Faith in atheism

You had a great responses to what i said so i couldn’t help but to respond to them all.

Faith- belief that is not based on proof Belief- something believed; an opinion or conviction; or confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof religion-a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe

I believe we are guilty of these three things. You say you are not “convinced”, this is a belief in itself, is it not? Your are also not convinced, i take it, that He doesn’t exist, you just find it higly unlikely. Doesn’t that sound more accurate.I know it sounds a little more agnostic but that’s my point. I know your probably thinking, “I have faith that this conversation isn’t going anywhere. Bye!” But i appreciate the time none the less it’s rare that people can discuss ideas now a days. These on liners are funny but i bet i can come up with even funnier ones.

You’ve convinced me about the giants but not about your uncle.

“a possibility cannot truly become an impossibility just by being highly unlikely. However, I would say that something can be so unlikely that it should be treated as nonexistent” This is either contradictory or very ambiguos, why should something be treated as nonexistent? What about emotions? I don’t believe that God is highly unlikely, well maybe according to science He is but we discussed this already this is not the realm for science. I know you’ve heard the arguement that “it could have been just as easy for nothing to exist but things exist, they do”, though we really can’t determine the easiness of it, you still understand the argument. As for the greek gods there is a chance they exist but my Lord has told me they don’t, so for me at least they don’t. This is proof of my faith.

I disagree that my definition of truth is narrow. I also think that just because a thing is narrow doesn’t mean that it is of no use. That a man’s eyes were blue yesterday will be true for the rest of eternity, right? Eternal is something that is not bound by “time”, something that does not change. Sit and think about the word “moment”. We live in a moment and the moment comes and goes at every moment. There is something so strange here that can’t be explained. It is almost as if the moment was eternal because it is never gone we are always in it, though things change around us. The concept of the “good” has never changed. There has never been a good that everyone agrees with. So it can not change over time as you say. This atheist vs theist converstation we’re having was discussed by many before Christ and i think it is safe to say that the argument has not changed. How can it be that what was true on monday is no longer true on tuesday.

I was mistaken, sorry. You did propose a definition i forgot. So truth is something that agrees with reality. I’m not sure how this is different from what i have said except only that it is more ambiguous. How can truth disagree with reality? And how would miracles be explained? How does the existence of God disagree with reality? how does the nonexistence of God agree with reality? I can go on. Do you mean in accordance with science?

i agree with your response about miracles.

Now to taking things on face value. Well to tell you the truth that was the hardest part of me being faithful and for that matter Christian. How did God walk on water, raise the dead, and heal the sick. I honestly don’t know He was God. I really don’t have a complete definition of what God is, no one can. As for Mohamed i don’t know much about him except that he was a Christian follower at a point in time until he departed from the church because not a single priest that he met with could decide what Jesus was; Savior, God, prophet, or Man. So he leaves the Church and some where in there the Qur’an came about. (side note, Jesus is the most quoted prophet in the Qur’an) Now is it possible that this man spoke with God i believe so but isn’t it also possible he spoke with satan. I believe only the teachings can tell. A distinct difference from the Bible and the coran is that we believe in free will and the will of God, two diffent concepts or whatever you want to call them . In the Coran they only believe in the will of Allah, there is no human mistakes just Will. As for the others i don’t know much about but i doubt thier teachings make as much sense as Chrits’ do and there for i don’t care much about, sorry for somewhat avoiding the quetion, but i think you know my answer (it is possible). Another thing that is compelling in Christianity is the cruxifiction, why would someone let themselve be tortured just over a claim that He was God? That doesn’t make sense this man must have been crazy unless He was indeed God. And it He was God why would even He let this happen to himself there must be something to the story.

Aquinas. In Aquinas’ Summa he lays down the fundamental principles on which basis he wrote it on. I beleive it goes something like this; Theology is the master science of all other sciences, the other sciences would include philosophy and science. He says these are things that just help us see tiny glimpses of the eternal but can not explain them only the devine can through revalation. So his “intent” on this arguement is to show that it is very likely or shall i dare say true that there is something eternal that can’t be explained through a lesser science. He does this with one of the lesser sciences, philosophy. That is what i meant when i said his writing need to be taken in context to his whole work.

Really, physical evidence for the big bang? I haven’t been, as you say, convinced of any or by any to believe that the big bang is more a possiblity than God.

I really like what you said about gravity this time. It sounds pretty clear to me now. But in a way we still don’t know the actual cause for anything. Yes i move because electrical impulses in my brain are sent trough out my body or whatever but this (that bodies can move) i believe to be astonishing. The scientific explanation i believe is viewed as the end and not the mean. But who is to say. The body moving is truly remarkable and would near a miracle in my opinion.

