Arrogant Faith

Growing up, I was taught by my LDS parents and teachers that the LDS faithful would one day be commanded by The Prophet to return and reclaim Independence, Missouri.  I was told that we may even have to walk there as our ancestors had.  That the journey could be just as hard as our forbearers, but that, as The Faithful & Elect, we would be protected and blessed.  I was told that we would listen to our prophets and we would do as we were commanded.

What would you be willing to do if commanded by your religious leaders?  What wouldn’t you be willing to do?  If they speak for and behalf of The Almighty God, who knows all, shouldn’t you be willing to do absolutely anything?

“If God told you to kill your child—would you do it?” — Penn Jillette

I wouldn’t.  Not if He personally came down, 100% proving His existence and power, knocked me out of bed, and told me that, if I didn’t murder my daughter with my bare hands, He would torture me for eternity.

I would hope I could even muster the courage to spit in His almighty, but definitively evil face.

The story of Abraham is truly terrifying.  Believers teach it as a story of faith; that we must trust to God, who knows best.  “But, Heavenly Father saved Isaac.”  No.  Abraham had murder in his heart.  A willingness to cut open his innocent and only son.  Not a desire, but a willingness.  A blind obedience to commit an act of pure evil if only commanded.  God didn’t save Isaac; He merely changed His mind.

Mr. Jillette asks the question above to illustrate, if you would not murder your child at the command of the god you claim has the right and authority to command your actions, you are probably already an atheist.

If a religious leader in whom you trust told you that your God had commanded your family to sell all of your clothing and belongings and live unprotected in the winter mountains? That God had promised to provide for you? Would you do that?  Would you willingly put your family in mortal danger?  Trusting in God to provide?

If the religious leader commanded that you, not even kill, but pointlessly harm your child in some small way?  That God had promised you blessings without number for an earthly demonstration of your faith, would you do it?

If a man you *knew* to be a prophet told you to turn and rant and rail against your child, just because of whom they love?

Would you do it?

Or, instead, would you love your child regardless, and help them to grow up happy and healthy?  Loving those they loved and who made them happy – regardless of what a man who doesn’t know you, and doesn’t know your child, chooses to say from a great and spacious building?

“It’s not arrogant to say that you can’t figure out the answers to the universe with your internal faith. It’s not arrogant to know that there’s no omniscient, omnipotent prime mover in the universe who loves you personally. It’s not sad to feel that life and the love of your real friends and family is more than enough to make life worth living. Isn’t it much sadder to feel that there is a more important love required than the love of the people who have chosen to spend their limited time with you?”– Penn Jillette

33 thoughts on “Arrogant Faith”

  1. I think your article should be called : “IGNORANT FAITH” not ARROGANT FAITH !!

    You obviously have NO idea, that when GOD asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, it was a PROPHETIC example of GOD giving his only son !!

    I may not be able to figure out all the answers to the universe, but I know HE who has MADE the UNIVERSE and ALL that is therein.

    You made an ENORMOUSLY ARROGANT statement: saying : it is” NOT ARROGANT to KNOW that there is NOT an OMNISCIENT, OMNIPOTENT, prime mover who LOVES you personally”
    * That my friend is the HEIGHT of IGNORANCE and PRIDE !!!🐃

    He does LOVE YOU PERSONALLY !!

    GOD BLESS YOU 🕊

    1. I think it is a better example of God commanding an evil act (the murder of an innocent child) and expecting blind obedience to that clearly evil commandment. Would you do it? Slice open your child because you believe that God commanded it?

      “With or without it [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg

      Abraham never would have been willing to commit that murder except that he was ordered by God to commit that evil act.

      I believe most believers truly have good in their hearts, and would never commit such evil; even if commanded by their leaders or their god. But, if you wouldn’t, as Penn observes, “You might already be an atheist.”

      Cheers,
      Justin

  2. The unconditional love you have for your child is commendable. All parents should love that way.

    About Abraham,
    Paul the Apostle speaks about him in Hebrews 11:17-19 “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”

    We know that Issac was the only son of his beloved wife Sarah. Issac was promised to him by God. Genesis 17:19 “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” We also know that Abraham loved Issac, God refers to Issac as “thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest” in Genesis 22:2

    We know from Deuteronomy 12:31 that God hates and abhors child sacrifice.

    Another interesting note, there isn’t an exact age put on Issac. It’s commonly believed that he was older then 20 based on the timeline of events, but it’s not an exact age. A 20 year old, could have easily outrun his over 100 year old father. Issac was a willing sacrifice, and most likely not a little kid. He was carrying enough wood for a human sacrifice, can most 5-7 year olds do that?

    So why was God commanding this? I would dare say the point was to prove that Abraham trusted in God above all else. Of course this story is symbolic and prophetic, but it’s also literal. James 2:21-23 “His faith was made complete by what he did”
    God already knew Abraham had faith in him, so why did God need to test him? It proved Abraham’s faith, so that Abraham, his family, and all future generations would know that he was faithful.

    God has the right to take a human life. Abraham had known God for a long time, and knew God had the right to command this, but just like the before mentioned verses say Abraham knew his posterity was supposed to come from Issac. He had reason to believe that God did not intend for Issac to die permanently.

    “Humans can take life, but we can’t bring the dead back to life, nor can we control what happens to someone after they die. A human’s killing another human is a destructive and irresponsible act, for once we kill someone, we can’t undo it or control the harm that results.
    God, however, has greater abilities and knowledge than we do, including control over life and death. If God kills someone, he is able to bring them back to life or to place them in any sort of afterlife he chooses. God’s use of death is comparable to someone burning a fire in a fireplace: it can be controlled, lit or extinguished at will, and used for a purpose. In contrast, humans’ use of death is like setting fire to a dry field: the fire rages out of control, and consequently is dangerous and destructive.” (https://www.rationalchristianity.net/moral_authority.html)

    Religion, and religious extremists have caused many problems historically. I think some atheists can fall into a trap of believing that most or all of the major atrocities of the world have been done in the name of religion. This site has good information about that http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/atrocities.html

    I think of the classic villain from The Hunchback of Notre Dame of Claude Frollo. Claude Frollo was selfrighteous, and evil. He justified his evil intentions through religion. He was racist, and he raised the Hunchback to think he was a monster and nobody should ever see him. Was it religion that corrupted Claude? Or was Claude corrupt and tried to justify his actions through religion? I think it’s an important question to ask. Because there will always be people who do bad things and try and justify themselves one way or another.

    You stated “If the religious leader commanded that you, not even kill, but pointlessly harm your child in some small way? That God had promised you blessings without number for an earthly demonstration of your faith, would you do it?” I would not. I do not trust religious leaders enough for that, and I don’t think anyone should.

    You also quote “With or without it [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion”
    I’m don’t 100% agree with this quote. “good people” can end up doing bad things for a lot of reasons. A study of Psychology can explain a lot of the driving motivations as to why “good people” do “bad things”. This link goes over 14 psychological forces that lead good people to do bad things, it’s not a super in depth article, or the best research article, but I think the information is good.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-travis-bradberry/14-psychological-forces-t_b_9752132.html

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    -Jake

    1. We’re getting a bit in the weeds here. I’m not arguing that there is a immoral god. I am arguing that, faced with the severe lack of any rational, reasonable, or scientific evidence for a deity, and faced with the overt indifference of the universe (good things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people), it seems that there likely is no such being at all.

      I do not believe that a god created childhood leukemia. I believe that is a fluke of biology; just as one would expect from an imperfect, evolutionary process that copies complex molecules. If you believe in a god as the creator and designer of all things, you have to believe that He *did* create childhood leukemia. That He created the parasitic worms who drill into the eyeballs of children, blinding them for life. That a being would do that seems pointless, cruel, and, since there is no evidence for it, unlikely in the extreme.

      I have read some of the apologetics you point to. If you study the logical fallacies, you will find them represented in abundance. Moving goalposts. Shifting of burden. Special pleading. Think of all the LDS apologetics you’ve now read. Do you see any commonalities?

      God used to be all-powerful. But now, since we now recognize that as a fallacious and illogical argument, He’s “maximally” powerful. He used to appear to people all the time, back before recording devices, etc., but now, it’s a “new covenant”, or some other convenient excuse.

      The Book of Abraham used to be a direct translation of Egyptian papyrus. But, now that we can read hieroglyphics, it’s an “inspired translation.”

      My dad was given a blessing that he would live for many more years the night before he died. But, “It’s God’s will. Thy will be done.” I wonder what our religious friends would have said had he lived? Special pleading. Moving the goalposts.

      Abraham is appalling, and it doesn’t matter how old Isaac was. Doesn’t matter if he was willing or not. God commanded an inherently evil act; the murder of an innocent. Abraham was willing to do it. Assuming Abraham was an otherwise good man, it took God (religion) to make him willing to commit an act of evil.

      Yes, that quote is simplistic. There are many other irrational beliefs that can cause good people to do bad things; nationalism, xenophobia, sexism, bigotry, racism. I think, however, the point is made that otherwise good people can often be convinced to perform evil deeds because of irrational belief. Hence the importance of ensuring that your beliefs are rooted in reason and rationality. Hence the importance of withholding believe until good, reasonable, rational evidence is produced.

      In your analogy of Claude and The Hunchback, having not read the book, and going only by your description, Claude was already an evil man who used religion to commit further evil. In this case, religion is blameless. How about Brigham Young? Was he a true believer? Who honestly believed that Blood Atonement was essential to God’s plan? No way to truly know, but I think the men at Mountain Meadows were true believers… Most were probably “good men” lead to do unspeakable evil by irrational belief; in their leaders, their prophet, and their god.

      Cheers,
      Justin

      P.S. – I would be highly skeptical of the Godandscience.com’s understanding of science, biology, and zoology. He absurdly states, “No other mammals kill arbitrarily.” This is blatantly false. Look up chimpanzees and wolves, for a starter. Chimps have horrific territorial battles in which many chimps are injured and killed. Wolves will sometimes going on “surplus killings”, killing many, many more animals than they can consume and leaving them rotting in the dust. Other animals, including herbivores, kill one another mating battles.

  3. Always good to hear your thoughts and insights, what do you think about the origin of the universe? If there is no creator. How did the universe come to be? The Big Bang has been “proven”. But how did it happen? Why did it happen (can this question be answered)? Where did matter come from? Where did the laws of nature come from? If they always were, how do we know it?

    In speaking to the illogical atheist that believed his cat farted the universe…, I did some math for him. If you’d like, I can look up all the old links to these numbers, but I calculated the chance of you existing (biology, your parents meeting, sperm and eggs cells coming together, etc), on the earth (which has life on it), in this specific place of the universe.

    For the complicated universe/earth placement numbers, I got them from Oxford Mathmatical Physicist Roger Penrose.

    I got the other numbers from various sources, but I couldn’t find all the numbers I wanted (such as the probability that humans specifically would come to be) (I didn’t include any numbers I didn’t trust either) but I calculated your existence being a probability of around 1 in 10^2685163

    That’s 1, followed by 2685163 zeroes.

    In comparison, there are 10^80 molecules in the entire observable universe. So that is an incredibly huge number.

    My graphing calculator just gives me an error, my scientific did the same. Google’s calculator just referred to it as 1 in infinity.

    This is why many (but not all) mathmatical physicists come to a conclusion that a force interfered with the laws of nature. Now, the lack of another explanation is not an explanation of itself. But from a statistical standpoint, it appears that it would make sense if there was a creator who had interfered to make such an occurance possible. To me, to assume that 1 out of infinity was bound to happen (which some secular naturalists claim), is a ridiculous statement.

    A Creator that always has been, and always will be, would explain how the laws of nature, science, and everything came to be. It would explain why we exist despite the almost nonexistent chance that we would. It would explain where matter came from, and it would answer why the universe came to be.

    From the LDS Bible Dictionary, it says “All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge”. The whitewashed history narrative of Mormon origins makes me wonder how any Mormon who learns the true history could still have “faith”, but that’s besides the point.

    Proverbs 12:1 also says “whoever hates correction is stupid”. I think faith should be based on facts, and evidence, and correction should not be feared.

    It seems you are right about GodandScience, other mammals do indeed kill arbitrarily.

    After my research, it seems much more stastically probable that there is a creator. Any other argument similar to the claim that “(creation/Big Bang/ life on earth/humans existing, etc) was bound to happen”, seems far less logical to me. I’m not “bound to” win the lottery given enough time. I have to buy tickets to even have a chance.

    What do you think about the origin of the universe? And earth, and life, and humans?

    1. One of the most rewarding realizations that I have come to as a skeptic and an atheist is that “I don’t know” is a perfectly wonderful answer to a question.

      What do I think about the origin of the universe? I don’t know.

      Current scientific tools and knowledge don’t allow us to look back past The Big Bang. Until we develop different tools and theories, “I don’t know” will have to suffice. That’s OK with me, because it means that we will keep learning, keep thinking, and keep searching. On the other hand, saying, “God did it”, without any evidence for such is deeply unrewarding.

      I believe the argument that you are making with math is commonly known as the “fine tuning of the universe” argument, or the “argument from design.”

      An analogy; I have a dog. He lives in the house with me. The house provides shelter, water, food, a bed, a couch. Everything my dog needs to stay comfortable and happy. But that house was not built for him. It simply suits him and happens to make him comfortable.

      A similar, more famous analogy from author Douglas Adams:

      “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything is going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

      Richard Dawkins observes that, even if the chances of a planet evolving life is one in a trillion, then based on the number of stars and the subsequent number of planets in the universe, it’s happened a staggering number of times. Regardless of the odds, since we are able to ask the question, it has happened at least once. We likely exist as a side-effect due to the properties of the universe, rather than the universe having properties in order to host us.

      “It appears that it would make sense if there was a creator who had interfered to make such an occurrence possible.”

      What evidence do you have that such a “Creator” exists? Or maybe evidence for a universe modifying pixie? A turtle who carries the universe upon his back? Maybe the universal constants aren’t, and we are merely in a period of life-promoting values. Maybe they will shift in 1,000,000 years. I don’t have any evidence for that, but isn’t it possible?

      The time to believe something is after you have evidence for it, not before. I don’t have any evidence for shifting universal values, or pixies, or a turtle, or a creator, so I withhold belief until presented with that evidence.

      An undetectable “creator” who has always existed and always will exist again reminds me of Sagan’s dragon. Maybe there is a creator out there, but what is the difference in a creator I can’t test for, nor have evidence for and no creator at all?

      “Faith should be based on facts, and evidence”, but if you have facts and evidence, for what reason would you need faith? Hebrews observes, “faith is the substance of things hoped for.” I don’t believe that wishing for something is a good way to know what is true.

      Answering your final question, “I don’t know.” Not knowing, and the scientific search for more evidence is far more rewarding that assuming or wishing or hoping what I want to be true is true.

      Cheers,
      Justin

  4. I’m glad that you are honest enough to say “I don’t know”. Presuppositional views, and assertions not based on evidence are often the positions held by Mormons I have found.

    I was attempting to address your claim ” faced with the severe lack of any rational, reasonable, or scientific evidence for a deity”. Emphasis on rational and reasonable. It’s rational, and reasonable to believe in a divine creator from a statistical standpoint (So long as there is actual evidence of a creator).

    Mark Twain once defined faith as ““believing what you know ain’t so.” I’ve also heard people say “Faith takes over where reason leaves of”. I think both of those are definitions of Blind faith.

    Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

    When I hear “hoped for”, I wonder, “Is faith merely wishful thinking?”. Words in other languages don’t always have an equal. This is a list of 14 (foreign) words with no english equivalent that I think would be nice to have words for. http://mentalfloss.com/article/28915/14-more-wonderful-words-no-english-equivalent

    But back to the point, the greek word ελπιζω is translated into “hoped for”. But it’s not the same as we might say “I hope it’s sunny next week”. It indicates confident expectation. The kind of “confidence” we would have when we have good reason to believe something.

    Faith is confidence in things that you have not experienced with your senses. I have never broken my femur, but I can have confident expectation that it would be extraordinarily painful, although I’ve never felt that pain. It’s not believing without reason, rather, believing in something unseen, not experienced, etc, that we have good reason to believe.

    “”Come now, let us reason together” says the Lord.”

    I think solipsism is a fascinating concept. The belief that the only thing you can verify is that you have a mind/conciousness. Because you rely on your senses for everything you know, and if your brain was broken, or everything was an illusion, you wouldn’t know the difference.

    I think Solipsism is the most basic worldview that one can have. To recognize the only verifiable thing is that you are experiencing things, which might all be wrong. I think anything beyond Solipsism requires some degree of faith (reasonable expectation). For example, I would imagine you believe that after you die the world will continue to exist. Is it possible to verify such an idea? You would be dead, so you wouldn’t know what happened or not! How do we know that the past actually happened? Can you verify it is reality? You can look to archeology, you can look to observations, and then based on the evidence you make a logical jump to a conclusion. That’s exactly how I see faith though.

    If I asked if you had a hand, and how you knew it, you could draw on observations made with your senses. You could see it, taste it, feel it, you could use it for something, but how can you verify it to me? If everything was an illusion, how would you know differently?

    I hope you don’t see this is pointless speculative questions, but you seriously consider these questions. Solipsism I think is the most basic worldview one can have. If you think I actually exist, you are demonstrating reasonable expectation (faith). You are taking the evidence of my responses, and drawing a conclusion that I actually exist, yet it’s ultimately not verifiable. Solipsism is the ultimate skepticism. How do you know anything?

    To believe in laws of logic requires a type of “Faith”. Laws of logic are not seen, yet you may believe in them. I look at Stephen Hawking’s “the Grand Design” where he makes the claims
    1. Things exist because of spontaneous creation
    2. “Because there is a law of gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing” he makes a point that the laws of nature allow for spontaneous creation.
    3. “multiverse” theory can explain why the laws of nature exist

    The problem with his whole argument, is that it’s circular. Each point is dependent on another. Multiverse theory makes no sense if nothing exists, 3 is dependent on 1, 1 is dependent on 2, 2 is dependent on 3.

