How Can We Best Debunk Christianity?

Since we now have a few good reasons why Christianity flourishes, I asked this question: "If we have an idea why Christianity flourishes, then understanding this can help us to debunk it. Given these reasons how is the best way to debunk it?" David Ellis was the first one to weigh in:

I think the most vitally important thing for debunkers of religion to be aware of is that intellectual argument, while it may be effective for those individuals more inclined by temperment and interests toward rationality in the first place, is only part of the solution. Since most of us are deconverts because of intellectual difficulties with the claims of religion we tend to be a bit myopic in our approach.

I think we can all learn a lot by looking to the example of Julia Sweeney. She does something which is much more likely to have an effect on the thinking of a broader audience than bare intellectual argumentation----she tells the story of her deconversion in LETTING GO OF GOD in its personal and emotional aspects as much as in its intellectual content.

Just a few of the things we should focus on:

--open and personally engaging deconversion stories.

--the positive emotional and societal benefits of critical thinking (with a particular focus on specific examples rather than general and theoretical discussions of the topic).

--the promotion of openness in one's religious skepticism among the atheist/agnostic community. The more people there are who are casually open with the fact that they're skeptical of religion the easier it will be for believers to question their own articles of faith.

Any other suggestions?

66 comments:

Chris said...

This blog is dedicated to debunking. Isn't that what you are doing here? The word is a verb, an action word.

Whether or not it is or ever will be debunked, is a completely different question. My guess is that you are spitting into the ocean.

WoundedEgo said...

I am finding it hard to concentrate on this question because I am still pondering insults to hurl at you on the other post...

But...

For me....

I do not view myself as a "debunker." Yes, I've outgrown that, but I am still an educator at heart.

For me, the real culprit is ignorance. If one can actually read the Bible and understand it, then the dogmas, and then the credibility of the Bible, dissipate.

Once someone releases the death grip on their dogmas, it is not so frightening to think that maybe their view is mistaken.

http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Bill Ross

metaphyzxx said...

Woundedego more or less said it right. The only way to truly debunk Christianity is to debunk the foundation upon which it's based. Invalidate the cause, and the symptoms go away.

Christianity wins converts based on experience, not on carefully crafted arguments/presentations/sermons. Sure, that might get you to look INTO it, but it's personal experience that gets people. If you can experientially debunk the Bible, not just the "religious experience" then you've got a foundation for your cause.

Shygetz said...

Whether or not it is or ever will be debunked, is a completely different question. My guess is that you are spitting into the ocean.

The legions of fervent Zeus followers would agree with you.

I think it is important for all of us to realize that we will probably never convince >90% of the people who post here to defend their religion. Often they are personal experientialists; what they personally sense is true, and they have sensed what they interpret as God. Until they experience something that causes them to disbelieve God, something stronger than all of the experiences they have had that they interpret as support for God, you will never win them over. They will contort logic and reason into shapes that would make Escher blanch before denying their own experiences. But try not to lose hope; life, much like baseball, is a game of inches.

I think it is important that we plant doubt into the minds of those believers who already have cause to doubt. One of the great things about DC in my mind is the fact that you have many different people here, each with different styles. Some attack by textual criticism, some by comparison of religious teachings to reality, some by strict logical attacks on theological positions. Each line of attack will be effective on different people. I even agree with David that emotional lines of persuasion, which are often given short shrift, should be emphasized more--just because I don't personally like them doesn't mean they are ineffective, and they seem to be the most underrepresented line of attack here.

Hey, it works for theists, why not let it work for us?

metaphyzxx said...

In the end, if a God can't stand up to a human argument, it's not much of a God...
amirite?

Chris said...

Here's a Christian who reads your blog everyday.

I agree that the emtional testimonies of former Christians are the best way of "debunking" Christianity. I don't find Charles Templeton convincing in his arguments against Christianity but I found his emotional struggle hard to read.

God bless :)

Brother Crow said...

i personally think christianity is doing it for itself. It was posted here not long ago that christianity is losing credibility among younger people especially. The numbers of church attendance are decreasing, and churches themselves are foundering in trying to hold together dogma and doctrine. Europe is well ahead of us in that.

Politics is an interesting bed-fellow in the debunking effort. I heard that a trinity of leading evangelicals (Dobson, Robertson, someone else) has come out and said they will not support any of the Republican candidates for president, and may push for a third-party alternate. What that says is that the GOP has said "no" to the insane, right-wing religious lobby in the party.

They debunked themselves...which they will often do.

In the past, there has not been a strong atheist/agnostic intellectual to fill the gap when christianity imploded.

Today there is, and a medium to get the word out...the internet!

We may be closer to that day than we think!

Thranil said...

I agree with the sentiment that one has to get past the emotional attachment to their dogma in order to even be able to look at any argument regardless of how rational it is. I let go of my emotional attachment to christian dogma simply because I saw that it was destroying my life and everything I cared about... it was only after that that I could even approach the rest of the religion with a rational eye and come up with the conclusion that it was a myth just every other religion.

