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Why Atheists Change Their Mind: 8 Common Factors

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Conversions from atheism are often gradual and complex, no doubt. For many converts the road is slow and tedious, tiring and trying. But in the end unbelievers who find God can enjoy an inner peace that comes from a clear conscience in knowing they held to truth and followed the arguments faithfully.

Of course not all converts from atheism become Christian or even religious. Some converts only reach a deistic belief in God (an areligious position that God is “impersonal”) but the leap is still monumental; and it opens new, unforeseen horizons.

The factors that lead to faith are often diverse. It is clear that every former atheist has walked a unique path to God. Cardinal Ratzinger was once asked how many ways there are to God. He replied:

“As many ways as there are people. For even within the same faith each man’s way is an entirely personal one.”

Of course, the pope-to-be was not endorsing the view that “all religions are equal” but rather that there always seems to be a unique combination of factors—or steps—that move each convert towards belief in God. It also seems that some of these factors are more prominent across the board than others.

Here are eight common factors that lead atheists to change their minds about God:

1. Good literature and reasonable writing.

Reasonable atheists eventually become theists because they are reasonable; and furthermore, because they are honest. They are willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads; and in many cases the evidence comes to the atheist most coherently and well-presented through the writings of believers in God.

Author Karen Edmisten admits on her blog:

“I once thought I’d be a lifelong atheist. Then I became desperately unhappy, read up on philosophy and various religions (while assiduously avoiding Christianity), and waited for something to make sense. I was initially  appalled when Christianity began to look  like the sensible thing, surprised when I wanted to be baptized, and stunned that I ended up a Catholic.”

Dr. Holly Ordway, author of Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms, describes the consequences of reading great, intelligent Christian writers:

“I found that my favorite authors were men and women of deep Christian faith. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien above all; and then the poets: Gerard Manley Hopkins, George Herbert, John Donne, and others. Their work was unsettling to my atheist convictions…”

Dr. Ordway mentions the eminent 20th century Oxford thinker, C.S. Lewis. Lewis is a prime example of a reasonable but unbelieving thinker who was willing to read from all angles and perspectives. As a result of his open inquiry, he became a believer in Christ and one of modern Christianity’s greatest apologists.

G.K. Chesterton and George MacDonald were two of the most influential writers to effect Lewis’ conversion. He writes in his autobiography, Surprised By Joy:

“In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for… A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.”

Author Dale Ahlquist writes matter-of-factly that “C.S. Lewis was an atheist until he read Chesterton’s book, The Everlasting Man, but he wasn’t afterwards…”

Ironically, it was C.S. Lewis’ influential defenses of Christianity that would eventually prompt countless conversions to Christianity—and his influence continues today unhindered. Among the Lewis-led converts from atheism is former feminist and professor of philosophy, Lorraine Murray, who recalls:

“In college I turned my back on Catholicism, my childhood faith, and became a radical, gender-bending feminist and a passionate atheist …. Reading Lewis, I found something that I must have been quietly hungering for all along, which was a reasoned approach to my childhood beliefs, which had centered almost entirely on emotion. As I turned the pages of this book, I could no longer ignore the Truth, nor turn my back on the Way and the Life. Little by little, and inch by inch, I found my way back to Jesus Christ and returned to the Catholic Church.”

For an in-depth account of Murray’s conversion, see her book: Confessions Of An Ex-Feminist.

2. "Experimentation" with prayer and the word of God.

The Word of God is living. It has power beyond human comprehension because it is “God-breathed.” God speaks to man in many ways; but especially through prayer and the reading of the inspired Scriptures. When curiosity (or even interest) of non-believers leads to experimentation with prayer or reading the Bible the results can be shocking, as many converts attest.

One former atheist who was profoundly affected by prayer and the Scriptures is author Devin Rose. On his blog, he describes the role that God’s Word played in his gradual conversion process from atheism to Christianity:

“I began praying, saying, “God, you know I do not believe in you, but I am in trouble and need help. If you are real, help me.” I started reading the Bible to learn about what Christianity said…”

Once Rose began to read the Scriptures and talk to God, even as a skeptic, he found himself overwhelmed by something very real:

“Still, I persevered. I kept reading the Bible, asking my roommate questions about what I was reading, and praying. Then, slowly, and amazingly, my faith grew and it eventually threatened to whelm my many doubts and unbelief.”

And the rest was history for the now rising Catholic apologist and author of The Protestant’s Dilemma.

Similarly, renowned sci-fi author John C. Wright distinctly recalls a prayer he said as an adamant atheist:

“I prayed. ‘Dear God, I know… that you do not exist. Nonetheless, as a scholar, I am forced to entertain the hypothetical possibility that I am mistaken. So just in case I am mistaken, please reveal yourself to me in some fashion that will prove your case. If you do not answer, I can safely assume that either you do not care whether I believe in you, or that you have no power to produce evidence to persuade me…If you do not exist, this prayer is merely words in the air, and I lose nothing but a bit of my dignity. Thanking you in advance for your kind cooperation in this matter, John Wright.'”

Wright soon received the answer (and effect) he did not expect:

“Something from beyond the reach of time and space, more fundamental than reality, reached across the universe and broke into my soul and changed me…I was altered down to the root of my being…It was like falling in love.”

Wright was welcomed into the Catholic Church at Easter in 2008.

3. Historical study of the Gospels.

Lee Strobel, the former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and author of the influential work, The Case For Christ, is a prime example of what happens when an honest atheist sets out to establish once and for all whether the claims of the Gospels are reliable or not.

Strobel writes at the end of his investigation in The Case For Christ:

“I’ll admit it:I was ambushed by the amount and quality of the evidence that Jesus is the unique Son of God… I shook my head in amazement. I had seen defendants carted off to the death chamber on much less convincing proof! The cumulative facts and data pointed unmistakably towards a conclusion that I wasn’t entirely comfortable in reaching.” (p. 264)

Modern historical scholars like Craig Blomberg and N.T. Wright have advanced the area of historical theology and the study of the claims of the Gospels to exciting new heights. The results of such ground-breaking studies are one of the greatest threats to modern day atheism.

Referring specifically to the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ in the Gospels (discussed below), former atheist and freelancer, Philip Vander Elst, writes:

“The more I thought about all these points, the more convinced I became that the internal evidence for the reliability of the Gospels and the New Testament as a whole was overwhelming."

4. Honest philosophical reasoning.

Philosophy means “love of truth.” Philosophy is meant to lead one to truth; and it certainly will, if the philosopher is willing to honestly consider the arguments from both sides and follow the best arguments wherever they may lead.

Psychologist Dr. Kevin Vost recalls his discovery of the arguments of St. Thomas Aquinas:

“Pope Leo XIII had written in the 1879 encyclical Aeterni Patris that for scientific types who follow only reason, after the grace of God, nothing is as likely to win them back to the faith as the wisdom of St. Thomas, and this was the case for me. He showed me how true Christian faith complements and perfects reason; it doesn’t contradict or belittle it. He solved all the logical dilemmas.”

Philosopher Dr. Ed Feser, in his article, The Road From Atheism, recounts the shocking effectof opening himself to the arguments for the existence of God:

“As I taught and thought about the arguments for God’s existence, and in particular the cosmological argument, I went from thinking “These arguments are no good” to thinking “These arguments are a little better than they are given credit for” and then to “These arguments are actually kind of interesting.”  Eventually it hit me: “Oh my goodness, these arguments are right after all!”

Feser concludes:

“Speaking for myself, anyway, I can say this much.  When I was an undergrad I came across the saying that learning a little philosophy leads you away from God, but learning a lot of philosophy leads you back.  As a young man who had learned a little philosophy, I scoffed.  But in later years and at least in my own case, I would come to see that it’s true.”

Two fantastic books from Edward Feser include The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism and Aquinas. Also recommended is Kevin Vost’s From Atheism to Catholicism: How Scientists and Philosophers Led Me to the Truth.

5. Reasonable believers.

It has been the obnoxious position of some (not all) atheists that in order to believe in God, one must have a significant lack of intelligence and/or reason. Most atheists believe that modern science has ruled out the possibility of the existence of God. For this reason, they tag believers with a lack of up-to-date knowledge and critical thinking skills. (Of course, the question of the existence of a God who is outside of the physical universe is fundamentally aphilosophical question—not a scientific question.)

Intelligent and reasonable believers in God, who can engage atheistic arguments with clarity and logic, become a great challenge to atheists who hold this shallow attitude towards the existence of God.

Theists especially make a statement when they are experts in any field of science. To list just a few examples: Galileo and Kepler (astronomy), Pascal (hydrostatics), Boyle (chemistry), Newton (calculus), Linnaeus (systematic biology), Faraday (electromagnetics), Cuvier (comparative anatomy), Kelvin (thermodynamics), Lister (antiseptic surgery), and Mendel (genetics).

An honest atheist might presume, upon encountering Christians (for example) who have reasonable explanations for their supernatural beliefs, that the existence of God is at least plausible. This encounter might then mark the beginning of the non-believer’s openness towards God as a reality.

Consider the notable conversion of former atheist blogger, Jennifer Fulwiler. Her journey from atheism to agnosticism and—eventually—to Catholicism, was slow and gradual with many different points of impact. But encountering intelligent believers in God was a key chink in her atheist armor.

In this video interview with Brandon Vogt, Jen explains how encountering intelligent, reasonable theists (especially her husband) impacted her in the journey towards her eventual conversion.

For the full account of Jen’s conversion process, get her must-read book, Something Other Than God. Her blog is conversiondiary.com.

And then there’s Leah Libresco—another atheist blogger turned Catholic. Leah recalls the challenging impact of reasonable Christians in her academic circle:

“I was in a philosophical debating group, so the strongest pitch I saw was probably the way my Catholic friends rooted their moral, philosophical, or aesthetic arguments in their theology. We covered a huge spread of topics so I got so see a lot of long and winding paths into the consequences of belief.”

Recalling her first encounter with this group of intelligent Christians, she writes on her blog:

“When I went to college…I met smart Christians for the first time, and it was a real shock.”

That initial “shock” stirred her curiosity and propelled her in the direction of Christianity. Leah is now an active Catholic.

Finally, there’s Edith Stein, a brilliant 20th century philosopher. As an atheist, Edith was shocked when she discovered the writings of Catholic philosopher, Max Scheler. As one account of her conversion recounts:

“Edith was enthralled by Scheler’s eloquence in expounding and defending Catholic spiritual ideals. Listening to his lectures on the phenomenology of religion, she became disposed to take religious ideas and attitudes seriously for the first time since her adolescence, when she had lost her faith and and given up prayer.”

Edith Stein would eventually convert to Catholicism and die a martyr. She is now known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

6. Modern advances and limitations in science.

Antony Flew was one of the world’s most famous atheists of the 20th century. He debated William Lane Craig and others on the existence of God. But eventually his recognition of the profound order and complexity of the universe, and its apparent fine-tuning, was a decisive reason for the renowned atheist to change his mind about God’s existence.

In a fascinating interview with Dr. Ben Wiker, Flew explains:

“There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe.”

He concluded that it was reasonable to believe that the organization of space, time, matter and energy throughout the universe is far from random.

As Dr. Peter Kreeft has pointed out, no person would see a hut on a beach and conclude that it must have randomly assembled itself by some random natural process, void of an intelligent designer. Its order necessitates a designer. Thus if this “beach hut analogy” is true, how much more should we believe in an Intelligent Designer behind the vastly more complex and ordered universe and the precise physical laws that govern it (click here for William Lane Craig’s argument for the fine-tuning of the universe).

Flew continues in his exposition on why he changed his mind about God:

“The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself—which is far more complex than the physical Universe—can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint . . . The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins’ comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a “lucky chance.” If that’s the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.”

Parents often describe their experience of procreation as “a miracle,” regardless of their religious background or philosophical worldview. Intuitively, they seem to accept that there is something deeply mysterious and transcendent at work in the bringing forth (and sustenance) of new human life. Flew also was able to realize (after a lifetime of study and reflection) that there could be no merely natural explanation for life in the universe.

For a more in-depth account of Flew’s change of mind on God’s existence, read There Is A God: How The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.

7. Evidence for the Resurrection.

Thanks to the phenomenal work of leading New Testament scholars, including Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, and N.T. Wright, the case for Christ’s resurrection has become more airtight than ever.

Modern historical studies have left little doubt about what the best explanation is for the alleged postmortem appearances of the risen Jesus, the conversions of Paul and James, and the empty tomb: Jesus really was raised from the dead. Even most of today’s critical New Testament scholars accept these basic facts as historically certain (the appearances, conversions, empty tomb, etc); but they are left limping with second-rate alternative explanations in a last ditch effort to refute the true resurrection of Christ and “signature of God”, as scholar Richard Swinburne has tagged it.

The case for the resurrection of Jesus had a significant impact on the former atheist, now Christian apologist, Alister McGrath. He recalls in one of his articles:

“My early concern was to get straight what Christians believed, and why they believed it. How does the Resurrection fit into the web of Christian beliefs? How does it fit into the overall scheme of the Christian faith? After several years of wrestling with these issues, I came down firmly on the side of Christian orthodoxy. I became, and remain, a dedicated and convinced defender of traditional Christian theology. Having persuaded myself of its merits, I was more than happy to try to persuade others as well.”

For more on McGrath’s journey see his book, Surprised By Meaning.

8. Beauty.

The great theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, wrote:

“Beauty is the word that shall be our first. Beauty is the last thing which the thinking intellect dares to approach, since only it dances as an uncontained splendour around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another.”

Father von Balthasar held strong to the notion that to lead non-believers to belief in God we must begin with the beautiful.

Dr. Peter Kreeft calls this the Argument from Aesthetic Experience. The Boston College philosopher testifies that he knows of several former atheists who came to a belief in God based on this argument (for more from Dr. Kreeft, see his Twenty Arguments For The Existence Of God).

In classic Kreeftian fashion, he puts forward the argument in the following way:

“There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Therefore there must be a God.

You either see this one or you don’t.”

Matt Nelson

Written by

Matt holds a B.Ed from the University of Regina and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto, Canada. After several years of skepticism, he returned to the Catholic Church in 2010. Now alongside his chiropractic practice, Matt is a speaker and writer for FaceToFace Ministries and Religious Education Coordinator at Christ the King Parish. He currently resides in Shaunavon, SK, with his wife, Amanda, and their daughter, Anna. Follow Matt through his blog at ReasonableCatholic.com.

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  • David

    Did I really see the words honest and Lee Strobel in the same sentence?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      So you are saying he was a dishonest atheist?

      • David

        He's a dishonest person which is clear when you read his books.

        • Boris

          He's a typical Christian: a liar.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You need to delete your own comment.

        • JOHN_CURRIER

          I would like to explore this further. Can you give me one or two examples where Stroebel got the facts wrong (as opposed to differences of interpretation of the facts) so I can investigate on my own. Thanks a lot.

      • Doug Shaver

        So you are saying he was a dishonest atheist?

        I've read some of his autobiographical material. He admits to having been a liar before his conversion. (And a drunk. And a philanderer. And etc.)

        As for what he is now, I've read two of his apologetics books. I can't call him a liar, because I assume he believes everything he has written. Nevertheless, not everything he has written is the truth, and if he were half as good a journalist as he claims to have been, he would have known it wasn't the truth before he wrote it.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Ha! I'll admit to continuing to be a sinner until the day I die.

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't think Strobel would deny that he is still a sinner. He would more likely say just that he no longer commits some of the sins that he used to commit.

          • Doug Shaver

            To me, sin is a theological concept, but I think it's obvious even to most atheists that nobody is morally perfect.

        • Raymond

          His books are not true journalism. They are apologetics positioned as journalism to mask his agenda.

          • Doug Shaver

            I agree. If I'd turned in anything like that when I was a reporter, I'd have been in serious trouble with any of my editors.

          • JOHN_CURRIER

            I would like to explore this further. Can you give me one or two examples where Stroebel got the facts wrong (as opposed to differences of interpretation of the facts) so I can investigate on my own. Thank you.

          • Doug Shaver

            I read the book several years ago and did not commit any of his specific errors to memory. I'm re-reading it now and will get back to you when I've found some.

          • JOHN_CURRIER

            I hope you don't take offense but that answer is pretty dodgey. How about a case or two where significant facts reported to him were in error?

          • Doug Shaver

            I hope you don't take offense

            When I make a generalization, I take no offense if asked for some specifics on which I base the generalization. It's a reasonable request.

            but that answer is pretty dodgey.

            I could take offense when accused of attempting to dodge the issue, if I were as easily offended as some people are. You asked, "Can you give me one or two examples where Stroebel got the facts wrong?" I answered that question straightforwardly: "No, I cannot."

            How about a case or two where significant facts reported to him were in error?

            As I mentioned in another thread sometime after we began this exchange, I've had to take a break from my forum activities because of other current demands on my time. With a little luck, however, I might soon have some relief from those other demands. When that happens, I'll get back to you.

          • Doug Shaver

            This exchange began when I responded to a challenge to identify any false statements made by Strobel in The Case for Christ. I said I would look for some. Shortly afterward, I followed up with an acknowledgement that I could not find any, strictly speaking, since the book was a summary of ideas presented to him by his interviewees and I assumed that he was accurately presenting everything that had been said to him. You then challenged me to find any factual inaccuracies made by the subjects of Strobel’s interviews.

            As earlier noted, it has been several years since I read The Case for Christ with close attention. My initial response to Paul was based on only a cursory re-reading of the first couple of chapters. My response to the followup challenge prompted a closer examination of the book, during which I discovered grounds for revising my initial assessment of Strobel’s own bona fides.

            For Chapter 1, Strobel interviewed Craig Blomberg for an assessment of the gospels’ historical reliability, starting with the question of what we know about their authors. According to Blomberg, “the uniform testimony of the early church was that Matthew, also known as Levi, the tax collector and one of the twelve disciples, was the author of the first gospel in the New Testament; that John Mark, a companion of Peter, was the author of the gospel we call Mark; and that Luke, known as Paul's 'beloved physician,' wrote both the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.” Considering the context, by “the early church,” Blomberg presumably meant “the church fathers,” since we have no other sources attesting to the beliefs or teachings of the earliest Christians, aside from the canonical writings and some apocryphal literature. It is true, so far as I know, that no extant document from Christianity’s formative years credits anyone other than the traditional authors with writing any of the canonical gospels. But does this justify a claim that the patristic testimony is uniform? I think I’m justified in thinking it is not. Strobel based his entire book on an analogy with a criminal trial, and a witness’s failure to contradict an assertion is not testimony to that assertion. It is not a fact that every patristic writer testifies to the traditional authorship of the canonical gospels. Clement of Rome does not say anything about who wrote any of the gospels. Neither does Ignatius. Neither does Justin Martyr. Apologists may argue that they must have known about the gospels and known who wrote them. Perhaps so, but we do not have their testimony to that effect. Blomberg implies that we do, but we do not.

            The first explicit attribution is Irenaeus’s, usually dated around 180 CE, and from that time onward, everyone seems to have agreed with him if they mentioned the subject at all. We may note, however, that even during the third century, just because someone mentioned “Luke’s gospel” doesn’t mean they were affirming that the book was written a sometime traveling companion of the apostle Paul. Even nowadays, many scholars and lay people refer to the book as “Luke’s gospel” even while denying the traditional authorship, just because it is so much more convenient than saying “the gospel usually attributed to Luke.” I am not claiming that any ancient writer who mentioned the book actually doubted the traditional authorship. I do claim, though, that their failure to explicitly deny it is not the same as testimony to its truth.

            Furthermore, not all testimony is of equal value. Testimony is only worth something if the witness was in a position to know the alleged fact that he affirms. No patristic writer tells us how he came to know who wrote any of the gospels, except only for Irenaeus, who refers to Papias, who mentions only Matthew and Mark. He gives no hint as to why he thinks Luke and John wrote the other two gospels. For those two, Blomberg’s claim boils down to a pure argument from authority: The church fathers said so, and that is reason enough to believe it.

            Back to Strobel. He assured the reader in his introduction that he was pursuing this subject like any good journalist would. He says he interviewed his subjects with the intention “to challenge them with the objections I had when I was a skeptic, to force them to defend their propositions with solid data and cogent arguments, and to test them with the very questions that you might ask if given the opportunity.” In other words, he would pretend to be a skeptic, even though he conducted the interviews several years after his own conversion. But there is scant evidence that he did anything of the sort. I have already mentioned one objection I would have made to Blomberg’s assertion about “uniform testimony,” an objection that seems not to have occurred to Strobel. And here is a question I would have asked if given the opportunity: What reason did Irenaeus have for believing that those four gospels were written by those four men? In other words, why should I take Irenaeus’s word for it? To think it must be so just because a church father said so is not skepticism, and it isn’t good journalism, either.

            Strobel continues this disingenuity in the next chapter, when he asks Blomberg about the reliability of these authors. Strobel begins by asking, “Were these first-century writers even interested in recording what actually happened?” According to Blomberg, we should think they were because (a) Luke said that it was his intention to do so, (b) Matthew and Mark wrote in a style similar to Luke’s and so must have had the same intention he did, and (c) although John admitted to trying to persuade his readers of certain theological issues, he surely realized that in order to do this, he had to be conscientious in presenting his historical information. And that, if we’re to take Strobel at his word, constitutes “solid data” and a cogent argument. That might be good apologetics. It is not good journalism and not even a pretense of skepticism.

            So it goes throughout the book. Strobel’s claim that he was questioning his subjects the same way any skeptical newspaper reporter would have questioned them is just a sham.

            Back now to the factuality of his subjects’ claims. For his chapter on “corroborating evidence,” Strobel interviews Edwin M. Yamauchi of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and they discuss the letter of Pliny the Younger. Yamauchi says, “And it talks about the worship of Jesus as God,” but—back to the trial analogy—this assumes facts not in evidence. What Pliny actually wrote was: “They [Christians] asserted . . . that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god.” This was in Bithynia, a province along the Black Sea, quite early during the second century. Nothing in Pliny’s letter identifies this “Christ” with the man known to history as Jesus of Nazareth. Neither does Pliny say that he judged this hymn-singing to be an act of worship or that anyone told him it was. The bit about “as to a god” is obviously his interpretation of whatever he was told. We can hardly assume that the people he interrogated would have used the phrase themselves.

            Strobel and Yamauchi then discuss the references to Thallus and Phlegon, from which Yamauchi infers that we have “non-biblical attestation of the darkness that occurred at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.” It is not a fact that we have any such attestation. First, we do not have Thallus’s, or Phlegon’s, attestation to anything. Whatever they wrote has not survived. The extant references to their works are not even quotations, but paraphrases. Second, even those references are too vague to reliably establish that the darkness they mentioned was the same event that, according to the gospels, was observed in Palestine sometime around 30 CE.

            I conclude with the assertions of J.P. Moreland, the subject of Strobel’s Chapter 14. Strobel asks him, “Can you give me five pieces of circumstantial evidence that convince you Jesus rose from the dead?” Moreland says he can, that he has five propositions “that are not in dispute today” and are evidence that the resurrection actually happened.

            Now, just what is “not in dispute” supposed to mean, exactly? There is nothing that is not in dispute if we mean that you can’t find anyone anywhere who will disagree with it. You can find people who will dispute the proposition that two plus two equals four. What most of us usually mean, when we say that some proposition is not in dispute, is relative to the context of the discussion in which the proposition occurs. Within the scientific community, biological evolution—the proposition that all living organisms are related by descent with modification from a common ancestor—is a fact not in dispute, notwithstanding that every scientist knows full well that a significant fraction of the nonscientific community disputes it passionately.

            There are people who disagree with some or all of Moreland’s five propositions, and he must know that. What he must mean, when he says they are not in dispute, is that in his judgment, people who do dispute them can and should be ignored. Those people should be treated, he thinks, the way scientists treat creationists. Very well. It is his judgment, and so he is entitled to it. But Strobel is claiming to have interviewed him as though he were a skeptic. It was his intention, he said, “to force them [interviewees] to defend their propositions with solid data and cogent arguments, and to test them with the very questions that you might ask if given the opportunity.” If he had actually done that, he would not have conflated Moreland’s personal judgment with the reality of modern critical scholarship. Moreland presumably means to suggest something like this: His five propositions are accepted as facts by everyone whose judgment ought to be given serious consideration because they have whatever qualifications are necessary to make such judgments. Insofar as opinions have anything to do with it, “not in dispute” does not mean “the majority opinion.” It means either “the unanimous opinion” or, at least, “the almost unanimous opinion.” It is in this sense that biological evolution is a fact not in dispute within the scientific community.

            Of Moreland’s five propositions, at least three are disputed by scholars with relevant expertise.

            (1) “The disciples died for their beliefs.” So says Christian tradition. Plenty of competent scholars do dispute this. No disciple’s martyrdom is attested by any contemporary documentation or even secondary sources. All we have are unprovenanced stories told long afterward. And even those stories do not affirm, as Moreland implies, that anyone was killed specifically for affirming the resurrection. There is no suggestion anywhere in the traditions that any martyr could have saved his life just by denying the resurrection.

            (2) Skeptics became believers. Obviously, there were conversions. And, at least some potential converts would at first have doubted what they were hearing, and so Christians must have told them something that changed their minds. But of course, this happens with all new religions that last longer than their founders’ lifetimes. Moreland’s claim is more specific, though. He told Strobel that in Christianity’s case, it is undisputed that we know of at least two converts—James the brother of Jesus, and Paul— who could not possibly have changed their minds about the resurrection without irrefutable evidence. But there are competent scholars who do dispute it. Moreland’s account of James’s and Paul’s conversions rests on an inerrantist reading of the New Testament, and it is not a fact that inerrantism is undisputed. Absent the presuppositions of historical Christian orthodoxy, we have no idea what James believed about his brother prior to his crucifixion. As for Paul, by his own account he was not persuaded by anything that any Christian told him. What Paul himself says is that he was converted as a result of personal revelation and his reading of Jewish scripture. In neither James’s nor Paul’s case is it undisputed that they would not have converted if the resurrection had not actually occurred.

            3. “Five weeks after he's crucified, over ten thousand Jews are following him.” Moreland does not say where he gets that number 10,000. The gospels themselves report no conversions after the resurrection. In Acts, which begins six weeks after Jesus’death, the author reports the conversion of “about three thousand”Jews in response to Peter’s inaugural sermon (Acts 2:41), and at an unspecified time later, "the number of men grew to about five thousand" (Acts 4:4). Some competent authorities dispute even those numbers, which are modest compared to Moreland’s. Moreland must be relying on some extrabiblical source for his data, but he doesn’t say what source, and Strobel doesn't ask. This claim of 10,000 Jewish converts within five weeks does not constitute an undisputed fact.

      • VicqRuiz

        I would say that he never was truly an atheist, and that he is not honest when he claims to have been so.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The good ole "No True Atheist" logical fallacy, eh?

          Anyway, how would you make such a judgment?

          • VicqRuiz

            I've read his "Case for Christ" and "Case for a Creator".

            The "evidence" he presents is pretty much the same stuff I've read in apologetics books and on apologetics websites for two decades. I can remember not a single case of any atheist I know being much persuaded by it.

            Yet when ol' Lee hears it, he drops to his knees as if he'd just gotten a sap across the back of the neck.

          • "The "evidence" he presents is pretty much the same stuff I've read in apologetics books and on apologetics websites for two decades. I can remember not a single case of any atheist I know being much persuaded by it."

            So how does it follow that Strobel was "never was truly an atheist", as you asserted? That doesn't seem to follow from this explanation. You've simply avoided Kevin's question.

          • David Marshall

            This article is written about atheists with open minds. In my experience, that is an exceedingly thin slice of the demographic, unfortunately. (I am a mildly prominent Christian writer myself, and the vast majority of "rebuttals" to my detailed arguments consists of snark, micro-focus on typos and other "gotcha" issues, and personal attacks.) think Strobel's books are moderately persuasive entry-level apologetic works. For those who want to dig deeper, the people he interviews are generally a good start.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I suppose a work can be persuasive without being factual. Strobel may be persuasive, but he certainly isn't factual.

          • JOHN_CURRIER

            I would like to explore this further. Can you give me one or two examples where Stroebel got the facts wrong (as opposed to differences of interpretation of the facts) so I can investigate on my own. Thanks.

