Logic

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A theist and an atheist in a campus coffee shop

Yolanda: Did you see that they’re having a prayer meeting in front of Minton Hall this evening for the people who died in the shooting?

Winston: Yes. I’m sorry, but it sounds like a waste of time to me. If you want to go to make yourself feel better about a tragedy that’s fine, but I don’t see the point in bringing religion into everything that happens.

Yolanda: You really should be more open to God.

Winston: I’m not open to anything that there’s no reason to believe in.

Yolanda: There are plenty of reasons to believe in God.

Winston: Can you prove that God exists?

Yolanda: Are you asking if I have a logical proof?

Winston: Yes.

Yolanda: Then you agree that the laws of logic are real things.

Winston: Yes.

Yolanda: Do you think that the laws of logic change over time?

Winston: No. Of course not.

Yolanda: And would you say that logic is something humans came up with or that logic is universally true, even if humans don’t exist.

Winston: If you’re asking if “A equals A” is true even if there are no people, then yes, logic is universally true.

Yolanda: Then there’s your proof that God exists. Logic is a series of propositions, and propositions don’t exist unless there is a mind to hold them. You can’t find propositions floating around in space. You agree that logic is true even without people, so there must have been a mind to hold those propositions even when there were no people, and that mind is God.

Winston: You’re conflating two different things. There is the fact of logic — that illogical things can’t happen — and there are the rules of logic. The rules of logic are human-made descriptions of how the universe works. The universe would work that way even if nobody was around to describe it.

Yolanda: So if the rules of logic are human made, then some alien species might come up with its own rules of logic.

Winston: I suppose so, but they would have to be compatible with our rules since they would both be describing the same thing. Assuming we’re all describing things correctly.

Yolanda: That doesn’t get you out of the problem, though. If logic exists even without description, then it doesn’t fit with your atheist worldview. There is no way that unchanging, universal, immaterial laws can arise from a universe that is random and material. God must have created those laws.

Winston: But the universe isn’t random. In fact, it’s operating in accordance with strict rules that humans are still working hard to quantify. It’s only random in the sense that we can’t predict what will happen next, and the only reason we can’t predict what will happen next is that we don’t have enough information.

Yolanda: But why would those rules even work in a purely natural world? Atoms don’t know the rules, so why would they obey them? God must be enforcing those rules.

Winston: That’s like saying that a ball has to know it’s round in order for it to stay round. Nobody has to enforce the rules of nature.

Yolanda: Without God there wouldn’t be rules of nature. Everything would be chaos.

Winston: That’s not a proof; it’s just an assertion. The rules of logic aren’t something that was created. They are a feature of reality. Any imaginable reality conforms to the rules of Logic.

Yolanda: No, God created everything, including the rules the universe runs by. He could have created things differently if He had wanted to.

Winston: If God could have created a universe with different laws of logic than ours, then could he create a universe that had no creator? Could he create a universe where God and God are not the same thing? Could he have set things up so that all unmarried men have wives?

Yolanda: You’re not making any sense.

Winston: Right! Because I’m asking about things that are contrary to the rules of logic, and any reality — even one God makes from scratch — has to conform to those rules.

Yolanda: Isn’t it kind of arrogant to think that you know God’s limits?

Winston: I’m not imposing limits on anyone; logic is. And I’d say that God is also severely limited by not existing.

Yolanda: It would be pretty pointless to invite you to the prayer meeting then, wouldn’t it?

Winston: Yeah. Pretty much.

 


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Posted on February 7, 2014 at 5:10 pm by ideclare · Permalink · One Comment
In: Conversations

Proof Through Sheep

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A Christian and an atheist at a county fair

Gabriella: Oh my gosh! Look at the lambs! They are so cute!

Harper: Wow — that’s like the definition of adorable right there.

Gabriella: Lambs are such a miracle. I don’t know how you can look at them and still be an atheist.

Harper: Because they’re cute? There are evolutionary reasons for things to be cute.

Gabriella: I wasn’t thinking of cuteness, but since you mention it, did you know that science can’t explain how wild sheep survive?

Harper: I find that hard to believe.