Chris said...

The debunking has been going on for two millennia, and yet Christianity flourishes. I think it was Albert Einstein who said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result." Does that make you all insane?

But if you eventually succeed in debunking it, what then? Will you turn your debunking skills to you Mom, apple pie, even baseball?

Joseph said...

I'm with Bro. Crow. Christianity is loosing favor in the public square. DC is the nail in the coffin.

metaphyzxx said...

I'll be honest, I entertain the desires of the debunkers to invalidate christianity because, in the long run, I don't believe it can be done.

Winning an argument doesn't make the winner of the argument any more right than losing an argument makes the loser wrong. It just tells of the speaker's skill at debate. In the end, only what's right and true will matter.

The fact is, the people that you can't convince that there is no God are going to be those with a personal experience, and an argument can never overrule an experience. While it's true that it ends up being something that the individual interprets as an encounter with God, in the end even Jesus was obligated to go that route with his closest followers. He asked Peter "who do men say I am", then asked "who do YOU say I am". He even said, upon the answer to that question, that this answer wasn't revealed by man, but by God. And on THIS rock he'd build his church. In the end the only individual's testimony to himself holds any real weight.

The fact is this: I believe in God based on reason. The foundation of that reason is that God is knowable, but not containable. It's God's obligation to show himself, but I had to come to a point where he'd shown enough to trust, and then I'd search for more from there. My faith is seeded in the fact that I eventually chose to acknowledge God AS God, not on argument from any other person, not on variable logic or reasoning, but on experience, and a concrete personal test that I presented to God to pass or fail by his own standard. Now, I subscribe to the philosophy of David... even if it WAS debunked, I'd live by the rules regardless, because I like the results that they yield.

Will Christianity BE debunked. Only if you're trying to debunk the philosophical or emotional experiences that CALL themselves Christianity. But for people like myself, who've taken the life that God has given them, and given it back to Him, there really is nothing to debunk, any more than you could convince me that the earth is flat or the sun is cold.

Jason said...

I feel like I'm invading some kind of private atheist conversation... I suppose that's what happens when a Christian vists a debunking Christianity site only to find the atheists all scheming together to figure out why they haven't convinced more religious zealots to join the dark side.

metaphyzxx said...

I understand your perspective there Jason. But in the end, it's really not my JOB to convince people of God's existance. If he can't provide proof himself, he's not much of a God.

At the same time, it's the job of the individual to delineate when God HAS offerred enough evidence.

I was an unbeliever, and He convinced me. Now, the challenge is to continue to follow HIM, and not just what my church says.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

John:
To quote a very wise man:
"With the diversity of our combined strengths..."

In other words, there is no one 'best way.' It depends on three things, at least.

Each of us have different experiences, different interests, even different reasons for leaving Christianity. Caleb and I, for example, will never quite share the experiences you and Joseph had as ministers. You are far greater a philosopher than any of the rest of us. I may have certain knowledge of the byways of history that others lack.

Some of us became ex-Christians on our way to atheism or agnosticism, others became ex-Christians because we realized we had to be atheists.

We come from different traditions. I, as an ex-Catholic, will never understand, emotionally, how it felt to unlearn some of the doctrines you escaped from, like 'salvation through faith alone' or the idea that 'hell is the default position.' (And imagine were we to get through to Jason and bring him over to 'our side,' what a different perspective his Christadelphian background would give us.)

And there are so many variants of Christianity, and as loudly as some of our believers say 'Christianity teaches...' there are no doctrines that all Christians agree on, none -- I'd guess -- that even as many as 90% of Christians accept.

In short, my answer is to continue to do what we have been doing, each in our own way. We're doing a pretty good job so far. I agree with Joseph that 'DC is the nail in the coffin.'

(On the other hand, if your argument is tactical -- how do we get our ideas out, get more of an audience -- I have a suggestion. Put together an anthology of the best writing and arguments that have appeared so far, posts and extended comments. Give the writers a chance to reedit and refine their pieces, since so much of what is here is 'written on the fly.' And publish it with the title
DEBUNKING CHRISTIANITY:An anthology of the best of debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com
and at the end of every chapter, stress the idea that you can find more at DC. People will buy it from the title alone, and many of them will come here to check us out and argue with or learn from us.)

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Chris: I very much appreciate some of your comments, but I have to call you on one. "The debunking has been going on for two millennia, and yet Christianity flourishes."

Does it? Western Europe is almost entirely a post-Christian civilization. America seems to be retreating from the brief embrace with 'Christianism' faster and faster the more they understand what it means. The 'social issues' are turning more and more in our favor -- think about what it means that the battle over homosexuality is a battle over gay marriage, maybe the last 'line in the sand' for homoantipathy. (And even the most extreme Christrian politicians like Santorum and Brownback have openly gay staff members. Even in comic books, the argument is if the gay characters are getting enough 'air time,' not whether they should be there at all. And if broadcast television has only a few gay characters, almost every cable and satellite system carries at least one gay network like LOGO.)

