tell us that the failures of communism were failures of atheism. The communists were atheists, it's true. The communists failed in many ways, some of which are readily pointed out by skeptics. One key way they failed was that they replaced free inquiry with official teachings of a hierarchy. Another key way they failed was that they implemented economic changes on the basis of a theory that had never undergone rigorous testing.

    Arguments about communists have no power to undo the evidence for atheism. If such disaster were attendant on atheism, that would be unfortunate but not epistemically relevant. In any case, present-day Europe shows that atheism under different circumstances can have very different results.

    Tip #10. Press us on compassion and justice.

    Questions can be raised about the fairness of the belief systems left to us by history. I don't mean that atheists bear responsibility for that. I am talking about how atheists can, on the one hand, affirm that their lives are better without religion and, yet, on the other, maintain that it's fine to let people languish in the confusion and guilt of religion. If we are so eager to escape religious persecution, theocracy, and superstition, how can we feel it is appropriate to send children to indoctrination?

    This is a problem of the generality of atheism. Atheism is compatible with many secular ethical systems, so we shouldn't be shocked that atheists can reach different ethical conclusions.

    I'm not giving up on atheism because of this internal debate, but I admit to feeling dissatisfied about it, and I openly hope theists ask about it.

    • Ben Posin

      Would that I could hit the like button several times. I find your knock-off, supposed parody to be of considerably higher quality than the original article, to the point where I'm tryting to make an honest search of my own biases to tamp things down a little. But wow, that's really excellent.

      Given that the original article was seen as front page worthy, I with all seriousness propose that this be given equal prominence, and posted later these week as a reply article--with your consent, of course, and with you being given a chance to make any changes you felt appropriate before giving consent.

      • Haha, thanks. :) But I think my comment, while focused on serious points, is itself rather ridiculous. I'm not sure it would even make sense for people who haven't read John's original article. A real 10 Tips for Christians When Engaging Atheists would probably switch out most of these points, since of course atheist perspectives aren't mere reversals of religious perspectives.

        • Ben Posin

          Oh, I know it doesn't reflect what you'd put in a serious article in this vein. But I do think a response to this article would be a good thing, and if you felt like giving a serious article with 10 (or 7 or 13 or however many seem appropriate) tips for Christians/theists discussing these matters with atheists, it would be worth reading. I have seen similar articles before, but I think there would be value added in having someone with experience participating here writing to address this specific audience.

          • Totally agree with Ben. I can't post the above comment because--on my reading--it comes across as sarcastic and smug (probably due to the choice of parallel mimicry.) But if you were willing to write a respectful, original article with your own ten tips, I'd be happy to post it.

          • Would I have to defend it in the comments? Because I'm going on vacation. :)

          • Ben Posin

            "I can't post the above comment because--on my reading--it comes across as sarcastic and smug (probably due to the choice of parallel mimicry.)"

            ...
            ...
            ...
            I...can't really improve on this.

          • Danny Getchell

            Yeah, words fail me, too.

    • cminca

      #11--Claim that "Atheists believe...."

      Please try and understand that atheism is NOT a religion and that we don't all have the same understanding of the universe.

      Nor are all atheists democrats, pro-choice, socialists, communists, anti-business, marijuana smokers, free love advocates, or anything else Christians on these sites frequently generalize.

      All atheists are no more identical than all Christians.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        The difference being that Christians have various documents that specify what their beliefs are on a number of topics: the various Creeds, the Catechism (for the Catholics), etc. After all, theists HAVE a doctrine (Well, except Zen).

      • Indeed. I think an unfunny top 10 tips would start with
        1. Skeptics and atheists are diverse. (Several of the most prominent skeptical commenters at SN are/were folk who don't identify as atheists.)

