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Opinion : Why Atheism May Be the Best Way to Understand God

December 22, 2008

I came across this article By Larry Beinhart on Alternet. It makes for an interesting read although some of his questions does make some incorrect assumptions. Some questions posed for believers in the article are – 

·         Why doesn’t God make himself clear?

·         Why does God give different rules to different people?

·         Why is it that the culture someone is born into is, far and away, the most important determinant of which revelation they believe in?

·         Is there a way to sort out The Truth?

·         If a new prophet arrives tomorrow — and they do arrive with great regularity — how can we say that the new revelation is not the true revelation? 

 These are important questions and a good place to start a discussion. So lets start talking….

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2008 9:08 am

    1. God tells us that the creation reveals His Glory. (Psalm 19:1) The Bible, in contrast, reveals His thoughts. In this way, He has revealed Himself.
    2-5. Seems to come from a perspective that there are many “right” answers. I would say that there is only one Truth. Each culture and religion is “right” to the degree that it follows this one truth. As God instructed humans to directly pen the Bible, I would say that everything is true or false to the degree that it confirms Biblical teaching.

  2. nitwitnastik permalink*
    December 22, 2008 10:08 am

    Kreitsauce, you are providing arguments based on the book of one religion. Even the veracity of the claims made in the bible are in question. What makes bible the gold standard for judging what’s true or false? Why not the Vedas, the Quran, the Talmud, the Zend Avesta etc etc. How are you so convinced of the truth in the bible? Is it because you were brainwashed from childhood by parents and pastors or becuase you have tangible proof of biblical sayings? What is about creation that reveals his glory ? If God was so crystal clear in the bible why are there so many Christian sects and why does each have it’s own interpretation of God and son of God?

    Also please elucidate further what you mean by “One Truth” ? What is that Truth and how do you know that it is indeed “The Truth” ?

  3. December 22, 2008 11:55 am

    1. Which claims of the Bible do you have reason to doubt?
    2. The Bible is unique in that it claims to be God’s Word (you’d be surprised how few books actually make that claim). It is unique in its diversity regarding authors, ages, cultures, etc. It is unique in its historical, cultural, and scientific accuracy. It is unique in its longevity as an ancient book (we have more ancient manuscripts of the Bible than we do of The Odyssey or even the writings of Shakespeare). It is unique in how many people in how many cultures profess it. It is unique in the accuracy of its prophecy. (Predicting Cyrus by name and the coming of Alexander the Great, the fall of Nineveh, the details concerning the great ancient empires, the details concerning Jesus’ birth).
    3. On a humorous note, you wouldn’t accuse me of brainwashing if you knew me personally. I’m definitely not a cheerleader for much of Christianity. I often tell people that I came to Christ in spite of Christians, not because of them. 🙂
    4. I see the rationality of what the Bible teaches. I am a better person because of my faith.
    5. Once you know Who God is from His Word, you can see His wisdom in how He designed the human body, His beauty in the starlit sky, His power in the roaring of the sea. He is real and He is personal.
    6. How is God responsible for what Christians have screwed up? He told us about Himself. What we do with that is our fault.

    How do you know what is not the Truth? How do you know God does not exist? How do you know the Bible isn’t the gold standard?

    The Bible is logically consistent, empirically adequate, and experientially relevant. It answers questions concerning origin, morality, the meaning of life, and destiny. It deserves to be thoughtfully considered.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      December 23, 2008 6:58 am

      Hi Kreitsauce, Thanks for your comment and your willingness to discuss. I went through some articles in your blog and I felt that you accept a lot of the assertions of religion on faith without asking for tangible, verifiable proof. I maybe wrong in my assessment of you so please correct me if I am wrong. Faith and scientific reasoning are a no contest. If you take everything or at least most of what religion preaches on faith , there is nothing I can say or show that will convince you about the position, since you have already assumed it to be correct based on faith. In that case, this discussion is futile and we are wasting our time.

      Just saying that I know this to be true because it “sounds” correct, or “looks” correct or “feels” correct cannot pass as scientific proof. As science is not based on opinions and does not care about our feelings or our observational bias. Science depends only on unbiased verifiable proof. For example, a hundred years ago, whites in this country (assuming you are from the US too) believed that blacks or “negroes” were intellectually deficient. The people who made these assertions used their experiences from daily life using the powers of “observation” and “feeling” to arrive at the conclusion. Scientific research in the last century has proven this assertion to be false and found no correlation between a person’s race and intellectually capacity. So if both of us can agree to be satisfied only with incontrovertible evidence to arrive at a conclusion, maybe it will be worthwhile for us to proceed. Now let me try to answer your questions to the best of my ability.

      1. Which claims of the Bible do you have reason to doubt?

      There are numerous but to start with – the creation of Adam and Eve, parting of the Red sea by Moses, Noah’s flood, the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead etc etc. If I believe such stories without asking for proof, what is to stop me from believing in fantasy stories about Superman having the ability to travel faster than a speeding bullet or having x-ray vision, or Harry Potter having magical powers? On what basis or proof do we accept the former yet reject the latter as fantasy? If a person says that he “feels” that Superman exists or “knows” in his heart that Harry Potter exists, will you believe him? Just because one admits to being fiction and the other not, can we say that one is true and the other false. If you are the judge, will you only hear cases where the suspect admits to stealing and not suspects who claim that they are innocent?

      2. The Bible is unique in that it claims to be God’s Word (you’d be surprised how few books actually make that claim). It is unique in its diversity regarding authors, ages, cultures, etc. It is unique in its historical, cultural, and scientific accuracy. It is unique in its longevity as an ancient book (we have more ancient manuscripts of the Bible than we do of The Odyssey or even the writings of Shakespeare). It is unique in how many people in how many cultures profess it. It is unique in the accuracy of its prophecy. (Predicting Cyrus by name and the coming of Alexander the Great, the fall of Nineveh, the details concerning the great ancient empires, the details concerning Jesus’ birth).

      I am not sure if you have read books from other religions, but the bible is not the only book which claims to be God’s word. Most religious book including the Quran, the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita claim they are the veritable words of God and talk about the origin of man and the universe. How does diversity of authors, ages and cultures make it unique and special? As a former Hindu, I know that the hindu religious texts, namely the Vedas had numerous authors, and were written over many generations.

      Even though I doubt the Bible’s scientific accuracy (for that matter, the scientific accuracy in any religious text as most of it is the interpretation or distortion by followers), what makes us so sure that historical, cultural and scientific accuracy equates to “God’s word”? There are hundreds of works of fiction that are set to historical background, and give very accurate cultural and scientific facts. Does that make each of them God’s word? If either of us is to write and direct a Disney animation set in New York, giving accurate details about the places in New York, the people in New York, the dresses they wear and also mention scientific facts about solar radiation or the accurate chemical formula for water. Would that make it real? Would that make it the “word of God”?

      The Hindu and Buddhist scriptures pre-date the Christian Bible i.e the New Testament. The Old Testament which many orthodox Christians claim to be part of Christian religious canon was written before the birth of Christ and is in reality more of a Jewish religious text.