Flourishing, Chris? I think we are rapidly approaching the tipping point that europe hit a while ago. Christians will still exist, of course. (Even Zoroastrians still exist.) But Chrristianity will cease to be an important factor in society as a whole.

Caleb Wimble said...

There is no single, "foolproof" method by which we can expect to draw all Christians away from the faith. No two people are alike, and as a result no two deconversion experiences are alike.

My own journey toward atheism, for example, was almost entirely intellectual. I came to reject my faith in spite of my feelings, in spite of my gut instinct screaming out that there must be a God, that Christ did indeed die for my salvation. It was only through my own rationalization, as well as my reading and comparing of numerous Christian and secular arguments for and against the prospect of the biblical God (or any god), that I came to abandon my faith over time.

For others I know, the experience was a wholly different one. As I said, no two stories are ever the same, and no one method is guaranteed to work for two separate people. That's one of the things I admire about DC - the diversity of the team members allows for different perspectives on the same issues, often bringing a subject to an entirely new light.

Jennifer said...

For me...you'd have to prove, without a doubt, that there is no God and that the argument from myth is valid. You can't. :) You depend on plausibility, not evidence.

Caleb Wimble said...

So in other words, Jennifer, you are not interested in the rationality (or lack thereof) of the existence of a God, and could not be convinced by any logical argument, no matter how sound. Am I correct?

Jennifer said...

Caleb,
Do your best.

B H said...

I agree with Shygetz on this one. I've actually had trouble convincing some theists that their personal experience isn't solid evidence for their faith. The simple fact that other religions have members with the same experiences and level of faith gets countered by even more appeals to faith and experience.

With the tendency for cultural institutions to adapt over time, I doubt we'll see the complete disappearance of Christianity from the religious landscape. The Christianity they practice 500 years from now may be as different from today's Christianity as modern Christians are from the Christians of the middle ages, but few will consider that evidence against the religion.

It's sad to say, but I think we're as likely to see Christians leave for the new pagan movements as we are to see Christians leaving for atheism.

Shygetz said...

I feel like I'm invading some kind of private atheist conversation...

Well, perhaps that's because this IS kinda an atheist conversation, although if we wanted privacy we probably wouldn't publish it openly on the internet.

I suppose that's what happens when a Christian vists a debunking Christianity site only to find the atheists all scheming together to figure out why they haven't convinced more religious zealots to join the dark side.

To paraphrase an esteemed colleague here, you're the kinda guy who goes to the Texas Steakhouse and bitches that they serve fries.

Jennifer said...

Caleb,
I didn't answer your question.

If you can show me that reason and logic can answer every question with evidence behind it, you may have a case, but you can't.

I don't think every atheist or agnostic or logical thinker, logic is definitely a good tool, is immoral or unfeeling, but if you take reason and logic as your ultimate standard, you can tell yourself whatever you like and believe it is logical and reasonable.

Caleb Wimble said...

"If you can show me that reason and logic can answer every question with evidence behind it, you may have a case, but you can't."

If thousands of years of demonstrated successful application of logic as a basis of understand reality are insufficient evidence for you to accept the quality of the science, then nothing I could possibly say or do would convince you of reason's pure effectiveness in revealing that which correlates to reality.

"you can tell yourself whatever you like and believe it is logical and reasonable."

Emphasis on believe. You have just described perfectly the means by which intelligent Christians are able to hold to their beliefs - they delude themselves into seeing the plainly illogical as somehow logical. Reason makes it obvious that the Bible contains numerous errors and internal inconsistencies, for example, but to the believer even the most irrational excuse for these errors appears perfectly reasonable. This is the very definition of delusion: the unreal appears real.

Jason said...

So....this blog is the Texas Steakhouse...and the fries are the 'we need a new plan of attack' comments...and-...Ah, now I see the problem. You guys are spending too much time coming up with amusing analogies instead of honing your debunking skills.

Steven Bently said...

Lying by omission.
First off our history books need to be amended to, lying by omission

The first question would be. Who discovered America? Typical American answer...Christopher Columbus?

The true correct answer is: The Native Aboriginals... they first discovered this land, whom walked across the Bearing Straights thousands of years before the white man brought over with him his customs and culture and his white-mans’religion.

The Native Americans lived a very prosperous and prolific life style, it is estimated that over 50 million(?) Native Americans once lived and died and roamed this land. Before the invasion of the white man whom came over here and claimed this land for himself and brought with him his book of forgiveness. What took the whitemans god so long to get over here with his gospel message of salvation? Did not this all knowing god, not have enough forethought to have his gospel message spread all over the earth at the same time? Besides, before the white man came over here, there had never been a bible nor church built on this soil.