        While I'm at it, the rest in super-short form are:
        2. We're not pious. (Respect is for persons, not ideas, so many of us may decline to use the pious terminology for ideas we find absurd.)
        3. We're not ignorant of religion.
        4. We're more concerned with the beliefs of the typical person in the pews than with idealized theology. (When was the last time you saw a believer chastise a fellow believer for falsely claiming an answer to prayer when what happened was really a chance event?)
        5. Regarding religious claims, we're most interested in your answer to "How do you know?", not theological speculations. (Hint: interesting articles would discuss evidence for and against a religious claim, rather than describe misconceptions or look for logical escape hatches.)
        6. Evidence is better than arguments. (Following the facts is far more convincing than trying to locate truths in an ungrounded web of words.)
        7. Consistency is key. (Arguments must be applied to both sides; the evidences must include the pros and cons. Otherwise it's just self-serving nonsense.)
        8. Modern consensus knowledge is the common ground starting point. (Ancient philosophy is NOT common ground; if you want to use ancient philosophy, start with modern science, history, and philosophy, and justify the elements of ancient philosophy you intend to use. Familiarity with the main elements of the modern consensus on an issue is a prerequisite to making a good case to a modern person.)
        9. Press us on the fact that some of modern science is troubled. (e.g. this).
        10. Understand cognitive biases and hold us accountable regarding them, also.

        • cminca

          Said so much better than I did. Thanks.

        • Noah, this is really good stuff. Would you be interested in expanding it into a full-blown article? If so, I'd love to post it. Just send it to contact@strangenotions.com. Thanks!

  • 1. Please understand that even atheists interested in this debate will have limited time and interest in reading philosophy. Christianity really should not be that complicated or difficult that we need a primer in a half dozen philosophers to be convinced, should it? I challenge the assertion that they are "giants" of Western thought. In my experience these figures are never referenced outside of religious apologetics.

    2. The reason scientists, historians, journalists, judges, physicians and so on, do not use the word "faith" when they speak of the reasonable inferences made from empirical evidence, is because it would be misleading. Faith is something different than reasoned inference from empirical evidence. Faith is something one needs ONLY to make a "leap". What you are leaping is the gap between what the empirical evidence implies, and the conclusion your religion needs you to reach.

    3. Six Day creationism is simply not a fringe perspective. Tell that to Ken Ham. Westboro Baptist Church is fringe, Mel Gibson's Catholicism is fringe.

    4. No one embraces the term "god of the gaps" because this is fact the criticism of a number of religious apologetics. The cosmological, design, and morality arguments each argue from ignorance and tell us that some kind of god fits the gap in our knowledge. These arguments are continually raised by apologists and are properly countered by noting that a god hypothesis that explains only what we are otherwise ignorant of, is a god of the gaps.

    5. "One god less" is not a direct argument for atheism, or against theism, it is raised to get theists to try and apply the same kind of critical thinking they apply to the claims of other religions to their own.

    6. Saying religion "poisons everything" is hyperbolic rhetoric from Christopher Hitchens. It was his opinion and he defended it well. I don't share this view and I am happy to acknowledge the joy and charity that some aspects of some religions provide. Theists should not overstate the pro-sociality of their religions or downplay their anti-social aspects. There is interesting and on-going research in this area and the results are at best mixed for religion. It was pretty well summarized here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2014/04/07/rd-extra-does-religion-make-us-better-people-galens-bulldog-edition/

    7. Accept Jesus lived. Yes, it is a good idea for non-experts to defer to the mainstream scholarly position that he existed and was crucified. I would say that overwhelmingly most atheists do this. I just wish that theists would do us the same courtesy and accept that the mainstream historical view is NOT that Jesus was a God and resurrected.

    8. I can make all kinds of arguments that try and pull on emotion and ethical righteousness, but I think these would soon get me banned from this site. I could speak repeatedly of the crusades, the inquisitions, AIDS in Africa, residential schools, the endemic molestation scandals, homophobia, the anti-choice and sexist views of the Catholic Church, self-flagellation, Catholic complicity with Hitler and so on. I happen to share the view that these can be blamed on the Catholic church, but I recognize that I lack the evidence to demonstrate it to the standards necessary. So I will keep to arguments based on reason and evidence.

  • severalspeciesof

    Tip #4. Repeat after me: few theologians embrace a God-of-the-gaps

    In my opinion, Any theologian that invokes the 'unmoved mover' or its variants, and hints at the idea of 'beyond space/time' to justify that position and come to the conclusion 'therefore a personal god exists' well, that's a 'god of the gaps argument' set at the highest level

    Glen

    • David Nickol

      Also, one doesn't see many (any?) theologians arguing in these forums!

      I'll go out on a limb and say I don't think very many theologians are all that interested in apologetics. And those who are interested in apologetics tend to be interested in only theologians who are long dead.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Not entirely true. Barron, for example, could be considered primarily an apologist, and he references such folks as Paul Tillich (is Tillich dead?)