The big bang theory and God can be investigated by science but they don’t get us anywhere. God’s existence can be tested by science it just doesn’t work. People use to way ill patients before they died and then immediatley after they died to see how much there soul weighed. This is a theory wouldn’t you agree? This is a test, no? It didn’t work, did it?

“I’d say that the significant possibility of there being an unknown naturalistic explanation is enough to qualify this as part of nature.” So nature is a part of God, i have no problem saying this. Oh brother talk about ambiguous. It seems that your coming around.(bad joke)

“not useful because it gets us nowhere.” Where are we going??? What is your measure, progress?

“how do you decide whether to blame your child or the gorilla?” Easy, common sense. In “reality” i don’t use these complicated thinking methods because they’ll slow me down. Unlike your uncle children lie in fear of spankings. I don’t see any use of Occam’s in at least this dicusion, maybe at a crime scene but not here.

“What isn’t safe to say is that there is a universal moral standard for when this is or is not okay.” How is this not safe? We spoke before on this you actually claimed, “I would say that morality has both subjective and objective elements.” This is very accurate i believe. And this is true i would insissit that it is very safe to say that there is a universal moral standard. A man should not kill when he knows he is wrong or thinks he can be wrong. This is a unversal moral law that i believe in. Now if a man is completely corrupt and doesn’t know it then in a sense he can plead ignorance. But how many people don’t know they are corrupt, or don’t know when they have done something wrong?

Didn’t mean to avoid the question i just misunderstood. That would definitely be murder,without a doubt. It is ok to love your children but shouldn’t justice, righteousness, and piety be first. CS Lewis says “once love becomes a god it becomes a demon.” I completely agree. Any how back to my misunderstanding, i would like to believe that there is a philisophical difference between manslaugter and murder. I got this actually from one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Aristotle. I would quote him except i let a friend borrow my Nichomachean Ethics (no joke). He says somehting on how a person can be unwillingly ignorant of a situation in and accidently cause trouble. Unlike our legal system he doesn’t think drunk drivers can plead manslaugter because they should know not to get drunk and should be held responible on how they control themselves. I guess i could check online for his quote but if you have this book it would be much faster to flip through the pages and find it yourself.

Sense i am not to familiar with the Old Testament i’ll take your word on this topic. But Jesus also said, And you shall love the Lord you GOd with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.” In a way things might have changed after Jesus came, i wouldn’t be sure on how to explain it because i lack in this department. But i will say this if God told me to kill a child i would do so only if i had faith engough to know it was my real Lord and not satan. I also don’t have anything against ambiguity your are the one that insissits on throwing it out but you seem at times more ambiguous than i.

Feel free to respond in full it just might take a little longer than usual for me to respond since i’m becoming more busy. I hope we can keep this going until one of us can understand the other. Or untill the issue becomes exhausted (which can take forever far warning).

You start off by defining terms, which I always appreciate.

Faith: “Belief that is not based on proof” is one definition of faith. Faith can also be trust based on past experience. If you only want to use the first definition, that’s fine with me (and it may simplify our conversation).

Belief: I’m okay with your definition, but hasten to point out that by this definition anything anyone is convinced of is a belief.

Religion: I don’t much care for this definition, but I will agree to use it for the purposes of our discussion if we can agree that the phrase “purpose of the universe” assumes that there is a purpose of the universe. If this is the case, then atheism is not a religion because it does not include belief in a universal purpose.

Now, applying these definitions, you state, “You say you are not ‘convinced,’ this is a belief in itself, is it not?” Are you asking whether my lack of belief in God’s existence is a belief? If so, then I would say that it is. By your definition of belief, it is my opinion that God does not exist.

You go on to say, “You are also not convinced, I take it, that He doesn’t exist, you just find it highly unlikely.” I disagree with this statement. The existence of God is so unlikely that I am convinced He does not exist. That’s why I’m an atheist.

You say that my statement, “a possibility cannot truly become an impossibility just by being highly unlikely. However, I would say that something can be so unlikely that it should be treated as nonexistent” is either contradictory or ambiguous. Let me attempt to clarify by way of example. Let’s say that you have $100 in the bank. You can log onto the bank’s computer an check your balance at any time. Now let’s say that the bank, for some bizarre reason, takes half of your money every day. On Monday you have $100, on Tuesday you have $50, on Wednesday you have $25, etc. In short order, you will have less than one penny in the account. That fractional penny will grow smaller and smaller each day into eternity, and at some point it will be such a small fraction that if anyone asks if you have any money in the bank you will be justified in answering “No.” Is it true that you have no money in the bank? No. Is it true that, for any imaginable practical purpose you have no money in the bank? Yes. This is not a contradiction.