Christopher Columbus was a professed fundamentalist Christian, and by the philosophy of the Bible, a Christian can do no wrong, as long as he has his personal savior awaiting 24/7 to forgive him of any crime, wrong doing, or biblical listed sin.

The white supremacist conquerors called the Native Americans infidels and savages, because they had not ever heard of the white mans’ god and Jesus, and therefore the unbelieving infidels deserved to be killed and be sent to hell and have their own land forever taken away from them.

A big misconception that we’ve all been told is that, the Native Americans were infidels and savages, this is simply not true guess what?

They were 'HUMAN BEINGS' first and foremost, they were Human Beings that owned this land, if American Indians are infidels and savages, then we need to kill the remaining Indians that are living today, so why don’t we?

The religion of choice for the white race and now ironically, black people, is Christianity, it gives a person a feeling of superiority above others that do not share in their beliefs. The white supremacists Christians also considered blacks to be less-than them, using them as slaves, even the bible endorses slavery.

The bible was written by Arabs, by whom most White Americans today would not give an Arab the time of day. Not only that but, names like Adam, Eve, Mary, John, Mark, Mathew, Luke, Paul, Peter, Jesus are not even of Arab descent names. These are names of English origin.

Lee Randolph said...

In my opinion, the best way to debunk christianity is the tried and true method of introducing new information to the christian for them to consider and re-evaluate their position.

The introduction of new information has cause god to retreat from the wilderness, the mountains, the clouds, the heavens and then to hide in our brains. If god lives in all of us, then we can find him by looking inside. When we can see that our brain is just a big piece of meat and there aint no god in there, then that should be the last room in the house that we find empty and we can comfortably conclude that we were wrong all this time, and we can get busy concentrating on problems instead of 'giving them to god'.

Jennifer said...

Caleb,
As you get older I think you will find that there are questions that logic won't answer and that's OK.

Caleb Wimble said...

And that, Lee, ties very closely into the God of the Gaps phenomenon. There was a time when God was responsible for virtually every natural occurrence beyond obvious explanation - everything from the "hanging" of the earth upon nothing to the sustaining of land's "foundation" to lightning to clouds to stars and to wind. Even as late Martin Luther's day, "common sense" among believers held that God and/or various spiritual entities (of either demonic or angelic origin) were directly responsible for lightning, earthquakes, snow, and all manner of physical ailment or mental affliction. Throughout history, whenever there has been a "gap" in our knowledge of the world, it has been filled with a ludicrously ignorant "GODDUNIT" and left at that, all the while suppressing scientific inquiry into the actual cause of the phenomenon.

And now we come to an age where nearly every gap has been filled; there is next to no more room for God in the natural world. I say nearly, because Christians still tenuously cling to the one remaining phenomenon they perceive as such a gap: the question of origin. At this time, fundamentalists sit in stark denial of mountains of evidence by maintaining the age of the earth (and often even the universe) as less than ten thousand years old, assigning supposedly ex nihilo creation of all existence to their God.

This is the last straw gripped in desperation of believers everywhere, attempting to maintain one small hold on a sense of God's interaction in the natural realm. And before long, they will be forced to let go. Already a great number of Christians are beginning to "re-interpret" the Genesis account of prehistory and accepting the idea of an "old" universe and reluctantly embracing the evidence of a "Big Bang" of sorts (although they still consider God as some manner of catalyst for this explosion of matter and energy).

Regardless, the God of the Gaps has only one gap remaining, and it is very nearly filled as far as the modern world is concerned. After that, it will not be long before he is expelled even from the "soul" (read: physical brain) itself.

akakiwibear said...

My initial visits to DC were genuinely exploratory. The visits to DC have made me think more about what and why I believe. In the process my theist belief has certainly grown stronger – thank you for helping me.

Certainly some of your arguments have made me think - the flaws in your reasoning have not always been obvious. I certainly thank you for stimulating my thinking it has really helped me.

Working through the flaws and irrationality in your arguments has generally guided me to a better appreciation of theism in general and of Christian teaching in particular.

I agree with metaphyzxx "In the end, if a God can't stand up to a human argument, it's not much of a God...". You have helped convince me that God really does stand up to human argument.

Keep up the “good” work!

Matthew said...

Caleb said -"Already a great number of Christians are beginning to "re-interpret" the Genesis account of prehistory and accepting the idea of an "old" universe and reluctantly embracing the evidence of a "Big Bang" of sorts"

Just real quick, you do realize that the Catholic church was one of the first Christian institutions to accept the Big Bang and they did that around 1951?

It hardly seems like the "reinterpretation" is just "beginning" but in fact has been around for quite a while. If you were to bother to read Augustine you would see that reinterpretations of the Genesis account have been around for over a thousand years. Honestly the case you try to build is nothing but a Straw Man argument (a pretty hollow and uninformed one at that).

