Christians Are Not Certain About Their Faith and I Can Prove it!

That's my argument despite the fact Christians claim the evidence is overwhelmingly on their side, and despite the fact that Christians claim to have direct assurance of their salvation by an inner witness of the Holy Spirit. I think this can easily be shown to be the case...easily.

Take for example Paul's words in I Corinthians 2:10-12:
10-But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11-For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12-Now, we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."
Let's say this passage gives you this certainty, okay, among the other evidences. How certain are you that Paul wrote I Corinthians? How certain are you that your interpretation of that passage is correct? How certain are you that Paul was not a deluded man himself and that you should trust what he wrote? After all, Mohammed claimed God spoke to him too! And how certain are you that this experience you claim to have isn't self-generated due to wishful thinking? Lots of people claim such things as you do. I stand as a witness against such a testimony, you see.

Christian, what makes you certain isn't your experience or your investigation of the facts. What makes you certain is a psychological need to have faith. It's simply impossible for the evidence and your experience to lead you to certainty. No one in his right mind would claim to be certain about such things. You need to distinguish between the evidence and the level of certainty you have. The evidence, as judged by you, can only at best lead you to a 75% level of assurance (granting this to you). From where then comes the other 25%?

The bottom line is that you have acted upon faith so often you cannot distinguish between the probabilities of your faith from your God's demand for faith. You are simply obeying your God when you say you are certain, that's all. But it's not true.

Let me put it to you this way, and I would sincerely like an answer. You sin, correct? Daily, if I'm not mistaken, right? There are not only sins of omission, but you actually do wrong. If you were certain that your God exists you would not sin. That's my argument and here's two examples of what I mean: 1) If you knew with certainty that by crossing a line drawn in the sand you would get beaten to a pulp by a biker gang, would you do it? 2) If you loved your wife and another girl approached you to have sex with you in front of her would you do it?

I think the answer in both cases is an emphatic no. The first example emphasizes punishment for disobedience and the second one emphasizes your love for another person.

I think there is no way around this. You simply are not certain your God exists. Face it. Be honest. No more crap. This is a Debunking Christianity site. We will not let you get by so easily here.

Admit this and we can talk. If you deny it I want to know why.

Cheers.

44 comments:

John D said...

John,

My kids love me and at times fear me, yet they disobey me. Does that mean I don't exist?

David B. Ellis said...

Not at all analogous, John D. His example was of something no one would expect a husband who cares an iota about his wife to do.

Yours was of something we would fully expect people to do---even when they care about their parents.

Not that I'm necessarily convinced by John's argument but you'll need to find better grounds to refute it than that.

revright said...

So you think I've investigated the facts and have 75% assurance that God exists? It so happens that I, for one, have not investigated much of anything and have 100% certainty. Please get your facts straight in the future.

brian_g said...

John,

First, I think it's worth asking what is meant by “certain.” I've studied philosophy and I know how little it takes to create doubt. When I was in college I read Descartes' Meditations on the First Philosophy. Descartes was very good at raising doubt, which he attempted to answer, but not without much success. I use to worry about whether the material world existed or if it was just an illusion. How do I know that I'm really sitting at my computer? How do I know I'm not dreaming? How do I know the world is not an illusion? How do I know that I'm not in the Matrix? “I think therefore I am,”* proves my existence, but not everything else. In spite of my fears, I've had to go on with my life. Here are some of my conclusions:
1)I have no good reason to doubt the physical world. (All reasons for doubt are based on possibilities, not probabilities. Most, if not all of them are not falsifiable)
2)There is no other reasonable way to live without accepting the reality of the physical world.

So while I may not have absolute certainty with no possible way to doubt for anything, I cannot live my life waiting for such certainty to come. I must go on with and try to act on the best knowledge I have. I see no reason why I should not do the same with my belief in God. As far as I understand Catholic morality, everyone must follow his or her conscience. A person's conscience is nothing more then the best knowledge the person has. Following one's conscience is necessary, even if a person's conscience is wrong. There's no sense in asking about “what if a person knows their conscience is wrong” since a person's conscience is defined as the best of a person's knowledge. We all have an duty to increase our knowledge to prevent acting on a mistaken conscience.

John, you raised the question of why do people sin. This is certainly a puzzle. How can a person go against their conscience (their best knowledge of right and wrong)? I don't think certainty about God's existence is the issue. I don't think that a person smokes crack not knowing that it's dangerous. People often do act against their best knowledge. Consider your example:


“1) If you knew with certainty that by crossing a line drawn in the sand you would get beaten to a pulp by a biker gang, would you do it?”

What if you were only 50% certain, would you do it? What if there was a 25% chance that you'd get beaten to a pulp, would you do it? Acting on your best knowledge, requires that if you have reasonable doubt you take the safer option. Why don't people do this with sin? The interesting thing is that this observation fits in well with the world as predicted by Christian theology. Our world has been crouped. There is something wrong with us. Human nature is broken.

stevec said...

How certain are you that 2+2=4? Pretty certain, I'd bet. How much faith is required for you to believe that 2+2=4? Not much, I'd bet. That someone admits to faith is a sure sign of uncertainty. (Many Christians would readily admit this, while viewing questioning of faith as merely an opportunity to gather more information which bolsters their faith while filtering out anything which undermines it.)

The more faith that is required to believe something, the less certain it is that that something is true. To exercise faith is to attempt to believe something to a degree of certainty which exceeds what is warranted by the available evidence.

