Reality Is That Which, When You Stop Believing In It, Doesn't Go Away

I'm sure we all remember Pascal's Wager. Though it is often wrongly presented as an argument for God's existence, it was really intended as an argument for why we should act as though we believe in God. Roughly, the idea was that if you believe in God and you're wrong then, well, no big deal. But if you do not believe in God and are wrong, you lose eternal bliss.

The more interesting part was his reply to those who argued that you will not fool God by merely pretending to believe in Him. Pascal suggested that consistently going through the motions of religious practice, and immersing oneself in a religious lifestyle, would ultimately lead one to a true faith in God.

As it happens, I once tried that experiment. In 2000 I moved to Kansas for what would eventually be a three-year stay. Confronted for the first time in my life with a culture dominated by Protestant fundamentalism, I decided to join the small, local synagogue. It was mostly a show of solidarity; when you are a member of a tiny minority you tend to hear the call of the tribe.

For about six months I attended Friday night services almost every week. I spent time reading the Torah more carefully than I had previously. I devoted some time each night to prayer. Though an atheist when I started, I did this with all the sincerity I could muster.

It didn't work. After six months I just couldn't take it any more. My time in synagogue mostly served to remind me of why I have always despised religious ceremonies. My time reading the Torah led me to appreciate just what a nasty piece of work it really is. After praying I mostly just felt silly. I was more of an atheist after the experience than before.

Of course, Pascal might argue that I was not serious enough. I made no attempt to keep kosher, and Saturday morning services were definitely a bridge too far. And that's before we come to the fact that, from Pascal's perspective, I was practicing the wrong religion. Somehow, though, I don't think that's really the explanation for my lack of conversion.

I've often wondered about the reverse form of Pascal's argument. If a religious person immersed himself in an atheistic lifestyle, to the extent that there is such a thing, would they eventually come to lose their faith?

Well, in at least one case, the answer is yes. Ryan Bell was a pastor in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church for two decades. However, he felt a growing estrangement between him and his church, largely because of his progressive political views. That led him to this:

So, I'm making it official and embarking on a new journey. I will "try on" atheism for a year. For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else's circumstances. (I trust that if there really is a God that God will not be too flummoxed by my foolish experiment and allow others to suffer as a result).

I will read atheist “sacred texts” -- from Hobbes and Spinoza to Russell and Nietzsche to the trinity of New Atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett. I will explore the various ways of being atheist, from naturalism (Voltaire, Dewey, et al) to the new 'religious atheists' (Alain de Botton and Ronald Dworkin). I will also attempt to speak to as many actual atheists as possible -- scholars, writers and ordinary unbelievers -- to learn how they have come to their non-faith and what it means to them. I will visit atheist gatherings and try it on.

In short, I will do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist. It's important to make the distinction that I am not an atheist. At least not yet. I am not sure what I am. That's part of what this year is about.

That was published on December 31, 2013. That makes 2014 his year of atheism. The result?

Ryan Bell — the former Seventh-day Adventist pastor who spent 2014 living as an atheist — is ready for his big reveal.

After chronicling the last 12 months on his blog Year Without God, Bell — who now works as director of community engagement at People Assisting the Homeless in Southern California — announced in an interview with NPR that he no longer believes in God.

Bell talked with Religion News Service about his decision and what it will mean to him and his loved ones. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: This weekend you told NPR: “I don’t think that God exists.” Can you elaborate?

A: I think the best way I can explain the conclusion I've come to -- and conclusion is too strong a word for the provisional place I now stand and work from -- is that the intellectual and emotional energy it takes to figure out how God fits into everything is far greater than dealing with reality as it presents itself to us.

That probably sounds very nonrational, and I want people to know that I have read several dozen books and understand a good many of the arguments. I'd just say that the existence of God seems like an extra layer of complexity that isn't necessary. The world makes more sense to me as it is, without postulating a divine being who is somehow in charge of things.

I cheered when I read that, because that is precisely how I view things. I'm pretty well-read on the arguments for and against the existence of God, and it seems to me that all of the really good arguments are on the atheist side. But more than that, it just seems obvious to me that there is no God, for exactly the reason Bell gives. The world of our day-to-day lives makes sense just as it is. Hypothesizing God into existence only adds a pointless layer of complexity. Nothing that was formerly mysterious becomes clear by making such a move. Saying that the universe exists because there happens to be an entity with the power and will to bring universes into existence hardly seems like a satisfying answer to anything.

(Spare me the angry comments about how theistic philosophers don't claim that there just happens to be a God, but rather that's it's a metaphysical necessity that He exists. I know those arguments. They're not very good, to put it kindly.)

My favorite remark along these lines comes from Julian Baggini, in his book Atheism: A Very Short Introduction. “To those who say they cannot imagine the possibility of God not existing, I say try a little harder.” Indeed!

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Atheism is a comfortable spot and a safe territory for a lot of people, and there is no reason to believe that those people, who claim to believe in god, do actually believe in his existence. There are a lot more atheists out there than you might think, at least, judging by people's actions, like killing people thinking that they actually die for real. Therefore, one shouldn''t find surprising that a country that is know to be overwhelmingly religious, kills like an atheist would.

However, there is always the truth out there, whatever it might really be, and you always have the choice to go after it if you'd
like and are not afraid of facing it. Otherwise, staying in a safe spot could be a smart soution, and, perhaps an ultimately a correct position in case you'll have a hard time dealing with the truth and/or the causes of things.

"Reality is that, witch, that when you stop believing in it, it doesn't go away."

Reality can be a witch at times, especially when it won't go away...

By starskeptic (not verified) on 09 Jan 2015 #permalink

Have you tried quantum jumping?

And what about time travel?

You can also try contacting aliens telepathically for an alien abduction experience...

You don't necessarily have to look for the truth in the minds of other people such as torah, bible and koran. The truth exists outside people (as well). You can search for it on your own and see things for yourself, completely ignoring the threats of eternal damnation, which every major religion exploits as the punishment for not converting to that religion. And whatever you manage to see, learn and find throughout your lifetime should be good enough.

By A thought (not verified) on 10 Jan 2015 #permalink

Nice story, but perhaps Ryan's conversion to atheism happened before he decided to try a year of living like an atheist, and he just hadn't consciously acknowledged it. I suspect that if you took a faithful member of any religion, and exposed him/her to atheism, the response would be similar to your response to immersion in religion.

David--no true Scotsman,eh?

Doug - not a "no true scottsman" argument. I'm proposing that Ryan's willingness to spend time without god shows that his faith was failing BEFORE he began the "year of living dangerously." Then, the outcome might be different if a random believer were picked, rather than having somebody self-select, for the experiment.

"you lose eternal bliss"
I see eternity as something negative. Hence the loss of the apologist is my win and my rational bet is atheism.

"Well, in at least one case, the answer is yes."
Sorry, no. Ryan Bell (I have followed him since December 2013) already had lost his faith before his experiment. What he wanted to find out was if he would be fine living without religion at all - indeed both emotionally and intellectually. The answer predictably was yes and that became clear within a few weeks.
The counterpart of your six months would be WL Craig living a period as an atheist.

The normal form Pascal’s Wager is a believer telling me I should believe in God because I have much to lose if I didn't. So I think the reverse form of Pascal’s argument would be the believer saying "Why should I engage in critical thinking? Why should I try a little harder to imagine the possibility of God not existing? There is not much for me to win if God doesn't exist."

Other than a life free of dogma, shame and judgement. Other than the power to choose one's own principles and to keep an open mind.

By ShaolinRockstar (not verified) on 10 Jan 2015 #permalink

I've heard of several cases of people who attend seminaries intending to become preachers, but are exposed there for the first time to some actual history of the Christian church and lose their faith as a result. This probably doesn't happen as much in fundamentalist bible colleges because they don't teach the actual history in such places.

I also know personally several people who entered secular colleges as believers and left as atheists - not because atheism was taught there but because they learned to think critically and could recognize the inconsistencies in the Bible for themselves. I have heard fundamentalist preachers warn their congregations not to send their children to secular colleges due to this tendency.

We are born not knowing what to expect from this universe. For all I knew, the moon could have been made of green cheese as one grandmother told me, and there could be pie in the sky, by and by. I recall hearing that many adherents of the Chinese religion of the Jade Emperor lost their faith after the Apollo moon landings, since their was no sign of the Jade Emperor's daughter who was supposed to live there. Reality intrudes on primitive faiths.

I must acknowledge that Pascal accomplished much more in his life that I have in mine. So much that it amazes me he didn't allow himself to see the flaws in his wager. The echo chamber was much louder in those days, though.

"Reality Is That Which, When You Stop Believing In It, Doesn’t Go Away."

Indeed. God, heaven, hell and other "unconfirmed" mysteries of the universe don't just disappear when people choose not to believe in or acknowledge them. If I were a 2nd century citizen who denied the existence of subatomic particles asserting: "INVISIBLE PARTICLES ARE NOT REALISTIC (because I can't yet see them) and whoever believes they exist is just not living in reality", I would of course be blindly ignorant. I would be denying an actual fact due to my inability to see/understand something that is all around me, in me and literally the substance of my own existence. In the same way, atheists could very well be blindly ignorant to an inevitable truth (that there is a God).

By Lt. Wassabewabe (not verified) on 10 Jan 2015 #permalink

Don't forget that all believers are for the biggest part atheists themselves! Throughout mankind we recorded about 2800 different deities. 'True believers' decided NOT to believe in 2799 of them....

@kereng

"The norml form....is a believr telling me that I should believe in god because...."

Is somebody tells you to believe in god, you can ask that person if they believe in god, and if they say "yes", you ask them to prove it.