Gabriella: It’s true! Sheep have only one lamb, but wolves have six puppies at a time. In captivity, farmers can fend off the wolves, but in the wild, without God’s help, the wolves would quickly overwhelm the sheep because they breed so much faster. God protects his lambs.

Harper: I don’t think it’s nearly as simple as that. Sheep can breed within a few months of being born, and some species can give birth more than once a year. Wolves in the wild don’t breed for a couple of years and only give birth once a year. Also, wolves are monogamous but sheep aren’t, and more wolf pups die from starvation than lambs do because it’s harder for carnivores to get food. In fact, I think I’ve read that wolves have fewer pups when there’s less food around, and sheep sometimes have two or three lambs.

Gabriella: How would a wolf know to have fewer pups? Doesn’t that even hint at the hand of God to you?

Harper: Before we move on to that question, are you agreeing that you’re wrong about God being necessary to save sheep from wolves?

Gabriella: No. It’s another question, though.

Harper: Why don’t we go ask the farmer who brought these sheep if I’m right about sheep and wolves. Would that convince you?

Gabriella: It’s not that big a deal. Let’s go see the horses.

 


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Posted on February 5, 2014 at 5:09 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Proof Through Jews

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A Christian and a Jew at an archaeological dig

Javier: It’s been two days since I found that bit of pottery.

Kendra: I know. Ninety percent of the work is just mind-numbing, but the successes are worth it.

Javier: It’s hard to keep that in mind when the sun’s trying so hard to kill us.

Kendra: Hey, my people have lived here for thousands of years. You can last a few more days.

Javier: Your people had God watching over them.

Kendra: We still do! The survival of the Jewish people is one of the greatest proofs for God’s existence, wouldn’t you say?

Javier: Why is that?

Kendra: What other civilization has been completely destroyed and then risen again to power — and done it more than once? How is it that such a small group of people has made such a huge contribution to science and the arts? What other people have been attacked and abused for millennia but still found the strength to continue on?

Javier: That’s definitely true. Without God’s covenant and promise that they would survive, the Jews would have been wiped out long ago.

Kendra: I’d say it’s absolute proof of a divine hand. Even today, Israel is surrounded by its enemies but continues to be a major power in the world.

Javier: You’ve got that right.

Kendra: It poses a bit of a problem for you, though, doesn’t it?

Javier: Why?

Kendra: Well, if the existence of the Jews is proof that God exists, isn’t it also proof that the savior hasn’t arrived?

Javier: No. Why would it be?

Kendra: If Jesus was the savior of the Jews and God is watching over the Jews, then why are there still Jews? Wouldn’t we all be Christians?

Javier: The Bible’s promise is that all Jews will come to Christ in time.

Kendra: He’s had two thousand years, and a lot of Jews have come and gone in that time. Do you think all of them will be saved.

Javier: Well, no. They didn’t accept Jesus as their personal savior so they lost out on salvation.

Kendra: That would mean that the only way for God’s chosen people to continue to exist is for them to lose salvation. Why would God want that?

Javier: He doesn’t want that. He wants everyone to come to Christ.

Kendra: But the fact remains that every one of the chosen people is going to Hell, at least in your view.

Javier: Not the ones who accept Jesus.

Kendra: Are Jews who accept Jesus still Jews?

Javier: Yes. Ethnically, I mean.

Kendra: So God’s promise to them still holds?

Javier: No, because Jesus is a new covenant. The old covenant was broken when Jesus died.

Kendra: If the old covenant no longer exists, then why did you agree that the survival of the Jews is proof that God exists and is upholding it?

Javier: Well — it sounded good at the time.

Kendra: Wow. Some apologist you are. Go back to sifting your dirt.

 


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Posted on February 3, 2014 at 5:08 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Kalam Plus Infinities

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

Two Christians after lunch, on their way to class

Neil: I was thinking about what you said about God having his own time. Do you think it’s literally true that before creation, since nothing changed, literally no time passed for God?

Matt: Yes. I think that’s the best way to get ride of infinities in history.

Neil: Then, in a sense, time only started going forward when God did something.

Matt: Not “in a sense” — that’s literally what I mean.

Neil: Then doesn’t that mean that there’s effectively a point in time when time started?