    I see no casual reasoning, or logical way to see such a circle as the origin of the universe. I know you say “I don’t know”, which is fine, but the only explanation (If we put aside evidence, just looking at theory) that seems to make rational sense to me, is that of
    1. An infinite non-created creator
    2. This creator could make something from nothing
    3. this creator could make any and everything

    I’m not an expert, nor am I incredibly well spoken, but there has been evidence of God in my life. I’m not talking about “feelings” like Mormons use as evidence. Feelings prove nothing. I’m talking about spiritual experiences (beyond feelings), I’m talking about “coincidences” that I use logic to have reasonable expectation that are not simply “coincidences”. Things that have happened that make no rational sense without there being a God.

    What do you think? This quickly became a pretty long comment, I don’t know if I’ve addressed all of your points either.

    “Logic merely enables one to be wrong with authority” -Doctor Who

    1. “Is faith merely wishful thinking?”

      A good question. I believe that it is. Not knowing can be unsettling. Death is scary. Wishing that you already have all the answers and know that you’ll somehow live forever is reassuring. I can understand that. I have found, however, that being honest in my lack of knowledge, and “knowing” that my time is finite can be strangely reassuring in a different way.

      I’ve not broken my femur either. I have, however, broken my knee, a toe, and sprained my ankle several times. That’s evidence. I can say with confidence, but not quite 100% “know”, that breaking my femur will be painful.

      I have prayed many, many times. When I was young, I “knew” I had received “answers”. “Heavenly Father is real!” “The Book of Mormon is true!” “President Benson is a Prophet of God!” “Jesus died for me!” I realize that those “answers” were much more likely to be an affirmation of my desire for them to be true rather than actually true. Search the ex-Mormon interwebs (MormonThink, Mormon Stories, exmormon on Reddit) and you’ll hear story after story of people who “knew” a thing to be true; who had a true witness of Christ’s restored gospel, only to realize much later that it was only a manifestation of their “wishful thinking.”

      I believe I used this quote before in a previous discussion, but I return to it for it’s literary and comedic value:

      Do you ever think of yourself as actually dead, lying in a box with the lid on it? Nor do I really. Silly to be depressed by it. I mean, one thinks of it like being alive in a box. One keeps forgetting to take into account that one is dead. Which should make all the difference. Shouldn’t it? I mean, you’d never know you were in a box would you? It would be just like you were asleep in a box. Not that I’d like to sleep in a box, mind you. Not without any air. You’d wake up dead for a start and then where would you be? In a box. That’s the bit I don’t like, frankly. That’s why I don’t think of it. Because you’d be helpless wouldn’t you? Stuffed in a box like that. I mean, you’d be in there forever. Even taking into account the fact that you’re dead. It isn’t a pleasant thought. Especially if you’re dead, really. Ask yourself: if I asked you straight off I’m going to stuff you in this box now – would you rather to be alive or dead? Naturally you’d prefer to be alive. Life in a box is better than no life at all. I expect. You’d have a chance at least. You could lie there thinking, well, at least I’m not dead. In a minute, somebody’s going to bang on the lid and tell me to come out. “Hey you! What’s your name? Come out of there!” – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard.

      Solipsism is interesting. I agree that we can’t know that anything beyond our own senses and reasoning. But how else can we behave? I know my senses can be fooled; I’ve seen magic tricks I can’t explain. Optical illusions (“brain failures”) that don’t make sense. Unless I want to live in my closet, afraid and alone, however, I have to use reason, science, and logic to best describe the reality in which I seem to exist. Is it all an illusion? Could be. An interesting point of view, but not one I ultimately find particularly fascinating. I can only interact with the world as it is or appears to be. It appears to be finite. It appears to be predictable (insofar as we can accurately measure the laws of physics, etc.). Scientists tell me when the next eclipse will occur, and it does. They can predict the motion of atoms to create energy, or explosions, or lasers. They can launch probes that travel across the cosmos and arrive within minutes of their predictions. 2 + 2 always equals 4. Thus, though it is certainly possible that I live in a simulator, I have no evidence for that hypothesis. I have no way to measure or test for it. No more than I have evidence or a method of detection for a creator. Thus, I withhold belief until evidence to the contrary is presented. If, ultimately, it is the illusion/simulator/creator itself that prevents me from obtaining such evidence, then the fault of believing incorrectly does not lie with me.

      Stephen Hawking is making claims. Claims backed by science, mathematics, and physics. The “multiverse” is not a theory (in the scientific definition); it is a hypothesis. Again, backed by what we currently know of science, mathematics, and physics. I don’t believe it. I don’t disbelieve it. “I don’t know.” I do feel it certainly has more evidence and a more testable nature than a supernatural creator and law-giver.

      I truly believe that you believe you’ve received evidence of God. I have not. I also know of no way to test for that evidence. I have done as you have previously suggested and prayed, but still have no evidence. Do you have a new and more reliable methodology I might employ?

      “I must take your assertion of what you have done and what you “know.” You, apparently, cannot accept my assertion that I have repeatedly conducted your proposed experiment and spent countless hours pouring out my heart to a god I “knew” was there and would answer my prayers. Except He didn’t and hasn’t, almost as if He isn’t there. I’m pretty sure He isn’t.” – http://www.secular-reality.com/2016/10/07/everything-is-possible/#comment-519

      Whenever we test Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, regardless of whether we use gravitational lensing, or gravitational waves, or nuclear reactions, etc., it is, once more, verified to be accurate. Time after time after time after time. If I drop an apple from the countertop a trillion times, I can be relatively confident that each and every time it will hit the floor with a wet thud. I can say a trillion prayers, however, and never know if or when this proposed god will reveal himself to me. I don’t “know” that a god or creator isn’t there, but, thus far, my lab-work on this hypothesis has been extremely unfruitful. And if this is the only way to obtain evidence, it’s proven itself most unreliable.

      Cheers,
      Justin

  5. “I must take your assertion of what you have done and what you “know.” You, apparently, cannot accept my assertion that I have repeatedly conducted your proposed experiment and spent countless hours pouring out my heart to a god I “knew” was there and would answer my prayers. Except He didn’t and hasn’t, almost as if He isn’t there. I’m pretty sure He isn’t.”

    I do not assert that you should somehow know there is a God just because I do. I believe that you don’t know there is a God. I believe you truly did conduct that experiment.

    I also think statistically, a divine creator is way more logical then any other potential explanation for existence. Other explanations are based off of the laws of nature, but then still do not explain where those laws come from. The lack of an explanation is not an explanation, but statistically, and rationally I think a creator makes a lot of sense.

    My point about the word “faith” was based off of the Greek word “πίστις” or “pístis”. (which is used in the Hebrews 11:1) It refers to confident expectation, as opposed to merely wishful thinking. You have confident expectation that breaking your femur will hurt, yet you have not experienced it. “I’ve not broken my femur either. I have, however, broken my knee, a toe, and sprained my ankle several times. That’s evidence. I can say with confidence, but not quite 100% “know”, that breaking my femur will be painful.”

    Some people merely do have wishful thinking, they wish there was a God and so they have “faith” in him. You have what I would call “faith” that breaking your femur will be painful. You may choose not to use the word that way, that’s your choice. When I say I have “faith” in God. I’m not referring to wishful thinking. If there is a God, then I’m a sinner, which would be an odd thing to want to be in my opinion. I think my “wishful thinking” would lead me to the persuasion that there isn’t a God so that I’m not a sinner, and not the other way around if that’s what faith is.

    This is where the concept of solipsism comes into play. Anything beyond that is some amount of confident expectation, and logical assumptions. I cannot predict the future, yet I assume based off of all my prior experiences that when I release a pencil in the air, it will fall to the ground. I make an assumption of the unknowable future, based off of past experiences.

    This is why I see any non-solipsistic worldview as faith based. This is how we live our lives, making assumptions based on past experiences. In court, a lawyer presents “evidence” which is then used to try and persuade everyone that something happened, something which they did not see with their own eyes, or hear with their own ears, or experience for themselves in any way. The lawyer uses evidence to try and persuade people to come to a logic based conclusion, which ultimately they can’t 100% know happened. We attempt to understand the world around us by using what we observe, and then reasoning. You might say that you’re 100% confident that if you release a pencil in midair it will fall, but you cannot predict the future, it’s a very reasonable assumption, but it’s an assumption! You have confident expectation, a reasonable prediction, not knowledge of the future.

    Based partly on my entire life, and culmination of experiences, I have faith in God. Not the LDS church, nor any specific denomination, or other specific church. But faith in God. The LDS church specifically is based on wishful thinking. You read the book of Mormon, and your family, or friends, or the kind missionaries tell you that you WILL receive an answer, and given enough time, you’ll receive one. Whether real, or simply a manifestation of wishful thinking. It reminds me of Scientology in some ways for that reason. It’s semi-brainwashing.

    That is not the argument I’m presenting, I hope you understand that. This last friday, I actually did an interview on the ExMormonFiles, it’ll be airing in 2 weeks on TV, youtube, the website, and as a podcast. Most people who leave the church, do become secular, but not all. The LDS church specifically attacks the Bible, and kinda tries to debunk it. When people leave the church, they often leave all religions behind, and have no trust in the Bible. In my interview, I talk about how the Bible is the main reason I left. I interviewed with a general authority, and with an institute teacher who has been in the CES for over 30 years. I talk about the different things they told me, and how nonsensical some of the things they said were.

    I’m not alone in leaving for the reasons I did. ExMormonFiles have done some really good interviews in the past. Micah Wilder’s is especially good in my opinion. He left the church for Christianity while on his mission. Just because the LDS church is wrong, doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a creation.

    I think the evidence of our lives, and the laws of nature, and our very existence is evidence of organization coming from a higher power. I think the statistical 1 in infinity chance that we would come to be simply through the laws of nature is hard to accept would occur without intervention of some kind. And also hard to accept when there is no explanation for where the laws of nature that the question is based on, came from.

    Based on statistics, reason, and the culmination of my life experience, I have confident expectation that there is a God. I do not expect you to have the same life experience, but I do attempt to share the statistics, and reasoning (although I’m not particularly good at sharing it). I truly believe your prayers have been unfruitful, and if that was the only way and reason to believe in God, it would be incredibly dishonest for you to believe in him. I don’t think it’s the only way to know there is a God though. I find the argument for creation far more compelling then nothing (which many atheists that I’ve spoken to say honestly “I don’t know”). I find the argument for divine intervention to create the laws of nature, and then manipulate them so that we would come to be far more insightful and reasonable then a mere shrug.

    I hope that this makes sense to you, and as always, I’m curious as to what your thoughts on all this are. Looking forward to hearing from you
    -Jake Miller

    1. If prayer doesn’t work, or is, at best, clearly unreliable, how else are we to learn that a creator does exist? How can we be even moderately confident in that hypothesis?

      How do you calculate the probability for something for which there is no evidence? What is the statistical probability of Zeus? Universe creating pixies? A teapot in orbit ‘round Mars?

      The creation of the universe may be extremely unlikely, but, we have evidence for it. The Big Bang may have been extremely unlikely, but we have evidence for it.

      “Other explanations are based off the laws of nature, but then still do not explain where those laws come from.”

      An explanation, without evidence, from a supernatural creator still does not explain where the supernatural creator comes from. It ultimately has no explanatory power. In my opinion, it is even less useful than saying, “I don’t know.” Claiming an explanation before having evidence is self-defeating and stops the search for real knowledge.

      We’ll have to disagree on the definition of faith. As we’ve discussed previously, I define faith as the allowance people give themselves to believe things for which they don’t have evidence. If you have evidence, you don’t need ‘faith.’

      We may define “faith” as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of “faith”. We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence. The substitution of emotion for evidence is apt to lead to strife, since different groups substitute different emotions. – Bertrand Russell

      You assume that the pencil will fall to the ground, based on evidence; your past experiences with gravity. You claim confidence that there is a god. From what do you draw your confidence for the existence of this god? How would I or anyone else devoid of this confidence gain confidence for this god?

      If you were sitting in a jury for a murder trial, how much confidence would you put in the claim that a ghost or a demon or a vampire committed the murder? Perhaps several people make the claim, from the witness box. Would you believe them? Would you put much stock in their stories? Or would you find it more likely that the victim suffered a non-supernatural fate? You weren’t there; so all you have to go on is the evidence presented. A gunshot or a demon? A knife or a vampire? Which is the more acceptable claim? (Occam’s Razor)

      Have you considered the possibility that the same “brainwashing” that affects Scientologists and Mormons may be the same “brainwashing” that leads people to faith in a god? Have you wondered why the culture in which people are raised is a fairly reliable predictor of their future beliefs? Born into an Islamic culture will commonly lead to a faith in Mohammed and the Qu’ran? Born into a Mormon culture will commonly lead to a faith in Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon? Baptists give birth to future Baptists. Hindus give birth to future Hindus. Scientologists give birth to future Scientologists. Clearly it isn’t 100%, but it is a reliable predictor. Why do you suppose that is? If it is the arguments and claims that are valid, and it isn’t simply indoctrination, I would predict that religions would be far more mixed across the globe, instead of having fairly reliable borders.

      Isn’t it a remarkable coincidence almost everyone has the same religion as their parents ? And it always just happens to be the right religion. Religions run in families. If we’d been brought up in ancient Greece we would all be worshiping Zeus and Apollo. If we had been born Vikings we would be worshiping Wotan and Thor. How does this come about ? Through childhood indoctrination. – Richard Dawkins

      My daughter has been taught nothing of the supernatural. She is getting to the age now where she sometimes hears people talk about gods and asks me about them. When I tell her, without any negative commentary, what some people believe, her response is almost always a variation of, “That’s weird!” Her mother and I have never taught her that there is no god, or no supernatural, but without indoctrination, the concept is completely foreign to her. To her, it all sounds like Greek mythology. To her, the god of The Bible may as well be The Galactic Warlord Xenu of Scientology.

      I look forward to listening to your interview. I find transition stories fascinating. I likely spend entirely too much time to listening to various Mormon-themed podcasts. Please send me a notice when it goes live so that I don’t forget!

      Why do you accept The Bible as the word of this god, rather than the Qu’ran? If we apply the same skepticism to The Bible as might be applied to The Book of Mormon, why do we not reach the same conclusion? Both books were written by admittedly flawed human beings who claimed to be prophets who spoke to God. There are many, many, many other manuscripts written during Biblical times by others who claimed to be prophets, who claimed to speak to and for God, but those were NOT included in The Bible. Why not? Why do you accept the books compiled by ancient Catholics, but not The Gospel of Thomas or any of the other Gnostic Gospels? To which version of The Bible do you hold? Do you follow the words of 1 and 2 Maccabees, like Catholics, or do you reject them as Baptists do? What methodology did you employ in order to validate your decision as correct?

      Either God isn’t there, or He surely doesn’t want or need me to believe in Him. If the best and only evidence you can provide me is “It looks like it’s designed”, then I am woefully unconvinced – as well as unconcerned – that a god exists. The universe works precisely as if He isn’t there; and, again, I’m pretty sure He isn’t.

      In the end, it sounds like you just have to have faith (my definition); but I don’t have any faith, and no one can seem to provide me with a reliable method to obtain it.

      If you’ve not seen it, I’d recommend watching ‘Letting Go of God’ by Julia Sweeny (of SNL fame). It’s a funny and interesting performance in which Julia talks about how her faith and belief in God evolved over the years.

      Good to hear from you, as always. I look forward to hearing your interview.

      Cheers,
      Justin

  6. I just saw your two ebooks. Holy crap that’s a lot of writing! I’m really glad you kept those conversations, and compiled them. Since I’ve had a change of faith, some people accuse me of never having believed in the LDS church in the first place, and those ebooks show how I tried to defend my faith however possible. My faith certainly has evolved since then. Evolving faith is a good title for that. This has been a long process, and it’s cool to have it documented. Here is a link to the interview I was in on ExMormonFiles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOndnDuXW1U

    I was nervous, and just kinda ended up smiling the whole time. But I’m grateful I got to tell my story.

    In response to your comments, prayer absolutely works. The issue I find with some faiths, is that they are based on feelings. Feelings are so unreliable. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

    There are many different types of evidence. What type are you looking for might be a good question for me to ask.

    Circumstantial Evidence – is used to infer something based on a series of facts separate from the fact the argument is trying to prove. It requires a deduction of facts from other facts that can be proven and, while not considered to be strong evidence, it can be relevant in a workplace investigation, which has a different burden of proof than a criminal investigation. It’s like the finger print at the scene of a crime. I’ve presented this type evidence, and I recognize that it’s weak, but it is evidence.

    Anecdotal Evidence – Which is based mostly on experiences. Which I’ve shared some of. Again, weak, but still evidence.

    Testimonial Evidence – Similar to Anecdotal Evidence, but not quite the same.

    Documentary Evidence – Which I’m pretty sure the Bible qualifies as. People writing about seeing God, or having different interactions with him.

    Prima Facie Evidence – Which I attempted to present, but if I recall correctly, didn’t do very good at. If you believe in reason, science, logic, supernatural, and really everything by default, then you’ll believe in God.

    Are you familiar with “Uniformity in Nature” and the principal of Induction in science? I found this really fascinating article from princeton.edu about it.

    https://www.princeton.edu/~grosen/puc/phi203/induction.html

    It concludes with “When we are confronted with a natural belief — a belief that comes to us as naturally and as inevitably as breathing — we are rationally justified in acquiescing in it (provided it is not contrary to reason). A belief can be rational in this sense even though we cannot supply any convincing arguments for it, and this is a very important suggestion.”