By A thought (not verified) on 10 Jan 2015 #permalink

@Lt. Wassabewabe
You're right that there may be a God, or even several.
But if you want to live a life adhering to the scientific principle you have to always follow the evidence.
I haven't seen any evidence that would confirm the existence of a God.
That's the real reason I left religion behind me: "God wants me to believe in him on bad evidence".
/Jakob

By Jakob Krarup (not verified) on 10 Jan 2015 #permalink

"The world of our day-to-day lives makes sense just as it is. Hypothesizing God into existence only adds a pointless layer of complexity."

To some, adding the pointless layer helps explain things and hold their peace. Even in science we sometimes use constants (a magic number) to balance the equation.

Even removing the layer of pointless complexity does not prove that there is no higher power which created all this around us. I am not a practicing religious person and I have many questions unanswered whichever way I look.

Believing that everything around us is just a chance, an accident cannot be substantiated due to our meagre knowledge.

By Mustafa Syed (not verified) on 10 Jan 2015 #permalink

Well said Mustafa. Well said Lt. Wassabewabe. There are so many unsolved mysteries around us, within us and above us that it seems foolish to declare or imply that there is no God. A skeptic's argument on the subject should never go too far past "we simply don't know", as Jakob and Mustafa humbly acknowledged.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 11 Jan 2015 #permalink

I am always interested in everyone's ideas. This response is a bit simplistic for space limitations.
In my experience of searching for the "truth" (for over 50 years of practicing and learning). This is what l have learned). Those who believe in their faith whatever their faith is have had experiences which they believe confirmed their belief. Those like myself who do not believe have not had those experiences. Here is my controversial comment. I do not think a believer's experiences are reality based and due to their mind set can a believer go beyond their psychological perception. Why. There simply is no objective evidence of anything any believer believes. And I have had an entire life of what believers wod truly call "miracles" occurring throughout my life.
This has been my experience and admitted limited.
Just my perception.

Kilnon, in the first sentence of comment 1, brings up a very interesting question, although perhaps not intentionally.

How do you tell that someone is actually a 'believer'?

We can all understand, including those who claim belief, that there is no test or observation that we can make about "God".

But why do believers expect others to accept that they have some internal state we cannot perceive-- indeed, what test do they apply to themselves?

I only know that this pastor stopped doing certain things and started doing others. The rest is a story he tells.

Pascal suggested that consistently going through the motions of religious practice, and immersing oneself in a religious lifestyle, would ultimately lead one to a true faith in God.

I suspect Pascal may have been at least partially right about that, and the reason it didn't work for you Jason was twofold: one, because this process probably works more on fence-sitters than the truly ideologically firm. And second, because I think the part of it that works best is the part you don't mention doing, which is social immersion. IOW, it is not spending time sincerely reading Torah passages that converts you, it is spending time going out to movies and dinners with the folk from the temple. Its working with them on charity projects, having them babysit your kid and then you babysitting their kids and activities like that (I know you don't have kids) that does it.

@1:

There are a lot more atheists out there than you might think, at least, judging by people’s actions, like killing people thinking that they actually die for real.

Please tell me you aren't arguing that 'killing people' is a sign of atheism.

A conservative Christian would tell you it didn't work because you chose a false religion, or at best one that has been supplanted by "The Truth". You didn't place yourself in a position in which the Holy Spirit could enter your heart, yadda yadda.

Also, many of them are Calvinists (I maintain most of them are, even if they don't identify as such, as Calvinism is one of the two main influences within the evangelical subculture, the other being Dominionism). They'll simply tell you God hasn't chosen you for salvation. Of course, I haven't come across a Calvinist yet who didn't think s/he was one of the "elect".

Kanye East (heh):

There are so many unsolved mysteries around us, within us and above us that it seems foolish to declare or imply that there is no God.

Huh? If you are trying to solve a mystery, why introduce the concept of a god in the first place? Wouldn't you require evidence that could not be explained otherwise, before proposing a god as a solution to the mystery? After all, if you hypothesize a god, you introduce more unsolved mysteries, like "what is the nature of the god" and "how did the god come to exist?"

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 12 Jan 2015 #permalink

Mal Adapted,

The concept of God doesn't have to be "introduced" into reality if he's already here and/or out there. Like the subatomic particles Lt. Wassabewabe mentioned, they were here way before we ever had the tools to identify or investigate the energy - and the fact that we hadn't yet discovered the energy didn't change the fact that it existed. I (personally) have seen a great deal of evidence that can't be explained outside of God or an orchestrator, but whether you believe me or not (it's neither here nor there) my point is the same; this supernatural intelligence doesn't need anyone to acknowledge or see it in order for it to exist. Many discoveries to make, many mysteries to solve, many facts yet to confront us as we couldn't possibly have the full picture at this point in history.

As to the nature of God and how he came into existence, I must say that I'm only presently concerned with one of those questions. If I can discover the nature, I'm content with that for now. I see myself and the other 7+ billion folks on the planet as infants who can't fully comprehend how daddy (or mommy or we) came to be, but just that we did and I'm appropriately grateful. I'll be (like everyone else) in a perpetual state of discovery until the puzzle is complete and I've learned all that can be revealed in this dimension or present time. I'm sure all atheists and all believers in God(s) are in agreement that none of us have it all figured out.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 12 Jan 2015 #permalink

Kanye East,

Of course we don't have everything all figured out yet. If we did, there would be no point in doing science anymore, would there? That's no excuse, though, to think that we will NEVER figure it out and assume that God is responsible for those things we haven't yet been able to figure out. Your argument reeks of "God of the Gaps", which you must realize is a poor argument. Those gaps are constantly shrinking. Your "evidence" for an orchestrator is likely suspect.

Think of it this way: at one time we knew almost nothing about nature. Humans faced with, for example, explaining the rising and setting of the sun figured it must be a god riding his chariot across the sky. Rain must similarly be caused by gods, as well as countless other phenomena. In time, however, we found scientific explanations for these phenomena, so belief that these were divinely caused was abandoned. Time after time, we found that phenomena originally attributed to divine action could be explained without reference to God. Is it unreasonable, then, to think that our currently unexplained phenomena could yield to some future scientist?

As for the question of how God came into existence, I think you miss the point of that one. The real point is that one of the arguments for God is that you can't get something from nothing. That is, without a creator, how could the universe come into being? However, postulating a God merely begs this question. You explain the origin of the universe by postulating an entity whose origin is itself unexplained. If the universe could not have come into being by itself, how could God do so? Logically, what's the difference between saying "God has always existed" and saying "the universe has always existed?" Both statements leave that existence unexplained.

Even simpler:

Human brains vary in regard to the capacity for experiences and emotions related to the existence or nonexistence of deities. This is roughly analogous to sexual orientation though with greater susceptibility to change over time.

Some people are naturally wired to perceive the existence of a deity in the universe. Some people are naturally wired to perceive the nonexistence of a deity in the universe. Most are somewhere in-between to a degree that their social environment (reinforcement from others) will tend to determine their outlook about deities.

The same case goes for the experiences and emotions that are related to beliefs about immortal souls.

We even know a few specifics about how brain activity relates to experiences that play some role in belief. For example we can induce mystical experiences reliably under controlled conditions (Griffiths), and we can induce generalized numinous feelings reliably under controlled conditions (Persinger).

The objective existence or nonexistence of deities and immortal souls can't be determined empirically. Attempts to reach conclusions via reasoning from other observables are inherently biased by the outlook of each person seeking to do so.

I have to conclude that the relevant natural variation in brain structure and activity is not going to change species-wide any time soon, so we will continue to see the persistence of diverse beliefs about deities.

The correct goal for those of us whose worldview is empirically-based, is to reinforce the separation of church and state, and religious nondiscrimination in public policy and in the private sector (e.g. employment, public accommodations, finance, health care, and housing). As well, we should respect the empirical fact of the diversity of the neurobiology of belief, by supporting freedom of conscience within the boundaries of law-abiding behavior. Going beyond that in either direction is nothing more or less than proselytism for one's own preferred beliefs.

Going beyond that in either direction is nothing more or less than proselytism for one’s own preferred beliefs.

Oh I think we are well justified in going beyond that. I think it's fairly well established science that if we write the force equation as F=ma+G where "G" represent's God's divine action, the most empirically accurate value for G is zero. Zip. Nada. A big goose egg. And the same goes for every other equation in physics, chemistry, and biology. Does that proove the nonexistence of God? No, of course not, induction doesn't work that way. Yet we can certainly induce a conclusion of "no observable impact whatsoever." And the same goes for souls.

I'd also point out that the undetectableness of gods and souls is a modern invention. Its a response to scientific enquiry turning up zero evidence for them, it wasn't in those philosophical concepts originally. Why, you don't have to go back any further than the turn of the 20th century to find recorded instances of soul-believers trying to weigh people alive and then dead to try and figure out how much the soul weighs.

It seems to me pretty facetious for someone to claim these things are beyond science when in fact what's really happened is that the believers formed a testable hypothesis, that hypothesis was tested and failed numerous times, so the believers protected it from further inquiry by modifying it to be untestable. That isn't beyond science: that's clearly an idea that was well within science's bailiwick and just failed.

G,

I think I can be onboard with you there. If you keep your religion to yourself and don't try to force others to live by its tenets, then I personally have no problem with it. It may even be possible that one or more of its teachings might well make for good public policy. If so, I don't object to implementation of laws consistent with a religion, so long as those laws are passed via a secular lawmaking process. For instance, most major religions view murder as a sin. I would not want to live in a society that is so anti-religious that it would allow murder simply because some religion teaches that murder is a sin. Admittedly, that's an extreme example and one that is uncontroversial. Nonetheless, I think it's a valid point that we should not reject potentially good public policy merely because the origin of that policy is in some religious teaching.

Please don't misconstrue my comment above, though. I do NOT favor allowing religious teachings to guide law. I just don't want to reject potentially good laws simply BECAUSE they originated as religious teachings. I hope I have expressed the difference clearly.