Joseph said...

"Working through the flaws and irrationality in your arguments has generally guided me to a better appreciation of theism in general and of Christian teaching in particular."

Talk is cheap. You got something to back up them words? Bring it on...

openlyatheist said...

With all due respect to the posters here I think DC gets too caught up in the "meta-arguments," the red herrings that apologists manufacture to distract from the core issue: is the religion factual? There is no point trading philosophical barbs with the irrational - they will never budge.

From Lewis to Craig, apologetic arguments about philosophy and morality are meant to draw focus away from history and science, the very facts that need to be disseminated by people who have done their homework. That is the real strength of most DC posters, but sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle.

zilch said...

As several people here have said, there are many ways of debunking Christianity, and different ways work for different people.

The arguments that did it for me, when I first thought seriously about God around the age of eleven, were these two: first, "If God created the world, who created God? (I thought at the time that I had invented that argument!). And second, the fact that there were many mutually irreconcilable religions that all claimed to be the one and only truth, and there was a strong correlation between where you lived and what religion you believed (one of Dawkins' favorite arguments as well).

I've learned a lot since then, but I still consider these two arguments, in their more refined forms, to be pretty good indications that religion is a delusion, or rather an evolved system of belief which helped to build societies, but which also endangers us in various ways.

The third argument is the one caleb mentioned: the increasingly small gaps God has to live in. As I've said before, it used to be that God had room behind every raincloud- now He's hiding in the chinks of the bacterial flagellar secretory system, and being squeezed out even there: the pressure in these gaps must be something tremendous!

This ties in with what jennifer said: For me...you'd have to prove, without a doubt, that there is no God and that the argument from myth is valid. You can't. :) You depend on plausibility, not evidence.

I'd have to agree that it's impossible to prove without a doubt that God does not exist. But we've been through this before here: absolute proof of nonexistence of anything is impossible, if that something can be hiding in another plane or beyond the fringe or in our souls. We have to live with doubt. You, too, jennifer, must live with all kinds of doubt: you can't prove that leprechauns, unicorns, or diminutive underwear drawer trolls (very small and invisible) don't exist. Absolute proof is not forthcoming, ever, except in restricted domains (such as formal logic) where truth follows from definitions.

But even though science and reason are not perfect and always open to new evidence (indeed, that's a big difference between science and religion), the track record of science at establishing models of the world that work well enough to bet our lives on is pretty good, and a damn sight better than that of religion.

Shygetz said...

Ah, now I see the problem. You guys are spending too much time coming up with amusing analogies instead of honing your debunking skills.

The latter is simple enough to leave us sufficient time for the former.

Caleb,
As you get older I think you will find that there are questions that logic won't answer and that's OK.


That was incredibly patronizing. Youth is a crime that we all are guilty of at one point or another, and has nothing to do with the arguments.

And Jennifer, as you get older I think you will find that there are no questions that mysticism will answer, and that's OK.

metaphyzxx said...

In order to effectively argue from either end, the two perspectives would first have to recognize the common ground from which they stand. If there is a common point of divergence, then a person willing to look with reason at least knows that there is a foundation for the argument.

Unfortunately, there is a plentitude of Christians that make their own stand on a shifting argument, and really don't know why THEY as individuals believe. It's a sad fact that most of your arguments as atheists as why NOT to believe are relatively valid... Christians, by and large LIVE in a straw man argument.

Personally, I wish you well. Shake the foundations of nominal christianity. I'd rather you make the ones that don't really trust in anything of subtance doubt, than have them associate themselves with my faith.

-my $0.02

Lee Randolph said...

Hi metaphyzxx,
yea, I know what you mean, "those christians" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) really get on my nerves.

buggers aren't they?

Jennifer said...

Shygetz,
I think you are right, there are questions that cannot be answered.

metaphyzxx said...

Lee, I'll just take for granted that you're not bein facetious, and agree with you.

If you don't know why you stand, you deserve to fall...

Caleb Wimble said...

First off, Matthew, I reiterate once again that when I use the term Christian I am invariably referring to the evangelical Christian church unless I specify otherwise. The Catholics are an altogether different matter in many issues.

And as far as Augustine is concerned, his ideals were never more than a fringe interpretation of the Bible during the past several millennia since his time; there are many believers, ironically enough, who go so far as to label him a heretic for his excessively allegorical interpretation of Scriptures.
Furthermore, Augustine was not attempting to reconcile the Scripture with scientific fact; he instead was attempting to reconcile Scripture with the most prevalent philosophical ideals of the time (which were of heavily Greek origin).

Regardless, my point concerning the God of the Gaps stands. It is a highly difficult case for believers to debunk, as they will typically be forced to simply regard it as somehow irrelevant, or conjure some jargon related to "putting God in a box," among other meaningless rhetoric to scant around the issue.

Caleb Wimble said...