        • Doug Shaver

          (is Tillich dead?)

          Yep. Since 1965.

  • TwistedRelic

    As an intellectual movement, "Christianity has a head start on atheism." So it's only natural that believers would find some of the current arguments against God less than satisfying.

    "But in the interests of a more robust debate", translation"
    In the interests of changing the channel, "I want to offer my tips for atheists wanting to make a dent in the Faith."

    It sounds as though the author of the article has assumed that the non theists as a body are trying to "make a dent in the faith".....ie trying to hurt or persecute the Catholic church. A an unfounded accusation to be sure!....but not one that atheists or non theists are worried about or take seriously as they are only part of the territory when living in this ...lip service Catholic/Christian culture. Like water off a duck's back as they say.

    Of course Christians find it "less than satisfying" that unbelievers feel that the onus is on believers....How dare they.....feel the onus is on the Christians to supply some sort of credible evidence for the god of Abraham . It is not that unbelievers have some obligation to prove that the concept of god is irrational. It seems logical that the onus is on believers to provide the credible evidence for god, not the other way around. This whole article is simply an attempt to portray believers as non delusional rational critical thinkers, disciplined in their thinking process and that their thinking is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence and unbiased or aloof from religious indoctrination. Bull crap to say the least.

    This whole article is an attempt to portray Catholic apologists as being.....Hey....just like you non-theists, we too are rational, non delusional critical thinkers, and accept the results of modern science and historical methods.

    "As an intellectual movement, Christianity has a head start on atheism." This Statement smacks of supreme arrogance and elitism. People can do a point by point "debate" on this article and keep on going down the rabbit hole if anyone wants to, but it only boils down to the above distillation in my opinion. The Catholic apologists in their desperation have resorted to the good cop bad cop model in their frustration.....frustration is a more tolerant word than desperation."

    • Alejandro I. Sanchez

      You may have missed the second paragraph that says this article is for those "wanting to make a dent in the Faith." A couple of sentences later he also states that his "goal is not to straw-man atheists as a group." So this article was written for those atheists who do in fact want to engage in "denting" someones faith and not to all "non-theists as a body" as you suggested.

      To your point about the onus being on the believer to provide credible evidence for God. Of course it is, but what this whole article is about is to help atheists -again, who WANT to make a dent in the Faith- understand better what theists are talking about when they talk about evidence for God. The first 8 tips are really examples of failures committed by non-believers that do nothing to further any dialogue but are simply distractions from the theist position.

      But I take issue when you say there is no onus on the atheist or non-theist to back up his position. If you hold to a belief that God does not exist, then you also must back up this claim with credible evidence and not just hide behind the agnostic view that "no credible evidence has been given." If I were to say aliens or bigfoots do not exist I would want to provide specifics and not hide behind my opinion that they must not exist because I have never seen credible evidence for them.

      You said "This whole article is an attempt to portray Catholic apologists as being.....Hey....just like you non-theists, we too are rational, non delusional critical thinkers, and accept the results of modern science and historical methods." But in actuality it made a totally different point. It points out how non-rational and delusional non-theists can be. How uncritical non-theist can be and how, in fact, many non-theists reject modern science and historical methods when discussing Christianity.

  • Danny Getchell

    I am so tempted to post this entire article as a response here, but will not do so because (1) it would be blatant plagiarism and (2) BV would probably ban me three seconds after reading it. So I'll have a go at a snarky-but-ever-so-appropriate link:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2014/05/dear-fellow-atheists-stop-saying-christians-believe-god-is-a-bearded-man-in-the-sky-they-dont/

    • TwistedRelic

      That is a fantastic article at the patheos link. A very effective satirical panacea after reading the stomach churning article by Dickson posted here.

  • "As an intellectual movement, Christianity has a head start on atheism."

    Hardly, http://www.archive.org/stream/atheisminpaganan00dracrich/atheisminpaganan00dracrich_djvu.txt

    • David Nickol

      I am not sure it makes sense for John Dickson to classify atheism as an "intellectual movement." It seems to me that atheism per se is not an intellectual movement. What he seems to be talking about is reaction against Christianity by those who considered themselves atheists. It goes without saying that you can't have a reaction against Christianity without Christianity, so in that sense, Christianity had a "head start."