      If numbers and popularity are any indication of the truth of a belief, then we would still be stuck in the Geocentric model of our solar system believing that the earth was the centre of our solar system (The bible itself lent credence to this fact in Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, Psalm 104:5 and I Chronicles 16:30 by claiming that the earth is fixed ( speaking about scientific accuracy in the bible!! ) which the Catholic church supported but finally had to retract in the face of overwhelming evidence). Majority of humans in pre-historic times believed that lightning and thunder were created by Gods’ to punish humans. Thanks to science we now know why lightning occurs.

      Also kudos to the proselytizing zeal of the early Christian missionaries, Christainity spread to most parts of the world faster than the older religions. It has nothing to do with the Bible or Christian teachings but more to do with blessings of a powerful king, financial inducements to entice the greedy or the sword to threaten the stubborn and unruly. In fact most religions were spread by such methods and had little to do with universal truths in that religion.

      Prophecies appear to be true because they speak in too generalized terms which are then distorted and interpreted by someone to be true once the event has happened. It has nothing to do with the truth but has everything to do with the power of our human imagination. If that event hadn’t happened then that would be rejected and believers would start searching for some other book which they can interpret as proof of a prophecy. Moreover, why would people who can see into the future give vague details? If they could really see into the future why can’t they give us exact details? Show me a prophecy which gives exact names and does not say things like great kings or great person or some common name, gives exact dates and speaks about exact events and not things like a great war will occur and many people will be killed. Such events have a high chance of happening anyway and there’s no credit in guessing such events. Also just saying that there will be an end of the world is not a prophecy as all of us know that the world is bound to come to an end someday. I can predict today that a great person will come who will change the way we think about religion. Now depending on the country I stay, I can guarantee you that there will be many such people, does that mean I have supernatural powers? Also if the bible’s prophecies are accurate, why doesn’t the timelines of such prophecy extend to the modern times and why not to other famous or infamous people like Mother Teresa, Einstein, Gandhi, Martin Luther King or even Hitler and Stalin. Why not to events like the Holocaust or the bombing of Hiroshima Nagasaki? I am sure they are pretty big events which changed the course of history. Show me a prophecy which gives exact dates and exact events and I will believe you. Also if you have time, please look at one of my posts here about astrology and why it appears to be true.

      3. On a humorous note, you wouldn’t accuse me of brainwashing if you knew me personally. I’m definitely not a cheerleader for much of Christianity. I often tell people that I came to Christ in spite of Christians, not because of them. 🙂

      That’s’s great. That means you are an independent thinker. I hope you can also judge my statements by their own merit, unbiased and independently, without any external influence.

      4. I see the rationality of what the Bible teaches. I am a better person because of my faith.

      “Seeing” rationality in something does not necessarily make it correct. The suicide bombers who kill themselves daily for Allah or the terrorists who flew planes into the twin towers also saw rationality in their actions. If they hadn’t they wouldn’t have done it in the first place. But, did that make their actions or ideas correct?

      Hitler who sent millions of Jews to the gas chambers also “saw” rationality in his actions. If he didn’t he would have stopped it immediately. Did that make his actions or ideas correct ?

      And, How do you define better? If you are a good person it’s not because of your religion or faith but because of your inherent nature. Humans create their religions based on their nature and not the other way round. There are enough documented examples of kindness, compassion and self-sacrifice in the animal kingdom – especially amongst dogs and elephants. Can you say that they are better because of their faith as none of them have a concept of faith or had ever read the bible ? Also are you implying that people who don’t have faith especially in Jesus, the Bible or any religion for that matter are horrible persons? Doesn’t that mean that each and every person before the dawn of any religion were horrendous creatures? If that is true why didn’t pre-historic humans annihilate each other and bring the end of humanity. Why aren’t the aborigines in the deepest parts of Africa, who have no concept of the Bible, killing, stealing or annihilating each other? How do you explain the charitable contributions of agnostics like Bill gates and Warren Buffet who are the richest people on earth and yet have donated almost their entire wealth to charity? To what religious faith can you ascribe their magnanimity? On the contrary, most devout Christians who believe in every word of the bible as the true word of god, continue to crave and horde money inspite of Jesus commanding them to leave everything and follow him in Luke 14:33 or “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” in Luke 18:22. I am sure the typical Christian argument to this would be – “It’s not to be taken literally but these have metaphorical meaning.” – Ah! How convenient !!

      5. Once you know Who God is from His Word, you can see His wisdom in how He designed the human body, His beauty in the starlit sky, His power in the roaring of the sea. He is real and He is personal.

      Here is the age old questions which believers never answer- If God created everything, who created God? And if God can come into existence on his own, why can’t the entire universe? If I don’t know the answer to this question, why would I want to believe in God and his creation? Anything else is just conjecture and guess work and why would we as intelligent humans want to believe in illogical, irrational conjecture and childish fantasies?

      In one of my posts here, I had addressed the assumption of believers in finding perfection in nature and the wisdom in creation. Is God really wise and is the world really perfect? For example, if the world was so perfectly ordained, why did the dinosaurs become extinct? Why do tens or hundreds of species become extinct every decade? What sort of a wise and perfect creator would create something which He/She considers a model of perfection and then let it be altered? If perfection is an evolving criterion doesn’t that necessarily mean that this creation wasn’t perfect to begin with and what we see today is not perfect at all ? What sort of a wise person wouldn’t plan ahead to prevent such a disaster? What sort of a compassionate creator would let his creations die in the thousands? To say that this is “God’s will’ is similar to saying “I don’t know”. And if I truly and sincerely don’t know the reason for something, why would I want to believe it? The “God’s will” excuse and argument is given by people who are not concerned about finding the truth and will feel content with any explanation that supports or does not contradict their world-view. It is a lazy assumption to avoid further questioning since God never divulged His divine plan to us, in which case we have no way of knowing what it is.

      By most accounts, Hitler was a cruel maniac. Yet, there were thousands of german people including highly inteligent generals who were ready to die for him and his idealogies. Many people also found him charming. When we cherry pick aspects of someone’s personality and character, even the most evil person may look like an angel. It’s like saying that a lion is a docile and harmless creature because it has a velvety skin. Similarly when we screen for elements of nature and society to prove a point there’s always something we can find which will. convince us of it. But when we look at the entire picture with an unbiased mind, we may realize that the reality is far from our our assumptions. Similarly when we look at poverty, disease, war, genocide and all the ills of this world can we truly say that God is wisdom, beauty and power. If he is all powerful why does he waste his energies in trying to impress us with starry skies and roaring seas? Why not use that power in eradicating poverty, making everyone disease free and bring peace to this world? Many Christians mights say – Oh! God did not create evil, Satan did. If that is true then doesn’t it mean that God is not all-powerful and all-knowing as there are entities in this world who are equally powerful and can apparently create things without God’s will or without his permission or knowledge?

      6. How is God responsible for what Christians have screwed up? He told us about Himself. What we do with that is our fault.

      If God was really that intelligent and all-wise, why didn’t he create a universally understood, clear lucid text that everyone could comprehend and understand. If he is all-powerful why did he just stop at telling us about himself, why not use his powers to make it unambiguous?

      How do you know what is not the Truth? How do you know God does not exist? How do you know the Bible isn’t the gold standard?