Matt: Effectively, sure.

Neil: Then God didn’t exist before that time, right?

Matt: God has always existed.

Neil: I know that, but if there was no time passing then there’s no “before” for God to be in.

Matt: Right. That’s how we get rid of inifinities. I explained that.

Neil: I know. The problem is that if there’s a point in time before which there was no time, then wouldn’t it be correct to say that nothing came before that time?

Matt: You’re basically repeating yourself. What’s the point?

Neil: Well, if there’s a time when nothing earlier existed, then effectively God came into existence at that point in time.

Matt: No, God always existed.

Neil: I know God always existed, but “always” means “for as long as there was time,” doesn’t it?

Matt: Oh, I’ve got you. Right.

Neil: So far as time is concerned, then, there’s a point where God began.

Matt: That’s a weird way to think of it, but I guess so.

Neil: Okay then, think about this: Anything that comes into being must have had a cause.

Matt: Wait right there. Are you going to argue that God must have had a cause because He came into being?

Neil: That follows, doesn’t it? So doesn’t that prove that you’re wrong about God’s time, if it leads to something absurd?

Matt: It would if it did, but it didn’t. God didn’t come into being. God always existed, even when there was no time passing.

Neil: But maybe the universe did that, too? Maybe the universe just looks like it has a beginning because before that beginning nothing happened so there was essentially no time?

Matt: That’s an entirely differen thing. God has the property of not being created; the universe doesn’t.

Neil: How do we know that?

Matt: It’s just obvious. It’s the only way for everything to make sense.

Neil: Oh, well, I guess that’s true. So long as everything makes sense. It was starting to sound a little weird. Thanks.

 


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Posted on January 31, 2014 at 5:08 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

The Impossibility of Infinities

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

Two Christians having lunch between classes

Neil: That whole discussion of infinities made my head hurt. I felt like Mr. K was going out of his way to make everything confusing.

Matt: Really? I thought it was interesting.

Neil: You would. I’m just glad that I’ll never have to deal with this stuff again after I graduate.

Matt: You can’t get away from infinity.

Neil: I can if I avoid math. You can’t have an infinite thing in real life.

Matt: That’s not true. I can draw a line, and a line has an infinite number of points in it.

Neil: You can draw a representation of a line, but it’s not a real line, in the math sense. A real line would be infinitely long, infinitely thin, and made up of points that are infinitely small. Those don’t exist in the real world.

Matt: That’s true.

Neil: What good does it do us to have these concepts then?

Matt: You can use the fact that there are no real infinite things to prove that God exists.

Neil: Wow — that’s not at all where I thought you were going to go with that. Okay, how?

Matt: In the real world, there can’t be an infinite amount of time, right?

Neil: Why couldn’t the past be infinitely long?

Matt: Because if there was an infinite past, then the universe would have had to have been around for an infinite amount of time to get to now, and it’s impossible for something to go on for an infinite amount of time because infinities don’t ever end.

Neil: But we already knew that the universe had a beginning at the Big Bang.

Matt: Right, and since time started at the Big Bang, then something outside of time must have caused the Big Bang, and that’s God.

Neil: How’s that possible? An effect always comes after a cause, but if there was no time when God caused the Big Bang, then how could anything come after anything else? There is no “after” without time.

Matt: This universe’s time started at the Big Bang, but God has His own type of time that’s not connected to our universe, and it’s in that time that He created everything.

Neil: Then wouldn’t God’s time have to have always existed?

Matt: Sure.

Neil: Then wouldn’t that be an infinite span of time?

Matt: It’s not the same thing. God’s time is special since it’s unchanging, just like God. Nothing happens if everything’s unchanging, so time doesn’t really pass and there isn’t an infinite series.

Neil: How can nothing change? If God is in this time, he must be aware of it passing, so his knowledge of how much time has passed must be changing every second.

Matt: It doesn’t. Time passing is noted by things changing, so if nothing changes time doesn’t pass.

Neil: God’s knowledge of how much time has passed changes.

Matt: God’s all-knowing, so his knowledge doesn’t change.