      To refer to a humbler source than the one you cite, Wikipedia says, "Philosophical atheist thought began to appear in Europe and Asia in the sixth or fifth century BCE." The OP is clearly addressed to atheists debating Christians. But it is not necessary to have Christianity to have atheists.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Quite correct. Atheism is a position statement regarding belief; it is not a movement, a collective, or an organization.

        The theist is in a difficult position: they have to demonstrate why their belief system should triumph over my lack of belief. Since I do not hold a belief regarding the divine, any appeal to anything other than reason is useless.

        I often wonder how Christians manage it, since the basis of their evangelization is simply to "tell their story" and let god do the rest.

        In my case, god obviously doesn't care in the slightest. I find that comforting.

        • Loreen Lee

          ON Tip #8. Quote: Aristotle was the first to point out that persuasion occurs through
          three factors: intellectual (logos), psychological (pathos), and social
          or ethical (ethos). People rarely change their minds merely on account of objective evidence

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You wrote:
          > Since I do not hold a belief regarding the divine, any appeal to anything other than reason is useless. . . . the basis of their evangelization is simply to "tell their story."

          It is strange you would say this after being on Strange Notions so long. The Preambles of Faith in Catholic evangelism require that the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the Resurrection of Christ be established on rational grounds before "telling our story." (Of course not everyone demands these be proven rationally.)

          You may think the Preambles of Faith fail, but to claim that we think all we have to do is tell our story and God will do the rest is not the way Catholics evangelize.

  • Douglas Beaumont

    This is excellent!

    I would add to #5 that any truth claim automatically excludes its contraries / contradictories. If one believes any "X" one disbelieve all "~X's" by definition. Apply the joke to any other belief and the absurdities become obvious: "An anarchist just disbelieves in one more form of government than a democrat." etc.

  • Crews Giles

    To toss into the discussion:

    Christianity is neither a philosophy (Bill O'Reilly) nor a polity (Fundamentalists).

    It is a spiritual/mystical religion. I understand that Fundamentalism is the "voice" heard loud and clear in our culture-- it is an alien voice to the vast majority of theologians, but it is a very loud one-- drowning out all others.

    That is, except for those Christians who pursue their faith in extraordinary ways-- study (not just the Bible), contemplation, introspection, etc.. No one gets that in a sermon or in Sunday School. It is hard work for the soul who seeks it. And few seek it enough to invest in the hard work.

    One comment pointed out that providing a "laundry list" of ancient Christian theologians does not change the fact that many/most Christians believe in a 6-Day Creation. I submit that is what the CULTURE (including atheists and Fundamentalists) have told them that they believe.

    That "laundry list" is of theologians whose works I have read. I am able to engage the discussion because I have read them. Dismissing them as a "laundry list" and leaving them unread is not engaging the discussion-- it is not even a ticket to ask a question, much less offer an opinion.

    Sorry, but that is how it works in physics and how it works in theology.

    You have either engaged the source material or your have not. Those who have not may be cheerleaders but they are not given a voice or vote in the actual discussion.

    I ask that we all consider what spiritual practices of a religion have to do with what is believed. The Latin is lex orandi, lex credendi. Basically-- you pray what you believe (and vice versa).

    You walk into an Orthodox, Catholic, or other "mainstream" churches and you would be struck by the mystical aspects of prayer and practice.

    Not so with the legalistic, "sola scriptura" (only the Bible!") churches. There is nothing extraordinary (mystical) in the practice or prayers. There is nothing extraordinary (mystical) in the teaching. In many cases, it devolves into praying for health, things, and social or political causes. While too common, it is hardly the norm.

    So, Yes, most Christians believe in silly things and this is largely due to the immaturity of their faith; but there is a mature, rational, and voiced Christian faith which has always been and always will be-- drowned out by the noise as it may be. But it is there to read, to study, to contemplate, and not even most of it is in the Bible.

    The priests know. The theologians know. And the priests and other teachers are centered upon the spiritual lives of the flock (the mystical)-- not the cultural distractions created by skeptics and by external hostility.

    Addressing the skeptics and the hostility IS a distraction from the spiritual/mystical and those most willing to take on that distraction are those whose association with a church is NOT related to spiritual living.

    It has become an important distraction, but if our flocks are involved with silliness, it was not the theologians who placed those notions in their minds.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Excuse me? Atheists told people to believe in six-day creation? Really?
      And quite frankly, from an outsider, they all look pretty much the same. Some have more rituals, some less; some are more formal, some less; much of a muchness.

