What Would Convince Me Christianity is True?

I have been asked what would convince me Christianity is true. Let me answer this question.

In the first place, the question is akin to asking what it would take to believe that any cult leader’s claim is true. There is a man in Texas who claims to be Jesus. What would it take you to believe that he’s Jesus? Sound ridiculous, right? That may not exactly be on a par with the probability of the resurrection of Jesus, but such a claim is simply unbelievable to every thinking person, correct? There are other types of questions that are similar in kind. What would it take to convince you that the Holocaust never happened? What would it take to convince you that aliens built the pyramids? What would it take to convince you that Islam, Buddhism, or Satanism is true? Quite a bit, right? That’s because these beliefs are outside of that which we consider real possibilities. I could just as easily ask Christians what it would take to convince them that atheism is true. Given the Christian responses I see at DC, I dare say probably nothing would convince them otherwise. Atheism is outside of that which Christians consider real possibilities. It would take a great deal to change our minds across this great debate, no matter what side we are on. Although, since people convert and deconvert to and away from Christianity there are circumstances and reasons for changing one’s mind. Here at DC we have changed our minds, and we offer reasons why.

In the second place, Christianity would have to be revised for me to believe that Jesus arose from the dead, since if Jesus arose from the dead then the whole Bible is probably true as well. But many Biblical beliefs are outside of that which I consider real possibilities for the many reasons I offer on this Blog. I see no reason why a triune eternal God is a solution to any of our questions. I see no reason why God should test Adam & Eve, or punish them and their children and their children’s children with such horrific consequences for such a mistake. I see no good reason for the animal pain caused by the law of predation in the natural world if a good God exists, either. Nor do I see why God should send a flood to kill practically all human beings. I can no longer believe in the bloodthirsty God of the Bible. He’s a barbaric God. I no longer see the Bible as an inspired book since it contains absurdities and contradictions, being as it were, written by an ancient superstitious people before the rise of modern science. I see absolutely no way to understand what it means to say Jesus is “God in the flesh”, nor how his death on the cross does anything for us, nor where the human side of the incarnation in Jesus is right now. I see no intelligent reason why God revealed himself exclusively in the ancient superstitious past, since it was an age of tall tales among the masses at a time when they didn’t understand nature through the laws of physics. I see no reason why this God cares about what we believe, either, since people have honest and sincere disagreements on everything from politics to which diet helps us lose the most weight.

[About this someone asked me: "John, you say we must follow the evidence, but haven't you said elsewhere that even if you were to admit that Christianity were proved to your satisfaction that you would not follow it? Could you explain how that is following the evidence." Gladly. The belief system that the initial evidence supports is to be considered part of the evidence itself, and as such, it should be included when examining the whole case. If, for instance, the evidence supported accepting militant Islam, where I am called upon to kill people who don't believe, then I must make a choice between the initial evidence that led me to believe and that belief system itself. And such a belief system, even if the evidence initially supported it, renders that evidence null and void. I would have to conclude that I misjudged the initial evidence, or that I'm being misled, or something else. In other words, a rejection of such a belief system like militant Islam trumps the evidence, for I cannot conceive of believing it unless the evidence is completely overwhelming, and there is no such thing as overwhelming evidence when it comes to these issues].

But let’s say the Christian faith is true and Jesus did arise from the dead. Let’s say that even though Christianity must punt to mystery and retreat into the realm of mere possibilities to explain itself that it is still true, contrary to what my (God given?) mind leads me to believe. Then what would it take to convince me?

I would need sufficient reasons to overcome my objections, and I would need sufficient evidence to lead me to believe. By “sufficient” here, I mean reasons and evidence that would overcome my skepticism. I am predisposed to reject the Christian faith and the resurrection of Jesus (just as Christians are predisposed to reject atheism). So I need sufficient reasons and evidence to overcome my skeptical predisposition.

When it comes to sufficient reasons, I need to be able to understand more of the mysteries of Christianity in order to believe it. If everything about Christianity makes rational sense to an omniscient God, then God could’ve created human beings with more intelligence so that the problems of Christianity are much more intellectually solvable than they are. I would need to have a better way of understanding such things as the trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, and why a good God allows so much intense suffering even to the point of casting human beings into hell.

Short of God creating us with more intelligence to understand his “mysteries,” God could’ve explained his ways to us. He could’ve written the “mother of all philosophical papers” by answering such problems as, “why there is something rather than nothing at all?”, why people deserve to end up in hell, and questions about the atonement, the trinity, divine simplicity, the incarnation, the relationship of free-will and foreknowledge, and how it’s possible for a spiritual being to interact with a material world. He could’ve explained why there is so much intense suffering in this world if he exists. He could’ve explained why he remains hidden and yet condemns us for not finding him in this life. He could’ve helped us understand how it’s possible to want all people to be saved and yet not help people come to a saving knowledge. Christians born into their faith inside an already Christian culture may claim God has explained the things necessary, but for most people in the world he didn’t explain enough. Because he has not done enough to help us understand these things, he is partially to blame for those who do not believe, especially if he knew in advance that people wouldn’t believe unless he had done so.

Short of helping us to understand these “mysteries,” the only thing left is to give us more evidence to believe, and less evidence to disbelieve. Let me offer some examples of what I mean.

Scientific evidence. God could’ve made this universe and the creatures on earth absolutely unexplainable by science, especially since science is the major obstacle for many to believe. He could’ve created us in a universe that couldn’t be even remotely figured out by science. That is to say, there would be no evidence leading scientists to accept a big bang, nor would there be any evidence for the way galaxies, solar systems, or planets themselves form naturalistically. If God is truly omnipotent he could’ve created the universe instantaneously by fiat, and placed planets haphazardly around the sun, some revolving counter-clockwise and in haphazard orbits. The galaxies themselves, if he created any in the first place, would have no consistent pattern of formation at all. Then when it came to creatures on earth God could’ve created them without any connection whatsoever to each other. Each species would be so distinct from each other that no one could ever conclude natural selection was the process by which they have arisen. There would be no hierarchy of the species in gradual increments. There would be no rock formations that showed this evolutionary process because it wouldn’t exist in the first place. Human beings would be seen as absolutely special and distinct from the rest of the creatures on earth such that no scientist could ever conclude they evolved from the lower primates. There would be no evidence of unintelligent design, since the many signs of unintelligent design cancel out the design argument for the existence of God. God didn’t even have to create us with brains, if he created us with minds. The existence of this kind of universe and the creatures in it could never be explained by science apart from the existence of God.

Biblical Evidence. Someone could’ve made a monument to Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden that still exists and is scientifically dated to the dawn of time. There would be overwhelming evidence for a universal flood covering "all" mountains. Noah’s ark would be found exactly where the Bible says, and it would be exactly as described in the Bible. The location of Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt, would still be miraculously preserved and known by scientific testing to have traces of human DNA in it. There would be non-controversial evidence that the Israelites lived as slaves in Egypt for four hundred years, conclusive evidence that they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and convincing evidence that they conquered the land of Canaan exactly as the Bible depicts. But there is none. I could go on and on, but you get the point. That is, there would be evidence of miracles, and not just that the particular places and people described in the Bible existed. Plus, there would be no Bible difficulties such that a 450 page book needed to be written explaining them away, as Gleason Archer did.

Prophetic Evidence. God could’ve predicted any number of natural disasters (if he didn’t have the power to create a better world which lacked them). He could’ve predicted when Mt. St. Helens would erupt, or when the Indonesian tsunami or hurricane Katrina would destroy so much. It would save lives and confirm he is God. Then too, he could’ve predicted the rise of the internet, or the inventions of the incandescent light bulb, Television, or the atomic bomb, and he could do it using non-ambiguous language that would be seen by all as a prophectic fulfillment. God could’ve predicted several things that would take place in each generation in each region of the earth, so that each generation and each region of the earth would have confirmation that he exists through prophecy. God could've told people about the vastness and the complexity of the universe before humans would have been able to confirm it (if he didn’t create it haphazardly as I suggested earlier). He could have predicted the discovery of penicillin, which has saved so many lives, and if predicted it would have speeded up its discovery.

Present Day Evidence. God could visit us in every age, and do the same miracles he purportedly did in Jesus. If this causes people to want to kill him all over again and he doesn’t need to die again, he could just vanish. Also, Christians would be overwhelmingly better people by far. And God would answer their prayers in such distinctive ways that even those who don’t believe would seek out a Christian to pray for them and their illness or problem. Scientific studies done on prayer would meet with overwhelming confirmation. We wouldn’t see such religious diversity which is divided up over the world into distinct geographical locations and adopted based upon when and where we were born.

Evidence specific to the resurrection. There would be clear and specific prophecies about the virgin birth, life, nature, mission, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus in the Old Testament that could not be denied by even the most hardened skeptic. As it is there is no Old Testament prophecy that is to be considered a true prophecy that points to any of these things in any non-ambiguous way. Many professed Christian scholars think these Old Testament prophecies do not predict anything specific about Jesus and/or do not point specifically to him. The Gospel accounts of the resurrection would all be the same, showing no evidence of growing incrementally over the years by superstitious people. The Gospels could've been written at about the same time months after Jesus arose from the dead. And there would be no implausibilites in these stories about women not telling others, or that the soldiers who supposedly guarded the tomb knew that Jesus arose even though they were asleep (how is that really possible?). Herod and Pilate would've converted because they concluded from the evidence that Jesus arose from the grave. Setting aside their respective thrones, both Herod and Pilate would've become missionaries, or declare Christianity the new religion of their territories. Such evidence like a Turin Shroud would be found which could be scientifically shown to be from Jerusalem at that time containing an image that could not be explained away except that a crucified man had come back to life. But the evidence for it doesn't exist.