        • Doug Shaver

          I would say that he never was truly an atheist

          He says he didn't believe in God, and I see no reason to question that statement. His skepticism was obviously not well reasoned, though. I forget which book I read it in (probably The Case for Faith), but he actually admits to having believed that evolution disproved God's existence.

          "Atheist" is not logically equivalent to "critical thinker."

        • CL

          Greetings VicqRuiz, That's because there's no such thing as an atheist. :-)
          We are all born with a knowing of our Creator manifest in us. We may deny it, but it exists, it is there... until the denial is removed. I wonder if anyone has ever gone to their death an atheist... a non-believer. I think not. I think on the death bed the Truth becomes clear once again... denial can no longer be sustained as the world washes away.
          Peace and blessings of God to you. :-)

      • John Blackthorne

        Lee Strobel claims he was an atheist to win brownie points. Completely dishonest.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Evidence?

    • Mike

      That's what some ppl said about leah libresco's conversion.

      • VicqRuiz

        It's possible to read what Leah wrote about religion before and after her conversion, and judge whether her claims of having been an atheist ring true (to me, they do). For Strobel and some other "converts", it's not so easy to tell.

        • Mike

          There's always that issue i agree.

        • Doug Shaver

          This is beginning to remind me of those apologists who say that we who claim to be former Christians were never real Christians.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Nicely done, Mr. Nelson.

    Now I guess the follow-up articles should be "Why Atheists DON'T Change Their Minds" and "Why Theists Change Their's"!

  • Regarding (1), I actually think the reverse is often true. Chesterton remarked on this, that it wasn't Christian writers but atheist writers that convinced him there was something to Christianity. It was the same for me. Chesterton and Lewis, more than Russell or Dawkins, helped me on my journey to agnosticism.

    • William Davis

      Yeah, I actually found myself siding with Christians a few times when I read "The God Delusion". Dawkins made some good points, but I think he is off-base on a lot in that book.

    • Mike

      How did lewis and chesterton help in that direction? i am curious as they had the opposite effect on me.

      • For C.S. Lewis, it was his Mere Christianity. I remember reading through it when I was struggling with doubts and at the end thinking, "If these are the best arguments for Christianity, then it's on a much weaker foundation than I thought." I later found some other arguments for Christian theism, or theism in general, that slowed me down and gave me some perspective, especially Joseph Ratzinger's "Introduction to Christianity".

        For Chesterton, it was a couple things. His line about free thought and fairies made me consider that supernaturalism may allow thought with licence to embrace the absurd, and as I also learned from Chesterton, licence to do what is wrong can often be slavery in disguise. Second, it was his opening to The Everlasting Man. He spoke about how getting a more objective perspective on Christianity, seeing it at the same distance as Buddhism or Islam, might help afford sufficient perspective to perceive how unique, true, and beautiful Christianity is. I tried this, and did come to appreciate the uniqueness and original beauty of Christianity. At the end of the experiment, however, I came to realise that Christianity is merely one of many faiths. I no longer found its claims compelling.

        These are not the main reasons for my agnosticism, but these authors helped me along the way.

        • William Davis

          One major point for me is that Buddhism condemned slavery from it's very inception. It took Christianity way to long to come around, not to mention the fact that Jesus and Paul seem to be unconcerned about the institution...probably because they thought the end of the age was upon us and it didn't matter. Still, if I'm going to look to an institution for moral authority, this is a pretty big deal for me.

          • Lucretius

            Honestly, I think you should get someone "famous" who posts articles on this blog to create an article on this. Like I told you on the other side of the Internet, this is a fascinating topic for me.

            Christi pax.

          • Lucretius

            I sent an email to Strange Notions. We'll see what happens.

            Christi pax.

          • William Davis

            Cool. Been busy working today, see you've still been busy over at EN. I'll probably see you again soon :) (I hope you'll have improved on your tact by then :P)

        • Mike

          fascinating as i read both and thought wow these arguments are awesome and much stronger than i'd assumed...wanna know what i think might be the diff?

          i was surrounded by a a very dismissive secularism and was raised without faith without even a cultural catholicism and so thought it was total bunk/fairy talk and so my starting point was 'low' which made the arguments seem very good to me but perhaps you thought christianity was much "stronger" and were disappointed to discover the arguments were not as strong as you'd expected...something like that.

          Plus ofc ourse i suspect you thought/think that natural science is the gold standard of "truth" whereas all the rest is really all in the same category ie interesting but not compelling.

        • Alcide Bouchard

          I think that for the overwhelming majority of people today, their choice to distance themselves from traditional moral standards is linked to personal lifestyle choices (sexuality);
          a shortsighted assessment of what truly matters, based on what is most likely to support their desire for temporary pleasures. Their conclusion therefore basically amounts
          to “I don’t want God to exist, and therefore He doesn’t."
          If this is one's mindset when 'exploring options', then one will generally see in texts what one wants to see, while downplaying the challenging aspects.

          Traditional Christian moral standards call believers to deny their desires for temporary pleasure in favor of everlasting joy that can’t be taken away (a sober assessment of what truly matters).

          This challenge isn't for the faint of heart. I honestly wouldn’t be able to give up temporary pleasures without having encountered Christ; I am not strong enough on my own.

          • Michael Murray

            Why do so many these days reject death in battle and the glorious place at Odin's table in Valhalla that it guarantees them ? Is it because they are cowards or is it perhaps because they find no evidence to support the existence of Odin or Valhalla ?

          • Alcide Bouchard

            I agree, it's only having encountered God that can change our perception of reality. Until then all stories and claims can seem like figments of human imagination. We can have a dialogue with God though. It's a matter of taking a chance that He's real and choosing to speak (in a private place of course). People do far worse things in private; it's nothing to be ashamed of. :)

          • Michael Murray

            It's a matter of taking a chance that He's real and choosing to speak (in a private place of course).

            What makes you think I and others atheists haven't taken that chance? Lots of us were raised as theists, Catholic in my case, and left because we realised we were talking to ourselves.

          • Alcide Bouchard

            I was also raised Catholic. For most of my life I was sort of practicing, but not living all that I was being taught. I was sometimes unable to forgive when someone hurt me. I had violent thoughts, was addicted to porn, and movies and entertainment in general. My priorities were messed up, and my body was becoming sick. Arthritis had spread from my knees, at 17 years of age, to all other major joints, including my hands by the time I was 38. I suffered a spinal injury at 23 (a construction accident) and constantly visited the Chiropractor to help manage the pain. I also had about a dozen planter’s warts on the soles of my feet that were becoming a problem. I was strong enough to keep working as a carpenter in order to support my family, but I hadn’t considered taking pain killers, and so I suffered constant pain for about 15 years.

            One day when I was unable to use my hands to put my socks on in the morning, I had to use my feet, and it really helped me to reconsider where my life was headed. Then I made efforts to honestly confess my sins and started to turn away from them, and I started reading my Bible every day, because I didn’t want to end up in a wheelchair by the time I was 45. So I was actively looking for answers.

            In May of 2008, alone in my office one morning, I prayed for healing and received it. The next X-ray that the Chiropractor took revealed my perfectly restored spine.
            I didn’t deserve what I received in any way, but I was open to the possibility that the Bible stories weren’t just stories. I then asked God what He wanted me to do next, and He led me through a process to forgive others by praying that He
            would bless them. I didn’t feel like praying for them, of course, but I did it anyways, and He healed the wounds in
            my heart while I was praying. I started to actually care about how they’re doing. Then I asked again “what’s next Lord?” He then led me to go ask forgiveness of someone I had hurt (my mother in law). Early the next morning I went to do just that, and that night, May 29th, 2009, is when God healed the arthritis throughout my body. I’m now able to run again, lift, and climb.

            With regard to my mind, my thoughts are peaceful, which results in good decisions and actions. I never heard an audible voice, but because I was asking God to forgive me, and wanted to see signs, I started seeing them. I saw them in the scriptures, when they would address what I was living through. I also heard signs from the people around me and preachers on TV. Of course I could have concluded that all these happenings in my life were just coincidences, but I choose to conclude that God is making Himself known to me. I humble myself, knowing that I don’t deserve any of the great things He’s doing for me. Anyone can choose to follow Him. He doesn’t have favorites, but loves us all equally.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Their conclusion therefore basically amounts to “I don’t want God to exist, and therefore He doesn’t."

            I can't speak for other people. For myself, when I wrote the comment you replied to, I had a very different conclusion: I don't know if God exists but I hope God exists.

            Things have changed quite a bit in the intervening year. I now do think God exists. I don't think God worries about what we do in our bedrooms. I don't think God is concerned about us much at all.

          • Alexandra

            >>> I now do think God exists....

            I truly rejoice at this news, Paul. :) Cheers!

          • Lazarus

            A deist God?

            I also think that a God thinks less about our bedrooms than what we are told, but not being concerned about us much?

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I believe that God only cares about us only insofar as we care about each other.

          • Lazarus

            I love that. That would also explain why at times God seems so distant.

          • Alcide Bouchard

            I have experienced His love firsthand, and the concern He has for all aspects of our lives...see comments below.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            As have I.

  • Regarding (6), isn't the movement probably more the other way? Otherwise, shouldn't we expect a greater number of theists amongst accomplished scientists than amongst non-scientists? Why is is that we find the opposite trend?

    • Guest

      Isn't the the "more scientists are Atheists" meme problematic in and of itself?

      https://strangenotions.com/atheist-scientists/

      • So then how do you answer the question? If learning more about science helps atheists to become theists, why aren't more scientists theists?

        • Guest

          You didn't read the link did you?

          Quote"The existence of God is not a scientific question, because science restricts itself to searching for natural explanations of observed phenomena. Since God is a transcendent being who exists beyond space and time, the search for God must primarily use philosophy, or careful reasoning, and not science (even though science provides facts which can be used in philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God)."End Quote.

          • What's your name? I'd be more happy to respond if you'd follow the forum guidelines, and tell me what your name is.

            Also, are you going to answer my question? If modern advances in science help atheists to become theists, why aren't more scientists theists? Or maybe new scientific discoveries don't help atheists to become theists, because the existence of God is not a scientific question?

          • Guest

            Sorry about that I didn't realize you can't be anon here.

            No I won't give my name but this will be my last post out of respect to the rules and you may have the last word.

            >If modern advances in science help atheists to become theists, why aren't more scientists theists?

            First as the link to this very blog argues effectively the whole "most Scientists are Atheists" meme is a fallacy. Which was my point.

            Second to answer your question in the context of the Post we are talking about scientists who learn a bit of philosophy and approach their science threw philosophy.

            I am not sure who said it but most modern Scientists are Philistines when it comes to knowledge of philosophy.

            Neil deGrasse Tyson comes to mind and the most notorious next to Richard Dawkins is Stephen Hawking whom as Martin Rees said has read little by way of philosophy & thus quote "We shouldn't attach any weight to what Hawking says about god". Rees I believe is a Deist.

            >Or maybe new scientific discoveries don't help atheists to become theists, because the existence of God is not a scientific question?

            It's is a philosophical question but how you model your science threw what philosophy I would say matters a great deal.

            Most scientists channel an unconscious knee jerk Positivism which is the lens threw which they read reality & their science. AG Flew himself at the height of his Atheism in the 50's abandoned Positivism as hopelessly incoherent.

            Granted while they are not air tight proofs things like the discovery that the Universe had a beginning. The fact quantum events require an observer and even the theories the Universe began as a quantum event suggest a God. Or at least show belief in God is not unreasonable. Add to that the fact physics follows the orderly language of mathematics which shows a design.

            Of course ultimately the existence of God is a philosophical question not a scientific one. One has to prove or disprove God on that battleground.

            Bye. perhaps I will come back with a name or perhaps not.

          • It seems as though your answer is that science doesn't help atheists become theists. I would tend to agree.

            The fact quantum events require an observer and even the theories the Universe began as a quantum event suggest a God.

            Under most interpretations of quantum mechanics, an observer is unnecessary.

          • Guest

            Forgive me like Oscar Wilde I can resist anything but temptation.

            Science alone doesn't help atheists become theists. They need to add philosophy.

            >In most interpretations of quantum mechanics, an observer is unnecessary.

            True which is why "scientific" arguments for God are not air tight since Science is always changing.

            Peace.

            Sorry this time have the last word and I will resist the urge to answer no matter how very interesting your post.

      • William Davis

        Just because they aren't atheists, doesn't mean they are Christians. The cream of the crop in science do have a high propensity for atheism. I think the National Academy of Sciences is around 93% Atheist and that is just the U.S. In Asia and Northern Europe Christianity is hardly represented.

        • Guest

          What does being Christian or not have to do with anything? I give a link from this blog on problems with the "more scientists are Atheists" meme.

          Nothing more.

          • Papalinton

            What does being Christian or not have to do with anything?

            Exactly. Being Christian has nothing to do with anything. Indeed it's to do with nothing. George H Smith, American libertarian thinker and writer, best sums up:

            "God is not matter; neither is non-existence. God does not have limitations; neither does non-existence. God is not visible; neither is non-existence. God cannot be described; neither can non-existence."

            I think it is becoming increasingly clearer within the broader understanding of our expanding knowledge base that the concept of god is ideation, the formation of a mental construct predicated on our predilection for projection of an habituated theory of mind, itself a function of human thought processes. It is how we conceive of others having a thinking and active mind just like ours. And we project our theory of mind through attributing these processes onto the cosmos.

          • Guest

            I cannot resist a pot shot at you before I go since you reason so very badly.

            >"God is not matter; neither is non-existence. God does not have limitations; neither does non-existence. God is not visible; neither is non-existence. God cannot be described; neither can non-existence."

            Well unless one plans to channel one's inner Paul Tillich this is a fallacy of equivocation. Nothing or non-existence is an absence of anything. God is not that and non-existence unlike God can be explained with great ease simply take everything and subtract it. It is not a hard concept.

            As for the last bit your are moving toward a philosophical idealism if not outright slophism as such it renders impossible for you to say anything about reality including any claims Christianity or religion in general is an illusion.

            Bye.

          • Papalinton

            I guess reading up on and familiarising yourself with all the tremendous research and study into the sciences of the mind is beyond you then?

    • neil_ogi

      more christian/theists scientists are winners of nobel prizes

  • Regarding (4), do you think that all atheists are ignorant or dishonest when it comes to philosophy? Do you think it's impossible to be a reasonable atheist?

    • Anfistophanes

      Spend some time with the atheists who consistently comment on these articles and I think you'll find a resounding "yes" in response to your last question.

      • Andre V.

        Those atheists were specifically invited here to discuss their viewpoints. Your comment is offensive.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          a) "...ignorant ... when it comes to philosophy?"

          b) "Spend some time with the atheists who consistently comment on these articles..."

          c) "Those atheists were specifically invited here to discuss their viewpoints."

          I don't see where c) follows from a) and b)

          • Andre V.

            Anfistophanes was specifically referring to Paul's last sentence. In other words, he says that it's impossible to be a reasonable atheist. I find that offensive.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, he said that the atheists who comment here are not reasonable. I think he needs a qualifier like "some" or "many" or "often," but a charitable man will read those things into a statement rather than fall victim to rash judgment.

          • Andre V.

            You seem to have difficulty in understanding that the comment was in relation to Paul's last sentence. Being charitable is one thing, being naive and / or tolerant of rudeness is another. And how about we hear from Anfistophanes himself?

          • William Davis

            Let's reverse it and say, "Do you think it is possible to be a reasonable theist?"

            Let's say I answer: "Spend some time with the theists who consistently comment on these articles and I think you'll find a resounding "yes" in response to your last question."

            All I did was switch theist for atheist. Would you still be as charitable?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Sure.

      • William Davis

        Paul IS one of the atheist/agnostics who regularly comments here. Don't you feel silly now?

      • GCBill

        Hi, first-time commenter. Nice to meet you too!

    • Mike

      I think reductive materialists/naturalists are unreasonable bc their positions are imho unreasonable but i also think that atheism that does not entail one of those positions is pointless or at least just agnosticism in disguise.

      • I think it's a radical claim, that a particular commonly held position, theism or naturalism, is necessarily irrational. This may be too involved a question for comment threads, but I am curious. What do you think is irrational about naturalism?

        • Mike

          it's too reductive; it reduces 99.9% of life to some impersonal "force of nature" which is supposed to be intention-less pointless and yet seems to point to things etc. i also don't think that objective morality can be coherently held on naturalism as everything that is just is on the worldview there is no "right" nor "wrong" there just is.

          btw i said unreasonable not necessarily irrational but i took irrational to mean incoherent.

          • When I say that a belief is irrational, I simply mean that the belief has no good justification. Arguments attempting to justify the belief either are invalid, or rely on premises that no person could reasonably consider to be sound. It can be irrational to withhold belief if the belief is clearly rational (no person could rationally deny the belief).

            Nature appears to act without an end in mind. I find no evidence of purpose. Every event that has been well explored appears to have a natural explanation, and there is little to know evidence of the occurrence of supernatural events or activities. Outside of human and other animal activity, the universe appears to me to be completely without purpose. What is the error in my reason? What mistake in logic or delusion do I adopt, that no person could reasonably adopt?

          • Mike

            well for starters the evolutionary process seems to go from simple to complex..there's purpose there no? you seem to have goals, society has goals ends that we justify w/o recourse to nature all the time - nature seems itself to go from seed to plant etc. so from one thing to another related thing; the environment seems to 'favor' one type of plant say or animal over another by reproductive fitness.

            also how can you exclude humans and animals from 'the universe'? anyway even if you do that physics is all equations and order and 'rules' etc. how does that not seem purposeful to you?

          • well for starters the evolutionary process seems to go from simple to complex..there's purpose there no?

            Not that I can tell. The appearance of purpose seems well explained by natural selection and thermodynamics.

            also how can you exclude humans and animals from 'the universe'?

            I don't. I'm aware of nothing in naturalism that precludes the existence of purposeful animal behaviour.

          • Mike

            that's just what i mean..."natural selection" what is selection and why? why selecting? the idea of selection seems very purposeful to me.

          • Frank Pennycook

            Mike, the word 'selection' in natural selection is just a terminological matter. It does not imply that the process is purposeful. Darwin called it that by analogy with the artificial selection of domestic animals and plants by breeders.

            If he had called it something else like "differential survival" perhaps there wouldn't be this ambiguity.

            The whole idea is to demonstrate a mechanism which is not purposeful, not teleological, not driven by higher-level forces. It is a question of what happens to each individual organism, whether it survives or not, whether it breeds or not. The offspring vary, and those which are better adapted to the environment survive disproportionately.

            I agree with Paul's comments about the purposeless universe. Purpose and meaning are things we read into the universe. They are human constructs.

          • Mike

            That makes no sense i don't think...call it what you want but clearly there is a kind of selection going on; we didn't evolve from angels did we ? no we were selected for by natural mechanism from lower not higher forms of life so that means there is some kind of direction to the mechanism.

            BTW this is obvious if you look around at how environments select for adaptability for survival.

          • Raymond

            And even if there is purpose, not just the appearance of purpose, what does that imply? There is a purpose therefore God? Therefore the Christian God? Don't stop at the edge, take the leap, so we can see you fail to reach the other side.

          • Mike

            Well there's some kind of purpose for sure but what it means is another question i think...even naturalists can admit the bleeping obvious that nature/evolution itself is purposeful i think.

            i think purpose in nature means that the worldviews that presuppose no intention at all can't be correct; i think that something having purpose/order had to get it from some source of order...whether that source is the unmoved mover is another q.

          • Frank Pennycook

            Mike, you say "clearly there is a kind of selection going on" and "naturalists .. admit .. that evolution is purposeful". You are asserting there must be purpose, and that this is obvious. I disagree. It is not obvious to me.

            I hold to a naturalistic philosophy, and as I outlined (briefly), evolutionary processes are indeed purposeless, that is a central part of the theory. Not that that makes it incompatible with theism, by the way, for someone could believe God began the universe and allowed the evolutionary process to work thereafter. I do not believe that.

            Now you say "purpose in nature means that the worldviews that presuppose no intention at all can't be correct" -- this is to beg the question. Certainly, if there is purpose in nature then a worldview which denies this would be incorrect. The question is, is there purpose in nature?

            Now -- a crucial point is this. You mention higher and lower lifeforms. To regard us as "higher" than, say, bacteria is self-flattering, but it is a human viewpoint. Of course we think we are the higher ones. Other lifeforms might take a different view, if they can take a view. From the standpoint of an impersonal universe we are all much the same.

          • Mike

            How can you even study biology if there's no purpose no patterns no underlying order in your opinion?

          • Frank Pennycook

            Huh? Those three things -- patterns, purpose and underlying order -- are just very different.

            There can be patterns without purpose. I think that is true of biology. But to see it's possible, look at astronomy, with the orbits of planets and the formation of galaxies, for example. I don't think anyone thinks they are purposeful, but there are certainly patterns.

          • Mike

            i know they are different but i think they belong in the same category, call it intentionality or telos or whatever word you want but clearly what we do when we study the mechanics of the material world is find the intrinsic patterns causes effects and then we repeat and repeat and repeat the experiments to nail down the patterns as perfectly as possible. then we extract from those findings theories that explain all that order that we just systematically analyzed.

            i think maybe you see 'purpose' as somehow code for çhristian god but i don't think that that's what it implies at least not immediately. that there is purpose order regularity is a starting point from which you can go in various directions.

            anyway i think to deny purpose of some sort maybe not personal but of some sort is just plain silly to be frank as it is everywhere - some ppl believe that there is something called "the wrong side of history" as if history were the unfolding of some natural plan for example but not god's plan just some plan.

            i think you believe incoherently that there is no purpose of any sort in nature but that that doesn't mean there's no purpose to individual human life but we already know you disagree.

          • Frank Pennycook

            Hello, maybe we need to agree to disagree. I'm struggling to find any arguments to engage with in what you've said.

            I'm not (and have nowhere suggested) regarding purpose as code for a Christian god. I have been talking about purpose as such. I agree with you about the mechanics of studying nature to look for patterns. I do not think patterns are the same as purpose. I gave a non-biological illustration which you have not addressed.

            You've said that to deny purpose of some sort is "just plain silly" and you imagine I believe "incoherently". Is that it?

          • Mike

            yes i believe that you can not be a thorough going naturalist coherently.

            i also believe that to deny intention telos direction "purpose"" in science is incoherent.

            take care and thx for the exchange.

          • Peter

            If you consider life on earth and humanity to be one-off freak events in a universe which is otherwise totally hostile to life, then it is understandable why you would apportion no meaning to the universe.

            However, if, like me, you regard the universe to be generally fertile for life and ultimately consciousness, so that humanity is but one of potentially countless sentient races, it would appear that the universe has a meaning after all, on two levels.

            First, for the widespread creation of consciousness and, second, for that consciousness to create its own purpose and be driven by it. It is the widespread creation of purpose-driven consciousness which gives the universe its meaning.

          • Frank Pennycook

            Hi Peter, I'd agree with much of what you say. I don't think I'd go so far as to say the universe has a meaning. Yes, consciousnesses are driven by self-created purpose and meaning. But does that lead to your first proposition that widespread creation of consciousness is somehow the purpose of the universe?

            It's an open question of course whether there are other conscious beings elsewhere, but given recent advances in exoplanet discovery it seems there are lots of suitable worlds. We know life started here on earth pretty quickly (in geological terms), so we can estimate it is quite likely. But consciousness or significant reflective intelligence would seem to be very very recent indeed (between 100k years or so to a few million years, depending on where you set the bar).

            So we might face the prospect of a galaxy teeming with bacteria and maybe animal and plant life, but no or very few starfaring aliens. The old Fermi paradox -- if they exist, why aren't they here? -- is still relevant.

          • Peter

            By some standards the universe is still young and we may be among the first widely-dispersed examples of intelligent life. A universe teeming with bacteria and early life may well in the aeons to come produce countless intelligent species.

            A universe which creates widespread consciousness creates purpose through that consciousness. Inasmuch as the consciousness it creates is part of the universe itself, the universe is creating its own purpose, manifested through its consciousness. The universe is creating its own purpose. It is giving itself meaning.

            A universe which is constantly evolving towards the point where it can give itself meaning, not just in one instance but potentially everywhere and at all times, is a universe which is predestined to do so. The universe is inexorably driven to create its own purpose, to achieve a particular destiny for which it was configured in the first place.

          • David Nickol

            However, if, like me, you regard the universe to be generally fertile . . . .

            I am not quite sure how one would calculate this. Considering the size of the universe, how much life must exist for the universe to be considered "generally fertile"? It seems likely to me that there have been, are, and will be other intelligent races in the universe, but it is easy to forget just have vast the universe is. The best we can do at the moment is guess, and my guess would be that the odds of two intelligent races ever finding one another are vanishingly small. That being the case, I wouldn't consider the universe "generally fertile."

          • Peter

            Of course, within relatively short distances such as a few dozen light years, perhaps there is only microbial life, but over longer distances such as hundreds or even thousands of light years, intelligent life may be present.

            However, in the aeons to come that microbial life may evolve to intelligent life, which is why I said that the universe is fertile for eventual consciousness.

          • If the universe were chock full of life, it would be easy to say that it's because God made the universe to be full of life. The abundance of life is evidence for God.

            If life in the universe is rare, or even unique, it would be easy to say that God specially set up the universe for this one example of life, a special example unlike anything anywhere else, and that this uniqueness, this rarity of life is evidence for God.

            If life didn't arise in the universe, no one would be here to make these remarks in the first place.

          • Peter

            If the universe were full of life, it would be reasonable to say that God configured it naturally to be so.

            However, if the universe were devoid of life except for us, it would not be reasonable to say that God configured it to naturally create us. There would be nothing natural about a vast isotropic universe producing life in just one point. Instead, any appeal to God's involvement would imply supernatural intervention which has thus far been falsified by science.

            The only scenario for God is a natural and not a supernatural universe and, given that we are here, a natural universe would imply more of the same.

          • The problem is that not everyone shares your interpretation. Most creationists and ID people I've met would lean toward the opposite end, that the rarity of life shows that God exists, because it shows that life requires some special intelligent intervention. That the universe has no other life (they assume this) is a sign that life cannot form solely by natural principles.

            I would suggest first convincing them of your argument, that the lack of other life in the universe somehow counts as evidence against God's existence. I'd be very pleased if you could persuade some of them.

          • Peter

            All I can do is point to the scientific evidence; it's up to them to accept or reject it. However, the science is growing leaving creationists with fewer legs to stand on. It is a courageous thing to cling to fideistic notions about creation in the face of rapidly growing scientific discovery ranging from the biological to the cosmological.

            It is precisely what causes the lack of life elsewhere to count as evidence against God's existence, that causes the presence of life elsewhere to count in favour of it. One-off life is a freak occurrence in a meaningless universe. Widespread life suggests that the meaning of the universe is to create it.

          • Frank Pennycook

            Not at all. Widespread life would mean it wasn't a freak occurrence. It would turn out to be quite likely for life to evolve on a suitable planet. Just as it's quite likely to get vulcanism on a planet with tectonic activity. A physical process. Where's the cosmic purpose?

          • Peter

            The achievement of a consciousness which gives itself purpose.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            As I watch the BBC series LIFE I am blown away by the incredible complexity that serves specific purposes. To me this points to amazing intelligence both in the life of plants and animals.

          • There is an incredible complexity, and that complexity is directed toward the preservation of genetic information, but this is because the best preserved genetic information is what endures. We see only the successful results of billions of years of genetic dead ends.

            There seems to be little overarching purpose in all of this; if there is a grand intelligence, it is definitely one that has no compunctions about animal suffering on a massive and prolonged scale.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You wrote that "complexity is directed toward the preservation of genetic information." That is a teleological statement.

            I wonder this, why is life directed toward greater and greater complexity? Why isn't simpler and simpler the norm?

            The venus flytrap leaves are directed toward catching and digesting flies most of its time and then toward leaving them alone to feed on its nectar when it needs to pollinate its flowers.

            I don't know what animal suffering (or even plant suffering (if that is possible)) means but I suspect it means something different to the animals themselves than it means to us that observe it from the human perspective of suffering. We'd have to know a lot of animal psychology and how they experience pain.

          • David Nickol

            I wonder this, why is life directed toward greater and greater complexity? Why isn't simpler and simpler the norm?

            I think most evolutionary biologists would say that life is not directed toward greater and greater complexity. In fact, it is not directed toward anything. Of course, evolution could not have begun with highly complex organisms that evolved to become simpler ones. That really would be like the tornado assembling a Boeing from a junkyard. There had to be time for complex organisms to develop. But there had to be time for deep canyons to be carved by rivers, and yet we would not say geology is directed toward depth.