    That quote is the defense of the belief that the future will be like the past. It’s an assumption that most atheists make, but lack any convincing argument for. It’s an assumption of reality. I think you have “faith” using your own definition of faith, in this idea. How do you ultimately know the future will be like the past? Without that belief, it’s very hard to believe in science or history, or a “secular reality”.

    Many atheists hold people to universal standards of morality. They become confused between two ideas. One being that morals are made by individual, and each person can decides them for themselves. The other is that there is a standard everyone should be held accountable for.

    The child molester that we have locked up in prison right now that has a different set of morals then we do, recognizes that we live according to the second idea, not the first. We set up laws and standards. We have a sense of right and wrong that we try to enforce on other people. We tell people what they can and can’t do, and what they should and shouldn’t do. If morals are up to individuals to determine, whose to ultimately say what’s right and wrong? We live in such a way that we try and hold people, like the child molester, to a universal standard of right and wrong. I don’t know an Atheist who can account for that belief in their worldview.

    I also know Atheists who think that honesty, and logical integrity are important. They think that everyone should use reasoning, and they dislike when people don’t. Why should anyone care about logic and reasoning if we are no more than stardust in a cosmically indifferent universe? Why would it ultimately matter? Why should we care about morals? Or reasoning?

    How do you account for those without a universal standard? In science, we use “constant variables”. Without the constant variable, there is no comparison to understand anything about the experiment. Without a constant, you can’t tell what is changing, or what is happening, or make sense of it. God is my constant variable. He has no beginning, or end. He is the beginning and the end. All things come from him. He is the standard, he is the constant, he is the foundation from where all things come from. I’m not sure if I’m saying this in a way that makes sense to you. It seems to me though, that many atheists live their lives under ideas that they cannot account for in their own worldview.

    I reject the Quran for the same reasons I reject the Book of Mormon. I’m not sure if you’re familiar, but Mohammad’s story is very similar to Joseph Smiths. He was visited by an angel, he wrote a book “he couldn’t possibly have written on his own”. And he ended up a polygamist. His followers, like Mormons, change their belief in the Bible. Mormons reject the Bible wherever it contradicts their theology. Even with the JST Bible they reject where it “isn’t translated correctly”. Why did Joseph Smith bother to translate it if it’s still wrong? Muslims believe that Jesus wasn’t actually the son of God, nor did he claim to be. They reject everything about that, and attribute it all to being written in by the followers after his death. Both are based on feelings.

    The Bible was written by imperfect people, but as God’s word, it cannot be imperfect. Or God is a liar, and if God’s a liar, then he’s not God. That’s why some Christians get very passionate about the Biblical Inerrency idea. How much studying have you done post-mormonism on the canonization of the Bible? Just wondering. I was taught a lot of lies about the canonization of the Bible as an LDS person. I still haven’t sorted it all out quite yet. I read “Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery. ” which is a fascinating book if you’ve never heard of it. It talks a lot about some of those other manuscripts, and artifacts, and some historical forgeries that have happened. There’s a lot of information in it, and I’m not sure I got it all, but I think it’d be a good read. I got the audio book on the Overdrive app from my local library.

    I don’t necessarily reject the gnostic gospels. Nor the apocrypha. I haven’t read it all, I’m studying it, but I don’t yet have a conclusion. The Book of Dragon, is actually way more disappointing then the title would suggest by the way. I don’t label myself under a denomination, or specific church. I don’t take the ideology of one man, and make it my theology. I study the Bible that I have, which is a KJV with LDS headers and footnotes. I just consider myself a Christian and do the best I can to follow Jesus.

    I find many of the arguments against the Bible to be quite weak. The arguments against the Book of Mormon on the other hand, are quite strong.

    I don’t have the mind of God, I don’t read his thoughts. I would recommend you read Luke 15 concerning this.

    I think a “it looks designed” argument is a lot more compelling then “I don’t know” would be.

    What do you mean, “the universe works precisely as if he wasn’t there”? If you were to believe in God, would the universe work differently? I really don’t understand this statement. The website I provided a link to earlier says “A matter of fact proposition has the following feature: both it and its denial are fully conceivable, possible, and non-self-contradictory.”

    What would a universe with God look like to you? What would a universe without God look like? If we cannot conceive both different, opposite universes, how can I accept your statement as any kind of truth?

    Justin, I think you do have faith in many things, according to that article about induction. I think with faith in God as a universal constant, you could account for those things you already believe, but cannot support in your worldview. I always love to hear from you and am dying to know what your thoughts on all this are. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    -Jake

    1. Indeed it was a lot of writing, on both our parts. I was truly surprised to see how much it was once it was compiled in one place. Please let me know if you feel I’ve been unfair at all. For the most part, I just copied-and-pasted what we had written, but I did fix a few grammatical issues, capitalization, etc. It was occasionally a little difficult as our conversation wandered over different posts. Just let me know if there is a problem and we can resolve it.

      How do you know that prayer works? It seems not to have worked for me. I have never seen/heard/experienced anything supernatural of which I am aware. I have never had a “sign” or a “witness.” Through all my prayers, I have never experienced anything more than a “feeling”, and if that isn’t what I am looking for, what should I be looking for? How can I and other skeptics come to know the same as you?

      Neither anecdotal nor testimonial evidence is of any use for such immense claims. Do you accept the testimonial and anecdotal evidence of LDS members who talk about the power of Priesthood blessings? Members who will live and die on their experiences with powerful laying-on-of-hands? Curing injuries, cancer, casting out demons? Their testimonies about The Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, The Book of Abraham? How about Catholics? Who have seen myriad of “miracles” from The Virgin Mary? Are they convincing to you?

      Circumstantial evidence, as you point out, is weak evidence. For something as important as God and the supernatural, I need something far more compelling.

      I disagree that The Bible qualifies as any kind of evidence; any more than The Odyssey, or The Iliad, or The Qu’ran. There is no compelling evidence, outside of The Bible, for the enslavement of Jews by Egyptians. No physical or independent evidence for Moses and his plagues. No physical or independent evidence for The Exodus. No physical or independent evidence for a global flood.

      As we have discussed, at length, you and I define faith VERY differently, and cannot come to an agreement. I do not have “faith” that the future will be like the past. I have “trust” and “expectations” that the future will be like the past. I trust and expect it to be so because I have trustable, reproducible evidence that it has been so. If even one time I dropped an item and it floated rather than falling, my trust and expectations in gravity would be irrevocably altered. Demonstrate to me how I can have a trustable, reproducible evidence for the supernatural and a god, and I will trust and expect those.

      “I don’t know an atheist who an account for that belief in their worldview.”

      Life is preferable to death. Not-harm is preferable to harm.

      Murderers, rapists, slavers, go to prison for violating these ethical positions. In The Bible, they are commanded and allowed to continue their crimes. (Numbers 31:17-18, Leviticus 25:44). Is that the universal standard to which you hold? If God commanded you to kill your unbelieving neighbors and enslave their children, would that be a moral act? Some might claim that God might never command such a thing, He has in the past. What is to keep Him from commanding it again?

      Our (society/human beings) understanding of morality changes. If I had lived at some other point in history, I may have considered slavery to be moral (or, at least, not immoral). I believe NOW, however, that it is immoral, was always immoral, and will always be immoral. Do you? Though The Bible endorses, defends, and encourages it? As a member, I would have defended Joseph Smith’s polygamy as a moral necessity, as commanded by Heavenly Father. I was wrong. I will be again. In twenty years, I may come to the conclusion that eating animals is an immoral act.

      “Give me veganism and temperance, O Lord, but not yet…not yet.”

      Our understanding of morality changes as our societies change and as our knowledge about the universe and ourselves change. In fact, you can see it in The Bible itself; many Christians defend The Bible by eschewing the more “immoral” parts of The Old Testament and attempting to embrace the softer, kinder parts of The New Testament (but TNT still supports slavery; Col 3:22, Ephesians 6:5, 1 Peter 2:18)

      Do you consider what The Westboro Baptist Church does (picketing funerals, praying for genocide, thanking God for AIDS) moral? They claim moral authority and moral standards from that same book. Catholics claim their authority from the same book, but have different standards of morality. Greek Orthodox claim their authority from the same book, but have different standards of morality. How is that constant? How is that measurable? If so many can interpret that same book, with the same words, so many different ways? How do you know which of those words come from God and didn’t come from man?

      I don’t know that there is any “morality” for using logic and reason. I would argue that NOT using it, and believing things that cannot be demonstrated, can and will lead to terrible decisions – like buying snake oil, or not taking your kids to a doctor in the “knowledge” that god will heal them, or refusing blood transfusions, or giving your daughter away to a prophet who claims divine authority to choose his wives, or detonating a bomb to kill people believed to be infidels.

      If, on the other hand, I use logic and reason, I ask for evidence before buying the snake oil. I trust the evidence that medical science is the best way to treat sickness and injury. I recognize that a blood transfusion is necessary, regardless of what a bronze-age book says. Discover that some prophets are simply trying to make profits and are not deserving of my obedience. And that killing people, even if they disagree with me, and a book says it’s right, is immoral (“Life is preferable to death.”)

      If I may use a bit of comedy for a moment to address your dismissal of The Book of Mormon and The Qu’ran:

      “God spoke to Joseph, out in a forest, when no one was around…”

      “God spoke to Mohamed, out in a cave, when no one was around…”

      “God spoke to Moses, up on a mountain, when no one was around…”

      “God spoke to Elijah, out in a cave, when no one was around…”

      I detect a pattern here.

      I’ve done a bit of study on the canonization of The Bible (I recommend “A History of God” by Karen Armstrong, a nun and historian), which is why I believe it to be a rich mythology created by an ancient people and compiled from a series of re-written, re-written, re-written frail documents, which were then “arbitrarily” chosen from amongst a much, much larger set of re-written, re-written, and re-written documents, by clergy-politicians who chose based on what was most important to them at the time. Though I clearly believe Joseph Smith’s story to be implausible in the extreme, I’ve always thought The Book of Mormon origin story is a better story than The Bible; a complete record engraved on unchanging metal plates, rather than the aforementioned “election” process.

      How do you believe The Bible to have been written? Was each word inspired by God to be written and eventually chosen for inclusions? If God merely inspires his prophets to write His Word, why are they any different from Joseph Smith or Mohamed? Why are Joseph and Mohamed different from Elijah? Could they have not been similarly inspired by God to write down new philosophies and commandments?

      Assume for a moment that I am a believer in God, and in The God of The Bible, but I am unsure as to which version of The Bible I should hold? The oldest versions of The Bible are already radically” different from one another (as I’ve pointed out before – Compare the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_codices_Sinaiticus_and_Vaticanus). Which one is the infallible word of God and which is heresy? The Catholic Bible has more books than The New International Version and King James Version. What methodology should we use to determine which is the actual word of God, and which might lead me astray? Should I incorporate the words of the Gnostic gospels (Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Judas) into my beliefs and follow their philosophy and commandments? Are they also The Word of God? What about Maccabees? It was included in one Bible, but not another. If there is no reliable methodology by which we can determine which is which, how can I trust that any of this text represents the will of God?

      Honestly, I find The Bible more interesting than The Book of Mormon, but only insomuch as it is a more historically significant than The BoM. Ultimately, however, it seems to me that they contain equally significant amounts of morality, history, and evidence.

      People thought there was a face on Mars. Leading many people to believe there must be an intelligence on Mars designing pyramid like structures, and canals, etc. It wasn’t true. It just “looked” designed.

      My universe with God: http://www.secular-reality.com/2015/08/05/bowing-to-an-empty-throne/

      …if there suddenly was a God, I would expect a great deal to change. I’d expect that everyone who faithfully belonged to God’s chosen sect would never get sick. They’d never be cheated for being charitable. They’d never go cold or hungry. If, for some reason, a faithful servant did get cancer, or diabetes, or other chronic disease, prayers and blessings should ALWAYS work – otherwise, what is their purpose? Prayer would always work, thereby saving the rest of the congregation from having to uncomfortably rationalize away the many documented failures.

      Furthermore, I can still not fathom any logical, rational, or benevolent reason for natural disasters, diseases, parasites, etc. in a universe designed by a kind, loving, and benevolent god. In a godless universe, however, they are merely the unfortunate accidents of physics, chemistry, and biology; just as one might expect.

      It is possible that I do have faith, an unsupported, irrational belief, in something of which I am currently unaware is a belief. I don’t know that I do, but if I did, and someone showed me that my belief was not supported by trustable, repeatable evidence, I would evaluate it, and, if necessary, discard it.

      I intend to listen to your podcast this afternoon at work. I am looking forward to it. As we have both proven ourselves to be trustably and repeatably long-winded (long-typed?), I am sure you can expect a response 🙂

      Cheers,
      Justin

    2. I did watch your interview. I don’t really have too much to say. Mostly, I just wish the host would shut up and just let you tell your story 🙂 He interrupts and talks over you a lot.

      Cheers,
      Justin

  7. Sorry for the delayed response. I have a full time 50+ hour job, and just started a part time job on top of it. My schedule has been incredibly packed as a result! Are you familiar with CARM? I have had two barbecues with Matt Slick. The founder of CARM. I got to sit in his library (which is pretty awesome) and listen to him discuss with his atheist neighbor. It was amazing. If you would like to have a discussion with him, I’d be happy to set it up. Either on his radio, or over the phone, or email, or something.

    I’d like to share some quotes and summation of an epic debate over God’s existence. The speaker I’m quoting from is Paul Viggiano, I’ve also mixed in some of my own words, so it’s not word for word quoting, this debate is available on youtube, and is called “Epic Debate Over God’s Existence”. Jeff Durbin, Sye Ten Bruggencate, and Paul debate against Bruce Gleason, Andrew Breeding, and Sean Taylor. The video is from Apologia.

    Some atheists demand evidence for God. They’ll mention things like the splitting of the moon, the rearranging of the stars, the elevating of the pulpit, the healing of the sick, they’ll say “this is what I need to see”, “this is what I require”. I would now like to ask. “How would these things prove to you the existence of God? How would you know these things are not merely tricks? Or the power of the Aliens? Or the power of the Russians? Or some other undiscovered phenomenon.”

    If you have to exhaust all other natural possible explanation, how long would it take to study the event that had happened? I would propose that never in your lifetime would you ever get to where you would accredit such a phenomenon to God. You’d never get there.

    The scientific method cannot lead to the truth about the scientific method. You may say, I will only believe in that which is testable, observable, measurable, and repeatable. (Which is basically “I only believe in what I see”.) But this statement is an immaterial concept. So the moment you say “I only believe in what see” you’ve contradicted yourself and engaged in a self refuting life and worldview which must be abandoned.

    Faith, and belief are the same words in scriptures. And if taken in the understanding of there original definitions and languages, they do not mean belief which is not based on proof as is sometimes even suggest in modern English dictionaries. It does not mean “belief against sound evidence” in the original languages even if the definition has now changed.

    What a person believes, is their starting point for inquiry. It is what they hold to be true “a priori”, it is what they believe before they believe anything else. It cannot be proved empirically, because whatever you would use to prove it would become your new a priori. It would become your new presupposition. What we believe, is the means by which we evaluate other claims of metaphysics, and ethics, and epistemology and everything else.

    If you believe in science, and critical thinking and logic, you state your a priori convictions. You demonstrate that you are a man of faith, who has no authoritative, clear, or professed basis for the faith which you so vehemently espouse.

    We all believe in many things which we do not see, time and energy, space, mass, subatomic particles, love, courage, justice, virtue. These are necessary realities we all know exist, yet we see none of them. We know they exist without seeing them. The most plausible explanation for the reality we do observe is the acknowledgement of and acquiescence to an eternal self existent God from whom all things come. It explains everything. It explains material, and immaterial. Without him, nothing can be explained.

    If we sit here and debate over empirical evidence, and apparent contradictions you see in the scriptures that you don’t even believe, we won’t get anywhere.

    For example: Leviticus 25:44 In the fallen world that mankind had created, slavery was a reality. God permitted its existence and worked within its system. Slaves were more domestic servants than oppressed field workers. Slaves could be the captives of war (Num. 31:25-47), subjects of debt to be worked off (2 Kings 4:1), born into slavery (Gen. 17:12-13), or entered into voluntarily (Exodus 21:5-6). In the Ancient Near East, some slaves were able to own other slaves and even conduct business. In Exodus 21:2 a slave was required to be set free after six years of service. Though slavery carries a very negative connotation here in America, it was not nearly as bad as it was here in the first 100 years of our nation’s existence.

    As I said above, God works within the fallen system to bring about His will. Slavery was permitted by God, and rules of treatment of slaves were given so they would not be mistreated. https://carm.org/bible-difficulties/genesis-deuteronomy/you-may-buy-slaves

    And Numbers 31. Which I’m guessing you didn’t read at all? The very beginning of the chapter speaks about God leading the Jews in vengeance against the Midianites. They get the armies together, and go to war. The Israelites won, and killed all the men, but spared the women and children. Then the verse you referenced popped up. The Israelites brought all these captives to Moses, who then said to kill all the boys. The women of the Midianites had been seducing the Israelites. They’d seduce them, and then get them to bow down to their idols and worship them. Moses said to slay all those women who had been with men too. But the others, who obviously had no part in the seduction, or the war, or the other problems were all spared.

    The men who did the killing were instructed to stay outside the camp for 7 days. They had to do intense cleaning processes too. It wasn’t a minor thing. If they did the killing or had touched a dead body, they’d have to stay outside the camp for 7 days and go through the whole purification process. Soooo, what contradiction do you see with that? God is just, and merciful. Vengeance was Just, sparing the innocent was merciful.

    There were guards who saw the resurrected Jesus, and it meant nothing to them. What point is the evidence, if it can mean nothing to people so easily? In the bible, during the time of Moses and Jesus, those people were the most hard hearted, and they saw the most signs and miracles.

    The demand for evidence is a flawed request, with a legitimate desire. That God would make himself known.