Now, if you are trying to figure out what is really true, why is it a good idea to deliberately attempt to be more certain of something than the evidence for that something warrants?

I would say, it's not a good idea, it's a terrible idea -- maybe even the worst idea ever. To exercise faith is to lie to yourself about how certain you should be about something. In this respect, faith is inherently and inescapably dishonest. To exercise faith is to be dishonest, no way around it.

Bart said...

John, I'm not sure I'm with you on this one. As a life long atheist, I don't think I'm very qualified to answer what Christians think. My impression of Christianity, is that humans are imperfect, but forgiveness can be achieved through accepting their messiah into your vascular pump. As long as they have this individual residing inside their pump, then their worldly actions are forgiven.

Thus, they get a pass to behave any way they wish, as long as they are sorry about later, and believe in said messiah.

As I said, I'm a lifelong atheist, and I think the belief is so much bullshit. This is the impression I get when talking to Christians about the differences between what their god says he wants, and what they actually do.

stevec said...

revright, who indignantly asserts that he hasn't investigated much of anything, yet has 100% certainty, and insists that facts be gotten straight is a perfect example of what I was talking about above.

I do have a slight suspicion revright might be a "Poe" however.

Tyro said...

brian_g's answer misses the point entirely, getting lost in percentages and details he misses the bigger picture.


I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a Christian friend a couple years ago. He was telling me that even masturbation was a sin, yet he still did it. He said he couldn't help himself.

I asked if he would masturbate if his mother was in the room.

It's a curious thing. Jesus and God are always watching us, or so we're told. They definitely exist, or so we're told. And they definitely disapprove of masturbation (and other sins), or so we're told. Yet somehow we would merrily perform actions in front of Jesus and God which we would never perform in front of our family or total strangers even though these humans would just react with shock and disgust while God will physically punish us.


There's a disconnect somewhere.

I don't think these Christians believe their own stories and think God doesn't exist or isn't really watching them. Maybe in some circumstances, some situations but it's a pleasant fantasy which can be turned on or off at convenient moments. Compare that to the presence of your family - there's genuinely no doubt of their existence and we modify our behaviour accordingly.

Lee Randolph said...

There are varying degrees of certainty and at the heart of it our certainty is a function of our limbic system. it gives us the 'feeling' we are right. People with problems in that area live with pathological uncertainty.

So now, what are the degrees of certainty, assuming ones limbic system works right?
- Belief. A commitment to an idea, proof not necessary.
- Reasonable certainty. A commitment to an idea with some evidential support.
- Certainty. A commitment to an idea with sufficient evidential support to warrant a robust defense.
- Knowledge. A commitment to an idea that has precedent, is verifiable and reproduceable and commonly accepted.

- We all know there is a bible.
- We who have not been to Jerusalem are certain that Jerusalem existed even in Jesus day, taken on the presumed authority of exerts.
- Some are reasonably certain that Jesus existed.
- Some believe that Jesus was God.

Its not wise to bring a case to court against someone on a belief, or a reasonable certainty, one should have certainty or knowledge to make a sucsessful outcome likely.

Knowledge and certainty are a function of inference from evidence. Evidence is the sticking point.

So now, lets stop the arguments and evaluate the evidence. Enough equivocation and interpretation of the evidence. No more, coulda, shoulda, woulda's. Lets argue about the evidence.

Lets evaluate the evidence. Personal experience? Unfortunately, no. It might be compelling over something trivial, but not about the Judge of Mankind. People have had personal experience with other Gods besides Jesus or Yahweh.

One aspect that usually goes unconsidered is biology. Is it Jesus or Satan? Is it Allah or Satan? Is it Yahweh or Satan? Is it Vishnu or Shiva?
Enough with the excluded middle.
How about, "is it some perceptual anomaly or a silent stroke that hits hundreds of millions of people worldwide every year?" Has some area of the brain malfunction or operated out of tolerance resulting in a mis-perception? Logically there is a 33% chance it is either God, Satan or a mis-perception until its plausibility is whittled away. There is precedent, verifiability, and predictability with mis-perception. Lets check it out.

Lets look at those bleeding hands, and those vials of liquefying ancient blood. Lets look at those personal experience and compare them to similar experiences in other areas of life. In the laboratory, an out of body experience can be caused, the feeling that one is being watched can be induced, the feeling that one is being touched in a certain area can be induced all with types of brain and sensory stimulation.

Does your personal experience coincide or correlate to an especially stressful or emotional period it your life? Well, lets check that out. It could be god, satan or stress. 33% chance for each.

synesthetes have a mixture of perception of the senses and can perceive sound as color, or color as taste, etc. This is anomalous wiring in the brain.

There is no equivocation about FIRE and there are no apologists for it. Most things that exist don't need arguments to demonstrate them, and if they do then they matter only trivially. Black holes, dark matter, dark energy, hawking radiation, expanding universe, etc, they don't matter when it gets cold at night and they don't matter where civil rights are concerned.

You want to say god exists, present the evidence and lets evaluate it. Until the evidence is accepted, there can be no meaningful discussion. Just speculation and interpretation, which does not equate to certainty or knowledge.

Lee Randolph said...

oh yea,
one thing I forgot about evidence.

What makes it relevant?
for example,
- is personal experience enough to know that Jesus exists?
- is personal experience enough to know that allah exists?
- is personal experience enough to know that Brahma exists?
- is personal experience enough to know that Shiva exists?
- is personal experience enough to know that Vishnu exists?
- is personal experience enough to know that UFO's exist?