            Also note that if we take human beings to be the most complex lifeforms, there are only 7 billion of us alive. I have found estimates that the human body has a hundred trillion cells, with 10 percent of those being human and the rest being bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. It is very easy to imagine all of evolutionary history was working toward making human beings what we are today, and that we are the pinnacle of creation, but that is not how most evolutionary biologists see it.

          • I don't think that it really is, because that's not some sort of end, or right goal, or purpose. It's just a random trajectory.

            You could imagine at t = 0 some complexity happens to arise and is directed toward preservation of genetic information and some complexity arises that is not directed toward the preservation of genetic information. At t = 1, all that's left is the complexity that's directed toward the preservation of genetic information. The species itself doesn't typically care. The Earth and Universe could care less whether a particular species goes extinct or not, or whether a given instance of complexity is preserved.

            Doesn't teleology have to be more than about trajectories? Otherwise, the universe does have a purpose, since it has a trajectory. The right end of the universe is heat death.

          • Frank Pennycook

            Paul, the idea of a trajectory is fascinating, and the dominant trajectory we observe is entropy increase isn't it, towards that heat death?

            Within this overall trajectory (the second law of thermodynamics, entropy increase), life is supported as a locally entropy-reducing process only because of the existence of a concentration of low entropy (i.e. order) in the sun, which we and other organisms make use of to build structure here while it lasts. Overall the net result is still going to be radiated heat at a higher entropy than before. When the sun goes boom that will be it.

            So the thing that needs explaining is the existence of this trajectory. Why does one temporal end of the universe (the future) have a high entropy and the other end (the big bang) a low entropy?

            There's a great philosophical examination of this in Huw Price's book Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point
            http://prce.hu/w/TAAP.html

          • Thanks for the resource. I agree with you, one of the biggest mysteries in cosmology is why the low entropy initial conditions for our universe? I think Sean Carroll has shown that it is possible to answer this question without invoking the supernatural. But no one yet knows what the correct answer is.

          • Frank Pennycook

            Thanks for that -- I did a little searching, indeed Carroll has an online faq about his book From Eternity To Here (which I haven't read) and references Price, while proposing a different cosmological solution motivated by the same need to explain the apparent asymmetry we observe in terms of a larger symmetry.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm plucking this passage from one of Feser's blogs:

            As Aquinas sums it up: “Every agent acts for an end: otherwise one thing would not follow more than another from the action of the agent, unless it were by chance” (Summa Theologiae I.44.4). By “agent” he doesn’t mean only conscious rational actors like ourselves, but anything that serves as an efficient cause. For example, insofar as a chunk of ice floating in the North Atlantic tends, all things being equal, to cause the water surrounding it to grow colder, it is an “agent” in the relevant sense. And what Aquinas is saying is that given that the ice will, unless impeded, cause the surrounding water to grow colder specifically – rather than to boil, to turn into Coca Cola, or to catch fire, and rather than having no effect at all – we have to suppose that there is in the ice a potency, power, or disposition which inherently “points to” the generation of that specific effect. That the ice is an efficient cause of coldness entails that generating coldness is the final cause of ice. And in general, if there is a regular efficient causal connection between a cause A and an effect B, then generating B is the final cause of A.

          • I don't adopt Aquinas's philosophical system. But if I did, I would conclude from current scientific knowledge that the collective purpose of life is to die and to contribute to the overarching purpose of the cosmos: heat death.

            Between dismal purpose and no purpose, I favour no purpose.

      • VicqRuiz

        OK, then, can one be a reasonable agnostic??

        • Mike

          yes i think so.

  • William Davis

    Reasonable atheists eventually become theists because they are reasonable; and furthermore, because they are honest.

    Is he trying to imply atheists who stay atheists are unreasonable and dishonest? I hope he is just trying to assure deists they are being reasonable. Either way, I would have worded that better.

    “Speaking for myself, anyway, I can say this much. When I was an undergrad I came across the saying that learning a little philosophy leads you away from God, but learning a lot of philosophy leads you back. As a young man who had learned a little philosophy, I scoffed. But in later years and at least in my own case, I would come to see that it’s true.”

    This implies that atheists philosophers don't know much philosophy, which is a little silly. I realize this is Feser's quote (not the authors) but some of the best modern philosophers are atheists or just agnostics. Personally I don't think Feser is an actual philosopher because I haven't seen him come up with anything new and original (maybe he has). A philosopher always has his own philosophy, a student of philosophy knows about the philosophy of others. Feser is just a student of philosophy who follows Thomas Aquinas (Aquinas was a great philosopher by the way).

    “There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe.”

    Like Einstein, I'm also a Spinozist (more or less), and I think this quote is a misrepresentation of Spinozism. We don't think that there is necessarily intelligence "behind" the physical universe, but intelligence is integrated into the very fabric of the universe. Thus, natural law wasn't created by the mind of God, but it IS the very mind of God at work. This is just one way to look at it (and in language I sometimes find myself talking like there is intelligence behind reality), but I'm trying to reinforce a huge break between Einstein's "God" and what most people think of God. Here is a pretty good quote:

    "Your question is the most difficult in the world. It is not a question I can answer simply with yes or no. I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things." -Albert Einstein

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

    Notice the part about the soul and body as one. Personally I think Spinoza has the best philosophical foundation for materialism (not necessarily reductive or any specific brand).

    • Because Christianity is neither a new philosophy nor a new morality, being Christian results from neither a lofty or great idea
      nor from an ethical choice or decision.

      Pope Quotes

    • GCBill

      "Personally I don't think Feser is an actual philosopher because I haven't seen him come up with anything new and original (maybe he has). A philosopher always has his own philosophy, a student of philosophy knows about the philosophy of others."

      This is a highly idiosyncratic understanding of philosophy that I wish you'd defend. Why must philosophers produce original ideas rather than simply be able to teach and explain old ones? And do you apply this standard consistently to other analogous "armchair" fields?

      What if someone, despite rigorous mathematical training, never produce any interesting mathematical proofs? Does (s)he cease to be a mathematician, or is (s)he just mediocre? And what if (s)he teaches the workings of the field to 1000s of students, some of whom do go on to make important advancements in our theoretical knowledge?

      • William Davis

        I think you have me here. What I should have said is that Feser isn't a pioneer of philosophy or even a notable philosopher.
        When someone studies philosophy, what does he study? The work of philosophers. But which philosophers? The pioneers who came up with new and valid philosophies. In this sense, sure Feser is a philosopher, but do you think he will make it into a philosophy book? If not, there is serious difference between Thomas Aquinas and Feser that needs to be conveyed with some kind of qualifier to the word philosopher. Do you have any suggestions? I don't think "pioneer" quite covers it either (lots of pioneers, not many relevant or even valid).

        • GCBill

          I typically use "eminent" to distinguish people who have done exceptional original work.

  • Most of these reasons are also given by atheists explaining their deconversion from Christianity. Reading Dawkins and Hitchens and the like. Many ex-Christians will cite actually sitting down and reading the full bible.

    But generally the problem of evil or the absence of evidence for god, are big factors.

    I think most people's minds start to change gradually and most of the resources above simply provide confirmation and build confidence. On both sides.

    Of course these are what people cite as reasons, what actually happens is perhaps a different process. I'd be interested more in empirical research rather than these few anecdotes.

    And then, whether these reasons are good reasons is another discussion as well.

    • Jon Fermin

      The problem with that however is the limits of empirical research, particularly on subjects that cannot be measured empirically because they are metaphysical in nature. for example, in the problem of evil you mentioned, that's subjects like free will and justice, as long as one has it in themselves that all things can be understood at an empirical or mathematic level, they will never understand philosophy, or truly speaking science as a concept, for that too is a metaphysical which cannot be empirically verified.

      • I'm afraid I don't follow you. We can certainly empirically study the reasons people give for becoming Christian. We can also look at external factors, such as did they marry a Christian, get incarcerated, develop a life threatening disease, buy a certain book and so on, to see if there are any clues.

        • Jon Fermin

          I was speking generally of the limits of empirical research. in one sense a sociological study can give us incidental information concerning the circumstances, and a skeptic who denies the impact of free will would handwave that all away as a deterministic reaction to environment or emotion, but none of that touches on the aspect of free will which is necissary for conversion in the first place, which is itself an aspect of a metaphysical mind, not subject to the same empirical standards.

          • William Davis

            I think I have a pretty good understanding of free will, and I definitely think it exists, but I don't think it applies to religion normally. It simply CANNOT be coincidence that people born in Muslim countries are typically Muslim, people born in Hindu countries are Hindu, Buddhist countries Buddhist, as so on. Why exactly would the "free will" of people in non-Christian countries be so different from those in Christian countries? It isn't like they don't have access to all the same information you do. The gospel is everyone where now, thanks to the internet.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Many ex-Christians will cite actually sitting down and reading the full bible.

      That is probably why there is a certain flavor of Biblical fundamentalism to many atheist pronouncements.

      • William Davis

        Yes, catching all Christians in one pronouncement is about as difficult as catching all atheists in one pronouncement. Personally I think there is a different worldview inside every single human being, we just do the best we can in trying to group them.

        • Jon Fermin

          well the point I think that is being made here is how common it is that many of the "new athiests" on the internet are former fundamentalists. not all of them mind you, I was not for one, but I found it very common that those in the new athiest circle often read the bible passages in the same way fundamentalists did, often cherry picked without the context of the entire scriptures and literally in books that had genres that did not call for literalism.

          • William Davis

            Fundamentalists are easier targets because they tend to say more absurd things. I wouldn't take comments directed toward them personally.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Firstly, in the United States, Evangelical Fundamentalism is probably the most recognizable and most politically forceful religious movement. It makes sense that many new atheists would focus their attention on fundamentalism. In general, the main premise of new atheism (besides the lack of belief in deities) is that religion on the whole is a negative force in society. Obviously, to make that argument, new atheists (of which I am one) are going to focus on the ways religion hurts the world.

            Secondly, Roman Catholicism is not as free of this fundamentalism as you would like to imagine. I think the Catholic Church has two faces. The one it shows to atheists and doubters and the other that manifests itself in many of the believers that take their faith seriously.

            I have had many Catholics act similar to their fundamentalist brethren when it comes to evolution (I know few practicing Catholics that affirm that evolution is true without various qualifiers), the historicity of the scriptures, disagreement with consensus of biblical scholarship (many Catholics on SN insist that Mathew was the first gospel, Daniel was history, and all letters attributed to Paul were written by Paul), and belief in things like talking snakes, spurious miracles, and wax corpses which don't ever decompose.

            When Catholics tell me that the Catholic Church does not really believe those things, I would object that it certainly encourages such beliefs in her members or at the very least allows it. The Church rarely makes pronouncements against the fundamentalism that I abhor, and to a certain extent endorses it. As a new atheist, I care about how religion and in this case Catholicism affects the lives of those who believe. Sophistry about what the Church actually teaches is tangential to the new atheists point that Catholicism as practiced by the most devote usually leads to bad outcomes.

            Finally, if as an atheist, I wish to show Catholicism unreasonable, using only the bare minimal claims as to what Catholicism necessitates, you would have to tell me what that is. Some Lutherans consider themselves Catholic. The Roman Church does not consider Lutherans to be Catholic. However, I would argue that by most definitions, Catholicism is not the belief system that most coherently matches to the observed world.

          • William Davis

            Well said. I've met plenty of Catholic fundamentalists on this forum. Catholic attempts to make the faith reasonable and fit current science doesn't seem that popular with the rank and file. I encourage them to keep at it though, I think the world will be better off with absolutely no fundamentalists, not necessarily no Christians. I'm fine with liberal Christianity, especially one that divorces itself from problematic (to me) doctrines like Original Sin.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't think one can keep liberal Christianity without keeping fundamentalism. I think all dogmatic belief systems will lead to fanaticism and fundamentalism eventually.

          • William Davis

            You might be right, but I'd rather be around liberal Christians then fundamentalists any day. I'll settle for what I can get, not like I have a choice ;)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            To be fair, I often worry about secular belief systems becoming just as dogmatic and fanatical as religious ones. I just think religions are most susceptible to it.

          • William Davis

            Yeah, tribalism is a human norm, so there is no reason to think humanists will be immune. As someone who believes in secularism, I think we might actually NEED a variety of belief systems for secularism to work and keep the worst forms of tribalism at bay. I'm not saying these belief system need to be what we have today, but I think there is something to be said for intellectual diversity.

          • Jon Fermin

            on your second point, the Catholic church has stated that the church itself is neutral to the question of Evolution, treating it as a matter of scientific inquiry outside it's jurisdiction rather than a matter of faith and morals. the historical evidence for this position dates back to the writings of St. Augustine in the 4th century in his document "On The Literal Meaning of Genesis" where he makes his argument for the viability of a figurative interpretation.

            As to the authorship of various scriptural books, it is traditionally beleived that gospels were written or dictated by their namesakes, whether they are or not remains an oft debated subject, the specific history I will admit I have little expertise in, and would defer with the understanding that specific authorship does not negate the essential quality or viability of the work itself as independent of it's authorship it was selected for cannonical inclusion among other books who's authorship was entirely unknown.

            As to matters of the miraculous. it's a matter of faith to acept some aspects of what the church teaches, that is no surprise, but aside from that which is dogmatically taught or part of the scope of general revelation, the faithful may accept or reject a miraculous occurance even if it has been approved by the church (IE visions of saints, eucharistic miracles, incorruptable bodies etc) approvals in this case do not strictly mean de facto miracles, but rather that all currently known natural explanations have come back either negative or inconclusive.

            The Church is a big tent, comprising billions of people and thousands of parishes, on matters that do not immediately touch on the main issue of faith and morals the church will usually take a hands off approach to let experts in their field weigh in with their perspectives leaving it open to their understanding, such matters it would qualify not as dogmatic but a matter for "prudential judgement" assuming a private decision by a well formed conscience, this in accordance with the Catholic unerstanding of subsidiarity as it applies to conscience. As to whether or not you beleive that Catholocism as practiced by it's most devout leads to a bad outcome, having lived as an atheist and as a devout Catholic, I would humbly beg to disagree. which brings me to your last point

            As to your last point, it seems that you are having difficulty comming to terms with what Catholic is by definition, and in doing so are leaving yourself open to misattributing to the Catholic Church that which may be comming from other churches. you mentioned previously why Catholocism will not press so hard onto the fundamentalists you abhor. well for one thing the church as an institutional body lacks the jurisdiction to step into someone else's church and tell them what to beleive. it can make the argument for a position and proclaim it, call their position heretical within Catholic orthodoxy and sometimes discuss it in official eccumenical talks, but it has no way of enforcing having another church outside itself do anything.

            Lutherans may consider themselves catholic (with a lowercase c, meaning universal) and within their denomination there is some univerality, very few would consider themselves Catholic (with a capital C meaning a member in union with the Holy See) and even if they did, by definition they would neccisarily need the recognition by the Holy See to even have that quality. Since they lack this fundamental quality, such claims are without merit and meaningless.

            If one with an open mind and the time for it truly wants to know what is and is not Catholic, one need only look to the documents of the Church itself, all of which are available anytime for free to download and read. "The Catechism of The Catholic Church" is a good place to start, or if that in itself is too long, "The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church" which is a summary of the Catechism.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In this instance, I am not particularly interested in what the Church actually teaches, but rather what the most devout believe the Church teaches. I would contend that the most devout Catholics are fundamentalists.

            With regard to evolution, 26% of Catholics believe that evolution is false. I would bet a fair amount of money that that number would go up considerably, if we only asked Catholics who went to weekly mass, Catholics who attend monthly adoration, or Catholics who frequently receive the sacraments. In my experience, devout Catholics tend to disbelieve in evolution. When I was Catholic, I was one of the few Catholics that I knew, who held that evolution is established science. Spend some time on these boards, and you will notice gross misunderstandings of evolution.

            The consensus of scholars is that Mark was written before Mathew, Daniel is not historical, and not all Pauline epistles were written by Paul. Catholics who hold the opposite opinion are arguing like fundamentalists and rejecting the mainstream consensus.

            Sure, in many cases the Church withholds judgment on many miracles claims and does not force Catholics to believe in any particular miracle claim, but I am not interested in what the Church teaches at a bare minimum. I am interested in what the Church encourages people to believe and what actual Catholics believe. There are some approved apparitions like Fatima, which have a poisonness and immoral message, and there are other unapproved apparitions like Garabandal that many Catholics take seriously and often to their detriment. The fascination that many people take in miracle claims is usually fanatical, obsessive, and unhealthy. The Church often encourages it.

            Catholicsm also causes some people to cut off ties with their family and friends who are nonreligious. This is true among the most devout. This is not a good outcome.

            If you want to talk about the utility of religion in general, and Catholicism in particular, you have to consider how it affects individuals and not on the legalese of what the Church actually teaches. As someone who was raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools, and had many Catholic friends, I would say that among those who take their faith seriously (those who frequent the sacraments) it is detrimental to their lives. It is not healthy for someone to put religion before their friends, family, and their daily lives. The most conservative and fanatical order in recent memory, The Legionnaires of Christ, was founded by a man who turned to not only have kids with multiple women, but was also a child molester. I was involved in the order growing up, and the general feeling in the order was that their founder was a saint.

            If the Catholic Church is as big-tent as you imagine, why is it that when it is pointed out that 95%+ of Catholics use birth control, most Catholics on this board will say that such Catholics aren't really Catholic? If the Church likes to withhold judgment on various matters, why does the Church have a thousand page catechism (which I have read complete), and why did I study from large texts on the faith growing up? The Church is not as big-tent as you would imagine. It is only when arguing with atheists and sometime doubters that the Church expands her horizons.

            I know people who consider the current pope to be an ant-pope, and believe that most Catholics have been lead astray by Vatican II. Why is your definition of Catholic right and theirs wrong? Johnboy, who posts on here, considers Catholic to cover Roman and Eastern rites, as well as Anglican, and I believe Lutheranism as well. Why are you right in saying that only the Roman Church is Catholic? What about the Orthodox? They consider the Roman Church to be heretical. Parsing who is and isn't a full fledged Catholic (with the complete truth) is not as easy as it sounds. I would contend that those who take their Catholicism (of whatever stripe) very seriously are most likely to have bad outcomes.

            This next point is tangential to my main point, but I think it is interesting. If God wants us to find the fulness of truth in the Roman Catholic Church and that God wants us to be healthy and happy (at least spiritually), if we could find one person who is better off spiritually without Catholicism (say as an atheist), it would prove that God is not personally invested in Catholicism and that Catholicism is not the best path for everyone. I can find numerous examples to this. So I ask, if God wants us to be Catholic, so we can live a spiritually fulfilling life, why are their people who are more fulfilled spiritually in atheism?

          • Jon Fermin

            Ignatius, there is a lot here to unpack and I am not going to touch every point, but let me make a few brief points. It is not constructive to build an argument on the basis of what a majority of Catholics beleive. it's weak reasoning and is a poor basis on determine what constitutes a true Catholic position when the doctrine and dogma of the church itself is more than sufficient for a basic definition. I am a weekly mass going catholic who attends adoration, heck I even attend the latin mass from time to time and it has been my experience is that the answer to the question of evolution has been about as diverse as anyhwhere else, but also it is not a difinitive issue of the faith, never has been and never will be, it's practically a non-issue. this is miles away different than fundamentalism.

            you also ask why it is that it seems that the church expands it's boundaries only in response to doubters, I would breifly rejoinder that this is a short sighted assumption. when considering the scope of history, and number of scientific discoveries that have been made by scientists both religeous and secular, it is more proper to say that the church expands to the level that human knowledge expands, it does not declare judgement on physical realities which are outside it's scope. so if the pope has something to say about Quasars nobody in the church is going to call it authoritative, since this is outside of the scope of faith or morals. rather the reason it is heard so often that the skeptics kick against the church, it is because they conflate catholics with fundamentalists.

            it seems sadly, that your claim as to the position of the most devout is mostly anecdotal in nature, especially regarding the legionaries of Christ, who even before the revelations of Fr. Maciel, was already under internal investigation, and it was those very internal investigations which led to the revelation of his own wrongdoings. yes his order had positions which were not considered in keeping with the Church despite their penchant for external piety. piety does not a catholic make, it did not make the Jansenists, and it did not make the SSPX, nor did it make Utrechts, and it does not make the Legionaries. Now, it's too late for reunion with the Utrechts, and the jansenists were outright heretical, but the church is still working towards healing the SSPX just as surely as it is undergoing a reformation of the legionaires, but the only way they can actually do this is if you have an actual standard and authoritative body these groups are subordinate to, and that is the Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church, who unlike the lutherans and the anglicans have no historical claim whatsoever to have preserved apostolic succession, and do not hold to the same standards of faith as set down by those recorded at the earliest days of the Church, there a plethora of historical documentation dating from ignatius of antioch, student of John the apostle to Agustine of Hippo which confirm the structure, heirchy and authoritative nature of the church itself. so yes there is a diversity of opinion and charism, but if at the end of the day, it does not line up with Catholic Church teaching, it's not Catholic, end of story. As to the Orthodox, they are the only exception to this rule, they DO have apostolic succession, they do have valid sacraments, in most respects the only thing that prevents them from being called Catholic in the formal sense is their position on the primacy of the see of Peter. To which there is disagreement, but both churches recognize the points of validity that they share. they are not (Capital C) Catholic, and Catholics are not (Capital O) Orthodox. but both consider each other to have more in common with each other than we do protestant fundamentalism.

            to your last point, It seems to me that the standards of your test are arbitrary and even if provided evidence, philosophically do nothing to account for the free will actions of the Catholic to reject God's will (here represented by concern). the church itself has said as much when it has said that for those who are ignorant of Christ, they may still have the possibility of salvation. still if one beleives they have found the fullness of truth, what shame is there in proclaiming it? can it be said that there are people more spiritually fulfilled in atheism? this seems a bold claim, and one with little in the way of practical evidence. to borrow a phrase from a prominent atheist, "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." what evidence can be shown however is the claim that Catholicism is fundamentalism is specious at best.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I am not concerned with what the the Church teaches in this particular argument. I am concerned with how the Church affects individuals. It is a utilitarian claim.

            I did not say that Catholicism is fundamentalism. Not even sure what that claim would mean. What I said is that there are elements of fundamentalism within Catholicism that you are downplaying. I think there are two different things that people mean when they say fundamentalism. Firstly, there is the type of fundamentalism is a fanatical and dogmatic devotion to religious beliefs. All religions have and do fall pray to this type of fundamentalism. There are certainly Catholics today who are fundamentalist in this way and this type of fundamentalism is an impulse that is built into Christianity. Secondly, we have a type of fundamentalism that means an adherence to certain Christian beliefs such as traditional biblical scholarship and the biblical texts are historical.

            Arguably, Catholicism is by definition fundamentalist in the first, because it outlines dogmas and doctrines that Catholics must believe, creates in and out groups, and declares itself correct on teachings of faith and morals. I can't be Catholic and believe that abortion is moral. If I procure one, I will be excommunicated. That is fundamentalism.

            On to the second type of fundamentalism. There are many Catholics that believe in very traditional biblical scholarship. This is a hallmark of fundamentalism. Have you ever read the Navarre Bibles? There are also fundamentalist tenancies in the Church with regard to evolution. 26% of all Catholics is a significant percentage. My anecdotal experience is that more serious Catholics are more likely to doubt evolution. In your experience this is not the case. Sadly, there are no studies that I can see to test this out. I do think that the more serious people take their religion, the more dogmatic and fanatical they become, which leads them to believe unreasonable things.

            Yes, I have anecdotal experience with the Legionaries, but I could make the argument that the type of Catholicism that they espoused was by its very nature poison. I don't think I want to get sidetracked on this topic, but if you would like I could write it out.

            With regard to apostolic succession, I do not think the early Church was as homogenous as you would imagine.

            I think in order to judge the Church's utility there are at least two different concerns. One is the macro affect the Church has on the world and the other is the micro affect the Church has on individuals.

            I think the first way the Church negatively affects the world is its penchant for dogmatism. Dogmatism is bad for numerous reasons. Firstly, it robs individuals of their individuality. Beliefs should be chosen not compulsory. The certainly should not be compulsory with the threat of hell. Catholicism has many compulsory beliefs.

            Secondly, dogmatism makes it unlikely that we will realize when we are making a mistake. If I believe I am right, because God or the Catholic Church says so, I will keep doing what I am doing (thinking that what I am doing is very good) even if what I am doing is causing harm.

            Thirdly, dogmatism unduly emphasis ideas and religious doctrines over people. Indeed, Christians are expected to lose mother and father on their path to Christ. This is a very dangerous idea. It is found in totalitarian governments and in Orwell.

            Dogmatism is related to my point earlier about fundamentalism. I think there are two things that are rather fundamental (forgive my pun) to my position. Firstly, I think that the Church as very strong dogmatic tenancies. Secondly, I believe that dogmatism in general is harmful. Perhaps you would like to weigh in on these two points.

            With regard to my last point, I do not think you understand what I was trying to get at, although that is my fault, as I did not communicate it well. This is already long enough, so I will let that point go.

            It is not my intention to make assertions without evidence. Some of my post was purely ancedotal, which I thought was obvious from the context, or I thought the point was self-evident, or I figured I should stop writing before I hit 100 pages. If there ever is anything that I say that you think I am out in right field about, I can always write more and explain my thinking (or maybe I'll find that I am wrong).

            Be well.

          • Jon Fermin

            Having dogma and definitive standings does not a fundamentalist make. Quite frankly I do think that your experience with the legionaires has left this imprint upon you and not for the better, but I argue it could hardly be considered representative. Dogma is not a dirty word, as Chesterton was want to say, “In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don't know it.”. your denial of dogma is as dogmatic as dogma itself.

            Baseball is dogmatic, If I strike out a batter can I in my own sense of individuality score myself a point? No, because it would make no sense within the definition of what baseball is. if I would do otherwise it would cease to be baseball. If I were playing basket ball and I ade the claim that I was playing baseball is it truly wrong for someone to inform me that I am by definition wrong because there are cumpulsory and essential aspects of baseball to which I am clearly not abiding?

            Dogmas are like axioms, they are the starting points. the short of it is, when one gets to the point where somethign important needs to be defined, it is no surprise that a dogmatic definition is called upon. Accepting the existence of Jesus Himself creating a church by the very nature of who God is guarantees there is something dogmatic in it, by mere fact that to not do so would violate non-contradiction. if you struggle with the fact that dogma exists, I get that, in a sense having struggled with it in principle personally I respect it, but what I cannot accept is some blanket statement that treats dogma as exclusive to the church or as essentially harmful. at some point when dealing with philosophy or theology you must have a dogma or axiom, otherwise there is no place to start from.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Dogma is essential to fundamentalism. It's abuse can certainly lead to fundamentalism.

            My experience is not solely with the Legionaries. I attended their youth groups for a few years as a teenager. I just think it is an illustrative example.

            Baseball is not dogmatic. Let us get a definition of dogma. From Wikipedia:

            Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.[1] It serves as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system's paradigm, or the ideology itself.

            Dogmas are ideological principals or beliefs. It is related to how people perceive the world. Baseball is a game. It has rules which we agree to follow in order to play the game. Baseball is not compulsory - I can choose not to play. On the other hand, everyone must have a belief system.
            Nor are dogmas starting points like axioms. Axioms are usually fundamental things that we assume to be true, because they are either seemingly self-evident, interesting to assume, or necessary to assume. There is not a single religious dogma that is as reasonable as the axioms of Euclidean Geometry.
            In fact, many of the dogmatic statements are unreasonable. Therein lies the danger. How could I ever convince someone that a dogmatic statement that they hold to be true is wrong?

          • Jon Fermin

            You in a sense are right on the necessity of persons having a beleif system. You have just demonstrated a dogma. it is the result of understanding that even the rejection of all beleif systems is itself a beleif system itself.

            It seems that you may be under the impression that the dogma of the church itself is purely arbitrary, but rather it is a reflection of certain truths that would be necisary as starting points, based upon the acceptance of the existence of God, The circumstances of the formation the Church and her relationship to God in that formation. It does not arrive from out of a vaccum or as in idea that popped into the head of the pope one day, that's not how it works, in fact in systematic theology there are degreees of theological certainty an Idea goes through before even asking if something is dogmatic. Now, going through every dogma would be exhaustive, but if there was one in particular that you are wanting to discuss we can look at it as a case.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            No I have not demonstrated a dogma. What I said is more of a tautology. Dogmas are the exclusive province of religions, political parties, and totalitarian governments.