    If signs and evidence will not suffice, what will? God has revealed himself to us. It’s not through reasoning, or “at the end of our calculations”. It’s self evident, it’s something the creature can’t not know. It’s in our nature to push it down though. We can deceive ourselves, and the longer we do, the harder it becomes to see things clearly.”

    As far as an appeal to morality, you stated “Catholics claim their authority from the same book, but have different standards of morality. Greek Orthodox claim their authority from the same book, but have different standards of morality. How is that constant?”

    What is the different standard of morality claimed by Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodox traditions? Are you talking about creedal traditions? Or Biblical morality? I do not see the contradiction of morality that you’re talking about. If you’re going to use a select few bad misrepresentations of self identified “Christians” who have obviously deviated from the truth of the bible, shall I start to list famous atheists who inspired mass murder? Joseph Stalin’s atheistic regime killed tens of millions of people. Was what he did wrong? He too was an atheist? How do you know it was wrong if you do? If I was to become an atheist, how would I avoid ending up the same as him?

    As far as disputations for which bible edition to study. If you were a believer, I would explain to you that there are different types of translations. From the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts, there are very literal translations. Which are difficult to read in English, because there are words and phrases that don’t carry over well. There are also more “flowing” versions that have been designed to make more sense to an English speaker. The versions I would recommend would be the NASB, KJV (or NKJV), ESV, or NIV. I personally love to switch around. I’m a fan of the language of the KJV, but when I am confused about phrases, or word usage, I like to reference the manuscripts in the original languages and take a look at the words. I’ll also look at what other versions translated it as. The NIV is the easiest to read of them all if you want a flowing one.

    Where did the bible come from? God inspired various people to write the bible over the course of around 1500 years. The Old Testament has 39 books written in Hebrew, and the New Testament has 27 books written in Greek. “The New Testament tells us that Scripture is inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) and that the Holy Spirit is the one who moves people in this process of writing (2 Pet. 1:21). Second, the people of God, the Jews in the Old Testament period and the Christians in the New Testament period, recognized what is and is not the word of God. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” This means that the Christians (the sheep) hear God’s voice in the manifestation of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. They accepted those books that we now have today in the Bible because God worked though the Church to give us the New Testament. Therefore, the Bible comes from those who are moved by the Holy Spirit both to write and to recognize God’s word.”

    “In the Old Testament, God moved various Jews to write the books. These men were recognized as prophets because they were often able to work miracles which verified the authority given to them by God. In the New Testament period, the criteria by which canonicity was determined was basically as follows. First, the documents needed to be penned by the apostles of Jesus or those who were under the apostles’ direction. Second, the writings had to demonstrate authoritative style and theological orthodoxy consistent with other writings held to be inspired from God. Third, Christians recognized the writings as authoritative within the church.”
    https://carm.org/where-did-the-bible-come-from

    As far as issues of canonization. A canon is a “standard” or “rule”. It’s the list of authoritative and inspired scriptures. For protestant Christians, they use the 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. For Roman Catholics (and eastern orthodox, Armenians, and coptics) they use the apocryphal books which were added in 1546. Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, The Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), and Baruch.,

    “Thus let shine the light of you before men so that they might see your works and they should glorify the Father of you in the heavens” – Literal English translations of Matthew 5:16 That’s why other translations are different. As the authors of the Bible were inspired by God, unless God is a liar, then we would accept the original work of the authors to be the inerrant word of God. Which bible is true? All of them. I’m not going to tell you you can only read one, and there is only one true one. They are all done by the learning of man, and are translations from one language to a very different language.

    You mention my dismissal of Joseph Smith and Mohammed. The reason I dismiss them, is because they fail the test of a prophet. There are many more verses about this subject, but to be short as this is already a very long post, I’ll show three.

    Deuteronomy 13 warns that a prophet must teach correctly about God.
    Chapter 18 tells us the prophet’s prophecies must come to pass.
    Galatians 1:8-9 Paul teaches us that even angels can appear with a wrong message. We are to compare the message with the teachings of the apostles.

    Joseph and Mohammed taught differently about the nature of Jesus Christ than the what the Apostles taught. Mohammed denied him as God. Joseph Smith denied him as the eternal creator. (King Follott Discourse).

    I have one more point I’ll address in a second post

  8. You stated what you thought a universe with a God would look like. You said: “I’d expect that everyone who faithfully belonged to God’s chosen sect would never get sick. They’d never be cheated for being charitable. They’d never go cold or hungry. If, for some reason, a faithful servant did get cancer, or diabetes, or other chronic disease, prayers and blessings should ALWAYS work – otherwise, what is their purpose? Prayer would always work, thereby saving the rest of the congregation from having to uncomfortably rationalize away the many documented failures.”

    Have you read Job? Or the Gospels? Jesus was crucified. He was hung on a cross, one of the worst deaths that they could give somebody in punishment for a crime of which he wasn’t guilty of. You would expect the people who worship a God who suffered death for them! To not suffer at all?

    The universe you would expect to exist if there was a God is most certainly not the one we live in.

    You would expect Christians to become immortal beings without suffering if there was a God? That’s not what Christians claim, nor what the Bible teaches. From where do you get this false test of God, and then accuse God of failing it?

    Your expectations of God are based off of some delusion you have of a God you made up. I know that’s pretty blunt, but I don’t know how else to put it. They aren’t based off the God of the Bible. Nor the God that Christians historically worship. We are all going to die. Adam and Eve inherited death, as their children, we too will die. So the whole “never get sick” idea and “They’d never go cold or hungry. If, for some reason, a faithful servant did get cancer, or diabetes, or other chronic disease, prayers and blessings should ALWAYS work” ideas that you bring up I think is based off of some sort of “perfect bodies” that won’t get sick, or ailments, or even one day get sick and die. That’s not realistic, nor is that Biblical. That’s not the God’s Christians worship. Honestly, have you ever read the book of Job? I know you study religious texts, but it seems like you’ve never came across Job in the slightest. God doesn’t bow down to your expectations. You don’t conjure him up into what you want him to be. He is what he is. He is who he said he is. Lucky for us, he is perfect, and good. Merciful and Just. Loving and kind.

    “Never cheated for being charitable” That’s direct contradiction to what Jesus and the apostles said what happen. Jesus was betrayed by his friends, he gave the greatest gift mankind could ever possibly have, and he was killed. This whole “Never cheated for being charitable” isn’t real. Nor is it something Christians believe in. Especially the early Christians who were martyred despite their moral, and charitable lifestyles. Ideas such as “turn the other cheek” as opposed to vengeance, aren’t exactly Christians expecting to never be cheated for their charity. They expect it. I expect it. If we suffer in the name of Christ, then it is a good thing.

    You have a presupposition of who God is. Where did you get it? Because it’s not biblical. I don’t know a religion that believes in the God of which you speak. Why can’t you cast it aside, and actually learn of Him?

    A world created by God looks exactly like the one we are living on.

    In your world, that you don’t know where it came from, what’s wrong with natural disasters? What’s wrong with AIDS? What’s wrong with rape? Animals do that to animals. We are animals right? We are highly evolved primates. What’s wrong with monkeys raping other monkeys? What’s wrong with eating babies? On what basis do you complain about parasites in children’s eyes? We are just matter in motion, right? Bipedal protoplasm. Stardust. What does stardust (us) in a purposeless universe care if stardust (the parasite) bumps into stardust (a child)? On what basis is it wrong? Why would that child have more value than that parasite? Why do you care about the suffering of that child more than the life of the parasite? Or why aren’t you just apathetic to both? We are bags of chemical goo, when we die, we return to the dust with no ultimate impact on anything. We live a purposeless existence, so does death matter? Or life?

    You act as if the lives of the people who suffer matter. But if we live in a purposeless, unguided universe, why would they? Do you cry when a bug dies? How about when a rock is smashed? We are matter in motion, all destined to die a pointless death. Where does your sense of value come from? This is a presupposition you have that perhaps you should examine. Why do you complain to me about natural disasters and creatures that bring suffering? What’s wrong with them?

    You live a self contradictory life. Thinking that you only believe in what you see. But you believe in immaterial concepts, such as the belief that you only believe in what you see.

    You speak as if there is no God, and so suffering is just how things are, but then you complain about people who have suffered as if they matter. Why do people have value? Or why should I care? You act as if people shouldn’t suffer. Why not? What’s wrong with suffering in your worldview? Is it “bad”. How do you know? This is a self contradictory way to live. Because I’m sure you think your daughter matters. Along with your wife, and yourself, and probably many others. It’s self contradi

    1. Your first comment popped into “needs moderation”, for some reason. I approved it and it is visible now. Due to the size of our normal responses, personally, I write it in a separate application to avoid a catastrophic failure 🙂

      Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to respond.

      Justin

  9. You make an excellent point. I wouldn’t know that those immense actions are evidence for god. I would know they were evidence of something happening and would wait for an evidence and reason-based explanation.

    I don’t know what would convince me of a god. As I have mentioned previously, however, an all-powerful, all-knowing creator who wants me to know that He exists, should be able to devise a way to accomplish that task. Either He doesn’t, can’t, or doesn’t exist.

    You need to add “falsifiable” to that list of things I will accept. I don’t believe in the scientific method. It isn’t something to believe in. It is a methodology by which we can isolate and test our beliefs, hypotheses, and assumptions.

    I believe in time, and space, and energy, and mass, and subatomic particles because I have testable, observable, measurable, repeatable, and falsifiable evidence for them. I don’t believe in love, courage, justice, and virtue. I experience them. I do not have observable, measurable, repeatable, nor falsifiable evidence for the supernatural. Neither have I ever experienced the supernatural. Thus, I withhold belief in anything supernatural until such evidence is presented.

    You are correct. I do pretty much have to just accept the laws of logic. They are a starting point from which the scientific method is derived. They seem self-evident, and internally consistent.

    “Everything is what it is, isn’t what it isn’t, and nothing is neither or both.” – Matt Dillahunty

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Essay:On_Logical_Absolutes

    “The most plausible cause for the reality we do observe is the acknowledgement of and acquiences to an eternal self-existent God from whom all things comes.”

    Please demonstrate this. This is almost a textbook definition of the “argument from ignorance” fallacy. Another plausible cause for the reality we do observe is String Theory, which is also unproven, and which I do not accept, but at least its supported by some math.

    “God works within the fallen system to bring about His will.”

    Let me re-word this and see if you see the same problem with it that I do.

    “God works within the flawed and broken system that He, Himself, created to bring about His will.”

    Seems to me like designing a house I can’t live in. Pointless.

    You have previously claimed that God is exceedingly respectful of free will. Except when He orders His people to commit genocide against His other people – including murdering innocents long after the battle is done. Do you really think that a magic ritual cleansed these men and their god of their war-crimes? I find these actions immoral, unjustified, and repugnant. Yes, I find in your explanation the same contradictions – their actions were neither just, nor merciful. When is vengeance ever morally justifiable?

    I legitimately desire to know if God exists. Full stop. It’s why I read. Why I watch endless debates. Why I am having this conversation. Over and over again, I believe I have said and demonstrated that. I would ask you to accept and respect that.

    Clearly I am also very hard-hearted. So, where is my Road to Damascus experience? Why was Saul more deserving than I?

    A presuppositionalist argument? I “can’t not know?” I think we’re about done with this debate if you are going to start telling me what I know and don’t know.

    “I know that you’re really an atheist who hates god in your heart, but draws close to him with your lips, deceiving your sense of reason.” (Clarification: This is hyperbole; I don’t believe this, but hope you found it to be as absurd as your assertion that I can’t not know.)

    Neither of those things is going to progress this conversation in the slightest.

    Pardon my specificity. Allow me to restate. You have Biblical Christians who believe that eating pork is a sin. You have others who do not believe that is a sin. You have Biblical Christians who believe that homosexuality is a sin. You have others who believe that homosexuality is not a sin. You have Biblical Christians who believe abortion is murder. You have Biblical Christians who do not believe that abortion is murder. They are all reading the same passages. How can they get to such disparate answers. How do we tell which is right? What methodology do you employ to arrive at your answers?

    I think you’re missing my larger point. If there can be different versions of The Bible, how can you trust which is really the word of God, and which is not?

    Why are there translations at all? Why doesn’t God hand us down His word in our language directly? If God wants us to know His word, and doesn’t want there to be any question about its meaning, why is there not a Jake Bible, and a Justin Bible, and a Matt Slick Bible, and a Matt Dillahunty Bible? Why do I have to trust that ancient bronze age men got God’s word correct? More importantly, why should I? I will assume, for a moment, that God does exist, what evidence is there that The Bible – even in a perfect, 100% original copy, is His word and commandment?

    I dismiss the Biblical prophets for the same reasons you dismiss Joseph and Mohammed. They fail the test of a prophet.

    Mormons claim that Joseph Smith prophesied The Civil War, the move to Utah, etc. etc.
    http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_prophecies.shtml

    Muslims claim that Mohamed too made true prophecies:
    https://www.islamreligion.com/articles/379/prophecies-of-muhammad/

    Which am I to believe? What evidence do you each have for your claims? Why is one claim better than another? How would you convince someone from Saudi Arabia that Mohamed was a false prophet, while Paul was a true prophet?

    If even angels can bear a false message, I feel it safer to withhold belief in angels, prophets, translated texts, and even God.

    Yes. I have read Job. In fact, I think it’s an excellent argument for the wickedness of God. He allows Satan to torture an innocent man. Would you find it acceptable for a father to allow one child to torture another of his children to prove that child’s love for him? I certainly wouldn’t. That “father” belongs in prison.

    Yes. I have read The Gospels. In fact, I think they are excellent arguments for the wickedness of God. He allows one of his children to be tortured and killed by his other children. Would you find it acceptable for a father to allow many of his children to gang up and torture another one of his children? I certainly wouldn’t. That “father” belongs in prison.

    “The universe you would expect to exist if there was a God is most certainly not the one we live in.“

    Exactly.

    Q. “You would expect Christians to become immortal beings without suffering if there was a God?”
    A. Yes.

    My expectations of how a god should be are based off the claims by most religions that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. If these things are true, and such a being exists, I believe my expectations are perfectly justified. As you point out, however, that is clearly not the universe we live in, so either God doesn’t exists, or He isn’t those things. Allowing and commanding slavery, murder, and torture clearly demonstrates his lack of benevolence, or His lack of power to prevent it. That He didn’t create humans with perfect bodies demonstrates either His lack of benevolence or His lack of power to do so. That He didn’t foresee the suffering that these less-than-perfect bodies would experience due to various ailments demonstrates either His lack of benevolence, His lack of power, or His lack of knowledge.

    As you point out, the god I would envision if He were good, knowledgeable, and powerful is not biblical. I believe The God of The Bible reflects the humanity of the people who authored it. A people who believed in warfare, tribalism, slavery, sexism, mysticism, blood magic, etc.

    If this world was created by God, then I have no desire nor justification to worship such a being.

    “Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme Being.” – George Carlin

    I care because I, like most humans, am an empathic being. I care because needless suffering is harmful to our species. I care because we are a social species, who all improve when we help one another. Yes, we are simply matter in motion. No, we don’t have a purpose – except to survive for as long as we can. Isn’t that enough? It is for me. I think it will have to be for you too. To quote your previous book of scripture, “Man is that he might have joy,” and I have plenty.

    “You speak as if there is no God, and so suffering is just how things are, but then you complain about people who have suffered as if they matter.”

    I argue that all of this needless suffering could be immediately abated by a just and capable being. Right now. God could stop it all. He could ensure that no more earthquakes occurred. He could cure all cancer and every other disease. He could move hurricanes away from the faithful. Or, even better, He could have had the foresight to prevent them in the first place. All without even effecting free-will. But He doesn’t, and He didn’t, which makes me question whether such a being exists. As I see no evidence, I have to assume, for now, that He doesn’t.

    Cheers,
    Justin

  10. “I don’t know what would convince me of a god. As I have mentioned previously, however, an all-powerful, all-knowing creator who wants me to know that He exists, should be able to devise a way to accomplish that task. Either He doesn’t, can’t, or doesn’t exist.”

    God is failing a test that you haven’t given him? You don’t know what would convince you of a God? I really do think it’s quite simple when I’m in the mountains. When I study biology, and chemistry. I think it’s obviously ingenious the way everything works and was designed. I think the statistical improbability of the 1 in almost infinity chance that everything would be how it is, would seem to suggest a creator put this together. A creator who would also be able to explain where the laws of nature came from, and where all matter came from, and really everything.

    Could God have done things different than how he did? Sure. Did he? No.

    He could have made a world with no humans, and only hot fudge. He could have made a world of spiders that live in caves. He could have done things we can’t even imagine. What does that matter?

    We live in a world with evil, suffering, and bad things. It seems a flawed argument to say that because God could have made a world without them, that he doesn’t exist at all…

    That’s like telling a sculptor, “that statue you made could have not had those arms that are a real eyesore to look at, so you don’t exist… I don’t know how the statue came to be, and I don’t need to know, but l can’t prove it came from you…”.

    I hope that’s an abundantly clear, ridiculous, illustration. The only thing that you seem to have issues with, are your misconceptions of God. Can there be good without evil? Could God have made good without evil existing? Could he have made us all obtain sustenance from solar energy, and at 5 o clock every day we would all have to go outside and recharge for an hour? What do these “what ifs” prove? Or demonstrate?

    Would it be possible, for an all-knowing God, to know better than you? To have designed things for reasons that you don’t even understand? Would an all knowing God know more than you? And be hard for you to fully understand his decisions?

    About false prophets… You said “I dismiss the Biblical prophets for the same reasons you dismiss Joseph and Mohammed. They fail the test of a prophet.”

    How? A Prophet was supposed to teach the truth about God. They were not supposed to lead us after “other Gods whom you have not known”. They were supposed to have fulfilled prophecies. Then many many many years later, Paul also warned of false prophets that would come. And even an Angel could bring a false message. Not because they’d be real angels, but because they’d be demons disguised as angels of light just like he warned.