If yes to any then why, what makes it uniquely relevant to one and not the other? Present that evidence and lets start the evaluation process all over again.

Lee Randolph said...

Tyro,
obviously, your friend was not a true christian. True christians, the type that are going to be saved, do not masturbate.
;-)
Jesus said it himself, that not everyone that confesses he is lord will be saved.
Oh yea, people that hold grudges aren't true christians either.
And neither are bigots.
the true christians are necessarily smaller in number than the ~35% world wide. And the irony is they all think they are true christians.

SURPRISE!

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John ~ "It's simply impossible for the evidence and your experience to lead you to certainty. No one in their right mind would claim to be certain about such things. You need to distinguish between the evidence and the level of certainty you have."

John that answer is based on YOUR SUBJECTIVE interpretation of the evidence and how you feel I should interpret the evidence. That is a totally invalid statement because you are unable to guage my "possibilities" as it were, and are not in a position to suggest how I or anyone else should establish certanties.

But I know you're certain about your suggestions so let's proceed...

Life is FULL of certainties both historical and future. We are CERTAIN that if we live long enough we will DIE.

I am certain that if you cut your wrists yesterday, last week even 10 years ago, you would have blead.

I am certain that I was born because I live now (similar to Descartes I think therefore I am)

I've never seen the hospital I was born in, BUT I know it existed according to the RECORD...that record was both written and oral...My mother told me and my certificate confirms...I'm CERTAIN of those things.

You FAIL to understand that living by faith has NOTHING to do with wishful thinking. That may be your experience but CERTAINLY not mine.

Hume messed you up when you bought into his conditioning that the continuum was closed to supernatural intervention and a superceeding of natural laws. That's why you can't understand that another equally valid dimension of our existence is SPIRITUAL and immaterial existence.

Now, you may think I'm a subject but I think you're a subject because you deny immaterial existence and immaterial reality but yet your life is shaped by immaterial items such as hopes and dreams (to name a couple)even though there is no science to guage, or determine the immaterial aspects of your own being, and no genes or memes (as Dawkins says) to confirm such aspects.

So the question is, what do you do? Act like Mr. Spock and simply say to yourself that your immaterial existence doesn't exist? redefine your immaterial aspects to convince yourself that immaterial existence is genetic? (Who's deluded now?)Or just ailienate yourself from aspects of your very existence and call it rational?

Back to the point I'm certain of certain biblical facts based on a number of criteria and not simply one. There are multiple criteria which affirms that Paul write 1 Cor. There are multiple criteria that Jesus not only lived but did much of if not all of what is recorded of him on the gospels. There are multiple criteria which affirm that the same Jesus rose bodily and physically.

Therefore, when one seeks these evidences and examines them, what may be rejected by you becomes a certainty to me PARTIALLY because of the supernatural intervention of God within my human, immaterial heart.

So in short it is reasonable to have certainty about many things historically. Your beef is ONLY with religious things because you cannot measure them scientifically.

Thanks.

Lee Randolph said...

HI harvey,
That's why you can't understand that another equally valid dimension of our existence is SPIRITUAL and immaterial existence.
how did you determine this validity?

John W. Loftus said...

District Harvey said...So in short it is reasonable to have certainty about many things historically. Your beef is ONLY with religious things because you cannot measure them scientifically.

Apparently you haven't yet gotten my book. Alas. When will you do so? No historical event has any close approximation of certainty. It's so bad that there some say historical facts are only in the mind. I don't think that, but you have never taken a basic 101 class in Theories of History, or the Philosophy of History. In my book I have a chapter summing up the results when it comes to your faith. If you want to engage me then do so. But you are completely ignorant and I can show you if you'll read it. You can read it and still believe, of course. But you won't be ignorant about such things anymore.

I do appreciate you considering our arguments here, but if you think that by reading snippets and short paragraphs of arguments in small posts here at DC is doing that then by comparison you're only reacting to sound bites. I've read the books you have. I've been to Christian apologetics conferences too. When will you do comparitive likewise? Take the DC challenge. What have you got to lose?

John W. Loftus said...

Bart said...My impression of Christianity, is that humans are imperfect, but forgiveness can be achieved through accepting their messiah into your vascular pump.

True enough, but Christians will still maintain that it is better to obey than to ask forgiveness later. This is their excuse for bad behavior. They believe obedience flows directly from their faith in gratitude for what their God has done. They believe their sins nailed Jesus to the cross. They believe forgiveness is available but their sins are condemned by their God. They believe their sins are completely odious to God in the same way that sleeping with another woman is odious to a wife.

Tyro said...

Jesus said it himself, that not everyone that confesses he is lord will be saved.

Just thinking about confession for a second, how is this supposed to fit into the doctrine that Christians know God exists and is always watching?


They believe forgiveness is available but their sins are condemned by their God. They believe their sins are completely odious to God in the same way that sleeping with another woman is odious to a wife.

God seems perfectly okay with the sins, after all confession and begging forgiveness doesn't change the deeds. What God evidently finds odious is the fact that we haven't humbled ourselves and begged forgiveness.

That makes sense of why rejecting the Holy Spirit is unforgivable and of why any sin can be washed clean with an act of supplication and submission.