Neil: Wait a sec — This isn’t making any sense to me. Forget God for a second. Maybe time’s a circle instead of a line, so at some point in the future it turns into the past again, like going around the globe and ending up back where you started. There’d be no infinite time that way.

Matt: Now you’re the one not making sense. How could the same thing happen over and over for eternity?

Neil: It wouldn’t be the same thing over and over. After time got back to the start, things might go differently, after another Big Bang or something, but reusing the same time. It’s like temporal recycling.

Matt: No way. That’s just too bizarre.

Neil: Maybe it is, but it looks like our options are an infinite past, a time loop, and some kind of divine time that I don’t think either of us really understands. No matter what we choose, we end up with something that doesn’t make sense. I’m sure the universe makes sense once you understand it, so we’re probably missing something, like a fourth option that we haven’t thought of.

Matt: That could be, but I think it’s most likely that we just can’t understand because we’re not on God’s level.

Neil: No wonder my head hurts.

 


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Posted on January 29, 2014 at 5:07 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Kalam Short Circuited

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A Christian and an atheist in a video game arcade

Yates: Look at that! You’re going to get a high score!

Zander: What? Yeah.

Yates: You’ve played this before then.

Zander: Lots.

Yates: You’re certainly good at it. God has blessed you with amazing abilities.

Zander: Not so much.

Yates: Come now, don’t be modest.

Zander: I’m not. I’m just taking all the credit.

Yates: Surely you believe in God?

Zander: No. I’m trying to play a game here.

Yates: Just hear me out while you play. Consider that all things that come into being have a cause.

Zander: Is this the Kalam argument?

Yates: Yes, the Kalam cosmological argument. You’ve heard of it?

Zander: Are you Muslim?

Yates: No — certainly not. I’m a Christian.

Zander: Then why are you trying to prove Allah?

Yates: It’s not a proof for Allah. It’s proof that God exists.

Zander: Do you even know what Kalam is?

Yates: It’s the person who came up with the argument.

Zander: No, it’s Islamic philosophy. Don’t they have Wikipedia where you come from?

Yates: I don’t think you’re right about that.

Zander: Whatever. I’m trying to play a game. I don’t want to hear about Muhammad right now.

Yates: I’m not Muslim.

Zander: Goodbye. Peace be upon you.

Yates: Are you even listening?

Zander: Ma’a as-salaama.

Yates: (Harumph!)

 


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Posted on January 27, 2014 at 5:06 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Parsimony

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist and a Christian walking back to the car after seeing a movie

Harrison: The science in that movie was horrible. It was so unbelievable, I couldn’t get into it at all. What a waste of money.

Greg: I don’t know. I thought it was fun. You take science too seriously.

Harrison: I don’t think I take it too seriously, but there’s no reason not to get it right. It’s not even all that hard most of the time.

Greg: Check this out, then. You believe in science so you believe in Occam’s razor, right?

Harrison: I wouldn’t say it that way. I’d say that I think science is a useful way of investigating the world and that Occam’s razor is a valuable rule of thumb.

Greg: So you’d agree that if you have two possible explanations for something, the explanation that is simplest is the correct one.

Harrison: No. Occam’s razor says that an explanation that makes the fewest assumptions is preferable, but it’s just a rule of thumb, not a guarantee.

Greg: That’s pretty much what I said. Think about this, then: God is the simplest thing imaginable. He is pure love and omnipotent power and exists necessarily. He has no limits, origins, parts, or other complications. He’s not even material. That means that when we talk about the origin of the universe, we can say that it came about either directly by God’s action or through some complicated natural process, and since God is the simplest explanation, Occam’s razor requires that you accept it.

Harrison: That’s not how Occam’s razor works. Using God to explain the universe’s origin requires that we assume that supernatural things exist, so it makes more assumptions than a natural explanation.

Greg: No, it doesn’t. The natural explanation assumes either that there is something natural outside our universe or that universes sometimes appear out of nowhere. That’s still assuming something.

Harrison: But it’s assuming something natural. God requires that we assume supernatural things exist, and that’s a whole new field of existence for science.

Greg: So are things outside our universe. There’s no science about them.

