Saturday, February 12, 2011

Yeah, I went there


Tony-Allen said...

I remember a guy I used to talk with on MSNM, who was an atheist. I knew him from a forum, and we had gotten along well there, but my faith seemed to be a stumbling block for him. One time he told me, "I think you're a smart guy, so I don't get why you believe in religion." He then said something to the affect of, "I read Richard Dawkins, I listen to him speak, and I connect the dots." I then asked him, "Have you read the Bible?" He replied, "No." I asked him, "Have you read any of the Church Fathers?" He replied, "No."

Now that might be normal in most conversations, but what got me was he didn't seem to understand the point of listening to the other side. He was trying to argue, "Even if I read the Bible, I'll still think it wasn't written by God." I replied, "Well, I don't think Mormonism is true, but I read the Book of Mormon to understand where they're coming from." The very notion that you research the other side even if you disagree with them seemed to completely fly over his head.

The sad thing was I never brought up religion or my faith, but he did, and eventually I had to block him because he was always trying to get into contention, and it was clear to me he wasn't willing to really discuss it.

Marcus McElhaney said...

Brennon, I'll go there along side you. I wanna know what the answer is but I think I already know what the answer is: They have no good arguments. They have things they believe is true despite any contrary evidence.

John said...

My Honest opinion: Theists think they have better arguments, while atheists think they have the better ones. It's actually that simple.

I've heard all the arguments for theism. And I honestly think only the KCA is convincing. The others, not so much. I also have heard all the arguments for atheism, some are convincing, but most are philosophically bankrupt. And that's why I'm an agnostic.

bossmanham said...


In my opinion, agnosticism is a much stronger position than atheism, if not for the simple fact that there are no good reasons to be an atheist.

However, I obviously think theism is far stronger still.

Atheism < agnosticism < theism

John said...


I think the strongest position is a weak deism.

Can I ask you a question though? Why all the hiddenness?

I've been a Christian for a long time. I've prayed to God, I daresay, as sincerely as anyone could. Why does God hide himself? Because that certainly is what it feels like. Strange "Father" this God of yours is.

This is probably what makes me an agnostic. The arguments for theism certainly makes sense. But no matter what I do, there's no God actually there to answer. Why do you think that is?

bossmanham said...

I'm always a little baffled by the hiddenness question. It seems to me that God has provided a myriad of ways to know that He exists. Who could want more than the evidence of the beginning of the universe out of nothing, the objectivity of morality, the fine tuning pointing to a designer, the resurrection of Christ, and the revealed word of God? Seems to me God's putting Himself out there to be known.

I do think that God doesn't make His presence overwhelming so as not to force a kind of contrived relationship on us; one that we might actually resent. If one wants to ignore God, He makes it possible, but for one who wants to seek Him He has provided sufficient ways to come to knowledge of Him.

John said...

"the beginning of the universe out of nothing"

-- Points to a creator. Nothing else.

"objectivity of morality"

-- Have you read Sam Harris's book 'The Moral Landscape'? Basically makes a persuasive argument on how morality can be objective without God. The obvious flaw of which is that certain fundamental things must first be assumed, like the maximization of sentient well-being is assumed to be good. Nevertheless when we grant such an assumption, voila, morality becomes objective. Besides, there isn't any evidence that morality IS objective. It could be subjective for all we know. Our sense that morality must exist in some absolute form can be explained away by selection pressures. So the objective morality argument isn't very convincing. It may only be so at an emotional level, because I would really hope that rape under any circumstance is evil.

"the fine tuning pointing to a designer"

-- This argument posits the hypothesis that because the universe seems finely tuned for the evolution of carbon-based intelligence, then there must be a designer. I don't find this convincing at all. Just a few decades ago, we thought the parts of the ocean where light could not penetrate would be barren. Organisms could not possibly exist in these places. But, because of new technology, we now know we were dead wrong about that. It could be that we are making the same mistake here. Change the initial constants and we might not get carbon-based intelligence, but might get something else that is intelligent. We simply don't know what we cannot know.

"the resurrection of Christ"

-- I grant there is good evidence for this. But you have to admit, it isn't as solid as anyone could hope for.