Think of what sort of relationship would exist between a man and wife if every act of unfaithfulness no matter how blatant would be forgiven instantly provided the other party grovels and begs but even thinking of someone else is a crime. Had sex with four of the neighbours in the living in front of me, no problem once you beg for forgiveness. Get excited by characters in a romance movie and don't confess, I'll break your arm. What's odious is clearly not the sin! You don't have any marriage that we would understand, you wouldn't have any trust or caring, you would have a twisted power-based relationship and little more.

John D said...

I think it is obvious the we christians do not have a 100% type of faith. The bible is clear that if we had even a even a small amount of faith we could move mountains. We are weak. We see dimly in this world and we struggle to maintain even the faith we have. That is why we (those who will admit it) are so disturbed by the attacks of atheists. We wonder if we are wrong and some of your stronger arguments cause us to struggle even more. Jesus cannot be touched or audibly heard, so faith is not perfect. This struggle is demonstrated throughout the bible.

Samphire said...

John D

”The bible is clear that if we had even a even a small amount of faith we could move mountains. “

Clearly, that promise is untrue. Many men have suffered terrible torture and agonising deaths for their faith. If that is not sufficient to physically move mountains then how much faith is required and to what purpose?

My father, a life-long christian, did not have faith; he “knew”. He had a personal relationship with Jesus. He was a rational man to a degree; pace John Loftus, he was not mad but normal. And yet the workings of his brain were different to mine. There was a serious disconnect between reality and what he “knew”. Harvey claims that this difference is an immaterial reality. I disagree. Any reality has to be independent of the person or it has no independent value.

Physical reality exists to the full extent of the universe but spiritual reality does not even extend to the inner or outer reaches of the solar system. It doesn’t even exist at the bottom of the ocean or the top of the mountain. It exists only within the human head. The head dies, the reality dies, just like hope, just like dreams, just like religious certainty. It does not even exist when the brain is sleeping or when it experiences a hard blow to the head or when it is under the influence of hallucinogenic or anaesthetic drugs. We can only conclude that spiritual reality is only an artifact of the brain. It is a product of material reality and does not exist independently of it. Unless you believe in ghosts, of course.

When my father became ill he relied on hospital treatment to manage his disease and not on prayer or, at least, not solely on prayer. Without that modern medical treatment, he would not have survived for the many years he did no matter how many prayers were offered up.

“We wonder if we are wrong and some of your stronger arguments cause us to struggle even more. Jesus cannot be touched or audibly heard, so faith is not perfect. This struggle is demonstrated throughout the bible.”

So why struggle? Is it because you want to believe; because you need to believe; because it makes you happy to believe? If so, then why visit this website to have your faith troubled? Could it be, as John challenges, that deep down you don’t really believe?

Jason Long said...

John, I haven't read the comments to see if someone has spoken about this, but I'll have to disagree with you here for one reason: the reward for not sinning and the reward for sinning then asking for forgiveness are one and the same. We know this because otherwise, no one would be in heaven (hypothetically). So if reward is your only motivation, why not sin? My opinion at least.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John~ "But you are completely ignorant and I can show you if you'll read it."

Last time I heard that it was from a Mormon. Nice person but VERY religious. Good job, that sort of statemt confirms what I already know.

Now you assume I don't read atheist dogma. I certainly do. Carier, Price, agnostic dogma such as Ehrman etc. I'm well rounded and I identify your attempts to build and make arguments. Yours are really not unique and fall on the boarderline of radical to extreme.

That's the problem. For anyone to say that past has no certainty whether in a classroom setting or not is simply ridiculous. Past is yesterday, last minute last year beyond. ALL of you are more than CERTAIN about your past because you experienced it. Your evidence is the current reality whether anything was documented or not. That's an overly simplified way to look at it but that's what we're talking about in its most basic form.

You made an absolute statement that history is without certainty. You made an unqualified statement about history. I have proven that your statement is FALSE. Now who is ignorant?

You wish to specify that BIBLE history is uncertain or ANE history is uncertain or American history is uncertain you must qualify your categorization and establish a valid premise of why you hold that to be the case.

Probabilities ARE NOT a good argumentive style and is the deficency with Hume in general. I mention Hume because that's who you style your historical critical methodology after and his methodology is undoubtedly overturned because of the problem that you encounter here.

We can be certain about the past. Some things and events moreso than others.

Secondly Samphire says: "Harvey claims that this difference is an immaterial reality. I disagree. Any reality has to be independent of the person or it has no independent value."

No. That is a false statement of my premise. My premise is that immaterial reality is a reality that Metaphysical Naturalism does not account for and certainly has no science to either prove or disprove. That's the extent of how it impacts this particular argument or my statemet that I am certain that Jesus is Lord.

Once again that are many factors that pour into my certainty, the least of which is trust. Using my prior example of my hospital birth, I have faith that the record I receive is true and accurate based on testimony of my mother and the written record of my birth certificate. The hospital I was born at was torn down many years ago so there is no observable evidence other than the testimony (orally passed to me) and written record.

For me to kick against all of that would mean that I would trust a conspiracy theory, that both my mother and hospital conspired to deceive me about my birthplace. Since the hospital doesn't generally produce a record without it being verified, I would also have to believe that every one that handled my certificate acquiested and was in on the grand conspiracy to deceive me...

That's the whole atheist argument.A grand conspiracy, but look at how much labor is involved. It takes more energy to believe a LIE than to simply submit to the truth. That's what Debunking is about...spending a BUNCH of energy believing a LIE.