      Kreitsauce, perhaps it would help if you ask pertinent and logical questions. It is a well known that it is impossible to prove a negative. Can you prove
      • That Superman does not exist
      • That cookie monster does not exist
      • That a 4-sided triangle, difficult to imagine, invisible to the normal eye and which revolves the universe every nanosecond does not exist

      When someone makes a claim, the burdern of proof lies with the claimant to prove his/her claim. If I claim that Sasquatch, Bigfoot or the Abominable snowman exists, then the burden of proof lies with me to prove my claim, without which it’s just conjecture and fantasy. For the claimant to ask for proof from the other side is a logical fallacy which is explained here. Since you are the one who made those claims, it is imperative on your part to prove it to me and not the other way round. In any case if you are truly honest, you will honestly try to answer these claims.

      The Bible is logically consistent, empirically adequate, and experientially relevant. It answers questions concerning origin, morality, the meaning of life, and destiny. It deserves to be thoughtfully considered.

      Again you are making claims without any proof. Can you please provide examples or proofs of all your claims? Also, just because a book answers questions concerning origin, morality, meaning of life and destiny doesn’t mean that the answers are correct. Ask any 3-year old kid these questions and he/she will most probably say that humanity came from his/her parents, morality is not breaking stuff around the house, meaning of life is eating, playing and sleeping and destiny is to be elmo’s best friend. Can we lend those answers any credence and doesn’t it depend on the kid’s perspective and are not universal truths?

      Again it was nice discussing with you. I hope to have more such fruitful discussion with you.

  4. December 22, 2008 2:44 pm

    @kreitsauce,

    Sorry to jump onto the conversation.

    you can see His wisdom in how He designed the human body

    Can He or you based on His word explain this:
    http://www.thedenverchannel.com/health/18297954/detail.html#-

    HA

  5. December 22, 2008 3:37 pm

    @Hindu Atheist

    From Psalm 139:
    14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
    15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
    16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

    God made a perfect world, but sin brought chaos into it. His creation is marred by sin, but He knows what is going on in it. He knew how this child would be born.

    Interestingly, the child’s mother described the boy as a miracle, not a disaster. What may seem random or strange to us can be a beautiful thing.

  6. December 22, 2008 4:02 pm

    @kreitauce,

    We should be really glad the doctor who operated on the baby did not quote Psalm 139 when the kids parents approached the hospital. It would have been so less work for him though to advise the parents about the chaos brought in by sin.

    I’m sure God has a wonderful reason to create the ever elusive HIV virus too. Again, Psalm 139 would be the answer. Thanks for doing your part to understand the world around us & solving the problem. I feel really enlightened.

    And btw, if God already knew how this child would be born and did not do anything to prevent the crisis (you know being omnipotent and all that- especially knowing that kid is too young to understand what it means to accept Jesus as his savior), then I’m sorry. I find it difficult to believe that he really loves us.

    Sorry.

  7. December 22, 2008 8:50 pm

    @Hindu Atheist-
    I think you’re missing the point. God knew, loved, and had a plan for that baby before he was even conceived. At no point did I say that the doctor should take the “easy route” and just chalk the child’s condition up to sin. Sin is why our world is in a mess- that answers the philosophical/theological “why?”

    The doctors are there for scientific/medical reasons. As a Christian, I wouldn’t go to a doctor who told me to chalk my flu up to a sin-filled world either! 🙂

    As for the HIV virus, we don’t know it’s past, but we do know how it is transmitted. If people would follow God’s laws, it would not have become the scourge that it is today. It’s unfortunate that some have contracted HIV without having sex, but sinful people have wrecked God’s world.

    Finally, just because God is omnipotent doesn’t mean that He will do anything. It just means that He could do anything. We don’t know what God’s plan might be for this child and his family. I would point you again to his mother’s use of the word “miracle.” Before you point out the problem of pain and accuse God of not being loving, realize that there is more at stake than a world that is perfectly contented and happy. He has other and higher purposes than that.

    “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”- C. S. Lewis

  8. December 22, 2008 9:55 pm

    @kreitsauce,

    God knew, loved, and had a plan for that baby before he was even conceived.

    I would never ever do what he did to that baby if “I could do anything”. I’m definitely more moral than Him. Too bad, He couldn’t be more creative than inflicting horrendous pain through brain tumor to achieve “higher purposes”.

    Your conclusion seems delusional to me. All of a sudden even brain tumor & suffering of a 3 year old kid is His love. That’s considered sadistic in my world. It’s impossible to buy your argument. Let Him use pain to rouse the deaf world. I’m *so* glad I’m deaf.

    I’ll take leave now. You can continue your discussion with nitwit.

  9. December 22, 2008 10:43 pm

    @Hindu Atheist,

    Once again, you pass up the mother’s use of the word “miracle.” I always think it’s odd when a person from outside the tragedy takes a view that is more harsh than a person within the tragedy.

    I suppose the mother is also delusional in your world. I’ll take my leave of this post too, friend, but I leave you with another C. S. Lewis quote:

    “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him.”

    I guess you could say that God is good with sign language too.

  10. December 22, 2008 10:58 pm

    Mother using the word miracle should have no bearing on the discussion we are having about God. I being an atheist use the word “miracle” so many times in a metaphorical sense. In fact we have improved our communication infrastructure so much that its a miracle we can have this conversation sitting in remote parts of the world which would have been impossible a 100 years ago. There I used the word miracle. What does it prove? Nothing!!!

  11. nitwitnastik permalink*
    December 22, 2008 11:39 pm

    Ah! I see there’s quite a discussion going on here. Kreitsauce I will reply to your orginal post soon.

  12. December 23, 2008 11:26 pm

    Let me start off by thanking you for your generally courteous tone. So often I run into people out here that have an axe to grind, and a real discussion isn’t possible because they have a personal vendetta of some sort. I don’t mind a real discussion, even a debate, on things. We can discuss here and- most likely- walk away believing what we will.

    1. Jesus vs. Superman

    There is a distinction between fantasy literature and the Gospels. The creators of Superman, Harry Potter, and so forth don’t write about what they have seen, what they have heard, etc. They don’t testify of their experiences or life-changing events. They aren’t willing to die for their creations. They don’t attempt to interpret the world around them, explain the meaning of life, etc. People know they are fantasy and take them as such.

    The Gospels- and the entire Old and New Testaments- are different. They claim truth. They interpret reality. They communicate the experiences of their authors. Their authors would rather die than change their story. They are eye-witness accounts that are a “proof” of their own. If I were in court, I would accept eye-witness accounts until someone could prove that the witnesses were lying. Therefore, the burden is a skeptic’s to bear.

    Naturally, we jump to the miracles as something to doubt. We don’t see seas parting (that would have to be one heck of a storm or something, wouldn’t it?), the dead rising, and so forth. Those miracles hinge on whether or not God exists, so I’m not sure they should be a reason to immediately discount the accuracy of those claims. One has to believe that He doesn’t exist before they can disbelieve in His miraculous deeds.

    Secondly, people discount miracles because they break the laws of science. Science and scientific laws only tell us what does happen today or what “normally” happens. We didn’t make a law of gravity so that nature would have to follow our desires. Our “law of gravity” merely describes in mathematical/scientific terms what does happen. If God does exist, then He made this entire universe, which means that He can make things happen in a way that isn’t strictly “normal.” Am I saying that every anomaly is God’s “fault”? No. 99.99999% (feel free to keep adding “9s”. I’m sure that’s not enough) of what happens in our universe is scientifically explainable. However, if God wants to directly intervene in a situation for one Purpose or another, then He is certainly very capable of doing so.