Jennifer:
"Caleb,
As you get older I think you will find that there are questions that logic won't answer and that's OK."

And that, my friend, is nothing more than bulverism, as C.S. Lewis would be inclined to say. You deny the validity of my argument based on my age, rather than my reasoning. The moment a conversation degenerates to this level, it is likely not worth continuing, as it indicates your complete unwillingness to evaluate my arguments on their own merit.

Lee Randolph said...

Bravo Caleb,
she tried to poison your well. Nice catch.

John W. Loftus said...

Caleb...You're good!

Shygetz said...

metaphyzxx, I think I like you (in a manly, heterosexual sort of way *grunt, grunt, snort, chest-thump*). I hope you stick around DC for a while.

Chris said...

A couple of points:

I think debunking Christianity or any other God belief system is a long road to hoe, principly because you offer no alternative belief system, no proof of the non-existence of God, and no eternal life.

I think it was David Hume who said something to the effect that reason by itself cannot motivate action. One must have passion to act. This is why, again, I think debunking Christianity or any other God belief system fails. It invokes reason, to the exclusion of passion. Perhaps if one was tethered to the other, it might have success.

Having said that, I am a Christian of a more reasonable and less passionate nature and as I study my faith and the history of the world in general, I'm struck by the fact that often, perhaps always, physical revolutions are preceeded by intellectual ones. Perhaps what we see here is the seedling of an intellectual revolution.

I am as always, reminded by scripture that these things are destined to come to pass. Not that anyone here is interested, but the bible says that the love of the greater number will cool off. God will put it into the nations hearts to destroy Babylon the Great, rip her to shreads, Babylon being the seat of wealth and false faith. It is when the nations turn their anger on the true religion, God's wrath is finally triggered.

So as much as I'd like to debunk you debunkers, I really can't. To my mind, its all playing out just as the good book tells us.

Semper Fidelis

Caleb Wimble said...

"I think it was David Hume who said something to the effect that reason by itself cannot motivate action. One must have passion to act."

You fail to take into account that many of us have a passion for reason, for truth itself, which is in my case exactly what motivated my action of abandoning my faith. I simply could not lie to myself any longer.

metaphyzxx said...

Appreciate the sentiment Shygetz

akakiwibear said...

Having just listened to the Dawkins Lennox debate and read the forum on RD's site I am struck by how little the commentators seems to have actually listened to the other side.

I am sure that the same can be said about many theist sites that picked up on the debate - so I don't need you to defend the atheists as victims of a one sided attack by me - that is not my point.

BUT both Dawkins and Lennox made good points that should have stimulated real discussion rather than the self affirming comments I read.

The monocular vision evident in the comments on the RD forum is no different from the issues raised here about changing the minds of Christians.

I am left asking, "Is there any point at all in discussing the topic? Is this a totally closed minded world?"

Shygetz said...

Wrong thread, akakiwibear.

Jennifer said...

Caleb,
I'm not knocking you for you age. I do think you are very intelligent and I'm sure you hear that often. I have to wonder if you were home schooled?

I applaud you for you efforts to think through your positions. I didn't mean my comment to be demeaning or to disqualify your application of logic and reason as they are necessary tools.

The rest, if they are honest, will admit that reason does not answer every question, or even every important question, we can ask. There is a point where one must make a choice in the face of the unknown which implies that whichever way we go...be it strict reason or faith...we are reaching to explain that which cannot, ultimately, be explained. You have chosen reason, but there is an limit to what reason can explain and at the point you are simply making a choice to stick with the obvious.

For those of you who think I am being brash or inappropriate, take a look at the comments on this post. Do you agree?

This is my last post on this topic, I don't want to keep this going off topic.

My best to you.

Shygetz said...

The rest, if they are honest, will admit that reason does not answer every question, or even every important question, we can ask. There is a point where one must make a choice in the face of the unknown which implies that whichever way we go...be it strict reason or faith...we are reaching to explain that which cannot, ultimately, be explained.

Please name one real question that cannot be potentially answered by reason, so that I can decide if I agree with you.

Jennifer said...

Why do we try to reason beyond the obvious?

B H said...

Why do we try to reason beyond the obvious?

I hope that wasn't your example of a question reason can't answer, because that actually sounds like a particularly challenging and revealing question for psychologists to consider.

Shygetz said...

b h is right; the motivations, both perceived and real, of human behavior have been the focus of psychology for over a century. If that was the best example, then I must disagree with you.

Jennifer said...

So you are depending on future evidence? What are your suggestions?

My question is not to stifle inquiry. It should be explored. Now it's getting off topic. Shouldn't this be a topic of it's own?

zilch said...

Jennifer asks:

Why do we try to reason beyond the obvious?

As bh and shygetz said, that is a question for psychologists. I would add, it's also a question for ethologists. But in a very general sense, I think the answer is pretty obvious. It's the same answer for this question:

Why do we try to see what's beyond that turn in the road?