I trust the record as it has been delivered and have 100% certainy of those historical things which pour into the fact that Jesus is Lord. In addition, I have another and more personal set of refrences wwith which to guage information I have received. That is a part of the total reality and all parts have their place.

Thank you ladies and gentleman and I hope that you all had a wonderful thanksgiving.

John W. Loftus said...

Harvey, you ARE ignorant. You offer a non-sequitur to answer me, but let respond. NO, you cannot even be certain of your own memories. Beyond that, when you assert the events in the past can be known with certainty then this is patently false to say the events in the New testament can be known with certainty (if that's your claim and I think it is). Name me one Christian scholar who would say what you do. Give me a quote in context from a recognized Christian scholar, okay?

I do think some things in history are more probable because they have more evidence to them of course, but beyond that I cannot help you. You don't trust me to tell you the truth about such things, so I won't try.

John W. Loftus said...

Jason Long, I'm very sorry to publicly have to say this but there have been a few times I've not been impressed with you. Don't I have enough to handle here with Christians who visit that you must add your two cents on top? Just answer me this: Is God pleased when a Christian sins? Should Christians sin so that grace abounds? (See Romans 6)

Maybe I'm just stressed right now and need to take a break. But if you want to disagree with me in public, which is your perogative, then you had better get your facts straight.

Nonetheless, you're a good friend and valuable contributor here.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi John D,
Jesus cannot be touched or audibly heard, so faith is not perfect. This struggle is demonstrated throughout the bible.
why not?
I can interract with the rest of my friends but when I had a friend in Jesus he was unresponsive, or wasn't as responsive as friends that I didn't consider as near and dear as him.

On what rational principle should we support this claim that we should love Jesus on faith alone? I know what the bible says, but the bible uses an irrational principle. One that only works through special pleading if at all.

to have a relationship requires interaction between the individuals. Failing that, all you have is wishful thinking.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Harvey,
I'll give you something to else from me to ignore while I'm waiting for your response to me in my 'son of man' article.
;-)

You made an absolute statement that history is without certainty. You made an unqualified statement about history. I have proven that your statement is FALSE. Now who is ignorant?
So are you saying that history never gets revised? you want to tell me that the history of the minoans is a sealed deal? You want to tell me that you are never corrected by your wife on facts regarding your past?

Probabilities ARE NOT a good argumentive style and is the deficency with Hume in general.
The world works on probabilities. The world works around the excluded middle. Most conclusions are made without reviewing all the data possible. Probabilistically, conditionally, they are true. The world works on time constrained decision making. This is one source of mistakes by the decision maker, and mis-interpretation by other people of the competence and motives of the decision maker.

You know very few things for certain my friend. You don't even know if you are going to wake up tomorrow, or get to work without an accident. If you knew you were going to die if you go to work on Monday, you wouldn't go, but there is a small chance it will happen, yet you will go anyway. Welcome to probabilistic decision making and argumentation.

Gandolf said...

District Supt. Harvey Burnett surely you can see there is a very large difference between believing in a conspiracy theory regarding your birthplace based on testimony of your mother and the written record of your birth certificate etc.

And belief in a conspiracy theory regarding beliefs in religious faith.

Surely you can see there could be very many more possible reasons for conspiracy regarding details surrounding religion,where as with the details surrounding your birth it would be very so much more highly unlikely.

In trying to make some connection between these two situations you have offered,i personally feel you place a rather high exorbitant amount of special importance surrounding your personal details dont you?.
Dont get me wrong im not suggesting your personal details are not special though,im not trying to sound like im trying to lower the importance of your birth.

But it just seems to me this connection offered is not really that comparable at all.To me it doesnt seem to really even come anywhere near close.

Your birthplace does not effect peoples religious beliefs and faith.Details surrounding your personal birth does not have anywhere near as much control factor on the very (widespread) amount of human lives that religion does!.

There is far much more likeliness for good reason for possibilities of conspiracy surrounding very important matters with religion ,than there ever would likely be surrounding the lives of any normal human being on this whole wide earth.

After all faith is suggested to be connected with some eternal salvation in a suggested afterlife!has suggested connections with matters of death!.

Death has always been something of very (high importance) for reasons of thought for all humans since time began,quite (naturally) in their questions regarding matters of life and death as they try to grapple to understand.

Will anybodies salvation and death or afterlife ever be effected that much by matters surrounding your birth?.

Religion realistically has the possibilities of power to steer and control a very very large and widespread amount of people in the WHOLE WORLD in so many many ways.As such it has far many more good reasons for possibilities of conspiracy.

Can you (honestly) suggest your place of birth will ever be likely to effect so many people this way?.

If not surely you can see there is very very much less (reason) for possibilities of conspiracy surrounding your personal birth.

People surrounding the details of you birth have very little reason to lie,why would they what would be the real gain?.

In not seeing this very very huge difference between these two situations and connections you have offered,i suggest you overlook certain very important factors involved.

I have to admit in all honesty im a very simple person of very little intelligence yet i personally feel at this moment i can even see some very very vast differences here in this connection you offer for some comparison.

Maybe im just not understanding matters here!.

Maybe you can explain how this comparable connection could ever likely be made in a realistic sense.

Samphire said...

Birth certificates are not always accurate in the information they provide. Was Joe Bloggs really born at 8.02 a.m.? Was his biological father really the man stated on the form? Could the baby perhaps have been accidently swapped in the maternity ward for another?