"and the revealed word of God?"

-- You mean like the holy spirit? I've prayed many times for God to send me his holy spirit and so forth. I really do not get this at all. I don't ask much as subjective evidence, for me, would suffice. But even that seems lacking.

"Seems to me God's putting Himself out there to be known."

-- That's the problem for me. It seems He isn't. Pray for me brother. That I may get the assurance that you seem to have.

Alex Petrov said...

Ah, people who project are funny.

bossmanham said...

Sam Harris' book: No I haven't, but that's because I'm already familiar with the attempt at establishing utilitarianism as a viable objective morality (but it's mainly due to my busy schedule and inability to even read the books that really interest me lately).

Saying that well-being of some sort is good is simply another moral claim, so it hasn't reached any sort of ontological base at all. If this is Harris' base, then he seems to have stopped short of a true ground for morality and settled for a branch. IOW, you can't say that a moral value is itself the ground of moral value.

Fine tuning: What does light reaching the ocean have to do with the fine tuning of the constants of the universe? It's fairly well established what the necessary conditions required for life to exist in the universe were/are. The fact that it is beyond astronomically more probable that we should be in a universe where life cannot exist, but that life on theism is not that improbable, then we should conclude that theism is true. It seems to be apples and oranges.

Resurrection: What do you consider to be solid? I mean we could adopt multiple strong forms of skepticism, but it becomes ridiculous. I mean it's not as solid as I'd like that other minds or the material external world exist, let alone that certain historical facts occurred.

Word of God: Well, I meant the Bible more specifically, but yes the Holy Spirit does act on people to reveal Himself to them as well. I don't necessarily think that everyone gets some sort of warm fuzzies when they converse with God. It certainly doesn't nullify the other evidence.

It seems to me that you're looking for some sort of proof that nothing can actually fulfill. I don't know that anything is 100% certain on a level of absolute indubitability. Maybe our own existence fulfills that, but I don't know of anything else.

Also, it should be noted that 1) these arguments for God are cumulative and 2) the objections you brought up really don't seem that strong. Sure, maybe they're something to think about, but does it take away or refute the strength of them? I don't think so. I also think that theism far better explains, in a more plausible nature, these aspects of reality (not to mention others like the intelligibility of the world, the value of human persons, the existence of our minds, etc).

bossmanham said...

I don't want to come across as if I never doubt. I would never have begun to study apologetics if I had never doubted. I take a step back when doubt creeps in and do a little examination of my experiences and the arguments on both sides. Atheism never stands up very well.

I also don't want to act as if theistic arguments are knock down smoking guns. Obviously they aren't, but neither are atheistic responses. I think that reason and evidence is simply far more strongly on the side of Christian theism than otherwise.

As it pertains to your prayers and seeking of God, I will pray that you continue and that God makes Himself know in your life. God has promised to make Himself evident to those who seek Him. I don't know how you've gone about receiving the Holy Spirit, but it should be know that one receives the Holy Spirit when they become identified in Jesus Christ. To do that, one must realize their sinfulness and their need for forgiveness and their utter inability to do anything about it. They must then place their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord, specifically that He died on the cross taking their sins on Himself and paying the penalty for them with His body and blood. This is having faith that God will do what He promised and apply His perfect righteousness to you, thus justifying you and making you innocent before Him. Once you do that, the Holy Spirit will come and live with you, sanctifying you and making you more like Christ every day.

I don't know if you'll feel anything at all if you do this. Douglas Groothius, an apologist at Denver seminary, says he felt sick to his stomach when he accepted Christ, not good or euphoric. From experience I know that the initial feeling I had didn't stick around forever. Sometimes I feel far from God, mainly due to my own sin. But there is a sense of peace that really never goes away.

Feelings aren't everything, though, which is why I think God provided this multifaceted path to Him that assures those that want to come to Him in response to His drawing will. Doubts will come, but they don't change the actual state of affairs.

Please feel free to keep posting here, or email me if you want, John. Whichever you prefer. God be with you.

John said...

On the objective morality bit, I agree with you that Sam's basis is a bit short. He does admit that a fundamental ought (like we ought to maximize sentient well-being) should first be established, but can only sloppily defend why that's what we ought to do in the first place.