      • Crews Giles

        Which was my point. Being an outsider, and comfortable in your assumption that "they" are all the same, you presume much and therefore fail.

        And, Yes, as a Christian, one of the first thing an atheist asks me is to defend a 6-Day creation. I do not. The presumption that is what Christians believe is that of the atheist, not mine. By asking, and presuming, some Christian will (and do) attempt to defend even though the their Church never claimed such an interpretation of the Creation story.

        Likewise, I get asked by other Christians how I reconcile what I know, scientifically, with what it says in the Bible. My first answer is that I understood mystical symbolism before I could read, so never had the problem that Fundamentalist literal-ism have brought upon themselves.

        Fundamentalist Muslims also believe in a 6-Day creation along with Fundamentalist Christians. Not being a Fundamentalist, I am neither confused nor presuming.

        Toss me a hard one.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Which was my point. Being an outsider, and comfortable in your assumption that "they" are all the same, you presume much and therefore fail.

          I am not making the assumption that they are all the same: I observe that they all present the same kinds of evidence. A simple observation, nothing more.

          And, Yes, as a Christian, one of the first thing an atheist asks me is to defend a 6-Day creation.

          Apparently you hang out with unsophisticated atheists. You have my sympathies.

          I do not. The presumption that is what Christians believe is that of the atheist, not mine.

          Generalize much? How many of the atheists on this site have asked you to defend six-day creation? None.

          By asking, and presuming, some Christian will (and do) attempt to defend even though the their Church never claimed such an interpretation of the Creation story.

          Ummm... That is false. Some Christians DO claim such an interpretation; and the Church certainly held that interpretation for many centuries. Are you going to claim that those Christians who hold to a six-day creation are not Christians?

          Likewise, I get asked by other Christians how I reconcile what I know, scientifically, with what it says in the Bible. My first answer is that I understood mystical symbolism before I could read, so never had the problem that Fundamentalist literal-ism have brought upon themselves.

          Once again, you seem to be playing the No True Scotsman game. I agree that no even remotely sophisticated Christian holds to a six-day Creation, but there are Christians who do. Are you claiming they are not Christians?

          Fundamentalist Muslims also believe in a 6-Day creation along with Fundamentalist Christians. Not being a Fundamentalist, I am neither confused nor presuming.

          Admirable.

          Toss me a hard one.

          Why?

          • Crews Giles

            M. Solange O'Brien
            You asked, "Atheists told people to believe in six-day creation? Really?"

            Yeah, really. I answered why that is so.

            So then you reply was, "Apparently you hang out with unsophisticated atheists."

            Those are your words, not mine.

            You claimed of yourself, "And
            quite frankly, from an outsider, they all look pretty much the same."

            Which makes you the "unsophisticated atheist" which you accused those I know of being.

            See how this works?

            You then, twice, ask me if I declare any who believe in a 6-Day creation to be Christian or not.

            That is opportunity to teach, and I'll take it despite your likely intent:

            I think any Christian whose faith is dependent upon an "always literal" interpretation of a collection of spiritual texts is asking for a spiritual crisis-- or already in one.

            To them I offer:

            What was once an allowable speculation, but never doctrine nor dogma (e.g., a 6-Day creation, or a creation date of 4004BCE) has become impossible to reconcile. The scientific speculation such an interpretation once brought about has been answered.

            The tripod of theology is: Scripture, Tradition and Reason (some add "Magisterium" but that is usually assumed to be equivocal to Tradition-- i.e., that which has always been believed by the faithful and passed down by the Church).

            If your interpretation requires you to deny physical reality rather than live more fully in the spiritual, I do not know that such qualifies as a religion-- or even as faith. Abandoning reason sets you outside of the work of the Church.

            The Bible is a spiritual book to be read spiritually, as the faith is to be lived spiritually. It has always been so.

            Read the writings of the Early Church-- they do not interpret scripture as science, as history, nor as politics. Nor should we.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You might try reading my posts instead of engaging straw men. It makes the the discussion more fun.

          • Crews Giles

            I quoted you! Directly!

            That, I fear, means you are made of straw.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You quoted me, but then accused of saying something I didn't say.

            Making stuff up = dishonesty.

            See how that works?