Harrison: I’d still say that adding the supernatural makes it less favorable by Occam than adding additional material things, no matter where they are. Besides, why do you even want to go there? Wouldn’t Occam’s razor make the Christian God the least likely divine explanation? I’d think that a bunch of less powerful deities, like the Greek gods or something, would be more likely than an infinitely powerful being.

Greg: No they wouldn’t. God’s just one, while there would have to be a whole bunch of lesser pagan gods. Occam’s razor would prefer the one true God because it’s simpler than a bunch of other gods.

Harrison: You’re still not using Occam right. The quantity of things doesn’t matter; how many new assumptions there are matters. God requires that we assume the possibility of omnipotence in addition to assuming the existence of deities. That’s an extra thing.

Greg: I don’t think you’re right. One God is way less complex than a diverse group of gods.

Harrison: Let me ask you this: Do you think that it’s more likely that the pyramids in Egypt were built by hundreds or thousands of Egyptians over the course of decades, or that they were built by one really gigantic Egyptian in a few weeks? If numbers are what count, then the one giant guy is a simpler explanation than thousands of normal guys.

Greg: That’s not the same thing at all.

Harrison: It’s exactly the same thing.

Greg: No it’s not because we know that giants don’t exist.

Harrison: I know that God doesn’t exist. Or, at the very least, I don’t have any reason to believe that He does exist.

Greg: He’s the simplest explanation.

Harrison: Only for a flawed definition of “simple.” You’re making the same mistake that the movie writers make: the solution that’s easy to state and makes things go the direction you want them to go isn’t always correct, it’s just convenient.

Greg: So now I’m a bad filmmaker.

Harrison: Hey, I’m not the one who wanted to see Prometheus.

 


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Posted on January 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Revised Ontological Argument

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist and a Christian having lunch in a high school cafeteria

Shannon: I finally figured out what’s wrong with that argument you told me yesterday about a godless universe being impossible because it’s so unlikely.

Travis: Oh?

Shannon: Yes! It’s pretty easy, actually. Let’s say that in the infinity of time all possible universes come to exist —

Travis: Hang on there. Are you sure you want to use that argument?

Shannon: You haven’t even heard it yet.

Travis: I know, but as soon as you start talking about infinite possible universes, that proves that God exists.

Shannon: No it doesn’t.

Travis: Yes it does. Is there anything logically impossible about an omnipotent, omniscient god existing?

Shannon: No.

Travis: Then if all possible universes exist, a universe in which God exists exists. And if God is omnipotent and omniscient, then God is everywhere and knows everything, which means that if He exists in one possible universe, he must exist in all possible universes.

Shannon: Or He doesn’t exist in any of them.

Travis: You admitted God was logically possible.

Shannon: Right, but something being logically possible doesn’t mean it might exist.

Travis: Given all possible worlds it would.

Shannon: Not if it was logically possible but physically impossible. For example, if I asked you to name a random number, it’s logically possible that you could sit here reciting the digits of an enormously large random number until you died of starvation, but there’s no circumstance in which you’d actually do it.

Travis: Given enough universes, there would be an infinite number of them in which I was crazy and spouted real numbers. There wouldn’t even be an infinite amount of them, since the length of the numbers would be limited by how long I would live.

Shannon: I still don’t think that’s possible, but let me try another example. It’s not logically impossible for the force of gravity to obviously go by the name Usagi. In every language in the world, gravity would be called Usagi.

Travis: I guess that’s possible.

Shannon: In order for it to be obvious that gravity is called Usagi, then it would have to be unthinkable for it to be called anything else. If it is unthinkable for it to be called anything else, then it must be called Usagi in all possible universes. Therefore, in our universe gravity is called Usagi.

Travis: That argument doesn’t work. Gravity is a physical thing so it can’t have the property of being “necessarily” anything in all possible worlds. Only immaterial things can have that.

Shannon: I don’t know why that would be, but okay — numbers are immaterial, so the number twelve is now Usagi.

Travis: Numbers are just concepts.

Shannon: Then there’s a possible universe in which Usagi is the perfect name for God, and if it’s the perfect name then it must be His name in all universes.

Travis: Usagi isn’t a perfect name.

Shannon: Not in our universe.