    Then 600 years or so later, Mohammed starts teaching some different stuff, and is visited by an angel. He teaches that Jesus wasn’t actually God. He teaches different theology. I haven’t read the Quran, nor am I an expert on Mohammed’s prophecies and quotes. I know he didn’t teach what the apostles taught about God though.

    Then 1200 years after Mohammed, Joseph Smith is visited by Jesus Christ, no wait… God the father! No wait… Both! or… a host of angels!!! Ummmm, we’ll go with Jesus, and the Father. That’ll go better with our new theology!

    He was also visited by the Angel Nephi… Or Moroni… Lets go with Moroni. He’d make a good golden calf to put on top of our buildings…

    Hmmm, let’s get people in on this. I’m gonna write a book that contains a lot of plagiarism of the 1600 KJV Bible. That way if they are Christians, they can read it, and know I’m a prophet, and then trust everything else I say blindly because they only test the one book, because that’s the test of a prophet (if they write at least one good book, they are a prophet (J. K. Rowling?)). Oh! And tell the men that they not only can, but have to have multiple wives. Also, don’t trust black people because they aren’t actually equal, and came from Cain… Need I continue?

    I would need to do more research for Mohammed, but Joseph Smith has had prophecies that have failed in their timeline. They did not come to pass, and the time that they were to come to pass, has passed.

    I reject Mohammed and Joseph Smith as false prophets because they taught different theologies, and different gospels, Gods, and doctrines. A prophet represents God, to the people. They give the word of God to the people. A high priest, represents the people, to God. Anciently, Israelite high priests would do a sacrifice in behalf of all of Israel. When Jesus came, he was the great prophet. He was also the great high priest. What other sacrifice would be needed after the one he did? What more would prophets prophesy of? We have everything up to past the end of the world. As a former Mormon, it’s not like the prophets gave new prophecies at general conference. They would give a talk on faith, or prayer, or something else instead. As those are Abrahamic religions, that use Deuteronomy, I think that’s a fair test of a prophet.

    Again, you stated “I dismiss the Biblical prophets for the same reasons you dismiss Joseph and Mohammed. They fail the test of a prophet.” Which test do which of the prophets fail? You think they all failed? At what given point? Just after the Deuteronomy warnings? Ummm, after Paul? (which excludes all the Biblical prophets, there haven’t been any new Bible prophets since the prophecies of the Apostles in the New Testament.

    I want to be quite clear, you keep bringing up the dad analogy for God. The God of Mormonism, isn’t the ultimate creator of the universe. He isn’t eternal. He’s a polygamist man who grew in exaltation and gave birth to all of us spirit babies with his many wives. Satan, and Jesus are of these spirit babies. There are countless Gods before God, and we too can become Gods.

    This is not the Biblical God for many many many reasons. It sounds a lot like the God that you expect to exist, is a blend of the Mormon God, and what you want/expect. That’s not the Christian God. With the Christian God, we are creatures. He made us, and all other things. He always has been.

    With God, I can explain where things came from. I have a universal constant. Without a point to base relativity, you have no standing point for really anything. With God as a universal constant, you have that for laws of nature, for morality, for logic, for creation. You have answers to life’s “mysteries”, such as death. As a secular humanist, you have some theories, but you don’t really know, do you? That’s why I would make the argument that God explains the reality we do share.

    If I’m sincere, and consistent with my faith, it would only make sense for me to conclude that God made us all. If I’m sincere, and consistent. Wouldn’t I also have to use presuppositional apologetics? You don’t even know what sign would do it for you for you to believe in God, but you’ve decided against him because he’s gotta do something to prove himself to you.

    Faith works with humility. “Lord, I believe, helpst thou mine unbelief”. Doubting Thomas famously needed a sign to believe Jesus was resurrected. He didn’t have faith without seeing, and feeling Jesus. Jesus rebuked him a little for his doubt. I’m sorry if I somehow offended you. I know you’re seeking for God (or at least waiting for him to do something for you). I didn’t mean to offend.

    1. You see evidence for God in nature? In biology? In chemistry? It’s obvious to you that this is evidence for God? So, God does provide evidence for His existence? He doesn’t demand blind faith?

      Then why doesn’t He provide something more concrete? Like a letter? “To Justin Regarding The Existence of God”? As He is all-knowing, surely he must know what I need to hear in order to believe and accept his existence? Why must He remain hidden? Clearly, He has provided evidence which you find to be convincing. Why won’t He provide me with evidence that I would find convincing?

      “What does it matter?” If God could have created a world without needless suffering (disease, parasites, and natural disasters that have no effect on free will) and didn’t, then He is neither good, nor just, nor merciful, nor worthy of worship. That’s why it matters.

      If, however, natural disasters are simply a side-effect of a natural universe, as we have evidence that they are, we, as living beings, must simply deal with them. You claim God is good and just and merciful, but natural disasters and disease and needless suffering seem to refute that claim.

      The world works exactly as if there is no supernatural cause or intervening force. Diseases, parasites, predators, prey are easily explainable by evolutionary interactions. Earthquakes and volcanism are explained by astronomy, physics, and geology. Hurricanes by climatology and geology. No god is necessary nor warranted.

      “Would it be possible for an all-knowing God to know better than you?”

      Possibly. I don’t know. I see no evidence for any all-knowing individual with whom to compare myself. I do know, however, that if I had the ability and choice, I would immediately eliminate needless suffering (and I would have mentioned that slavery was immoral).

      Mormons claim that Joseph Smith taught the truth about God. Muslims claim that Mohamed taught the truth about God. You claim that Paul taught the truth about God. How shall we reconcile these claims?

      Mohamed didn’t teach what The apostles taught, so you believe him to be a false prophet. The apostles didn’t teach what Moses taught. Does that make them the false prophets, or does it makes Moses the false prophet?

      You haven’t read the Qu’ran. Me neither. Do you think if you had been born in Saudi Arabia, that you would have? Do you think you would have read The Christian Bible? Do you think you might have a different view on Mohamed and the Qu’ran as compared to Jesus and The Bible?

      I grew up in Utah, as a 100% believing Mormon. If you had asked me at 16 if my faith was at all shakeable, I would have replied that NOTHING could have shaken me from my testimony of God, Jesus, The Bible, and The Book of Mormon. Clearly I was mistaken. Is it possible that your surety in The Bible and the Abrahamic god is more a product of your culture and not of good arguments and evidence? I certainly believe that it was in my case.

      I’ve used this quote before:
      Isn’t it a remarkable coincidence almost everyone has the same religion as their parents? And it always just happens to be the right religion. Religions run in families. If we’d been brought up in ancient Greece we would all be worshiping Zeus and Apollo. If we had been born Vikings we would be worshiping Wotan and Thor. How does this come about? Through childhood indoctrination. – Richard Dawkins

      It’s clear that you don’t believe there is any good reason to believe The Book of Mormon. Similarly, I don’t believe there is any good reason to believe The Bible. The vast majority of archaeologists and Egyptologists doubt that there were any Jews enslaved in Egypt, nor is there good evidence that they wandered the desert for years afterward. There is no geological/DNA evidence for a great flood. The Bible, like The Book of Mormon, has changed repeatedly over time. We don’t have original texts. Etc. Etc. Etc. Very similar to my objections to The Book of Mormon. Even if I accepted that there was some divine creator, I would dispute that there is any evidence that any of these vastly different books claiming to be “The Bible” are the words or commandments of said creator.

      God is not a good father. Merely The Creator. OK. The god you believe in is The Biblical God who is demonstrably immoral, wicked, and capricious. He allows torture of His creatures in order that it might be proved that His creatures love and obey Him. He condones slavery while outlawing the consumption of pork and the wearing of mixed fabrics. He appears to some, but demands blind faith from others. He makes His creatures prone to behaviors that He, Himself, defined as sin. He intends to eternally punish His creatures for these self-proclaimed sins, unless they believe that He tortured Himself/His Son to serve as a loophole for those, again, self-defined sins.

      “He always has been…With God, I can explain where things come from.”

      I’ve heard it argued, everything that exists had a beginning and a cause…except God. Seems like special pleading.

      You can’t solve a mystery by appealing to a bigger mystery. You can’t really explain anything. “God did it” has no more explanatory power than “Unicorns did it.” I still have to ask, “Ok. What is god? What evidence do you have for god? From whence did god come?” “Ok. What is a unicorn? What evidence do you have for a unicorn? From whence did the unicorns come?”

      I am OK with not knowing the answers to all of life’s mysteries. I am much more OK with temporary ignorance than accepting an answer for which I don’t have good evidence. Until I find answers supported by evidence, I don’t know. When I have answers with good evidence, I’ll accept those, until a better answer with better evidence comes along.

      “The world is flat.” – Very wrong.
      “The world is a sphere.” – Wrong. But much less wrong.
      “The world is an oblate spheroid.” – Currently right – until we have better evidence.

      “The Relativity of Wrong” – Isaac Asimov
      http://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm

      “Faith works with humility.”

      And we’re back to:

      “I have no faith.”
      “But if you have faith, even a little, God will give you faith.
      “But I have no faith.”

      I’m not demanding that God has to prove himself to me. Nor any god or goddess. I do demand substantial evidence to believe in something so extraordinary as a supernatural creator. Esp. one who uses The Bible to communicate with the creatures He either loves or loathes. Maybe you can give me the evidence, or William Lane Craig, or Frank Turek, or Sye, or Mr. Slick, but thus far I remain, for the time being, wanting for evidence. Thus I am unconvinced. Thus I remain an atheist.

      Cheers,
      Justin

      1. ““What does it matter?” If God could have created a world without needless suffering (disease, parasites, and natural disasters that have no effect on free will) and didn’t, then He is neither good, nor just, nor merciful, nor worthy of worship. That’s why it matters.”

        What measure do you use for this? God isn’t good or just you say. How do you know what is good, and just? What is merciful? What standard are you using?

        That’s what the discussion I quoted demonstrates. I will not respond to any of your quotes from Dawkins if you won’t respond to something “commonly quoted” that I posted. I have heard those quotes countless times, and since you will not respond to my quote, why should I respond to or accept yours?

        I think that God is self evident, just like you think logic is. You act as if God could be evil. That doesn’t make sense. If God is my standard of morality, what I use to test right and wrong, and I use it to measure him, that’s like measuring a yard stick, with itself. You can’t do it.

        “The god you believe in is The Biblical God who is demonstrably immoral, wicked, and capricious”

        By what standard? How is it demonstratable if he doesn’t exist? How could you even think that he’s demonstratably immoral, and wicked, while also maintaing denial of his existence?

        Is your issue that God doesn’t exist? Or that you don’t like him? It’s a little confusing for you to make that argument, don’t you think? What is right? What is wrong? How do you know it? How can a nonexistent mythical being be evil?

        See, I’m not sure where you get your data, but the Jews built cities, that were indeed built by slaves. You should do more research into that.

        What evidence do you need for the flood? I’ve heard theories that Pangea split during the flood. I live in Idaho, which is very mountainous desert country. Yet there are many many marine fossils. In fact the treasure valley aparantly used to be the west coast according to some archeology signs on a trail in the mountains that I read.

        Is carbon dating the issue? Because in the Grand Canyon, the deeper ground inside has been tested to be newer than the ground on top. Carbon dating is flawed. Brand new fossils have been tested and aparantly are thousands of years old. To be honest, I don’t trust carbon dating because of its inconsistency.

        Why do people matter more than rocks? We are all stardust right? In a pointless cosmically indifferent universe. You act as if slavery is bad because people matter. Where do people get value from? They’re no more than dust right? Can you own a plot of land? Why can’t you own another person, they are stardust too right?

        What are your thoughts on that?

        1. I apologize if you took offense. If you want a detailed refutation of a long, invented nonsense conversation that would never and has never really taken place, and has been repeatedly refuted by others, allow me.

          Scientists don’t use words like ‘cold.’ It is imprecise. It is a comparison word. “This pool water is cold compared to the sidewalk.” But, the pool water is not cold compared to liquid nitrogen. It is a concept and a comparison. Same with ‘darkness.’

          We can, in fact, “see” thoughts and brain activity via fMRI, etc. Though they are certainly imprecise tools at current, what they detect and tell us about the brain are predictable and repeatable and verifiable. They will only get more precise with time and improvements in technology. I trust that.

          “Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?”

          First, this is a professor of philosophy, not biology. Anyone who knows anything about evolution would never agree to such a childish and imprecise phrasing. We evolved from primitive hominids, who evolved from primitive primates, who evolved from primitive mammals. A “monkey”, as we know it, is a recent species.

          Have I witness evolution with my own eyes? Man. This professor is woefully ignorant. Yes. I have. In my own lifetime.

          http://www.guppyevolution.org/science/
          http://myxo.css.msu.edu/ecoli/
          http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080421-lizard-evolution.html

          Evidence. Observation. No faith necessary.

          You don’t have to answer Dawkins quote. You don’t have to answer anything. It’s a reliable observation that most people continue to belong to the religion of their childhood. People in Saudi Arabia hold to as much faith that their book is the word of Allah as Christians do that The Bible is the word of God. Why do you suppose that is? Is it because they’ve heard all the good arguments for Biblical Christianity and The Bible and somehow rejected them? Or do you suppose it is because they have been taught that what they already believe is true and anyone who says otherwise is wrong (and likely evil)?

          By my standards, The Biblical God is immoral. I believe that existence is preferable to non-existence. Non-suffering preferable to suffering. Health preferable to harm. I judge myself and my fellow beings on these principles. I believe it immoral, by those standards, to murder, to rape, to torture, to own other humans. The Biblical God, however, does not. According to The Bible, He considers it moral to order genocide, to condone slavery, to encourage (and even demand) torture.

          To be clear, in my opinion, no such being exists. The Bible is a merely an expected reflection of the human attitudes and mores of nearly 4000-6000 years ago. We were savages. We are savages. We are better than we were. Is there something that we consider to be moral now that we will consider to be immoral in the future? Almost assuredly. Was slavery moral when God allowed it? Stoning non-virgins? Stoning non-believers? Are those moral positions? Are those positions you find defensible because “God said so?” If God came to you now and told you to enslave your neighbor, according to the laws of Biblical slavery, would you do it? Even if you didn’t, would the fact that God commanded such an act make it moral?

          Pro-slavery Christians used The Bible to defend their owning of people. Abolitionists used the very same Bible to defend their overthowing of slavery. Who was right? How do we know? If the book can be interpreted so many, many different ways? Pro-equality Christians use The Bible to defend the idea that God loves us all. Anti-equality Christians use The Bible to claim that such actions will destroy humanity. If the book is infallible, how can so many interpret it in so many different ways? Why does God not communicate more clearly and effectively?

          I may not be a master of oratory regarding the subject of secular morality (there are many better than I – Mr. Dillahunty, for example), but I think, when comparing those ideas to Biblical morality, secularism wins.

          I don’t like The Biblical God. I also don’t believe He exists. I can hold those two thoughts in my head simultaneously. If such a being did exist, I wouldn’t worship Him. Fortunately, I don’t think I have to, because He likely isn’t there.

          I find it somewhat apropos that we’ve come back around to archaeological evidence for scriptures. It was only last November that you vehemently defended the existence of Nephite and Lamanite cultures here in The Americas. Mound-builders. Ancient horses. Elephants. Reformed Egyptian. If you study non-apologetic sources, I think you’ll reach a eerily similar conclusion.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exodus#Historicity
          https://books.google.com/books?id=Qjkz_8EMoaUC&pg=PA81#v=onepage&q&f=false

          “Extrabiblical textual evidence, Egyptian or otherwise, that would help date the Israelites in Egypt does not exist.”

          What evidence do I need for the flood? Any.

          Pangea split long before humans evolved. About 172 millions years before. There are no kangaroo remains found in Africa. Nor Mastadon fossils found in Australia. No Giraffes in New Zealand.

          Marine fossils in the mountains has been easily explained by tectonic plates. What was formerly a lakebed/seabed was pushed up by another plate and is now a mountain. Trilobite hunting is a lot of fun.

          Carbon dating is not flawed for the dates for which is designed to work. Neither is dendrochronology, potassium argon dating, nor other radiometric dating methods. They all have specific time periods for which they work, and predictable error-bars and degrees of confidence. When used by scientists, they overlap reliably and result in exceptionally accurate dating.

          Just as getting Mormon history from Mormons can lead to biases, unsupported claims, and out-right falsehoods, getting science information from religious apologists can do the same.

          “We are connected to each other biologically. To The Earth, chemically. And to The Universe, atomically.” – Neil DeGrasse Tyson

          We are all stardust! Lucky and fortunate to be aware of it! You are stardust! Bob is stardust! So is Mary, Jessie, Jeff, and Tom! That’s why it matters how we treat one another. How we progress as a species! We are the self-aware, evolved, shoe-wearing apes of a callous and indifferent process that took 14 billion years so that you and I could have this discussion. Praise be indeed. Let’s embrace science and reason and see how much further we can progress!

          Cheers,
          Justin

          1. I think it’s an interesting argument for you to make to me that I just believe in Christianity because of my parents. Because as you know from my ExMormonFiles interview, I was told I couldn’t trust the Bible as a Mormon. That i couldn’t believe in it. Mayhaps that’s where your distrust comes from as well? 80% of former Mormons are atheist. If Mormons believed in the Bible, and lost their testimony of a “modern restoration” wouldn’t they be Christians? That rarely happens though.

            I didn’t change my religion because it was what I grew up believing. I think presented the truth, it should be true. Are all muslims presented arguments for Christianity? No. Does that mean Christianity is wrong because they don’t believe in or know about it? No…

            I find any sort of atheistic moral based argument very flawed. You hold to assumptions that come from a Christian worldview that I don’t think you’ve clearly been able to justify.