Kanye has evidence - a great deal of evidence - for God, but it is obviously not good enough to convince anyone else or he wouldn't be hedging before he produces a single piece. The purported evidence always seems to infinitely regress to less and less - it is like a handful of air.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 13 Jan 2015 #permalink

Kanye East:

I (personally) have seen a great deal of evidence that can’t be explained outside of God or an orchestrator, but whether you believe me or not (it’s neither here nor there)

On the contrary, the important question (and the topic of Greg's post) is whether your personal interpretation of what you've seen accurately represents the world outside your head. How do you know you're not fooling yourself?

Science has developed as a way of trying not to fool ourselves ("The first principle is not to fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool" -R. Feynman). Every trained scientist knows she could be fooling herself no matter how carefully she makes her observations. And she knows it's easier to fool herself than to fool other trained and disciplined scientists, so she submits her evidence and her analysis to her peers for review. She provides detailed documentation of her methods, so that skeptical peers can verify her conclusions. And if her peers don't reach the same conclusions she has, she accepts that she's most likely fooling herself.

Anyone who says "I know I'm right even if the rest of you fools can't figure it out" is guilty of the sin of vanity. It's the deadliest of sins, for it enables all others.

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 14 Jan 2015 #permalink

Every trained scientist knows she could be fooling herself no matter how carefully she makes her observations. And she knows it’s easier to fool herself than to fool other trained and disciplined scientists, so she submits her evidence and her analysis to her peers for review.

Yep. Science is a class of math students who take a test and know they didn't get all the answers right. But the teacher's not around to tell them the right answers, so to try and figure it out they read each other's answers and point out where each other got things wrong.
Religion is the guy who sits in the corner and says "I got everything right, and I'm going to ignore any claims the rest of you (or the teacher) make that there's a flaw in my work."

Me:

(and the topic of Greg’s post)

Uhm, I meant Jason's post, of course. I beg our host's pardon. I forgot which blog I was on 8^}!

Also, good comment, eric:

But the teacher’s not around to tell them the right answers, so to try and figure it out they read each other’s answers and point out where each other got things wrong.

If you're trained as a scientist, you depend on your peers to find the errors you overlooked in your own work, because you know you are the easiest person to fool.

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 14 Jan 2015 #permalink

David Hume lays it out well, To believe a miracle (something outside the rule of science and reason) like water turning into wine or wine into blood) the negation of the opposite would have to be even more miraculous.
(I always have pause nd think about this double negative.) So to accept the miracle of water to wine, we have to give up chemistry understandings of the makeup of water as h2o, and give up that wine comes from plants with grapes....so Humes idea is that to be a miracle of water to wine that miricale would have to be greater than the miracle of doing away with the findings of all the areas of scientific reseach and knowledge, of the logical connections. Well, it's not. Nor is god's existance a greater miracle than the miracle of all physics and geology and chemistr and biology being found as wrong. To justify Genisis. Too big a price to pay. To big a miracle for it all being wrong.

By Bernard Kirzner MD (not verified) on 14 Jan 2015 #permalink

eric,

"Religion is the guy who sits in the corner and says “I got everything right, and I’m going to ignore any claims the rest of you (or the teacher) make that there’s a flaw in my work.” "

I believe so. But I would replace 'guy' with ‘establishment’, and note that religion is simply inordinate faith, which can be directed towards anything.

===

Mal Adapted,

“If you’re trained as a scientist, you depend on your peers to find the errors you overlooked in your own work, because you know you are the easiest person to fool.”

Stubborn empiricism is still the more critical element. Peer review can actually concentrate and entrench error and bias.

Phil

Stubborn empiricism is still the more critical element. Peer review can actually concentrate and entrench error and bias.

I'd say empiricism and intersubjective verification are equally important. Peer-review won't always catch empirical errors, but without it you have no way to know whether you're fooling yourself or not.

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 15 Jan 2015 #permalink

Sean T,

Are you sure that the "belief that these phenomena were divinely caused was abandoned"? I think the predominant belief around the globe is that God(s) created and instigated the phenomena on earth and in the universe - so "abandoned" amongst your ilk would be more accurate. A "scientific explanation" never convinces a believer to deny God's involvement, it merely provides a possible glimpse into his process (interpreting the Big Bang as compatible with "let there be light" for example). "Time after time, we found that phenomena originally attributed to divine action could be explained without reference to God." Go ahead and "explain it without reference to God", but the explanation never disproves an intelligent designer's involvement (only overlooks or sometimes has an aversion to the possibility) and the probability that he is/was involved is still pretty high in the minds of most - even if previous myths about the process were incorrect. "Your evidence for an orchestrator is likely suspect." I'm not so sure it is, but I'll leave there for the time being.

Michael Fugate,

I would be wise not to divulge such things in a forum frequented by a group hellbent on denying (disproving?) the existence of God. I would see the test through, then choose a more appropriate outlet to articulate my argument in a more impactful and organized way. A great man once said; "do not throw your pearls to swine, or they will trample the pearls then turn and attack you." Take no offense.

Mal Adapted,

To avoid "fooling myself" and unjustified vanity, I have shared the evidence with individuals with eyes to see and I haven't been discouraged. Believers have group meetings as well where we're challenged by peers testing our faith, theology & revelations - I'd anticipate slightly different results here do to the limited range of sight. Modern science has no way of investigating things of a supernatural and/or spiritual nature (invisible yet real things) and many here have closed the door on that "potential" dimension - so if I have a compelling argument for even a skeptic, I'd better make it a thorough and strategic one.

Eric,

Your thoughts, ideas, your life, the love you have for your loved ones don't have weight, but yet they do (in an immeasurable kinda way). Your dead body will be absent of these things, however they were a part of you. Likewise, souls may be substantial in a similar (albeit more significant) way. Like the guys who had theories about invisible energy/subatomic particles had to wait for the microscope to be invented before they could confirm their suspicions, we'll have to wait for a device that can see beyond the natural and somehow magnify what is supernatural. Or we'll just see (or not) when we die - whichever comes first.

"Religion is the guy who sits in the corner and says “I got everything right, and I’m going to ignore any claims the rest of you (or the teacher) make that there’s a flaw in my work.” As Phil said, religion isn't a guy who sits in the corner and says “I got everything right", it's a group in agreement (billions in some cases) who think they have it right and are (again like scientists) testing their spiritual observations amongst other believers receiving feedback that confirms or nullifies their perceived truth. And hey, sometimes it is one loner dude or gal carrying something groundbreaking - nurturing it until it's ready to be presented, judged, accepted or rejected by the public (see the virgin Mary or Charles Darwin).

G,

"Some people are naturally wired to perceive the existence of a deity in the universe. Some people are naturally wired to perceive the nonexistence of a deity in the universe. Most are somewhere in-between to a degree that their social environment (reinforcement from others) will tend to determine their outlook about deities." I doubt that an existing God would set your free will up in such a way that you're predisposed to reject him without a way out - but if you're right, what might be the purpose of the two thought patterns (faith based brains vs empirical brains)? Surely we each contribute something worthwhile to humanity and are sharpened by one another? People who believe in God(s), an afterlife, etc. are not definitively wrong and useless, and science makes useful contributions to society as well. Like the conscience, might faith in God be there for a reason - to lead us to something good and inevitably true/right?

Sean T,

"It may even be possible that one or more of (religious) teachings might well make for good public policy. If so, I don’t object to implementation of laws consistent with a religion, so long as those laws are passed via a secular lawmaking process. For instance, most major religions view murder as a sin. I would not want to live in a society that is so anti-religious that it would allow murder simply because some religion teaches that murder is a sin." What shaped your belief that murder is wrong? Why it is universally believed to be a bad thing and where is the belief from? You can exclude religious texts from a culture or interview a bunch of children who haven't been indoctrinated and they'll likely agree that murder is evil. Is moral law innate? Are there moral absolutes? I believe the conscience is a GPS hard wired into us by God reinforced by culture and laws, I gather you don't - so scientifically speaking, how did conscience "evolve" within humanity? We see violence with a purpose in the animal kingdom noticing animals killing to protect, to feed or to gain territory. Human beings kill for the same reasons, but we also observe violence without purpose (serial killers and such) that can only be classified as senseless evil. What is the scientific explanation for evil or unnecessary violence that falls outside of "survival of the fittest"? Where does evil come from?

Our founding fathers' vision for the country was for the most part a Christian vision, hence our current status as a "Christian nation" (when we put "in God we trust" on our money and mention God in our courts and national songs we were eluding to the Judeo-Christian one). Might the U.S. be blessed precisely because of our moral leadership and foundational alignment with biblical righteousness (assuming you're American)? Our innovation, talents, resources, military, etc. have contributed to our position in the world, but we're often labeled as THE moral authority because of our principles. Has our "allegiance" to God caused God to bless America, making it a society you want to live in? A possibility worth some thought.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 16 Jan 2015 #permalink

Well, I'm unsubscribing from this thread. I don't know why you guys are even bothering.

I'm not one to ever feel guilty about quoting Jesus, but I don't mean to offend anyone who visits this thread. I'm not referring to anyone here as swine (you're obviously highly intelligent human beings), I mean to say it's wise to pick one's battles thoughtfully. Please forgive me if I have offended.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 16 Jan 2015 #permalink

Kanye, ever hear of something called mental illness - you might want to look it up.

"Christian Nation" - too funny - just too funny.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 16 Jan 2015 #permalink

"Our founding fathers’ vision for the country was for the most part a Christian vision, hence our current status as a “Christian nation” 

Seriously? Takes a lot of selective reading to believe that old line. And a lot of ignoring what they wrote. But that would require paying attention to facts, which you seem unlikely to do.

Obviously America is currently a melting pot where many faiths are represented, but you know what I mean - the foundation is predominately a Christian one. Almost all of our president's have identified themselves as Christians and there has NEVER been one who stood on atheism (or Islam or Buddism) as a platform. This fact adds to the "Christian nation" perception.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 16 Jan 2015 #permalink

You have read the Constitution - no?