    2. The Bible

    Though I have studied a handful of other religions extensively, I think that the real issue here is Christianity. I say this not because I’m quick to brush off other religions, but because the Bible makes a claim to being the only Way and Truth. If it is right, then other religions are only significant to the extent that they agree with Christianity.

    My purpose in pointing out diversity of generations, cultures, languages, etc. is that books written in this way don’t tend to also be unified. Thousands of years pass, three languages are used (with a handful of Aramaic and “Latinisms” thrown in to make things fun for those of us who learn the original languages), a variety of people are told by God to write (kings, prophets, priests, peasants, shepherds, farmers, etc.), yet it is a very unified book. I’m not saying this alone proves that the Bible comes from God. I am, however, saying that the Bible is a rarity.

    I point out the Bible’s accuracy simply for the fact that a Book that is accurate with historical events makes it more capable of being trusted with spiritual content. If you have caught a friend in a lie before are you not less likely to trust him or her again? If, however, that friend has proven himself or herself to be reliable in the past, would you not be more likely to believe them today, even if you are suspicious of their claims?

    You are right in saying that popularity does not make something right. I would point out that untruth does tend to go away eventually. The Geocentric model did go away thanks to overwhelming evidence that contradicted it. [Shame on the Catholic church for using Hebrew poetry to back up scientific claims! The English teacher (and of course the theologian) in me gets irritated when people take poetic language and run with it.] I have yet to see overwhelming evidence against God’s existence.

    I’d agree that early Christians did much to spread the Word. However, I would say that the most intense period of early church history was characterized by persecution, not blessings and money from Rome. From Nero through Diocletian, things were pretty bad for Christians. Judaism made things worse. It’s not like there were a lot of the locals (in Israel) that liked the Christians. Torture, prison, and death were quite common. Frankly, I think that Christianity took a pretty bad detour when Constantine and company came on the scene. What the world sees as Christianity’s rise to power looks to me like corruption spreading in what should have been a holy group of people.

    I disagree on your point about prophecy. Biblical prophets do not see the future, at least not in the way that most people imagine it. God reveals very specific things to them and they write down what they are told. Also, God reveals future events only when they are meaningful to the Bible as a whole. The Old Testament leads up to the coming of Christ and the New Testament tells of Christ and the result of His coming. The only reason why the book of Revelation exists at all is because it foretells not the “end of the world” but most importantly the coming of Christ again.

    Also, prophecy can be very general or extremely specific. Isaiah predicted the rise of Cyrus of Persia to power (Isaiah 45:1) and predicted that he would command that the temple in Jerusalem be rebuilt (Isaiah 44:28). He mentions Cyrus by name well over 100 years before his birth.

    Think also of the prophecies concerning Jesus Christ. He had to be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), a descendent of King David of Israel (2Samuel 7:12-13), be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and enter into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He would have to be rejected by His people, beaten, avoid giving a defense for Himself at His trial, punished with criminals, and buried in a rich man’s grave (Isaiah 53:1-12).

    3. Faith is reasonable.

    Faith makes sense. Its morals are not unreasonable. The history is factual. The theology and philosophy is logical. I do not assert that every claim the Bible makes is empirically provable, but every claim is logical. It is reasonable and acceptable.

    I don’t really understand the need to for you to bring up terrorists and Nazis at this point. I see rationality because it is there. I also feel like I’ve answered some of the other responses in such a way that covers this point, so I’m going to move on.

    4. I am a better person because of faith.

    I do assert that faith has enriched my life in many ways. I have no problem making a statement like that because it has to do with my perception of my life. I don’t believe that you must be a Christian to be good. I do believe that you must believe in God to say that right and wrong exist. If a reality beyond our own does not determine what is right and what is wrong, then everything boils down to opinion. I can’t say Hitler was wrong. I can’t say that suicide bombers are evil.

    I suppose we could say that society is the determining factor, but it begs the question as to whose society determines morality. America’s? Nazi Germany’s? Hussein’s Iraq? China’s? The French? They all have some striking differences. Of course, they are all the same in some points, but that just pushes the problem back further. How is it that governments for all of history keep coming down to the same basic moral code?

    5. Where did God come from? If He exists, why is this world so screwed up?

    God didn’t come from anywhere. He simply always exists. People ask that question because everything in our universe comes from somewhere. It’s a natural question to ask.

    Since God created the universe, He is not a part of the universe. The whole point of Him being God is that He doesn’t need to be created. He never began to exist; He simply always existed.

    If the possibility of God existing forever seems strange to you, remember that the Creationist and the Darwinist share one similarity: they both believe in the eternal. I believe that an uncreated Person has always existed and at some point created the universe. The Darwinist believes that an uncreated universe has always existed and somehow brought order to itself. Either one is a hard point to prove. They must both be accepted by faith.

    —–

    Accepting the existence of God, how did this world get so messed up? God is perfect and therefore created a perfect universe. A very important part of that perfect universe was the creation of humans, who had free will. Part of free will includes the very real possibility that humans (and Satan himself) would choose evil.

    God couldn’t have made humans unable to choose to do wrong and still given them free will. Once sin entered into the world, the Bible says that death and destruction entered. The result is that we live in badly damaged version of the world God intended for us to enjoy. Humans are to blame for extinction, death, violence, etc.
    We are responsible in the general sense because we sin, and sin is what brought death and destruction into this world. We are responsible specifically because many of us are selfish, violent people.

    If God had let us wallow in misery here on earth, He would be justified in doing that. No one is perfect (His standard of worthiness), so He’s not obligated to fix anything. If the Bible is true, though, God didn’t just leave us to wallow in misery. He entered into our world. That’s Who Jesus is. He was born to a poor family, and He was trained to be a carpenter while living in an oppressed country. He knew what it was like to be sick, exhausted, sad, hungry, and lonely. He suffered incredible pain and an agonizing death. God didn’t reject us and leave us a broken world. He experienced the world that humans had ruined. And- here’s the best part- He offers us the ability to know Him personally and experience creation as He intended it. That’s the big picture, including the ugly parts. I would say that He is wise, beautiful, and powerful.

    6. Why say something is God’s will?

    Sometimes I do say that it is God’s will because I do not know the answer. That doesn’t mean that I’m not curious. That doesn’t mean that I don’t ask Him why. It does mean that I’m not God and I can’t see why everything is the way it is. I don’t get to see the big picture yet. One day I will, but I’m content (not lazy) in knowing that God is in control. That means that I strive to learn more every day, work hard at the tasks that I’ve been given to do, and live my life to its fullest.

    7. Why not use His powers to make His existence, etc. unambiguous?

    It goes back to free will. God wants us to accept Him by faith. Not the sort of blind faith that has no reason behind it, but still faith. It’s no good if He forces compliance. He wants us to choose Him. The Bible is quite clear, but sometimes our pride or lack of understanding gets in the way though.

    8. It’s impossible to prove a negative.

    Logically, that’s very true. That’s why I find the term “atheist” to be ironic. An atheist believes that God does not exist. To prove that claim, the atheist would have to either be everywhere at once or know everything at once, which would, in turn, give him or her god-like qualities. If I weren’t a Christian, I would probably be an agnostic, since that would just mean I wasn’t sure.

    9. The claim that the Bible is logically consistent, empirically adequate, and experientially relevant and that it answers questions concerning origin, morality, the meaning of life, and destiny doesn’t have any proof to back it up.