            If I think slavery is fine, how can you tell me I’m wrong? What about rape in other countries? Who are you to tell other stardust that they are wrong?

            A point you’ve repeatedly brought up is the Mormon argument that “the Bible is translated/interpreted so differently”. Do you think there is truth? Beyond your own comprehension?

            Do you believe that despite your own imperfect and flawed sensory, that things happen in a way that is “ultimately true” despite your false, or true, or partial perspective on it?

            I mean to say that, if you and dozens of other witnesses standing in different places, witnessed a car accident, and some people gave contradictory eyewitness testimonies, that the crash truly happened a specific way? Or would each person have “their own truth”?

            Why would people’s perception matter, if there is a truth that exists even if they don’t know it?

            Sure, people misinterpret religious text. So what? Does that determine truth? Truth isn’t arbitrary, or based on individuals. If Christians interpret the Bible wrong, and do bad stuff, as a Christian it’s my duty to correct and instruct them.

            In Jesus’s time, the Pharisees were strict law abiders. How often did he rebuke them? And correct them? Jesus’s apostles too. He had to keep correcting them as they fell into error.

            Do you also expect Christians to be perfect for Christianity to be true? What if I had that same ridiculous truth test for anything else? “If botonists aren’t perfect people, with perfect understanding, and 100% agreeance on everything, all of botany is false!”

            “If Histotians don’t agree on everything, then history is false!”

            Do you see the flawed nature of such an argument? You believe in science. There are people who make a argument that the earth is flat. They use science, and political knowledge for their beliefs. Does that mean all science is wrong, or untrustworthy? Of course not.

            I think we can both agree that flat-earthers are dumb 😉

            “I believe that existence is preferable to non-existence. Non-suffering preferable to suffering. Health preferable to harm. I judge myself and my fellow beings on these principles. I believe it immoral, by those standards, to murder, to rape, to torture, to own other humans.”

            You merely have belief? Where’s the evidence? Can you prove this to me? Or is this no more than your opinion? If somebody disagrees, are they wrong? Where does your authority to judge with these standards come from? Do you hold them with absolute certainty, or relative certainty. Are they “Truth” or are they just “your truth”?

            “We are better than we were.” Better? How do you know that? What standard do you use to measure that? People are raped, enslaved, tortured, and murdered. That’s always been happening, and still is. What standard is used for this comparative statement? We have overpopulation, and are mistreating our planet. American mental health care, and dietary care are not as good as they should be, as we can see with suicide rates and with obesity related illnesses. Are we really better than we were years ago from an ethical, cultural, and physical standpoint? Or maybe just one of those?

            ” Is there something that we consider to be moral now that we will consider to be immoral in the future? Almost assuredly.” Morals change whenever? How can you say what is right and wrong then? Should slavery in the U.S. have been changed because it was always wrong, or because it became wrong when people decided it was?

            “Was slavery moral when God allowed it?” Are you arguing that it wasn’t? It was culturally acceptable. It was vastly different than what slavery was like in America. There were rules about how to treat slaves. They could run businesses, they had a lot more rights, and value in society than the dehumanization that occurred in America. But was it wrong back then? Morals change, like you said. So how could it have possibly been wrong in your worldview?

            “Stoning non-virgins? Stoning non-believers? Are those moral positions? Are those positions you find defensible because “God said so?” If God came to you now and told you to enslave your neighbor, according to the laws of Biblical slavery, would you do it? Even if you didn’t, would the fact that God commanded such an act make it moral?”

            Where does morality come from? It it’s up to individuals, how can it ever be consistent? If it’s up to cultures, and societies, why would it be wrong if I believed that a nonexistent God told me to enslave my neighbor? How would you refute that? What makes your reasoning superior? What if the majority agreed with me, that a mythical being had told me that we should bring slavery back, and that should be how we run society, would we all be wrong together? How would you know it?

            Why is American culture right, but other cultures wrong? Should our military intervene with other countries actions if their culture has a majority belief in the actions they take? Why would we be right, and they be wrong? What standard do you use to test that?

            You know I’m not a theologian, or scholar. I don’t understand how you can reconcile the assumptions of your belief system. All those “A Priori” convictions that you hold to.

            I should do more research into Biblical history. I’ve been reading some books on the subject, but alas, I’ve been very very very busy. I’d love to let you know what I find as I find stuff. If I’m wrong, I want to know it. If you’re wrong, I’m sure you would expect and want the same.

            You would be amazed at Matt Slick’s libraries. He’s got Dawkins, and other secular books. He takes the best books for and against things, and he tests them out. I want to spend like a month in there, and just read.

            Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

            -Jake

          2. If The Bible and Christianity is true, and the will of God, why aren’t all Muslims presented with arguments for Christianity? If The God of The Bible really wants all of humanity to believe in him correctly, and to follow His commandments as recorded in various versions of a Bible, why are some humans left out? How does an all-powerful god let culture, tradition, governments, parents, etc. stand in the way of His message? I would expect that a god who wanted our obedience to make it easy to find his message and that message would be convenient, clear, and obvious. Muslims believe that The Qu’ran is all of those things. Mormons believe The Book of Mormon to be all of those things. Christians believe The Bible to be all of those things. The can’t all be right, but they can all be wrong.

            My arguments for morality and ethics are just that; arguments. I don’t hold that there is a 100% answer. I don’t appeal to a severely flawed book to tell me what is right and wrong. I think about the issue and use empathy, reason, and evidence to build my case. There are some people today who believe that The Bible tells them that they can own people. I disagree with them, and especially with their claim that a ~6000 year old book can give them a moral justification.

            In spite of the supposed immutability of The Bible, Christian morality has and continues to change for the better. Thankfully, in spite of the fact that The Bible explicitly instructs the murder of non-believers (Deu. 13), most Christians seem to find that idea immoral. Most Christians don’t seem to accept that we need to lock women away during their menstruation because they are unclean (Lev. 15). Reason triumphs over scripture. Thank god. (← humor)

            Flat-Earthers don’t have evidence. Theists don’t have evidence. I don’t believe either of them.

            I have evidence that non-suffering is preferable to suffering. That health preferable to harm. Empathic, social species do better than other species. They have higher intelligence, better use of tools, etc. Dolphins. Elephants. Apes. All social. All empathic. All display varying degrees of altruism. Helping their fellow individuals benefits the whole of the species. If someone disagrees, they should present a case, with evidence and reason.

            “Biological Altruim” – https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/altruism-biological/

            “The scriptures present a God who delights in genocide, rape, slavery, and the execution of nonconformists, and for millennia those writings were used to rationalize the massacre of infidels, the ownership of women, the beating of children, dominion over animals, and the persecution of heretics and homosexuals. Humanitarian reforms such as the elimination of cruel punishment, the dissemination of empathy-inducing novels, and the abolition of slavery were met with fierce opposition in their time by ecclesiastical authorities and their apologists.” – Steven Pinker, ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’

            Mr. Pinker also documents that violence is far lower today than at any time in history. I think that justifies the claim, “We are better than we were.” Some people dared to stand up to tradition. To religious authority. That’s the standard to which I would refer. Are we perfect? No. We still have a long way to go. I expect reason, evidence, and science to take us there.

            Can you answer the question; is something moral just because God says so? Stoning non-believers? Non-virgins? Homosexuals? Enslaving a neighbor? Murdering a child (the subject of my original blog post)? Regardless of my morality or my ability/inability to explain it, do you believe that something is moral and acceptable just because you believe that God says that it is? What if someone else claims that The Bible justifies something that you think is unacceptable? How would you reconcile that? What method would you use to discover which of you is right and which of you is wrong?

            “Why is American culture right, but other cultures wrong?”

            It isn’t. There is plenty of American culture that I find despicable. A number of the things I find revolting are caused by people who believe they have supernatural justification for their actions. Same in other cultures. Rather than appealing to ancient mythological books, we should use reason and evidence to guide our actions.

            “Morality is not a set of arbitrary regulations dictated by a vengeful deity and written down in a book; nor is it the custom of a particular culture or tribe. It is a consequence of the interchangeability of perspectives and the opportunity the world provides for positive-sum games.” – Steven Pinker

            Neither am I a theologian nor a scholar. I acknowledge that there are legitimate questions that are difficult to answer (hard solipsism/brain in a vat/simulation, for example). Appealing to a bigger mystery (“God”), however, doesn’t seem to provide any answer to that problem, and doesn’t seem justified considering the severe lack of evidence for such an extraordinary claim.

            Mr. Slick is clearly an intelligent, well-read man. I have watched a number of his debates. I believe, however, that he is wrong. It seems to me that he has an assumption, “There is a god and The Bible is true”, and bends evidence and logic to match it. I am sure he would think the same of me. Lacking convincing evidence for his claims – about god, and even less convincing, for The Bible – I continue to withhold belief.

            I encourage you to continue your research into biblical history. I would love to hear of your discoveries. I do think that you will find non-apologetic and scientific evidence largely as lacking as for The Book of Mormon. I’m not saying it is an intentionally invented work of fiction as I believe BoM to be, but most of the contents are legends at best, and mythology at worst.

            Cheers,
            Justin

  11. I came across an interesting discussion on facebook the other day, I’ll share it here.

    An Atheist Professor of Philosophy was speaking to his Class on the Problem Science has with
    GOD, the ALMIGHTY. He asked one of his New Christian Students to stand and . . .

    Professor : You are a Christian, aren’t you, son ?
    Student : Yes, sir.

    Professor : So, you Believe in GOD ?
    Student : Absolutely, sir.

    Professor : Is GOD Good ?
    Student : Sure.

    Professor : Is GOD ALL – POWERFUL ?
    Student : Yes.

    Professor : My Brother died of Cancer even though he Prayed to GOD to Heal him.
    Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill.
    But GOD didn’t. How is this GOD good then? Hmm?

    (Student was silent )

    Professor : You can’t answer, can you ? Let’s start again, Young Fella. Is GOD Good?
    Student : Yes.

    Professor : Is Satan good ?
    Student : No.

    Professor : Where does Satan come from ?
    Student : From . . . GOD . . .

    Professor : That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this World?
    Student : Yes.

    Professor : Evil is everywhere, isn’t it ? And GOD did make everything. Correct?
    Student : Yes.

    Professor : So who created evil ?
    (Student did not answer)

    Professor : Is there Sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the World, don’t they?
    Student : Yes, sir.

    Professor : So, who Created them ?
    (Student had no answer)

    Professor : Science says you have 5 Senses you use to Identify and Observe the World around you.
    Tell me, son . . . Have you ever Seen GOD?
    Student : No, sir.

    Professor : Tell us if you have ever Heard your GOD?
    Student : No , sir.

    Professor : Have you ever Felt your GOD, Tasted your GOD, Smelt your GOD?
    Have you ever had any Sensory Perception of GOD for that matter?
    Student : No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.

    Professor : Yet you still Believe in HIM?
    Student : Yes.

    Professor : According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol,
    Science says your GOD doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?
    Student : Nothing. I only have my Faith.

    Professor : Yes, Faith. And that is the Problem Science has.
    (Here, the student begins to shoot back the professor.)

    Student : Professor, is there such a thing as Heat?
    Professor : Yes.

    Student : And is there such a thing as Cold?
    Professor : Yes.

    Student : No, sir. There isn’t.

    (The Lecture Theatre became very quiet with this turn of events )

    Student : Sir, you can have Lots of Heat, even More Heat, Superheat, Mega Heat, White Heat,
    a Little Heat or No Heat. But we don’t have anything called Cold. We can hit 458
    Degrees below Zero which is No Heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is
    no such thing as Cold. Cold is only a Word we use to describe the Absence of Heat. We
    cannot Measure Cold.
    Heat is Energy. Cold is Not the Opposite of Heat, sir, just the Absence of it.

    (There was Pin-Drop Silence in the Lecture Theatre )

    Student : What about Darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as Darkness?
    Professor : Yes. What is Night if there isn’t Darkness?

    Student : You’re wrong again, sir.
    Darkness is the Absence of Something
    You can have Low Light, Normal Light, Bright Light, Flashing Light . . .
    But if you have No Light constantly, you have nothing and its called Darkness, isn’t it?
    In reality, Darkness isn’t.
    If it is, were you would be able to make Darkness Darker, wouldn’t you?
    Professor : So what is the point you are making, Young Man ?

    Student : Sir, my point is your Philosophical Premise is flawed.
    Professor : Flawed ? Can you explain how?

    Student : Sir, you are working on the Premise of Duality.
    You argue there is Life and then there is Death, a Good GOD and a Bad GOD.
    You are viewing the Concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure.
    Sir, Science can’t even explain a Thought.
    It uses Electricity and Magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood
    either one.
    To view Death as the Opposite of Life is to be ignorant of the fact that Death cannot
    exist as a Substantive Thing. Death is Not the Opposite of Life: just the Absence of it. Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your Students that they evolved from a
    Monkey?
    Professor : If you are referring to the Natural Evolutionary Process, yes, of course, I do.

    Student : Have you ever observed Evolution with your own eyes, sir?

    (The Professor shook his head with a Smile, beginning to realize where the Argument was going )

    Student : Since no one has ever observed the Process of Evolution at work and
    Cannot even prove that this Process is an On-Going Endeavor,
    Are you not teaching your Opinion, sir?
    Are you not a Scientist but a Preacher?

    (The Class was in Uproar )

    Student : Is there anyone in the Class who has ever seen the Professor’s Brain?

    (The Class broke out into Laughter )

    Student : Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s Brain, Felt it, touched or Smelt
    it? . . .
    No one appears to have done so. So, according to the Established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol,
    Science says that You have No Brain, sir.
    With all due respect, sir, how do we then Trust your Lectures, sir?

    (The Room was Silent. The Professor stared at the Student, his face unfathomable)

    Professor : I guess you’ll have to take them on Faith, son.
    Student : That is it sir . . . Exactly !
    The Link between Man & GOD is FAITH.
    That is all that Keeps Things Alive and Moving. “

    1. I really would rather hear from you and your thoughts than some common and repeatedly posted and refuted Christian trope.

      Cheers,
      Justin

  12. I intend to respond to all your arguments, so I’ll attempt to outline them, if I miss something, go ahead and let me know.

    1. Not everyone is shown Christianity, because God is not all powerful.

    2. You don’t have an ultimate Moral truth to stand on.

    3. The Bible is severely flawed, and people do horrible things because of it.

    4. You only believe in evidence which theists, and flat earthers lack (aka, your A Priori convictions are rooted in observations)

    5. Non suffering is preferable to suffering, Health Preferable to Harm, because it benefits the whole of the species.

    6. God delights in Genocide, rape, slavery, and the execution of nonconformists, Christians have historically been immoral.

    7. Is something moral because God says so? How do you settle disputes of biblical interpretation.

    8. God doesn’t provide any answer to hard questions, because he’s a mystery, and because there isn’t evidence.

    9. Mr. Slick is wrong because his A Priori conviction is different then yours.

    I think the first thing I’d like to address, is argument 2. You acknowledge that you don’t have an ultimate moral truth to stand on. Only arguments. Yet you don’t seem to believe that. Look at argument 3, 6, and 7. What standard do you use to test the Bible? How and why do you condemn people if you don’t know if you’re right? Argument 5 speaks about benefitting the whole of the species, why is that what’s right? How do you know that, yet still don’t have moral ground to stand on? What’s wrong with Genocide, rape, slavery, and the execution of nonconformists? You don’t 100% know what is right and wrong, so why do you act as if those things are wrong? How do you know they are? Who says we have to benefit the whole of the species? We are purposeless stardust, why is our purpose to benefit the whole of the species?

    On what grounds do you judge Christians for historically being immoral? You don’t have a 100% answer to morals, yet you act as if you do. You act as if you know that what they did was wrong. Is something moral because God says so? Of course it is. God is perfect, and all knowing. He is just, and fair, and also merciful. He’s the measurement I use for morality. I know I condemn Christians who historically went against God’s word and sinned against him. You’re attempting to conclude the the Law of Moses, is still the Law Christians abide by today, which only highlights your misunderstanding of the Bible. Jesus came and fulfilled the law. The law is summarized into two great commandments. Love the Lord your God, and Love your neighbor as yourself.

    Do you think stoning non believers, non-virgins, homosexuals, enslaving a neighbor, and murdering a child (which secular abortion supporters vehemently defend as a moral thing to do) are all justifiable in consideration of the second commandment? Love your neighbor as yourself? Clearly they are not. If somebody claims the Bible justifies something that is unacceptable, I will show them their error, and correct them to the best of my ability. If you don’t understand those two great commandments. I would use the Bible to correct them. Ancient Christians who didn’t love their neighbor as their self, I condemn the same as you, but I actually claim to, and have a moral ground to stand upon to do it. How do you correct somebody who says something is moral, and acceptable that you find unacceptable? You don’t have any solid moral ground to stand on, right? How can they possibly be wrong then?