But, assuming all the details on your certificate were correct, Harvey, one glance and with a probability of over 90% I could foretell which of the many world religions you would adopt as an adult.

So, how come measurement in the market place provides firm evidence that religious beliefs seem to be dependent more on geography than the truth of the arguments?

Jason Long said...

John,

Now that you've had time to reflect, do you really feel that was necessary? There would be no point in me commenting when I agree since I agree so much. I was merely pointing out why I believe Christians sin. And I'm sorry you're not impressed with me.

John W. Loftus said...

Jason Long said...Now that you've had time to reflect, do you really feel that was necessary?

Well, I had to argue against you to defend my case, didn't I? You can quibble with me all day long, but I will argue back. Don't initiate a disagreement if you don't want me to argue against you, okay?

Jason Long said...There would be no point in me commenting when I agree since I agree so much.

Thank you for saying you agree so much! But you seem to be a person who quibbles too much. I could make a brilliant argument about something and you might probably quibble about some small thing in it. I don't understand this attitude.

Listen, if I did that with you I could tear some minor points of your arguments to shreds. Do you really want me to be critical of your arguments? I can. Would you really want me to write up a critical view of your older book? I don't have the time but you might not like what I'd say here and there.

I let your arguments slide in the interests of friendship and our mutual goals. It is not up to me to criticize them. I let Christians think for themselves about your arguments and I let you defend them. It's a learning process and I say have at it. Have at it.

Cheers.

John W. Loftus said...

Jason Long, just so you understand. If you engage me with an argument I consider to be ignorant, like you did here, I will treat you like I do anyone else, so be forewarned. Your choice. You have the freedom to disagree any time you want to. But I will argue back at you, so get your facts straight, okay?

Jason Long said...

John,

I believe my facts are straight. I believe Christians who do not sin believe they will go to heaven. I believe Christians who sin and receive forgiveness believe they will go to heaven. I believe the easier and more enjoyable path is sin and forgiveness, and since Christians believe each path nets the same reward, this is why they feel comfortable with the path they have chosen. We're not talking about what the Bible says on the matter, but rather why Christians can be certain with their beliefs in God and still sin.

That's all I will say on the topic. It's not my intent to quibble, but if I see something I disagree with, I like the freedom to say so. And seriously, I'm sorry you're disappointed with me. I think you're a fantastic writer and debater. I will never attain your level of knowledge. I don't mind if you state that you disagree; I just don't know why you lashed out like that about me off-topic. It's safe to say I won't be critical anymore (and yes, I realize now that most of my posts are criticisms, so I'm going to work on that). So, no hard feelings, okay? I'm sorry if I upset you.

BobCMU76 said...

I must be in bizarro world. I don't have much in the way of subjective assurance from a silent God. I take comfort in the slender and disputable objective evidence that God is not dead, impotent, or tyrannical. I believe the nature of sin is seeking to escape ones station, from which it is ultimately and univerally discovered that there is no escape, and so sin gives but the illusion of being the easier path.

But then, I do many things that I would not wish to be witnessed. And I cannot say my beliefs tell me they do go unwitnessed. I'm pretty much how John says, and conveniently forget my belief in an omnipresent God when I'm futilely indulging in the illusion.

John W. Loftus said...

Jason Long, no hard feelings at all. But when I'm in the heat of a battle on a topic it's not wise to get in the line of my fire! ;-)

Anyway, I just posted something on the historical Jesus. I welcome your criticisms there.

;-)

Tyro said...

Regarding "facts" of history (DSHB et al)


I believe I was born in Hospital X because my mother tells me so and my records confirm it.

However hospitals make mistakes and it's possible that I may not even be my mother's son. Swapped infants, mistaken identity, an adoption people are covering up. Many children grow up only to learn that "facts" like who conceived them are actually a mystery.

And this is about situations where there is essentially perfect agreement from all sources of information, something that is not the case regarding biblical teachings. History, even contemporary history, event issues we think are unshakeable, is always subject to uncertainty.

Some of the best examples of things which I am certain of, my own memory, is actually uncertain. False memories are ubiquitous and we are unable to distinguish false memories from true. In the extreme, we could be like John Forbes Nash of A Beautiful Mind and suffer from delusions.

History can never provide certainty, not even in the best case scenarios and the bible is far, far from the best case.

david said...

John,

I tentatively agree that at least in some situations, Christians live as if God doesn't exist.

I don't agree that certain belief in God would lead to abstaining from sin. The tendency to sin is only lessened by the work of the Spirit through sanctification. Even if God were visible standing behind me all day long, I would still sin. You seem to be assuming that sin to only affects the conscious volition, but total depravity goes deeper than that (not specifically Calvinist depravity either).

John W. Loftus said...

So david, you would cross that line in the sand and have sex with another girl in front of the wife you love?

Very interesting to me, but not true. Not at all. ;-)

Convince me.

BobCMU76 said...

Wife: I saw you looking at her
Husband: Check out her shoes. I thought I'd buy you a pair like them.
Wife: You don't fool me with your syncretic curiosity. I'm a jealous wife. You were oogling.
Husband: Wandering eyes are a wandering heart, huh?
Wife: Go ahead and ask her out. You know you want it.
Husband: And so I will, and so I will.

It's not uncommon to do things that others witness with displeasure. Even some rather extreme transgressions.

John W. Loftus said...