Because it's useful to know as much as we can. And because we cannot easily know where the boundaries are, beyond which questions become meaningless, we often continue to ask such questions at deeper and deeper levels, and assume that there must be answers to them.

In my opinion, this accounts for a great deal of religious thought: the pursuit of answers to questions beyond their realm of applicability. Who is authority over me? My parents. Who is authority over my parents? The state and/or church. Who is authority over everyone? Must be a God to be the biggest authority.

The same goes for many other questions: who created this watch, this world? Why do we eat/exist? What is the meaning of this book, of this life, of the Universe?

It's tempting to think that there must be an end point, an answer to the deepest level of all such questions, and that that answer is God. But I see two problems with God as an ultimate answer.

One, the invocation of magic and illogic: God is supernatural, a critical-thinking stopper, and Himself not subject to the questions that lead to Him. Just ask a believer: why does God exist? Who created God? Who is authority over God? You will get some sort of illogical sleight-of-hand answer, the kind of answer that would be tossed out as nonsense by believers and skeptics alike at any lower level of question.

Two: all the evidence shows that these questions are not Platonic ideals existing in the ether independently, but are only meaningful to living things, which are evolved entities. Rocks don't ask what's around the corner. Only people and other animals can use such information. So the questions themselves are evolved entities, just as meaning and purpose are.

Thus, there's no need to assume that any such ultimate answers exist. There's no reason not to ask such questions, but when one believes that the asking means that an answer must exist, then one is fantasizing. Nothing against a good fantasy, and the good works a good fantasy might inspire, but fantasies don't constrain reality.

Jennifer said...

Zilch,

You bring up several good points.

The first is:
In my opinion, this accounts for a great deal of religious thought: the pursuit of answers to questions beyond their realm of applicability.

If a person were to go through life with a nagging feeling that there is something beyond that bend in the road, how is that different from the nagging doubts that you experienced as a believer? Either way there are doubts. Either a person chooses to ignore the nagging feeling about something being beyond the bend, or they continue to seek, but it doesn't take away the nag does it? Maybe it does for you??

The second is:

One, the invocation of magic and illogic: God is supernatural, a critical-thinking stopper, and Himself not subject to the questions that lead to Him. Just ask a believer: why does God exist? Who created God? Who is authority over God? You will get some sort of illogical sleight-of-hand answer, the kind of answer that would be tossed out as nonsense by believers and skeptics alike at any lower level of question.

Yet we all ask it at some time or other. We have the inate desire to find these answers. You cannot say it is because evolution has brought us to this point because then there is implicit direction. We are moving forward toward something.

Rocks don't ask what's around the corner. Only people and other animals can use such information. So the questions themselves are evolved entities, just as meaning and purpose are.

Asking what is around the corner, which is inanimate, seems to me to be a very different sort of question from asking what sort of bigger being there is that I cannot see. Experience teaches us to ask what is around the corner as we innocently realize that there is something we haven't seen before when we come around a bend. In other words...a one year old doesn't even know what a corner is until she discovers that when she looks beyond the barrier there is something she hadn't seen before.
As we learn more, we ask more and we look for new information, just as you said earlier. Animals don't ask.

Thus, there's no need to assume that any such ultimate answers exist. There's no reason not to ask such questions, but when one believes that the asking means that an answer must exist, then one is fantasizing.

I agree..there are questions that have no answers. Isn't that what you said? Reason cannot answer every question we ask and we don't know why we ask.
I am not concerned with finding every answer, although I would love to, I am concerned with the fact that we ask such questions.

Animals do not ask such questions yet they survive, reproduce, adapt and flourish.

Jennifer said...

Shygetz and bh,

Isn't that akin to saying, "take it to my Rabbi"? The general population isn't capable of reasoning or logic, it's only for the psychologists, who have enough trouble of their own?

zilch said...

Jennifer, you say:

We have the inate desire to find these answers [about God]. You cannot say it is because evolution has brought us to this point because then there is implicit direction. We are moving forward toward something.

This is the "God-shaped hole in my soul" argument. If there is a genetic component to religiosity, then perhaps one could say there is an "innate" tendency to come up with questions about God. But my point was that coming up with questions that seem to point to some sort of ultimate solution is a natural corollary of simply asking questions at deeper and deeper levels, or higher levels of abstraction if you will. And it seems clear that evolution has equipped many animals with the curiousity to pursue knowledge as far as practicable. In the case of us cerebral primates, that can lead to asking questions that go beyond their realm of applicability. The direction is implicit, because it conferred fitness for us to learn as much as possible about our environment, including the motivations of our kith and kin. But that doesn't mean that there is "something" we are moving towards, in asking these questions.

Jennifer said...

Zilch,
I see what you're saying.

Shygetz said...

Isn't that akin to saying, "take it to my Rabbi"? The general population isn't capable of reasoning or logic, it's only for the psychologists, who have enough trouble of their own?