            The only evidence that you can give for a dogma is that some early Christians believed in them very strongly. While this is not purely arbitrary, it gives no confidence that the beliefs are actually true.
            Suppose after a great deal of thinking, reading, and praying someone comes to believe that Transubstantiation (a dogma) is false and the sacraments are unnecessary, while also holding a beliefs similar to Arianism on the Trinity.

            According to the Roman Church, should such a person fear for their immortal soul? What was the response of the Roman Church to a group of believers who held these beliefs in the 13th century in France?

            The answer to the first questions is undoubtedly a yes, and the answer to the second question is a massacre. This is the price of dogmatism, especially when it is thought that those who have the wrong dogmas possibly go to hell or that the dogmas that we have are from God.
            The leaders who massacred the Cathars thought they were doing the will of God.

            So much for Catholic dogmas being harmless.

          • Jon Fermin

            It's rather telling you have to go back 800 years into the middle ages. It would also help your position if you studied the Cathars, because it was their abandonment of Dogma that did them the most harm. for one thing, they adoped some manachaean tendencies and considered the extinction of the human body to be an aim, and with the adoption of reincarnation and the rejection of hell and they encouraged suicide among their ranks, typically by starvation. also, consider that the Vatican was well within it's right at this point to execommunicate them, which they did after all other all other options of talk failed. They did so only to find out their legate sent to perform the excommunication was assassinated. That was the event that sparked the Albigensian Crusade, what you termed a massacre, was the result of the Cathars striking first by killing a Vatican ambassador, and the retaliation by the French against them. Here quite plainly, the Cathars are not the "innocent beleivers" you have portrayed them as.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Now you are believing the Roman Church's propaganda about the Cathars. Cathar texts were destroyed by the Roman Church. What we know of their beliefs comes from their opponents. If we are going to take the Roman Church's word for what the Cathars practiced, then we should take the Roman claim that Christians ate babies seriously as well.

            It seems you have forgotten all about just war theory. The legate in question, excommunicated Raymond VI, count of Toulouse for being too lenient with the Cathars. (Nothing quote like interfering in temporal matters.) It is thought that Raymond's courtiers murdered the legate. This cannot justify a genocidal war. The Albigensian Crusade was a genocide war sponsored by the Roman Church. It cannot be justified. It was a great moral wrong.

            You basically have failed to deal substantially with any of the problems that comes with dogmatic belief system, and instead have focused on apologizing for genocide.

            I don't need to go back 800 years to find atrocities catalyzed or initiated by the Roman Church. I picked the Albegensian Crusade, because I thought it was very illustrative. Fortunately, the Church's power has waned, so the problems she causes are no longer so grand in scope.

            She still teaches children that wrong beliefs, bad actions, and thought crimes lead to eternal damnation. She opposes giving condoms to countries torn with aids. She fought to make divorce illegal. She elevates fanatics, like Mother Teresa and Padre Pio to saint hood. If the Church ever gains back substantial power, we will see witch hunts, crusades, and inquisitions again. It is the nature of dogmatic belief system, especially when they turn fanatical.

            You still have not justified why you think dogmatic belief systems are good or taken any issue with the problems I have presented with dogmatic belief systems.

          • Jon Fermin

            Let me ask you first, this is essential. when it comes to moral matters, are you of the position that there are any extant morally objective positions?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I lean towards a yes answer. Although I think we often talk about morality without properly defining what we are talking about.

            What is a moral position? In what way are they compulsory? Why is act A moral and act B immoral?

            Are we virtuous because it will make us happy? Are we virtuous because God commands?

          • Jon Fermin

            to answer that in the terms of having an objective right or wrong answer it would be necissaary to have an entirely objective reference. happiness is arbitrary in terms morality. what makes one happy may change over time, and even if ne were to take the utilitarian route and say the greatest happiness for the gretest number of people would be problematic when that which may make the most people happy may in fact be terribly wrong. Objective morality, like objective truth is dependant upon a wholy objective and unchangeable and eternal, reference, theologically speaking that is why Christians argue that with God objetive morality may exist and without Him it cannot. Related to that and perhaps anticipating such a response it seems as though you are bringing up some sort of variation on the Euthyphro Dilemma based on this principle of happiness, and I am not sure if it would work out as much as you imagine it would. Aquinas points out the Euthyphro dilemma is a false dilemma because it does not establish the nature of God. Goodness then as Aquinas would put it comes not from God's will (God's commands), though goodness is a quality of said commands, rather Goodness is the essential being of God Himself, to which His commands are mere expression. bringing things back to Dogma, if there is objective morality and an essentially unchangeable God with aspects that we can know something about Him at least indirectly (as Aquinas would point out, by knowing what He is not) we at least on the level of reason assuming such a nature of God, then can come to understand some foundations by which the structure of Dogma is formed. For example, If there is one God, monotheism is dogmatic, that also means a rejection of the manichean position of the cathars. if such a God is Jesus, then Christianity has a whole set of Dogmas based on the writings in the gospels, like transubstantiation, like the idea of a singular universal church, like the relationship of the trinity and what that means in particular regarding the second person of the trinity, or heck how one can even begin to talk about the trinity itself. And all of these things are interrated in a number of ways, looking at one dogma or another in isolation is an easy way to miss the forest for the trees and fall into errors concerning everything that dogma is connected to.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            With the happiness question, I was referring to the idea of why ought we be virtuous. I believe Aristotle thinks that we should be virtuous, because the virtuous life is our best opportunity at happiness. I believe Aquinas follows this train of thought and says that the virtuous life is our best chance at obtaining happiness eternally. I could be wrong here. It has been a few years since I have read either, and I am not a scholar.

            I do not think that Euthypho's Dilemma is a false one. Either:

            a) Something is good because God commands it

            OR

            b) God commands something because it is good

            Saying that God's essences is goodness begs the question: What is goodness? It is at best tautological. It also does not answer the question of why we ought to obey God. It seems that this argument is actually a variation of (b) in the dilemma.

            If one can demonstrate that there is one God, then believing in one God is not dogmatic. A dogma is a strong belief that is held in the absence of evidence, or a strong belief that your relies on a particular interpretation of evidence, while ignoring and often being fanatically opposed to other interpretations of the evidence. Dogma is about knowing propositions certainly that you have no right to be certain about. Believing things dogmatically leads to all sorts of ills, which history can attest to.

          • Jon Fermin

            and therein lies the crux of our disagreement, your position on the Euthyphro dilemma and your chosen definition for dogma, to put that last part shortly it seem your definition for dogma presupposes that Dogma is either by nature irrational or suprarational, this is simply untrue. secondly, your definition of dogma presupposes certain kinds of reactions as neccisary that are not. Now, it is fair to say that dogma does demand a certain level of assent to certain premises, but only insofar as is necissary for the definition of Catholic to be meaningful, in this light Dogma can be seen as the points by which Catholic identity are established

            Now about the Euthyphro dilemma, there is a distinct difference in saying God's nature is goodness and saying that God commands only a preexisting good. In the latter, it supposes something pre-existant to God, and therefore such a being making a command could not be God, therefore such commands are arbitrary. in the former, if goodness is an essential quality of God, then goodness is not a matter of God's command nor is it a matter of God observing an exrinsic goodness, rather, goodness is a measure of how closely a moral act matches up with the nature of God Himself, who is eternal, and unchangeable, and has within omnipotence the capacity to make a willful decsion for any moral act, and therefore would be the contingent ground for objective morality. God is goodness, as in God Himself encompasses all goodness, but goodness is not God, merely an aspect of God's unchanging nature. To put as Dostoevsky put it "If God does not exist, everything is permitted,", and by that measure, also morally arbitrary.

          • Jon Fermin

            I had a much longer post which seems to have failed to upload. as annoying as that can be I hope that perhaps this rewrite will help that much more drill down to the focus of my response. I'll keep it short and simple. If you are not interreted in what the church actually teaches but are more interrested in the perception of what you beleive the majority of who you consider devout catholics are, you are practially asking me to accept a strawman as legitimate and as the only legitimate model, and intellectually it would be dishonest for me to do so.

            For what it's worth, I do want to say concerning the legionares of Christ, it was the church's own internal investigation which led to the revelations of Fr. Maciel's serious offences, the consequences of which are utterly devastating to the order as a whole and not taken lightly by either side. Outward Piety does not a faithful Catholic make, as it was with the Jansenists and the Quietists, and so on, if one is not in union with Rome, they are not Catholic, period this is not my definition, I did not make it up. That means no lutherans, no anglicans, none, their claims are invalid, end of story. this also means some of these rad trad groups that claim they are more pope than the pope aren't valid either. Some SSPVer wants to say Vatican II was invalid, he can be as full of smells and bells as the Santiago de Compostela, but neither is he really Catholic by definition because he has rejected an authoritative pronouncement that Vatican II was an actual valid council. That being said, there is a lot of leeway for individual devotions and practice. and also for matters which the church does not teach on plenty of leeway for difference in thought. even among many people I know including myself who are the sort that spend time in devotions, adoration, and the occasional Latin Mass, there are differences of opinion on things like evolution, both for and against, but as it pertains to what it means to our identity as Catholics, these are non-issues. to make the claim that we are fundamentalists on nothing more than an anecdote and a guess is frankly a specious fishing expedition.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I am concerned about what the Church actually teaches, but I am also concerned with how the Catholic Church as an institution affects individuals and the world.

            Why do you think I am on a specious fishing expedition? I think that on the whole the religion in general, and Catholicism in particular has a more harmful influence than a positive one. I am not trying to besmirch Catholicism. I am trying to explain why, I, as a former catholic have a negative view on the Church.

          • VicqRuiz

            I think you are quite right here, Ignatius.

            There is a dry, scholarly, carefully parsed Catholicism which is usually the variety cued up at Strange Notions.

            Then there is the emotional "shrine in the front yard and in the living room corner" variety, with which most Catholic immigrant families to the USA grew up. It is pretty heavy on the Big Guy with a Beard in the Sky concept.

          • Jon Fermin

            there is folk catholocism, then there is the actual teachings of the church. while there is much overlapping between the two, the former does not speak definitively of the latter. where there is discrepency between the two in matters of faith or morals the authority of the church universal holds precidence we can see this as early as Paul's epistles to other local churches and discussing their local issues in light of the church as a whole.

          • Andre V.

            I have noticed a lot of that former variety here. I think all religious people should be very careful of having a mind filled with religion, and no, or little of that in the heart. I would say that Catholicism, with its beauty and art and history and theology, lends itself in particular to the temptations of an intellectual hobby as opposed to a true love-filled life. That said, some of the most loving people in my life are Catholics, so to the cautious traveler both options are available.

      • Such as?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          See Mr. Fermin just above.

          That whole 'read the Bible cover to cover' thingie, as if the text could be grasped without the con-text.

          • I don't follow, how does a Christian reading the bible cover to cover and losing faith suggest fundamentalism to you?

            What I am suggesting is that reading the full Bible actually draws out the context. When they pick certain stories, it is to contextualize things often quoted out of context.

            I'd say the book of Exodus is a prime example. We often hear of Moses and his call to let the people go. The context of hardening Pharoah's heart and slaughtering all the first born is left out.

          • Jon Fermin

            exccept when critics offer a mention of those parts of exodus, they are often broad critiques that leave out what these things mean within the context of Jewish ritual sacrifice as it applies to the passover, or to how hardening of the heart does not neccisarily mean the abolishment of free will so much as it may mean the removal of graces, to leave the will to itself. often times these same critics alledge that the slain first born are condemned, when in fact the church views them as saints having been innocent in the face of such extraordinary circumstances.

          • I had understood that this story was the origin of the Passover ritual. Please explain the proper context.

            So when exodus says god told Moses to tell Aaron to tell Pharoah to let the people go, and says god hearde Ned Pharoah's heart, so he would not let the people go, so that God's wonders be multiplied, you interpret that as Pharoah not being removed of the ability to freely choose? I think the text and the context is abundantly clear and the interpretation you impose is absurd.

            Be that as it may, we are not discussing your or my interpretation, but that of a Christian reading the Bible cover to cover for the first time and finding out that these passages exist in the first place.

            But it is not as if I am cherry picking a few verses, this is soon after God commanded Abram to kill his son. Soon after this Moses will slaughter many of his brethren for practicing religious freedom and the Jews will adopt laws requiring them to stone disobedient children to death, and prohibiting the wearing of mixed fibres. He will strike down a man for daring to touch the ark of the covenant and order the Jews to commit genocide, sparing not even the infants. He will let he devil, or someone torture Job, to see if he gives up his faith. Finally, he himself will descend and, thankfully, allow himself to be tortured to death, so that he could somehow save us, because what, he had no other option?

            I know, you will say my interpretation is all wrong and that these stories are actually those of a perfectly loving deity, and when you read them through that lens it is obvious. I agree, when you put on rose coloured lenses, everything is rose coloured.

          • Frank Pennycook

            On the question of literal interpretation -- I don't think that atheists are restricted to the literal view. We're capable of reading stories in as many varied ways as anyone else. I'm not a former fundamentalist, in fact I was raised a Catholic, but have always been an unbeliever.

            I think the examples Brian chose are good ones, because they are not incidental details but matters on which a lot rests, theologically. And that holds whether or not the story is taken literally, because if it's not literal but is supposed to teach us something, then what happens in the story matters.

            Abraham is held up by Paul as an example of righteousness (Romans 4 and elsewhere), and this is an important part of his explanation of the economy of salvation. From Genesis 22 we see that Abraham is praised by Yahweh specifically for "obeying". And what Abraham had done was to carry out, at Yahweh's command, an act of child torture -- mock execution is a form of torture. Isaac carried the wood, his father the fire and knife, he tied the boy up, put him on the pyre, raised the knife. It's pretty bad.

            It doesn't matter whether this did or didn't happen, to a real boy at a real point in history. What matters is that the story is supposed to illustrate a quality, that of obedience to divine power, which is held up as a moral ideal.

            And conveniently for the people who wrote the story, who saw themselves as descendants of this legendary Abraham, part of the promise to him was "Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies".

          • Jon Fermin

            Without having to break each passage down individually, let's consider thematically the purpose of these books. You here are mixing up sections from Genesis, Exodus Job, and Leviticus and treating them all as if they exist in the same book. Yes they all exist in the bible, but at one time each book existed in its own separate scroll. Each book of the bible within itself has its own purpose and literary style which must be taken into account before anything else, and that is one of the most common problems people have when they read the bible without the historical guidance of the Church which composed its cannon and taught it. Because of this, doubly we may miss the forest for the trees when these references come back in the New Testament and come up with our own interpretation on why Paul might praise Abraham for example or why the Levitical laws are not practiced by early Christians. That context is entirely lost because of concepts like sola scriptura. the bible itself was from the time of its compilation was always assumed to never stand by itself without an living interpretive body, the church, to contextualize this work as community rather than the do-it-yourself literalist approach of sola scriptura which is being employed here.

            Genesis for example, is not a literal history, but an allegorical one. The events in Genesis therefore are designed to impart truth through the symbolic meaning of events rather than understood on the terms of the events themselves. Hence the events of Abraham's attempts at sacrifice (important word here) are to be understood symbolically and allegorically rather than be treated as a literal and historical event. Therefore consider the language and its symbolic meaning. In your description you use the word kill, as opposed to sacrifice which is the word used in the original. The word you use is not nearly as symbolic nor does it carry with it the theme of the story or any context to how Abraham approaches the situation. Instead it oversimplifies the ideas and disregards entirely the allegorical intent, which misses everything. Symbolically speaking, what is Abraham being asked of in this story? He is being asked to give up everything he holds dear in deference to God, not just by matters of circumstances either, but by his own hand. That Abraham in the face of such a question could act with such faith and that in expressing his willingness to do was returned not with loss but the retention of all he had and more. This is the true point of what was being set in this allegory. And it is this theme of sacrifice which returns in different forms in passages which call back to the story.

            As to the passages you cited in Exodus. Exodus is first and foremost, a reflection on human struggle. if so much pain and toil can be found there, that was intentional, exodus is using the struggle of the early Jews as a means to teach to the Jews at the time of its writing (and by extension us which have followed in the tradition) the necessity and struggle of sacrifice and purification for freedom. Moses’ story is one told by a warrior people for a warrior people at the time. Its imagery is unmistakably laden with conflict and battle and violence but it is the violence of legend, rather than the violence of a war documentary, its violence is allegorical in nature, these scenes are in essence dramatizations of human struggle portrayed through allegorical history.

            The story of Job you mentioned is also allegorical in nature, but it is not allegorical history like Genesis or Exodus, rather it is a book-long parable. Job is not a literal person existing in time but is intended as a kind of everyman, or at least every man that is considered righteous. The theme of the story is simple enough. Job is prosperous and lives well. Job suffers and struggles and loses everything. Job comes to the conclusion that toil and sacrifice are natural parts of the human condition, and when given the opportunity to curse God for this, he does not. Accepting the hardship of the human condition he praises God that he survives nonetheless and in doing so, he has learned the value of hardship and sacrifice, and was restored. In essence Job takes the themes of Genesis and Exodus and combines them into a shorter single parable.
            Of all the books you do mention Leviticus is the least allegorical. Its instructions are social and litigious in quality. Its role is more as a contract for the people of the covenant and the nature of their new sacrifice, now no longer the warlike people that took the promised land, they must change the way they live but not give up the necessity of sacrifice. Leviticus is a kind of book that is not meant to be read like the others, it’s more instruction manual than story, and for the most part details the sacrificial law more than it exemplifies the moral law. This will be important when people ask why Christians do not follow Levitical laws. Christ himself was the fulfillment by His own sacrifice of the Levitical sacrifice laws; therefore what remains is the moral law. Hence in Acts, Peter being told he could eat anything, even pork.

            In the end, this is not about putting things into rose colored glasses. To do so would be to ignore the very human struggle these passages imparts, what is being asked however in the correct interpretation of these passages is how each of these struggles relates to own human struggle and what it also meant to the people that wrote it in that particular book, and what it means in the greater understanding of the relationship between God and mankind. Taking these passages out of that context robs these parts of that deeper meaning and trivializes them, conflating them with other books of the bible without specific reason only muddles and confuses the purpose. To this end, yes I can see how doing such will lead someone down the path of anger and confusion, but irrevocably so if one took the time to restore that context.

          • Jon Fermin

            Without having to break each passage down individually, let's consider thematically the purpose of these books. You here are mixing up sections from Genesis, Exodus Job, and Leviticus and treating them all as if they exist in the same book. Yes they all exist in the bible, but at one time each book existed in its own separate scroll. Each book of the bible within itself has its own purpose and literary style which must be taken into account before anything else, and that is one of the most common problems people have when they read the bible without the historical guidance of the Church which composed its cannon and taught it. Because of this, doubly we may miss the forest for the trees when these references come back in the New Testament and come up with our own interpretation on why Paul might praise Abraham for example or why the Levitical laws are not practiced by early Christians. That context is entirely lost because of concepts like sola scriptura. the bible itself was from the time of its compilation was always assumed to never stand by itself without an living interpretive body, the church, to contextualize this work as community rather than the do-it-yourself literalist approach of sola scriptura which is being employed here.

            Genesis for example, is not a literal history, but an allegorical one. The events in Genesis therefore are designed to impart truth through the symbolic meaning of events rather than understood on the terms of the events themselves. Hence the events of Abraham's attempts at sacrifice (important word here) are to be understood symbolically and allegorically rather than be treated as a literal and historical event. Therefore consider the language and its symbolic meaning. In your description you use the word kill, as opposed to sacrifice which is the word used in the original. The word you use is not nearly as symbolic nor does it carry with it the theme of the story or any context to how Abraham approaches the situation. Instead it oversimplifies the ideas and disregards entirely the allegorical intent, which misses everything. Symbolically speaking, what is Abraham being asked of in this story? He is being asked to give up everything he holds dear in deference to God, not just by matters of circumstances either, but by his own hand. That Abraham in the face of such a question could act with such faith and that in expressing his willingness to do was returned not with loss but the retention of all he had and more. This is the true point of what was being set in this allegory. And it is this theme of sacrifice which returns in different forms in passages which call back to the story.

            As to the passages you cited in Exodus. Exodus is first and foremost, a reflection on human struggle. if so much pain and toil can be found there, that was intentional, exodus is using the struggle of the early Jews as a means to teach to the Jews at the time of its writing (and by extension us which have followed in the tradition) the necessity and struggle of sacrifice and purification for freedom. Moses’ story is one told by a warrior people for a warrior people at the time. Its imagery is unmistakably laden with conflict and battle and violence but it is the violence of legend, rather than the violence of a war documentary, its violence is allegorical in nature, these scenes are in essence dramatizations of human struggle portrayed through allegorical history.

            The story of Job you mentioned is also allegorical in nature, but it is not allegorical history like Genesis or Exodus, rather it is a book-long parable. Job is not a literal person existing in time but is intended as a kind of everyman, or at least every man that is considered righteous. The theme of the story is simple enough. Job is prosperous and lives well. Job suffers and struggles and loses everything. Job comes to the conclusion that toil and sacrifice are natural parts of the human condition, and when given the opportunity to curse God for this, he does not. Accepting the hardship of the human condition he praises God that he survives nonetheless and in doing so, he has learned the value of hardship and sacrifice, and was restored. In essence Job takes the themes of Genesis and Exodus and combines them into a shorter single parable.

            Of all the books you do mention Leviticus is the least allegorical. Its instructions are social and litigious in quality. Its role is more as a contract for the people of the covenant and the nature of their new sacrifice, now no longer the warlike people that took the promised land, they must change the way they live but not give up the necessity of sacrifice. Leviticus is a kind of book that is not meant to be read like the others, it’s more instruction manual than story, and for the most part details the sacrificial law more than it exemplifies the moral law. This will be important when people ask why Christians do not follow Levitical laws. Christ himself was the fulfillment by His own sacrifice of the Levitical sacrifice laws; therefore what remains is the moral law. Hence in Acts, Peter being told he could eat anything, even pork.

            In the end, this is not about putting things into rose colored glasses. To do so would be to ignore the very human struggle these passages imparts, what is being asked however in the correct interpretation of these passages is how each of these struggles relates to own human struggle and what it also meant to the people that wrote it in that particular book, and what it means in the greater understanding of the relationship between God and mankind. Taking these passages out of that context robs these parts of that deeper meaning and trivializes them, conflating them with other books of the bible without specific reason only muddles and confuses the purpose. To this end, yes I can see how doing such will lead someone down the path of anger and confusion, but not irrevocably so if one took the time to restore that context.

          • Mila

            That was excellent!

          • David Nickol

            Are you saying that the story of Abraham taking steps to kill Isaac at God's command never happened?

          • Mila

            You know we have a saying in my culture that goes "give Him your Isaac" meaning give God what you most cherish, desire. Or sacrifice what you most want, desire for and to God.
            Every time we give to God that sacrifice we are giving God our Isaac. So maybe the event keeps happening it didn't stop with Abraham. So that sacrifice happened and it keeps happening.
            Why can't it be both historical and allegorical?

          • David Nickol

            Why can't it be both historical and allegorical?

            I would think the two are, by definition, mutually exclusive. Of course, the story could be historically true and teach an important lesson at the same time. But if it is historical, it is not allegorical, and if it is allegorical, it is not historical.

            My question is, did it happen?

          • Mila

            Well in Spanish allegory or alegoria is also used as teaching, icon, symbol.
            I think it can be both. Like genesis is clearly an allegory of what really happened to us. Perhaps we didn't eat a fruit but we certainly gained knowledge of evil. So the allegory used there represents a fact, that in my opinion is clearly visible and tangible in our human nature.
            History can be told via allegories.
            Say a few hundred years from now an author writes an allegory about 9/11. He can write that an evil cloud invaded the crystal pillars of a floating Island and evaporated them with its thunderous fire bolts. Nobody is going to believe that an actual cloud did that and discard the story as mere fiction. However the event happened and the cloud merely represents evil.

          • David Nickol

            Was there a man named Abraham, did he have a son named Isaac, and did Abraham follow God's orders to kill his son as a human sacrifice, only to be stopped by God at the last minute?

            This is a yes or no question. Why are you having such difficulty answering?

          • Mila

            I'm not having a difficulty answering it. Maybe you are not realizing the fact that I already answered you. I did say it was both. Historical and allegorical. Historical as it did happen and allegorical as it is an icon of something much greater than the mere historical event.

          • David Nickol

            Why are you having such difficulty seeing the answer can be both historical and allegorical?

            Because, as I explained, I see the two as mutually exclusive. Here is the definition of allegory from the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary:

            the written, oral, or artistic expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human conduct or experience (as in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Spenser's Faerie Queene)

            If the story of Abraham and Isaac is an allegory, then according to the definition, Abraham and Isaac must be "symbolic fictional figures."

            The question I asked was, "Did it happen?" I didn't ask if it was merely historical. I just asked if it was historical.

          • Mila

            Read my example and maybe you would be able to see how we can have both, a historical fact told in the form of allegory.
            I already answered your questions. The problem is that you can't see that something allegorical can also be factual but told allegorically.
            I don't really see how can anyone not see that historical facts can be told as icons, references, allegory.

            "I just asked if it was historical."
            I have repeated numerous times that it was historical.

            Let's see again, in 500 years from now someone reads that a dark evil cloud evaporates with its thunderous bolts two crystal towers.
            Now that's an allegory of the 9/11 attacks. Because it is an allegory, does that mean it didn't happen?
            Same with Abraham. It did happen and it is told allegorically to also represent sacrifice, giving all to God, faith, etc.

          • David Nickol

            Let's see again, in 500 years from now someone reads that a dark evil
            cloud evaporates with its thunderous bolts two crystal towers.
            Now that's an allegory of the 9/11 attacks. Because it is an allegory, does that mean it didn't happen?

            My question about the story of Abraham and Isaac was, "Did it happen?"

            If, in 2515, people read that on 9/11/2001, thunderbolts from a dark evil cloud vaporized two crystal towers, they will not be reading history (or at least not accurate history). The answer to the question, "Did it happen?" would be, "No." That would not mean nothing happened on 9/11. It would not mean there was nothing historical behind the story of crystal towers being vaporized. It would also not mean that the story of the crystal towers could not convey some important truth 500 years from now.

            Our disagreement here is not about the story of Abraham and Isaac, but about the meaning of the word allegory.

          • Mila

            "Our disagreement here is not about the story of Abraham and Isaac, but about the meaning of the word allegory."

            Perhaps it is. For me alegoria or allegory is a reference or an icon of another thing. It could be applied to historical truth as in the case of Abraham and Isaac.

            Anyway can I ask you an unrelated question? I notice sometimes you and others type different texts in bold and italic and with a line through the text like you did below. Is there a site online where I can learn how to do that?

          • OldSearcher

            Hi, Mila

            Is there a site online where I can learn how to do that?

            Look at this:
            https://help.disqus.com/customer/portal/articles/466253-what-html-tags-are-allowed-within-comments-

          • Mila

            Thank you this is very helpful!

          • Jon Fermin

            what I am saying is that the historicity of a person such as Abraham is something utterly lost in the mists of time, empirically it is unknowable under our level of reckoning and frankly, that aspect is unimportant. what is more important is the symbolism of the story of Abraham and what it meant in terms of how this story was told to the Jews at this time, the truths it was to impart about how God is more valuable than everything and everyone we hold dear. We are not asked to make Abraham's sacrifice as he did, but we are challenged I think to evaluate the extent to which, if we have the caveat that we beleive God exists, to what priority we assign Him in our own lives.

          • David Nickol

            Hence in Acts, Peter being told he could eat anything, even pork.

            This, of course, never happened. You are referring to the Council of Jerusalem, recounted in Acts 15. The decision was that Gentile converts did not have to be circumcised and did not have to obey Mosaic Law.

            It was certainly not decided that Jews or Jewish Christians did not have to abide by Mosaic Law. Peter and other Jewish Christians were not free to eat pork after the Council of Jerusalem.

            Gentile converts were bound to certain standards:

            It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right.

            However, anyone who has had meat from an animal that was not slaughtered according and drained of blood (basically, kosher meat) is in violation of these requirements.