Now, I wouldn’t require all of this to believe. I cannot say how much of this I might need to believe. But I certainly need some of it. If it were offered, I'd believe. However, if I was convinced Christianity is true and Jesus arose from the grave, and if I must believe in such a barbaric God, I would believe, yes, but I could still not worship such a barbaric God. I would fear such a Supreme Being, since he has such great power, but I'd still view him as a thug, a despicable tyrant, a devil in disguise; unless Christianity was revised.

58 comments:

live-n-grace said...

Would the rapture change your mind?

Michael said...

John,

Got to hand it to you man. A lot of theists bash this site but if you had those things you asked for, you would still need faith thereby smashing their argument that faith is necessary. As for the rapture? Of course!! That would be more than enough evidence. That would be proof.

I'd like to add to some of your statements. According to the Bible,
God revealed himself often to people of all walks of life. As a Christian, I always found it odd that God's interaction with people in the Communication Age is ambiguous at best as opposed to the Stone Age where he walked with people and where an angel of the Lord would appear to people. Doesn't something seem fishy?
The earth being 6000 years old vs billions? Fishy again? The flood when there is no scientific evidence to support it? Fishy!

I feel like I could go on and on about things that don't add up. I must admit I am now very close to being Agnostic.
On a side note, I will confess this, I have been sick lately. I noticed that I wasn't doubting God when I say a prayer for my health. So I guess I am the great hypocrite.

Touchstone said...

John,

That certainly would be a compelling case, if even half of what you laid out was made available to you. I think any mind that rejected that body of evidence (even trimming each of your desiridata back a bit) would be fairly called irrational. Pathological, even.

But don't hold your breath (and I know you aren't); right or wrong, one of the second-order features of the Bible and Jesus' message -- Calvinist talismans of perspecuity notwithstanding -- is that the message is fairly cryptic. By most lights in the faith, one of God's "design goals" is to thwart such demands as you're levying here.

I fully realize that seems terribly convenient from an unbeliever's standpoint -- "of *course* there's not empirical, positivist case... it's no fun for God if it's too easy", etc. But the "brute fact" remains, convenient or no; as God has it set up, reason is necessary, but not sufficient as a means to finding and following His plan. All the signs (if one is to accept them as signs at all) point to the priority God places on identifying those who go beyond their own rational frames and into the *risky* territory of the super-rational, or just irrational if you prefer.

That said, I can appreciate your post as the earnest declaration that it is. I have no trouble accepting that you would believe the claims of the Bible if even a modest share of the evidences outlined above were available as accomplished facts for you.

I don't suppose it compares with the scope and scale of the skepticism you are dealing with here in this post, but I'm just now emailing back and forth with a friend who is an ardent, strident proponent of young earth creationism, among other fundamentalist disgraces to the faith. His challenge: what would it take for me to believe God actually created the earth ex nihilo six thousand years ago?

Again, a different proposition, but my response was similar to yours in quality, if not quantity: something to overwhelm all of the reasoned views of the evidence that contradicts the YEC interpretation.

The reason I bring this up is that it occurs to me, looking at my own reactions to the YEC "what would it take?" challenge, that I've become so thoroughly disgusted with the *attitude* and *intransigence* of the YEC/fundamentalist faction of Christianity, that I have to be careful to keep it fully reasonable, and not vindictive or spiteful as a matter of evaluation. In short, if it were somehow incontravertibly revealed that God *did* create the universe in six solar days 6,000 years ago and just created things so as to completely and thoroughly deceive us, I think I'd be both mad at God for such a trick, and thoroughly disappointed at the vindication of such a crew as is the YEC apologist community.

Which is to say: having given us an earnest answer so far here, what do you think your "emotional" resistance would be? I understand your stated position that you would acquiesce to the *fact* of God and his sovereignty, but would resent and despise Him still. But how much "extra evidence" would it take to overcome the emotional opposition that's developed between you and (at least some) Christian (apologists)?

Maybe that's too personal, but you strike me as a guy who's willing to just lay it out there, so I'm asking. If you don't want to answer, I understand. Also, from your previous comments, I'm willing to accept a claim that you wouldn't let the "spite" factor weigh in very much at all in terms of yielding to the facts. Embracing them with a smile is another matter, I understand.

-Touchstone

live-n-grace said...

"trick"

What trick are you talking about? The real trick are those who are trying to find a way to prove the world came to be without God.

Look at yourself. Did you come to be by chance? Was it by some random happenings that you eventually came to be, working perfectly?

Or were you created for a reason?

Your choice, and right now you are choosing the former.

Touchstone said...

Hi live-n-grace,

(Assuming you're addressing me, here. "trick" only appears in my comments on this post.)

By "trick", I don't mean 'feat', or 'maneouvre', but 'deception', 'illusion'. Whatever we might say about the possibilities of how God *actually* created the universe, it cannot be reasonably said that the universe does not appear and behave in such a way as to be overwhelmingly convincing to an investigator that the earth is billions of years old, and the universe much older than that.

Or, if God *did* create the earth the way YECs claim, He did an exceedingly good job, of covering his tracks, and "framing Himself" as the creator of an ancient universe. God can do as He wills, and if that's how it happened, so be it. But there's no getting around the fact that such a strategy on God's part would be extremely deceptive to any investigators.

As for "real tricks", I can agree with you; attempts to prove the universe came to be without God as creator are futile, as futile as trying to prove that it *did* come to be with God as creator. It's simply not a question that's subject to *proof* either way, assuming you mean that in a rigorous sense.

My choice? In any case, whether I'm a Calvinist or a Buddhist or an atheist, the reasons (or lack of reasons) for my existence aren't subject to my *choice*. It is what it is, right? I do believe we are all here as part of creation, a purposeful creation. But I don't suppose it's something laid out in such a way as John would demand above, or maybe you might suppose is actually available now?

-Touchstone

Lee Randolph said...

Hi l-n-g,
I think you may have a misconception when you said the following.
The real trick are those who are trying to find a way to prove the world came to be without God.

As I understand it, scientists are looking at data and drawing conclusions based on principles for how matter behaves. The question of whether god did it or not is irrelevant until he pops up as the conclusion.

Kind of like, I want to know who's been eating my triscuits and leaving the bag open for them to get stale. Everyone is a suspect until the evidence points to someone in particular. The question of whether mike did it or not is irrelevant until I can show that he had means, motive and opportunity.

One thing Mike has over God is that I have evidence that mike exists, so at least he has the means, which makes mike a more likely suspect than god.

To me, christians are ignoring quite a bit in the process of validating the phrase "God Created the World".

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Touchstone,
Again, a different proposition, but my response was similar to yours in quality, if not quantity: something to overwhelm all of the reasoned views of the evidence that contradicts the YEC interpretation.

Would it be fair to say that you reject young earth creationism for the much of the same types of reasons that John rejects Christianity?

If no, then can you explain what the difference is?

If yes, then why do you draw the line at YEC? I don't see why you either accept YEC or use the same reasoning you use to reject YEC to reject the bible.

John W. Loftus said...

Touchstone, always a pleasure to see you here. You said the Christian answer is that...one of God's "design goals" is to thwart such demands as you're levying here...All the signs (if one is to accept them as signs at all) point to the priority God places on identifying those who go beyond their own rational frames and into the *risky* territory of the super-rational, or just irrational if you prefer.

Do you ever believe what is irrational (or not rational) in any other area of knowledge? Do you ever believe without "sufficient" evidence in any other area of knowledge? Name just one. No? Why not? And why the double standard here?

Touchstone...how much "extra evidence" would it take to overcome the emotional opposition that's developed between you and (at least some) Christian (apologists)?

I do not have any animosity toward Christians like you at all, especially when it comes to what I should believe. Anyone who will engage me reasonably like you do I consider a friend, because I can learn from him. I like to learn. I don't have a corner on the truth. I do think I'm right on certain issues though, still, there's much to learn and to discuss. But there will always be animosity between me and those who treat me with disrespect no matter what the issue is.

Touchstone said...

Hi Lee,

If yes, then why do you draw the line at YEC? I don't see why you either accept YEC or use the same reasoning you use to reject YEC to reject the bible.

It wouldn't be the same reasoning process. YEC is a denial of straightforward, interlocking sets of evidence -- an assertion that what we *do* see isn't real. So, a rejection of visible facts.

Old Earth, or in my case, theistic evolutionary views are compatible with the timelines affirmed by the facts, but go beyond just naturalistic interpretations to an affirmation of what is *not* visible - a creator God working through natural process (involving very long time scales and ostensibly undirected processes, even) to achieve His telic ends.

That's a different proposition -- the affirmation of the invisible, the supernatural. I understand atheistic misgivings about *both* - denial of what's in front of us, and affirmation of what is not -- but I submit these are not kind of reasoning.

Just by way of comparison, if we had some *positive* evidence that Jesus never existed, and that the whole story in the Gospels was a made up hoax, that would be a compelling reason to abandon Christianity. Now, proving a negative as a matter of course is problematic, but I can conceive of evidence that would clearly establish Christian belief as a denial of reliable positive facts in view. As it is, Christianity is a leap from a compatible (but not proving) set of evidences to an affirmation of the invisible.

Atheists, in my experience, eschew both a)denial of facts on the ground and b) the embrace of beliefs without physical evidentiary warrant. I join them in a), but do not consider b) sufficiently exhaustive epistemologically -- there is more truth and knowledge available than just what materialism accepts.

-Touchtone

Mark Plus said...

live-n-grace writes,

The real trick are those who are trying to find a way to prove the world came to be without God.

Look at yourself. Did you come to be by chance? Was it by some random happenings that you eventually came to be, working perfectly?


Well, yes. Every genetics textbook I've ever seen has a chapter on probability and the role of chance in the natural inheritance of genes from our parents.