    Actually, that was supposed to be some sort of witty summary statement. I guess it didn’t work out too well. Let me know what you think!

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      December 24, 2008 12:33 pm

      Hi Kreitsauce, It was nice to hear from you and thanks for your lengthy reply explaining your position. I am leaving today on vacation and may not be back till the first week of Jan, so I might not have much time to answer your comments now, in details. Below is my brief reply and if you are interested please check this post back after a couple of weeks when I will have more to write. I may still be posting other articles on my blog – articles which I have already finished writing, but I will need time to write my reply to your comment and I will try to answer it when I get back.

      Anyway here is my brief observation and reply to your comment.

      I mentioned in my previous comment that scientific reasoning vs faith is a no-contest. It’s a stalemate which cannot be resolved. Everything you believe about religion or God is based on faith and your own assertions about God and what He “may” be thinking or doing is based on assumptions and unverifiable claims. For instance, to answer my question “who created God?” you claimed that “God always existed”. This contention is based again on an assumption and claim without proof. Believers typically treat their assumptions/claims as sacrosanct and refuse to consider other possibilities. As such, religion operates under rigid rules.

      On the contrary, as an agnostic and a student of science I challenge the assumptions of religion and about God, I require verifiable and incontrovertible proof to believe in anything and I keep myself open to other possibilities if I observe or experience anything contradictory. That is how science operates. It makes observations, hypothesizes on those observations, tries to find, verifiable, incontrovertible proof to support the hypotheses and then arrives at conclusions. If the hypotheses are proven beyond reasonable doubt and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers, it then passes of as theory. Examples of which are the theory of relativity or quantum theory. However, if the hypotheses don’t agree with observations or are found to contradict or unable to explain the observations due to inadequate evidence, then science moves on and keeps itself open to other and better explanations. In that, science is flexible and religion is not.

      Science always says, “This is what it is, based on all available and verifiable proof we have today, but there is always a finite chance I may be wrong if new observations come to light I am unable to explain or which contradict my position”.

      Religion says, “This is what it is because it is the absolute and undeniable truth and you better not question my judgment. Also take everything on faith and don’t bother to ask for verifiable proof because things are the way it is, because I SAY SO.”

      So I guess there is a fundamental difference in the way both of us approach things and unless we can agree on a method to verify the veracity of the claims you made, I think our discussion will not lead to anything conclusive. Nevertheless, I will try my best to answer your comment so please bear with me. In the meantime, I wish you happy holidays.

  13. December 24, 2008 1:19 pm

    I’m not going to post a full response here because I don’t feel like you’ve been given a chance to fully explain your response. I would add that I have a similar observation on our positions. I don’t believe that conflict is between science and religion, so I’d like to ask you to explain what you mean a bit more when you get a chance. I believe the conflict is between different worldviews. You start with the assumption that God probably does not exist because there is no way to scientifically observe Him directly. I begin with with the assumption that God’s existence is quite likely based on reason that does not require the sort of direct observation required by scientists.

    We can discuss this more in depth later, as I’m sure we both have a lot more to say on the matter. Until then, have a Merry Christmas.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      January 4, 2009 10:54 pm

      Kreitsauce, finally I have some time to reply to your comments and I must also thank you for your polite tone. Most believers get angry when they encounter people who contradict them and I have tried having discussions with Christian pastors/reverends or Hindu fundamentalists where the discussion has very soon turned ugly ending with name calling, ad hominem attacks and racial slurs. So I thank you for the civil discussion and hope that both of us will leave this discussion more knowledgeable than before even though I don’t think any of us is going to change our minds anytime soon 😉 Although I would expect to hear from you, this may be my last comment as I have to move on to other blog topics and may not have the time to reply in details as I have done for this post.

      Anyway here it goes –

      1. Jesus and Superman

      Krietsauce, every argument you have given to separate fiction from the truth is based on your assumptions. You *assume* them to be correct and the so-called facts to be representative of truth.I have noticed this curious thing about believers – all believers reason everything in life, rationalize every decision they make, except the thing which they consider the most important i.e. religion. Why is that I wonder? What causes them to be suspend their intelligence when it comes to religion. Why is it good to accept things on faith and not reason it with facts ? Btw, Buddhist and Hindu philosophy is much older and much complete in terms of explaining philosophical questions than the Bible, but there again what the authors claim to be “truths” are just their own interpretation of the truth as there is no proof to back up their claims.

      Also how do we know the authors of Superman and Harry potter weren’t telling the truth and the Gospels were? 2000 years and thousands of distortions, embellishments and additions/deletions later, just like the Bible, people might even start believing in the stories of Superman. Who knows? Just because, I claim my stories are true doesn’t necessarily make them so. Just because I am ready to die for my story or a cause, doesn’t make it true or right. Hundreds of communists have died for the cause of communism or the ideas based on Karl Marx’s writings. Extremists Muslims are the perfect example of people who are wiling to die for a false cause. Look at this site and tell me how many you believe in and yet there are hundreds of young Muslim men who are ready to die thinking that these are Allah’s true words. Willing to die for a story has more to do with the degree of a person’s delusion and foolishness or the degree to which he/she has been brainwashed rather than the actual truth.

      Also when it comes to writing about the truth, there have been hundreds of authors who have passed off lies in the name of truth. A recent example is here and here. So the question now is, given that humans lie or distort reality, how does one judge the veracity of any historical claim? I agree that there is no foolproof method to judge, at least for anything thousands of years old with no photographs or video evidence. And that is why there is so much controversy about the religious claims as it is left to the person’s imagination, worldview and upbringing to make his/her own judgments. But the best we can do is to find books or written documents from secular historians and also supporting artifacts from that age. But as far as the bible goes there is not much historical evidence to a lot of the biblical claims outside the bible.

      Moreover, the burden of proof lies always with the plaintiff or the claimant. That is how every court of law in any civilized country, including the US, operate. That is how any sane, reasonable person looks at any claim and arrives at a conclusion. You can ask any lawyer or judge if you don’t believe me. The Latin phrase for it is “ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat” (the burden of proof rests on who asserts, not on who denies). If I accuse you of stealing, murder or any other crime, then the burden of proof to substantiate my accusations lies with me (the accuser or the plaintiff) and not on you (the defense or the accused). If that is not the case I can accuse anyone of a crime every single day and send them to jail any day I want, without having to show any proof. Let’s think about it for a while. Since it is more difficult to prove a negative (e.g. that you didn’t commit the crime you are being accused of), you will have a much tougher time defending yourself than I will have accusing you. Isn’t it? In fact, it’s only when this part of law is violated that we see so many innocent people incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. Anyway, I cannot convince you about this because you are refusing to believe me or see the logic in it, so I would request you to speak to a few mathematicians, scientists, judges or journalists, people who use this principle everyday in their profession, or read a few books on logic and then decide which the more logical position is.

      Now, when it comes to miracles, the questions I ask myself are

      1. Why does God want to show his powers and choose to intervene in certain cases and not in others? Because, intervening in anything goes against his divine plan as it means that His plan isn’t perfect and needs modifications by him from time to time? If I am an All-knowing person, wouldn’t I make a plan which is perfect and which does not require my intervention

      2. Why does God stay limited to only minor miracles and not major ones like eradicating poverty or disease or preventing war? If he can heal one person what is stopping him from healing everyone? What is it that applies to one person and not to multitudes that causes God to intervene? What sort of a benevolent person wants his children to die fighting each other?