          • Jon Fermin

            David I am referring to Acts 10 when I refer to Peter, specifically Acts 10:9-16

          • David Nickol

            Apologies! You are right, and I am wrong.

            I must admit that I have no recollection of ever reading or hearing that story about Peter.

          • William Davis

            I agree with you completely. It was Bart Ehrman who first made me realize what you are saying, and I've done a good bit of historical research to understand the context of many of these books. In the end, however, all this just makes me more confident that Christianity is of purely human origin. I do appreciate it much more, and I specifically like the idea in the Hebrew Bible that we are to wrestle with God. I take that and reject the submit stuff.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            how does a Christian reading the bible cover to cover and losing faith suggest fundamentalism to you?

            They are famous for their read-it-yourself approach in which unschooled individuals try to parse English translations of ancient texts and interpret them in the light of their own prior commitments.

            The early Christians did not get their Faith from the Bible. The Bible was not even finalized when they were doing their thing. One might more accurately say that they got their Bible from their Faith. That is, they read certain meanings into older texts based on what they had come to believe and they composed new texts based on those beliefs. Here is how Augustine put the dangers:

            For if he takes up rashly a meaning which the author whom he is reading did not intend, he often falls in with other statements which he cannot harmonize with this meaning. And if he admits that these statements are true and certain, then it follows that the meaning he had put upon the former passage cannot be the true one: and so it comes to pass, one can hardly tell how, that, out of love for his own opinion, he begins to feel more angry with Scripture than he is with himself. And if he should once permit that evil to creep in, it will utterly destroy him.
            -- Augustine of Hippo, On Christian doctrine I.37

            That is why at least one Orthodox theologian wrote that fundamentalism is one step removed from atheism.

          • David Nickol

            The early Christians did not get their Faith from the Bible. The Bible was not even finalized when they were doing their thing.

            But there are no early Christians any more!

            It is surely true that the Bible (or at least the New Testament) was a product of the early Church and not the other way around. But somewhere along the way, the Bible became such an authoritative document that according to Vatican II, it is inerrant:

            Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).

          • Jon Fermin

            inerrent does not necissarily mean immune to missinterpretation. I can look at an instruction manual for Ikea furniture as inerrant, but if I interpretted the screws which came with the package as inessential and tried to put together my bookcase, something tells me it would not stand.

          • David Nickol

            But suppose Ikea actually claimed all of their assembly instructions were inerrant, but they were the only ones who could interpret them correctly?

            It seems to me that, strangely though perhaps understandably, there is a tendency among some Christian apologists to try to downplay the authority of the Bible. And there is also a tendency among many Catholic apologists to scoff at, or ridicule, Protestants for their understanding of the authority of the Bible. But at least according to official and highly authoritative Church documents, the Bible is inerrant. No, the early Christians didn't have the Bible: They wrote it. But there are no early Christians left today, and the Bible as "official" Catholicism now regards it is inerrant.

          • Jon Fermin

            and going back to the Ikea analogy, If I came to them and asked them to help me put together my book case and I told them that I interpreted the screws as unessicary, would they say "That interpretation is incorrect" or "well I guess if you feel that way, that's one possibly correct interpretation"? of course they would reject my interpretation, the fault was not in the manual but in the person who put it together by themselves and misinterpreted the instructions, Customer service is not going to tell me to ignore the screws, it's going to ask me to get them and include them in the bookcase. In a way, they are exercising their authority to interpret definitively. they are not claiming that others cannot read the instructions correctly, but for those that do not, they have the authority to correct and instruct in the intended interpretation of said instructions.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Note that the letter of Paul cited existed before the Scriptures were finalized.

            Folks are constantly confusing the way the Orthodox and Catholic churches use the Bible with the way the fundamentalists use it. The Orthodox, for example, say that the Faith is based on the Holy Traditions -- of which the various scriptures are one component. In fact, Orthodoxy did not even have a Bible as such. They had a book of the Gospels, a Lectionary, a Psalter, and so on.

            The Catholics, face with the Bible-thumping heresies of the West, reformulated the Holy Traditions into "the Bible and the Traditions." But in both cases, they did not hold that every Tom, Dick, and Harry reading the Scriptures on his own could arrive at correct conclusions outside the teaching authority of the Church. The meanings of the Scriptures were hammered out in long debates -- sometimes lasting centuries -- until consensus was achieved. Even so, there are many beliefs that are not found in the Bible (to the umbrage of atheists and other Bible-thumpers) and there are many beliefs that are not ruled upon even yet. Orthodox and Catholic alike may believe what they wish as long as it:
            a) Does not contradict established dogma.
            b) Does not contradict the two-fold love.

            Again, see Augustine: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1202.htm
            wherein he mentions one holy man who does not even have a copy of the Bible.

  • David Nickol

    It appears that honesty is of paramount importance. If you are an honest atheist, and you honestly approach the question of the existence of God, you will become a believer (and apparently, most of the time, at minimum, a Christian, and probably a Catholic).

    Ultimately, I think we must consider "honest atheist" for the most part to be an oxymoron. I say "for the most part" because there will always be a few people who are honest but badly misinformed (although their ignorance of the truth may be "vincible") and of course a few may be honest but feeble-minded. So I think we can classify atheists into three groups—feeble minded, ignorant, and dishonest.

    • Luke C.

      Ha! It was awfully subtle.

  • GCBill

    TYPO FIX: Section 5: "aphilosophical" to "a philosophical" please. God's existence is not an aphilosophical question. :p

    But in any case, I'm always surprised that people are surprised to encounter intelligent, reasonable people who believe different things than they do. How perfect would the correlation between intelligence/rationality and [view X] have to be for there not to be such people? I hate to say it, but it's kind of irrational to be surprised enough to reevaluate your opinions on the basis of meeting them alone.

  • Philosophy is meant to lead one to truth; and it certainly will, if the philosopher is willing to honestly consider the arguments from both sides and follow the best arguments wherever they may lead.

    Fallibly lead, right?

    • David Nickol

      Fallibly lead, right?

      No, it seems to me that the message of virtually every Christian apologists is that if an atheist (or anyone who is not a Christian) has the intelligence and the integrity to follow the arguments he or she (the apologist) puts forth, the result will be conversion to Christianity. And if the apologist is a Catholic, he or she expects the conversion of any "non-Catholic" to Catholicism.

      How could Matt Nelson be any more clear? If you are honest and seek the truth, you will reject atheism. The inescapable conclusion is that ultimately, the only reason for atheism is dishonesty.

      • No, it seems to me that the message of virtually every Christian apologist

        Way too many, to be sure ...

        How could Matt Nelson be any more clear?

        No doubt he was clear. I only meant to imply that, by omitting my adverb, fallibly, he was clearly in error.

    • William Davis

      At least I'm accustomed to over-confident "Jesus Fan Club" articles at this point. No more flying off the handle in offended rage ;)

  • George

    As Dr. Peter Kreeft has pointed out, no person would see a hut on a beach and conclude that it must have randomly assembled itself by some random natural process, void of an intelligent designer. Its order necessitates a designer. Thus if this “beach hut analogy” is true, how much more should we believe in an Intelligent Designer behind the vastly more complex and ordered universe and the precise physical laws that govern it (click here for William Lane Craig’s argument for the fine-tuning of the universe).

    how can the analogy possibly apply to the universe? is the universe the hut? well, then what is the beach??? what do you contrast the universe against to determine there's intelligent design?

  • Galorgan

    “Speaking for myself, anyway, I can say this much. When I was an undergrad I came across the saying that learning a little philosophy leads you away from God, but learning a lot of philosophy leads you back. As a young man who had learned a little philosophy, I scoffed. But in later years and at least in my own case, I would come to see that it’s true.”

    Except for all those times when it's not?

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Well, I guess philosophers like Hume, Russell, and Sartre only knew a little philosophy. :-)

      • VicqRuiz

        I've seen "My reading list is longer and thicker than yours" as an argument against atheism both here and on other religious blogs.

        By contrast, no atheist I have known has ever said, "You have to read Hume, and Spinoza, and Popper, and Russell, and ..(etc)...... then be able to soundly challenge all their claims, before you can claim that your theism is rational."

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Some Hume and Russell would do them wonders though.

  • Mila

    I think these reasons don't only apply to the path leading to faith but also to those who have faith already. Not as a reason to believe but as nice compliments, appetizers. I particularly like number 8. I never thought that I would like Antoni Gaudi but then I looked at his Cathedral in Barcelona. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lYdrhYYWpg
    And there are certain things that I don't even like about it, but there is something, and I can't pin down what it is, that's not of this world.
    Other favorites are Notre Dame and the Cathedral at La Plata
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbDJbVOjjRE

    • Mila

      Oops I didn't mean to link the videos. I just wanted to post the links. :(

      • Luke C.

        Disqus embeds YouTube videos automatically from URLs. You didn't do anything wrong.

        In the future, you can do something like remove the . (dot / period) from the URL and replace it with the word "dot". For example, your first URL would look like this: youtube dot com/watch?v=5lYdrhYYWpg

        The reader would have to copy and paste the URL "phrase" into her/his browser and replace the " dot " with the actual dot / period, so it's not ideal; but it gets around the embedding problem. Not sure if there's a cleaner way.

        • Mila

          Oh! Thanks didn't know that. Will use it in the future.

  • Boris

    Lee Strobel said that when he was an "atheist" he really "knew" there was a God but didn't want to have to acknowledge it so he wouldn't have to change his evil ways. That isn't the definition of an atheist, it's what Christians believe about atheists. Lee Strobel is a liar.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      If you can't say something nasty about theism, why come to SN?

      On the other hand, have you heard of practical atheism?

      • Papalinton

        All Christians are 'practical atheists' when they remark on Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Scientology, Buddhism, Ju-ju, Wiccan, etc etc.

        Atheists, like me, simply add one more illusory religion to the list.

        • Mike

          I hope for your sake that you're right about that ;)

      • Boris

        I don't understand your first question. No, I haven't heard of practical atheism. What pseudo philosopher came up with that one?Atheism is a lack of belief in God. That's it.

  • Thought I might also mention the recent "This American Life" episode "The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind" which suggest that really, only number 5, meeting and hearing the personal stories of theists, will have any effect. I certainly found that meeting and having honest discussions with Catholics (in person) was the most helpful in moderating at least one of my opinions, on the role of religion in the political context. (However, one of the Catholics did also express troubling views in support of theocracy.)

    See Shermer's book The Believing Brian, which I think, supports this as well. it suggests that we tend to form beliefs first, and then use things like the above to justify them. I think the spark to change the mind are much more fundamental, such as close personal relationships, major life trauma, the fear of death. I think these events and experiences can play both ways.

    Personally, I would rather our beliefs and minds be changed through rational thoughts and empirical evidence. Don't think this is how it works though. It is also why I am reticent to spend hours a week for several weeks in prayer as if there were a God to hear them. I think this would be unnecessary to actually engage in communication with the God described by Catholicism, but would be an excellent way to change my neural pathways. Kind of self-brain washing.

    I've also provided some links to the stories of converts the other way.

    http://m.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/555/the-incredible-rarity-of-changing-your-mind

    http://stillsmallvoices.net/carolyn/

    http://www.michaelshermer.com/the-believing-brain/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2011/01/biblical-scholar-bart-ehrmans-personal-deconversion-problems-with-the-biblical-records/

    http://www.amazon.ca/Deconverted-A-Journey-Religion-Reason/dp/1478716568

    http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/12/19/a-holiday-message-from-ricky-gervais-why-im-an-atheist/

    • Kevin Aldrich

      "The Believing Brian." That must be a Freudian slip! ;)

      • Papalinton

        So you have shied away from reading about the latest research and study in the sciences of the brain then?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          ia ai

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    I thought Dr. Kreeft's Argument from Aesthetic Experience was meant to be taken tongue in cheek. You could just as easily say "Justin Beiber's music exists therefore there is no god." Are people really convinced by that? I notice that Mr. Nelson did not provide any examples of people who converted because of this.

    • VicqRuiz

      Or, "Dubstep exists. Therefore, there is a God and he is malicious."

  • I would not deny the certainties of faith, for I enjoy them myself.

    However, I would characterize them foremost in interpersonal terms, as my realization of falling, being, growing and remaining in love, and in normative terms, per my realization of both practical and moral fruits, which flow from my experience of being loved and in love. And this entails such interpersonal value-realizations as trust, hope, fidelity, loyalty, surrender, sacrifice, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, self-transcendence and so on.

    In speculative terms, I would characterize the certainties of faith as my realization of a deep inner satisfaction that there indeed exist eminently reasonable beliefs regarding reality's ultimacies. These ultimacies involve our uniquely human concerns and transcend our metaphysical heuristics. These beliefs are wholly consistent and perfectly harmonious with both my interpersonal and normative value-pursuits and value-realizations. Regarding those metaphysical heuristics, I remain decidedly agnostic, although my sneaking suspicions incline me toward the ways of the Angelic Doctor and Peirce's neglected argument for the reality of the Ens Necessarium.

    So, while the inductive testing of the natural sciences and the abductive-deductive interpretations of our philosophical inquiries have not delivered me from my reasonable metaphysical doubts, I'm still very deeply sympathetic to receiving Matt's inventory of factors into a cumulative case-like framework, along with other converging and convincing arguments, which, evidentially and plausibly, ordinarily will allow for the waxing of my faith and the waning, but not extinguishment, of my doubt. Again, I am speaking of a speculative doubt and not an existential doubt vis a vis interpersonal, practical and moral realities.

    Now, regarding our human faculties, while we are certainly situated in a radical finitude, which conditions both our intellect and will, and which renders our natural reason ineluctably fallible and natural law at least somewhat obscure --- This anthropology suffices to explain how other people of large intelligence and profound goodwill might adopt a competing interpretive stance (both evidentially and existentially) regarding reality's ultimacies, wholly within their epistemic rights and in accord with suitable normative justifications, with no less illumination of their intellect and no more impairment of their will than my own?

    This is all to suggest, then, that the dueling ad hominem tautologies --- on one side coming from Feuerbach, Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus, on the other side from apologists, all who pick and toss the low hanging fruit of opposing fundamentalisms --- might better engage in a more authentic dialogue that doesn't presuppose
    that an alternate worldview must necessarily be grounded in invincible ignorance, moral turpitude, anthropomorphic projection, wishful thinking and so on.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      This is brilliant and brilliant that I understand it. Now if you would just write at a 7th grade level!

      • Thanks, Kevin. I was thinking about moving on from these types of exchanges, in general, this forum, in particular, because pretty much the same issues come up over and over and I couldn't imagine having anything new to contribute, having repeated myself ad nauseam, really. But I have considered hanging around precisely because I'd like to learn a different way of saying these things and feedback and interactions from folks like you (and Geena et al at EN) could help me translate things into a more accessible form. We'll see.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Something I have done a lot for my professional writing which tends to be too academic is to run it through spellcheck to get the readability index and grade level. Then I start rewriting to get the readability number up and the grade level down. That's why I said 7th grade. It has to do with length of sentences and words.

    • Papalinton

      However, I would characterize them foremost in interpersonal terms, as my realization of falling, being, growing and remaining in love, and in normative terms, per my realization of both practical and moral fruits, which flow from my experience of being loved and in love. And this entails such interpersonal value-realizations as trust, hope, fidelity, loyalty, surrender, sacrifice, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, self-transcendence and so on.

      None of these are alien in an atheist's perspective. None of these experiences need a theologic metaphysic to be realised. They are part and parcel of the natural world by which people relate to each other. They are indeed fundamental expressions of how humans relate to each other as a function of their species. A religious, and more particularly a Christian, perspective is irrelevant and unnecessary in both their actualisation and understanding of them. And we know this is a fact, because these same experiences can be just as equally, effectively and successfully couched in terms of other worldviews without compromise to their effects. So it would seem to me that a religious overlay of these properly basic human experiences do not need a theological explanation to account for them.

  • Doug Shaver

    Dr. Ordway mentions the eminent 20th century Oxford thinker, C.S. Lewis. Lewis is a prime example of a reasonable but unbelieving thinker who was willing to read from all angles and perspectives. As a result of his open inquiry, he became a believer in Christ and one of modern Christianity’s greatest apologists.

    Very interesting. In my youth, I was a prime example of a reasonable but believing thinker who was willing to read from all angles and perspectives. As a result of my open inquiry, I became a disbeliever in Christ. However, I cannot claim to have become one of modern atheism's greatest apologists, at least not if you have to be famous in order to be great. Considering how obscure I am, I think I do a pretty good job.

    • William Davis

      I actually wish we had C.S. Lewis here to debate him...that would be fascinating. Heck I'd even settle for the great Feser :)

      • Doug Shaver

        Heck I'd even settle for the great Feser :)

        Me, too. Or William Lane Craig. I'd love to go one-on-one with him. But alas, the great ones can't be bothered to engage us peons like that.

        • William Davis

          If I were them I know I wouldn't come here. It's typically easy for David to take down Goliath in this kind of setting.

          • Doug Shaver

            Easy or not, for Goliath, fighting David is a no-win situation. If he defeats David, well, it's just a kid with a slingshot. Where's the honor in that? But if David takes him down, it's a serious embarrassment.

        • VicqRuiz

          I would not debate Craig unless the topic was pretty narrowly defined.

          Time after time I've seen him lead off with a whole Gish Gallop of briefly stated arguments for Christianity - bang! bang! bang!, giving a minute or two for each.

          Then when his opponent spends rebuttal time carefully and thoroughly dissecting the first two or three of his arguments, he comes right back with, "But my opponent DIDN'T EVEN TRY to counter my arguments four through eleven! Obviously they are unanswerable and therefore God exists."

          I would love to engage him one-on-one strictly on divine command theory though. He is one apologist who's unafraid to say "Yep, God can command the Jews to slaughter the Canaanites, and it was good for them to obey him. Because he's the Boss, and what he says, goes." I almost like this position more than I do that of the apologist who tries to tap-dance through Deuteronomy.....

          • Doug Shaver

            I would not debate Craig unless the topic was pretty narrowly defined.

            I wouldn't either, if the debate were on stage and time-restricted like they usually are.

      • VicqRuiz

        You should read Feser's The Last Superstition (ideally via a library copy). There's no better example I've ever seen of how apologists talk about atheists when they don't think there are any atheists listening.

        • William Davis

          I've seen enough out of Feser to have a pretty good idea. Definitely not going to pay money for that one, lol.

        • "There's no better example I've ever seen of how apologists talk about atheists when they don't think there are any atheists listening."

          I'm curious what you think about The God Delusion or God Is Not Great or Letter to a Christian Nation, each a NYT bestselling book written by an atheist....and each significantly more polemical than Dr. Feser's book.

          Would you equally condemn their style? Do you agree that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris are excessively caustic?

          • VicqRuiz

            Of course many atheists are caustic. Vituperation is not the sole property of any world view.

          • David Nickol

            Isn't this a tu quoque argument? If Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris exhibit contempt for theists, does that mean theists are justified in exhibiting contempt for atheists?

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?* So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

          • If I may add a late reply to this ...

            Would you equally condemn their style? Do you agree that Richard
            Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris are excessively caustic?

            I'm an atheist, and I think Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris are excessively caustic. If those three were the only atheists out there, I'd probably still be a Christian. In order to truly understand the atheist side of things, I had to read non-caustic ex-Christians--Dan Baker, John Loftus, Neil Carter, the anonymous blogger "Libby Anne" of Love, Joy, Feminism.

            Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris are very smart people, and they say some very useful things about some subjects. I love to hear Hitch talk about morality or Dawkins talk about evolution (his actual area of expertise). But they also say some very unhelpful things.

  • VicqRuiz

    This website has now been in existence for almost exactly two years.

    Does anyone know of a single atheist who has converted to Catholicism as a result of participation here??

    Jus' askin.........

    • Mike

      Well i can't but most of the atheists on here seems to me to believe in a very very theist like atheism imho; they believe in real morality w/o any transcendent source of that morality and w/o any after life; they believe in order pattern and the appearance of design in nature and the universe but deny any source of all that...short and long is that to me it seems that most of the atheists on here are cultural atheists or atheists-light.

      But i admit i don't think that non-reductive atheism can be coherent but obviously many atheists disagree. Seems to me they agree with catholics except they are very socially liberal in terms of the biggies and just seem to worship "science" instead of "god/s" and are generally more liberal than conservative in their temperament so put less emphasis on tradition and more on "What's new".

      • VicqRuiz

        most of the atheists on here are cultural atheists or atheists-light.

        There's some truth in what you say, however I expect that if any "atheists-heavy" like Dawkins or Peter Boghossian were to show up here and start posting, they'd get shown the door by Brandon in pretty short order.

        believe in a very very theist like atheism

        I think that I am open to the possibility of supernatural events. I'm also open to the possibility of the universe being a caused thing. But I am a materialist in that I can't get from where I am to "there" just by paper (or combox) exercises in formal logic.

        Lastly, this site is supposedly intended for the exchange of views between atheists and Catholics, not atheists and deists. There's a box up top on the main page titled "If Catholicism is true, then what??" I think that the Catholic authors here should spend more time explaining why Catholicism is true, rather than why there is some vaguely defined Ground of All Being and Morality up (out?) there somewhere.

        • Mike

          no brandon would not ban them if they were forthright but not insulting to catholics...i've only ever seen him ban ppl who only posted insulting rude things.

          i think that that's why i say it seems to me most of the atheists on here are really agnostic bc they say they are open to supernatural things and to a cause of the universe and purpose to our existence etc but remain unmoved by the evidence as they see it. i guess to me an atheist is someone who is "sure" or apriori denies even the possibility of those things.

          well you can't get to catholicism without laying the ground work first as without it to 99% of secularists it just sounds like fairy tales or just prejudice wrapped up in 'fancy' language...we first have to explain why materialism/naturalism can not be true and are incoherent etc.

          • Luke C.

            no brandon would not ban them if they were forthright but not insulting to catholics...i've only ever seen him ban ppl who only posted insulting rude things.

            No, Brandon banned atheists en masse and without warning, then covered up the evidence of this Great Purge by deleting over 1,000 of their comments. He banned them, not because they were insulting, but because they were incisively winning the arguments.

          • Mike

            So why hasn't he banned you yet?

            Are your arguments not as convincing as theirs were?

          • Luke C.

            Hahaha. Probably! My specialties are clinical and experimental psychology--specifically, the assessment and diagnosis of personality disorders and the classification of mental disorders. Those don't overlap too much with the content here, and I knew nothing about Catholic apologetics before coming here; so, I'm not much of a threat :)

            Plus, the Great Purge happened in January of 2014; I only heard about SN about six months ago, so I started commenting here long after most bannings happened.

          • VicqRuiz

            If the majority of atheists here on this forum are "open to supernatural things and to a cause of the universe and purpose to our existence etc but remain unmoved by the evidence as they see it", then perhaps what a Catholic apologist should do is to try and find more evidence that they haven't yet seen, rather than wasting everyone's time in another round of Thomistic cause-wrangling.

          • Mike

            problem is atheists a priori discount all but natural science testable experimental data a evidence. they in the process discount history, logic, math, metaphysics, literature and on and on...it's from the start a doomed enterprise bc they refuse to admit that not all truth and knowledge is of the natural science kind.

          • VicqRuiz

            Yeah Mike, but if God stretches forth his hand into the physical realm and changes material reality, then the evidence for this -should be- observable and testable.

            OTOH, if God confines his activity to the realms of the spirit only, then I agree with you.

          • Mike

            you're thinking of God as a tinkering mechanic...the whole thing all its regularity all the profound math relationships etc are all possible bc an order an intelligence sustains it.

            the catholic church thinks miracles happen even today especially in medicine.

          • Doug Shaver

            problem is atheists a priori discount all but natural science testable experimental data a evidence.

            Some of them do that. A lot of us don't.

            they in the process discount history, logic, math, metaphysics, literature and on and on.

            The notion that history can't be scientific is a mistake. It sometimes arises from a too-narrow definition of science. Science is not just about what you can do with test tubes in a laboratory.

          • neil_ogi

            but atheists believe science doesn't prove anything? as claimed by sean carroll?

          • Pofarmer

            Science may not ne able to absolutely prove something, but it can absolutely dissprove things. Tread carefully.

          • neil_ogi

            science disprove evolution that's why evolutionists don't believe the power of science

          • Doug Shaver

            but atheists believe science doesn't prove anything?

            Atheists do not all agree on anything about science, because atheism per se has nothing to say about science.

            as claimed by sean carroll?

            Sean Carroll is not the atheist pope. No atheist has to agree with anything he says.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'Atheists do not all agree on anything about science, because atheism per se has nothing to say about science.' - then what's your authority to prove christians/theists wrong! what's your paradigm? or you are just saying that because most theories of atheists do not agree or conform to scientific inquiries, experimentations!

          • Doug Shaver

            then what's your authority to prove christians/theists wrong!

            That depends on what I'm saying they're wrong about.

          • neil_ogi

            so how do you know it's wrong? it depends on how you interpret the data? so what's the new paradigm atheists are using now?

          • Doug Shaver

            so how do you know it's wrong?

            If you will suggest a specific example, I will tell you.

            so what's the new paradigm atheists are using now?

            All atheists? There is none. We have no common authority. We don't all think the same way. We don't all believe the same things. Atheism is not a religion, not a philosophy, not a worldview.

          • neil_ogi

            if you have no common authority, then what about dawkins, krauss, dennet, hawkings, carroll? if you believe there's no God or gods, then keep your beliefs as your own and don't force it to others who believe in God, that He doesn't exists! as i've said, your belief is a belief, it is a religious one.

          • Doug Shaver

            then what about dawkins, krauss, dennet, hawkings, carroll?

            What about them? No atheist has to agree with anything they say just because they say it.

          • neil_ogi

            another excuses?

          • Doug Shaver

            Excuses for what?

          • neil_ogi

            no it doesn't depend whether that is wrong or right! actually science always change its tune? or maybe the interpretations of evolutionists are always on the wrong side! (that's why they have gut feeling that 'science doesn't prove anything'). for example, the mantra, 'the past is the key to the present', therefore there was a time that the planet earth has no oxygen, if that's so true, then there was a time that this planet has no water! (H20)!! if that's so, your 'common ancestor' never ever existed!

            the eruption of mount pinatubo here in my country, the Philippines, almost destroyed major land features of several provinces, buried several towns with lahar, and one town was under water permanently (became a 'ghost town') all happened in just days! now there is a 2 square kilometer of lake formed in its summit.(became a tourist attractions) if these events were not observed, maybe the uniformitarianists will say that the lake was the result of millions of millions of years of process!

          • Doug Shaver

            no it doesn't depend whether that is wrong or right!

            I did not say, "That depends on whether it is right or wrong." I said, "That depends on what I'm saying they're wrong about."

          • neil_ogi

            so how do you know, '"That depends on what I'm saying they're wrong about."? what paradigm are you using? true science or bad?

          • Doug Shaver

            so how do you know, '"That depends on what I'm saying they're wrong about."?

            Because, if I'm the one claiming they are wrong, I'm the one who knows what argument I am using to defend that claim.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            Would that there could be a moratorium at SN regarding the tiresome (and false) meme that "atheism" is in any way analogous to the most prevalent forms of monotheism (i.e., Christianity, Judaism and Islam) in terms of belief structure.

            As has been explained patiently what must be thousands of times by now over the past couple years at SN by commenters still active -- as well as by many who have been banned from commenting at SN (for reasons hotly disputed, although SN does not maintain a transparent moderation board that would shed welcome light on this matter, as does Estranged Notions (http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/), where many extremely articulate, deeply-informed, and thoughtful folks banned from SN have been commenting on SN articles since Jan. 2014) -- "atheism" is not an organized, institutional belief structure having at its core an edifice of dogmatic and doctrinal beliefs promulgated by a clerical caste in which individuals who regard themselves as atheists are required to profess belief, as happens to be the case in some forms of Christianity (Catholicism, in particular), Islam and Judaism.

            "Atheism" -- at least in colloquial parlance -- means only that an individual self-identifying as an atheist asserts varying levels of certainty that no god(s) of the form venerated in any of the theistic traditions in fact exists (a harder form) or that an individual lacks belief in the existence of any god(s) of the form venerated in any of the theistic traditions (a softer form). That's it. No other "beliefs." No "church." No clerical caste that tells them what they are required to believe in order to remain faithful members in good standing.