But Bob, wouldn't you refrain from this is you knew for certain you would go to hell for it, or that it truly drove another nail in Jesus?

The problem is you just don't believe it with certainty, which is my point.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John L ~ "Harvey, you ARE ignorant. You offer a non-sequitur to answer me, but let respond. NO, you cannot even be certain of your own memories."

How completely STUPID does that sound? 2+2 was 4 today and yesterday John. You know how I figured that out? From my memory which was CERTAIN. Now I'm beginning to believe that your thought about Christian "delusion" is simply a superimposition of what you think about yourself...it shows in your statements.

John L ~ "Beyond that, when you assert the events in the past can be known with certainty then this is patently false to say the events in the New testament can be known with certainty (if that's your claim and I think it is)."

So you're saying that only events of the NEW TESTAMENT cannot be knwn with certainty? What about events NOT recorded in the New Testament or events which the New Testament does not record?

So far you're only displaying a bias against anything recorded in the NT or anything religious.
Other statements that you've made so far about uncertaintity of the past have been shown to be false.

Lee~ "So are you saying that history never gets revised? you want to tell me that the history of the minoans is a sealed deal?"

Don't worry I'm just watching you bury yourself in the "Son Of Man" post. I'll be there soon.

So far as this is concerned. does any detail that is presented say that the "Minoans" didn't exist? I mean we can debate over whether they ate a certain time etc...but to say there is no historical certainy about them is ridiculous. This is what John has set forth. That we cannot be certain about the past.

Lee ~ "You know very few things for certain my friend. You don't even know if you are going to wake up tomorrow, or get to work without an accident"

We were discussing events of the PAST not future. I can reasonable say that provided that everything is as it has been historically (health world status etc.) that i will wake up tomorrow as I have always done. events being beyond my control does not effect the argument here. We can be CERTAIN of things of the past.

Im my case I pointed out that I am CERTAIN that Jesus is Lord. Joh's statements to the contrary are only his subjective constructs which he frames as absolutes.

Gandolf,

Thank you my friend, I wasn't addressing my birth in the context of importance. That has nothing to do with my argument here. I was only addressing it in the context of a PAST event that one can know with certainty. That analogy yet stands but certainly not based on importance or a religious basis. Good point though and well taken.

Tyro~ "However hospitals make mistakes and it's possible that I may not even be my mother's son. Swapped infants, mistaken identity, an adoption people are covering up. Many children grow up only to learn that "facts" like who conceived them are actually a mystery"

That's a point well taken Tyro, but no matter what mistakes were made that DOES NOT negate the fact that I was born or even born in that hospital.

The dialogue was specifically regarding knowing or having a certainty of the past. I don't know your father but I KNOW for CERTAIN that you had one. (at a minimum biologically speaking) You are safe to say FOR CERTAIN the same about me.

So far John seems to have backed his statement to the New Testament historical record of which he claims that we cannot be certain...No matter how we further equivocate, I believe I have proven that there are events of history biblical or otherwise of which we can be CERTAIN.

None of that effects my original statement that I am certain that Jesus is Lord.

C'est tout for me. Peace.

Tyro said...

DSHB,

That's a point well taken Tyro, but no matter what mistakes were made that DOES NOT negate the fact that I was born or even born in that hospital.

Depending on the circumstances, it could very well mean that you weren't born in that hospital. Plenty of adopted children grow up and learn that many "facts" of their birth turn out to be fictions. When my dad was a child, schools were forbidden to do cover some experiments (like blood typing) because of the number of children that learned they were adopted and that the stories they believed about their birth were fictions. Times are more open now but it isn't hard to think of many plausible scenarios to explain how the story you believe now could be mistaken.

Am I saying this definitely happened or is even likely? No, of course not. The point is merely that things which happened in the past, even things which feel are most certain, are always subject to some amount of uncertainty. This uncertainty grows as our sources grow less reliable and time is increased.

I feel confident that the story of my birth is accurate but how confident am I in the story of my great grandmother's birth? She's a little dotty and records weren't kept so well. My great, great (great?) grandmother was apparently sent on a convict ship to Australia for stealing from her employer. How confident am I in the circumstances of this event? Not very. There is too much politics, money and other issues involved yet this isn't even 200 years ago.

How many events which happened 200 years ago can we name which we think we have full and complete information about? Information that is certain and unassailable?

John's point is valid. Even with our own history there's some uncertainty and the further back we go the less certain the facts become.

I don't know your father but I KNOW for CERTAIN that you had one. (at a minimum biologically speaking) You are safe to say FOR CERTAIN the same about me.

Indeed. But this is something that we can test today, we can have multiple confirmations and is something that we learned through repeated observations. It isn't something we learn through historical documentation. It's telling that the one point you give that is "CERTAIN" (your emphasis) is not something that we learn through a study of history but through a study of modern, contemporary biology. None of the examples you gave can have that level of certainty.

No matter how we further equivocate, I believe I have proven that there are events of history biblical or otherwise of which we can be CERTAIN.

Oh? Apart from arguing that Jesus must have had a father, I don't think you've proved this at all. In fact, it sounds like you agree that even events which happened in our lifetime and which we think are as certain as possible are actually not 100% certain. I think that the increasing time between us and Jesus and the declining standard of accuracy (not to mention the doubt in the transmission of these details) just magnifies this issue.

John D said...