You ask, “What about emotions?” Well, what about them? Emotions are not unlikely; they clearly exist.

You say you don’t believe that God is highly unlikely. That’s fine. But do you mean that you think God is not unlikely because there is evidence for His existence, or do you mean that even before you had any evidence you thought it was not unlikely that God existed? The latter point is the most important one for the purpose of this conversation.

You say that you believe the Greek gods don’t exist because God has told you they don’t, and that this is proof of your faith. What about the possibility that when you think you are receiving information from God you are being deceived? I’m sure you would agree that some people who think they receive information from God are indeed wrong, so how do you know you aren’t wrong (without saying that highly unlikely possibilities can be discarded)?

I agree that a narrow definition can be of use, but I think that your definition of truth is so narrow that it rules out some things you would not want to rule out. You’re right that the statement “the man’s eyes were blue” is eternally true, but I was referring to a phrase like, “the mans eyes are blue.” The difference is significant — I assume you don’t mean to imply that present-tense statements may not be true even if they completely agree with reality. Alternately, you might be saying that something is eternally true if it is true at the moment it is spoken, but that would be an odd use of the word “eternal.” Can you clarify?

You confuse me a bit with your discussion of the eternal nature of “good.” You say, “The concept of the ‘good’ has never changed. There has never been a good that everyone agrees with. So it can not change over time as you say.” Are you saying that the concept of “good” doesn’t change over time because people don’t agree what “good” means? I honestly don’t understand your point here. Please rephrase it, if you have a chance.

How can it be that what was true on Monday is no longer true on Tuesday? A day has passed, that’s how. If my child is one day old on Monday, she’s no longer one day old on Tuesday. But getting back to the roots of this conversation, can something be moral on Monday but immoral on Tuesday? It depends on how closely were are defining the moral situation. Something as general as killing your parent (without the circumstances carefully defined) may be immoral one day and moral the next because circumstances have changed.

You say that “truth is something that agrees with reality” is ambiguous because “how can truth disagree with reality?” By definition, truth can’t disagree with reality — that’s why it’s truth. “My grandmother is a bicycle” is not truth because it doesn’t agree with reality. “God exists” is truth if God exists. My definition differs from yours in a number of ways, but most significantly for our purposes it does not require truth to be eternal.

On this subject, you ask a number of questions:

You ask why would someone let themselves be tortured over the claim that they were God (I’ll assume the Gospels are accurate about Jesus’ torture and death for the point of this discussion.) He might let this happen if he was convinced he was right. If Jesus wasn’t really God but believed he was, does that mean he was crazy? No, he might just have been wrong. He also might have believed he was something other than God but had his words and deeds misinterpreted. Or he might not have believed he was God but believed that his death would benefit his people.

You ask, “And [if] He was God why would even He let this happen to himself there must be something to the story.” Perhaps the simplest explanation for why God would allow this to happen to him is that he wasn’t God. If Jesus didn’t have the power to miraculously stop his crucifixion, then it is not surprising that he didn’t.

Aquinas: I understand what you mean, but I think that even taken as a whole Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of the divine are sorely wanting. For example, I’d say that the Kalam cosmological argument is much more rigorous than the argument of Aquinas that you referred to.

Referring to physical evidence for the Big Bang — I’m not clear on whether your are questioning whether there is any evidence or whether that evidence is convincing. There certainly is evidence (with cosmic background radiation being the most spectacular example), but whether it is compelling is more of a personal question. For me, evidence of the Big Bang is more compelling than evidence for the existence of God because evidence for God’s existence tends to be based more on lack of knowledge (e.g., “we don’t completely understand gravity, therefore God exists”) than on knowledge.

You say, “The big bang theory and God can be investigated by science but they don’t get us anywhere.” I completely disagree with this one. Research into the Big Bang has taught us quite a bit about how the universe works. I continue to maintain that God is outside the realm of science.

Continuing with this, you say that, “God’s existence can be tested by science it just doesn’t work” and then discuss experiments to see if the soul has weight. These experiments were intended to demonstrate that there was a human soul, not that God existed. That they failed does not prove that there is no God or that there is no soul, but only that if there is a human soul is has no detectable weight. Whether or not God our a soul exists is beyond science’s ability to test. I can think of no scientific experiment that would prove that God does or does not exist.

