The Goal of My Book Was to Overwhelm the Believer

A few Christians and skeptics have criticized my book WIBA because in it I quote from many different sources to make my points for me. Let me explain why I did this and see if it makes sense.

My goal was to overwhelm the believer. I learned this from my mentor James Strauss at Lincoln Christian University, Lincoln, IL. He did this to his Seminary students. The syllabi he handed out for each one of his classes were sometimes books in and of themselves. They included extensive bibliographies. Sometimes they were annotated bibliographies. In his classes he was able to remember and refer to these works quite fluently, and he expected us to get many of them for his classes. We were overwhelmed by him and his arguments because of his wide ranging knowledge of the relevant literature.

If one expects to change someone's mind about a whole religious worldview s/he must overwhelm the believer. That is my conclusion, and it comes directly from Strauss, but in reverse, since I'm arguing against what he taught. Nothing short of that will do the trick. Strauss was interested in religious worldview change and he taught us well by personal example. To change one's religious worldview means that every key religious belief must be called into question at the same time, if at all possible.

So I attempted to do this in my book. I presented a whole case, a complete case, a comprehensive case, from start to finish as a former insider to Christianity. I threw everything at the believer plus the kitchen sink. I referred to as many books as I could in it, using the very words of other scholars to argue for me so readers can see for themselves that it's not just me saying these things. I did this over and over and...well you get the point.

With this unique goal of mine I was also able to get together some great recommendations for it which were placed on the back cover and inside front pages. You can read them plus others here. Having multiple recommendations also helps to overwhelm the believer, since if so many people are saying such great things about it, this can challenge anyone who wants to think otherwise.

While the book may be a bit difficult reading because of this, especially some of the first few substantive chapters, what I did can be very effective as a change agent. Again, nothing short of overwhelming the believer has a chance to work in my opinion. This then is the reason for so many references quoted in my book.

Besides, since in order to overwhelm the believer I had to question every key belief of Christianity, my problem was that as a mere mortal I could not have a scholar's grasp on every topic in it. Science is actually my weakest area, especially the creation/evolution debate. So sometimes I merely refer believers to what scholars in their respective fields of research have argued. No one can have a scholars grasp of God and the universe using the disciplines of science, philosophy, theology, ethics, history, the Bible, and apologetics. No one. So I constantly refer my readers to the scholars who argue my case for me.

My goal was to overwhelm the believer in just one thick densely packed comprehensively argued book replete with references for further reading.

Some people understand this. Others don't. Now you know the rest of the story.

[First posted 11/17/09]

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Edit: You see, I aim to persuade, and because I do believers think I'll use any trick in the book. That is most emphatically a non-sequitur. I use rational arguments in my persuading. I know more than I can say, and since I am nearly certain that Christianity is a delusion because of the totality of the things I know that I can't say, I aim to persuade. Christians do this as well. They seek to persuade. They "know" more than they can say, and since they are nearly certain that Christianity is true because of the totality of the things they "know" that they can't say, they seek to persuade. THAT'S WHY THERE ARE MANY LIARS FOR JESUS OUT THERE. These liars for Jesus will lie because they know Jesus is their savior. So anything they can do or say to convert people is worth it when it comes to saving people from hell. Just ask Christians if they are happy with someone who converts for less than adequate reasons, and you'll see that they do. Many Christian scholars think Josh McDowell's Evidences books are not rationally persuasive, but they do convert. So Christians are happy of the end result because of the totality of all the things they claim to know. And then these scholars hope to show these converts the real reasons for faith.

Furthermore, I do not think people are all that rational. We are sometimes hopelessly irrational. Many psychological studies have shown this. Anyone who has the slightest understanding of epistemology knows this. Since that is true I have an additional reason to be skeptical of absolute and certainly held positive faith claims. I think Christians cannot be reasoned out of their faith since they were never reasoned into it it the first place. So along with my reasoned case I must also seek to persuade. There is nothing inconsistent at all about my approach. I must overwhelm the brainwashed and indoctrinated believer in order to persuade them to adopt the adult attitude of skepticism. Nothing else will work if this doesn't.

Finally, the fact that I must overwhelm the believer in order to persuade them otherwise is not my fault. It's that fault of their delusion. Lacking an intervention (which they will not tolerate for one moment) this is what must be done in lieu of one.

80 comments:

Leah said...

Sounds like a smart strategy to me. :)

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks Leah, and thanks for your most recent post at your own Blog.

Twilight Z. Clown said...

If I understand you correctly, that kind of a criticism is effectively a red herring and in my opinion irrelevant.

why wouldn't you liberally reference others when you can?

If you didn't then you'd get criticized because you didn't do your homework.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

If that was your goal then I think you accomplished it. It turned me to atheism at first but I think I have found a few answers since then. I still haven't answered everything in the book. I'm not a professional like you are though. I've decided to wait until I hear a good critique of your book by someone who has the skills and knowledge that I don't. Good job in writing your book though.

Anthony said...

MT: I think I have found a few answers since then. I still haven't answered everything in the book.

I would be interested in the answers that you have found so we can discuss them. Are they answers that you believe refute what John has to say?

John W. Loftus said...

Here's the point. I could've rephrased into my own words the arguments, but why bother? The effect of having others make the same arguments I would make is much better.

Christians repeatedly ask themselves strategic questions about how to better evangelize and how to be better apologists with the goal of winning more people to Jesus. There are whole ministries set up to counsel churches on the best strategies on how to grow. My goal is to be strategic in reaching people with what I know to be the case too. And there is no better way to do this but allow Christians themselves to make my case for me, which I repeatedly quote from in my book. Face it, Christians do not trust atheists. So to bridge that gap I quote from Christian scholarship as much as I can. I let them make my case for me and there is every reason to do so since the arguments are on my side. To Christian scholars I quote from atheist scholars as much as I can, since they know of them.

The book, its structure, and the arguments in it are all mine. It's just that I'm strategic with how I make my case. That's all.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Hey Anthony,

I was referring primarily to the problem of evil and suffering. I can't say that I've answered the "why" question of the problem but I don't see it as a knock down argument for atheism. I have abandoned Calvinism like you though. I'm not even sure that I would consider myself an evangelical any more either. I've been looking into some of the beliefs of the Orthodox lately. Not that I am one.

Boz said...

Mysterium, the problem of evil only disproves an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good deity. If your chosen brand of theism has a deity that is not all-good, e.g. deism, pantheism, this problem is avoided.



I'd be interested in looking at your arguments against atheism, if you want to discuss it.

Twilight Z. Clown said...

Hi MT,
why tackle the whole "problem of evil"?
Why not tackle in little pieces?

Why not start with the "problem of victimization".

why should the good, decent and innocent suffer for the acts of the wicked?