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 16 Jan 2015 #permalink

Would you be willing to call the US a "white" nation or a "male" nation or a "farming" nation? After all the founders were white, male, farmers for the most part.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 16 Jan 2015 #permalink

"The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa." In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between Church and State."

Yes, I'm aware of this. It's a free country and we've never beheaded non-Christians here as the founders obviously wanted liberty and justice (what shaped their view of justice?) for it's citizens, but Christianity has always been the predominate belief system amongst U.S. presidents which means they had a Christian worldview that seeped into their governing tactics. Notice I chose the word "predominate". We don't force anyone to confess faith in Jesus before granting citizenship, but "God" is a reoccurring term throughout America's political/foundational history and most have been referring to the Judeo-Christian one. All I'm sayin'. A politician's personal paradigm affects their electability as the voting public wants to see their values reflected in their leaders. It's fairly easy to understand why I would label the U.S. as (traditionally) a "Christian nation" as I'm not reaching to find reasons to justify the perception. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_affiliations_of_Presidents_of_…

And no, I would not "be willing to call the US a white nation or a male nation or a farming nation" and I'm sorry to generalize to the point that anyone feels excluded by my statement. I merely mean to highlight the "possibility" that God (may have) had a hand in the guidance and development of America (among other things) - and is woven into our historical tapestry. We're an everything nation, a melting pot where most groups are well represented.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 16 Jan 2015 #permalink

“The "religion section" of the Farewell Address was for many years as familiar to the American people as Washington's warning that the United States should avoid entangling alliances with foreign nations. The first president advised his fellow citizens that "Religion and morality" were the "great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens." "National morality," he added, could not exist "in exclusion of religious principle." "Virtue or morality," he concluded, as the products of religion, were "a necessary spring of popular government.” “
http://loc.gov/loc/lcib/9805/religion.html

"The result was that a religious people rose in rebellion against Great Britain in 1776, and that most American statesmen, when they began to form new governments at the state and national levels, shared the convictions of most of their constituents that religion was, to quote Alexis de Tocqueville's observation, indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions."
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/

You really have to work to miss it. But then, we have lots of very, very hard workers now.

No one could say that the citizens of the US haven't always been predominately Christian, but so what? What does that have to do with whether or not Christianity is true? Nothing. Or with the success or failure of the US? Why pick out Christianity - when the founders were often followers of the Enlightenment - hardly at ease with your Christianity - why not claim the Enlightenment? The founders were human - very human - they couldn't see women, people of color, the poor as their equals or in some cases as even human. They were a product of their times. You are trying to make it too simple.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 16 Jan 2015 #permalink

Michael Fugate,

"They were a product of their times. You are trying to make it too simple."

The collapse happens when people are products of the sappy, twisted thought processes of their enlightened times. It is actually very simple.

So their racism was a product of their Christianity - is that your contention? I happy with that if you are - if you want the inspiration of the founders to be your God - then your God is a racist. Be my guest.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 16 Jan 2015 #permalink

Nice try Michael. Push the reset button and try to find your way back.

"No one could say that the citizens of the US haven’t always been predominately Christian, but so what? What does that have to do with whether or not Christianity is true? Nothing. Or with the success or failure of the US? Why pick out Christianity – when the founders were often followers of the Enlightenment – hardly at ease with your Christianity – why not claim the Enlightenment? The founders were human – very human – they couldn’t see women, people of color, the poor as their equals or in some cases as even human. They were a product of their times. You are trying to make it too simple."

Let's keep it simple. Simplicity is good in a increasingly complicated world. The basic purpose of Jesus' life and death was to express God's intention for man (the image of God), and to reunite fallen man to their perfect and holy intelligent designer blessing them with the opportunity to have an earthly/eternal relationship with him. Upon accepting this pardon and reward, the individual will forever receive blessings that they do not at all deserve and did not pay for. I'm acutely aware of my many flaws/sins, but believe that despite them, I'm going to unearned real estate (heaven) forevermore. I'm also receiving things in this physical life that I know I don't deserve, but get blessed with anyway do to my Dad's position in the universe (a rich brat of a wealthy Ruler you might say - I'm not suggesting sinful indulgence by any means). I see America much the same way; a rich brat whose stolen things, been racist, greedy, abusive, dishonest, murderous and "sinful" in almost every way possible - but God lavishes her anyway. Allegiance to God and an honest/contrite desire to seek and serve him affords one an abundance of unmerited favor and blessings that covers a multitude of sins. A good deal that seems too good to be true, but God might just be loving enough to grant it (if he exists that is).

By Kanye East (not verified) on 16 Jan 2015 #permalink

Phi, you simply can't answer a simple question when it hits an unpleasant truth can you? That sums up the emptiness of your position: over claim evidence for it and lie about the downsides.

Pick your side guys - either the US is just another country founded by humans or, as you contend, was founded by your God. If your God was in charge, you have some explaining to do about your God - that's all I'm saying.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 17 Jan 2015 #permalink

Why is it so necessary to believe your God was involved? Why the US and not every other nation? You don't think they believe in Gods too? Can't you see how silly this looks - pure hubris. This puerile strain of Christianity - where there is US exceptionalism, human exceptionalism, earth exceptionalism, universe exceptionalism, individual exceptionalism. It is like Garrison Keilor's fictional Lake Wobegon - "where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." I think there is even something called "The Lake Wobegon Effect." Fiction is not reality.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 17 Jan 2015 #permalink

"Why is it so necessary to believe your God [is] involved?"

Because human history is a managed enterprise.

"Because human history is a managed enterprise."

Yeah, by humans. So your God has managed to install Islam in the Middle East, Hinduism in India, Buddhism in Asia? Not to mention all the indigenous religions all over? So like Thich Nhat Hanh and Daniel Berrigan you believe "the raft is not the shore" - heaven is obtainable an infinite variety of ways. Good to know you are so ecumenical.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 17 Jan 2015 #permalink

Washington’s warning that the United States should avoid entangling alliances with foreign nations.

Just noticed this - your ignorance is showing again. Washington was saying no such thing, as even in his time we were engaged with negotiations with European countries. What he expressed was a desire for things to be as simple as possible while the new country organized itself and found its footing. He stated (in a communication to Gouverneur Morris on Dec. 22, 1795) that he envisioned the United States would be solid enough in approximately 20 years that its position in international relations would be unassailable.
What he was concerned about in the comment you misuse was the still simmering divide between residents who had sided with England and with France during his final years in office. He feared the nitpicking and backbiting among the politicians would derail the steps of the young government to get on its feet - those were the entanglements he meant.
It is almost understandable how someone who is accustomed to dealing with religion, where there is no historical fact or evidence to support one's opinions, could assume the same is true for history. After all, you do that for science. I can't help but believe your take on Washington and the christian nation thing, however, are simply intentional distortions on your part. It is also telling that you refer to Washington as though he were the only Founding Father, and conveniently ignore (I'm sure intentionally this time) the many comments, from others, which are in complete disagreement with your points. (Although I'm sure that, in the rare event you address them, you'll find a twisted way to argue they support you.)
It is really interesting how religion destroys the sense that you must tell the truth but instead say anything to defend your view.

This thread died for some reason - what happened? A final thought from our next president:
The New York Times: "If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?"

Hillary Clinton: "At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement."

I've never known the Clinton's to be a particularly religious family or to wear their personal beliefs on their sleeves, but this comment is telling (no matter her true heart and/or motives).

By Kanye East (not verified) on 23 Jan 2015 #permalink

Kanye East,

“At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.”

I don't believe her.

Yeah I have my doubts too Phil, although we could never know for sure. We can't read her heart and can assume that she's at the very least (as she's said) been "raised reading it" and it "influenced her thinking". Even some atheists can make those very claims so that much I believe her on, it's just difficult to look past her and Bill's shrewd political savvy. He was governor in the Bible Belt for a while so she could be being truthful - and I wouldn't think she's an atheist.

We got the very stubborn Michael Fugate and his superior reasoning skills to change his tune a little bit from comment 44 to 51 (hi five!) and I was just adding a nail in the coffin of the "Christian nation" debate. Whether she's an authentic believer or not, her quote indicates that she agrees with me on some level and knows what the country is at it's core/foundation. She's aware of what she needs to represent in order to get elected and realizes that any other platform would be political suicide. I'm with you though; skeptical about her truthfulness, but Jesus is a pretty influential personality so who knows?

By Kanye East (not verified) on 24 Jan 2015 #permalink

Why don't you believe her, Phil? Because she's a democrat or a politician? Would you believe Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee? Talk about hucksters - whoooooo boy!

I really don't get the whole need to declare one's self special - why are you two so hung up on this? Among people I want to be special why because I was chosen by God? Among religions, I want Christianity to be special why because Jesus was not just a prophet, but God's son? Among countries I want the US to be special because it was chosen by God? Among species I want humans to be special why because they were chosen by God? Among planets, I want the earth to be special and on and on and on. Are you really that insecure? Probably.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 24 Jan 2015 #permalink

Michael Fugate,

"Why don’t you believe her, Phil?"

So you do?

"I really don’t get the whole need to declare one’s self special – why are you two so hung up on this? Among people I want to be special why because I was chosen by God? Among religions, I want Christianity to be special why because Jesus was not just a prophet, but God’s son? Among countries I want the US to be special because it was chosen by God? Among species I want humans to be special why because they were chosen by God? Among planets, I want the earth to be special and on and on and on. Are you really that insecure? Probably."