            It also is true that science doesn't prove anything. While other commentators still active at SN who are actually scientists -- e.g., Paul Brandon RImmer, among others -- are better equipped to explain this more accurately, I'll have a go at it from a non-scientist's perspective.

            Science seeks to understand the natural, material universe we inhabit by methodological processes of observation and other means of empirical examination and, in many cases, by use of mathematical reasoning and modeling.

            Scientific laws explain certain aspects of the material world based on voluminous observations with no known exceptions; they are descriptive accounts of how specific actions occur in nature under specified circumstances and conditions. They have been defined elsewhere as: "A theoretical principle deduced from particular facts, applicable to a defined group or class of phenomena, and expressible by a statement that a particular phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions be present" (Oxford English Dictionary as quoted in Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology, 1979). They are usually mathematically defined.

            Scientific theories are essentially accepted hypotheses that have been supported over time by testing and observation without having been falsified and which explain "why" or "how" something in the material universe happens or has come to be the way we observe it to be. Scientific theories can be disproved or falsified, but they can never, in principle, be proved. See http://undsci.berkeley.edu/glossary/glossary.php?start=s&end=z They are usually non mathematically defined.

            In this way, science must be contrasted to the claims of various revealed institutional religions (like Catholicism), which teach their believers that the clerical caste is in possession of various eternal Truths revealed by the God they worship to humanity at times in the distant past and which can never be disproven because, well . . . because they are tautologically proclaimed to be the Truth.

            (Edited for formatting of quotation.)

          • neil_ogi

            if atheism is not 'organised' religion, then why you have 'new atheist movement',, why hold meetings or conferences? why atheists have goals (e.g. no gods whatever exist)? if atheists are just atheists, then you should not actively participate even in christian/theists sites? then what's your purpose?

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            Do you seriously contend that atheism is an organized religion? On what evidence?

            I'd be interested in reading the Catechism of the Atheist Church. Can you provide a link to it for me so I can learn what dogmatic and doctrinal beliefs I am required to profess in order to be a member of the Atheist Church?

            If there is no formal catechism embodied in a writing, can you identify for me the doctrinal beliefs you claim I am required to hold to be a member of the Atheist Church?

            Remind me about at least some of the aspects, nature and characteristics of the supernatural deity I am required to profess belief in and to worship as a member of the Atheist Church.

            Can you point me to official documents promulgated by the Atheist Church that identify for me the local, national and international members of the clerical caste of the Atheist Church?

            Can you point me to an application by the official Atheist Church of the United States seeking 501.c.3 certification as a charitable or religious organization entitled to tax exempt status in the US?

            Can you point me to the buildings in any cities in which congregants in the Atheist Church gather on a regular basis to celebrate communal worship services?

            At bottom, I suppose this all boils down to what you have in mind when you speak of an organized religion. I fail to see meaningful points of commonality between individuals who consider themselves atheists because they lack belief in a supernatural being/entity/person referred to as "God" and individuals who identify with actual organized religions, typified by practices of communal worship, beliefs in a supernatural being(s) they call God, and well-defined dogmas and doctrines recorded in books deemed Holy Scripture and declared as having been revealed by the God they venerate as well as other writings by that religion's clerical caste.

            It seems the meme that atheism is an organized religion tantamount to Catholicism (or any other church or faith tradition) is little more than a tu quoque rhetorical charge seeking to charge individuals who don't profess belief in a supernatural god with the same irrational and faith-based belief structure that is a defining hallmark of organized religions.

            I would expect that religious believers would hold their own church and religious beliefs in higher regard than that. Why are some religious believers so anxious to insist that all individuals self-identifying as atheists are governed by the same belief systems as religious believers, when that is demonstrably not the case?

          • neil_ogi

            because atheists can't prove their hypotheses: theory of evolution, theory of origin of life, theory of big bang, etc. why would i believe in these fairies? the evidence for God's existence are enormous: biblical witnesses, ancient jews, cosmological and moral arguments, DNA, life itself. you can't prove that a rock, a non-living thing evolve into living thing. that's nonsense

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            The scientific theories and hypotheses you mention are just that: scientific theories and hypotheses. They are not atheistic theories. Of course, some atheists may accept some of these scientific theories and hypotheses. However, the set of all persons who accept each of these scientific theories is not co-extensive with the set of all atheists. After all, there are many religious believers who accept the modern evolutionary synthesis or the Big Bang hypothesis.

            You of course are free to choose whatever you wish to believe. Who is contending otherwise?

            I personally have no interest whatsoever in seeking to dissuade you of the reasons or the evidence you find for believing in God's existence. I sincerely hope that your religious beliefs provide hope, happiness, meaning and comfort in your life and inspire and help you to be a better person. Those are things I wish for all of us, although non-theists seek those things through means other than religious beliefs and membership in organized, institutional churches.

            I would never seek to prove that a rock can "evolve" into a living thing. Are you of the view that there are scientists anywhere who have proposed hypotheses of how inorganic rocks might through purely naturalistic, material processes transition to become living things? Citations or links to such would be interesting.

            As a parting comment, I would encourage you to seek to learn more of what science actually tries to do and teaches, rather than subscribing to horror stories and fear-mongering and the conjuring of false idols that some opponents of modern science traffic in.

          • neil_ogi

            so what type of science are you recommending for me to read? the 'just-so' stories? first of all, you need no science anymore because atheists believe that they just 'pop'! like the universe, your physicist (krauss) says that the universe just 'popped' out of nothing!! therefore all the things in the universe just 'popped'!!

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            The only point I was trying to make was that if you want to understand more about what modern science does and the knowledge and discoveries scientists have made is that it might be a good idea to read what actual scientists write. Rather than, in contrast, relying on caricatures by certain types of opponents of science more interested in rhetoric and fanning flames of distrust of science because it threatens certain forms of highly literalistic interpretations of foundational religious scriptures in different faith traditions.

            Nothing more than that.

            If you truly care about what Lawrence Krauss thinks on the subject of how the universe might have come about, I'd suggest you read some of the things he's actually written on the subject, like, for example, his recent book, "A Universe From Nothing." You might find it informative. And with apologies if you already know this, it turns out that what some physicists have in mind by the concept of "nothing" in the context of existent reality differs from the abstract, metaphysical concept of "nothing" of some philosophers or from the common meaning of that word among non-scientists and non-philosophers.

          • neil_ogi

            'science doesn't prove anything' so says your top scientists and fellows

          • neil_ogi

            quote: ', "A Universe From Nothing." -- so you want me to read this fiction? i haven't see a rock, even a small peeble 'pop' into my front, let alone the universe.. or you may want to make me believe that the 'multiverse' (trillion universes) 'pop'? it's fine for me if you believe that because after all atheists are fairy tale readers

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            I am sure that many individual atheists, just like many religious believers, have goals in their lives. But, I'm unaware of individuals who have as a goal that no "God" exist. As noted in my original post, atheism is simply a label for individuals who lack belief in any supernatural gods, typically because they see no evidence in their experience of the world upon which to base such a belief.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: ', atheism is simply a label for individuals who lack belief in any supernatural gods, typically because they see no evidence in their experience of the world upon which to base such a belief.' - and yet most of your evolutinary scientists say that the origin of life on earth is credited to 'aliens' (atheist's form of a 'creator').. this is ridiculous, why you hate 'God' as the Creator?

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            I'd be interested in the sources upon which you rely in support of your assertion that "most evolutionary scientists" credit the origin of life on Earth to "aliens."

            In any event, I suspect that most evolutionary biologists would take issue with the claim that the origins of life are properly within the domain of what the discipline of evolutionary biology studies and seeks to understand. Rather, evolutionary biology as a discipline focuses on what experts in that field regard as the well-attested fact of evolution and various theories as to the mechanisms by which biological evolution proceeds. (The most well-known to the lay public of such mechanisms is evolution by natural selection, starting with its original articulation in the mid 19th Century by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, as further refined and elaborated into what is sometimes called the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s by Profs. Fisher, Mayr, Dobzhansky, Haldane, and Wright, among others, which brought together evidence and insights from genetics and several other sub-branches of biology with principles of natural selection.)

            The study of how life might have arisen from organic compounds on Earth (or elsewhere in the universe) is a separate field of interest to some scientists. But, it is not -- to my understanding anyway -- a field of research and study within the discipline of evolutionary biology and it is a grave error to confuse study of the origins of life with the study of the biological evolution of prokaryotic organisms and multicellular plant and animal species on Earth since life originated on this planet.

            There are many books written by evolutionary biologists for the non-specialist audience which lay out this story, for those who are interested in learning about actual evolutionary biology, rather than jousting in ignorance on the plains of public rhetoric. Profs. Ernst Mayr, Stephen Jay Gould, Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins (not his more polemical writings on what I'll refer to as the "religion vs. science battle" like The God Delusion; I have in mind instead his popularizing books on evolutionary biology like The Ancestor's Tale, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, River Out of Eden, The Greatest Show on Earth, The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype) all have published books in this vein that will reward patient study. I highly commend them to you.

            I also suspect that most evolutionary biologists, asked how life came to develop from organic compounds, would simply honestly state: "We don't yet know. It is possible that we may never know. But, it's a subject worthy of study and investigation."

            It is up to you to evaluate that position and compare it to the answers offered up by the imaginations of our ancestors from millennia ago possessing only primitive and rudimentary knowledge in the areas we moderns know as physics, chemistry, biology, geology and astronomy. The kinds of answers now referred to as the creation myths of many ancestral cultures and societies, including the two separate "creation" accounts found in chaps. 1 and 2 of the Book of Genesis.

            If you are interested in expanding your base of knowledge in this area, you might also take this subject up with Geena S. and Noah L., who regularly comment at Estranged Notions (http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/) but have been banned here, or with Max Drifill, who used to comment regularly at SN, all of whom possess relevant education, training and expertise in this area.

          • neil_ogi

            why scientists can't create artificial life in the lab (of course, scientists should not use pre-existing life to do that) if life is just a natural process?

            the creation story of genesis 1 is just a summary. chapter 2 was a detailed one.

            why should i read the books you recommend? it's ok for me that your beloved physicist just declared that the universe just 'pop' out of 'nothing' therefore ALL things (living and non-living) just 'pop' out of nothing!! there's no more for you to use scientific experiementations.. you'd just fooling yourself!

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            One reason to read books written by evolutionary biologists is to learn something about modern evolutionary biology.

            And, I don't have any beloved physicist; perhaps you have me confused with someone else?

          • neil_ogi

            just accept the fact that non-living things will not evolve into living things. try harder. if non-living things become living things, then there would be no deaths in this world! just common sense still apply!

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            It is something of a non sequitur to ask most atheists or agnostics why they "hate 'God' as the Creator."

            After all, atheists, by definition, don't typically regard there as being sufficient evidence to accept that a form of the personal, "tri-omni," triune, creator God who listens to and answers prayers, who performs miracles, who otherwise intervenes from time to time in the world and human affairs, who sent His Son to take on human form on Earth to be crucified for the redemption of humanity, and who will come at the end of time to judge all humans who have ever lived, consigning the vast majority to a place or state called "hell" -- the God venerated by many Christians -- actually exists.

            But, I suppose there may be atheists who "hate" certain abstracted and postulated characteristics of a God character envisioned in various Christian, Islamic or Jewish traditions or as enshrined in the scriptures of those faith traditions.

          • neil_ogi

            so tell me, who or what created you? again, atheists have that answer: we just 'pop' (the universe just 'pop' out of nothing (krauss)

            God actually exists, the testimonies of Bible writers, ancient jews, the cosmological and moral arguments, DNA, cell, etc.

            actually, atheists have their 'creation myths' - the 'nothing' god and the alien god. don't be shy about them. you should be glad because they are well supported by 'scientific' community in U.S. and europe!

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            Sometimes banal questions merit banal answers. That banal answer in this case is the obvious: the combination of my parents' DNA.

            You are free to live in accordance with your own beliefs, religiously-based and otherwise. I have no problem with that, and have zero interest in trying to proselytize you with mine. I don't fully understand why you appear so hostile to others who happen to have different beliefs and values than your own. If that is misconstruing your actual intent, then please accept my apologies.

            I can't -- and actually have no interest -- in purporting to speak on behalf of all atheists. I can speak only for myself. I don't have any creation myth. I don't know how the universe we inhabit happened to come into existence. I'm fine with that. Really.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: ' the combination of my parents' DNA.' - so where did they originate? well, i know it. they just 'pop'.. (no more science, LOL)

            quote: 'You are free to live in accordance with your own beliefs, religiously-based' - likewise!

            then why are you here? spreading your lies and false beliefs to theists and christians! then why care for us, christians?

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            I've read all your most recent comments. It seems I've said what I am able to say. Things seem to be degenerating somewhat, in my view anyway, given the tone I "hear" in a few of your more recent round of comments, so I'll respectfully bow out of this conversation.

          • neil_ogi

            so you see, i'm just asking you where did your parent's DNA come from? why not just admit that ALL the things in the universe, the universe itself just 'pop'!! as simple as that! yes, i'm repeating that 'pop' again and again until you wake up from your arrogance and stupid thoughts

          • William Davis

            Lol. The irony of you saying someone else has "stupid thoughts" is massive. You are the dumbest person, by far, that I have every met on this forum. I've met people with a little worse attitude maybe, but not nearly as foolish and uneducated. If I make any more comments to you, it will be to do nothing but mock you. It's what you deserve.
            If God/Jesus exact, you shame them greatly. You also shame your creationist position. Again, you deserve nothing but derision. Have a nice left, and fully expect me to ignore your future comments. My time would be better spent petting my dog, at least he deserves my attention, you do not.

          • neil_ogi

            so i am talking with someone who has so much intelligence like you! of course, atheists and like you have 'stupid thoughts or ideas' about the origins issues. just like what you've said, that non-living to living things was just a very, very 'rare' case.. you just claim it and i want proof. if that's true, then why there's no living things present on the moon, on other planets? isn't it just a 'stupid ideas'?? atheists now claim that 'science doesn't prove anything' - then why? or because most 'stupid thoughts' of atheists are debunked by modern science?

            quote: ' you deserve nothing but derision. Have a nice left, and fully expect me to ignore your future comments. My time would be better spent petting my dog, at least he deserves my attention, you do not.-- i just post my comments here and you replied, i never requested you to reply to my posts? why complain?

          • William Davis

            then why are you here? spreading your lies and false beliefs to theists and christians! then why care for us, christians?

            This site is here for DIALOGUE, i.e. conversation between two groups. This is something you cannot comprehend, and it is you who do not belong here. The Christian's here mostly think you are silly and would not like to be included in your "us". There a plenty of good Christian's who I really like. My Dad is a preacher, and my mom is a staunch Christian, so are my sisters. I love them all and they are good people. You are a disingenuous and very bad person. The way you behave demonstrates it. You call people names, you ignore me when I answer your questions, you repeat the same questions even though they have been answered.

            Personally I look good people no matter what they believe. They can be Christian, Muslim, Hindu, I don't care. I don't like you because you are a BAD person.

            Matthew 5

            5 When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

            3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

            4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

            5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

            6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

            7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

            8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

            9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

            10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

            11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

            You completely fail to even try to reach for Jesus's standard. Most of the atheists on this site are more Christ like than you are. You are not a Christian, at least a real Christian who actually wants to do what Jesus taught. You can't be. You are therefore a liar.

          • neil_ogi

            you sounds like a christian preacher! do you really know what you're doing? atheists like you don't have a moral standard. you said that atheists just don't believe in the existence of God/gods.. period. so what's the dialogue you are in? you keep on pressing that God doesn't exists and yet you don't provide meaningful and rational explanations on why He dosen't exists! how many theists/christians are banned in most of atheists' websites?

            how do you know that i'm a bad person? so you see, you judged me without examining my life first. did i name calling atheists?

          • William Davis

            First, I have told you repeated that I'm not an atheist. I believe in God. The fact that you don't remember either indicates you have a bad memory, or that you aren't paying attention to anything I have to say. I'm thinking the last, since that goes right along with despicable character.

            I was raised in a Christian environment, went to Christian schools, have studied the Bible theologically and historically. My Dad is a preacher and I know enough about Christianity to be a preacher. I know enough about Christianity to say that if you are a Christian, you are the one of the worst behaved Christians on the internet (I've met a few worse at infowars). Congrats ;)

            how do you know that i'm a bad person? so you see, you judged me without examining my life first. did i name calling atheists?

            You just called Greg (a friend of mine) "stupid and arrogant". I've seen you say this to many, many people. Maybe your memory is that bad.

          • neil_ogi

            i know that you are a deist, and i only 'attack' evolution and atheists' explanations of the origins. i didn't intend to attack Greg personally, i used 'arrogant and stupid', not for Greg but for all the theories of evolutionists. remember, i always use: for example, your theory of common ancestor's 'impossible' survivability in a prebiotic soup, a 'stupid thoughts/ideas'.. that the universe came from 'nothing' as 'stupid ideas/thoughts'.. it doesn't refer to the personhood of atheists and evolutionists.

          • neil_ogi

            i know that you are a deist, and i only 'attack' evolution and atheists' explanations of the origins. i didn't intend to attack Greg personally, i used 'arrogant and stupid', not for Greg but for all the theories of evolutionists. remember, i always use: for example, your theory of common ancestor's 'possible' survivability in a prebiotic soup, a 'stupid thoughts/ideas'.. that the universe came from 'nothing' as 'stupid ideas/thoughts'.. it doesn't refer to the personhood of atheists

          • William Davis

            Good, I'm glad you were not attacking his person, but it sure came off that way.

            The reason I asked about college science classes is to get an idea of the background knowledge you possess, knowing this helps me understand you better and helps me frame responses.

            One thing I don't understand is how you can lack science training, and then come to a forum like this and tell other people they are being unscientific. You have to know something about science first.

            What you are actually doing is repeating what others you know have told you. You have these opinions, not because you know anything about science, but because you believe others in your social group. I therefore am not debating you, I'm debating the people you believe. The problem is that I can't actually communicate with the people you believe, so are conversations on science will always be pointless, and they will always be "just so" stories to you. Glad we have that out of the way.

            I'm bringing up the Bible because it is something you claim you believe, but you don't behave as if you believe it. I know how a Christian is supposed to behave because I know the Bible. The problem is, that almost all Christians behave like non-Christians, many actually worse. I've been around Christians my entire life, and their tree bears no fruit.

            Luke 13

            6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’

            It is my view, and a view I am very good at defending historically (I'm well educated in history too) that the tree of Christianity has not born fruit. It doesn't not inspire people to a higher standard, and does not make people better. Since it has failed to bring for fruit, it should be cut down and replaced with something that does. I don't believe Christianity is true, primarily because of the lives that Christians lead. The barren tree of Christian lives is the primary evidence to me that Christianity is false. I love and idealize truth, justice, and wisdom. Christianity falls short in too many areas to be true. As I non-Christian I have always found it fascinating that I behave better than so many of the Christians I have known. If I don't need Jesus to live a very moral life and strive to do right, I have proven one of the central tenants of Christianity false. Believing in Jesus does not help someone be good. Since that is true, why believe it?

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'One thing I don't understand is how you can lack science training, and then come to a forum like this and tell other people they are being unscientific. You have to know something about science first.' - so tell me which science is to be believe? a science interpreted by atheists or theists? many theories embraced by atheists are unfounded, groundless and unscientific (e.g. non-living tp living things, which science already established 'laws of biogenesis', only pre-existing life begat life; a 'nothing' actually produce a 'something' - this is the most fiction science i ever heard. my wallet is still empty of money, i haven't see even a peeble 'pop' right infront of my eyes. so do you consider them as 'science'.. ??

            quote: 'The problem is, that almost all Christians behave like non-Christians, many actually worse. I've been around Christians my entire life, and their tree bears no fruit.' - so you judge 'all' christians behave like non-christians.. so you are a liar, how did you know that? it's just because i am against your belief in some way or another, you judged us like that? just a reminder: christians per se are not exempted from doing evil, the moral laws said: 'do not kill, do not bear false witness...., do not steal, etc.. so erase your assumptions that christians/theists are exempted from doing evil works. even an apostle predicts that 'in the last days, many will depart from the faith..'

            you believe in a God (not of the Bible's) and yet you doubt your God's power to create non-living into living, and rather you believe that life is just a very 'rare' case. why not just say, your God did it?

          • William Davis

            why not just say, your God did it?

            Because I'm interested in how he did it, I believe God's ways are largely knowable, he doesn't play dice. He got it right from the beginning of the universe, which was, we believe 14 million years ago. The Bible simply isn't compelling to many. If you don't believe it, it's best to be honest. I put virtue and doing the right thing over religion.

          • neil_ogi

            the Bible claims: 'in the beginning God created the universe' - so this is already a revelation. the Bible didn't explain how He created because the Bible's theme is to reveal that there is God.

          • neil_ogi

            but athiests believe in supernatural beings, like 'aliens' and 'nothing' god!

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            I don't believe in any supernatural beings.

            Doesn't it ever get tiresome launching unfounded accusations about what you imagine others supposedly believe?

          • neil_ogi

            denials? again?

          • Greg Schaefer

            Neil.

            Others will have to weigh in with reasons why they, as self-identifying atheists, attend conferences or hold meetings with others who describe themselves as atheists.

            I suspect the so-called "new atheist" movement is motivated many considerations. Perhaps as many as there are individuals who consider themselves part of the new atheist movement. I'll opine as to a couple.

            First, to announce that it is safe, in at least some 21st Century societies, to come out publicly as not being a member of an organized, institutional religion or church and not believing in a supernatural, creator, "tri-omni" God. After all, being known (or branded) as a non-believer could get one killed or imprisoned in many societies and cultures in the past. Even in a country like the US in the 20th Century, it is conventional wisdom that being branded an atheist was to be widely reviled as an immoral, untrustworthy or even inherently evil person.

            Second, to point out the shortcomings they perceive in the beliefs, doctrines and practices of various organized religions; to celebrate rational, evidence-based habits of mind; to value modern scientific ways of thinking over traditional reliance on reifications of the customs and traditions and mores of Iron Age desert societies in Palestine and Arabia recorded by the sexist, misogynistic, racist, genocidal, and inherently tribal clerics and ruling elites from those primitive times; and to inspire more enlightened, inclusive and universal ways of thinking about morality and ethics based on knowledge possessed by humanity in the 21st Century.

          • neil_ogi

            whatever you say, whatever you reason out, atheism is an 'organised religion'.. atheism is a belief system. prove first all your theories by using sciences,, but you don't believe in sciences anymore!

          • neil_ogi

            but atheists believe science doesn't prove anything?

          • Doug Shaver

            i think that that's why i say it seems to me most of the atheists on here are really agnostic bc they say they are open to supernatural things and to a cause of the universe and purpose to our existence etc but remain unmoved by the evidence as they see it.

            Agnosticism is not knowing. That isn't the same thing as admitting that one could possibly be mistaken.

      • Doug Shaver

        and just seem to worship "science" instead of "god/s"

        That could be true if you define worship broadly enough. I see no reason to define it that broadly, though.

    • Luc Regis

      Hmmm....but that would take a confession or sorts....nes't pas?

      I have not converted....but have been put on pause once or twice;-)

      • Pofarmer

        I can think of one who is much more secure on his atheism because of the abysmal arguments the "top flight" apologists present. M

    • neil_ogi

      does anyone know of a single theist who has converted to atheism because lots of atheists always quote their 'holy' wikipedia as sources of enlightened sciences? nay

      • Pofarmer

        That made no sense, but there are a raft of deconverted theists posting at Patheos Atheist, including occasionally former Catholic priests.

        • neil_ogi

          Bible even claims that 'some will depart from the faith'.. obviously, even i myself could become an atheist, due to 'emotional' problems of evil (e.g. close relative who always attend church and gives charities to the poor, and yet he was diagnosed to have malignant cancer). atheists don't like to suffer, they want lavish life

          • Doug Shaver

            atheists don't like to suffer

            And theists do?

          • neil_ogi

            what i mean is, when atheists are suffering, they blame God, and complain: 'if He is powerful, why he allows evil to exists'.. the old- fashioned complaints lodged against theists. if evil does exist, that doesn't mean that atheism is true! swallow reasoning

          • Doug Shaver

            when atheists are suffering, they blame God

            No, we don't. We'd have to think he was real in order to blame him for anything.

            and complain: 'if He is powerful, why he allows evil to exists'.

            To say "If A then B" is never to say that A is true.

          • neil_ogi

            'if i'm a president of my company, i will impose several rules, laws and regulations to my subjects. but my subjects don't want to experience hardships and pain, so they rebel against me, the one who gave them life and freedom'- ponder this

          • Doug Shaver

            ponder this

            Why? It has no relevance to anything I've said.

          • William Davis

            I've tried being patient with Neil, but I think giving up on having a conversation with him is the right path...I think it's impossible.

  • Louise

    This is great. But what about all the unreasonable and unthinking atheists?

    • Doug Shaver

      But what about all the unreasonable and unthinking atheists?

      They are proof that we are just as human as the everyone else.

  • Philosophy means love of wisdom, not of truth.

  • Luc Regis

    Hey!...you know how Jesus is often portrayed as being the face of suffering humanity...not just in the Eucharist or as represented by the pope, Cardinals, bishops, priests etc. Could it be that Jesus has been a bit misrepresented by the church over the centuries, as St. Francis of Assisi recognized. I understand the author of this song is not a prophet or a saint in the Catholic sense or tradition....but I do think her lyrics are very pertinent and very touching if one listens to them. I hope I didn't offend anyone by implying that Jesus was actually one of us.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn7rIarpQBk

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think your idea is generally fine - it connects to "whatever you did to the least of these, you did it to me." Plus, God IS one of us as True Man.

  • Peter

    New atheism is a relatively recent construct relying on the latest scientific discoveries to falsify the claims of creationism and intelligent design which they confuse with theism. Indeed, new atheism arose in the west as a response to the modern resurgence of creationism which originated in North America, a creationism borne from historical Protestant roots.

    As long as creationists continue doggedly to cling to their beliefs, and as long as modern science continues to falsify their claims, there will always be a ready supply of new atheists emboldened by the perception that they are on the side of reason against superstition. Sadly, for as long as this situation persists, those who join the ranks of new atheism will always outnumber those who change their mind in favour of theism.

    • neil_ogi

      atheists now believe that science 'doesn't prove anything'.. so what's the new paradigm being used by atheists now?

  • Lucretius

    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    I'm a feeling absolutely overwhelm from responding to the problem of evil in these forums. Can some of you please give me a hand?

    Here is the link: http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/2015/03/estranged-notions-why-something-rather.html

    Christi pax.

    • William Davis

      You should post this on the new OP, will get more hits. I'd LOVE to see more Catholics join this conversation :)

      • Lucretius

        I thought I'll let other Catholics take a turn :-)

        Christi pax.

    • neil_ogi

      the problem of evil does not necessarily means that atheism is true! the existence of evil, as the bible explains, is explained very well. i don't know why atheists are still arguing for this? here is one example that might question the omnipotency of God: if God is powerful, then why He instructed Noah to build an ark? why He not just wipe away all the sins in just a 'zap' from His finger?

      • Lucretius

        Dear Mr. Neil_Ogi:

        I thank you for your response. It seems to me that you believe that I, when I wrote this comment, was in a sort of despair regarding the Argument from Evil, being tempted to rationally accept it, while resisting this through faith, with my comment being a cry for help. If this is true, you are honestly one of the kindest people I've found on the Internet, especially since most others ignored the comment it seems.

        why He not just wipe away all the sins in just a 'zap' from His finger?

        I've found that the more I understand God, the more Strange, Mysterious, and non-understandable He and His creation are.

        The question is even more fundamental than "why did God work through Noah and an Ark?" The deep question is "why anything is what it is, and does what it does?" Why is it that pumpkins remain pumpkins? Why is that tapping a stick on a pumpkin creates a small sound, instead of turning it into a Ball Coach like a magic wand?

        Christi pax.

        • neil_ogi

          in my opinion, when God finished His creation, He allows his 'laws' to operate in order to sustain the universe and the earth. i think, evil's purpose is for 'consumation'.. (if there's no death, there will be overpopulation on earth, that's why there are preys and predators.. they are designed).

          in my country, (Philippines) poverty is widespread, but people are just easy-going, they migrate to middle east countries for work, for greener pasture; you can see filipinos all over the world!