And where did you get this "perfectly" idea from? Haven't you ever heard of genetic diseases?

Touchstone said...

John,

Do you ever believe what is irrational (or not rational) in any other area of knowledge? Do you ever believe without "sufficient" evidence in any other area of knowledge? Name just one. No? Why not? And why the double standard here?

Hmmm. My first reaction is to say "No", and point out that in my work, for example, I'm positively withering in my assaults on "voodoo". I work in technology, with an emphasis on large scale network security, and that kind of skepticism -- uncompromising demands for empirical support for what we are doing -- has served me well.

At the same time, however, I've learned to incorporate parts of my intuition -- understandings that don't break down cleanly in a reductionist way -- to good effect. Usually, the intuitive inclinations serve well in areas where there *isn't* tangible indication to work from in a practical way. Getting a subtle sense of which way the market is leaning, or opening up, for example, can be the predicate for a "first mover advantage" that makes the difference between success and failure for my startup.

This "gut sense" isn't always right either. I've read it wrong before. But overall, it's shown to be a valuable asset in my epistemic toolbox, both in navigating market and technology environments, and (I believe) making sense of more ultimate existential questions.

So, maybe that's an unsatisfactorily equivocal answer for you here, but I think it becomes less equivocal to look at these issues in terms of what our "epistemic potential" is. In terms of the age of the earth, for example, or the likelihood of certain kinds of network intrusions vs. another kind, we have a reasonable basis to think that we can rely on cold hard evidence. There's "sufficiency" in the available evidences to proceed on strictly rational grounds.

In other areas, there's simply not a "quorum" of informing evidences to appeal to. Moreover, these areas are often not ones that make "no decision" a workable response. In that case, I'm comfortable relying on less deterministic, more holistic epistemic tools. I believe that is a rational heuristic in and of itself, and believe it serves me well.

-Touchstone

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Touchstone,
what principle or warrant do you use to
go beyond just naturalistic interpretations to an affirmation of what is *not* visible - a creator God working through natural process (involving very long time scales and ostensibly undirected processes, even) to achieve His telic ends.

my principle for believing in oxygen is the consensus of experts who have independently verified it made predictions about it and defined the scope of its characteristics.

You criticize YEC as a denial of straightforward, interlocking sets of evidence but then you assert that there is more truth and knowledge available than just what materialism accepts.

That sounds contradictory.

You have no reason not to accept that god could create the world with the appearance of age other than you choose not to unless you have defined what god would and would not do.

We here at DC have a heck of a time pinning down gods ethics because we keep getting reminded that we cannot judge what god would and would not do.

Bill Curry said...

Hi Touchstone,

In response to:
Atheists in my experience, eschew both a)denial of facts on the ground and b) the embrace of beliefs without physical evidentiary warrant. I join them in a), but do not consider b) sufficiently exhaustive epistemologically -- there is more truth and knowledge available than just what materialism accepts.

I do think that the acceptance of Christianity entails the rejection of many “facts of the ground” even for those of us who are not materialists. In my last post, I argued that the facts that Jesus wholeheartedly endorsed the Law and Prophets and the fact of clear moral mistakes in the Old Testament make his vindication by God through a resurrection extremely unlikely. I think that moral knowledge is a fact that should dissuade belief in the resurrection. I also think John has laid out compelling facts here in this post as well.

As a scientist, I am sure that you are very accustomed to weighing one hypothesis against another. I am merely trying to apply those same tools in assessing the likelihood of the resurrection compared to the likelihood that the resurrection accounts are legendary. I have listed several evidenced both for and against the resurrection. I have done my best to characterize my subjective assessments using Bayes’ Theorem as a means of keeping me honest. One such posts is here. It is my experience that most of the strong evidence points toward the legendary hypothesis.

My disbelief in Christianity is a result in my best effort to weigh the evidence with the mind that I have been given. Perhaps the mind is a gift from God, but that gift is enabling me to see that the gift giver is not identifiable with the God of the Bible.

As a side note, I do find your writings at triablogue and your own blog insightful and thought provoking.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Touchstone,
I your response to John, what you describe is a kind of defeasible reasoning based on your best information at the time. Based on your experience. I emphasise the word experience.

I don't think you really have a firm belief that the market is going to go one way when you know you might be wrong. Can you really equate that with your belief and love for god? That sounds like a kind of pascal wager.

Touchstone said...

Hi Lee,

Yikes, that's not the approach I would endorse at all - "hedging my bets" in the vein of Pascal's wager (as if God is fooled by such gambits!).

I agree with the defeasibility of "market instincts", and for that matter, the Christian faith (understanding that 'defeasible' denotes a lack of formal deductions). However, it would be incorrect to think that I equate the "convincing" nature of my faith with the "convincing" nature of my estimations of where emerging market opportunities lie. They're not *similarly* defeasible, in other words.

So I don't equate them, and regret giving that impression, if I have done so. My faith isn't just a "best guess", in other words. John asked if there were other areas where I went the perimeter of deductive reasoning, besides my faith. I gave him the example that came to mind, but I don't offer that as an analog, just so we're clear. Rather, I offered it by way of a direct answer to John -- that's an area where I do engage in defeasible reasoning, but of a much more superficial sort.

In at least one case, I've been "firmly" convinced of where the market was going far before it was apparent to the ecosystem at large, before the earliest concrete indicators showed the appropriate upticks, and have the capital gains to support this claim. ;-)

But even then, that "firmness" doesn't match up with my overarching (even if defeasible) sense of an immanent God and my moral ontology with respect to Him.

Hope that clarifies.

-Touchstone

Touchstone said...

Hi Bill Curry,

I understand very much where you are coming from. I'm tempted to jump into a Mosaic Law -> New Covenant discussion here, based on your comments (another time/thread perhaps), but that would be hard to keep even nominally on point here, I think. I didn't see that post when it came out, but wish I had.

As for competing hypotheses, if you've read any significant amount of my writings, it should be clear that I understand and embrace that epistemology. The facts matter, and can't simply be waved away. And I've read plenty of scholarly analysis that ranges from the "couldn't have happened, no way no how", to the "congruent with lengendary forms", to the, ahem, "most verified event in all of antiquity".

What's different (apparently) between you and I in considering the available hypotheses is *not*, I suggest, the algorithm, but the data set we begin with. Which is not to say I'm disputing the archaeological evidence in view between us: I think we might agree that there lived a man named Jesus who claimed to be a prophet, and was killed for some reason by the Jewish elites and the Roman rulers of the day (i.e., I don't have physical direct evidence of the Resurrection to point to - what evidence I do have there would be testimonial).

The difference in the data that the hypotheses must account for is what I mentioned just previously, this defeasible but compelling sense of a)universal Moral Law and b) an immanent God as giver and executor of that Law. My "scientific" mind considers the possibility of that just being "hallucinations", or "projections", or some sort of perceptual game I play in my head. But ultimately, none of those rejections ring true to me; what seems to be "psychological games" is my attempts to discount this intuitive sense, this irreducible "perception".

If that's the case, then the *explanatory power* of the purely materialistic hypothesis breaks down; how do I account for my sense of Moral Law, and of my conscious intellect below that. I've read all manner of scientific explanations and conjectures along those lines, and while I freely grant that perception, cognition, conceptualization are physical phenomena, I am not able to satisfy myself that they are *wholly* physical.

That makes the atheist hypothesis problematic for me - it doesn't account for my sense of "natural theology", for lack of a better term. If you strip all that away, then the situation changes, and the "legend hypothesis" becomes much more appealing in the performative sense.

Thanks for the interesting comments.

-Touchstone

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Touchstone,
That makes the atheist hypothesis problematic for me - it doesn't account for my sense of "natural theology"
I think you could chalk some of that up to your environment and culture as much as you could a god.

also, not knowing where your intellect or consciousness comes from means not knowing. Chalking it up to the supernatural is a hasty conclusion.

You still haven't explained your warrant for bridging your observations to the supernatural.

and how did you figure out the scope of what god would and would not do to have so much faith that he wouldn't create the world with age?

Touchstone said...

Hi Lee, (and no, I don't know why I've been responding to questions in reverse order here)

You criticize YEC as a denial of straightforward, interlocking sets of evidence but then you assert that there is more truth and knowledge available than just what materialism accepts.

That sounds contradictory.

You have no reason not to accept that god could create the world with the appearance of age other than you choose not to unless you have defined what god would and would not do.


As a matter of strict possibilities, you are correct; I have always maintained that, given a God with the attributes and capacities we assign Him, it is impossible to rule out the YEC scenario -- that God created the universe in 6 days 6,000 and simply made everything (everything!) point to a much different finding, forensically. That's possible in a theoretical sense, I grant, and have always granted.

But theoretical possibilities just aren't interesting or useful. As a Christian, if that's how God is to deal with man, that's within His power and prerogative, but there's little point in *believing* anything further, as such a scenario would simply diminish the utility of both the concepts of "reason" and "belief". The YEC understanding, if true, then, is an affirmation that God's universe isn't just *fundamentally* unintelligible, it's *completely* unintelligble in the sense that "intelligible" is destroyed as a useful concept.


Christianity, by definition, is metaphysical subjectivism. God as the prime Subject, plenipotentiary with respect to all else. God's will is normative to reality, rather than God having to conform to a surrounding objective reality. Many critics realize this (a trivial insight into Christianity if there ever was one), and suppose that this existential subjectivism wipes out the means for reason and rationality. In principle, it definitely could; as I said, God *could* mess with the uniformity and predictability of the universe so thoroughly that attempts to render it even remotely intelligble would be futile. If YEC interpretations are right, then I suggest all hope for the utility of reason and the intelligibility of the world around us is lost.