By the way, when you said that science can test for the existence of God but that it doesn’t work, aren’t you in effect saying that there are valid methods for testing for the existence of God but that these methods have negative results? If that is what you are saying, then you are implying that science can prove that God does not exist (in the same sense that when an experiment to detect radiation finds no radiation it means that there is no radiation). I don’t think that’s what you mean.

You respond to my considering things with a naturalistic explanation as part of nature by saying, “So nature is a part of God, i have no problem saying this. Oh brother talk about ambiguous.” Actually, by not allowing a distinction between natural and supernatural, you are the one being ambiguous. Instead of proving that something is caused by God, you are defining everything as caused by God. I could play the same sort of game in the other direction by defining God as “I don’t know.” So when you say that nature is part of God, I would respond, “So when you say nature is a part of God, you are saying that nature is another subject you don’t understand.” That would not be very charitable of me, and would not be useful for our discussion. Your not allowing a natural/supernatural distinction has the same effect.

You ask, “What is your measure, progress?” I’m not sure I understand the question. If you are asking whether I do not find something philosophically useful if it explains nothing and cannot be reasonably used to draw conclusions, then I will say yes.

I’ll quote the entirely of your response to my question about how you decide whether to blame a child or a gorilla since I think it is very important to our discussion: “Easy, common sense. In ‘reality’ i don’t use these complicated thinking methods because they’ll slow me down. Unlike your uncle children lie in fear of spankings. I don’t see any use of Occam’s in at least this dicusion, maybe at a crime scene but not here.” In this context, what is common sense other than selecting the explanation that invents the fewest new things? By invoking “common sense” here, you are using Occam’s razor with a different label stuck on it. It’s not a “complicated thinking method” at all — it’s something everyone does all the time, every single day. As for using this type of thinking “at a crime scene but not here,” wouldn’t you agree that the question of whether or not God exists is far more important than finding the solution to any crime? And if it’s so important, shouldn’t we use all the tools at our disposal? (BTW, it is surprising to me that you would value speed of decision making over being sure your child is not innocent, but that is a side issue so I won’t dwell on it.)

Looking at this from another perspective, I’d say it’s just common sense that dead people stay dead, donkeys don’t talk, etc.

But let’s go back to the child/gorilla example for a moment, just so I can get a real firm grip on how you think. Let’s say you are home alone and hear a crash from the other room. You go in and find that a lamp is broken. There’s nobody else around. The doors and windows are closed and locked. How seriously would you consider the possibility that God broke your lamp?

You say that there is a universal moral standard for how much clothing a woman can wear in public. Okay; what is it. You are right that I asserted that morality has both subjective and objective elements, and I would say that standards of decency are subjective, not objective — there is no quantifiable universal moral standard for how much human nudity is appropriate in public.

Discussing the morality of killing, you say, “A man should not kill when he knows he is wrong or thinks he can be wrong. This is a unversal moral law that i believe in.” I’ll agree with that, but it’s only part of the story. The real question is whether or not killing when you do not think you are in the wrong is ever murder and therefore morally prohibited. You continue, “Now if a man is completely corrupt and doesn’t know it then in a sense he can plead ignorance. But how many people don’t know they are corrupt, or don’t know when they have done something wrong?” That last bit — about knowing when you have done something wrong — is exactly where we get into trouble when we try to say “thou shalt not murder” is a universal moral law. Do you think that in centuries past those who burned women accuse of witchcraft knew that they were doing wrong, or do you think that they were not murderers? Is a lynching ever murder? Was Jack the Ripper not a murderer if he was a sociopath? If two tribes of cannibals hunt each other for food, is this allowed by the Ten Commandments because the cannibals think they are doing no wrong?

We can skip discussing the Old Testament since you’re not familiar with it (although, as an aside, I’d suggest that you make it a high priority to read any book that you think God had a hand in writing). But regarding the morality of killing babies, you say that things might have changed after Jesus came. But if some moral truths changed after Jesus came, then they are not eternal and therefore, by your definition, not truths, right?

I know these discussions are getting lengthy (I’m up way after my bedtime myself), so take your time replying.

Posted on March 9, 2009 at 10:42 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: Bible, Discussion, Morality

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  1. Written by Hugo
    on March 9, 2009 at 3:05 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I’m liking this discussion but it is at a point where it will start to circle back at itself.
    When people start to say that god is right because he says he’s right (ie. his god told him the other gods were wrong so that’s that) is the time I sign off, they will never see the light (well one of my hero’s, Dan Barker, may have crawled out of such a mindset but it is a very rare event that someone does)

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