If you are using the question "Why do we try to reason beyond the obvious?" as an example of a question that cannot be answered using rational means, then I would strongly disagree. This is the kind of question that psychologists have been addressing using the scientific method for over a century. I am not appealing to future evidence because science does not boast about complete knowledge. And psychology and ethology have come up with incomplete answers to your question.

sacred slut said...

Not a former Christian, but to me the key pieces of information in deconverting were 1) better understanding of cosmology (the vastness and hostility of the universe) and 2) understanding of the biology of the brain and the unlikelihood of a separate "mind" or "soul".

It was purely rational, intellectual considerations that caused me to deconvert in spite of my desire to believe.

Matthew said...

Caleb-
"I use the term Christian I am invariably referring to the evangelical Christian church unless I specify otherwise."

My bad, I thought you guys were debunking all of Christianity not just "Evangelical Christianity". It's good to know that the form of Christianity I choose to follow is not going to be “debunked” (at least not by you).

“And as far as Augustine is concerned, his ideals were never more than a fringe interpretation of the Bible during the past several millennia since his time; there are many believers, ironically enough, who go so far as to label him a heretic for his excessively allegorical interpretation of Scriptures.”

Name a few please. Because I’m pretty sure that most believers have a pretty hearty respect for Augustine. There may some fringe groups that would choose to attempt label him a “heretic” but as far as I know most accept that he was a great theologian, though they may disagree with him on a lot of things.

“Furthermore, Augustine was not attempting to reconcile the Scripture with scientific fact; he instead was attempting to reconcile Scripture with the most prevalent philosophical ideals of the time (which were of heavily Greek origin).”

In this I think you’re wrong because in his day and until the Copernican revolution the Philosophers were the scientists and their ideas about cosmology and the heavens were pretty much accepted as fact at that time.

"Regardless, my point concerning the God of the Gaps stands. It is a highly difficult case for believers to debunk, as they will typically be forced to simply regard it as somehow irrelevant, or conjure some jargon related to "putting God in a box," among other meaningless rhetoric to scant around the issue."

I think that the “God of the Gaps” argument is an argument based on a false assumption (the assumption that science is somehow at odds with belief in God) and has little merit in the real psyche of a given Christian. As a Christian it has always seemed that God has and will work through natural processes and this has nothing to do with attempting to fill “gap” but it is rather about perspective. When I look at past history because of the mindset I have I see a different perspective on history than you would as a naturalist, atheist or humanist. A Christian will see God working throughout human history in natural ways (i.e. the Babylonian occupation of Israel or like in creation with the Big Bang) and will hope that he has also worked in supernatural ways. A naturalist will see an event in human history as a work of either evolutionary or anthropological significance (though a Christian can see these too his assumption is that they are brought about because of God). So I think (as I’ve always thought) that the “God of the Gaps” claim is a rather short sighted narrow view of what really happens inside of a Christians mind.

hesus said...

simple...tell christians to use the brain God gave them

Shygetz said...

I think that the “God of the Gaps” argument is an argument based on a false assumption (the assumption that science is somehow at odds with belief in God) and has little merit in the real psyche of a given Christian.

Matthew, I would like you to meet Dan Marvin. Dan here is a Young Earth Creationist. His faith seems to require that the Earth is only 6000 years old. This requirement is so strong that he is willing to ignore independent scientific evidence from almost a dozen different major branches of science and instead cling to a brutal twisting of both fact and scripture in order to preserve merely the hope that the Earth is only 6000 years old. If this gap in scientific knowledge were to close in his mind, his faith would be dealt a severe blow.

The idea that the Christian faith is completely separated from facts about the physical realm seems to have taken off only after the postmodern movement. Many religious people, especially in the evangelical movement which we focus on, still cling to a faith that makes specific, testable statements about the world such as creation ex nihilo, a global Flood, a physical parting of the Red Sea, a dying universe (which may be true--I didn't say they were all false statements, just that they were testable), etc.

God of the Gaps is alive and well in Christianity, and will probably remain so for some time.

Matthew said...

"The idea that the Christian faith is completely separated from facts about the physical realm seems to have taken off only after the postmodern movement."

I don't know if that is quite the meaning I was intending. (I'll try to spend some time on what I meant later, my Philosophy of Science paper calls :D )

As far as ex nihilo creation, how is that testable? I thought that scientists could only trace the Big Bang back to a "line of demarcation" where they would no longer be able to know anything about what happened. So how can one "test" that?

Shygetz said...

As far as ex nihilo creation, how is that testable? I thought that scientists could only trace the Big Bang back to a "line of demarcation" where they would no longer be able to know anything about what happened. So how can one "test" that?

I don't mean the deist God causing the Big Bang; I mean the OEC "day/age" idea that, at some distant time in the past, God created the world in its present form from nothing, pretty much as written in Genesis. Perhaps I should have been more clear.