So, yes, that's a *risk*, in principle. But not in practice, by my lights. God can do anything, and at choice points along the timeline, He has definitely "messed with reality" in such a way that confounds our normal heuristics, our reasoned and rational approaches to making sense of the world. But those are, I submit, exceptions that prove the rule; the default "rule" is an ordered, consistent, predictable universe. It is punctuated by selected interruptions that align developments with His goals in a visible way (as opposed to achieving teleogical ends "behind the scenes"), interruptions that not only work toward direct ends, but also serve as "signs" to those looking and receptive to them.

That's probably more (and less) than you were looking for in an answer, but ultimately, I don't resist the suggestion that in the Christian framework, *anything* can happen. That's how metaphysical subjectivism works. When reality is ruled by a will, the potentialities correspond to the will, rather than the constraints of physics.

Bottom line: God *could* have done the "poof with appearance of age" thing, but to the extent that reason and intelligibility of the universe are at all meaningful concepts, it's an exceedingly remote possibility.

(Sorry to have gotten so far afield, Loftus!)

-Touchstone

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Touchstone,
This is a pretty weak warrant/principle to base a conclusion on:
But theoretical possibilities just aren't interesting or useful.

I wouldn't say we are far afield, the topic is "what would it take to convince me" and we are examining your reasons.

I can't come back till much later, but I hate to give this up.

I hope you'll check back tomorrow.

John W. Loftus said...

Touchstone said...At the same time, however, I've learned to incorporate parts of my intuition -- understandings that don't break down cleanly in a reductionist way -- to good effect.

I think intuition is nothing more than the reasonable hunches or guesses that the subconscious brain makes you conscious of. You may not be able to rationally explain these conclusions precisely because they come from the subconscious parts of your brain. You are only conscious of the conclusion since the reasoning behind it takes place subliminally, and this does not equate to deriving knowledge irrationally.

Touchstone said...

Lee,

If you're OK with where the conversation goes/is going, then I am (with a nod in Loftus' direction of course).

I won't try to bait with things you can't respond to now, but by way of expanding "interesting or useful", I'll just say that a view that identifies an ominpotent, self-sustaining God as the normative "anchor" over all else necessary *implicates* the widest possible set of "what ifs"; setting aside logical self-contradictions ("Can God make a box so heavy He can't lift it?", etc.), we are left with a reality where, quite literally, anything is possible.

That leaves "room" for all manner of theoretical possibilities. In an objective reality, where objects do not reify and conform to the will of a subject (God), there are constraints that cordon off the "possibilities" from the "impossibilities". A subjective reality doesn't work like that, as you and others here are, I'm sure, aware.

In that case, it's not useful to wonder what's ultimately "possible", as saying "it's possible" doesn't signify anything (other than well-formedness, non-contradictory structure, etc.). Nota bene however, that this doesn't rule out constraints that effectively "objectify" our reality. If God ordains a set of ordered behaviors and consistent dynamics, then the universe will *effectively* operate in an objectivist fashion; I can't wish for a fresh plate of seared Ahi tune with soy and wasabi to appear on my desk for lunch, and see it happen, purely as the result of my *wish*, for example. My status as a subject is subordinate to the Objects God (the prime Subject) has created and configured.

All of which is to say that there is a proximal view of uniformity and continuity we have, but rather than that uniformity being simply ultimate (as would be the view from an objectivist standpoint, I think), these constraints are products of God's will. God *could* blink out the universe in the blink of an eye. But such possibilities militate against our experience, and more importantly, simply annihilate the basis for reasoning itself. If God *were* to pursue such a path (or create a "pre-aged" universe), it would be a moot point for all of us, as the prospects of intelligibility and predictability would be severely diminished.

In that sense, reading that back to myself, we are in much the same position as an objectivist is in when asked about the "Cartesian brain vat" possibility. It's a useless challenge, as if it's true reason (and communication!) are meaningless endeavors.

-Touchstone

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Touchstone,
this is absolutely the last till tomorrow.

John owns the blog and it was his article. I think you should pay more attention to him.

later.

John W. Loftus said...

You don't need to bother with me. I like reading wherever this takes you.

Valerie said...

May I just say that I find Holding awe-inspiring. I look at his logic and marshalling of evidence, and am reminded how very far down the rabbit hole any of us can go if we start with a set of conclusions and work backwards from there.

He is a humbling reminder of what we all are at risk of becoming. My only protection is to nurture an awareness that my current understanding of reality is just a set of best guesses. I must care more to discover what is true than to show myself right.

Randy said...

“What is it that would convince you that Jesus arose from the dead?
I guess I would need a definition for "convince", then I would have to ask the Christian what "convinced" them that Jesus arose from the dead, and then ask them if they expected the same thing to convince me.

What is it that’s standing in your way right now to believing that?”
I should not have to "believe". I should be able to KNOW that he arose from the dead. I am not a believer. I do not simply "believe" things that require me to believe them. That is so absurd to me. I assume, conclude, know, and don't give a shit, but I just don't believe stuff.

OK, I guess it would take Jesus himself forcing me to believe...or, we could just wait till judgment day and then I would not have to believe, I would then know, as I was being cast into the lake of fire.
I'll wait.

live-n-grace said...

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for.
3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Just curious. What evidence do you want?

Touchstone said...

Lee, John, et al,

It's Memorial Day weekend, a family tradition for decades to go up to the lake cabin in northern Minnesota, do some fishin', sit by the fire and tell tales. I'll check in tomorrow morning, but after that, I'll be offline until Tues.

Happy to swap comments then, if you're still so inclined. Have a great Memorial Weekend -- we can all agree that we are grateful for the sacrifices of the men and women in the military have made and are making to secure and maintain our freedoms here in America, can we not?

-Touchstone

Bill Curry said...

Hi Touchstone,

If your discussion on the relation between Mosaic Law and the new covenant is relevant to the argument I presented, I would happily respond to your comments there. I suppose I could also expand my point in another post. Let me know what you would prefer. I typically only have the opportunity to reply once or twice per day, so I hope that is not a too low a rate of interaction.

I think that our disagreement is less about the dataset than the definition of hypotheses under consideration. That, of course, is related to the determining which data is relevant to the question. I certainly want to include all relevant data in my assessment

You seem to imply that the legendary hypothesis entails that there is not a personal being that is necessary to explain the existence of moral truth as well as our moral knowledge. I don’t think that is the case at all. I will happily stipulate that such a being does exist. (In fact, I think there are arguments that make is reasonable to think some causal power outside of space and time exists.) But arguments for the existence of such a being (that you have implied here) do not show that it is identifiable with the Christian God. My argument is that if you really believe in such a being you should reject the historical fact of the resurrection.

Anyway, I would enjoy discussing the any particular evidence and its relevance to the fact of the resurrection or any argument I have made here. Let me know.

Thanks,

Bill

Touchstone said...

Hi Bill,

Signing off for the evening now, but will a) read your post on this in the morning and b)put a couple thoughts down in the meta there with my initial response. If you want to respond there, that's fine. It you want to take that to a separate post, that's fine too.

In either case, I like "one a day" dialogs; some of the best I've had have been four our five round trips a week at most. I'm easy. All of that will have to wait until Tuesday when I return the civilized parts of Minnesota (and yes, I'm aware that may be a contradiction in terms).

Regards,

-Touchstone

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Touchstone,
thanks for the Clarification,
I hope you enjoy your weekend.

I agree with a lot of what you said about (paraphrasing) since god created order and predictability, he must have some value for that, therefore it should be considered.
I think that is true, but I also started thinking that way "on the way out" of christianity.

One of the problems in debating god is that as a topic, he really is undefined. But by adopting these premises, we have defined him to a degree. I think there are christians out there that would disagree, and would rather live with the "box" paradox.

I think that you must necessarily run into some problems if you use that as your general principle for making conclusions about god, because, if it is true then I argue that we should be able to find physical evidence of god. Not a particle per se but some force or some behaviour that is consistent with a god like being. We should be able to measure or detect some aspect of it. In that case Gods behaviour by being a silent partner in a relationship doesn't make sense. We should be able to document some type of change when we accept christ, there should be some kind of difference between christains and non christians.

Or have I presumed too much?

Steven Carr said...

HOLDING
'“What is it that would convince you that Jesus arose from the dead?

CARR
That is a hard question.

Paul says Jesus became a spirit.

How could we get evidence for that?

Touchstone said...

Lee,

I'm tempted to say "Everything around you, from the particle level on up *is* evidence of God." But I realize you're aware that the Christian sees all of this as a large-scale miracle. You're pressing for something else, here, something that distinctly identifies God. To use a crude analogy, if we look at a masterpiece painting, we don't suspect to find a "masterpiece" kind of paint on the canvas; indeed, the mastery and creativity derive from the perfect *plainness* of the oils.

I'm a critic of the ID movement, and part of the reason is because I can't identify any reason that we should expect to find physical "God-stuff" in the universe, apart from the (valid, IMO) view that it's *all* God-stuff. I don't rule out what you (or IDers) may be expecting in principle, but by the same token, I don't see that as necessary. If anything, it's superfluous to God's purposes as I understand them, and maybe even *counter* to them (see my comments above about God wanting "seekers" using faith, not empiricists using charts).

No, I'm not lumping you in with Bill Dembski, before you object. Rather, I'm staking out a firmly agnostic position with respect to "God-stuff": physical phenomena that are "consistent with a god-like being". If you don't take the view that *all* of the universe is consistent with the creation of a God-like being, then maybe the way to pursue this would be to sketch out how you would identify "consistency with a god-like being".

In any case, my understanding is that God, while immanent spiritually, is invisible physically, and in the most profound sense. He's personally active, but naturally removed. If that's the case, then I wouldn't expect to find a physical God-force or some such through scientific means any more than I'd expect to find Monet's DNA mixed in the oils
of Bridge at Argenteuil.