On the fine tuning. Essentially my point was that we cannot know what we don't know. Change the initial constants, and everything changes. We may not have carbon-based life-forms in those hypothetical universes, but we may have other life-forms based on something else that we have no idea of. My example was that in the past, we didn't know how any life-form could survive without sunlight, so we reckoned that no sunlight = no life. I think we are making the same mistake here by saying, for instance, no carbon = no life. Change the initial constants and yes we may NOT get intelligent life of the same make as humans, but what's to say that we will not get intelligent life period?

On the resurrection. I know the case for the resurrection. And the evidence is good. There are certain things that can be established from the evidence, like 1, Jesus was an actual man that lived. 2, He made outlandish claims about himself of being the son of God and so forth. 3, He was crucified and died for said claims. 4, His body was missing from tomb. 5, His followers claim to have seen him alive after his death. 6, Many did not disown the claim in 5 despite threats of torture and punishment.

Given the above, and if I remove bias against the supernatural hypothesis, then it is more likely than not that God rose Jesus from the dead. But even if we grant those 6 points, we can still think of different naturalistic hypotheses that are ginormously much less ridiculous than doubting the external world exists. However, those other naturalistic hypotheses, at least to me, would sound much more improbable than the divine one. So the evidence is certainly good, but the fact that we can think of other explanations (like Jesus didn't actually die, or he had a twin brother -- somewhat ridiculous but very possible) makes it less compelling than someone would hope for to be able to base life decisions on.

"It seems to me that you're looking for some sort of proof that nothing can actually fulfill."

-- I honestly am not. Like I said, subjective experience, at least for me, would suffice. If I prayed tonight (which I still sometimes do) and felt, even just some kind of subjective feeling that God was listening to me, I would probably take that as evidence God existed. I don't have to have an amputated limb grow back for me to believe. I don't need miracles of whatever sort. I completely understand why God chooses not to do those kinds of things to get people to believe in him. I'll tell you right now that I have a slightly more sophisticated grasp of Christianity than most Christians. But what gets at me is that, no matter how hard I search and try to learn and come close to God, nothing happens. This I don't understand. I've read about this 'Dark night of the soul' thing that happened to mother Teresa, and that further compounded my doubt.

This is why I turn to the evidence. It's because the whole 'holy-spirit' thing doesn't seem to work.

But, I'm not giving up just yet. I'm still trying to learn and understand more.

bossmanham said...

But John, the conclusions that philosophers and scientists alike have come to based on the fine tuning argument is not one from ignorance. It's not that we don't know in what kinds of conditions life can exist, it's that we do! We do know that if a certain constant were different, then star formation would be impossible. We know that life cannot exist without the cycles that stars go through in producing head and planets and the hard elements necessary for life. What is needed for life is pretty well established.

Even if some people were wrong about cerain organisms being able to exist with very little sunlight, it really isn't relevant. We're not just talking about no sunlight, but no planets, hard elements, atoms, heat, etc. I think it just may be some ignorance on your part about what is known about organisms that are able to reproduce and use energy.

Also, in looking for a subjective experience, isn't your apprehension of all this evidence ultuimately itself your subjective experience? You can see this evidence and that it seems to make sense. So what if there are some contentions that can be made against it. I'm aware of the contentions, but I also see that one side has very strong explanatory power, along with being far more plausible.

On your grasp of Christian theology, that's all well and good. But the thing is is that knowledge of God doesn't save us and invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. It's trust in God that does that.

I hope some of this helps. I can't give you something with irrevocable certainty, but I don't know much that can. God bless you in this endeavor. As I said, I'm open for contact any time.

Jade Currier said...

I have a person called Ruff Solo (I'm sure that's not his real name but the name he uses on this site) on Facebook who is an atheist and attacks anything I have to say on my own personal page every day if it has anything positive to do with God or God and the USA. I never say anything negative about his Atheist posts but he cannot go a day without causing drama on my page or in public chat. I have asked him to please delete himself from my friends list if my posts are so incensing him. Would love for you to check him out and maybe have a convo with him. Love the page BTW.