          • Crews Giles

            Those words in quotes are yours. Go look. If you did not mean them, that is not my problem.

            I cut and pasted your words, so In no place did I misquoted you.

            I do not know of what I accused you. Give me the specifics.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Of telling you that you believed in a six-day creation. I didn't. And yet those were what you quoted.

            Whst do you call making things up?

            See how that

          • Crews Giles

            No. I said atheists have asked me to defend a 6-Day creation-- I did not say you. Please go re-read.

            I live in Austin. Most of my friends are atheists and agnostics. They are a clear majority in my circles.

            Assumptions are made regularly. We are pacifists. Nope. We are delusional. Nope. We don't believe in evolution. Nope. We are hypocrites. Yep.

            And I know where they get it. And I know where they do NOT get these stereotypes.

            They do not get it from talking to sophisticated Christians, they do not get it from mainline churches, and they do not get that from reading spiritual texts.

            They do get it from televangelists (not one of whom could theological himself out of a paper bag), from TV and film depictions and from the Internet.

            What amazes and alarms me is that I know Christians who take their cues from the same sources. Example, growing up among Fundies (but not being one myself) I never heard one who gave a rats tail about someone's sexual orientation; but apparently NOW that is the big central issue for many. Who made it so?

            I cannot think of a "pointed" argument I have heard against the REASONABLENESS of Christianity that is even a glancing blow to what I believe (Roman Catholic or Anglo-Catholic, I am not presently sure which I am). That is, they are all attacks on Fundamentalism. And I see several of those a day-- but not one qualifies Fundamentalism as the target.

            Tyson? Nye? Hawking? Kaku?

            If any of those distinguished between Fundamentalism and religion in general, I apologize for missing it. They each have gone on the attack against faith in general and Christians (not Fundamentalists in the specific).

            And I do not have one single atheist friend who reads as much physics as I do-- but one or two who read about as much, if not more, math.

            Likewise, I see attacks on religion in general, but which never mentions Hindu, or Buddhist, or Jew, and only rarely Muslim.

            I have a very few fundamentalist friends who post content that has me roll my eyes-- which makes me want to take their Bibles away from them.

            I provide counter argument, or out-right challenge, either baiting party. I'm fair. But I am very specific.

            I also engage counterarguments. I read and study other belief systems, listen to their practitioners. Mostly, I do so looking for common ground-- and there is a lot of it. My faith is not strengthened by attacking those other faiths, but am often left with a sense of "Wow! The mystics in a society keep stumbling across the same discoveries!"

            I think most theologians do that-- and only then, amongst ourselves, do we rip every argument to shreds. :-)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And yet you called me an unsophisticated atheist on that basis, when I never said you had to believe in six-day creation.

            Not reading.

            See how that works?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I said that atheists who tell you you believe in six-day creation are unsophisticated. I didn't tell you that you believe in sex-day creation. So that makes me a sophisticated atheist.

            See how that works?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I've read the church fathers. Have you?

          • Crews Giles

            Of course I have. For fun-- as well as in earning my masters in theology.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Good for you. Origen is my very readable, though Irenaeus has his points. I think Pseuod-Dionysius the Areopagite is my favorite.

          • Crews Giles

            I enjoy the speculation of Origen-- I think he may have been the first I read, but it has been a long time since I have read him. I like the apologists, such as Irenaeus and Justin, as well as the more mystical.

            Flipping through books near me with bookmarks sticking out: Clement, Cyprian, Ignatius, Tertullian, Athanasius and then off to Augustine and Aquinas. More Western than Eastern-- even mystically. Fan of John of the Cross, but Antony the Great chose me, I think, but he didn't write (much, if any).

          • Crews Giles

            As a second reply; I will provide a minimalist answer:

            A Christian is anyone who has been Baptized, with water, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

            An adult will subscribe to the following statements known as the Apostles' Creed- which is used as a Baptismal creed:

            I BELIEVE in
            God, the Father almighty,

            creator of heaven and earth.

            I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

            He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit

            and born of the Virgin Mary.

            He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

            was crucified, died, and was buried.

            He descended to the dead.

            On the third day he rose again.

            He ascended into heaven,

            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

            He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

            I believe in the Holy Spirit,

            the holy catholic Church,

            the communion of saints,

            the forgiveness of sins,

            the resurrection of the body,

            and the life everlasting.