That said, I would expect to see a demonstrable transformation in the lives of Christians, if Christianity's promise of regeneration and the mediating influece of the Holy Spirit are incumbent realities. Maybe the way we agree here is to expect that, statistically, Christians ought to outperform control groups in many observable areas -- "You will know they are Christians by their love", etc. Admittedly, that's a difficult scale for Christianity to be weighed on; performatively, Christianity as a phenomenon is hard to measure at times, alas.

-Touchstone

Touchstone said...

Bill Curry,

Went to look for your post on Mosaic Law and the Resurrection. I didn't find it, looking through the archive of recent posts and even Googling a bit. Sorry. Could you post a link when you have time to get me pointed at your argument?

Thanks,

-Touchstone

Bill Curry said...

Touchstone,

I am afraid we have both misunderstood each other. When you wrote:

I understand very much where you are coming from. I'm tempted to jump into a Mosaic Law -> New Covenant discussion here, based on your comments (another time/thread perhaps), but that would be hard to keep even nominally on point here, I think. I didn't see that post when it came out, but wish I had.

I thought you were implying that a discussion of the relation between the Mosaic Law and New Covenant would be relevant to the argument I presented in my post “Moral Knowledge vs. Christianity. I thought perhaps we would continue the discussion there. I didn’t mean to say that I had a post specifically on Mosaic Law.

My purpose on this blog is not really to defend atheism, but to defend my rejection of Christianity. It is my experience that most of the “defenses” of Christianity are merely attacks on materialism and arguments for the existence of some sort of God, not really defenses of Christianity itself. I think that even you are a theist; it makes sense more sense of the evidence to reject Christianity. I used to think that our sense of a moral law was one of the best evidences for Christianity, as argued by C.S. Lewis. Now I think that the existence of moral law written on our hearts is strong evidences against Christianity.

Now I know you disagree, but I would like to know why you think my reasoning is incorrect. I don’t think that I am rejecting evidence on the basis of a materialist philosophy, primarily because I am not a materialist. If you think there is evidence I am ignoring, I want to know what that evidence is. If my arguments against Christianity are flawed, please show me where. If my arguments are valid and we have good reason to think they are sound, I hope you would reconsider your acceptance of Christianity. Obviously, I will do my best to be intellectually honest as well.

Thanks,

Bill

John W. Loftus said...

Bill said...My purpose on this blog is not really to defend atheism, but to defend my rejection of Christianity.

Exactly. That's my purpose as well.

robert woolfrey said...

G'day mate, before i get started i do want to appologise that i am not going to be able to convincingly argue with you from an academic stand point. i am not the most academic of men. but i have seen some potential errors in your basis for your needed proofs of Christianity. firstly is a missunderstanding of what is a prophecy is. In no way is prophecy in the bible based on predicting the future or up comming events. it does contain elements of this, but more it is a two faze message from God. Firstly it is a message to a specific people in a specific time and place, for a specific reason. in most instances it is a call to account for the nation if Isreal. Isreal made a promise to God and they broke it, with God in his law having told them the concequences and so God is letting them know that he knows and he will do something about it. in pretty much all instances this involves a judgement, that looking at the history of Isreal is carried out within the next 50 years or so, and also a means of grace both in that if they repent the judgement will be averted and also that he will diminish the consequences (often saying that he will bring back the people to him and reinstate them.)

this is the part that is most often of a more long term nature, and can be applied to all history, often which points to Jesus (or so we claim) as the promises of redemption are not seen played out in any real sense until the ime of Jesus. So to call prophecy a prediction of the future is ignorant because God in prophecy isn't aiming to tell us necessarily what will happen but instead to engage with us. That is why Moses is called the greatest prophet, he did very little in predicting the future, but instead acted more as an intermediate between God and man on God's behalf and the priestly role was opn the behalf of man.

I acknowledge that this is an error that alot of Christians make as well, but this is because they view the bible through a western mindset as apposed to allowing the bible to express itself within the context it was written, that of someone from the ancient near east.

THis is a mistake that people make when looking at creation, and i think one that you make as well. Genisis (as the main basis of Christian ideas of Creation) should not be used up against science as an understanding of the method of creation as much as it is more an explanation of the basis and reason of creation. If you want compare genisis to anything else compare it on the terms it is written, that of a creation epic and a prime eval narrative. the purpose of which is to explain the way things are as much as they came to be, and the reasons behind it not the methods.

If you do this you will see that genesis can't really engage with Darwin theory, or physics because that is not even relevant to its purpose. instead it would be better to compare it to the creation accounts of other ancient near eastern document, such as the enuma elish, and its like and you will see that the book has a whole lot more to say, and also is much more applicable to modern thought.

THis extends to your arguments and ideas of a barbaric God, if you view the OT especially God does seem barbaric, but if you view it within the context of other ancietn near estern documents, especially the law codes of other ancient nearestern nations, God comes across not only much less barbaric but also much more counter cultural.

i find that in my understanding of the bible, the more i leave my own culture out of it, and try and read it within its original frame work the more logical it is, but also the more it speaks to my culture. I know this is impossible to do on a total level as we are as much products of our culture, but it is something to try.

If you do this i think you will both be able to deal with the bible better, but if you still insist on arguing aginst it, you will have a much stronger basis.

sorry if i cause offence, and that i am not totally the scholar but i hope this engages you as much as your argument engages me.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Touchstone,
I find your postion on God at odds with your stated job in network security for the double standard you seem to be using for you conclusions about god. And in your rejection of YEC. On one hand, evidence is not necessary for a belief in god, and on the other existence of evidence plays a part in your rejection of YEC.

In reference to finding evidence of God you said
If anything, it's superfluous to God's purposes as I understand them,
Sure it is to you, you're going to heaven. The rest of the 70% of the world are going to hell, right?
Before you block ips, or bring allegations of improper use of company equipment, you have your evidence and case built as tightly as you can don't you? I don't imagine you make any assumptions, it risks job security doesn't it?

Also it seems your general attitude is that since it doesn't matter to you, we should not try to think of ways of getting evidence for god. That's not a very truth seeking principle is it? You may be certain that Kelly in accounting is sharing her MP3 with her friends but you can't do anything about it till you prove it right? Why would you want to prove it if you were so sure of yourself? You need to convince other people, build a case.

So on one hand at work you need to build a proper case including grounds/data and warrants/principles and conclusions but for god you just believe what you want to and don't worry about if the conclusion is warranted by the grounds/data. I say that all your grounds have acceptable alternate natural explanations and logically you can't choose one over the other, so logically you should be agnostic.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Robert,
I agree the bible should be read in the context of its intent and when it was written.

However, that doesn't absolve it in my mind of the charges atheists bring against it, most notably, support of slavery.

If you go look at where the bible came from, it is very similar to lots of other documents in the near east. I call it a compliataion of near eastern myths.

since we have to take a more metaphorical reading of the bible and we have to accept the psalms (for example) as re-writes of psalms to other gods (See Ugarit) and the earliest record of the golden rule came from egypt, and the ten commandments predate gods writing them on tablets in front of moses, etc, etc, etc how can we be sure of any of it?

we need some corroborating evidence that shows in principle, the bible is everything it says it is.

I think you have made a case of special pleading, for the bible.

Touchstone said...

Bill Curry,

I thought you were implying that a discussion of the relation between the Mosaic Law and New Covenant would be relevant to the argument I presented in my post “Moral Knowledge vs. Christianity. I thought perhaps we would continue the discussion there. I didn’t mean to say that I had a post specifically on Mosaic Law.

I see, and re-reading, the understanding is my fault. Apologies. Not my best bit of crisp, clear communications there last week, I'm afraid.


My purpose on this blog is not really to defend atheism, but to defend my rejection of Christianity. It is my experience that most of the “defenses” of Christianity are merely attacks on materialism and arguments for the existence of some sort of God, not really defenses of Christianity itself. I think that even you are a theist; it makes sense more sense of the evidence to reject Christianity. I used to think that our sense of a moral law was one of the best evidences for Christianity, as argued by C.S. Lewis. Now I think that the existence of moral law written on our hearts is strong evidences against Christianity.


I've a good friend who is in the same position. However, I've always held C.S. Lewis "in tension", even back reading the Screwtape Letters as a teen. I loved then, and I love now the way Lewis writes, and thinks, generally. But even back then, I had a strong sense that Lewis really did not understand dis-belief/atheism at all. I had plenty of occasion as a young man disillusioned by the fraud that is YEC/fundamentalism to doubt and "disbelieve" enough to realize that Lewis was either quite ignorant or quite unfair in his portrayals and treatments of unbelief.

I point this out because I realize that most of Christian community comes to the table with this polarized dichotomy; either the world embraces order, rationalism and altruism through Biblical truth, or the world embraces utter chaos, "chance" giving rise to a social/cultural milieu that would make ol' Dante's hair turn white.

But I've never thought that such a bit of binary thinking was even remotely reasonable; man's choices may be *clear*, but they aren't so stark as many Christians would have it, Lewis included, unfortunately.

So it's not an "Aha!" moment for me to realize that secular morality (or maybe I should say non-Christian morality) isn't *necessarily* a quick inevitable slide into the abyss of murder, rape, theft, assault, and all manner of mayhem, with Barbra Streisand records playing in the background all the while, just to make sure every one knows the world has indeed slipped into the Abyss.

I understand you see non-Christian morality as not only viable, but preferable and more natural. I do not. But neither do hear Barbra Streisand playing in the background when I imagine a culture that embraces non-Christian starting points for their moral anchors.

Now I know you disagree, but I would like to know why you think my reasoning is incorrect. I don’t think that I am rejecting evidence on the basis of a materialist philosophy, primarily because I am not a materialist. If you think there is evidence I am ignoring, I want to know what that evidence is. If my arguments against Christianity are flawed, please show me where. If my arguments are valid and we have good reason to think they are sound, I hope you would reconsider your acceptance of Christianity. Obviously, I will do my best to be intellectually honest as well.