  • neil_ogi

    the Bible already explain the problem of evil: 1. God gave us the freedom of choice (if He created us, He owns us.. He can even destroy us (death). 2. the laws of physics, nature, and entropy (all points to degeneration and eventually death) because of sin.

  • dflynn5656

    There may be a 9th reason - "When the place they go for a sense of awe and inspiration points back to an idea they rejected w/o real cause." http://www.sftag.net

  • Mark

    No. 7 is enough evidence for me to believe in God. Too bad even that isn't enough for some people. Like my brother, Joel.

  • Nanchoz

    i would add the intercession of our blessed mother virgin mary

    nobel laureate in medicin alexis carrel
    https://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/VOYLOUR.HTM

    alphonse ratisbonne
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie-Alphonse_Ratisbonne

  • EricP

    My question is the following: "If there have been thousands of religions over the years and many people have believed that they were 100 percent correct. Why should someone like myself believe in Catholicism when it could very well be another one of those failed religions?" I want to believe, I do, but I just have a hard time with faith.

    • neil_ogi

      i am a believer in God, but i don't believe 'organized' religion/churches will save me from my sins. churches don't claim they have 100% accurate in every doctrine they have. from the cosmological arguments alone, there is no doubt that a higher being (who is more personal, moral, and powerful) always exists, who is God

      • churches don't claim they 100% accurate in every doctrine they have.

        You really must be going to different churches than me.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Please tell me you got your name from Rabelais.

          • Who?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You. There is a sea creature called a physeter in a Rabelais novel.

            https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/r/rabelais/francois/r11g/book4.34.html

          • Oh that is very cool. *Bookmarks the novel and goes to wikipedia to read about Rabelais.*

            I knew that word "Physeter" had to come from some kind of mythology before scientists used it, but I haven't been able to find anything about it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is a satire. Rabelais probably did not approve of such wanton violence. People should not go around destroying mythical sea beasts. I would highly recommend reading more Rabelais. You either love him or you hate him, but if you love him, you really love him.

          • Now I'm thinking of those fables that explicitly state the moral of the story at the end--because I really like your summary of the story.

            "MORAL: People should not go around destroying mythical sea beasts."

        • neil_ogi

          nope..i'm a confessed 7th-day adventist member, which doesn't hold on beliefs of 'soul', rather 'breath of life', annihilation of sinners in hell and will experience the '2nd death', the literal creation week, and sabbath observance. but i'm open to other teachings of the Bible, like: 'i am the way, the truth and the life' -that only Jesus has the power to save, and not the church (organised church)

          • I like your beliefs better than what most churches teach. Many, many churches would be eager to tell you just how wrong you are and why you shouldn't believe that.

            I confess I don't know much about 7th-Day Adventists though; mostly all I know is from reading about Ryan Bell's story.

  • Boris

    Atheists don't change their minds and become Christians. What happens is Christians claim they used to be atheists but then some great "proof" came along and convinced them to believe in angels, demons, Satan, heaven, hell... and the rest of the Christian superstitions. It isn't true.

    • neil_ogi

      anthony flew, the most well-known atheist philosopher, was just one of the converts from atheist to a believer in a God.

      • Boris

        He didn't become a Christian. Do you know why?

        • neil_ogi

          even if he didn't become a christian, at least, he eventually believed in a god (generic god) and not the God revealed by the Bible

      • William Davis

        My beliefs are largely deistic like Anthony Flew. I believe in God, but I'm quite certain Christianity is false. I tried to explain this to you before, but you ignored me.

        • neil_ogi

          christianity is true, because it based solely its belief on Jesus, his historicity. i didn't ignore you. all i did was debunked evolution

          • William Davis

            Jesus didn't say evolution isn't true, and Jesus didn't say the universe was made it 7 days. Do you think the creation events described in Genesis are literally true, if so why? It was supposed to be an instructive myth, not a science claim.

    • Doug Shaver

      Atheists don't change their minds and become Christians.

      You say so. Is there any other reason I should believe it?

      • Boris

        Yeah. Name 'em and claim 'em.

        • Doug Shaver

          Lemme get this straight. If I name an atheist who became a Christian, that will prove what you said?

          • Boris

            How can you verify this supposed conversion? Everybody is really born an atheist. So in that sense atheists become Christians. But adults rarely convert.

          • Doug Shaver

            How can you verify this supposed conversion?

            Why do I need to, unless I have some antecedent reason to think they're lying?

            But adults rarely convert.

            You're saying that in this particular case, it never happens, that whoever says it happened to them is a liar.

          • Boris

            Go ahead.

          • Doug Shaver

            First answer my question.

          • Boris

            Probably not. I can't believe anything a Christian might say.

          • Doug Shaver

            I can't believe anything a Christian might say.

            That's bigotry, pure and simple.

          • Boris

            My experience tells me otherwise.

          • Doug Shaver

            Your experience with Christians has been that none of them ever told the truth about anything?

          • Boris

            I don't know. If you say it's Lee Strobel or someone like that probably not.

          • Doug Shaver

            In that case, you are not giving me a reason to believe what you said about atheists not changing their minds.

          • Boris

            While you have shed your superstitions, you still think you have to believe stuff. You don't. If you're really an atheist you don't have to believe anything. You just say what is more likely, this or that? Rookie.

          • Doug Shaver

            If you're really an atheist you don't have to believe anything.

            You clearly don't understand the first thing about logic.

          • Boris

            I don't believe stuff. What is most likely. That's what I think.

  • Dave Segal

    Matt--as a Jew-turned-atheist-turned Catholic, I think your post was excellent. I would be very interested in seeing a follow up about the emotional healing that's often necessary for an atheist to accept God. I've known many people-including myself-who became atheists out of anger about their lives, emotional scars left by suffering through illness, bullying, loneliness, depression, anxiety, etc. Other emotionally related causes include being raised in a fundamentalist home, or being raised in an atheist home. I believe that, in many cases, the emotional and environmental factors outweigh the philosophical elements of atheism.

  • Justin

    Sorry for the late comment- you just now showed up on the Register's links (gratz!). As a former atheist, I need to throw in my own #9: pursuit of "Good." I always believed in a transcendent, moral Good that I could not find a satisfying secular argument for. However, I was fortunate that the Holy Spirit led me to a lot of people who were working good in Christ's name- if it hadn't been for those who fed the poor and clothed the naked in Jesus' name, I may never have found my way home (and to a very orthodox observance of the Catholic faith, btw). Finding the source of the Good most all humans recognize is compelling to conversion. Decisively *not* compelling to conversion were the people who think they're scoring points for the Lord by spelling "Muslim" with an "o", or those who screamed at and insulted us "nones." Firmly standing for ones' beliefs I always admired. But hatred without love? Not so much!

    • Lucky you fell in with a Catholic charity and not a Buddhist one, eh?

      • Justin

        I've never fallen in with a Catholic charity, I'm afraid (would be a great job for me, though!). To clarify, I was actually working for a secular agency when I started partnering with religious organizations and seeing the good they do (although I lived with two Buddhists at the time, now that I think of it), and worked closely with a Sikh and Muslim institution during that time in addition to about a dozen Protestant churches. Both of those non-Christian religions have a strong devotion to God that shows in their labors, as do Protestants; this helped me start to see "God" in Good, even though obviously I came to find revelation of His nature which differs greatly from that held by Sikhs, Muslims, or Protestants. I ceased being an atheist and converted to Catholicism while working for an evangelical charity (for which I still work).

  • Dhaniele

    The problemin dialogue with skeptics and atheists is that they (and we) get lost in
    abstract reasoning. Jesus avoided such abstractions and told the
    Pharisees: if you don't believe mywords, at least believe my works. It is up to the atheists to explain thevarious miraculous events that occur on a regular basis. Just to give oneexample of such a practical example:
    in 1968 the Virgin Mary was reported tohave appeared on top of a church at Zeitoun. Everyone could see her and eventake photographs. This went on for months. This is what the police report saidafter a thorough investigation: Report of General Information and ComplaintsDepartment, Cairo, Egypt, 1968:

    "Official investigations have been carried
    out with the result that it has been considered an undeniable fact that the
    Blessed Virgin Mary has been appearing on Zeitoun Church in a clear and bright
    luminous body seen by all present in front of the church, whether Christians or
    Moslems." These, and very many other miraculous occurrences, are simply
    ignored by the skeptics in the sense that they just brush them aside which is
    not really a rational approach at all so that they can return to their abstract
    discourses. Such events require at least a sincere admission that they have no
    alternative explanation to the theistic one. This event (at Zeitoun) can be
    found on yahoo dot com by simply putting "zeitoun Mary halo" in the
    search. Of course, every single canonization also has its miracles which the
    doctors find inexplicable while the know-it-all skeptics again shrug off their
    expertise in an irrational way. Just recently I read of this case: It is about
    a fellow who now, years after, still enjoys perfect health. Paul Walsh was
    17-years-old when the car he was driving hit a tree on Chester Pike in suburban
    Philadelphia on an icy December night in 1983. One doctor described his head
    injuries as the equivalent of dropping an egg on a cement sidewalk. Doctors at
    Crozier Chester Medical Center could not explain how he went from being in a
    vegetative state one day and the very next was able to chat in a friendly way
    with his visitors. If atheists and other skeptics are willing to discuss these
    facts, then abstract reasoning also has a role to play; otherwise, they show
    that they are simply not sincerely interested in analyzing the facts to reach a
    true conclusion. Then, talking to them is really a waste of everyone’s time and
    just playing pointless word games.

    • Doug Shaver

      It is up to the atheists to explain the various miraculous events that occur on a regular basis.

      No, we don't have to explain anything until you give us good reason to believe it actually happened.

      • Dhaniele

        If you take the trouble to read up on the events I have listed, then you can propose some reasonable explanation as the why all the experts know less than you do. Your response is the equivalent of laughing it off since you give no rational response to the evidence in the two cases I listed. Certainly if anyone accused the church of fraud in either of these cases, the accuser would lose in a court of law.

        • Doug Shaver

          If you take the trouble to read up on the events I have listed, then you can propose some reasonable explanation as the why all the experts know less than you do.

          All the experts? Are you saying that every expert in the world, without exception, agrees that these things really happened?

          Your response is the equivalent of laughing it off since you give no rational response to the evidence in the two cases I listed.

          I have not yet even attempted a response to what you are calling evidence. You can save your sneering until (a) I have actually offered an explanation or (b) I have explicitly declined to do so.

          • Dhaniele

            Dear Doug,
            You mentioned “No, we don't have to explain anything until you give us good reason to believe it actually happened.” There is plenty of evidence that these
            things occurred (see the web). For another example you can look up on the web “Ruth Cranston” a Protestant researcher who wrote “The Miracle of Lourdes.” There she
            catalogs tons of doctors’ evidence. (She did later become a Catholic after her open minded study of the events of Lourdes.) Of course, you do not have to
            explain anything if you don’t want to, but it is totally false to apparently presume, as some do, that science is on the side of the skeptics. Quite the contrary is true. I did not sneer at you, I merely pointed out the facts which
            skeptics prefer to ignore or discount (with absolutely no rational basis). Like the holocaust deniers, skeptics of the miraculous, remain unmoved by the evidence that is there for anyone who is interested in knowing the facts.

          • Doug Shaver

            You mentioned “No, we don't have to explain anything until you give us good reason to believe it actually happened.” There is plenty of evidence that these things occurred (see the web).

            Sorry, but I don't regard "It's on the Internet" as a good reason to believe anything.

            For another example you can look up on the web “Ruth Cranston” a Protestant researcher who wrote “The Miracle of Lourdes.”

            If she was a Protestant, she already believed in miracles. She only needed to be convinced that Catholics' miracle stories can also be true.

            I did not sneer at you, I merely pointed out the facts which skeptics prefer to ignore or discount (with absolutely no rational basis).

            So, not a sneer, just an insult? As easily as you can say, "No rational person can doubt that miracles happen," I can say, "No rational person can believe that they do happen."

            Or, instead of that sort of dialogue, we could each examine the logic we're using to arrive at our respective conclusions, and the assumptions to which we are applying that logic.

          • Dhaniele

            My point was that your approach is like that of the holocaust deniers. By rejecting the testimony of eye-witnesses and other forms of documentation they really isolate themselves from reality and persist in their denials. Whether this is a rational approach or not does not seem to me to be open to discussion.

          • Doug Shaver

            If you think the evidence for miracles at Lourdes is comparable to the evidence for the Holocaust, then you and I aren't talking about the same thing when we're talking about evidence.

          • Dhaniele

            if you do not think that the official miracles of Lourdes such as those mentioned by Ruth Cranston are not just as factual as the holocaust, you have not done your homework. In any criminal trial, witnesses are part of the trial, but you do not needs hundreds or millions to establish the truth. The qualified atheist, Jewish, agnostic doctors who say that science has no explanation for such immediate cures are qualified witnesses. Then, too, Zeitoun was witnessed by tens of thousands, including the police, and probably a hundred thousand witnesses since it lasted many months. There are even photographs. What more could you reasonably ask for as proof, using the same criteria as in any criminal trial?

          • Doug Shaver

            What more could you reasonably ask for as proof, using the same criteria as in any criminal trial?

            History is not a criminal trial. There are different criteria.

          • Dhaniele

            The point is that there are living eyewitnesses and documentation.

          • Doug Shaver

            There is testimony to be accounted for.

    • I looked up the Zeitoun one. It sounds like a story that grew massively in the telling, to me. Though I can't be sure, I wasn't there. Lights reflecting off something? A hoax done by a lady in a shawl walking on the roof? I don't know. Sounds kind of like the people who say they've seen alien spaceships to me.

  • Boris

    All the evidence for this supposed resurrection is in the story itself. All the witnesses are all part of the SAME STORY. So this guy's argument is as if he is trying to prove the existence of Superman by citing the testimonies of Perry White, Lois lane and Jimmy Olson. One gigantic fail Matt Nelson.

  • Ray W.

    Is atheism not vulnerable, untenable, and indefensible? Given
    that before one can say with reasoned confidence [logical certainty] that
    "there is no G-d", in order to "know" the truth of such a
    statement, the atheist first must know everything there is to know in and about
    the universe – all knowledge without reservation. Then, gaining all possible
    knowledge, stepping outside her/ his frame of reference, she/ he can then say
    with a level of direct observational certainty that "there is no
    G-d".

    ~~ Yet here remains unsolved an immense problem. Until an
    atheist can establish her/ his claim to know all that exists in the universe,
    all possible knowledge -- and surely this includes any possible supernatural
    (or other) realm of being, which cannot by definition be known directly by
    empirical observation -- such a statement as "there is no G-d"
    continues to be meaningless.

    ~~ And who thoughtfully could trust a human being who
    claimed to know everything [though by definition G-d is a person who knows
    everything]. So, at a deep level of irony, the atheist – by claiming to know
    everything -- is claiming in fact to be G-d. And if G-d doesn’t exist, where
    dose that leave the atheist?

    • Manny Panning

      I can say with logical certainty that no empirical, objective evidence for any god, let alone one minor, Bronze Age Middle Eastern deity has ever been presented.

      Ever.

      That is a good enough basis for atheism.

      • Ray W.

        As far as I know, you are correct, entirely. You've got it right -- you're open, intelligent, and thoughtful.
        ~~ I'll keep you in my daily prayers, for what that might be worth.

    • Mike De Fleuriot

      I have looked around my room and found no god, therefore god does not exist.

      If you have a problem with this, then please point me in a direction that I can look to find a god. A word of warning though, I have also looked in lots of other places and have not found a god there either.

      Or to put it another way, everything that I have come across in my life, I have found a purely natural reason for it's existence. I have never yet experience anything that requires a supernatural reason for it's maintenance or creation. Again, if you disagree with this, then please show me something that needs a god to either or make or maintain it.

      And lastly, you will note that I do not name the god I am talking about, because a god would have to exist before it could be named or it's demands and needs addressed. Theists, don't do this, it's cheating.

      • Ray W.

        Was it Peter Kreeft, a convert from Calvinism to Catholicism, who explains this common dilemma. He suggests that "Those who seek, find." Kreeft explains it this way -- and I hope I'm being fair to his observations -- If G-d gave us overwhelming proof of His existence, this would violate our free will, since no one could resist total obvious proof. If G-d gave us insufficient evidence for Hiss existence, we would never find Him. So, instead, He gives us "enough" and sufficient" demonstrations of His existence, so those who search will find, and those who wish to ignore a supernatural dimension, can explain away what they see as attributed to totally natural causes.

        ~~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO2NGGmWBQo

        • If G-d gave us overwhelming proof of His existence, this would violate our free will, since no one could resist total obvious proof.

          The Christian Bible claims that during the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites literally saw God. He walked before them in a pillar of cloud and fire. He magicallly provided mana to eat, and quail and water upon occasion. He spoke face to face with their leader, and provided incredible, undeniable proof that he was backing this leader.

          In spite of this, the Bible claims the Israelites decided to worship a golden calf, while they were literally camped in the shadow of the mountain that had God on top of it. They complained against God. Korah tried to rebel against Moses. Even Aaron and Miriam spoke words of rebellion against Moses. In spite of overwhelming, obvious proof of God, people still exercised their free will to follow God or not.

          I don't understand why "belief without evidence" is a virtue.

          Who would you respect more, a traffic cop who clearly posted the speed limit, or a traffic cop who expected you to just 'know' what the speed limit was by talking to other drivers about it?

      • Ray W.

        If in the searching for G-d a fault exists, one can begin with the definition of G-d.
        ~~ Next, one might ask: "How wise is it to presuppose that our five senses are capable of ascertaining all knowledge, all possible states of existence? I mean, animals and bugs have senses we humans lack, entirely.
        ~~ Take the acute night vision of cats or the smell of dogs, or the ultraviolet sight of bees that allows them to find nectar sources in a daisy we see as yellow, but they see as white with dark purple markings leading them to the pollen source, or the bio-sensors in sharks that allow them bio-electrically to locate hiding and well camouflaged prey?
        ~~ GOOGLE!: "The ampullae of Lorenzini are special sensing organs called electroreceptors, forming a network of jelly-filled pores. They are mostly discussed as being found in cartilaginous fish (sharks, rays, and chimaeras); however, they are also reported to be found in Chondrostei such as reedfish and sturgeon."
        ~~ Give G-d a chance.
        ~~ You might find Pascal's wager of some interest. GOOGLE! it.

        • Mike De Fleuriot

          Lol, You think an atheist would not understand what Blaize's Bet is about?

          Okay, as I said define your god and then I will go and look for that, but you can not even do that, hell you are even afraid to spell God properly. I bet you spell that F word without the U. Do you really think you are showing respect or hiding the fact you are saying the name of your god? Childlike.

          Yes, animals have sense we lack, but NONE of them are magical or supernatural. So your statement is irrelevant, even if you thought it was clever and scored a point, it did not.

          • Ray W.

            You say: Lol, You think an atheist would not understand what Blaize's Bet is about?
            ~~ Are you speaking for ALL atheists? Are you suggesting that ALL atheists are dumber than YOU?

          • Mike De Fleuriot

            Yup, expected ad hom. Spoke like a true theist.

            Of course you have yet to answer any of the questions that I have put to this forum. Mainly because you have no answer to them. And I guess that you realise this lack within you.

          • Ray W.

            There is a certain gratuitous combative impoliteness in your eagerness to attack rather than to discuss. This youthful tone (you're likely between 17 and 22) reminds me of Mark Twain, who observed that when he was 16 he began to realize how ignorant and dumb his father was. He could see it clearly. But by the time he turned 18, just two years later, he was amazed to see just how much his father had learned.
            ~~ Would it offend you were I to recommend a course in English Grammar and Composition. Specifically, the correct grammatical form is "Spoken like a true theist".
            ~~ Now I'll give YOU the last word and wish you well, knowing in my faith-based confidence that one day -- in the distant future, I hope, or possibly tomorrow, your question will be answered definitively. Then you will know for certain whether there is a G-d.

          • Mike De Fleuriot

            Totally clueless, If there is a God, I will still come out winning. And you have no idea why I would say this. But quite a few atheists know exactly what I mean by this.

          • Pascals Wager is actually one of the most commonly encountered arguments about god. No googling needed.

            There is a certain gratuitous combative impoliteness in your eagerness
            to attack rather than to discuss. This youthful tone (you're likely
            between 17 and 22)

            Did you really accuse somebody of being combative and impolite while at the SAME TIME dismissing them as "likely too young" to have any common sense? Right after calling them stupid?

          • Ray W.

            Try not to be offended until after you have read and digested what was actually said.
            ~~ I never dismissed you as (your quote, not mine) "likely too young". Also, the notion that the young might lack common sense is YOUR spin, and appears nowhere in my words.
            ~~ Words are important, as any lawyer can testify, and they mean what they say, not necessarily what we THINK they say or what we might WANT them to say.
            ~~ If you approach what I wrote with a possible chip on your shoulder or with a rebellious attitude, then there is always a chance you might misinterpret and miss the point altogether. That often screws-up communication.
            ~~ As a college teacher since 1961, I have learned to have and share deep respect for my students. I'm always ready to learn: A couple days ago I read in an Internet blog -"Knowledge speaks; wisdom listens". That's rather nice, don't you think?

          • You say 'Don't be offended...I always respect my students and are willing to learn'... Two days ago you speculated that somebody was young and then quote Mark Twain, "who observed that when he was 16 he began to realize how ignorant and dumb his father was. He could see it clearly. But by the time he turned 18, just two years later, he was amazed to see just how much his father had learned."

          • Ray W.

            Yes, I'm willing to learn. So, what is it that you want to teach me? I'm listening.
            ~~ In his famous observation that I quoted from memory, Mark Twain was reflecting on one of the truisms of human nature -- specifically, how, when we are young (myself included here), we believe, we are quite certain, that we "know it all'. And yet, as we grow a bit older and, hopefully, more mature, we should begin to see something of the wisdom imbedded in what our parents, uncles and aunts, teachers, counselors, and well-intended others have spoken.
            ~~ Do you agree with the old saying: "Knowledge talks; wisdom listens?
            ~~ In your own case, do you mostly "talk", or do you mostly "listen"?

        • Why would a god who wanted to interact/communicate with us make us lacking the sense we would need to do so?

          • Ray W.

            You might already be familiar with the Catholic perspective and understanding on this point: As I was taught and today understand the teaching Church, God made humanity in His image. Of course, this does not mean, for example, that He has human sexual organs, but in the supernatural realm [the realm of the soul] He gave each human person a free will.
            ~~ This means that we are free to believe anything we choose, but to help us choose well -- good over evil -- we have two faculties of the soul -- and INTELLECT (to help us know the TRUTH) and a CONSCIENCE to help inform our FREE WILL, thus allowing us to choose truth over falsehood, and good over evil.
            ~~ Of course, since we are free, there is no guarantee that we will always choose good over evil. Choosing is often a struggle; and so often we choose OUR will over what G-d might wish us to choose, always a far better way.
            ~~ But like kids, even as adults we want what WE want -- e.g., wine, women, and song -- over what G-d knows is best for us. In almost every case, every choice, we do not see G-d at work. That sense comes only with G-d's free gift of faith. We may accept and direct our choices accordingly, or ignore the urge to do what is right (good). So, I was merely making the point that I believe God gives us "just enough" evidence for His existence such that those who seek, find; those who never seek, never find.

          • That's a nice summary of Catholic thinking on free will and sin, but that's not what I asked you. You said God loves us and wants us to love him, and created us to be in a relationship with him, but then likened us to creatures that lack the sense organs to be aware of the thing we're supposed to have a relationship with. I don't see how that furthers God's goals or makes the world a better place.

          • Ray W.

            Well, you really are an intense, serious, and determined person. Smart, too.

            ~~ I'm unsure how to reply here. I'm no Yoda, and I would hope to avoid simple sterile-sounding textbook answers.

            ~~ At this point, in order to expand the discussion meaningfully, would require a broader story -- an account of Paradise, the first humans who initially walked with G-d in the cool of the evening through the Garden, the test which forbade eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the temptation by Satan (disguised in the account as a snake [recall St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland], and the Fall that brought a number of tragic consequences to humanity through Original Sin.

            ~~ I don't think I'm up to all that, when far better sources are bound to be available. One starter might be the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), but referencing a book is too easy, plus doing so strikes me as a clear admission of my time and age-related limits (at 73) -- old fingers, slow brain, iffy bowels.

            ~~ Anyway, in the remote possibility that your open-minded curiosity might derive some informative answers from a less personal resource [such as a book], I would offer the Catechism. It's daunting, monumental, yet quite well done -- though I can only wonder whether you will find it helpful.

            ~~ This is the Vatican's site, so one can hardly get more "Catholic" than that --

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM
            Thank you for your pointed intelligent questions. --Ray.

          • I have no doubt that the Catholic Church has a good, very deeply thought-out answer to this question. I just suspect that, like so many other Christian answers to tough questions, if I took the time to read it I would just find hundreds of words that essentially say nothing. Call me closed-minded, but I really doubt there's any good reason why a person who wants a relationship with you would hide from you.

            I do recall the account of St. Patrick and the snakes in Ireland. I also recall historians and biologists saying there were never any snakes in Ireland. I also think it's interesting that the book of Genesis never once says that the Serpant was Satan. It only says "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made," as if that were the reason why a serpant would be talking to people. If you weren't familiar with Christianity and read Genesis, you would assume it was a folk tale, like the Aesop's Fables where humans and lions, wolves, and hares all converse together.

          • Ray W.

            Ah, [your phrase] “hundreds of words that
            essentially say nothing.”

            As to this decision whether “words . . . say nothing” or “something” (? have meaning) – might we together consider the famous Supreme Court phrase “shouting
            ‘FIRE!’ in a crowded movie theater”?

            [Now I must admit right away, I’m not a very clever fellow
            at 73. I’m certainly no philosopher, and I’m not certain where I might end up with this example], but let me ask you how you might consider that one word – ‘FIRE!’,
            were you in a crowded movie theater?

            I’m quite certain that hearing such a word would, at the
            very least, capture my attention. I know nothing about the “reality” of the situation, who it was that shouted the word, or whether they were reliable [trustworthy],
            or might just be playing a joke.

            Another question might be, Do I want to take a chance – risk my life/ place my life in the hands of – an unknown person and respond to such a word as authentic? What if it IS just a trick? But what if it is NOT? Am I comfortable with and can I afford to risk my life over an $8 movie ticket?

            How wise would it be to place my trust in the way the other people sitting around me acted? Are they jumping up and storming to the nearest EXIT? Is there a clear panic, or are most laughing and remaining seated while enjoying their popcorn and sodas?

            What if they, like me, are taking THEIR cue from the other
            theater goers sitting around them? What do they know -- or not know -- about the situation? Is it likely that they are in a better position to know more than I do? How trustworthy is the crowd, the mob, after all? Just because the majority of people remain in their seats tells me nothing about the possibility of an actual fire. So, is it wise to take my cue from their behavior? I‘ve heard that the majority can be “in denial” or “lulled to sleep”, as it were, by something called a sense of false security, or group think, or following some unknown leader when that leader might be quite mad, a hopeless narcissist, say, seeking attention.

            And do I have time to waste trying to figure out the truth
            of the situation before, say, a bomb ignites? Should I not think for myself, and consider running like hell for a likely nearby escape route?

            Here-in might be part of the nut, the core, of this dilemma
            regarding what Catholics think. It’s a game of “Who do you trust?” Is the source reliable? How does one "Know” [The essential epistemological question: How do we know what we know? Or, as I prefer to phrase it, How do we know what we THINK we know?]

            For Catholics, the source is God. Is He to be trusted?
            Perhaps we can never know that with the level of certainty we ascribe to scientific knowledge, but by definition, faith is [St. Paul]

            [The Vatican site for the Catechism of the Catholic Church
            to which you earlier, if indirectly, alluded –

            Either way, I must take the word on faith, even as I take
            the Word on faith. I must decide for myself. Is the person who shouted ‘FIRE!” reliable and trustworthy – that is, worthy of belief?

            One form of faith can be blind and rather foolish – (?)
            trusting a used car salesman or a Harvard attorney. On the other hand, a trustworthy faith can be rational, well reasoned, and based on logical assumptions about the nature of reality – (?) a medical doctor’s expert diagnosis.
            I suppose in the end, it boils down to a game of “Who do you trust?” How trustworthy is the source asking us to believe. For Catholics, the ultimate eminently
            trustworthy source of authority, by definition, is God.