Think about your local Animal Humane Society and how they keep their animals.
If they changed their policy and put vicious animals in with tame ones, what would you think about them? Wouldn't they be at fault or at least negligent?

If god knows everything and is all powerful, isn't he an accessory to every child abduction, rape and murder? Isn't he at fault or at least negligent?

Adrian Cockcroft said...

Hi John, I have an idea for a series of posts that could be interesting. There are very many different Christian churches or sects, and it's quite confusing to figure out what each one believes that the others don't. So perhaps you could pick them off one at a time, with an analysis of their history, how they claim to be different, and perhaps what specific parts of the Bible story they have re-written, emphasize or reject, then debunk that specific sect.

Commenters could suggest likely candidates....

There was a very nice series called the Denialism Deck of Cards that looked at the different ways that cranks and denialists justified their beliefs in the face of actual facts. Something like that would be interesting...

Twilight Z. Clown said...

Hi Adrian,
John is away at a conference with little if any internet capability.

Adrian Cockcroft said...

Hi TZC, I saw John's note about being away, and I helped fund his trip a bit... I expect he will read this when he gets back and in the meantime maybe it's something to discuss the merits of.

For example, Victor Stenger takes a detailed look at Mormonism in his book The New Atheism, partly because it is so recent and the origins are well documented, yet it functions in the same way as the older Christian variants for its believers.

I'd like to hear John's opinions on Cavalry Chapel, Seventh Day Adventists, etc. and discuss how they try to rationalize their differences.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

T.Z.C.,

I don't see God as being obligated to be merciful to His creation. Grace (common or saving) is unmerrited favor and God therefore, isn't under obligation to show grace. If He witholds grace He does nothing wrong. This is the Divine prerogative. God reserves the right to have mercy on whomever and whatever He pleases. God being God has rights and prerogatives that we don't. God is in a different category than us humans. He's all-knowing and infinite in wisdom. He cannot be compared to anything or anybody. While there are ways I'm to be like God there are also ways I'm not to be like God. He alone is God. His ways are the ways of infinite wisdom. I believe God has morally justifiable reasons for allowing suffering. I don't always know those reasons though. I don't know the soveregn will of God. It's hidden in mystery to me. Neither am I to try and follow it. I just try to go by God's revealed will.

Paul said...

I have a question. Can someone tell me how someone could pray for someone having met the person for the first time and pray specific to their situation?

How is it my mother knew my sister was pregnant even though no one told her?

The problem I have with people trying to debunk things they dont know is that they doing from a standpoint of ignorance as they have no clue of the origin of man earth, space or time but are trying to DEBUNK something.

Its better you say you dont know but chose not to believe.

For those who say they have left the faith, you were never in the faith in the first place.

1 John 2:19-20
19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Harlan Quinn said...

Hi MT,
first off you don't sound very christian, so which god are you talking about? Honestly, I can't think of any of the popular Gods of the worlds religions that fit that description. Help me out will you?

second you look a lot like Cole, alias Micahel Hoax, etc. not that its a bad thing mind you.

If you are, are you back-sliding into theism?

I'm having an identity crisis at the moment so you can call me Harlan today.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Lee,

Yep it's me. My full name is Michael Cole Houx. You're right. I'm backsliding back to Theism. It's the God of my understanding. I'm not sure what you would consider Christian. Alot of Christians would agree with what I have said here. Probably not all.

Harlan Quinn said...

Hi mt,
but which god are YOU talking about?

if there was a god, it would be as obvious as the ocean and just as incontrovertible and you wouldn't have to imagine you have a relationship with it.

you were born. then you were born again, then you were unborn again. you my friend are doomed to be reborn to until you get on the straight and narrow and follow krishna. Thats where it all ends, unless, the buddhists are right....hmmmm.

Have you tried orthodox judaism? now that you mention it, your god sounds a lot like old yahweh.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Hey Lee,

From what I've read and understand it's the God of the Bible. I guess different people see things differently though. Christians disagree over alot of things. If it's not the Christian God then I'm happy to accept that as well.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Also Lee,

God has made His existence obvious to me. His presence just seems obvious to me alot of the time.

akakiwibear said...

Harlan Quinn your "now that you mention it, your god sounds a lot like old yahweh" is below your usual standard - unless you have new scholarship that finds that Yahweh is not the same God as of both the OT and NT!!!????

Hi Mysterium Tremendum, I sense a fellow traveller. It takes courage to admit you may have got it wrong.

I like the analogy of the primitive pagan who worshipped a tree as god. At some point he discovers the tree is not god (you rightly reject Calvinism). Then he is faced with a choice - either there is no God OR God is not a tree. Your atheist move was the former, now you are exploring the latter. Congratulation I wish you much learning.

Sala kahle - peace

P.S. You might be interested in my take on the problem of evil on my blog - its old and I may say it differently now, but...

Anonymous said...

"God has made His existence obvious to me. His presence just seems obvious to me alot of the time." MT

This kind of comment reminds me of my Thai friend. That is her experience as well, although she feels the presence of ancestors and ghosts mostly. It is completely normal for her. She is actually surprised that I can't "experience/see" them as well. I don't think she really comprehends my complete lack of belief in the spirits and ghosts that she feels the presence of. Her reaction to my reaction when she says she just felt a spirit/ghost is one of complete befuddlement. How can I not feel/sense them? what is wrong with me?

I try to explain my lack of belief in spirits but it just does not register with her. She has never experienced someone that didn't believe. It is inconceivable in her mind that someone can not believe the obvious.

So our discussions never get very deep or very far on this topic. The ability to critically analyze and question her assumptions is just not something she is capable of doing. Her worldview is too entrenched to entertain anything as foreign as my worldview. She never had the education or exposure to differing worldviews that seems to be necessary.

I actually think that this is the key issue. When a child is inculcated from birth with the religious worldview, it shapes the nuero-anatomy in such a way that their thought processes are permanently distorted. This in combination with a lack of exposure to alternative worldviews leaves little possibility for the adult to escape the mindset learned in childhood. The mind is literally set.

Only a small number will have the mental skills and inclination to question their childhood indoctrination sufficiently to actually escape the programming.

Living in a society that is dominated by faith thinking, uncritical analysis, and simply lazy-thinking doesn't help.

rick

Harlan Quinn said...

hi akakiwibear,
The new testament says that Jesus was the god of the old tesstament.

The Tanakh (old testament) experts, the jews, rejected jesus because he didn't meet the criteria to be the messiah.

Why would the Jews reject their own messiah if they got the criteria from God Given Scripture?

google "antimissionary gateway" or "why don't jews follow jesus" or something like that to get the jewish take on the god of the new testament.

in any case, there is marked difference in the representation of God from the beginning of genesis to the end of genesis, throughout the rest of the tanakh, and then continues in the new testament.