I think you were the one (or was it Loftus?) who disputed my suggestion that the delta here was to be found more in our input sources than our rational algorithms. When you ask where you evidence is different or wrong from mine, my immediate and sustained sense is that is very much the immanent intuitions of natural theology and moral law.

This 'evidence' is non-reasoned, immediate as a perception. Objectivists reading closely will probably take issue with my classification of that as a percept, so maybe the right way to frame my sense of "creatureness" and natural theology is a "concept" detached from purely physical stimuli, even indirectly. I'm well aware of the objections that arise even then -- that such must be classed with hallucinations and other epi-conceptual construct. However, I remain convinced, through *experience* in working *against* that immanent sense of my "creatureness" and my subordination, that such a position grates on me -- continuously -- as intensely irrational on an internal basis, and "whistling dixie" as I work to discount a strong "experience".

I've had plenty of good folks try to psycho-analyze me, online and off. I don't relish it, and don't find it has been particularly productive in past attempts, but I realize that my basic *difference* is an internalized "sense" that is hard to put off or silence, and this sense provides the foundation of my grasp of existential realities beyond just my physical/moral context.

I realize from experience that that is likely to be unsatisfying for you in two ways. 1) It's "internal" and doesn't it lend itself to outside review, and 2) It's intractable in the sense that if I'm just "projecting" my insecurities or whatever here and abdicating my natural skeptical reason in integrating this moral "sense" into my personal epistemology, it's self-fulfilling as a delusion; if a man has his reasoning impaired, it's a very hard problem, especially if your planning on using reason to help him recover -- his "corrective faculties" may be the source of the problem!

Anyway, I don't want to put words in your mouth; please feel free to give me your take. But here's the simple reductio:

1.) I maintain a strong sense of natural theology/moral law.
2.) Given 1, the compelling option as a means of resolving the moral imperatives I sense is the embrace of the Christian Gospel.
3.) None of that has me thinking that Christianity is the only possible recipe for establishing an ordered society, reliant on moral imperatives for identifying virtue and vice.

So, if you were to lay out your evidence for some non-Christian moral framework, I think we'd find many points to disagree as to which was "better", in part or as a whole. But I do not expect to be surprised by the idea that workable practical moral frameworks can be built without appeals to the God of the Bible. I won't discourage you from going there, but I don't have a list of empirical evidences in mind -- like fossils pulled from the limestone strata -- that I think you are missing.

Outside of our heads and hearts, I think we would find nearly complete overlap as to the evidences in view. The differences, I believe, are my "built-ins", intuitions (rational or not) that factor into my overall epistemology in such a way as to strongly incline me toward the Gospel as moral meta-narrative. Since you are one actively working to refute Christianity, I think it's safe to say you dismiss this sense in yourself (if you ever had such), and in me and everyone else as imaginary/synthetic. That's where your questions leads.

-Touchstone

Touchstone said...

Hi Lee,

You said:
I find your postion on God at odds with your stated job in network security for the double standard you seem to be using for you conclusions about god. And in your rejection of YEC. On one hand, evidence is not necessary for a belief in god, and on the other existence of evidence plays a part in your rejection of YEC.

This is overimplifying, but only slightly: YECs must say that what is visible doesn't exist. I am saying that there are things that are wholly invisible, but yet exist. These are not the same, or even similar concepts. Both YEC views and my views may be false, but if so, they are not both false in the same way.


In reference to finding evidence of God you said
If anything, it's superfluous to God's purposes as I understand them,
Sure it is to you, you're going to heaven. The rest of the 70% of the world are going to hell, right?
Before you block ips, or bring allegations of improper use of company equipment, you have your evidence and case built as tightly as you can don't you? I don't imagine you make any assumptions, it risks job security doesn't it?

Yes and I understand you in pointing to my professional work as an example; I'll even help you out and say that I'm quite aggressive in stamping out what I call "voodoo", precisely for the reasons you are thinking of. It's a risk multiplier to indulge in whimsy with resources and strategies that all have serious consequences and opportunity costs associated with them.

But, if this is the analogy we're going to use (wouldn't be my first choice, but will roll with it), I would say the analogy in network security would be an "out-of-band" set of communications -- persistent communications -- that stress that a large and potent threat of a certain kind, say a colossal denial of service attack, needs to be defended against, rigorously. It's difficult to analogize something like the "sensus divinitas" here, but maybe we suppose I have the odd sticky note stuck to my windshield and computer monitor screen when I go to work in the morning saying:

"Beware the colossal DoS attack!"

Maybe related news clippings or technical footnotes to IETF specs are occasionally attached, highlighted with a yellow pen in key areas...

Anyway, in the presence of such input, I have a decision to make regarding this "out-of-band" input: is this something I reject outright, something I accept blindly, or do I do something in between those extremes?

Where it's fallen out for me is to accept that input as a hypothesis, and see where it leads. Asx it turns out, the networks I look after and the larger mesh of external networds *are* vulnerable to massive DoS attack, along the scales of what my out-of-band warnings suggest. It's not a "free" choice; in re-configuring my network resources to make "defend against the Colossal DoS" a part of our "best practices", I must necessarily diminish the fortitude and resources of the other parts of the defense/detection system. There's an opportunity cost there that makes it "right or wrong". If no such threat is practical or actual, then defending against it at the cost of other defensive positions is poor stewardship of my responsibilities.

That's the best I can do analogically off the top of my head to work with what you have here. I *don't* have such sticky notes on my windhsield, of course, and this it's a non-issue in practice. But what's at issue here is the credibility of "out-of-band" input.

Also it seems your general attitude is that since it doesn't matter to you, we should not try to think of ways of getting evidence for god. That's not a very truth seeking principle is it?

No, and I would disavow such an attitude. If we can build an epistemic case for such an investigation -- did God configure the cosmological parameters? for example -- then I'm all for vigorous investigation, and going wherever the evidence leads.

My understanding is that God does not seek to be found through reductionist epistemological processes, useful and important as they are for our everyday lives. But even so, I freely allow that it's possible (in principle at least) that there is some structured, reliable heuristic that may providing a validaiton or a falsification of the "God hypothesis". I don't discourage such investigations, and moreover, don't commit to shutting my eyes and singing happy songs to myself if such an investigation doesn't go the way theists would like/expect.

Given my understanding of the Bible's picture of God, I think that empirical investigations are hard to connect to a metaphysical proposition.

You may be certain that Kelly in accounting is sharing her MP3 with her friends but you can't do anything about it till you prove it right? Why would you want to prove it if you were so sure of yourself? You need to convince other people, build a case.

That's right, but I'm immediately struggling with that as an analogy. As Loftus pointed out upthread, it's useful to suppose that intuition is a kind of report or "escalation" event from the subconscious, which may be assimilating and integrating rational and objective data that are simply missed by our conscious processes. Really good network sleuths have "gut instinct" that's hard to dismiss based on their performance. They intuit things that later turn out to be based on real and present signals, but signals that are quite subtle and indirect, only perceived and conceptualized by those with finely honed cognitive processes.

Back to Kelly and here illicit mp3 library, though, I get stuck mapping this to metaphysics, because her scenario is so rich in verifiable data and evidence. We can think of a dozen reliable ways to detect, catalog, document and otherwise objectively establish the illicit behavior. It's a context with a phenomenal feedback loop, which is what's missing from the hypothesis of, say, continuing consciousness beyond death.

If the Christian thesis is true, there's every reason to "build a case", as you say. But the very nature of the thesis is such that it defies the kind of examination, feedback and audit we can expect from Kelly and her Samba shares on the company network.


So on one hand at work you need to build a proper case including grounds/data and warrants/principles and conclusions but for god you just believe what you want to and don't worry about if the conclusion is warranted by the grounds/data. I say that all your grounds have acceptable alternate natural explanations and logically you can't choose one over the other, so logically you should be agnostic.


Yes, but only if I'm failing to account for my internal sense of my "creatureness", of moral law. Setting aside the rationality of accepting that sense in the first place for the moment, if we admit this sense, arguendo, then the kind of agnosticism I believe you're prescribing for me here isn't workable; non-theistic models don't jibe with it, and competing theistic models do only nominal better compared to Christianity (and sometimes worse!).

I understand and anticipate your response questioning the legitimacy of accepting and integrating this sense into my overall epistemology, but nevertheless, if it *is* to be admitted, it makes things quite lop-sided in favor of the Gospel.

Maybe I'm reading you wrong, but it seems you are thinking that if I have n theoretically plausible solutions to the question at hand, that makes me an agnostic in some egalitarian way (no discernible preference of one solution to be commended over another). If my choices are only "absolute epistemic certainty of God and the Bible" and "agnostic", then I'd have to go with "agnostic" even as I protested the choices. For I don't have or claim such annihilating certainty. You'd have to go dig up a van Tillian presup'er if you want that kind of specimen under your microscope.

But at the same time, my understanding that things in principle *might* be otherwise doesn't compel me withdraw my beliefs and retreat to some kind of solipsistic shell. My acknowledgment of my fallibility in judgment is just that: a nod to my infallibility. I don't have to be infallible, however, to weigh the inputs, make my judgments and put a stake in the ground as to what I believe, even if it is at some risk of being wrong.

-Touchstone

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Touchstone,
Thanks for the thoughtful reply.
With regards to your lack of evidence for a potential DoS attack and requirement for vigilence non-the-less, that is quite understandable.

But you do know that DoS Attacks exist because you have hard evidence for them. Sometimes they hit you in an undeniable way.