            Peter Kreeft, a catholic convert from Calvinism and philosophy professor at Boston College asks why God remains hidden [I’m paraphrasing here from his conversion story recorded on a YouTube video at –

            Yet another resource that includes a number of aspects
            related to this question of faith comes from an unexpected source, an article, “I’m a Muslim But Here’s Why I Admire the Catholic Church” by by Tamer Nashef –

            To know the truth, in this case Truth, a Catholic would say, we must ask God to give us the grace to seek the Truth. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. In fact, the initial act of our asking God for the grace to pursue and find the Truth itself requires grace. In the end, this total dependency upon God for everything that is good requires His free gift of grace. The dying words of St. Teresa of Jesus of Avila, a 17th century nun and one of my favorite heroes, would sum up the Catholic view – “Everything is grace!” We can only acknowledge this decision of God – to remain hidden -- as a mystery. Contrary to one popular bias, not even the Catholic Church never claims to know all aspects of the Mind of God -- a ridiculous presumption. To understand God’s inner Trinitarian nature remains forever hidden. One would have to be God to understand God completely. His mind is described as infinite [in+finis = without limits, borders, boundaries], whereas our human mind is finite [restricted, limited, ringed with limits or boundaries]. We understand, for example, the we are pretty smart, yet we also recognize far smarter minds that can comprehend and explain things quite beyond our personal limits. I think I’m fairly effective at teaching basic general humanities courses, but higher algebra, or trig, or calc – Forget it! I don’t even come close. Then there’s the case of Einstein, said to be a genius as one primary example. And still, we can imagine a man even smarter than Einstein, just as
            Einstein saw further than, say, Newton. Even so, both Newton’s and Einstein’s were still human minds. Now try to imagine an omniscient [to know everything knowable] Mind, one utterly simple and infinite. Such a mind is attributed to the Divine Nature. There is no way a finite mind can ever, ever grasp, comprehend, know, and envision the content of a Mind that has no limits. What we know of God’s nature – His Trinitarian internal life, for example – is revealed. No human mind could EVER have conceived of three totally distinct Persons in a single nature that is God. Our limitations as creatures allow us to know WHAT this mystery is, but we can never know HOW it is possible or what it means. Only God Himself can ever know His own infinite internal divine Nature. This is one
            example of what is termed a supernatural mystery.

            We have a choice to say, I am sufficient and need nothing
            beyond myself to explain reality (pride), or we can admit that we have limits and those limitations will never allow us to know everything there is to know – a most humble admission made by all serious and valid science. If science “knew it all,” it would at once stop searching!

            Of course, there is that oft cited remark [poorly quoted
            from memory] – For one who does not believe, no amount of proof will ever suffice; for one who has received the grace of faith and believes and trusts in God, no proof
            is needed.

            For His own reasons it seems, God has chosen to remain
            hidden [though not distant]. He wants us to make an effort of our will to seek Him – “Seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened”. Still, He will not force Himself on us. He’s already given us all we need to find Him and in
            that, He’s made the first move. Are we willing, do we care enough, to rise up off our back pockets and begin our search?

            In conclusion, Peter Kreeft (cited above) has placed three
            possibilities before us regarding our knowing God: 1) That God would give us knowledge that He exists in such explicit and unambiguous terms, that we would have no choice BUT to believe in His existence [a move that violates our freedom to choose]; or 2) That God would give us so little knowledge of His existence that we could NEVER find Him; or 3) He could give us just enough
            evidence, such that those who seek will find, and those who don’t want to be bothered to seek will never find Him. Some effort on our part is required. A vast treasure of jewels and gold lies hidden, but there are clues designed to help us find it, well, for those who put down the channel selector, set that beer can aside, and get up off their
            arse to make the effort.

            While this is only a shabby short effort, I hope some of this is helpful.

          • Thank you for this handy demonstration of exactly what I mean by "hundreds of words that ultimately mean nothing".

            I had several things to say to you, which I ultimately deleted as I don't want to be insulting. That wasn't my point in coming here. My point about words saying something--I was drawing the difference between a long, well thought-out argument that seems logical to the casual observer, and an argument that is actually true.

            If one shouts "Fire" in a crowded theater, it's easy to verify whether or not the speaker was telling the truth. That's not what we're discussing. Instead we're talking about the lawyer afterwards who quibbles about what the definition of "is" is to explain why shouting "fire" really was necessary, or why there really was a "fire" there when nobody saw it.

            I do think you had a moment of wisdom, followed by a moment of blindness, when you said,

            How do we know what we THINK we know?]

            For Catholics, the source is God. Is He to be trusted?

            How do we know what we know is an excellent question. But you've made a mistake in saying "The source is God. Is he to be trusted?" The question is not "Can God be trusted?" but rather, "Can I trust the person who told me 'This is what God says'?" In other words, the source is not God. The source is what ancient books, traditions, and priests have told you about God. Figure out if you can trust them--unless God has personally, verbally spoken to you.

          • Ray W.

            Thank you for taking time to be rational and helpful. Your explanation makes sense, and pointing out my failure to stay on point by entangling myself and failing to remain at the level of discussion you initially intended. I'm clearly no match for your sharp mind.

          • Ray W.

            YOU SAY: "unless God has personally, verbally spoken to you."

            At Florida State University back in c. 1978-89, we students would cross campus from our dorm to the Strozier Library on our way to some classroom. I had a part-time job shelving books in the Law College Library. Daily, I walked across campus and through the student commons area. That route included the bookstore, bars/ cafés, student government offices, etc.

            Occasionally, over the years, the same young preacher would be standing atop a concrete bench, Bible in hand, shouting to anyone who would stop and listen. One day, a young fraternity-looking guy (Ralph Lauren to the hilt) shouted, "How do you know any of this shit is true?!" [Laughter from the gathering crowd].

            + The itinerant preacher replied, "Because Jesus told me to preach."

            ~ "Oh, yea? So, where did you meet Jesus?"

            + "At a Burger King. I walked in and there he was sitting in a booth. When I walked in, he stood up and beckoned to me with his hand -- 'Come!, he said'

            ~ "How did you know it was Jesus?"

            + "He was wearing long robes and had long hair and a beard."

            Well, the laughter lasted several minutes as students shook their heads and disbursed.

            In part, I guess my point would be this, either Jesus DID appear to this guy or he didn't.

            Which is more likely?

            Without several witnesses, belief would be really tough.

            In a similar way, Jesus is reported to have appeared to his apostles after the Resurrection. At the time, Thomas was missing. When the others told Thomas they had seen Jesus risen from death, Thomas said -- "Unless I see the marks in his hands and feet and put my hand into the wound in his side, I will not believe."

            [Are you a little like Doubting Thomas? Thomas must have been from Missouri, the "Show Me" state].

            It was not until the following Sunday that Jesus again appeared to his Apostles. This time Thomas was with them, according to the account. In that second occurrence, Thomas confessed his belief, because he had seen.

            In life, there are many things we never see, yet accept willingly on faith -- 1) that we have some 27' of intestines; 2) that our parents love us (demonstrated through how they treat us), 3) that gas pumps are honest (because a state agency verifies such things).

            I'll not bother you again, but I ask one question -- Are you saying that unless and until God appears to you personally, you cannot believe? And if he were to appear to you, how would you know you weren't going mad?

            How about UFO encounters reported by perfectly rational, serious, mature, otherwise dependable people, state officials, trained professional military personnel, scientists, and doctors?

            I put this example, because this is your standard for belief, remember? -- YOU SAY: "unless God has personally, verbally spoken to you."

            Are you a "Doubting Thomas" about everything in your life? Is there nothing you take based "on a rational reasonable faith"?

            How do I know that I am writing to a human being and not a super-intelligent robot? Or, maybe you're my Guardian Angel in disguise.

            Anyway, at minimum, you provoked me to do some thinking, which I appreciate. Thanks and Good Luck.

          • Thanks. I'm glad we've been getting each other to think about this. I have always liked the story of Doubting Thomas because it points out the difference between faith in the Bible and faith today. In the Bible, Thomas said, "Show me, and then I will believe," and Jesus did it. If Jesus in the Bible worked like Jesus today, Thomas would have said, "Show me," and Jesus would have kept appearing to the other disciples but NOT Thomas because of Thomas's unbelief. I'd invite you to read this parable about Thomas if you're interested.

            In life, there are many things we never see, yet accept willingly on faith -- 1) that we have some 27' of intestines; 2) that our parents love us (demonstrated through how they treat us), 3) that gas pumps are honest (because a state agency verifies such things).

            You say these things, but you give an explanation for them all as to why I believe them. I believe my parents love me because they demonstrate it by how they treat us. I believe gas pumps are honest because a state agency verifies such things, and because I can test them myself if I choose. I believe I have some 27' of intestines because doctors have studied cadavers and actually measured the things.

            What reason do I have to believe that God wrote the Bible? Someone told someone that someone had told them it was true? The Bible promises miracles that don't occur. The Bible gives rules for life that are questionable at best. I don't think the evidence supporting the Bible is anywhere as strong as supporting those other things--the evidence is more akin to that supporting the Koran, or the Book of Mormon.

            I've always been told that Jesus wants to have a "personal relationship" with us. Was I misinformed? Can one really have a personal relationship with someone who does not talk back?

            I can't prove to you that I'm not a computer, or an angel. I would only appeal to your past experience or non-experience with such things to suggest how likely either possibility is. At any rate, I hope I've given you evidence that I'm intelligent, not just randomly stringing words together. Thanks for responding, and for being willing to listen.

          • Ray W.

            An Observation:

            YOU SAY -- "I believe I have some 27' of intestines because doctors have studied cadavers and actually measured the things."

            You're citing a generalization, a statistic here. Notice, you're using MY measurement, and I'm a stranger. Unwittingly, you have trusted my measure. Have you ever seen, directly, or personally measured YOUR own wonderfully-contrived intestines? No. Your body could represent a biological anomaly. Conceivably, you have only 25' of intestines, or 32', or 3'. Why did you accept my measure? Did you unconsciously feel, believe I might be trustworthy in this detail? And without knowing me, personally? Based on "faith"?

            ~~ You trust that you have the normal length and distribution of internal organs, that's all you can say at this point, but you do not KNOW this for a fact.
            ~~ You're basing your knowledge on what somebody else said. And you even say "doctors" in the plural as if that were sufficient proof -- without giving names.
            ~~ Are these "doctors" you know personally? Are their words trustworthy? How do you know? Who are they specifically? Maybe they're five drunk grad students who cooperated in writing and happened to get published in a minor journal article.
            ~~ Which "doctors"? As a doubting man [which I admire deeply], and a smart man/woman {just in case], why would you ever trust an unidentified collective labeled "doctors"? Or for that matter, my statement of "27'"?

            ~~ In the end, the question of God's existence seems always to come down to a question of trust, credibility, faith. For example, how do you define, what do you mean by, a "personal relationship"? For instance, must such a relationship be on your terms or on God's? In a parallel notion, the Greeks, as you probably already know, had some four different words for a friendship. What kind of a relationship are you intending? What kind of "relationship" would convince you that a God existed? What exactly would be minimally required for you to believe? What? Minimally?

          • Michael Murray

            Have you ever seen, directly, or personally measured YOUR own wonderfully-contrived intestines?

            Might have had a capsule endoscopy.

          • Ray W.

            Ah, can we ever know with absolute certainty that the scientific instrument is reliable? Capsule endoscopy -- humm. You realize, of course, that you [and I] have NEVER SEEN OURSELVES DIRECTLY [we have no idea what we really look like] -- not even in a mirror. Now, that in itself is a pretty shaky start, if you ask me. Here, I'm referring to the enormously complex mechanism of vision, which relies upon a cascading series of bit/ N-bit (nobita) electrical impulses that eventually [we presume] -- after being many times highly filtered and abstracted -- [apparently] reach the brain. And by the time our image is reflected split-second from the mirror back into our eyes, our relative position and movement have already changed, and we do not look like we would have a micro-second ago.

            If I'm off here, please correct me.

            http://www.chemistry.wustl.edu/~edudev/LabTutorials/Vision/Vision.html

            http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/bit-binary-digit

            ~~ No, never seen an inch, much less some 27 feet. But I am willing to accept reputable medical science's textbook explanation, I trust a concerted "best effort" made to learn about the world and some of the truths it contains. Others, however, might require more stringent "proof", although what passes for "proof" -- even in science -- is merely evidence. Ultimately, it appears, we must make a choice -- to remain or to evacuate that movie theater after hearing some unknown person of unknown credibility shout "FIRE!" Others, I cannot speak for. They might, for their own good reasons, demand empirical evidence for so many things that I might not.

            ~~ Hello, Michael. Perhaps I'm just too weak minded to expect the evidence others might demand. I simply don't require direct first-hand evidence of many things. I haven't the time. Am I a fool for being somewhat trusting? Possibly.

            ~~ My intention is merely to try and point out what is too obvious to us all, surely, namely, that there is MUCH we take for granted, much we cannot possibly verify directly each time we turn on a light switch and expect it to work -- even if we are, say, a genius electrician. I've other more important things in my life, just trying to live day-to-day than doubting everything I cannot verify empirically moment to moment..

            ~~ "Mommy, I don't feel so good. I got a tummy ache". [I used that excuse on occasion when a kittle kid, and it always worked. Although in my case my loving Mother -- being an R.N. and teaching at a school of nursing -- probably knew I was faking it. [And over time, as I grew older 26, 28, and got to know her better, I think I knew that all along she knew.]

          • You've kind of over-taxed your "intestines" example. I think the longer you do that, the less well the metaphor holds up. If it's really that important to you...then yes. You got me. I trusted the number supplied by a stranger that you easily could have made up. I confess the question of how big my intestines are just isn't important enough for me to expend any energy really finding 'proof'.

            Now, if you were trying to sell me a health device that would only work if my intestines were exactly 7 meters, I might want a better number than the random one supplied by someone I don't know on the internet. If I were about to do a procedure on somebody's intestines, I would definitely seek out more reliable information. If you told me that I could live forever in eternal happiness, but ONLY if I believed in the correct intestine length, I'd become a doctor and study cadavers myself.

            More important claims require more evidence, because their acceptance or rejection has more consequence. But all this is irrelevant, isn't it? Your examples 2) that our parents love us (demonstrated through how they treat us), 3) that gas pumps are honest (because a state agency verifies such things) are much more apt as metaphors for this discussion, and I've already explained why my "faith" on those matters is anything but blind.

            You haven't told me whether or not I should expect a "personal relationship" with God. To some Christians, such a relationship is how you know you're a true Christian, and not just a rules-pharisee. Some people even say, "It's not a religion, it's a relationship." But you don't tell me what you think, so I can't know if I'm strawmanning you or not.

            Because words have meanings. If you have a "relationship" with a person, it requires some things. It requires a give and take. Back and forth. Communication between the two parties. Mutual understanding and compromise. Both parties usually end up changing in response to the other. You can't just take away everything about a relationship that makes it a "relationship" and then use the excuse that it's on God's terms, not your own terms.

            A "relationship" where one person does all the talking, and the other person completely ignores you, is not a relationship.

          • Ray W.

            YOU SAY: "I confess the question of how big my intestines are just isn't important enough for me to expend any energy really finding 'proof'."
            ~~ This is my own position -- EXACTLY! EXACTLY!!
            ~~ I agree with almost everything you say in this post. I do not have the key that will unlock a relationship with the divine for anyone but myself. My Family life (I'm single and never married, so if you were married, you would have a deep reservoir of life experience to draw upon, one not available to me at 73 on July 5th -- one day late?.)
            ~~ You would make a good friend, because you permit your humanity to shine through your remarks. You are sincere, so far as I can discern, and devoted to Truth (in the absolute abstract.
            ~ Because you are already pursuing a steady course, I no longer need to write to you anymore, so it seems to me.
            ~~ Good luck! And, if it wouldn't offend you, God bless your every undertaking and continue to provide you with the graces needed to seek and find the source and foundation of Ultimate Concern, the Only Necessary Reality.

    • Ahh, the old Josh McDowell argument. I read this in Answers to Tough Questions. You can't possibly know you are right unless you claim to be omnipotent; therefore, *I* am right.

      • Ray W.

        Perhaps, you will tell me about Josh McDowell. +++ What I had in mind was Gödel's theorem -- One ref.: "Holy Logic: Computer Scientists 'Prove' God Exists" By David Knight --

        http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/scientists-use-computer-to-mathematically-prove-goedel-god-theorem-a-928668.html

        • You said an atheist can't really be an atheist without claiming to know everything (which isn't true, btw). The link you sent me said nothing on that subject. Instead, it was an article about the ontological argument -- "God is that for which no greater can be conceived".

          • Ray W.

            Please, note my language.
            ~~ I don't think I said, as you quote me -- "an atheist can't really be an atheist without claiming to know everything". Rather, I said, or intended to say, or said poorly,that an atheist can't really be an atheist without KNOWING everything (without knowing all that there is to know, all possible knowledge, everywhere).
            ~~ Now, I'm no expert on Gödel, but I understand this to be what he was saying (however poorly stated, and maybe you can help me here) -- Before one can ever claim to know everything (all that it is possible to know, all conceivable knowledge), one must somehow escape from all the confines and limitations that imprison his capacity to know, to escape or get outside of and beyond his/her basic nature.
            ~~ Now, who could ever do this?
            ~~ All human science combined is daily still discovering vast stores of knowledge we didn't know yesterday, and, presumably, with so much more remaining to learn and know. So, how could any human -- ever -- claim to know everything, when we are confined to and limited by our very nature as creatures, our particular five available senses.
            ~~ Is there any possible way to "escape" our nature and learn things we might otherwise never be capable of knowing?
            ~~ The Catholic Church teaches -- "Yes!" Through the gift of faith in things G-d has chosen to reveal -- divine Revelation.
            ~~ One central Reality G-d has chosen to reveal concerns His internal Trinitarian nature. For Christianity, this is, perhaps, the single greatest of these revelations: That He exists as three totally independent individual separate persons who share the same substance or nature. The Church teaches that we can know WHAT this supernatural mystery IS, its reality, thanks to G-d's sharing it with us, but we can never know HOW this is possible, either in this life or in the next.
            ~~ Why?
            ~~ Because to understand HOW the nature of the Blessed Trinity is possible, one must have infinite knowledge -- "infinite = without limit, with no boundaries or borders. And only G-d has infinite knowledge -- He's outside of and beyond all the physical universe, supremely and totally Other.
            ~~ As humans, we are limited "finite" beings -- we have a beginning and we have an end.
            ~~ And so far as I know, human being gather ordinary knowledge empirically -- by means of the five physical senses in combination (aka "common sense" -- the five senses working together).
            ~~ Did my effort tend somewhat to clarify, or merely confuse?

          • This has nothing to do with the Trinity. I'm willing to accept that if there's an omipotent, omniscient, all-loving being out there who created the universe just by speaking, he might be more complicated than we can understand, and "three persons in one" might be the best way he has of explaining himself. The Doctor is at least twelve persons in one, so it's not as if we can't concieve of such a thing.

            I don't think I said, as you quote me -- "an atheist can't really be an atheist without claiming to know everything". Rather, I said, or intended to say, or said poorly,that an atheist can't really be an atheist without KNOWING everything (without knowing all that there is to know, all possible knowledge, everywhere).

            You say I can't be an athiest without knowing everything. I'm an atheist. Therefore when I claim "I'm an atheist", I am claiming that I know everything, according to you.

            This is preposterous. One doesn't have to know everything to know certain propositions are true or false with reasonable certainty. I don't have to lead an expedition to the North Pole myself to conclude that Santa Claus doesn't really live there, and I don't have to spend years in Ireland doing research to conclude leprechauns aren't real.

            Could there be a god somewhere in the universe? Of course. I have no data that could prove or disprove that statement. But that's not what Christians are about. They say there is a god who came here, who interacted with people here, who continues to interact with us and expects certain things from us. We don't have to have knowledge of everything. We only have to have knowledge of the claims of Christianity, and investigate those claims.

            When I say "I don't believe in this god", I'm not saying I've proven to myself, beyond any sliver of doubt, that there's not god anywhere in the universe. I am saying that the claims of THIS religion about THIS particular god are not founded, based on my experience. Because belief in THIS particular god lends itself to certain experience that we WOULD be able to know.

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    Talk about woo, the author is a Chiropractic as well as being a theist.

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    Most atheists that I have come across, hold one common view and that is that there is no evidence for the existence of gods. And because of this fact, everything else claimed for the gods of the theists is invalid, irrelevant and unfounded. Until anyone can show that gods can actually exist, what is claimed in their names has to be rejected as unsupported.

    Imagine if you will, I was promoting the wisdom of Peter Parker, aka Spiderman, I would have to show that human/spider mutations are possible before I could expect you to take my claims about what Spidery has to say. Theist always want to give this step a pass, and I think we all know why they want to do this.

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    //1. Good literature and reasonable writing.
    and in many cases the evidence comes to the atheist most coherently and well-presented through the writings of believers in God.//

    Not really, ask any atheist and most of them will tell you that the writings of the theists helped greatly in keeping them atheist, or even leading them to atheism. Theist writings on religion are basically a collection of logical fallacies bound together with faith.

    //2. "Experimentation" with prayer and the word of God.//

    Nothing fails like prayer. Even prayer that follows the detailed correct instructions from the manual. For example:

    Dear God, almighty, all-powerful, all-loving creator of the universe, we pray to you to cure every case of cancer on this planet tonight. We pray in faith, knowing you will bless us as you describe in Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

    If you read the verses in the above paragraph, you will find that saying that prayer in the way those verses talk about will make it impossible for the god of the Bible to not grant the prayer exactly as asked.

    And millions of people thought the ages have asked this and similar prayers all of which got the same result. Nothing happened.

    // 3. Historical study of the Gospels.//

    If you are going to honestly study the Gospels, take all them and read them side by side, noting the difference in the narrative. How can the word of God say different things about the same events. And are the Gospels the best method a God worthy of worship could come up with, even at the time and place in history. Consider yourself to be a God, how would YOU make sure your word was to survive unaltered thought out history and be able to be understood by every human past, present and future? Would you use the same method as the Christian God did?

  • Manny Panning

    Oh boy....where to start.....

    1) Honest atheists follow the evidence.

    Sooo,....... the evidence for God, specifically YOUR God is.......(no cheating, no. No logical fallacies or subjective claims).......

    2) Experimentation is not just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. Experimentation is predicting a specific outcome, then testing the claim to achieve the specific outcome.

    For example, the best test of prayer would be to pray for something beneficial, but absolutely selfless, statistically improbable (as close to impossible as possible without crossing the threshold), then praying for it.

    So, the atheist prays for an immediate end to the drought in California in such a manner that the soil and aquifers can absorb the water without catastrophic consequences.

    If the event occurs, prayer is supported, and the claim is tested again.

    That's basic experimentation. The experiment has been done, and apparently God is more concerned with lost car keys, sports championships and awrds shows than he is with drought, starvation, genocide and rape.

    3) A "historical study" of the gospels shows so many historical inaccuracies and unsupported claims it's like making a historical study of The Man in the Iron Mask, then trying to get legislation pass based on Porthos dying for your sins.

    4) Philosophical reasoning is a search for meaning, not a search for hard answers to real issues.

    5) There are reasonable believers. One of my best friends is a Pentacostal minister in Quebec...except the church doesn't like it's ministers hanging with dirty heathens like me.

    The problem isn't the individuals, it's the institutions.

    6) Modern advances in science have blown holes in most of the "miracles" in the Bible. The only limitation on science is the means to test claims, and religious interference in inquiry.

    I don't see the Board of Governors from MIT demanding that quantum theory be preached from church pulpits, but I do see religious institutions and religiously driven politicians trying to force "creation science" and "intelligent design" onto school science curricula.

    Hint:if a)you can't ever reasonably test the claim, b)you have to change things (like the speed of light) to make your claim work, or c) if your "theory" starts with a conclusion then seeks only confirming evidence...that's not science.

    7) Evidence for the Resurrection, and you cit William Lane Craig.....refer to (c) above.

    8) Logical fallacy, appeal to emotion.Romeo and Juliet is a beautiful piece of literature, but it does not make it a rational or valid basis for life decisions.

    Matt, you have failed in your argument.

    • Greg Schaefer

      Manny.

      You say: "5) There are reasonable believers. . . . The problem isn't the individuals, it's the institutions."

      I say: Amen.

      Welcome to the conversation.

  • This is an interesting list. Thanks for posting, though I'm still not sure what to make of it.

    Number two is interesting, and a little amusing, to me because of the dozens of atheists I've met through blogs and forums, a great many of them are ex-Christians who prayed and read their Bible quite a bit as they began losing their faith. This is far more than just "experimenting" with prayer and the Bible. Even Dan Baker, now head of American Atheists, writes about going through a 'painful divorce' from God, where he wanted desperately to be wrong about not believing in God. I know for me, I prayed continually for the first 23 years of my life, as I'd been taught. As I left my faith I kept my eyes open for anything God might do to get my attention, and help me keep believing in him.

    I find that when I pray and seek the truth, I find confirmation that I'm moving in the right direction--as if the Holy Spirit is leading me out of Christianity into atheism. That makes me think the Holy Spirit and prayer are just in my own head, not real communication with a real deity. I recently read another person's story that was the same way.

    Historical study of the Gospels? It was a critical look at the gospels given to me by my Biblical Studies class at my Christian college that first made me wonder if the Bible was as accurate as I'd been taught. Not just because they showed the comparison between the Genesis story and other myths of the time--but also because of the contrast between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John, the evidence that John wasn't really written by John, etc.

    I still don't think the "evidence" for the -resurrection is as airtight as you claim. And it's weird you cite Albert Einstein's views on natural order, since he very explicitly did not believe in a personal god.

    • MR

      Historical study of the Gospels? It was a critical look at the gospels given to me by my Biblical Studies class at my Christian college that first made me wonder if the Bible was as accurate as I'd been taught. Not just because they showed the comparison between the Genesis story and other myths of the time--but also because of the contrast between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John, the evidence that John wasn't really written by John, etc.

      Yeah, that was a huge blow for me, too. A church bible study comparing the gospels made me question things it had never occurred to me to question. Then Gilgamesh..., Atrahasis....

  • Amy Gmazel

    Curiously, this list looks very, very similar to the reasons I would have given for leaving religion.

    1. Good literature and reasonable writing. I started with Bertrand Russell, "Why I am Not a Christian," an eloquent and well-reasoned piece.

    2. "Experimentation" with prayer and the word of God. I tried this every which way, because I really didn't want to lose my faith. But, more than that, I didn't want to believe anything that wasn't true. (And please, please don't cite Lee Strobel as a convincing source. If I hadn't already become an atheist by the time I read his book, I would have been one after reading it.)

    3.Historical study of the gospels. See above, but also consider that historical study shows lots of evidence that people believed in god(s). This is not the same thing as showing that god(s) exist.

    4. Honest philosophical reasoning led me away from faith. Now, perhaps honest philosophical reasoning could lead a person toward faith. I don't quite see how, since it lead me in the opposite direction, but I'll take your word for it. Please take me at my word that I gave it serious thought, and reached the opposite conclusion.

    5. Reasonable believers. This is a tough one, because there are some really reasonable believers out there. I used to be one. (That is, I thought I was reasonable - others may disagree - LOL) But, I can think they are reasonable people and still disagree with them on matters of fact and matters of opinion. In a way, it feels condescending to look at these intelligent people and think that they must have some big blind spot where their faith is concerned. On the other hand, that is the same judgment I apply to my former self, so in that way it's fair.

    6. Modern advances and limitations in science. Nope, don't use the "God Of The Gaps" argument. The freedom to explore the sciences without trying to force everything I learned into harmonizing with religion was one of the greatest freedoms I experienced.

    7. Evidence for the resurrection. It was the lack of evidence that got me. I see a lot of evidence that people believed in a resurrection. Evidence that people believed a thing is not the same as evidence of that thing.

    8. Beauty. I have to assume that you included that in order to end your list on a high note. That the world is beautiful (and ugly) I will certainly agree. When I was a Christian, I saw the beauty as the work of God, and the ugliness as a result of the fall. Now, I see both as our personal perceptions of the natural world.

  • Can you please not call people "honest" atheists? Would you like Catholics who do not accept atheist arguments to be labeled dishonest, as a corollary?