If god is perfect and never changing, why the difference? and if you say its to change with people, then you might as well say that he's the creation of people since he seems to tailor himself to people anyway, by that line of thinking.

The way god acts now, since the age of improved communication, he is indistinguishable from chance.

And, you and no other christian and any decisive argument or evidence over why any other religion is wrong. If you did, there'd be only one dominant religion, with a minority of irrationals rejecting it.

People will adopt things en masse that are beneficial to them. Right now, christianity is at ~30% over two thousand years. Judaism is even less, Islam is catching up, so it seems that islam may be the right religion. It is the second upgrade to Yahweh after all.

Harlan Quinn said...

Hi mt,
God has made His existence obvious to me. His presence just seems obvious to me alot of the time.

he makes his existence "obvious" to a lot of hindus, jews, muslims, etc, thats why I want to know how you can tell the difference between Yahweh, Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma (and the rest of the Hindu Pantheon) and Ahura Mazda?

Or how do you know you are not being fooled by a demon?
You did reject god you know.

your claim to knowledge is rather
MT in my opinion.

Adrian Cockcroft said...

"God has made His existence obvious to me. His presence just seems obvious to me alot of the time." MT

So how is that different to the descriptions here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizophrenia

"...delusions of being controlled by an external force; the belief that thoughts are being inserted into or withdrawn from one's conscious mind; the belief that one's thoughts are being broadcast to other people; and hearing hallucinatory voices that comment on one's thoughts or actions or that have a conversation with other hallucinated voices."

Harlan Quinn said...

Akakiwibear,
thanks for the complement on my "usual scholarship".

Its better than ever actually, I have significantly broadened its scope. Over at my place, I can spread my wings as wide as I want without having to worry about negatively impacting anyone else. Its Glorious!

though it is difficult to keep up the pace in publishing frequency and quality.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Lee,

I haven't read those other religions so I don't know what all they teach about God. I know that Antony Flew has said that if you're going to choose a revealed religion Christianity is the one to beat. I go along with Alvin Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology. While it is consistent with theism in general I hold to the bible in particular. It contains things that I have found to be true in my life. I could be wrong about them but I don't think so. If the bible is wrong then I'll just accept theism. C.S. Lewis once said that the thing that makes Christianity unique is it's teaching of grace. If this is true then It's going to be hard for me to accept just theism though. For I see the concept of grace as being essential in answering the problem of evil and suffering. Moreover, I just can't bring myself to believe that the universe came from nothing. Something created it. Not only that but when I stare at the beautiful heavens the belief in a Creator just rises up within me.

Boz said...

MT said: "Moreover, I just can't bring myself to believe that the universe came from nothing. Something created it."

Ahh, the argument from personal incredulity. An old favourite.

http://www.skepticwiki.org/index.php/Argument_from_Incredulity

Adrian Cockcroft said...

MT said: "Moreover, I just can't bring myself to believe that the universe came from nothing. Something created it."

In that case - I can't believe that the thing that created the universe came from nothing. Something created it. I can't believe that the thing that created the thing that created the universe came from nothing. Something created it. I can't believe that the thing that created the thing that created the thing that created the universe came from nothing. Something created it.....

Also known as the "immaculate induction" by this argument there are either zero or an infinite number of creators, and zero works.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Adrian,

I can't believe that the thing that created the universe from nothing either. I see God as being eternal. He never came to be as I see it. I don't believe God needs to be created. He's God. If you want to believe that the universe came from nothing that's fine.

Boz said...

MT said: "I don't believe God needs to be created. He's God. If you want to believe that the universe came from nothing that's fine."

This is a combination of the argument from personal incredulity (this time in the reverse direction), and a false dichotomy.



http://www.skepticwiki.org/index.php/Argument_from_Incredulity

http://www.skepticwiki.org/index.php/False_Dichotomy

akakiwibear said...

HQ though it is difficult to keep up the pace in publishing frequency and quality. it is tough to run your own and comment elsewhere - I sort of gave up on my own.

As for your which God argument; it is an argument about religions not about Gods. It is a favourite atheist straw man and I am surprised to see you resort to it. I remind you of Ghandi’s wise observation that God had no religion.

Let me pick at a few of your points.
"The new testament says that Jesus was the god of the old testament" yes and you split Jesus from the Trinity (easy for an atheist) when you argue otherwise. You only substituent your argument by saying the Jewish authorities of the time did not recognise JC. Well yes ... and might politics have been a factor??? ... They like you ignored the scriptural basis for recognition of JC as messiah - by your own statistics that is a minority view.

HQ, you say "If god is perfect and never changing, why the difference?" and in the same breath dispose of the argument of progressive revelation with "you might as well say that he's the creation of people since he seems to tailor himself to people" Your position ignores the social and scholarly advance of humanity over a few thousands years ... would the revelation of God we have today have been vaguely comprehensible to the early Jews ... I think not. Really smart of God to have phased it like that!

HQ, you present as criticism a lack of "evidence over why any other religion is wrong". I would not like to be associated with the vast body of debate about relative religion (which is what it is - not about theism). Rather I recognise the equally large body that recognises the similarities ... and besides the Christians, Jews & Muslims do share the same God. As for Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva … they are the Hindu Trinity and their significance has parallels with the Christian Trinity.

Sala kahle - peace

akakiwibear said...

Adrian Cockcroft, the created out of nothing is a zero sum debate.

Approached from both a science and creationist perspective we end up with the and before that? question which I have yet to see properly answered by either side.

The creationists do however have a more internally consistent position with a God who always was etc ... , but I still ask and before always was?

Perhaps I just don't get it, but I see little merit in pursuing a zero sum end.

sala kahle - peace

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Also Lee,

I did reject God before but mainly it was because I didn't have a solution to the problem of evil and suffering that I read in John's book and that I encountered by reading your writtings. But I think I have escaped the problem.

Harlan Quinn said...

akakiwibear,
you whole argument rests on the premise that god is not capable of communicating his point effectively.

the best way to understand and to know something is to build it. He would know how to be persuasive. My parents knew what it took to be persuasive with me and the small percentage that they violated my freewill was necessary to bring about my success as a contributing member of society. I didn't have to resort to apologetics and "open myself" to get the message from my parents and they were not gods.

you are minimizing the problem by ignoring qualifiers.

A god like that does not meet the criteria to be all powerful.

If "human politics are more persuasive than god" is your whole argument, you should just stop talking.

non-christian believers are just as devout as you. Its not a problem of CHOOSING what to believe in, it is a problem of being persuaded by the evidence.

Hindus are persuaded by evidence that correlates to their beliefs, yada, yada, yada
just like you are. You are going to suffer rebirth until you get your kharma straight mister. You're never going to break out of Samsara like that.