Well I think you are special Michael, as are me and Phil. Even if you want to minimize us all down to merely biological creatures with no souls or real intended purpose, we're highly efficient biological machines infinitely more creative than any other species and superior in our intellectual abilities. Our most sophisticated computers and machines can't hold a candle to a human being in "design" and functionality - that's special isn't it? Throw in the "potential" spiritual element and our value goes up because that would increase the likelihood of us being made in the image of a spiritual God - if we are, that would meet my criteria for special as well. America is special because it's the greatest super power the world has ever known and has made (a few) contributions to the global community that are life enhancing. The country stands out. Jesus' impact alone qualifies him as special. The earth is special due to the awesome phenomena and life that occurs on it. These are acknowledgements, truths independent of my soliloquy and not boasts or signs of insecurity - there's no "need to declare (something) special" if it indisputably is.

"So your God has managed to install Islam in the Middle East, Hinduism in India, Buddhism in Asia? Not to mention all the indigenous religions all over?"

Not everything is "installed" by God or is his intent, though we can conclude that someone is whipping up everything that is the opposite of pure truth (whatever the truth may be). Some things are merely allowed by God (evil for example) and are a part of a predestined history that concludes with his intent on top.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 24 Jan 2015 #permalink

Kanye,

"we can conclude that someone is whipping up everything that is the opposite of pure truth"

Exactly. There are counterfeits, and deceit is the method of installation.

@67: So, there is no proof of your god, or any god, you just believe one exists because it is comforting and doing so is a circular justification for being special, and it allows you to ignore science (same for phil). Thanks for your honesty on that.

"Pure truth" - given the wide interpretations of religious texts and fables, your claim that somehow there is a pure truth there is a farcical as your other claims.

It is really sad to to think that you may be passing these foolish beliefs on to others, especially children. If there is cause for concern for the future, this is it.

I don't know her that well to dismiss her out of hand, do you? I do think most politicians pander and although I read the Bible and memorized verses as a youth, I would hardly pick it as my most influential book. So many better thinkers than that available. I think Hilary is smarter and more thoughtful than that - so its probably not completely true. At least she doesn't believe the Bible is literally true.

Kanye, that's almost too stupid to reply to. We're all special except when we aren't. And your God is in charge except when its not. Do you not see that this is nonsense. Applying your logic to the world - cars are white unless they're some other color. Of course its true but is it pure truth.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 25 Jan 2015 #permalink

dean,

“If there is cause for concern for the future, this is it.”

There are a few other slightly more alarming issues.

"There are a few other slightly more alarming issues."

People making decisions and basing their lives on fairy tales (as you do) is certainly a serious cause for concern. People who believe that god is on their side are causing massive harm in many areas of the world.

"So, there is no proof of your god, or any god, you just believe one exists because it is comforting and doing so is a circular justification for being special, and it allows you to ignore science (same for phil)."

I'm not "believing God exists because it's comforting", I'm believing God exists because it's been revealed. It's not up for debate (personally) as it's plainly obvious. Even to those children you're concerned about and are saddened that we "may be passing our foolish beliefs" on to, it's obvious. Try convincing one of them that nothing created everything and they'll look at you like you're crazy - you'd have to spend some effort indoctrinating them away from their common sense. Think about that a second; what if you're wrong and there is a God? If you teach kids that there is no God, but in reality there really is - then you are the "cause for concern for the future", not believers. I'd be in denial if I started to make up reasons to not believe as I've been pursued into submission by Someone who wants to be known. Comfort is merely an important byproduct of relationship.

“Pure truth - given the wide interpretations of religious texts and fables, your claim that somehow there is a pure truth there is a farcical as your other claims." Of course there's a pure truth. Even you believe that. Isn't that what science is in pursuit of; how we got here, who put us here or who didn't, why they did or didn't, the process? These questions have answers and whatever those answers are is the pure indisputable truth. Phil hit it on the head: "there are counterfeits, and deceit is the method of installation" and the words supernatural intelligence apply to more than just God. One of us is being deceived and the other is in route to truth (God's existence or non existence).

Michael,
Have there been "greater thinkers" than Jesus? If there is an intelligent designer, that intelligence trumps everyone else's by a whole lot and Hillary could do no better than to interact with that intelligence. I'd like to think she's smart enough to not believe that the universe is Godless or that she came about without an intelligent designer's involvement. I have my doubts about her honesty, but I also doubt she's an atheist.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 25 Jan 2015 #permalink

dean,

“People who believe that god is on their side are causing massive harm in many areas of the world.”

Muslims Dean, not Christians. I could link your point of view with Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot and be just as dishonest. The sharks in the water are not Bible thumpers.

There is a very good chance you will witness amazing catastrophe and unbridled violence here in the US and in the the world at large. I expect it will be very confusing for you.

Muslims Dean, not Christians. I could link your point of view with Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot and be just as dishonest. The sharks in the water are not Bible thumpers.

Same god. Matter of degree between the virulent right wing christians here in the states and the terrorists - mostly due to a functioning infrastructure and lack of war here in the U.S.

There is a very good chance you will witness amazing catastrophe and unbridled violence here in the US and in the the world at large. I expect it will be very confusing for you.

The people in the US who are advocating against the government are the right wing christians - doesn't that go against your previous claim? Or are you hinting that the evil "others" will soon be here?

Or is it simply more of your asinine end times talk?

It’s not up for debate (personally) as it’s plainly obvious.

It is obvious to you by choice - you find it more comforting to think there is a creator responsible for you and all around you than to acknowledge the science. You detect (or think you detect it) design not because there is design, but because humans have evolved to see patterns.

And your claim that your children see the same thing as "obvious" - it is obvious to them because of your influence.

It is a puzzle why you and phil have intentionally hobbled your intellects with this crap.

Have there been “greater thinkers” than Jesus?

Yes - thousands if not millions.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 25 Jan 2015 #permalink

I set myself up for that Fugate, and of course disagree.

"It is obvious to you by choice – you find it more comforting to think there is a creator responsible for you and all around you than to acknowledge the science. You detect (or think you detect it) design not because there is design, but because humans have evolved to see patterns."

It's obvious because I chose to make it obvious? Huh? I evolved to see what's obvious (patterns)? There are obvious flaws in your thinking.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 25 Jan 2015 #permalink

dean,

"Same god."

How perfectly ignorant of you. Do some reading.
-
“Or are you hinting that the evil “others” will soon be here?”

Well, we are definitely in the import business. But we have built and financed our own feral elements for decades.
-
“Or is it simply more of your asinine end times talk?”

Well yes, definitely and unequivocally. but it is not my talk. I have a mandate to watch and compare, and I watch. One of the sorriest things that can happen to a person is learning to ignore facts because the source is unappealing. You have mastered this irreverent skill.

People who claimed to know Jesus thought he was coming back in their lifetimes and you think you have any idea about supposed "end times?" Hubris is I think the proper term.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 25 Jan 2015 #permalink

Kanye @41:

Like the guys who had theories about invisible energy/subatomic particles had to wait for the microscope to be invented before they could confirm their suspicions, we’ll have to wait for a device that can see beyond the natural and somehow magnify what is supernatural.

Sounds good. When you get that device, it will give all of us a warrant for rational belief. Before you have that device, you don't.

Skipping way ahead. @73:

Even to those children you’re concerned about and are saddened that we “may be passing our foolish beliefs” on to, it’s obvious

No, children learn religion from their parents. That should be obvious from the geographical variation in religious belief. If there was some intuitive and built-in obviousness to monotheism, children all over the world would be monotheists regardless of their parents' beliefs. But they aren't; they are oolytheists when their parents are polytheists. Animists when their parents are animists. Buddhists when their parents are Buddhist. And so on.

Try convincing one of them that nothing created everything and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy

Little kids (1-4 year olds) don't have any such expectation. As far as they are concerned, things can pop in and out of the world all the time. They have to be taught or trained as to what is possible and what isn't, what is real and what is illusion. They learn their parent's biases, they don't come equipped with them.

Phil @79:

One of the sorriest things that can happen to a person is learning to ignore facts because the source is unappealing.

On that we are agreed. Humans evolved from eariler species. The earth is billions of years old. There was no single pair from which we are all descended. There was no global flood. Nobody alive when Jesus lived will see the biblical cataclysm you predict; they all died before it will happen. Faith healing doesn't work any better than the placebo effect. And so on.

Well said Eric :)
With the low standard in debates on the web, it is great to see answers like this one which quotes what it responds to
and concerns itself with the subject, and doesn't use namecalling or derision
cudos! :)
/Jakob

By Jakob Krarup (not verified) on 26 Jan 2015 #permalink

In reply to by eric (not verified)

The thing this all comes down to is "what exactly does this god you talk about actually do." I would content that there are really only two possibilities: 1) nothing or 2) everything. The hybrid where biology is something this god does, but chemistry and/or physics is not just can't work. Patterns are everywhere evoking "design" - as I mentioned before Dennett does a good job of explaining how very simple algorithms can lead to "designed" results with no need for intelligence. Of course this doesn't mean that there is no god only that it is perfectly plausible that there isn't one who is designing and creating - no matter what flimsy arguments Phil makes to the contrary. The point is just because you think you see "design" doesn't mean that it was designed and created by an intelligence for a purpose. You need something more - much more than a cheap analogy. When you don't operationally define terms like "design," "create," "special," "complex" etc., you can't know whether they happen as you claim.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 26 Jan 2015 #permalink

How perfectly ignorant of you. Do some reading.

Interesting how you imply that Jehova is not the same god as Allah. Not surprising, but interesting.

“Or are you hinting that the evil “others” will soon be here?”

Well, we are definitely in the import business. But we have built and financed our own feral elements for decades.

This is a little more interesting. The first part almost seems as though you are in line with the (amazingly enough, christian) right-wing loons who claim that amazing numbers of terrorists are flooding across the border and waiting to attack, despite any evidence of such. The second part hints that you think there is some huge home-grown danger. It bears pointing out that the people who repeatedly show up in this country demanding a government overthrow or secession of some state are, again, the right-wing christian folks - your type.

Well yes, definitely and unequivocally. but it is not my talk. I have a mandate to watch and compare, and I watch.

You have a mandate? Really? Self-imposed, most likely. This is one of your emptiest statements.