Lee,

To some extent Christians do lack faith. I know very few Christians who would not ask for greater faith. I do not think that John's examples prove anything. If Jesus was standing in front of me would I would never fall down and worship another God, but remove the physical presence of Jesus and my spurious faith creeps in and I can forsake him briefly. In John's example the husband would not have sex in front of his wife and that is true, but if the wife was not present would the husband be tempeted and perhaps give in? In many cases yes, but would he be tempted because he did not have faith in his wife or because he thought he could get away with it? He could have the pleasure aned still have his wife. Jason Long had a good point. We christians give in to sin because we rationalize. 1. Jesus is not physically present. 2. Maybe he doesn't exist. 3. If he exists I will be forgiven anyway so why not go for the pleasure of the act.
Christians have faith, but I for one would never claim that it was perfect faith. I have doubts like most normal people. I would guess that even the occassional atheist has a doubt every know and then.

AdamKadmon said...

Great article, and even though I can't stand Christendom (the World of Christianity at Large), I do love YHWH and his son (not a trinity) but three separate people/things. And as far as "who wrote the Bible" your correct, it was 2,000 years ago and where's the proof? Then again, how do we know Plato wrote what was attributed to him? Because, others certified him. Meaning that others around that time also spoke of him and some of his stories, and the same evidenitial system is used with the Bible.

As far as Paul being fanatical, that's a certainity. After all, he went from stoning Stephen to Damascus and on the way to Damascus had a "divine revelation." This divine revelation turned his life around 180 degrees, making him not a persecuter of Christians, but A CHRISTIAN, lol. So, yeah, that pretty much fits the description of a fanatic to me, changing your entire world view over a mystical encounter.

Also, the thing about Christianity is FAITH AND WORKS. Even the Bible says, "faith WITHOUT WORKS is Dead" meaning that if you don't speak about it or share it with others, even if your saved, it doesn't matter. Hiding your Christianity means your not a christian, but you have to share it, speak about it, etc., or your not "safe." After all, the Bible denies "once saved, always saved" and says that you have to "keep HOLDING FAST to your salvation" or you lose it. The fact is, most Christians actually don't know the first thing about what the Bible says, and that's a sad comment. I actually had a minister tell me that "no one can ever know what the Book of Revelation means." So I said, then what does Revelation 1:3 mean when it says, "keep reading aloud and understanding these words?" Blew him away, and he was a Minister. Sad comment when the teacher doesn't know.

And the IMPORTANT (to me, anyways) thing about Faith is it IS "believing in that which is not seen." Meaning, without it, your belief in God is not important. You may as well believe in polytheism without faith because God won't care if you can't 'believe.'

Excellent argument about Faith, keep up the good work. Makes people think.

Gandolf said...

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said "I was only addressing it in the context of a PAST event that one can know with certainty."

Thats what i had thought i had understood you were meaning Harvey.

(Just in case) you misunderstood where i was coming from ,it was just that im suggesting there is much more likelihood of posibilities of reason why fibs would likely be told regarding matters around religion than there ever would likely be reason for fibs to be told regarding matters of your birth or any other earthly person on this world for that matter.

Ie you can likely be much more (certain) about matters of truth regarding your birth than you ever could be regarding matters of truth within religion.

Why? because there is much more widespread gain to be gained through telling fibs around religion.

Widespread Control,money,fame etc.

Most likely you already understood thats what i was meaning !.But i just realize im not that great at explaining my thoughts at all.

Zane said...

Hey John!

My first post on your site. I am a new visitor. I am enjoying the reading thus far.
I was part of the evangelical movement of the baptist consortium for 17 years. Pastored for 12 of those.
Anyway, long story short I have progressed out of the path of blind inerrant faith into other avenues of learning.
In regards to your analogy I struggle a bit with the comparison of God and a wife. The problem, in my opinion with the analogy is quite simple.

God: not visibly present
Wife: visibly present

If God was visibly present I would choose not to sin.
If wife visibly present I would choose not to sin.
If God not visibly present I may choose to sin.
If wife not visibly present I may choose to sin.

It may not have anything to do with the certainty of his existance as much as it does about simply wanting to gratify ones desire for the object.
You can use the same example with you boss:

Boss: visibly present

Work hard.

Boss: not visibly present

Slack off.

Now if you want to take the analogy into the punishment arena I think it still can be explained by the issue of simply wanting to gratify ones desires.

Boss: Wont be back for 40 years but if he comes back and your work wasnt done every day as ordered you are going to get fired.

Well, I think a lot of people would slack off and probably get in trouble at the end of 40 years.

God: Wont be back indefinetly... in fact dont know when he is coming back.

Well, dito.


Keep up the great work on your site. I hope to read your book soon. Take care and hope to chat it up!

Zane.

Contented Man said...

Zane,
I'm a newby here too and, like you, am a former Baptist Preacher until about age 40 when I succumbed to the questions/doubts I'd suppressed for many years and looked at the honestly. Today I am a very happy, contented atheist. But that's beside the point.

While I think I understand where you are coming from I think that the out of sight, out of mind doesn't apply directly. The reason being, if I couldn't see my wife BUT I believed that she was watching me and would surely punish me (with divorce no doubt) then I would not give in to the temptation.

This is the position the believer is in when claiming to know with certainty of the demands and nature of God.

If the "believer" truly believes what he claims to believe then it would be completely irrational to give in to whatever temptation comes his way. If his God were standing by his side, he would surely not "sin" and the believer claims to believe that is the case.

BTW, Love the site and am delighted I stumbled onto it.