But the very nature of the thesis is such that it defies the kind of examination, feedback and audit we can expect from Kelly and her Samba shares on the company network.
The god hypothesis is metaphysical and denies the kind the examination , feedback and audit much the same way ESP, and Bigfoot, and UFO's do and Sea Monsters used to. Anything of this sort is very hard to pin down. Why? One explanation could be because it doesn't exist.

But at the same time, my understanding that things in principle *might* be otherwise doesn't compel me withdraw my beliefs and retreat to some kind of solipsistic shell.
So you've decided to err on side of caution with regards to God.

At least your honest about it.

Thanks. Thats all I have to say about this but I welcome any rejoinder you may have. Looking forward to seeing you on another topic.

Bill Curry said...

Hi Touchstone,

You wrote:
I think you were the one (or was it Loftus?) who disputed my suggestion that the delta here was to be found more in our input sources than our rational algorithms. When you ask where you evidence is different or wrong from mine, my immediate and sustained sense is that is very much the immanent intuitions of natural theology and moral law.

I think we would agree on the algorithm. My point is that the disagreement in hypotheses definition is in a sense more fundamental than the evidence under consideration. If we don’t agree about what options are under consideration, it is very likely that we will talk past each other. The hypothesis definition in turn can help clarify what evidences are relevant to the discussion. I brought this up because I think that Biblical errors are often relevant to the issue of the resurrection, as I explained in my previous post.

You wrote:
This 'evidence' is non-reasoned, immediate as a perception.

I don’t have a problem with intuition as a source of knowledge. I think that often, intuition is a means of rapidly making valid inferences. It can still be valid even though we cannot articulate how we arrive at a particular conclusion. I accept that we can have moral intuitions and a sense of a moral law that provide knowledge. I don’t claim to be able to we need to explain moral knowledge. I don’t know if the source of morality is secular or not.

I am merely trying to make inferences from moral intuitions that I have. One of the intuitions I have is "It is wrong to kill infants for the crimes of their ancestors." I don’t have a real justification for this knowledge. I think that it is basic in an epistemological sense. I take that truth to be basic in the sense that 2+2= 4 is basic. The rules of arithmetic may be derivable for the Peano Postulates, but I am surer of 2+2=4 than I am of the Peano Postulates.

It is in this sense that I think Christianity specifically violates my intuition. I know some things about morality, even if I don’t know how, and that knowledge seems to conflict with the claim that Jesus was vindicated by God.

What immediate "percept" do you have that gives you reason to think 1) Jesus was sent from God to die, 2) He was raised on the third day )3 these occurred specifically to remedy our situations with respect to sin, 4) etc? I understand that you do have a sense of creatureness but I don’t understand why your argument doesn’t equally justify Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, and Deism.

I think we would find nearly complete overlap as to the evidences in view. The differences, I believe, are my "built-ins", intuitions (rational or not) that factor into my overall epistemology in such a way as to strongly incline me toward the Gospel as moral meta-narrative.

I expect that many of our "built-ins" coincide. I hope that we could find a common set and build inferences from there.

Bill

Anonymous said...

(If God is God, could he not create a world that is billions of years old in only six days.)

I can do it in six seconds, though definitely not as thorough as God. You will never get around this statement. It breaks through everything. Its implications on the properties time space matter and our ways of knowing things are innumerable. Booyah baby!

You will never get to know God unless you get to know God. The questions you ask need to be addressed to him.

Aquaria said...

Touchstone said...At the same time, however, I've learned to incorporate parts of my intuition -- understandings that don't break down cleanly in a reductionist way -- to good effect.

I think intuition is nothing more than the reasonable hunches or guesses that the subconscious brain makes you conscious of. You may not be able to rationally explain these conclusions precisely because they come from the subconscious parts of your brain. You are only conscious of the conclusion since the reasoning behind it takes place subliminally, and this does not equate to deriving knowledge irrationally.


I think the answer is even simpler than this. People talk about "female intuition," but it's not really intuition. It's reading body language and tones of voice. Even if they aren't consciously aware of having learned either, or if they haven't studied it formally, they have usually observed certain features and linked them up to certain behaviors. So if your face is getting a bit red, your eyes are shinier than usual, and you're bristling if not downright trembling--you're angry and hurt.

We do the same with other things that we credit to intuition, when it's knowledge absorbed so deeply that we don't think about the processing of it anymore. We "leap" past the step by step, and jump straight to a conclusion. Just like we don't tell ourselves when we're walking to lift right foot off the ground, extend leg forward from the hip, put foot on ground, lift left foot off ground, and etc. We just do it.

Our brains work the same way when we know something well enough not to have to think about how to do something, or choices to make. When I did letter encoding for the USPS, I was very slow at first, because I was thinking about how the coding worked, making decisions, etc. After a few weeks, I'd noticed that letter images had flown by, and I hadn't remembered a single one of them. I'd just typed away, without thinking about whether or not I was following the coding rules.

Mozart was Mozart not only because he was a genius, but also because he spent hour after hour, day after day, playing the piano, from a very young age. Music was literally encoded into his mind to the point that he didn't have to "think" too much about what would sound right. He knew.

Thomas said...

Mr. Loftus:
If these conditions were true, you would not be able to operate this blog. Would that be a loss? You seem to find fulfillment with what you do.
You have the privilege to question the very meaning of our existences. You can post discussions on a website that are hotly contested by some and well received by others. Your emotion is reflected in your writing, despite a predilection for rationalism. It is, moreover, the existence of warranted skepticism that provides you with your identity and your significance.
Perhaps you are correct, perhaps not. Your passion for what you do is apparent, and it is afforded by merit of your stipulated conditions not being met.
Is this reality not better than coming to the realization that you are an exhibit in a cosmological terrarium, a whim of divine fiat, an unwilling participant in a theological theme park in which nothing ever goes wrong?

James said...

Hey, Bill Curry, i have read your thread with great interest. I am a Christian, and i would like to apologize for the attitude of many out there who claim to be Christians (only God knows if they truly are).

I just wanted to address the questions brought up when you said:

"What immediate "percept" do you have that gives you reason to think 1) Jesus was sent from God to die, 2) He was raised on the third day )3 these occurred specifically to remedy our situations with respect to sin, 4) etc? I understand that you do have a sense of creatureness but I don’t understand why your argument doesn’t equally justify Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, and Deism."


I have an answer for you.


To make my response more understandable i just want to share with you the heart of the Christian world-view, and its difference from the man's natural view of things.

Naturally man, being man himself, sees man as the center of reality. What mans natural mindset sees as problems are seen as problems because of how things fit or don't fit with man--with his rights and needs and expectations.

The Christian world-view starts with the assumption that God is the center of reality. All thinking, then, starts with the conviction that God has basic rights as the Creator of all things. He has goals that fit with his nature and perfect character. Then the biblical mindset moves out from this center and interprets the world, with God and his rights and goals at the center as the measure of all things.

What the Christian world-view sees as basic problems in the universe are usually not the same problems that the secular mindset sees because what makes a problem is not related to the rights and needs of man, but what fits the goals of God.

A good example of these conflicting world-views is how you claimed in your thread that God should have made the universe in such a way to give man the rational ability to trust in him. But would that be God's goal?

Christianity postulates that God created the universe in order that man might be separated from God, in order that he may, then, freely choose to accept him. The reason for this is a simple one--God wants man to be in a loving relationship with him. God could not do this if we were intellectually FORCED to believe in him, making mankind mere puppets on strings. To put is bluntly, you cannot put a gun to someone's head and make them love you.

Christianity claims that God's major goal is to have a loving relationship with his creation--namely, the most intelligent species: man. Therefore, it is my strong contention that God purposely made believing in him a choice of will, by leaving quite sufficient evidence of his existence, but not irrefutable evidence.

Furthermore, when i say God left us with evidence of his existence, do not think i claim that this evidence points to the Judeo-Christian God--but it does point to a God of some sort. And the deep sense of morality that all men have, lends us to understand that this "being" is essentially good.

Now this is the problem that Jesus answers.

1) God is Good
2) Man freely does wrong
3) If God is perfectly good he will administer perfect justice--thereby punishing everyone who has ever done wrong.

Before addressing Jesus, i would like to explain that this is why Hell is not immoral at all (as many have claimed). Remember, sin is not God's will; it is a deviation of man's will away from God's will. There is not moral contradiction here. Sin is the byproduct of freewill, which is a necessary component to any loving relationship. However, because God is perfectly good, all sins must be perfectly punished in Hell. Only because of hell, a perfect equilibrium of good can be maintained. A good God cannot let a single sin go unpunished, and a good God could never exist without some kind of hell.

Furthermore, don't limit God to think he messed up with man. The God who made this universe of of nothing clearly knew man would listen to the devil, and (if you take the story literally) bite that fruit. He wanted us to be separated from him. That was HIS goal. And moreover, original sin does not condemn man to hell itself. It simply has adjusted man's nature to be naturally inclined to sin--it has separated man from God. Thus, it causes all men to naturally sin, and is the root of our condemnation, but it is not the condemnation itself.

Thus, mans nature leaves us in a bad situation because all of us are destined for hell--excluding, quite possibly, young children, or mentally handicapped who are unable to reason right and wrong. However, man's separation also leaves God in a bad situation too, because due to Gods just nature, all people are destined for Hell, and unable to have a relationship with him.

This was the problem that Jesus came to fix. God made a way to maintain his justice, while still forgiving man and carrying out his goal. The bible claims that the spirit, who created the universe, manifested himself inside Mary. Yes, God still remained all around us, but also, uniquely, completely inside this one man. This man, although he was unlike God in his conscious and physical being, shared absolutely the same eternal spirit as God. Because Jesus had the spirit of God, he did not sin, and he was worth more to God than anything or anyone. Jesus then freely choose (as God foresaw he would) to bare the full wrath of his Father, and be crucified, in order that the wrath which man deserves would be placed on him. Jesus--the most loving and truthful man that ever lived--was then tortured, spit on, crucified, and sent to hell for 3 days.