One of the sorriest things that can happen to a person is learning to ignore facts because the source is unappealing. You have mastered this irreverent skill.

Again, really? The fact that someone doesn't buy the rants of someone deluded by their faith? Have you forgotten all of your comments dismissing the evidence of evolution simply because it didn't agree with your faith?
I'm amazed you were able to get through an engineering program.

Can you elaborate on why you think Jesus a "great thinker, KE?"
I see almost nothing original there and what is there is informed by an impoverished understanding of the natural world; there is no ecological program unlike most indigenous religions which allowed for sustainable living without imports, there is no understanding of disease (demons really!). He appears a person of his time and place - not one that was timeless and placeless. Given what we understand about morality now - why no condemnation of slavery, indentured servitude, why no equality for women, universal education? It is as if he thought the world would end and none of the important stuff mattered - yet here we still are. What he gave us on human relations has been largely ignored by the government of the US which you keep informing us is a Christian nation. The poor, the immigrant, the sick, the weak, the criminal - why no universal health care? why a death penalty? why a standing army? Was he wrong - or are you?

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 26 Jan 2015 #permalink

dean,

“Interesting how you imply that Jehova is not the same god as Allah. Not surprising, but interesting.”

I’m interested in how you arrived at your conclusion, but I’m betting you won’t go any further with this.
-
“The second part hints that you think there is some huge home-grown danger.”

More like cultivated.
-
“You have a mandate? Really?”

Yes, point blank. They synoptics all record answers to questions about the time of the end, and the last verse in Mark 13 reads “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” Pretty straight-forward I think.
-
“Have you forgotten all of your comments dismissing the evidence of evolution simply because it didn’t agree with your faith?”

Of course I haven’t. But this is about your faith. See, the facts are in on biological life, and what is actually known boils down to life only coming from life, no exceptions. And the facts are in on mutations, and what is actually knowable and observable does not support their champion status.

I get it that you don’t like things like this, and you don’t like people pointing them out because it insults your faith. When you’re involved in believing things because you like them, you have to be very selective about sources.

Phil;

Yes, point blank. They synoptics all record answers to questions about the time of the end, and the last verse in Mark 13 reads “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” Pretty straight-forward I think.

Also straightforward was the famous biblical verse that precedes it (by a couple of sentences: "Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." But, funny thing, no Christian takes that verse very straightforwardly. So why would you think Matt 13:37 is any more literal than Matt 13:30?

So the fact that christians, jews, and muslims recognize the same god - the one that showed himself to abraham - means nothing to you because you don't like one of the groups of people. got it.

Of course I haven’t. But this is about your faith. See, the facts are in on biological life, and what is actually known boils down to life only coming from life, no exceptions. And the facts are in on mutations, and what is actually knowable and observable does not support their champion status.

You are the faith pusher, the facts on evolution are solidly based on science. The fact that you discount it puts your comments in the same realm as those made by people who discount relativity or the safety of vaccines - i.e., your dismissal is lunacy.

I get it that you don’t like things like this, and you don’t like people pointing them out because it insults your faith. When you’re involved in believing things because you like them, you have to be very selective about sources.

This is why I sometimes think you're simply stringing people along for fun - the irony of that statement coming from a committed science-denier like you is astounding.

They synoptics all record answers to questions about the time of the end,

So I was correct - mandate based on numerology and fables. Scary, actually.

Phil, how life began and how it diversified are two different things. Evolution is in accord with the facts even if life were seeded from another source. We have also countered every misconception of yours about mutations and you still bring it up again?

One would think that the "sola scriptura" crowd would actually be able to read the Bible, but I guess not. Go back through the Gospels again Phil and tell me that Jesus wasn't under the impression that the world would end soon. It is all about not worrying about the future because there isn't going to be one. Did he misspeak or was he misinterpreted - neither is particularly helpful for Christianity as "pure truth" as KE want s to put it.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 27 Jan 2015 #permalink

Phil:

See, the facts are in on biological life, and what is actually known boils down to life only coming from life, no exceptions.

Well then, material life couldn't come from an immaterial God, could it?

Phil:
See, the facts are in on biological life, and what is actually known boils down to life only coming from life, no exceptions.

Well then, material life couldn’t come from an immaterial God, could it?

God is always an exception to every rule, it is the ultimate "get out of jail free" card. You can pull it out in any situation, claim God works in mysterious ways, and never need answer any difficult question. It the last resort of the unimaginative - the perfect cliché for every occasion.

The reason I gave up on Christianity - if there were a God he would know I tried - was that I actually read and studied the Bible. How anyone could think the Gospels had anything to do with the Old Testament and the Pauline letters had anything to do with the Gospels is beyond rational thought - not too mention tacking on Revelations to the end. Nothing omniscient let alone sentient could have had anything to do with that editing job.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 27 Jan 2015 #permalink

Eric,

"Sounds good. When you get that device, it will give all of us a warrant for rational belief. Before you have that device, you don’t."

That device I fantasize about would be of benefit to skeptics in future generations, but you'll have your confirmation beforehand as we'll be dead & gone or dead & existing somewhere else by the time it's invented. I do hope you're speaking for yourself and your ilk when you talk about not having a "warrant for rational belief" taking into consideration that some folks walking the earth might be thoroughly satisfied with reasons to believe (me for example). You couldn't know what causes me to believe because you have no awareness of your own spirituality, and therefore have no room to comment (intelligently) on someone else's. You are by admission, ignorant about such things and can only see what you see. I'm acquainted with my spirit, and acquainted with God so I have a "warrant for rational belief" - as do many others who've accepted the invitation and/or offered the invitation to the Source with all the critical answers. The insight is of course available to you as well, but one decreases their chance to learn when they reject the teacher.

"No, children learn religion from their parents. That should be obvious from the geographical variation in religious belief."

Kids (like adults) ask A LOT of questions about this world they involuntarily fell into, regardless of the geographical spot or home they land in. If a child is curious about the world around them, you might hear them ask: "who made this, how, when, or why is this?" Before we indoctrinate them with our biased answers, they have a curiosity that causes them to begin with one of the aforementioned words - and whichever one they chose, indicates what kind of assumptions they've made prior to receiving the answer. What do you (as an atheist) say to a child who asks; "who made this" or "how" or "why"? Do you correct them on the "who" and explain that there never was a who, but it's more of a how, then go on explaining the Big Bang and all these miraculous/improbable accidents that happened over billions of years (without intelligence) resulting in their existence? Or do you not correct them on the "who" leaving open the possibility that there may indeed be a Who (because after all, you don't know)? "Little kids (1-4 year olds) don’t have any such expectation (questions)", but if one (3-7) who can effectively articulate their thoughts asks "who?", what do you say? And if they ask "who", is it possible they chose that word intuitively?

Michael,

"Can you elaborate on why you think Jesus a “great thinker, KE?"

Well first off, I believe he had the mind of God so that should tell you something right there. The intelligent designer's intelligence supersedes the "thousands if not millions" of minds you hold in higher regard. Secondly, the ability to diagnose a problem and get others to believe in your answers wins you the prize of being a great thinker (in the minds of whoever's questions you sufficiently answer). When I think of Jesus, I think of a problem solver (among other things) who answers critical questions and solves critical problems. He obviously was/is a great leader (getting one or more people to adhere to your good cause qualifies you) and a great thinker because he answers questions that only God has answers to. For example: what happens to us when we die? Jesus' answer to this question is one that billions embrace as it solves the death problem - promising more of God, the glory, the good stuff. Others crucial answers: why are we here (service/to glorify God), where did we come from (God), where are we going (with God or not), how do we conduct ourselves on earth (like Me), etc. Basically any questions relevant to how to get the best possible results out of life morally, relationally, spiritually, etc., Jesus gave an answer to. He laid out a blueprint to fulfillment independent of material possessions providing insight on how to succeed temporally, but dealt heavily with answers relevant to the eternal picture.

"It is as if he thought the world would end and none of the important stuff mattered – yet here we still are."

He had knowledge that he would die young and why, and knew everyone else had death on their to do list as well. Whether the apocalypse or something more typical takes us into an eternal afterlife, eternity is a lot longer and consequently more important than anything going on in this dimension. He focused on that, and the "important stuff" (as you put it) may not be as important as you think it is in the grand scheme of things.

You "see almost nothing original there", but I say process: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and NO ONE comes to the Father except by Me" for originality. No one else makes an assertion as original as that and it brings us the answer to our most pressing problem; separation from God. There's another thread over there pondering the meaning of life or asking if there even is one. My understanding is that purpose and/or fulfillment of purpose comes from whoever made you or uses you. God manufactures us with a specific purpose and chiefly, it is to express his will through a relationship him. This purpose is impeded by sin, ignorance and other forces (you've heard about), but Jesus solves the problem of separation, reconciling us while simultaneously answering the question about the meaning of life (service). Help me out Phil, what did I miss?

In closing: everyone who follows Jesus fails to live up to his demonstrated way of living. I agree that "what he gave us on human relations has been largely ignored by the government of the US", and I describe my thoughts on this in more detail in comment 55. We'd have something closer to heaven on earth if everybody were able to live up to the Jesus standard I guess - ain't happening, but the real thing is tangible.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 27 Jan 2015 #permalink

If there is a God. Your whole argument is contingent on that and Jesus being the "son" of this God. If these are not true, then nothing you say follows.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 27 Jan 2015 #permalink

The huge problem in basing the decision on whether jesus was a wise man is even simpler: there is no evidence he wrote anything down: the writings are from many years after he is asserted to have lived, so
a) if there was a person by the name of jesus we have no idea what he might or might not have said
b) the statements attributed to him have made it through the years being written and rewritten by men who have a vested interest in making him what they say he was
c) there is a complete lack of historical evidence for his existence

Belief in him and the "events" that surrounded him are based on a total lack of evidence. In short: faith means believing in something you want to be true without being concerned with whether it actually is true.