Harlan Quinn said...

Hi MT,
might I suggest you've found an MT solution to the problem of evil?
;-)

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Lee,

You're right. I don't try to figure out what God's hidden or sovereign will is anymore. It's hidden in mystery to me. I just try and go by what He has revealed which is loving Him above all else and loving my neigbor as myself. The secret things belong to the Lord. God's wisdom is fathomless and His decisions are unsearchable and His methods are mysterious and untraceable. No one can even completely understand His mind or advise Him to the proper course of action. It is arrogant for me to seek to determine what God is doing in a particular event or circumstance. I cannot search out His reasons behind His decisions or trace out the ways by which He brings those decisions to pass. God's ways are infinite in wisdom and cannot be comprehended by my finite mind. I'm learning to trust God even when I don't understand why. To demand that God explain why is arrogant and untrusting. I trust that God has moraly justifiable good reasons even when I don't know what His reasons are.

akakiwibear said...

HQ you whole argument rests on the premise that god is not capable of communicating his point effectively not so.
I argue that God has indeed communicated effectively.

1) Effective is relative to an objective - God's objective has been met (tough one to argue against - sort of cheating I admit)

2) God's communication has produced different religions. You assume this is proof of no God or at the very least of poor communication.

I would argue that the only one dominant religion you see as an outcome of effective communication would be a negative outcome ... heck there would be no debate for a start!

What we have is revelations with a common core that have been tailored to the anthropological development of the recipient groups. Why should we not have different strokes for different folks?

Consider God’s communication “Thou shalt not steal”. Now this looks like clear communication – set in stone even. Yet even if it were from a voice emanating from a 200ft fireball above the super bowl and copy in flashing lights do you dispute it would not still be debated as to both its meaning (have you heard the corporate clowns argue the meaning!) and who ‘said’ it.

Sala kahle - peace

Harlan Quinn said...

akakiwibear, MT,
we're going to have to agree to disagree, have a great weekend!

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Grace allows for a diverse understanding of the divine - it would be a cruel demand to expect everyone to conform to one ultimate goal. Jesus asked a crowd of ppl who they perceived Him to be - He didn't seek to correct or punish those whose response indicated that their vision was still clouded by the world. Instead, He chose a person who could see clearly to help guide the others.

The best to you Cole and Akiwi!

And as for the goal to overwhelm the believer; compare that to what Jesus said about a small seed being able to move a mountain - I am still downsizing on my ego but hope to get tiny enough some day.

retep57 said...

I just finished reading John Loftus's book, i have to say i was shocked at how good his arguments were! I was stunned and overwhelmed!
Read it yourself and make up your own mind. I thought his book " why I became an atheist" is just amazing. To the christian i think this is even better than the god delusion.

akakiwibear said...

retep57 you say I was shocked at how good his arguments were! ... I in turn would be shocked if someone had thought through the arguments and applied robust scepticism to John's case was impressed as you were.

Please point out just one good argument ... and by good I mean one that is convincing rather than finely structured.

sala kahle - peace

Boz said...

Akakiwibear said: "Please point out just one good argument ... and by good I mean one that is convincing rather than finely structured."

Personally, the strongest argument that turned my opinion to atheism from theism, specifically catholocism, was that there is no evidence for the central claims in christianity. Specifically, that God exists and jesus did miracles.

Also, there are hundreds of other claims that either have no evidence, or have been proven wrong.

akakiwibear said...

Boz when you say there is no evidence for the central claims in Christianity you would have to mean that you don’t accept the evidence that exists, because there is evidence.

Rejecting the evidence is a choice you make and as I assume you are a rational person you will have carefully weighed the salient points and concluded that it is not proof absolute that there is a God.

However, there is no proof absolute one way or the other. Some theists argue that there cannot be proof absolute that God exists or there would be no voluntary act of recognition of God … let us accept that for now and agree that neither of us will produce proof absolute.

Therefore based on your evaluation of the evidence you have made a leap of faith and concluded that there is no God. BUT, you cannot transform your leap of faith into a state of certainty as you claimed with there is noevidence.

Out of interest, if you can clear about which central claims that lack evidence, I will try to respond.

Sala kahle -peace

Boz said...

akakiwibear said: "Boz when you say there is no evidence for the central claims in Christianity you would have to mean that you don’t accept the evidence that exists, because there is evidence."

Of course what I meant was that there is no reasonable/persuasive evidence. A person on lsd saying they saw X fits the definition of evidence (for X).

-

"Rejecting the evidence is a choice you make and as I assume you are a rational person you will have carefully weighed the salient points and concluded that it is not proof absolute that there is a God."

There cannot be absolute proof outside mathematics and logic.

-

"However, there is no proof absolute one way or the other. Some theists argue that there cannot be proof absolute that God exists or there would be no voluntary act of recognition of God … let us accept that for now and agree that neither of us will produce proof absolute."

I agree; we must deal with probabilities. How likely is it that X exists?, or Y occured?

-

"Therefore based on your evaluation of the evidence you have made a leap of faith and concluded that there is no God."

I have looked at the evidence that I know of, but not used faith. I have followed David Hume's suggestion: "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence", which is the opposite of faith.

-

"BUT, you cannot transform your leap of faith into a state of certainty as you claimed with there is noevidence."

I do not use faith, and I am not certain. For example, There is no (reasonable/persuasive) evidence for the loch ness monster, but we cannot be certain of its non-existence. It is possible that it does exist, but we have not found it yet.

-

"Out of interest, if you can clear about which central claims that lack evidence, I will try to respond."

How about jesus turning water to wine? I'm of the strong opinion that that did not literally occur. I would very much like to know if I am wrong.

Adrian Cockcroft said...

It is possible to be certain that something is false, it is not possible to be certain that something is true unless the only alternative is certain to be false. You can be certain that something is false when it is internally inconsistent, i.e. it contradicts itself.

This is the logic behind mathematical proofs.

For example, since the Bible contradicts itself, we can be certain that it cannot be literally true in every word, as some fundamentalists claim. As John points out in a recent re-post, you don't have to read more that a few pages of Genesis to find the Bible contradicting itself about the order in which things were created.

So it is certainly possible for a logical person to look at a religious assertion, see an internal contradiction and conclude that the assertion as stated must be false. This does not rely on a belief system, and it is not the same as asserting an alternative belief.

If someone then continues to believe in that specific false assertion in the face of logic, then we can conclude that their assertions are in general not to be taken at face value.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Adrian,

If one holds to the framework interpretation in Genesis One then there is no contradiction with the order of events in the second chapter. Alot of these things are just a matter of interpretation. As far as the spiritual things in the bible, I think different people are at differrent places in their spiritual walk so you would expect there to be apparant contradictions in the bible. I think it depends alot on the context and where one is at spiritually that determines the interpretation.