    Is an error of assumption, you assume things aren’t how God intended for them to be. Why aren’t all Muslims presented with arguments for Christianity? Who says they have to? Why are some humans left out? Why shouldn’t they be? What’s wrong with that?
    We already spoke about. You act as if you have moral ground to stand on, but claim that you don’t. It’s a self-refuting worldview that you have accepted.
    What measurement do you use to determine this, especially when you say you don’t 100% have an answer to questions of Morality?
    You only believe in evidence (sounds like primarily empirical). Flat Earthers present empirical evidence. “The evidence for a flat earth is derived from many different facets of science and philosophy. The simplest is by relying on ones own senses to discern the true nature of the world around us. The world looks flat, the bottoms of clouds are flat, the movement of the sun; these are all examples of your senses telling you that we do not live on a spherical heliocentric world. This is using what’s called an empirical approach, or an approach that relies on information from your senses. Alternatively, when using Descartes’ method of Cartesian doubt to skeptically view the world around us, one quickly finds that the notion of a spherical world is the theory which has the burden of proof and not flat earth theory.
    Perhaps the best example of flat earth proof is the Bedford Level Experiment. In short, this was an experiment performed many times on a six-mile stretch of water that proved the surface of the water to be flat. It did not conform to the curvature of the earth that round earth proponents teach.
    Many other experiments demonstrating the lack of curvature in the earth may be found in Earth Not a Globe, by Samuel Rowbotham.”
    https://wiki.tfes.org/Frequently_Asked_Questions#What_evidence_do_you_have.3F

    You choose not to accept it, but they, like theists, present evidence. You argue that the world looks precisely as if there is no God, and the earth is round. They argue that the Earth looks precisely as if it’s flat. Christians argue that the world looks precisely as if God created it. How do you refute the same appeals to differing empirical evidence?
    5. We talked about. Where does our purpose of benefitting society come from? I thought we lived a purposeless existence? Why do we have to benefit society?
    6. What’s wrong with all those things? You have no moral ground to stand on, you act as if those things are wrong. Why shouldn’t stardust bump into stardust in a way that causes damage? Do you get upset when a rock hits a rock? Or an asteroid bumps a planet? You act almost as if people have value…
    7. Are morals determined by God? Yes. He is the standard for morals. Romans 2:14-15 ”Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)”
    8. If you can argue that it looks like there isn’t a God ruling the world, can’t I also argue the opposite? If you were to say “the evidence is all around me” that we live in a Godless universe and ultimately don’t understand how or why it came to be. Couldn’t I also argue that the evidence is all around you that God created the universe, is the universal standard to which we measure all things, and we know that he created the world (even if we don’t know exactly how he did it), and that we know why we are here. God provides answers to why we are here, where we came from, where all things came from, and many more questions. Even if we don’t fully understand everything about God, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t answer those Hard Questions in his Word.
    9. This is the classic problem that can occur in these sort of discussions. Where nothing is learned, or taught. You have an A priori conviction that you do not test (because whatever you would use to test it, would be your new A priori conviction). He has an A priori conviction that is different. “Assuming there isn’t a God, let’s ask the question, is there a God?” “Assuming there is a God, let’s ask the question, is there a God?” This type of discussion leads nowhere. That’s why I attempt to highlight the double standards, and the contradictions in your worldview. Because that’s how best I can demonstrate the errors of your A Priori convictions.

    I’ll continue to research and to study biblical history, and I’ll let you know what I find. In my middle school we watched a documentary in history class about the recovery of the egyptian language, and of the captivity of the Jews, and their building of two cities. It wasn’t a religious school. Nor a religious documentary. We were taught that to be history, so I’ll need to do some more research I guess.

    Looking forward to hearing your response.

    1. I test The Bible’s claims of morality based on the harm they cause. Owning people, being able to beat them, being ordered by a supernatural force to commit genocide, to make victims marry their rapists, to stone non/different-believers, stoning disobedient children seems to cause great harm. To the victims, certainly, and to society and our species as a whole. Life is preferable to death. Happiness preferable to misery. How is a book that espouses, condones, and encourages these behaviors be considered a better source of morality?

      “You don’t have a 100% answer to morals, yet you act as if you do.”

      This is clearly false. I openly and honestly admit that I don’t. I have evidence and rational arguments for why secular, humanist morality is superior. Nor do I act like my moral ideas are perfect. Maybe eating bacon is immoral. I don’t currently believe it is, nor that there is evidence to support that position, but if someone has good, rational, evidence based arguments, I could and should change my mind. Changing and evolving morality rising from secular, humanist arguments are a far better starting place than from an unchanging, ancient, and barbaric text.

      If Jesus came and fulfilled the law, why do Christians keep The Old Testament? Keep it around? Quote and defend its virtues? In fact, I’ve often wondered where, exactly, in The Bible it says, “You don’t need to obey all those old, barbaric laws, anymore.” I’ve done some looking, and find less than convincing arguments. Some Christians continue to believe that homosexuality is against the commandments and point to those old laws to justify their position, but some of those same Christians believe it’s acceptable to eat pork and shellfish. How do you know which is which? In a debate between two of these Christians, pointing to the same book, and the same verses, how do we determine who is right and who is wrong? They can’t both be right, but they can both be wrong.

      You claim the biblical God is just and fair? It was fair for Him to take a bet against Satan and torture Job? It was merciful? Merciful to command genocide against the Midianites? Having Jephthah promise to sacrifice his daughter so that he could win a battle? I think you’ll have to define that word better, because ‘mercy’ is the last term that would come to my mind when thinking of this god.

      I agree. I don’t understand God’s behavior in the slightest. God is going to reward and punish based on faith and belief, but people born into Saudi Arabia, who are forbidden from studying Christianity, and certainly forbidden from becoming Christians, to Hell with them? Quite literally? I guess it’s consistent with this god’s decidedly unmerciful and capricious moral character.

      Flat-Earthers provide flawed, falsifiable, and quickly disproved “evidence.” They have a belief, “the Earth is flat”, and refuse to acknowledge any evidence to the contrary. Show them the shadow of Earth on the moon. Show them satellite data from space. Show them the disappearing mast of a ship as it heads over the curvature of of the horizon. Take them to enormous altitudes and show them the curvature of the Earth. Doesn’t matter. They have a belief and nothing can shake them. They misinterpret and misapply “evidence” to fit their already decided conclusion.

      Mormons provide flawed, quickly disproved evidence for The BoM historicity. Tapirs as horses, Mesoamerican artifacts, The Valley of Lemuel, etc. They have a belief, “The BoM is true” and refuse to acknowledge any evidence to the contrary. They have a belief and nothing can shake them. They misinterpret and misapply “evidence” to fit their already decided conclusion.

      Theists don’t even provide flawed evidence. The very concept of god and the supernatural is indemonstrable, unfalsifiable, and immeasurable. If you can’t prove something wrong, you really ought not believe it. I point you again to Sagan’s Dragon.

      I claim I have a dragon in my garage, but each time you suggest a way to test for it, I dismiss the question (“It’s invisible”, “It blocks infrared light”, “It’s incorporeal”, etc. etc.) You can’t prove that there isn’t a dragon there – based on my claims – so, do you believe my claim? That the dragon is there? Why or why not? In Biblical times, God and gods were the cause for everything. Lightning, volcanoes, sickness, earthquakes, stars, comets, etc. But, now that we know through evidence and observations where these things come from, God seems to keep occupying a smaller and smaller corner of reality. Almost as if He isn’t there. I’m pretty sure He never was.

      “You have no moral ground to stand on.”

      I have reason, evidence, and rationality to explain why I think slavery is wrong. You have a deeply flawed book of legends and myths that tacitly endorses owning and beating other people (both in the old law and the new). Is slavery moral? Is it moral to own another person? Is something moral simply because God says it is? If you believe God tells you to murder your child, are you morally justified and obligated to carry that task out? Seems rather unjust and unmerciful. Seems immoral.

      I believe that people have value because I am one. I like existing. I’d like to keep on existing. Yes, that is an evolutionary instinct derived from a purposeless existence. As is my empathy for other human beings. That’s enough for me. For that reason, life is preferable to death, happiness preferable to misery. It is ultimately a selfish desire to live happily that I extol the benefits that all of us live in a empathetic and altruistic society.

      Of course you can argue that it looks like a God is ruling the universe. I believe that’s what most of this debate is about. I used to believe similarly. I’d stand in the mountain and ask, “How could all of this arise by chance?” As I study more about astronomy, biology, paleontology, evolution, etc., the less of a mystery it becomes. In fact, for me, it’s far more awe-inspiring to learn the scientific explanations.

      If we accept, for the moment, your hypothesis, I think you have to explain why God is cruel, capricious, unmerciful, and uncaring. Why is there childhood leukemia? Crib death? Congenital infant heart defects? Eye boring parasites? For those that believe and call upon him for relief and those who don’t alike? God cannot be the creator of all things and shirk responsibility for the horrors of his creation. God may not think he is cruel, but He is… Or, much more simply, He isn’t there and these cruelties are just the unfortunate processes we’d expect from a natural, indifferent, and evolutionary world and biology.

      God provides no answers. I have no evidence that He exists, and even less that The Bible is His instruction manual. The Bible provides myths and legends as to where all things came from. Science provides math and evidence, and though it doesn’t have all the answers, unlike The Bible, science adjusts its views based on observation and becomes more correct with time.

      “Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed.
      Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved.” – Tim Minchin

      The null hypothesis is the logical starting point when faced with a claim:

      1. “This purple berry will cure cancer.”
      2. “What evidence do you have?”
      1. “What evidence do you have that it doesn’t?”
      2. “Um. I’m gonna stick with the doctors.”

      1. “There is a supernatural being who watches everything you do every minute of every day.”
      2. “What evidence do you have?”
      1. “Just have faith. You can’t prove that there isn’t an incorporeal being outside of time and space!”
      2. “I think I’ll withhold belief in this being.”

      I grew up indoctrinated that there was a deity in the Judeo-Christian tradition. When I realized it, I reset my assumption to the null hypothesis and concluded that I had no good evidence for believing what I believed. I had believed what I believed because I was told to believe it. I was told that not believing it would cause me harm. I was told that believing it would bring me joy. When I expressed my belief, I was rewarded with praise. I was told to believe it before I had the faculties and abilities to critically think about the claims being made. Christians raise Christians. Muslims raise Muslims. Hindus raise Hindus. No child accepts the claims of their religious parents based on the strength of the evidence. They believe it because human children are evolutionarily and psychologically inclined to simply believe adults. “That’s hot.” “That’s poison.” “That’s sharp.” It keeps them alive. Unfortunately, it can be used to encourage unsubstantiated ideas from a young age.

      Not having any idea what documentary you watched, I obviously can’t critique it. Outside of apologist and religious studies, however, it seems that evidence for the historicity of The Bible is severely lacking or non-existent:

      “From the beginnings of what we call biblical archeology, perhaps 150 years ago, scholars, mostly western scholars, have attempted to use archeological data to prove the Bible. And for a long time it was thought to work. Albright, the great father of our discipline, often spoke of the “archeological revolution.” Well, the revolution has come but not in the way that Albright thought. The truth of the matter today is that archeology raises more questions about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible and even the New Testament than it provides answers, and that’s very disturbing to some people.” – William Dever, Archaeologist

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/archeology-hebrew-bible.html

      “Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed.
      Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved.” – Tim Minchin

      If you have evidence, you don’t need faith.

      1. Had one other quick (hopefully) thought about morality.

        As I understand it, you claim that my morality is flawed because I don’t have a “physical” basis for it. That what I consider to be moral is interpretive. That there’s no 100% right or wrong arbiter of what is moral or immoral. Two atheists debating the morality of an action have no “source of morality” to which they can appeal.

        How is that any worse than having a book or Bible that can be interpreted differently by different people to have different conditions for morality? One person says, “The Bible condones the stoning of non-virgins.” Another points to the same book and says, “No. The Bible says murder is a sin.” Regardless of what you personally believe on that particular subject, and The Biblical reasons you may give to defend it, how is pointing to various Bible verses to justify your position a better way to morality than arguing the secular, humanistic reasons and evidence against the stoning of fellow humans?

        Cheers,
        Justin

  13. 1, 2, 3, and 4 did not copy clearly from the place where I typed them. The numbers didn’t copy, so I’ll post them here, just to avoid confusion.

    1. Is an error of assumption, you assume things aren’t how God intended for them to be. Why aren’t all Muslims presented with arguments for Christianity? Who says they have to? Why are some humans left out? Why shouldn’t they be? What’s wrong with that?
    2. We already spoke about. You act as if you have moral ground to stand on, but claim that you don’t. It’s a self-refuting worldview that you have accepted.
    3. What measurement do you use to determine this, especially when you say you don’t 100% have an answer to questions of Morality?
    4. You only believe in evidence (sounds like primarily empirical). Flat Earthers present empirical evidence. “The evidence for a flat earth is derived from many different facets of science and philosophy. The simplest is by relying on ones own senses to discern the true nature of the world around us. The world looks flat, the bottoms of clouds are flat, the movement of the sun; these are all examples of your senses telling you that we do not live on a spherical heliocentric world. This is using what’s called an empirical approach, or an approach that relies on information from your senses. Alternatively, when using Descartes’ method of Cartesian doubt to skeptically view the world around us, one quickly finds that the notion of a spherical world is the theory which has the burden of proof and not flat earth theory.
    Perhaps the best example of flat earth proof is the Bedford Level Experiment. In short, this was an experiment performed many times on a six-mile stretch of water that proved the surface of the water to be flat. It did not conform to the curvature of the earth that round earth proponents teach.
    Many other experiments demonstrating the lack of curvature in the earth may be found in Earth Not a Globe, by Samuel Rowbotham.”
    https://wiki.tfes.org/Frequently_Asked_Questions#What_evidence_do_you_have.3F

    You choose not to accept it, but they, like theists, present evidence. You argue that the world looks precisely as if there is no God, and the earth is round. They argue that the Earth looks precisely as if it’s flat. Christians argue that the world looks precisely as if God created it. How do you refute the same appeals to differing empirical evidence?