Christianity teaches that if anyone accepts his sacrifice, and repents from ALL sin in their life, God will send his spirit into that believer and he will be saved.

Thus, the answer to the long question is, in short:

Christianity holds that there is something behind this universe that caused it to be. This "being" is perfectly good and perfectly loving. This being separated mankind from himself in order to allow us to freely choose him, and thus, have a loving relationship with him. Because we are separate from this being, or God, we have lost harmony with both nature and God--causing us to freely sin. Because God is perfectly good, he is forced, by nature, to punish all our sins. However, it was God's intended goal to have a relationship with us, so he sent his own Son to bare the full force of his wrath, in order that whoever accepts his sacrifice as a gift will never receive punishment, and will be able to have an eternal loving relationship with God.

I hope that helps you understand some doctrine... I know you may not believe in it, or you may disagree with it, but hopefully you understand it more clearly.

As for the evidence of Christianity over other religions. Well, that would come from the Historical foundation of the religion's revelation. Unlike Mohammid, who wrote the Qu'ran in a cave, or any non-historical religion, Christianity has vast historical appeal.

We have 13000 ancient fragments of the New Testament, which, if you do your research ECLIPSES any other ancient event by thousands. It is a newsflash from history.

Furthermore, the tomb of Jesus was unmistakably empty, and his resurrection is the best answer for this. If the tomb of Jesus was not empty then the authorities who were persecuting Christians would have just exhumed the body of Christ and destroyed the religion. Furthermore... what on earth caused the early disciples to abandon everything they owned, risk persecution, and eventually die while proclaiming the gospel? What caused the rapid spread of the early Church? The valid explanation would be that he really did rise from the dead.

This is a VERY brief explanation of the historicity of the resurrection--a better article is found here:


http://www.michaelhorner.com/articles/resurrection/index.html

a great video can be also found here:

http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=3986644701975339116&q=william+lane+craig&ei=g8I7SJyNGpHk-AHEiZTxAw&hl=en

Furthermore, I have seen a lot of debate about science and the bible on this thread. Personally, i believe the bible is a book strictly about man's relationship to God, and how man can become reconnected to God. It is not a science or physics textbook, and it is written to people of all times, places, and ethnicities, so everyone can relate and understand it. I hope that just because the bible doesn't give an exposition on modern understandings of mathematics, geography, and science, that you simply reject it as garbage.

I hope you keep your mind open. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

Thanks

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

sorry, at the end i meant to say,

"that you don't simply reject it as garbage."


There are a few other errors i have noticed while looking through what i posted, sorry, i hope you can somehow decipher what i intended to say.

(another major correction is: The God who made this universe out of nothing clearly knew man would listen to the devil, and (if you take the story literally) bite that fruit.)

david said...

This is cool, I pasted the text of this post onto this website's textbox, and it shows the word usage if lots of forms:


http://wordle.net/gallery/John_Loftus


Really brings out the meaning :)

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks david. It looks like you're having some fun. Fun is good.

Collin Mutambo said...

This article makes me pray the more for you in the western world.
Read the link below and wake up. I have witnessed an evil event, when Jesus was called in to save a possessed man. And the evil spirits fled. Also, watch haunted on national geographic. Why is God and Jesus called in ? You people only believe in things you see. Come to Africa and witness evil spirits. You will wake up. Trust me, Jesus is true and God exists. The bible says it all. Wake up or be doomed. No wonder we now have more natural disasters.

God bless you.

http://www.clarifyingchristianity.com/b_proof.shtml

Black said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Black said...

What I think gets lost in this "Which religion, if any, is True" or "Which religion is THE ONE" is that there is contained, in all the great world religions including Christianity, knowledge of human life. They all tell stories about the human condition, which includes all kinds of ways of behaving. At their best, they help people understand how to live in society and get along with other people.

Sure, they might be fairy tales, but fairy tales serve a purpose. Reading the story, we know the fox and the stork could not in real life talk to each other in English, but the story tells us something about some aspect of ourselves and helps us understand ourselves better.

I don't feel like I have to believe everything in the Bible as having actually happened as described. The Old Testament was written by people who were trying to make sense of their world (just as we do today) but they had fewer technological/scientific resources and they had a very different worldview than modern people. This must be taken into account. The formation of the world in Genesis is a perfect example. We have been into space and we know that the stars are not just on a giant dome around our planet. Yet, if we read the story of Adam and Eve as an allegory talking about how humans took the fruit of the tree of knowledge and then their relationships fell apart. Their relationships with the earth, with each other and with god. We know that knowledge gives humans great power and that they can use that power to help or to harm. The idea is that God can use the knowledge to turn what is harmful into what is helpful, but humans have the tendancy to take what is helpful and use it for harm. (For example, humans used splitting of the atom to make terribly destructive weapons, but that same knowledge can be used to generate electricity.) Humanity should strive to be more Godlike in that it seeks to help and heal.

Sure, the Bible contains a lot of awful stuff, but that doesn't have to stop people from finding what is beneficial in Christianity. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing-with-us-or-against-us sort of situation.

My philosophy is: Try what the religion suggests that you do. If it brings good fruit, then keep doing it. If that behavior brings bad fruit, then reevaluate that belief/behavior.

I firmly believe in "Love your Neighbor" because I have seen it work. We have evidence of nonviolent protests and loving actions towards enemies as helping to make change or at the very least preventing escalation of conflict (Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington, the Dahali Lama). This message is found in the Bible, which describes Love as patience, humble, kindness, etc.

Why do people have to fight over this? No one can prove God exists and no one can prove God doesn't exist. In the end one is choosing their beliefs, whatever they are. Ultimately, though, what matters are our actions and not our beliefs, because what matter is it that you believe in the "true faith" but you commit horrible crimes against humanity?

The most spiritual people I have known have also been the most radiant, peaceful and tolerant people. I never found them quibbling over doctrine, but rather saw them acting out their faith and love in being a wonderful human being.

Then again, I'm a pragmatist, and arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin seems absolutely pointless. I agree with the message expressed here: http://truthseekersunite.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/hello-world/

Maria said...

I'm late to this party, I'm afraid.
John, I agree that even 1/3 of the evidence you presented would make for some good proof.
However, even though I could believe in a god, I could not follow him. He is far too cruel and inhumane to all of his creations as things stand right now.
Listening to his own explanation of why he did the things he did/does would be much like listening to a chronic abuser make excuses for his behavior.
"Yeah, I hit her because she made me really angry."
Even with evidence, I could believe. But that level of malevolent behavior by a divine being who is supposed to know better? I cannot forgive.

Phil said...

I would summarize my requirements, as a rational atheist, as follows:

1) On those points where evidence currently refutes Christian claims, further evidence would need to be provided to overwhelmingly demonstrate the invalidity of the existing evidence.

2) Sufficient evidence would then need to be provided that supports all aspects of the Christian hypothesis.

3) The internal inconsistencies and logical holes would somehow need to be resolved.

I do not see a possibility for this happening.

"Ah hah!" cry the religious, "You're admitting your mind is closed!"

Not at all. It's simply that the amount of evidence that exists AGAINST the Christian hypothesis is SO overwhelming that it's difficult to conceptualize the counter-evidence that would invalidate it all. Furthermore, it is then difficult to conceive why a religion that claims to be based on faith and mystery and supernatural beings would desire to, or how it could, provide solid evidence that its claims are all true. And finally, what would resolve the silliness and logical contradictions and holes in the theology and scripture, which alone are overwhelming and refute the reality of the claims? A contradiction is a contradiction, and no amount of evidence is likely to change that at all.

I suppose one might pare back the definition of "Christianity" until you're just proving there's some guy called Jesus who could do magic tricks, but even then is this guy likely to appear today for scientific study, and would that really still be Christianity?

I would be far more likely to be convinced of something without internal contradictions that it would be easy to provide evidence for, such as aliens or ghosts, yet I doubt that will happen any time soon.

At the end of a day, even were there, by some miracle (pun intended) sufficient evidence and reason that suggested Christianity was true, and I therefore accepted the hypothesis, I would still have to keep an open mind for the possibility of further evidence that again proved it was false. That's what being rational, skeptical, and scientific means.

Bill_S said...

No rational person who ever read the bible from cover to cover would ever believe in Christianity. (or Judaism or Islam for that matter) It is a nonsensical patchwork of fiction.

The only way such idiocy would get published today is if the author had the dubious cachet of Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. (Well need I say more?)

ChuckyJesus said...

One correction, if I may, regarding, "placed planets haphazardly around the sun, some revolving counter-clockwise and in haphazard orbits."

You meant rotating, not revolving. All planets in the solar system revolve in the same direction. Also, as viewed from "the north pole," most of the planets rotate counter-clockwise; two exceptions:

Here:

The rotation period of Venus cannot be decided through telescopic observations of its surface markings because its featureless thick atmosphere makes this impossible. In the 1960's, radar pulses were bounced off of Venus while at its closest distance to the Earth, and it was discovered that its rotation period, its day, was 243.09 +/- 0.18 earth days long, but it rotated on its axis in a backwards or retrograde sense from the other planets. If you were to look down at the plane of the solar system from its 'north pole' you would see the planets orbiting the Sun counter clockwise, and rotating on their axis counterclockwise. Except for Venus. Venus would be rotating clockwise as it orbited the Sun counterclockwise. Venus is not alone. The axis of Uranus is inclined so far towards the plane of the solar system that it almost rolls on its side as it orbits the Sun.

Anonymous said...

The more atheists talk the more ignorant they appear in their opinions. Half of the things in this; are explained in the bible, are not as he says in the bible, or he is taking it out of context.