            Nothing in there about the Bible or its interpretation-- except that every statement can be supported by the Bible and povides a contextual framework from which to interpret that collection of texts-- but it does provide a framework from which to seek God and be found by Him.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I never disputed that. What's your point?

          • Crews Giles

            My point is that one's belief in a 6-Day creation (r not) does not impact the definition of a Christian.

            That issue neither defines nor excludes.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I thought you were implying otherwise.

  • Bruce.Self

    It seems to me if Jesus was the son of God he would have been able to write down his own teachings. If he existed I assume he was illiterate why else would you rely on someone else to convey such important information. An illiterate son of god?

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      There are certainly some theological complications in the grotesquely inefficient method god seems to have chosen to convey the most important truths in human history. As it says in JC Superstar "IIf you'd come today You could have reached the whole nation Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication"

      • Bruce.Self

        Yes it does seem if you can rise from the grave that you would be able to keep your teachings whole and have them passed down that way through time. The Mormon myth addressed that problem by having the golden tablets that their bible was transcribed from conveniently sucked into heaven.

  • Dev Dat

    The funny thing is, is that both nonbeliever's and believers both need a god to argue with. As a christian scientist want to observe and have proof on God when God doesn't want to be proven he wants you to believe in him with your heart and soul not your mind or eyes. Plus it doesn't matter if someone says God didn't exist because God exist whether you like it or not.

    • jason bladzinski

      Really? And how can you demonstrate This?

  • Dev Dat

    Scientist want to believe in logic and God created logic he can be logic if he wants and if he doesn't want to. But as believers of Christ to stand for their faith and trust and love in God, good job i am so happy to see Christians trying to save the lives of hard head atheist. Remember my fellow Christian friends were not alone we h

    • jason bladzinski

      Do you have proof God created logic? How would a Christian save an atheists life exactly?

  • Dev Dat

    Have eachother and the the Almighty at our side together let them know that there is a God that loves them.

  • Doug Shaver

    Tip #7. Concede that Jesus lived, then argue about the details

    That would be dishonest of me. However, I will be happy to stipulate his existence for the sake of discussion and then let you explain to me why I should believe that he was the the only begotten son of God.

  • jason bladzinski

    What does it mean when a Christian claims empathy belongs in a conversation about the existence of God?

  • jason bladzinski

    Christianity has a head start as an intellectual movement over atheisim? Who in their right mind would claim Christianity is an intellectual movement. It's the exact opposite. Faith, is not the same as trust. When a man says he has faith in the fidelity of his wife, he is stating he has confidence in her. When a theist talks about faith, they are substituting real evidence for their reasoning to be convinced of their belief. Nice try, but you are not being honest.

  • Josh Nolan

    That whole thing about six day creationism is a problem to me. Atheists don't generally draw lines between which beliefs are weird and which aren't.

    So yes, young-Earth creationism is weird and illogical - However you're also supposed to believe that there's a celestial superbeing watching over you, which is also weird and illogical. How are we supposed to draw the line between which manifestly weird and illogical idea we're supposed to accept with absolute respect and empathy, and which weird and illogical idea is just *so crazy* that it's *obviously* a niche belief.

    Let's get onto this whole niche belief thing actually, because in a poll conducted in 2009 by Harris Interactive
    found that 39% of Americans agreed with the statement that "God created
    the universe, the earth, the sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and the
    first two people within the past 10 000 years", - This is not some weird out-there belief that nobody REALLY follows. I feel like you're being a bit no-true-scotsman by saying that no-true-Christian believes in this literally and it's just a marker of time.

    At the end of the day, it's not about what educated theologians think that Christians believe, but it's about what surveys and raw numbers are showing that Christians believe, and this is what atheists and secularists alike are feeling threatened by these days.

  • Mike Magnum

    Or you could not care about what people believe. That what i do.

  • Jack

    Lovely stuff here. Good points to consider.

  • Lambchopsuey

    What a stupid article.

  • Davis

    Lambchopsuey,

    I do believe you should seriously read the terms and conditions of this site. Strange Notions was created to encourage civil and unbiased dialogue between Catholics and Atheists alike, to encourage knowledge and understanding and to clear misconceptions. This is not a Patheos blog bulit for strawmanning people and arguments. I know this article comes off as this, but please be rational here. - https://strangenotions.com/commenting/

  • Clarice Lugo

    I'm a proud atheist