I was also thinking how inappropriate the whole "god the father" analogy is as eric brought up on the other thread. No sane, loving, human father would kept his child dependent on him for life - never giving him or her the skills, trust, and encouragement to become independent.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 27 Jan 2015 #permalink

Now Michael, do you believe Dean when he tries to argue against the existence of Jesus, or is he reaching?

By Kanye East (not verified) on 27 Jan 2015 #permalink

Kanye East:

I do hope you’re speaking for yourself and your ilk when you talk about not having a “warrant for rational belief” taking into consideration that some folks walking the earth might be thoroughly satisfied with reasons to believe (me for example).

Satisfaction isn't a warrant for rational belief. The latter means a rational justification for your belief. You haven't given one.

You couldn’t know what causes me to believe because you have no awareness of your own spirituality, and therefore have no room to comment (intelligently) on someone else’s. You are by admission, ignorant about such things and can only see what you see

That's the nice thing about science; it doesn't rely on unexpressible subjective experiences. What you see as a feature of your faith, I see as a bug. Your warrant is getting less and less rational, if it merely consists of subjective experiences you can't communicate to those who don't have it.

What do you (as an atheist) say to a child who asks; “who made this” or “how” or “why”?

I answer as best I can. But your whole paragraph about that is a complete dodge. You claimed that your God was obvious to children. I gave you some empirical evidence that he isn't. You then respond by claiming children ask a lot of questions about causes. Which, ironically, supports my point and refutes your own. If your God was obvious, they wouldn't ask who or what made something, they would assume it was your God. But they don't....because your God is not obvious to children. He must be introduced to them by adults. If adults don't introduce him, children don't typically come up with him on their own.

So, care to try again? Do you have any comment that would support your claim that your monotheistic tri-omni God is obvious to children?

Depends what you mean KE? Jesus as God, no. I don't know how much of the rest is historically true and how much is myth. It is like asking did Odysseus exist. or Robin Hood. There was likely someone there, but nothing like the resulting tale.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 27 Jan 2015 #permalink

Kids have consciences don't they Eric?

By Kanye East (not verified) on 27 Jan 2015 #permalink

do you believe Dean when he tries to argue against the existence of Jesus, or is he reaching?

That's not the point. Where is your evidence, verified from sources independent of the bible, for your jesus?

Kids have consciences don’t they Eric?

Depends on how young you want to discuss. No, little kids (1-3) feel no compunction about taking toys from other kids, lying, biting, cheating at games, etc.. Concepts such as sharing, fair play, don't hurt others because they have feelings too, obey the rules...those are learned. Some are explicitly taught, some the kids pick up just by being in a social context, but no, they don't start out with much of a conscience.

But let's say they did. How does that support the existence of your tri-omni God? A built-in conscience could be hardwired by evolution because it was adaptive. Or it could be granted by the Hellenic pantheon. Or it could be a result of reincarnation. Or the result of any number of other explanations. "Has a conscience" doesn't lead to the Christian god any more than it leads to Nyarlathotep.

eric,

“Also straightforward was the famous biblical verse that precedes it (by a couple of sentences: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” But, funny thing, no Christian takes that verse very straightforwardly. So why would you think Matt 13:37 is any more literal than Matt 13:30?”

The things mentioned in the synoptic accounts of the Olivet Discourse have never occurred. There is a view called preterism that tries to hook up the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, but in my view it is very poor. The word for generation has multiple meanings, and is footnoted in some translations as meaning age, or nation, or race. You can explore the lexicon yourself:
http://www.blbclassic.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1074&t=KJV

The easier way to view it is in the context of the generation that would endure the events He was describing rather than the people he was talking to.

===

dean,

“the statements attributed to him have made it through the years being written and rewritten by men who have a vested interest in making him what they say he was”

The books of the NT were profusely copied and widely distributed. So if your claim is true, there should be lots of evidence of changes in the narrative.

Also, what was the vested interest you mention? They weren’t exactly coddled by SPQR.

The easier way to view it is in the context of the generation that would endure the events He was describing rather than the people he was talking to.

No, that's presuppositionalism. Nobody would ever straight-forwardly arrive at your interpretation unless they were required to assume Jesus must have been right. Without that assumption, the straight-forward interpretation is: Jesus thought that generation would be the last, and he was wrong. You are not taking the passage straightforwardly, you are practicing presuppositionalism.

But you never replied to my @90 post. You said biological life only comes from life, no exceptions. So a spirit couldn't be the source, could it? Unless you make an exception to your no exception rule.

eric,

“You are not taking the passage straightforwardly, you are practicing presuppositionalism.”

No, I’m taking the passage in context. Luke’s account has a very far-reaching notation about the fate of Jerusalem:

“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

You can do all you want with this, but the historical facts are unassailable.
-
“you never replied to my @90 post. You said biological life only comes from life, no exceptions. So a spirit couldn’t be the source, could it?”

No exceptions that can be demonstrated. God is not subject to your materialist box.

But, funny thing, no Christian takes that verse very straightforwardly.

Yeah, because it would make Jesus a liar if they did. To remain Christians you have no choice but to interpret differently than it is written. So why not interpret Genesis as if it were meant as a story rather than historical truth?

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 28 Jan 2015 #permalink

"Yeah, because it would make Jesus a liar if they did."

Exactly. Which is why we discount your very selective and oblivious percetion. It ignores contemporary history. If I were you, I would start paying attention.

Eric,

"They don’t start out with much of a conscience. But let’s say they did. How does that support the existence of your tri-omni God? A built-in conscience could be hardwired by evolution because it was adaptive. Or it could be granted by the Hellenic pantheon. Or it could be a result of reincarnation. Or the result of any number of other explanations."

Yeah, other explanation A). God put conscience there to draw us to the truth and/or his mind/intention. "They don’t start out WITH MUCH of a conscience", but they do start out with a little bit of one? Or "No, little kids feel no compunction..."? Which is it? For every child that bites another kid yelling "MINE MINE MINE!!!", I'm sure another can be found that shares and does the opposite without being told.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1275574/Babies-know-difference-…

I never said kids came out of the womb as trinitarians quoting scripture or identifying God as male or knowing the meaning of Christmas. I'm suggesting that kids have a GPS, or glimmer of consciousness that there is a Source to them and everything in their world (an undetectable connection to God). The personality of God has to be communicated and taught as the identity of their domestic parents does, but I'm referring to the "potential" soul/spirit. I tried painting a picture with the questions that children might ask to imply that they inherently know that their world didn't pop up without a Creator - and that the Creator has more of a trademark claim on the kid than the natural parents do, even if they can't fully process or understand the connection. Developing an atheistic worldview takes a lot of unknowing of what one inherently knows (my opinion).

Your take on kid consciences may be a little off. What's your take on kid souls?

By Kanye East (not verified) on 28 Jan 2015 #permalink

Phil:

I’m taking the passage in context. Luke’s account has a very far-reaching notation about the fate of Jerusalem:

“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

What has that have to do with the price of fish? This is jut more presuppositionalism: the straight-forward interpretation of the fact that Jesus prophesied a lot of crazy stuff before "this geneneration" would "pass away" is that he was wrong. He was a doomsday preacher just like we have today - just like you, in fact, if I recall some of your previous posts - and he was wrong.

The fact that these things didn't happen in his time is not evidence that he must have meant something else. You have to accept as a foundational premise that he couldn't be wrong to get to that conclusion. Absent that irratinal and unwarranted premise, the straigthforward interpretation is that Jesus was wrong in his prophesy.

[eric] You said biological life only comes from life, no exceptions. So a spirit couldn’t be the source, could it?”

[Phil] No exceptions that can be demonstrated. God is not subject to your materialist box.

So you are carving out an exception for God: you won't apply your own arguments to him, because he fails them. Nice to know. That renders your entire argument tautological, as you have now defined God as the only thing you will accept as a source of life.

Kanye East, thanks for the article. I'll revise my conclusion on babies now (because, that's what rational people do faced with contradictory evidence). As I said, there could be many explanations for a built-in, hardwired conscience.

I never said kids came out of the womb as trinitarians quoting scripture or identifying God as male or knowing the meaning of Christmas. I’m suggesting that kids have a GPS, or glimmer of consciousness that there is a Source to them and everything in their world (an undetectable connection to God).

No, you said God was obvious to children. Its right there in #73, why are yo denying this? Do I need to quote you so you remember what you said? Okay, here it is: "I’m not “believing God exists because it’s comforting”, I’m believing God exists because it’s been revealed. It’s not up for debate (personally) as it’s plainly obvious. Even to those children you’re concerned about and are saddened that we “may be passing our foolish beliefs” on to, it’s obvious."
You are very clearlly saying that the revealed, plainly obvious God is not just obvious to you, its obvious to children too.

Your take on kid consciences may be a little off. What’s your take on kid souls?

Show me one and we'll discuss it. Perhaps you'd like to cite Alex Malarkey's trip as evidence of them?

Phil, you're at least consistent in ignoring evidence that doesn't fit the answer you want. You keep telling us the Bible is true - except when it isn't. It is the typical, anti-science response - try to twist the facts to fit the answer - rather than the answer fit the facts.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 29 Jan 2015 #permalink

What’s your take on kid souls?

Given the complete lack of evidence of a soul - they don't exist. Do you even have a good definition for a soul?

"Exactly. Which is why we discount your very selective and oblivious percetion. It ignores contemporary history. "

Aaah, so there is no single interpretation of these things - context dependent. How selective of you.

Eric,

"Kanye East, thanks for the article. I’ll revise my conclusion on babies now (because, that’s what rational people do faced with contradictory evidence). As I said, there could be many explanations for a built-in, hardwired conscience."

You're welcome! Hopefully you'll be revising your conclusion on more than baby consciences at some point. "There could be many explanations for a BUILT-IN hardwired conscience" you say, but why use a word that implies that something's been built, and not acknowledge a Builder?