Adrian Cockcroft said...


More on this topic in cartoon form

akakiwibear said...

Adrian you are right the Bible contradicts itself, we can be certain that it cannot be literally true in every word, , but so what?

I think it needs a huge leap of faith to accept "logic" you acknowledge to be flawed as the basis for your conclusions ... and I assume you know this because you add as some fundamentalists claim apparently acknowledging that the majority of Christian don't think the bible is literally true.

Sala kahle - peace

akakiwibear said...

Boz, our views are moving closer together.

you say I have followed David Hume's suggestion: "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence" ... that looks like faith to me, but I will rest on that.

You suggest that Jesus turning water into wine is a central claim of Christianity - certainly it is not.

If that is the best example you have of a central claim then .... I would have thought God exists, Jesus lived qualify as central claims.

Sala kahle - peace

Adrian Cockcroft said...

No two people believe exactly the same set of things, but there are fundamentalists who quote the Bible and make assertions that rest on the Bible being true without any other foundation for the assertion. My statement was that an assertion containing a contradiction is false, so that it is possible to make strong claims of falsity about some religious assertions.

AWB and MT don't believe in the literal truth of the Bible, so they are on the slippery slope of trying to decide which bits they like and which bits they don't, with John helpfully pushing them down the slope... :-)

Boz said...

akakiwibear, do you agree with: "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence" ?

I agree that jesus turning water into wine is not a central claim of christianity. I mentioned it as one issue that you may wish to explain in detail in order to change my opinion on. Of course, you may choose whatever you like, or not bother. It is up to you.

akakiwibear said...

Adrian you say so they are on the slippery slope of trying to decide which bits they like and which bits they don't

Perhaps that is an issue for those without access to the scholarship. For those with solid scholarship to fall back on such as the Catholics this is not a problem.

It is not a case of picking what one likes or not, it is a case of understanding the context of each bit.

One can view the bible in much the same way one views a magazine. It is a collection of types of articles written by different people at different times.

There are news stories in which credible journalists try to get the facts right - they interview those who were there ...
There is editorial or opinion, which is just that ...
There is poetry, biographies etc.
... but nobody pretends that any magazine is the definitive text book on history or science etc ... same applies to the bible

Is the bible inspired - yes, in the same way that my aunt may inspire me to write the family history. Did God dictate the bible word for word? Of course not.

The belief of literal inerrancy of the bible is flawed to even a casual observer. That the bible is an account of the revelation of God to humanity is difficult to dispute.

sala kahle - peace

akakiwibear said...

Boz, I think the above answers your point as well.

What made you change your view on water to wine being central?.

It is a story used only in John's gospel to illustrate the start of Christ's ministry.
Is it true? I don't know of confirming evidence, although there might be. I don't see why John would have invented the incident so it seems like he has repeated a story related to him.

It is worth noting that the event is placed before the apostles were called and hence the likely source of the story may have been Mary who was in John's care ... but that is supposition.

sala kahle - peace

akakiwibear said...

Boz, of course I agree with "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence" ? hence my belief that my leap of faith is smaller than yours.

There is no evidence to support there not being a God - hard to prove the negative, your problem not mine.

However there is evidence that there is a God - your choice is to ignore all of it. You have to ignore all of it because if you accept just one part then God exists.

This requires a huge leap of faith.
First you have to be convinced that you have heard all the relevant evidence - not just the nonsense like a literally true bible.

Then you have to be convinced that all the scholarship that has gone into studying it and accepting it is faulty. Scholarship which recognises and deals with all the arguments of the likes of JWL with relative ease.

Yes I proportion my beliefs to the evidence, do you?

Sala kahle - peace

Adrian Cockcroft said...

AWB says "That the bible is an account of the revelation of God to humanity is difficult to dispute."

The Bible is a collection of old myths and legends written and re-written, translated and mis-translated many times by many people for many reasons. It is just one bundle of religious texts, and it contains its own internal contradictions, as well as contradictions with other religions. I don't see any reason why it would be a revelation of God to humanity.

It would be interesting to hear what AWB does believe, since it seems that Genesis and minor miracles aren't important. Do you think that supernatural miracles can and did occur? By that I mean events that don't obey the basic physics of conservation of energy and thermodynamics.

Harlan Quinn said...

akakiwibear,
Evidence?
Good one.
you're betting on the ambiguity on the assessment of evidence between the believer and the non believer.

"I got mine, why caint you git yers?"
mentality, "blaming the victim".

However, your whole world view depends on the authority of your "divinely revealed" texts.

Even if you are a "non-denominational islamic-jew-hindu-christian" (i just made that up) your view of god depends on unauthenticated "divinely revealed" text.

None of you have met the burden of proof that your texts are authentic and therefore authoritative.

Get busy.

akakiwibear said...

Adrian Cockcroft you got it The Bible is a collection ... etc. ... perhaps you overstated it a bit, but essentially you are correct.

I recognise that such a view undermines the foundation of many atheists criticism of Christianity as it does the beliefs of some evangelical Christians ... mainly those who are sucked in by the "I have discovered it is not all true" misrepresentations of new atheists like John.

However, back to topic. You then say I don't see any reason why it would be a revelation of God to humanity. If not that what? There is nothing in the context and history of the bible to suggest otherwise.

You ask what I believe in regard to miracles. Yes I believe there is evidence of events that cannot be explained by science; the fully documented researched miracles recognised by the Catholic Church for example.

But it is not necessarily a violation of physics that makes an event a miracle. There needs to be causality (Jesus prays for x) and coincidence (it happens then) in time.

Does the healing of 10 lepers violate the laws of physics? Don't think so. Is it a miracle when it happens directly in response to Jesus prayer ... I think so.

... or do you argue random event.

To anticipate your next - Why do I believe that part of the bible? simply because the event was easily verified or disputed by the gospel writers audience of the time.

Sala kahle - peace

akakiwibear said...

HQ, trust you to challenge the obvious with None of you have met the burden of proof that your texts are authentic and therefore authoritative which is a well wrapped red herring; emotive language which seems intended to draw in the gullible.

Authentic … in what way do you question them being authentic? Are the texts, as we have them today, the oldest surviving original/copy/translation that we have … well yes. Are they authentic in that they are the works of the authors currently recognised as such by the best of bible scholars … well yes, but we hope to learn more. Perhaps you ascribe to the conspiracy theory that the bible was written by a mischievous con artist and published in 1823 … if so I have to ask you for you proof of such a conspiracy.

You seem to ignore the considerable scholarship has been invested in both the content of the canon and in its significance. The texts have been studied over hundreds of years, recognised and accepted for what they are.