Travis: Not in any universe.

Shannon: Is it logically impossible?

Travis: No, it’s just stupid.

Shannon: With that in mind, you want to ask me what I think of the idea of God existing?

Travis: No. Let’s go back to talking about creation.

Shannon: Fine with me. Let’s say that in the infinity of time all possible universes come to exist…

 


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Posted on January 22, 2014 at 5:04 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Defining Terms

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A Christian and an atheist in the lounge of a college dormitory

Danielle: I noticed that you didn’t sign up for the Bible study this weekend. Don’t you want to get closer to God?

Clair: I’m not interested in religion.

Danielle: You at least admit that God exists, don’t you?

Clair: I don’t think that the phrase “God exists” has meaning. God is an undefined term. Nobody can describe “God” in a sensible way, so it doesn’t make sense to take a position on whether or not it exists. That would be like saying I do or don’t believe Foobeing exists.

Danielle: What’s Foobeing?

Clair: I don’t know. That’s the point. You can’t describe God so it makes no sense to make statements about it.

Danielle: But I can describe God. God is the embodiment of love and justice.

Clair: That doesn’t mean anything. I could say that the Foobeing is the embodiment of disdain and wholesomeness and it wouldn’t tell you anything.

Danielle: God is the creator of the universe.

Clair: Then if it turned out that quantum fluctuations created the universe, would you say that quantum fluctuations are God?

Danielle: No. God made quantum physics, too.

Clair: Then you’re still not really describing anything. You’re just assigning properties to something you haven’t defined.

Danielle: You’re really being annoying. You could take any statement and just declare that it’s meaningless. That doesn’t prove anything except that you don’t want to believe in God.

Clair: That’s not true. You could describe this couch in a way that uniquely identifies it and I’d agree that you are right. What you can’t do is make a statement like “God is an immaterial thing that takes action” and expect me to accept it when that makes no sense on its face. Immaterial things can’t do anything.

Danielle: You’re just deciding that immaterial things can’t take action. You can’t prove it.

Clair: In a material world, immaterial things can’t take action by definition.

Danielle: God doesn’t live in the material world.

Clair: That’s just introducing another meaningless term. What does it mean for an immaterial thing to exist in an immaterial place and take action?

Danielle: You not being able to understand something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Clair: That’s true, but something being linguistically meaningless is evidence that if we talk about it we don’t mean anything. Would you accept that Foobeing lives in foospace?

Danielle: What? No. You made that up.

Clair: How do you know? My coming up with something isn’t evidence that it doesn’t exist. Foospace is the place where Foobeing lives, and only Foobeing exists there. It’s a place outside of space and time from which Foobeing controls all of God’s actions with her Godangulator.

Danielle: You can’t control God.

Clair: Foobeing can.

Danielle: No he can’t.

Clair: She can’t.

Danielle: God can’t be controlled. There’s no such thing as Foobeing.

Clair: How do you know there’s no Foobeing? And how do you know that immaterial things in immaterial places can’t be controlled from Foospace?

Danielle: Because there is no Foospace. God is all powerful, so He can’t be controlled by anything.

Clair: What does that mean? Something we can’t detect existing without matter no place we can even imagine has the power to do any conceivable thing?

Danielle: I can imagine Heaven. I can imagine God.

Clair: You can imagine what immaterial people and places are like? Can you honestly say you can make a picture in your head of something immaterial that can do things and be somewhere? Or are you just imagining fluffy clouds and angels and labeling them “immaterial” without noticing that that makes no more sense than calling a glass of water a duck?

Danielle: You can play all the word games you want, it doesn’t prove that God doesn’t exist.

Clair: That’s true, but it does prove that when you say God exists you don’t know what you’re talking about.

 


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Posted on January 20, 2014 at 5:04 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

A pause

Sorry for the sudden silence on this blog. I’ve come down with a nasty cold that apparently does not want to get its hooks out of me. I have a few new conversations in the queue and will begin posting them on Monday when I will, with luck, feel more like a human being and less like a germ factory.

Thank you for your patience!

Posted on January 16, 2014 at 7:35 pm by ideclare · Permalink · 2 Comments
In: Conversations