"No, you said God was obvious to children. Its right there in #73, why are you denying this? Do I need to quote you so you remember what you said? Okay, here it is: “I’m not “believing God exists because it’s comforting”, I’m believing God exists because it’s been revealed. It’s not up for debate (personally) as it’s plainly obvious. Even to those children you’re concerned about and are saddened that we “may be passing our foolish beliefs” on to, it’s obvious.” You are very clearlly saying that the revealed, plainly obvious God is not just obvious to you, its obvious to children too."

I see what you're saying - difficult to type things as clear as they are in your head sometimes. I do believe that God's existence is more obvious to me than it would be to a child and I did not make that clear. My relationship and ongoing discovery has been going on longer than that of a child's, so in no way am I suggesting that they are as acquainted. I'm merely suggesting that an introduction has been made through their conscience/consciousness/soul before they ever hear about Jesus, or any religious text. I stand by "saying that the revealed God is not just obvious to me, but obvious to children too", but at different degrees of awareness or understanding. We're both looking at a puzzle, but mine consists of less blank spaces/more filled in pieces.

Elaborating: a child might be grateful for gifts/provisions and they don't always know how to describe how the provisions got there or who the provider was - but they are at the very least aware that something is being provided (the provision of life for example, they're aware they have it at a certain age). Parents, mentors or the Provider Himself must introduce the child to a Personality, but they don't have to work too hard to convince them that something is out there because they already know. An atheistic view is (I assume) a much harder sell to a child because it requires some unknowing.

"Show me one (soul) and we’ll discuss it. Perhaps you’d like to cite Alex Malarkey’s trip as evidence of them?"

Well I can't "show you" because our device (The Soul Magnifier) hasn't been invented yet. You state:

"That’s the nice thing about science; it doesn’t rely on unexpressible subjective experiences. What you see as a feature of your faith, I see as a bug. Your warrant is getting less and less rational, if it merely consists of subjective experiences you can’t communicate to those who don’t have it."

The not so nice thing about science (the God excluding kind) is that it can't see everything, yet sometimes promotes what little it has seen as a thorough fact - scoffing at anyone who declares that there's More. "Show me and we’ll discuss it" or "I'll believe it when I see it" leaves your cup in a perpetual state of half empty considering how much you've yet to discover.

My proof of an Orchestrator can most certainly be communicated, but not in a fleeting online conversation. I'll hold on to my pearls, but a drop for your cup; God exists.

Dean,

"Given the complete lack of evidence of a soul – they don’t exist. Do you even have a good definition for a soul?"

The simplest definition for your soul; you. "They don't exist", you don't exist (same with God incidentally - no God, no you) as you're due to discover. Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 30 Jan 2015 #permalink

"yet sometimes promotes what little it has seen as a thorough fact – scoffing at anyone who declares that there’s More."

Scoffing at people who declares there is more without providing any evidence - you conveniently leave that off. If you claim something exists that is not detectable by science - it isn't science, is it?

"The simplest definition for your soul; you. “They don’t exist”, you don’t exist (same with God incidentally – no God, no you) as you’re due to discover."

So you don't have a good definition, just a stupid response. As expected.

Oh the hostility dear Dean! I doubt you really care about my definition for soul and if you thought you had one, you'd be acquainted with the meaning by now. But who am I to not be of service: your soul is the part of you that is made in the image of God. He is a spiritual force and in order for us to qualify as being made in His image, we'd have to be spiritual as well - which we are. Your spirit is your life and I believe I'm on the right track when I say it's YOU. Your immaterial essence, your life force, your inner being, your person.

I know you have an aversion to the Bible, and in your eyes it's nothing more than a novel, and you don't believe Jesus existed, and you're a proud atheist and yada yada yada - but bear with me as this informs my definition: "then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

And a secular description if you prefer: the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.

"Scoffing at people who declares there is more without providing any evidence – you conveniently leave that off. If you claim something exists that is not detectable by science – it isn’t science, is it?"

Like I reminded Eric, we just don't have the means to make an immaterial soul visible, but billions of people are walking the earth KNOWING that they have them. Just like love, thoughts, feelings, God can't be placed under a microscope, souls can't either. "You claim something exists that is not detectable by science – it isn’t science, is it?" Well I keep talking about subatomic particles/invisible energy as something that used to be undetectable by science (because it was), but now it is detectable. The particles were there even when we couldn't see, and now they're crucial to our understanding of science and how everything is made (human beings included). What are we not seeing now, that will one day be crucial to our understanding of how human beings are made?

By Kanye East (not verified) on 30 Jan 2015 #permalink

"KNOWING" - if simple belief in a soul is the same as knowing, then you are correct., millions of people know they have a soul. Typically, however, knowing something implies there is proof for that something - and there is no proof, outside one's mind and ancient stories, that souls exist.

And its fine that you've decided which of the contradictory stories in genesis you believe, but again: there is no evidence for any of it. All of the support that's been offered has boiled down to "I know it. You can't recognize it because you haven't tried."

Sorry - most people prefer to live in the real world, not one guided by writings done well after the events they purport to describe.

What makes the story in Genesis more believable than descent with modification? It is certainly not because it better aligns with observable evidence - so why? What would change about your life if you accepted common descent? Would your god reject you - send you to hell? Is it unforgivable to accept a scientific explanation?

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 30 Jan 2015 #permalink

You’re welcome! Hopefully you’ll be revising your conclusion on more than baby consciences at some point. “There could be many explanations for a BUILT-IN hardwired conscience” you say, but why use a word that implies that something’s been built, and not acknowledge a Builder?

Sure I acknowledge a builter. Random mutation produced a wide variation of critters with slightly different brains, and natural selection means the critters with the brains most wel-adapted to their ecogology are likely to pass on their genes (for their brain-variations) to more children. And so on, and so on. Those are the forces that 'build' human traits. Those are the builders we know about, bececause we can see them operating. Now, show me God directly building anything, and I'll say he's a builder too.

I’m merely suggesting that an introduction has been made through their conscience/consciousness/soul before they ever hear about Jesus, or any religious text.

Well, that's sort of true but not in the way you mean. As a parent of a young kid, I can tell you for certain that kids get introduced to religious concepts and ideas without ever hearing about them from their parents. Our culture (and the people around us) are so swamped in religious imagery and language that you would literally have to keep your child at home, not let them interact with other children, and never turn on the TV to stop them from getting introduced to it.

However, I suspect you mean that they have some sipritual connection to God which makes them feel his presence in ways I don't. I see no evidence of that. I see lots of evidence against it - and I already mentioned one example, that of kids gaining the religion of their parents and not some uniform theology. They grow up with radically different theological ideas, such as monotheism vs. polytheism vs. karmic cycles.

Kids hear stuff and ask questions; that is how they get introduced to the notion of God.

The not so nice thing about science (the God excluding kind) is that it can’t see everything, yet sometimes promotes what little it has seen as a thorough fact

That's a non sequitur argument. Confidence in what it does study can be high even if it can't study everything. For example, I have high confidence that for the equation F=ma+kG where "G" is the action of God, the constant k is observationally = 0.

The simplest definition for your soul; you.

No, I am the amalgamation of a Ren, Ba, Ka, Sheut, and Ib. Give me an argument why I'm wrong. Be warned: I'll then ask you why your argument doesn't apply to your notion of a singular soul.

"“KNOWING” – if simple belief in a soul is the same as knowing, then you are correct., millions of people know they have a soul. Typically, however, knowing something implies there is proof for that something – and there is no proof, outside one’s mind and ancient stories, that souls exist."

Now the kicker is; if you yourself have a soul, then you're walking around with proof and you don't even know it. That old saying: "the answer's right in front (or inside) of you" is applicable.

"Sorry – most people prefer to live in the real world, not one guided by writings done well after the events they purport to describe."

This present "real world" that you're so fond of is a provision of your real Creator. Take Him, His thoughts out of it, and everything else goes too.

By Kanye East (not verified) on 30 Jan 2015 #permalink

Now the kicker is; if you yourself have a soul, then you’re walking around with proof and you don’t even know it. That old saying: “the answer’s right in front (or inside) of you” is applicable.

Sure. Kinda funny how you have a ba rather than a soul, and can't even see that.

"This present “real world” that you’re so fond of is a provision of your real Creator. "

See, the thing is, that is another assertion without a lick of evidence, scientific or historic, behind it. Clearly you've decided which of the contradictory creation stories in Genesis is right, and which of the contradictory stories about Adam and Eve is valid. The problem of your god setting adam and eve up for failure by threatening them with something about which they had no knowledge doesn't bother you. We haven't heard how you explain away the many attempts at genocide the god of the OT ordered to occur, his sanctioning of rape of slavery, or any of the other horrors he ordered to have carry out for any variety of perceived slights (or perhaps he was just bored?)
The lack of evidence for global flooding, the incorrectness of the census story prior to jesus' birth, the lack of mention outside the bible of the people who rose from their tombs when jesus rose from the dead, the scores of failed prophecies from throughout the bible, seem to bother you (nor other commenters from your point of view) not a whit: indeed, there has been a great deal of rewording and back-tracking in attempts to argue that support is everywhere if you open your mind (wide enough for your brain to fall out, apparently). Sorry - that's an asinine position. If another person were to take similar positions based on one of the Greek or Roman gods people would look at that person with raised brow - rightfully so. Yet, based on what we know and what isn't in evidence, there is no reason to think one of you is right and the other wrong.

Now the kicker is; if you yourself have a soul, then you’re walking around with proof and you don’t even know it.

If you yourself have unicorn hair, dragon heartstring and phoenix feather, then you're walking around with all the things needed to make a magic wand.

By Michael Fugate (not verified) on 30 Jan 2015 #permalink

dean,

"The lack of evidence for global flooding"

If there was a global flood, what would the evidence that it happened look like? What would you expect to see?

This thread is about to shut down.