Authoritative … you question that the authors were competent to write it? Who would you have preferred and recognised as having that authority?

Do you accept the authority of Helen Womack (BBC Moscow) to interview witnesses and survivors for the recent train bombing in Russia and to report on the event? … Yes? But you seem to question the authority the gospel writers to do that.

Do you accept the authority of Ed Hillary to write his autobiography ‘Two Lives Explored’? Yet you seem to question Jeremiah’s authority to write his story.
Do you accept the authority of Tyler or of Moon to write biographies of Hillary? You seem to doubt the authority of the gospel writers to do Christ’s.

Do you consider the discrepancies between Hillary, Tyler’s and Moon’s accounts to diminish their authority or the authenticity of their work or do you see the discrepancies as aspects for the Hillary scholar to study? Yet you use discrepancies between the gospels to discredit their authority or the authenticity.

Like so many atheists I suspect you want the bible to be something it is not. You want it to be taken literally, so that you can fault it. You want to present the problems of translation as departures from a literal truth. You want the bible to be a one-off snapshot of theology, all questions answered so that you can criticise the development of theology as departing from old truths … John’s earlier post for example makes much of the need for theists to “re-invent” … no, like other scholars they are simply learning.

Sala kahle -peace

Boz said...

akakiwibear said: "There is no evidence to support there not being a God - hard to prove the negative, your problem not mine."

There is also no evidence to support Allah/Brahma/Poseidon/Fairies not existing. Is this your problem?

-

"However there is evidence that there is a God - your choice is to ignore all of it. You have to ignore all of it because if you accept just one part then God exists."

I am very interested in any evidence that you can provide. I would very much like to know if I am wrong. If you are willing, please explain to me how I am wrong.
There is no reasonable/persuasive evidence for the existence of Yahweh that I know of. There is a lot of weak/unpersuasive evidence that I know of. I agree that if the weight of evidence points towards Yahweh existing, then it is reasonable to conclude that it probably exists.

-

"This requires a huge leap of faith. First you have to be convinced that you have heard all the relevant evidence - not just the nonsense like a literally true bible."

I agree that it is very likely that I have not heard all available evidence for the existence of Yahweh. I am keen for you to explain any evidence to me, if you are willing.

-

"Then you have to be convinced that all the scholarship that has gone into studying it and accepting it is faulty. Scholarship which recognises and deals with all the arguments of the likes of JWL with relative ease."

I have looked at some popular apologetics. There is no reasonable/persuasive evidence for the existence of Yahweh that I know of.

-

"What made you change your view on water to wine being central?. "

I agree that jesus turning water into wine is not a central claim of christianity. My view on this has not changed. afaik, the only mention of this story is in the anonymous gospel attributed to john, written in the year 90-100. With what level of probability do you hold that this story is true? How do you reach this probability from the known evidence?

Harlan Quinn said...

Hi Akakiwibear,
great reply, you gave me a lot of raw material to use on my blog. I copied your comment into my draft articles so I can work on it.

in a nutshell,
The difference between your examples and the bible, or the vedas, or the quran, or any other divinely revealed text you care to throw on the table is that if I were to say that all your examples were fabrications, you could show me compelling evidence that they aren't.

That can't be done with divinely revealed texts.

There is no audit trail, no accountability, no living authors or witnesses, the data in the text are garbled and biased such that they do not reflect the state of the world they represent.

If we were to measure the percentage of accuracy of the divinely revealed texts we would see that the score for your examples would be much higher.

you yourself are the first to say that the bible shouldn't be taken literally, but then how should it be taken and on what grounds should it be believed?

I'm all for saying the bible should not be interpreted literally, but then I will apply the same criteria to the bible as I do every other text in the world and expect it to match with established knowledge. To whatever degree it matches established knowledge is the degree of reliability I give it.

simple principles you should have learned in school when you were doing your research papers.

akakiwibear said...

HQ, only time for a quick reply today so forgive me if it is not very clear. your case boils down to you could show me compelling evidence that they aren't ... That can't be done with divinely revealed texts ... There is no audit trail ...

You have focused on the texts themselves, looked at the literal truth or otherwise rather than the whole evidence, including the context. I agree it takes a bit of thought to understand how the bible can be both true and have inaccuracies.

To illustrate example consider Paul's D rd experience.

1) We know a fair bit about the author of Acts and the providence – not all pure as most would acknowledge but good enough, and also

2) The circumstantial evidence is there to support the text. Paul went from being a rising star in the persecution movement with the associated status, security etc to being one of the persecuted.

His role change is plain stupid if he did not have a really good reason. Now he presents his reason and you argue that his account of why he changed direction so radically lacks authority (who else should/could have written it?) and authenticity (he made it up why?).

The evidence (his changed behaviour) is consistent with his story of why in terms of time and content.

You cannot refute the change in behaviour nor can you present alternative evidence which explains it with such consistency (the epilepsy argument some atheists use is clearly speculative and without linkage to the circumstantial evidence so please don't embarrass either of us with it).

We know he lived, changed his role etc so that bit is to be believed. His explanation is consistent with the facts, let’s believe that too. But the accounts (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15) use slightly different words so we don’t know exactly what was said. So we can accept as true the gist of the conversation but not as absolute truth the specific words used.

Now I suggest that it would be very poor scholarship to dismiss the entire event on the grounds of uncertainty regarding the exact words. There is evidence that in spite of the inaccuracies the story is true.

Sala kahle -peace

akakiwibear said...

Boz, I appreciate your comments, but I have to apologise for not replying in full. I hope that my reply to HQ goes soem way to answer your call for evidence.

sala kahle - peace

Harlan Quinn said...

Hi akakiwibear,
I'm glad you brought Paul up. i happen to be working on an article about him over at QuIRP

Paul depends on Jesus,
Jesus depends on Adams transgression,
Adams transgression depends on Adam.

There was no Adam, there was no transgression, Jesus was not crucified for Adams transgression, so Jesus wasn't god, Jesus didn't come back, Paul didn't see Jesus.

* What grounds to dismiss temporal lobe epilepsy? What else could his "thorn in the flesh" have been? Lust? He was reputedly ugly as sin and lust doesn't make you hear voices and see faces like epilepsy does.
Galatians 4:13-15; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Anyone considering Paul as a reliable source of information are ignoring quite a few disqualifying facts.

* Many church leaders and scholars are ignoring Paul and concentrating on Jesus

* Paul had no credentials except his own claim to see Jesus. He hated Jesus during Jesus’s lifetime, he was not one of the original twelve apostles, nor was he there to witness the resurrection.

* How many of Pauls letters do you take to be authentic? The typical seven or some other number?

* Paul was ambiguous and inconsistent. How do you account for it? "Ancient Rhetorical Style"?