      2. The Bible

      You said “…Bible makes a claim to being the only Way and Truth. If it is right, then other religions are only significant to the extent that they agree with Christianity.”

      Contrary to your claim, Bible is NOT the only book which claims to be the only way and truth. The Quran also makes that exact same claim and is also amazingly unified and so are a host of other religious texts. In fact, most of these religious books, like the Bible, were not written by any single person but by various people and sometimes by committees (just like the Bible, which makes me even more skeptical about the truths claimed in these texts). So how do we know which book is right and which is wrong? In fact, if we ignore the fantasy stories and distorted historical accounts in all religious texts and get down only to the “Truths” claimed by all religions can you show a BASIC truth that is claimed ONLY in the bible and not in any other religious text?

      A Muslim or Hindu probably thinks his/her holy book to be the only way and truth for exactly the same reasons as you do. So let’s force ourselves to answer that question and when you do, try to put yourself in the shoes of a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist. For every argument you give in support of why the Bible is right or unique and the others are wrong, try to answer the question “If I were a Muslim, a Hindu or Buddhist does this apply to my religion and can I make the same claims about my religion also?” This will force you to investigate claims by other religions or read other religious texts if you haven’t done so already (I had done the same once).

      Now, if after this thought exercise you can come up with things which are unique to Christianity and the Bible, please let a knowledgeable person of that religion know and you will surely find that every religion makes the same claims about it’s uniqueness – fulfilled prophecies, scientific and historical accuracy, unique structure of verses, influence, continuity and survival etc etc. In fact, I challenge any Christian who claims that his religion is unique to find something unique and I am sure I can find something similar in other religions or other religious texts, some much older than the bible. Now, does that make one religion better than the other or one book more correct than the other? No. They just show that the authors of all these scriptures were equally blind, equally biased and probably equally imaginative. Frankly, as an agnostic, I find most of the claims trivial at best and baseless at worst.

      Also the “If” you mentioned is a very big “if”. Why should we do anything or follow anyone when we have doubts or “ifs” and “buts” in our minds? I can base each and every argument based on “If” because the word “if” does not require any logic, any explanation or any proof. It just depends on a person’s bias, imagination and his/her tolerance to accept things at face value rather than proof. So why would any intelligent and sane person want to base his/her decisions on an assumption?

      About your claim on biblical accuracy of historical events which also seems to be the claim of most Christians, here is one article which says otherwise. Also even if it were true just because a book is accurate historically, doesn’t mean that it is accurate in spiritual content. It’s like saying that this person is a PhD in sociology, so he must be right when he talks about physics. If your assertion is true, people would be flocking to historians for spiritual advice which you and I both know is not the case. History and spiritual teachings are as different as night and day because one depends on facts and the other on faith. One is objective while the other is subjective. We have to understand that the bible was written by humans who even though had some historical knowledge used their own interpretations when it came to spiritual advice. Since the bible is inaccurate in spiritual content, most modern and wise Christians don’t follow the Bible to the letter like putting to death people who work on the day of Sabbath, or giving their daughters to be raped by angry mobs or leaving their riches so that they can enter the kingdom of heaven.

      Also, I don’t understand this about believers – as soon as believers encounter something which does not agree with their worldview or contradicts modern science they are quick to point out that it is either poetry or a metaphor and not to be taken literally. Can you please show me where is the poetry in saying that the earth is fixed or people engaging in certain activities on Sabbath day should be killed? That is just some ignorant writers trying to impose their own knowledge of science and world view on others in plain and simple language. If that is poetry so is the American Declaration of Independence and so is the charter of the United Nations.

      About prophecies, your comments are confusing. On one hand you claim that God reveals only those prophecies which pertain to the birth of Christ but you also claim that he has made other prophecies about kings and kingdoms which have come true. SO why is God cherry picking historical events which has no connection with Jesus’s birth and revealing them? Why not reveal other events after the birth of Christ which may have something to do with the second coming of Christ?

      Firstly, I don’t believe that any of the prophecies came true since most of the language is vague and uses open-to-interpretation verses to help imaginative minds draw their own conclusions. We humans are pattern seeking animals who look for patterns in everything, even in the structure of clouds and the lines on our hand. So what we call prophecies are just our interpretation of some vague text which could have been interpreted either way. My guess is that if some of them appear to be true it is because they were written after the events took place. Is there any proof that the book of revelations and the prophecies in the bible were written before the incident or event. If so I would like to see a valid proof. Just saying that this person lived so many years before this event and he is alleged to have written this is not proof enough. Show me a manuscript which has been carbon dated before the event and had exact dates, names and very specifically mentions that event then only can it pass as an authentic source and then only can I believe it.

      Secondly, if God really revealed the second coming of Christ, isn’t he admitting that he didn’t do a very good job preaching his message the first time ? Also why didn’t he mention any events leading up to the 2ndcoming of Christ in the modern era ? Why did he stop predicting events he knows were going to happen in the next few thousand years leading to the 2nd coming of Christ?

      3. Faith is reasonable.

      The reason I brought up terrorist and Nazis is to show that everything you claim about faith is also claimed by terrorists and were claimed by Nazis. I was just trying to draw a parallel and using an example to clarify my point – that just because someone feels that a position is reasonable and takes it upon faith, doesn’t necessarily mean that the position is correct . My problem with faith is that it demands our unflinching and unquestioning devotion without being answerable itself. Faith and reason are not compatible because faith expects you to suspend reason and postpone critical thinking. The reason why our religious morals makes sense is because we humans are the ones who created religion based on our own moral values and not the other way round. The principles on which religion is based are innate to us and that is why it doesn’t seem illogical to most of us.

      4. I am a better person because of faith.

      If you think faith has made you a better person I don’t have any reason to doubt that. If faith works for you, then by all means stick to it. As an agnostic, I can also say that alleviating human suffering and the feel-good factor I enjoy after a kind and compassionate gesture towards my fellow humans is what motivates me. That doesn’t mean that faith is a better path than agnosticism. What incentive motivates one may not motivate other. Some people are motivated by the fruits of afterlife, some by the suffering of hell-fire and some just by the feel-good factor of a kind gesture.

      As for governments following the same moral code as religion, it is again because the same people who have created Gods are the ones who have created governments. The same innate sense of morality which drove people to create religious laws also drove them to create human laws. In both these regards, it’s not religion which is the common factor but humans.

      5. Where did God come from? If He exists, why is this world so screwed up?

      Most of your answers in this part is based on imagination, guesswork and conjecture. You are supplanting your own ideas, beliefs and answers to the questions we all have without any proof. That doesn’t mean that they are correct. It just means that you have an imaginative, inquisitive mind like all humans. How do you know that God has always existed? If it’s possible for God to be eternal why is it impossible to believe that the Universe has always existed and hasn’t come from anywhere? If God can exist on his own why can’t the universe ? Why is it natural and logical to believe that the universe had a creator but God did not? I am not saying that I know the answer to the question nor am I taking anything on faith but aren’t either of them possible? If any one of them are possible, why do believers arrogantly proclaim that only God could have created the universe?