  14. How can morality cause harm? Immorality can, not Morality. What was wrong with Slavery? It was socially acceptable. Everybody was doing it. In hindsight, your morals have changed, but if you were living then, you would not complain. Your morals shift, that’s why I say you have no solid ground. Yet you condemn as if you do. You judge past actions by whatever you have decided to be moral today. That’s not fair, or a good test.
    “Officer, why did you pull me over?”,
    “They mayor might pass a bill that makes something you did illegal, hold on… yup, they just confirmed on the radio, you had a shoe on your left foot, you have the right to remain silent…”
    Your morals aren’t constant, 400 years ago, they would not have been the same. You judge actions from 400 years ago, using your current morals though. 2000 they would not. You talk about things that happened 2000 years ago, do you know how much your evolving morals have changed since then? There have always been people who live by their own moral code, who feel justified in truly cruel, and evil actions. Religious zealots, power hungry atheists, it doesn’t matter. 2000 years ago, my God taught the “Golden rule”, “turn the other cheek”, and “love your neighbor as yourself”. Those summed up all the previous laws. You’re not justified before God by good works, or the Law. You’re justified by the one who payed the price, who is Jesus. Who lived, and rose from the dead for your sins. Who is revered as a great teacher by Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike. We are justified by Faith, apart from any works of the Law. We cannot possibly earn salvation, it’s a free gift that God gives to those who believe.
    I have a coworker who has a son who stopped believing in God. This son then joined the Russian Mob. He got arrested for stealing a car, and again for dealing drugs, and again for more drugs, and again for dealing weapons, and again for possessing weapons and drugs, and again, and again, and again… Where does he derive his morals from? From whatever he feels like, quite like you, but you’re more logical about it. He has no solid ground, or foundation to base morals. He does whatever he wants, and then society punishes him for it. If we had more people like him, do you think what he would be doing would be okay? If you had a problem with it, how would you justify it?
    I condemn people who own slaves (like many non-christian countries still have), beat them (again, non-christian countries), commit genocide (like many famous atheistic regimes have done), force rape victims into marriage (again, many non-christian countries), stoning (I don’t know if people still do this…?).
    Do you read the Bible, and have a convincing argument that the point is that God is instructing you to own people, beat them, commit genocide, force victims into marriage with those that rape them, stone those who believe different than you, and your own children? You must not be reading the same Bible. If that’s God’s point, do you truly think you can follow such instruction while following Jesus’s classic teachings of the “Golden rule”, “turn the other cheek”, and “love your neighbor as yourself”? When’s the last time you actually read the Bible? Not just stole stuff from your favorite atheist website? Because honestly, if you’re going to make a biblical argument, you really need to reread the Bible, because you’re quite rusty.
    “If Jesus came and fulfilled the law, why do Christians keep The Old Testament? Keep it around? Quote and defend its virtues?” You do not understand what the Old Testament is then. It’s a testament of Christ. The promised messiah who was to come. Almost all the stories, portray attributes of Christ who was to come. Like how Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days, and Christ was in the belly of the earth for three days and came out. It’s full of attributes of Christ. The ritual ceremonies the Jews practiced were of the same nature. The passover, represents Christ. The two bird sacrifice, the goat, all of the old ceremonies represent Christ who was prophesied to come. It teaches a record of God’s covenant people, the Jews. It tells their history. “The Law” is only the first 5 books. Which are the Pentateuch, the 5 books of Moses. There are poetic books, and there are historical books.
    “In fact, I’ve often wondered where, exactly, in The Bible it says, “You don’t need to obey all those old, barbaric laws, anymore.” I’ve done some looking, and find less than convincing arguments.” Have you read any of the New Testament? At all? It’s all over it. The Jewish Pharisees, and Sadducees had divided teachings based on Oral tradition, and “the Law”. They were ridiculous, legalistic, self-righteous, power driven groups that did not represent God’s people well. In the Gospels, Jesus constantly rebuked them. He taught them not to judge. He taught them they were all sinners. It’s not really an argument, it’s Christianity 101. If you understood what the purpose of the Old Law was, and that the Messiah would come, because you read the Old Testament, what Jesus did in the New would answer all of these questions you’re asking.
    Are you a Jew? I’m not. To be a Jew, you need to be born a Jew, or become one through some ritual cleaning. After Christ died, some of the Jews (now Christian) weren’t sure about the Law, and the Gentiles (non-jews), and what they should do. Paul helped clarify this in pretty much each of his letters. Galatians, Ephesians, and Romans specifically come to mind. Did people need to be Circumcised still? This was asked often. Paul concluded that they did not, because faith in Jesus is what saves, not works of the Law. Circumcision makes one a part of the jewish community, we don’t need to be Jewish to be Christian. We can be Gentiles. Nobody has ever perfectly kept the Law of God except for Jesus. We are saved by him alone, and there’s nothing we can do to earn that salvation. Paul describes it as a free gift for that reason. Christians strive to live by God’s commands out of love for him. “If ye love me, keep my commandments”. They will fall short though, they will all sin. I know I have. I’ve done some bad things in my life. We aren’t saved by our own good works though, we are saved by relying upon Jesus, the promised Messiah, who is the only way we can be saved.
    “Some Christians continue to believe that homosexuality is against the commandments and point to those old laws to justify their position, but some of those same Christians believe it’s acceptable to eat pork and shellfish. How do you know which is which? In a debate between two of these Christians, pointing to the same book, and the same verses, how do we determine who is right and who is wrong? They can’t both be right, but they can both be wrong.”
    Can we eat pork? Jesus taught “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” as is recorded in Matthew 15:11. Paul also has teachings on the subject of food. If you read the New Testament, it’s quite clear that it’s okay to eat pork, and shellfish. Paul taught not to offend other people who don’t eat certain food though, because loving your neighbor as yourself is most important. In both the Old, and New testament, homosexuality, lust, adultery, fornication, rape, and basically any non straight, married, sexual activities are taught to be against God’s design for us. Homosexuals aren’t worse then adulterers, or men with lust, or whatever sin people struggle with. God’s teaching has always been the same on homosexuality.
    Show me a debate on this topic. I’d love to see somebody present a sound biblical argument that doesn’t exclude books of scripture that would lead Christians to think they have to follow all Jewish laws.
    “You claim the biblical God is just and fair? It was fair for Him to take a bet against Satan and torture Job? It was merciful? Merciful to command genocide against the Midianites? Having Jephthah promise to sacrifice his daughter so that he could win a battle? I think you’ll have to define that word better, because ‘mercy’ is the last term that would come to my mind when thinking of this god.”
    Why couldn’t God allow Satan to torture Job? What rule did God break? Who established that rule? Job was an upright man, yet this didn’t matter. God allows Satan to tempt, and torture all of us. Just like he did with Job. Job was given bad advice from his wife, and friends. His wife told him to curse God and commit suicide even! By the end of it all though, Job has learned quite a lot of lessons. Lessons about humility, and accepting the counsel of others. At the very end, God blesses Job with twice as much of everything that he started with. What in this was unjust? Is there some sort of rule God broke? Job ended with twice what he started with. God owns everything anyways, God can do that if he’d like…
    We already talked about the Midianites, were you not satisfied with the answer? Or what? God had all those who had not taken part in the bad stuff the midianites did spared. What rule did God break that makes him unjust?
    Jephthah made a foolish vow to the lord. Not the other way around. The Bible doesn’t say whether he actually sacrificed her or not. Judges 11:39 might seem to suggest that he did. Judges 11:36-37 shows that she was in mourning over not being able to be married, not because she knew she was going to die. This might mean that she was made a servant of the tabernacle instead. God has never had his people do human sacrifice. As we see in Leviticus 20:1-5. Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; and 32:35.
    I don’t think it’s the word “Mercy” that you don’t understand, I think it’s the Bible that you don’t understand. When was the last time you read it?
    “I agree. I don’t understand God’s behavior in the slightest. God is going to reward and punish based on faith and belief, but people born into Saudi Arabia, who are forbidden from studying Christianity, and certainly forbidden from becoming Christians, to Hell with them? Quite literally? I guess it’s consistent with this god’s decidedly unmerciful and capricious moral character.”
    What’s wrong with that? Why can’t a potter use the same clay, and make a beautiful vase with part of it, and a trash bin with the rest? Why can’t God design some people for destruction, and some for salvation? On what basis do you judge him? This is what I was talking about earlier, you act as if you know that God is evil. You have shifting morals, on what grounds do you accuse God? What standard do you use? How could you possibly call God evil. 1. You also argue he doesn’t exist. And 2. You have no basis to judge him in the first place…
    “I claim I have a dragon in my garage.” You do? Tell me about this dragon. You honestly have a dragon in your garage?
    See, when I claim there is a God, it’s not a joke. There is a God, whether you choose to pretend there isn’t, or not. You would rather say “I don’t know” then accept reality. You have no test for God. Earlier I asked you what God would need to do to prove he existed to you, if he wanted to do that. You couldn’t think of anything. Why not? Because you don’t want there to be a God. You think he’s evil (but then you’ve yet to demonstrate what standard you used to measure that). You think religion is corrupt (which I agree with 100%). If you honestly have a dragon in my garage, tell me about it. But we both know that you don’t have a dragon in your garage, and that you’re only hypothetically speaking. It’s a flawed argument, it’s a comparison of two unrelated things.
    Tell me then, why is slavery wrong? It was socially acceptable. Not too long ago in this culture. It still is in other cultures. Cultures that have never heard of Jesus Christ. Are they wrong? How do you know? What makes your culture better?
    As a Christian, I know that it’s wrong for me to enslave my neighbor, because it breaks God’s commandments. It’s that simple. If God told me to murder my child, he would be a liar. He would no longer be God. He would have contradicted his own command to not Murder (which refers to unlawful killing). People have false revelations. That’s why we use God’s already existing, word, to compare to any new revelations.
    What I don’t understand, is why you’re a man of faith. Why are you not a solipsist? You said “I grew up indoctrinated that there was a deity in the Judeo-Christian tradition. When I realized it, I reset my assumption to the null hypothesis and concluded that I had no good evidence for believing what I believed.” Prove to me that you are a real person. Verify that my senses are real. Demonstrate that the past really occured, and it’s not just a memory of something that never happened as I’m trapped in this moment, but recalling/imagining it. Prove to me that other people are more than a figment of my imagination. Prove to me that the future will be like the past. You are full of faith, and assumptions, yet you reject God. It’s crazy! If I told you that I didn’t believe you really existed, how would you prove me wrong? I could chalk everything up to illusion. I could deny everything. You ultimately could not prove it. I have to accept it as truth. It’s faith. THE SAME IS WITH GOD. If you want to play with sagan’s dragon some more, let’s do that with the concept of time! I cannot see it, I cannot go back to the past, or jump to the future, I am only ever in the present, so how do I know the past really happened? I cannot measure it for that reason, or at least I’d be reasonable to distrust measurements of time. I can be as stubborn as I’d like. Or I can accept, in faith that the past happened. Do you get the point?
    You are full of faith, and assumptions. Your worldview is not basic, it’s full of unverifiable, yet reasonable assumptions. The same is true with God. You can deny him all you want, the same way I could deny you, or time, or whatever I want. Or you can accept with that Faith, that Jesus lived, and rose from the dead, just as eyewitnesses risked and lost their lives to confirm happened.
    “explain why God is cruel, capricious, unmerciful, and uncaring. Why is there childhood leukemia? Crib death? Congenital infant heart defects? Eye boring parasites? For those that believe and call upon him for relief and those who don’t alike? God cannot be the creator of all things and shirk responsibility for the horrors of his creation. God may not think he is cruel, but He is… Or, much more simply, He isn’t there and these cruelties are just the unfortunate processes we’d expect from a natural, indifferent, and evolutionary world and biology.”
    Why can’t there be those things? When did God say that there would be no suffering? When did God say that he would bow down to man, and do whatever anyone asked? What contradiction are you attempting to point out? God is not cruel, capricious, unmerciful, or uncaring. He’s extremely merciful, and it’s because of how much he cares that he is. Who are you to judge God? What standard are you even using? Why is it more simple to deny him because of those things? How does that even make sense.
    Your assumption would have to be that God said there would be no suffering for anyone, and that if somebody prayed, he would answer no matter what and right away and he’d always do what people asked. Your assumption of God is so wrong, and I don’t know where you got it from. It’s not biblical. I don’t know a religion that believes in a God like the one you made up. I agree that that God doesn’t exist. I’m talking about the God who made the world you see around you. Again, it’s clear that you do not know the Bible. I thought you had said you read it? When was the last time you actually studied it? If you’re going to continue to with these blogs, and discussions with other people, you should learn about the Christian God.

    To simplify. My issue with your morality, is that there is no constant upon which it is based. In science experiments, you need a constant. Something that doesn’t change, so you can measure all the other changes. Morality is used to measure behaviors. The variables are how people act, and morality shows if they were immoral, or moral, because it’s the constant. My Morals, are based on a universal constant. An unchanging, eternal God. I use them to measure with confidence.
    My issue with your morals, is that they are not the constant. You have an experiment, and people are behaving all sorts of different ways, and you keep changing the unit of measurement to people’s behavior… How can you possibly know what is right and wrong? You can’t, it keeps changing. All you have at that point is data, nothing useful. Yet you tell me slavery is wrong. You complain about genocide. You tell me God is immoral. By what standard? By what test? How did you come to that result?
    The Bible is the Word of God. My unit I use to test morals, is God himself. People can interpret the Bible however they want and that doesn’t change what is ultimately true, and that doesn’t change God. “thou shalt not kill” refers more accurately to “murder” in english. Most modern bible translations refer to it that way. Murder refers to unlawful killing. God could lead people into war, and allow for the death penalty in society to occur without contradicting that commandment, because that commandment refers to unlawful killing. The two don’t contradict. It can be a sin to murder (unjustly kill), and God can instruct people to enforce a just punishment of death on adulterers. Would you not agree that people who pose a threat to society would be better for everyone if they were not a part of that society? That’s why we lock people who hurt other people up in jail. And in some states there is a death penalty for certain crimes. God’s people anciently also had a justice system. Even if the method of execution was different.
    I think I got to everything! Looking forward to hearing your response!

    1. Exactly right. My morality shifts. When I learn of new evidence, new arguments, new rationale, what I determine to be moral can change. I may have accepted slavery 400 years ago as moral. Maybe because I believed the claims of a prophet or a barbaric, ancient text. Fortunately, now I have better evidence, arguments, and reasons for my position. The “fair test” is against the best evidence and arguments we have. Not against the words of ignorant and ill-informed tribesmen who lived 6000 years ago.

      Fortunately, those who claim to follow biblical morality change as well. It is rare to see someone stoned to death for believing differently, or for being gay, or being a disobedient child, or for not having been a virgin on her wedding night.

      Everyone lives by their own moral code. Ten Christians will interpret The Bible ten different ways. Some will think homosexuality a sin. Some won’t. Some will claim that ‘grace’ is all that is needed for salvation. Some will say “faith without works is dead.” Again, I ask. Who is right? Who is wrong? What methodology did you use to determine it?

      • Two Christians debating Biblical morality are engaged in a semantic and/or literary debate.
      • Two atheists debating secular morality are engaged in a philosophical and/or scientific debate.

      I would argue that the second methodology is a better way to arrive at a useful and meaningful conclusion.

      Why did Jesus have to die for the sins that God, Himself, defined as sinful? Seems like a ludicrous set of “rules.”

      “Jimmy. Do not ever touch this cake. But, I know you will touch the cake. I’ve made you so that you can’t help but touch the cake. Knowing that you will touch the cake, I’m going to smack Tammy around so that I don’t have to punish you forever.”

      I agree. I don’t understand God’s behavior.

      I don’t know where your coworker’s son gets his morals. You’d have to ask him. As other atheists have observed, if the only thing keeping you from murdering, raping, and stealing is a belief in god, please keep believing.

      On what biblical basis do you condemn slavery? I have read The Bible. Besides the clear endorsement of slavery in the Old Testament, Paul clearly instructs slaves to “obey your earthly masters with respect and fear.” (Eph. 6:5). Though I am sure you have some biblical answer that you feel negates this or explains it, and I am happy to hear it, we would be involved in a semantic or literary debate; not a moral debate. Not a philosophical debate. If what The Bible says is moral, simply by virtue of being in The Bible, then I argue that it plainly endorses slavery and never plainly condemns it. If, however, we want to argue secular morality, I argue that slavery introduces cruelty and misery which is not preferable to health and happiness. It does not benefit the whole of our species. It does not make the survival of the individual nor our species more likely. Which debate would you rather have? A tit-for-tat of scriptural versus, or a debate on what is really right and wrong? What is best for individuals and our society? Which position better promotes happiness and well-being?

      As there are so many versions of The Bible (Again I ask, why is that? If God wants us to know His mind?), it is likely that we are reading different versions. And I am not making a Biblical argument. I am trying to argue that you don’t need it for morality. It’s clearly flawed. It contains horrifying commandments in The Old Testament, which, if they are no longer needed shouldn’t be there.

      Another Biblical argument. “It’s all over The New Testament.”

      Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

      I guess we’re reading different Bibles, or interpreting them differently. That verse seems to say that the old law stands and we shouldn’t be eating all this pork and shrimp. Or, God’s perfect book is decidedly flawed and/or confusing.

      Ritual circumcision changed. Consumption of pork changed. Stoning laws changed. Seems that biblical morality lacks solid ground as well.

      “If you read The New Testament, it’s quite clear that it’s okay to eat pork and shellfish.”

      If you were in a debate with my father-in-law, who reads (and believes) The Bible more than anyone else I know, he would disagree with you. He came to the opposite conclusion. If God wants this to be clear, He needs a better way to communicate with humans than a dusty old book, because as you have demonstrated, it clearly isn’t clear.

      Here is another Christian who finds it unacceptable to eat pork http://www.iahushua.com/gatesofeden/pork.htm

      Again, I don’t care. That’s an internal struggle between people who believe The Bible to be the commandments of a supernatural being. I do not. I am merely demonstrating the seeming problems of placing so much faith and stock in the morality of a flawed book.

      If we believe The Bible, obviously nothing could stop God from allowing Satan to torture Job. Not mercy. Not morality. Not even a sense of decency. Job was punished mercilessly for upholding the law too well. I’d not worship that god, nor anything that acted in such a way. If I tried to teach humility in such a way, I’d rightfully be in prison.

      I last read The Bible cover to cover in Seminary. That was enough for me. All of these contradictions and problems were great fuel for my internal debate later.

      “What’s wrong with that?…Why can’t God design some people for destruction and some for salvation?”

      If you are an uncaring, merciless, and unjust god, I suppose there is nothing wrong with that.

      I accuse god of nothing. Based on the evidence and lack thereof presented, I find God not-guilty of existing. You claim that God is a moral creature based on The Bible. I most certainly disagree. I am judging the character of The Biblical God much as I would any other character in a work of fiction. Much like I find Iago immoral in Othello, or Professor Moriatry in Sherlock Homes, or Long John Silver in Treasure Island.

      The Dragon in My Garage is an analogy. It is not a joke. Nor am I attempting to make light of your beliefs. It is simply an attempt to demonstrate why the null hypothesis (“There is no dragon”/”There is no god”) is the logical position to hold when faced with a claim. Faced with untestable and unverifiable claims, one should withhold belief. I believe that gods and the supernatural fit this standard.

      What I want is irrelevant. Either there is a god or there is not. I find no convincing evidence or argument that there is. Thus, until such evidence is presented, I withhold belief.

      “The truth is the truth even if no one believes it. A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it.”

      It was once acceptable to believe that The Earth was the center of the universe. It was always wrong. We now have the evidence to know that is incorrect.

      Slavery was socially acceptable. It was always morally wrong. We now know it. We have the evidence and the rationale of its inherent harm – to the individuals as well as to our society and species.

      “If God told me to murder my child, he would be a liar. He would no longer be God.”

      I’d like you to ponder on that idea a bit. If anything God says is, by definition, moral, then killing your child would not be “unlawful.” You claim that it wasn’t “unlawful” when he ordered the killing of the Midianites? That is was a just punishment. Maybe your child is going to grow up to be an anti-Christ? Or to lead thousands away from His word? Only the omnipotent God knows for sure. Why do you question Him on this? Maybe that child was designed for destruction.

      I’ve previously conceded that I can’t “prove” that I exist, or that you exist, or solve solipsism. Many wiser than I have tried. All I can do is experience and judge reality as it appears to me. As must you. You believe you’ve had experiences that must be attributable to God. I believe that you believe that. Just as I believe the Mormons who believe their experiences confirm their faith. Just as I believe The Muslims who believe their experiences confirm their faith. When I have asked how I can do the same, you have said I must pray. OK. I have prayed. Ostensibly, reality did not present itself in the same way to me. Thus, the reality I experience seems very much natural and devoid of supernatural forces.

      The God of The Bible never said there would be no needless suffering. I would, however, expect a just, merciful, and all-powerful god to say exactly that. As he didn’t, the contradiction is that He is clearly not some of those things, or such a being doesn’t exist.

      My “assumption of God” is simple; what Christians and believers have been claiming about Him for ages. God is merciful (Deu. 4:31), but He either creates or allows suffering or both. In fact, He demands suffering (Jesus) to placate Him against the sins that He, Himself, declared were sinful. God is just towards His believers (Psalm 25:10), but punishes Job and Jesus severely for being too righteous. God can do anything, except design a universe without needless disease, natural disasters, and the suffering they cause, which do nothing to affect free-will or “agency.” Nor can he design a universe in which each of us is punished for our own “sins”, rather than through some ritualistic blood-magic transference onto another.

      My issue with biblical morality is that it is based on an ancient text, changing based on who is doing the reading, who is doing the interpreting, and in which version. You claim those morals are based on a universal constant that cannot be reliably demonstrated. My morality, and indeed, the morality of our entire society, is always changing and shifting – usually for the better. From slavery to murder; each previously justified in the minds of believers by The Bible, who now use it to condemn them. Very convenient for believers, but not the steadfast platform for morality you claim it to be. Even now, as you mention, The US has a death penalty for certain crimes. Some people are using The Bible to justify it. Some people are using The Bible to condemn it. Who is right and who is wrong is not moral; it is a matter of literary opinion. I think it would be far better to use evidence, reason, and critical thinking to arrive at a far better and more structurally sound conclusion.

      Cheers,
      Justin

      1. Just came across this quote from filmmaker Stanley Kubrick that I found interesting:

        The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism — and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong — and lucky — he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

        Cheers,
        Justin

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