* Pauls ambiguous letters continue to provide the basis for many conflicting interpretations.

* He was deceptive in the use of money. He said the preached for free, while he was being supported by his Macedonian churches.

* Pauls own churches preferred other leaders to Paul.

* Paul was in competition with Peter, and referred to other apostles sarcastically as "the super apostles".

* Paul is considered the source of what is wrong in Christianity, “good Jesus, bad Paul.”

* Paul is a source of anti-Semitism. 2 Corinthians, Paul says that the God of this world has blinded the Jews’ eyes or when he suggests that Jews have fallen away.

* Paul is a source of sexism. 1 Timothy, Paul is notorious for telling women to be silent in the assembly.

* Paul is hypocritical towards women. He relied on women as agents, yet he said that women have to be silent in the assembly and be submissive to their husbands.

* Paul is responsible for promoting celibacy. I'm sure many a molested child could have lived without that.

* Paul urged people to give up their old religion and therefore lifestyle while still retaining the biases of his culture, age, gender, and ethnicity.

you've been taken by a flim-flam man.

Boz said...

Harlan Quinn said: "Anyone considering Paul as a reliable source of information are ignoring quite a few disqualifying facts.

* Many church leaders and scholars are ignoring Paul and concentrating on Jesus (argument from popularity)

* Pauls own churches preferred other leaders to Paul.(argument from popularity)

* Paul was in competition with Peter, and referred to other apostles sarcastically as "the super apostles".(unrelated to his reliability)

* Paul is considered the source of what is wrong in Christianity, “good Jesus, bad Paul.” (argument from popularity)

* Paul is a source of anti-Semitism. 2 Corinthians, Paul says that the God of this world has blinded the Jews’ eyes or when he suggests that Jews have fallen away. (unrelated to his reliability)

* Paul is a source of sexism. 1 Timothy, Paul is notorious for telling women to be silent in the assembly. (unrelated to his reliability)

* Paul is hypocritical towards women. He relied on women as agents, yet he said that women have to be silent in the assembly and be submissive to their husbands. (unrelated to his reliability)

* Paul is responsible for promoting celibacy. I'm sure many a molested child could have lived without that. (unrelated to his reliability)"


The points that you have made here do not affect Paul's reliability. For example, it is possible to hold sexist opinions and also be correct/reliable/accurate. That said, the points I have excluded are relevant to Paul's reliability.

Boz said...

Thanks for your post, akakiwibear, I'll try to restate your argument so that I can understand it fully.

The anonymous author of luke's gospel wrote "Acts". In this book, it says that Paul/Saul was an avid persecuter of the early christians. This is also mentioned in paul's letters. In roughly 33-36, paul describes that he saw a vision of jesus, and he converted to christianity. Therefore Yahweh exists.

or, more succinctly:
"Paul/Saul had a vision in which he describes seeing jesus. He then converted to christianity. Therefore Yahweh exists".

Is that an accurate representation of your argument? Is this argument one of the reasons you decided to be a christian?

akakiwibear said...

Boz - thanks for the correction I was hasty in my comment.
Also thanks for pointing out how weak HQ's points are.

I will comment on only one of his points:
* Paul had no credentials except his own claim to see Jesus. He hated Jesus during Jesus’s lifetime, he was not one of the original twelve apostles, nor was he there to witness the resurrection. and that was the basis of my argument, so ...

HQ, I urged you not to go to epilepsy. You claim to seek rationality, you claim to put your trust in probability, you claim to look at all the evidence....

(1) epilepsy was considered to be possession by a demon in his context and as such he would never have risen to the position he did, more likely to have been living as an outcast, certainly unlikely to have a prominent position in the Jewish religious hierarchy as at the very least he would have been ritually unclean.

2) there is little to link thorn in flesh with a mental condition – your own ref Gal 4:13-15 talks of a bodily affliction not possession.

3) and what about the actual nature of the event, if he did have an epileptic event it was very specific and wow, quite a coincidence really ...
where does your rigour and probability analysis come in here?

sala kahle - peace

Harlan Quinn said...

boz,
thanks for the comments,
My comment about Pauls reliability was a cut and paste of my notes.

I'll bet if you had any money to invest, some of the things you excluded would matter more to you regarding pauls reliability if they were applied to someone presenting you with an investment opportunity.

Right now a christian doesn't have anything tangible to risk in trusting paul.

You should check QuIRP a couple of times over the next couple of months if you want to pursue this.

Or watch for John to post a link to it.

Harlan Quinn said...

Boz,
also,
Fallacious arguments are fallacious because they have no warrant.
they have no coherent logical structure.

Argument from popularity is not fallacious because you find it in fallacy books, it is fallacious only if it is not supported by any facts.

An argument from popularity can be probabilistically valid. Its called defeasible reasoning, it is "informal logic".

the fact that there is so much consensus for einsteins theory is an indicator that it has a high probability of being right. Additionally it predicts phenomena reliably.

The fact that most of the people in the world are not christians gives a high probablity that christianity is false. Additionally, it does not predict phenomena reliably.

On who wants to be a millionaire, getting help from the public has a 95% chance of being right.

see how that works?

Harlan Quinn said...

akakiwibear,
There are quite a wide range of symptoms for epilepsy.
Pauls own words, if they are his, site some very common symptoms, light, sound, weakness/falling down.

The history of epilepsy documents religious leaders, not just possessions. you should not dismiss so readily until you've read up on it a bit.

if we go with what paul says about himself then we see that he says that he had experiences that fit the religious epileptic scenario.

epilepsy fits the evidence better than god, unless you want to say that all religious experiences that have been attributed to epilepsy were god, then you have to account for why they were not all Christians, or why pauls experience is not like all the rest and attributable to some other god.

Probability works pretty well when it takes real world states into account and ignores speculation.

Boz said...

akakiwibear, you didn't answer my questions. Is this an accurate representation of your argument for the existence of Yahweh?

"Paul/Saul had a vision in which he describes seeing jesus. He then converted to christianity. therefore Yahweh exists"

Is this argument one of the reasons you decided to be a christian?

-----------

HQ said: "Argument from popularity is not fallacious because you find it in fallacy books, it is fallacious only if it is not supported by any facts."

This is not true. It is wrong to say "Einstein's general theory of relativity is true because ~95% of people agree with it".

This theory does not gain its accuracy/truth from its popular support. It gains its accuracy/truth because it explains and predicts real world observations.

Harlan Quinn said...

Boz,
we're saying the same thing. read my comment again,
Argument from popularity is not fallacious because you find it in fallacy books, it is fallacious only if it is not supported by any facts."


I didn't say
"It is wrong to say "Einstein's general theory of relativity is true because ~95% of people agree with it".
YOU said I said that.