      I have addressed your assertion about free-will in the next argument but as far as your claim about Satan and evil goes, let me repeat myself. Let’s assume that your God exists. Consider the fact that God is an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient being and God created all beings in this world. Also let’s assume that the world and every other phenomenon known to us were created by God. So now tell me how is it that evil crept into this world without His knowledge? If God didn’t create Satan, who sneaked in and created Satan? Doesn’t it mean that this God is NOT omnipotent, omnipresent or omniscient after all. And if he knew about evil, why didn’t he stop it from entering our hearts? Doesn’t that mean that God is either powerless or an irresponsible, uncaring, power-hungry and arrogant entity who finds it logical to use his powers to produce silly miracles and yet doesn’t stop something which He knows will be harmful to the entire human race? Or is it that God himself created evil just to tempt humans into that trap so that he can punish us with eternal damnation. Doesn’t that make him a sadistic creature, worse than his own creations?

      6. Why say something is God’s will?

      Again all your claims are based on assumptions and conjecture without *any* proof. Why claim something to be God’s will when we don’t know the answer or have a clue ? And, why would God hide aspects of his will when he revealed other parts to the prophets and in the Bible. Why not make his answers complete and be thorough with his answers. Isn’t it justified in expecting at least that from a perfect being? What is he so secretive about ? What event is he waiting for to reveal his will and how do you know for sure that he will reveal his will one day? I shudder to think what would have happened to all our scientific discoveries if every scientist claimed every unanswered question and phenomenon to be “God’s will?” Would you accept that answer from one of your students when he/she doesn’t know the answer to a question?

      To me “God’s will” is a ploy by believers to stop people from asking probing questions that may shake the very foundations on which faith is based. “God’s will” is an arrogant declaration by believers to establish their superiority, the same as saying “Just shut up and accept what I am telling you. Do you think you know more than me?” I would much prefer the answer “I don’t know but I am searching for the answer” more than the “God’s Will” answer as that at least tells me the person is honest and humble. Is that too much to ask from people, who are as ignorant as me, about this thing called “God” or his “will”?

      7. Why not use His powers to make His existence, etc. unambiguous?

      You said, “It goes back to free will. God wants us to accept Him by faith.”

      If God exists, what makes us think that we have free will? For us to have free-will there cannot be a God who knows all our thoughts, has power over everything in nature, and is present everywhere. Because, for us to have free-will we should be able to make judgements and decisions without anyone influencing from within or without. So if God is omniscient and omnipresent how can we have free will without God influencing us? How can God be separate from our actions and the consequences of those actions if he is present everywhere and knows everything? Doesn’t it then contradict the very nature of God? To have true free-will we will have to go beyond time, space and causality. So the free will argument is invalid if you believe there is God and if that argument is invalid then all consequent arguments are invalid.

      Free-will also contradicts the fact about prophecies which you claimed are predicted correctly in the Bible. If humans really have free will and is free to choose how he/she will behave, no one can know how human events will turn out. So, how does God know what is going to happen in the future, how some events are going to turn out or how some individuals will behave? Unless, I have some degree of control on events, I cannot claim with certainty what is going to happen. If I drop a bunch of marbles on the floor can I predict the path of each marble and the exact spot each will come to rest without exactly guiding that marble. The very fact that someone can see the future and predict it means that the concept of free-will which believers assert is an illusion at best. So they should either concede that free-will exists and the prophecies are just conjecture or admit that the prophecies are true but we don’t have free-will.

      8. It’s impossible to prove a negative.

      “ Logically, that’s very true….. If I weren’t a Christian, I would probably be an agnostic, since that would just mean I wasn’t sure.”

      Thanks for acknowledging that. Choosing the path of reason is not out of your reach.It’s not easy to go against the tide of popular beliefs and question widely held notions but it’s not out of reach for anyone. It just needs courage and conviction to defy peer pressure and not be convinced by anything less than valid proofs. So again let me assert that the burden of proof lies with the the person who claims and not one who denies and hope that you can provide proof of such claims in your original post

      9. The claim that the Bible is logically consistent, empirically adequate, and experientially relevant and that it answers questions concerning origin, morality, the meaning of life, and destiny doesn’t have any proof to back it up.

      Actually, that was supposed to be some sort of witty summary statement. I guess it didn’t work out too well. Let me know what you think!

      Well, I probably misunderstood your wit but I did enjoy the civil discussion. I understand how difficult it is to accept contrary views about the positions we hold so dear in our hearts and the ideas we were taught since childhood. It is even more difficult to go against the opinions of family members and peers in this regard. We have been indoctrinated by media, parents and religious leaders for so many years that when a contrary view comes our way, our first reaction is to revolt. We have heard one view-point so many times and have looked at one problem from one perspective so many times that when the problem is presented to us from a different angle it makes us uncomfortable. It unsettles us because it moves us away from our comfort zones and forces us to question the beliefs we loved so much and were so proud of. The reason why most people remain ignorant is because they are too lazy to search for the truth and too afraid to look at all sides of the question. When it comes to listening to both sides of the argument their sense of fairness suddenly disappears and they take the easy and comfortable path of going back to their comfort zones. It took me years to overcome my own inertia about the existence of God and I empathize with other believers when it comes to family as I have gone through it myself. So, I hope that you can keep an open mind and read books by other, more knowledgeable agnostics/deists/anti-theists like Bertrand Russell, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens and come to your own conclusions about God and religion. I wish you all the best in your journey and I hope to have more such discussions with you in the future.

  14. January 5, 2009 6:44 pm

    Nitwit,
    Let me first start out by apologizing for the tone that believers have taken in the name of Christ. We’re not supposed to be that way, but a lot of people feel justified in being pains in the butt. I also will be moving on since I’m a teacher and the school year is back in session….sigh….
    1. Jesus and Superman
    I touched on this briefly in my reply on my blog, but something isn’t irrational simply because it lacks concrete proof. Before the modern era, people knew that children were born because of sex. They didn’t have proof. They deduced it. I choose to believe in God because of the existence of the Bible and the existence of the natural world. I deduce that an orderly world demands that it be created by someone. I cannot discover God purely through inductive reasoning.
    Willingness to die doesn’t make a big deal out of anything except when you consider the cowardice of the disciples prior to Jesus’ resurrection. When Romans descended upon them in the Garden of Gethsemane, they all fled. After He died (and contrary to common sense) they are willing to die for Him. You would think they would rather die defending Him.
    I disagree that there is not much historical evidence to back up the claims of Christianity, I’m kind of surprised that you would say that. There’s been lots of archeological digs that have backed up the Bible’s claims. It’s in the news on a very regular basis. The existence of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the Hittites, as well as the cultures of many ancient societies have been accurately described in the Bible.
    The burden of proof lies with the claimant or plaintiff unless they are eyewitnesses. Nobody asks sweet Miss Bessy to prove that she was accurately describing an explosion. I don’t have to “ask” Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John to prove what they wrote. They were eyewitnesses. The absence of a body makes proof that His death was “permanent” difficult. The absence of a reputable counter-claim is difficult. The best the Pharisees could do was to pay off some guards to say they were beat up and robbed or claim that He resurrected by Satan’s power. If they didn’t know that Jesus had resurrected, why not simply say that He was still dead? Why not produce the body, any body?
    As for miracles:
    1. God’s intervention doesn’t mean that His world is “out of control” or that His plan is imperfect. He gave humans a free will, and that means that He sometimes has to correct what they have done.
    2. Your questions concerning God healing, eradicating poverty, and stopping war assume a few things. First of all, it assumes that bad things never have good results. Any dentist will tell you otherwise. The drill may hurt, but the end result is good, even necessary. Second of all, it again assumes that God will always stop humans from making mistakes or being violent. God will let people do a lot of things, even bad things, to let them learn that evil won’t accomplish much in the end.
    2. The Bible
    The Bible does make a truth claim and makes a claim at exclusivity. While I do know something of other religions, if the Bible is true on all counts, I have no need to delve deeply into other religions to see if they are also true. I do try to learn about other faiths, but not in an attempt to find more truth.
    As for the commentary on “if”, I would say that I am using a basic protasis/apodasis logical form. There is no doubt in my mind. I’m not postulating necessarily at this point. Once again, you seek absolute, concrete proof when the whole point of faith is that it is the very thing that you can’t have. You can have evidence which leads you to the truth deductively (which is not necessarily subjective), but you cannot have evidence which gives you a conclusion inductively, at least not when dealing with spiritual things. They are, as you said, different from historical facts. I would argue that what I may believe in may be true (and therefore a fact). Just because I must believe in it by faith doesn’t mean it is untrue or not a fact.
    As for putting people to death for working on the Sabbath day, we are told in the New Testament that we are not under the Old Testament Law. There’s a good many things that we do differently today because we aren’t under that same Law. The Law isn’t poetic, by the way. It is quite literal. I also have never heard of anyone- acting as a Christian- who would give their daughters to be raped by angry mobs. Lot wasn’t acting according to God’s instructions. As for the riches thing, that was obviously Jesus’ way of telling the rich young ruler that he hadn’t really kept all five commandments. If he didn’t covet, he would have had no problem obeying. Jesus was kindly proving to the man that he hadn’t been honest in asserting his perfection.
    As for the poetic nature of Scripture, it’s quite obvious that some portions of Scripture are poetic in nature. The Psalms were songs of worship, and- like most lyrics to songs- there are some things that are not meant to be literal. Any good literature is going to have some poetic language. I don’t see the inconsistency in discovering the depth of that poetic language. Hebrew in particular is a very poetic language. Many of their words have both a concrete meaning and a figurative meaning.
    I’m not looking at my previous comments concerning prophecy, but I suppose I should clarify that prophecy does refer to Messiah’s coming as well as the fate of specific nations. Most of these nations are spoken of in the context of their relationship to Israel or to their fate when Christ comes a second time.
    I’m assuming that you read my earlier post and have studied the Old Testament prophets. The OT prophets aren’t quite so vague as you’d at first imagine. As I said in my comment before, Cyrus of Persia is mentioned by name well over a hundred years before his birth and God even told His people that he would command the rebuilding of the Temple. (These prophetic books were known even in secular history before Cyrus’ birth). This is important because Daniel’s timeline for the rest of history begins with the command to rebuild the Temple. Consider also all of the prophecies concerning Christ. Those aren’t so vague, either. I think it is quite unreasonable to expect that original manuscripts would have survived. Very few documents of that age do so. I will add that the fact that Chaldean, Aramaic, and Hebrew are all used in Daniel are evidence that it was written in the fifth century, years before the birth of Alexander the Great, whose reign is predicted in Daniel.
    As for the second coming of Christ, you misunderstand its purpose. Jesus’ first coming was one of compassion on a lost world. His second coming will be one of judgment on those that reject Him. They have two distinct purposes. He meant to be born, die, and resurrect the first time so that we could be saved, if we chose to do so.
    Parts 3-4.
    I’ve answered your response a bit earlier, so I’m moving on…
    5. Where did God come from? If He exists, why is this world so screwed up?
    God is described as the “high and lofty one that inhabits eternity.” God is, by definition, eternal. He wouldn’t be much of a God if someone had to conjure Him into existence. I’m not imaging or guessing anything. I’m taking Him at His Word. You don’t have to take my word for it, but I am asking you to consider His. I have a much easier time believing in an eternal God than an eternal universe. If the universe has existed forever in the past, where did the matter and energy we see come from? While an eternal Being from beyond our space/time is plausible, a self-existent universe is highly implausible. I am believing in a God from outside our universe (and therefore beyond our idea of how things work), you are saying that you believe in a universe (whose laws we are aware of) has always existed. There is a drastic difference here.
    I do believe in free will and I do believe that Satan is evil. I believe that God created Satan to be a good angel originally. Because of free will, Satan had the ability to rebel. He chose to do so and tempted mankind to do so as well. Evil didn’t creep in without God’s knowledge. He permitted evil to exist because He permitted free will. He wanted us- angels and humans- to choose to love and obey Him. You can’t force love on anyone, else it isn’t love. Including free will is hardly sadistic.
    6. Why say something is God’s will?
    Lol, if God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, how in the world would we even understand everything He knows or plans? How could we possible take in all of that knowledge in the first place? We are finite and He is infinite. I don’t want a scientist to say it is God’s will because the role of a scientist is to tell me about the natural world. However, as I mentioned in my post, science has its limits. I don’t expect the scientist to answer questions that are beyond the limits of science. As a teacher, I expect a student to ponder and memorize the information I give them. In reality, I haven’t been given the answers yet. I have a ton of questions for Him that may be answered one day. For now, I’m content in knowing and learning. I don’t believe it’s arrogant to see that some things are beyond my ability to understand. As you said, I don’t know but I’m searching for an answer.
    7. Why not use His powers to make His existence, etc. unambiguous?
    God- in His omnipotence- gave us a free will. He has the power to do everything, but He doesn’t do just anything. He lets humans do things. Furthermore, foreknowledge is not the same thing as commanding something to take place. Prophecy is not an invalidation of free will. God merely knows what will happen. There are instances in which God does predict the destruction of, say, Nineveh in the book of Jonah. However, he fulfillment of that prophecy is delayed because the people of Nineveh repent. God withholds judgment when people do what is right. There is no conflict between free will and prophecy. Free will doesn’t mean “absolute freedom to do anything you ever wanted.” It means that God presents us with choices and we may either choose right or wrong. It’s more like the multiple choice section of a Scantron. There are different sets of questions and a variety of answers, but only one right choice.
    8-9. It’s been fun having this discussion. I would encourage you to openmindedly search the Scripture for truth. I suppose you could read some C. S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, or Ravi Zacharias, but the truth is that the Bible speaks quite frankly for itself. I love a good rational argument, but the reality is that what we each do with Jesus is the most important decision we all face. I know that your experiences have given you reason to doubt, but realize that just because there are people who can’t explain their faith rationally without getting angry doesn’t mean that there isn’t a reality behind that faith. God bless!

  15. February 21, 2009 1:06 pm

    This debate has been wonderful in its tone and content.

    Being an atheist, I couldn’t disagree more with kreitsauce. There was this wonderful website that analysed the scientifically accurate version versus the biblical claims comprehensively (it’s a few hundred pages long). I couln’t find the link but I’ll back with it soon.

  16. May 20, 2009 12:19 am

    “Why does God give different rules to different people?”

    I say people make up the rules, and then say , God gave it to them . And I would say Geography , racial differences , climatic connditions might contribute towards that .

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      May 20, 2009 5:53 am

      Yep totally agree with that Kislay.

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