This theory does not gain its accuracy/truth from its popular support. It gains its accuracy/truth because it explains and predicts real world observations.

Clearly. Well said.
But GENERALLY speaking, in a "japan, and fire, and internal combustion are true" kind of way,
don't most people believe things that are true?
Things that are true rely on accurately representing real world states, when people see that they generally become convinced, therefore popular acceptance is an indicator of the probably truth in most cases.

which is what i meant when I said
"the fact that there is so much consensus for einsteins theory is an indicator that it has a high probability of being right. "

Formal logic isn't the only game in town, and in fact it has little application to real work scenarios compared to defeasible reasoning, informal logic and probability, and you if you look for it you can probably find a statement like that in a current university logic textbook.

and if you want to assess pauls reliability, lack of preference for him by his own church should be a good metric to go by.

If not, please tell me why.

Boz said...

HQ, thanks for the clarification, I misunderstood what you are saying.

I agree with what you are saying.

Harlan Quinn said...

Boz,
sorry for all the typos,
and thanks for the challenge.
Its important that we "peer review" each other.
;-)

Boz said...

no problem, HQ.

I wonder if akakiwibear will get back to me. It has been 5 days.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Boz, apology for the delay, I have been away again ... and no broadband in the wild country!

You asked, Is this argument one of the reasons you decided to be a christian? with ref to Paul's conversion.

Simple answer is yes, it is one of the arguments, part of a body of evidence that I could not credibly dismiss.

As an event it stands out as having but one reasonable explanation - that Paul had a revelation.

As I said before, he made an apparently stupid choice that was contrary to the 'common' wisdom of his peers and that caused him to abandon his position in society and become part of a persecuted community … and he was not stupid ... so the reason ...? … I go with hand of God.

The only rebuttals that atheists can offer are:

1) Paul was not perfect; e.g. his views on the role of women. An argument from irrelevancy with regard to his massive life change. To say his character undermines the credibility of his story that he reversed his life’s ambition is just plain silly (no offence intended HQ, but it is).

2) He may have had an epileptic event. There are two points to make here.
Firstly it looks like an argument from desperation, and certainly from irrelevancy because I could easily concede an elliptic event and argue that it was the vehicle of his revelation. However, since I suspect that atheists would simply throw up their arms I won’t use that counter. BUT I don’t need to, because, secondly, the overall circumstantial evidence is quite compelling.

The random epileptic event argument asks us to disregard all of the following:
- Paul had a seizure with a specific outcome. .. . change his life from persecutor to persecuted.
- There was a mass seizure (Acts 9:7 = shared experience)
- That when he presented himself to the Christian community, saying, in effect, “I am from the IRD, trust me I am here to help you” did they just happen to accepted it! No it required the further revelation to Ananias and Paul regaining his sight.

Are we seriously expected to accept that the three events (Paul’s specific revelation, Ananias’ revelation and Paul’s sight) just happen to be random but still probable in the time and space of their occurrence? … oh and by the way unrelated to the events in the propagation of Christ’s teaching that preceded and followed.

When I look at all the evidence, as one must, I see in the God explanation an internal consistency that does not require the leap of faith needed to dismiss the case.

Sala kahle - peace

Boz said...

akakiwibear, I am still trying to understand the full extent of your argument here. It seems that my earlier representation of your argument was incomplete. I'll have another go. Is this an accurate restatement of your argument?


(1)Paul/Saul had a vision in which he describes seeing jesus.
(2)All of his companions also had an aural-only vision at the same time
(3)Ananias also had a vision of jesus Paul was miraculously healed by ananias
(4)therefore Yahweh exists


Is this an accurate restatement of your argument?

akakiwibear said...

Boz, you put it a bit simplistically, but adding the context of the religious objective achieved by the train of events I have yet to find an alternative substantive explanation of the of the four events together.

Yes the events form part of the weight of evidence I accept as convincing that God exists.

Sala kahle - peace

Boz said...

These are the four problems that I (and you should) have with the argument that paul's experience infers the existence of yahweh.


(1) We have no idea what caused pauls's vision. It could be a hallucination, heat stroke, epilepsy, some other physical/mental illness, drugs, Allah, Yahweh, a human magician/conman, Aphrodite, Odin, Brahma, the Jade Emperor, etc..

(2) We cannot accept pauls experience as evidnece for yahweh, while dismissing a hindu's experience as evidence for the existence of brahma, vishnu, and shiva, and dismissing a muslim's experience, and dismissing a New-Age experience, etc. This is hypocritical.

Different religious experiences generate contradictory claims about reality, demonstrating that overall religious experience isn't a reliable source of knowledge.

(3) while it is possible that some people experience an ultimate reality while others do not, in the absence of further evidence--evidence other than the experiences themselves--there is no way to distinguish "genuine" mystical experiences from "delusional" ones.

(4) Fourthly, paul's religious experience has generated a claim (yahweh exists) that cannot be corroborated by independent evidence. This comes back to number 3, we cannot know the veracity of paul's experience from the story alone.

----


also, My understanding that the only solid information we have is that saul/paul had a vision and then converted. Did ananias have a vision of yahweh? Maybe, most probably not. Was paul/saul miraculously cured of blindness? Maybe, most probably not.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Boz, I have little concern with the four objections you raise.
(1) We have no idea what caused pauls's vision
A)As to no idea, wrong we have Paul's statement which is reinforced by:
B)We have four related events
i) Pauls vision
ii) The partial sharing of the vision by those with him
iii) Ananias' vision to go see Paul whom he feared and wanted to avoid
iv) Paul regains his sight from Ananias.

No one alternative you present covers all four related events.

I think you should be concerned by the lack of scepticism evident in an approach which chooses to ignore the whole while trying to explain away a part.

(2) We cannot accept pauls experience as evidnece for yahweh, while dismissing .... Correct and I don't. By the way and dismissing a muslim's experience in particular as the 3 Abrahamic religions all claim one and the same God

(3)in the absence of further evidence--there is no way to distinguish "genuine" mystical experiences from "delusional" ones. ... I agree that anyone can stand up and claim such an experience and no doubt there are fakes. That is why I choose Paul's to illustrate my point. The 4 interrelated events provide evidence beyond just Paul's word for it.

(4) Fourthly, paul's religious experience has generated a claim (yahweh exists) that cannot be corroborated by independent evidence. I think I have covered this point above.

While you accept Paul's conversion you seem to have trouble with the associated events which made his acceptance by the Christian community possible, i.e what gave his conversion into effect Did ananias have a vision of yahweh? Maybe, most probably not. Was paul/saul miraculously cured of blindness? Maybe, most probably not. That seems to be groundless selectivity.

Harlan Quinn said...

hi boz,
akakiwibear and I are hashing out pauls conversion over at quirp here

I'd be happy if you'd join in.