Atheism Burden Proof

Atheism and the burden of proof.

By Richard Playford

When someone makes a claim about the world, if they want to convince others, they are required to provide justification for that claim. This is not a contentious or strange idea, but what does this mean for atheism? Is atheism a belief and does it require justification? In this article I will show that atheism is a belief about the world and that it does require a justification in the same way that theism does.

Atheism Burden Proof

When exploring this topic the most important thing to do is to define our terms clearly. Traditionally theism, agnosticism and atheism were seen as the three positions that one could hold towards the existence of God. Consider the claim “God exists.” We have three options that we could take toward this claim. We can endorse it and agree that God exists. We can deny it and say that God does not exist. Or we can neither endorse it nor deny it and claim not to know (or care). These, in theory, are the only three options (although I will come back to this later). The affirmation that God exists is called theism. The denial of God’s existence (the claim that he does not exist) is what is traditionally called atheism. We find this definition confirmed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.”[1] Not knowing whether God exists is traditionally called agnosticism; again, we find this definition confirmed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “‘Agnostic’ is more contextual than is ‘atheist’, as it can be used in a non-theological way, as when a cosmologist might say that she is agnostic about string theory, neither believing nor disbelieving it”[2]. Not caring whether God exists is traditionally called apatheism.

If we accept these definitions, then it seems clear that both the theist and the atheist have a burden of proof. Someone cannot simply assert that because there is no evidence for something it must therefore not exist. This does not follow because it suggests that an absence of evidence is evidence of absence. This is not true. Pluto was discovered in 1930.[3] Prior to then, there was no hard evidence that it existed. Did this mean that it did not exist? No! If somebody wants to say that something does not exist then they must provide a justification for that. They cannot conclude that simply because none of the arguments or evidences for a proposition fail, that the proposition is therefore false. The atheist philosopher Kai Nielson agrees and says, “[t]o show that an argument is invalid or unsound is not to show that the conclusion of the argument is false”.[4] This means that, in philosophy, even if all the arguments for a proposition fail, it does not follow that the proposition is false.

One criticism that is often voiced is that proving a negative is impossible; this is not true. I can prove that Santa does not live at the North Pole by going and looking, I can prove that a 30 cm piece of string is not 40 cm by measuring it, and I can show that there are no married bachelors by showing that it is a logically incoherent concept. The same applies for God. If somebody can show that God is an internally inconsistent concept or that it is incompatible with an aspect of the physical world, then this would prove that God does not exist.

Another criticism that is often voiced is that in the case of God an absence of evidence does entail evidence of absence. This criticism is similar to the argument from hiddenness (which is a formal argument against the existence of God to which there are various responses). As such, because this is an actual argument against the existence of God, this criticism does not detract from my argument.

It should be noted that people rarely fit neatly into the categories that I outlined above. Very few atheists claim to know for certain that God does not exist (many theists also would not claim to know for certain that he does). I suspect that it is views like this which lead people to adopt the title “agnostic atheist.” This has been defined in a number of different ways but one definition is “one who does not know for sure if any gods exist or not but who also does not believe in any gods.”[5]The problem with this definition is that it does not give us a complete account of what the person believes. This fails to tell us whether they believe in God’s non-existence (the belief that he does not exist). This is because lacking belief in God is not the same as believing that God does not exist. In general, people who label themselves like this tend to believe that, although we do not know for certain whether God exists, his existence is unlikely. As a result, they must justify the claim that God probably does not exist with a reasonable inductive argument. The lesson, however, is that people must be clear about what they believe and define their terms carefully before entering a conversation, and if they are making a claim about the world, they must justify that claim. We can see that atheism does require justification in the same way that theism does.

 

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[1] Smart, J. J. C., “Atheism and Agnosticism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy(Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Available athttp://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2013/entries/atheism-agnosticism/. [Accessed on 21/05/2013].

[2] IBID.

[3] NASA, “Pluto: Overview”. Available at:http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Pluto. [Accessed on 21/05/2013].

[4] Nielsen Kai (1971) Reason and Practice. New York: Harper & Row.

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32 replies
  1. Andy Ryan says:

    There’s a difference between knowing and believing. Atheism means one doesn’t believe in God, agnosticism means you don’t know whether or not he exists. These are not mutually exclusive positions. One can be an agnostic atheist – you don’t believe God exists and you don’t think it’s possible to know whether he exists. Atheists nowadays generally say they simply reject the claims of others that a God exists. There’s no burden of proof on the atheist to reject others’ God claims. It’s not a claim to knowledge, it merely describes a belief state. When I say I’m an atheist I’m not saying there’s no God, just that I don’t believe there is.

    Reply
  2. Kyle says:

    On the subject of definitions, I have found the apologetic god to be horribly undefined. Firstly, apologists love to pull scientific theories and notions out when it helps them, then switch to their philosophical arguments when the usefulness of science ends. We need to establish which subject we are to stay in. For now I will go with scientific. To start with some of the typical definitions we have, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal, immensely powerful. Considering the first three we have ways of quantifying things that are timeless, spaceless, and immaterial. Electrical current falls into this with no temporal, spatial, or mass component. So this at the very least doesn’t close the door on your god being measurable. Moving on to “personal”, this is an abstract and useless definition within the realm of science. How do we define what is personal? Can it be quantified in some meaningful way? Lastly we have “immensely powerful”. Sticking to a rigid scientific definition this directly contradicts the first three as power uses temporal, spatial, and massive units. So unless the apologist is going to hold firm on this inconsistent definition of their god, we need some much better definitions than what has been offered.

    Moving on to absence of evidence and what that means, you are missing a major caveat. That is the expectation of evidence. If I tell you it is currently raining, you would expect to go outside and be able to confirm it. The expectation is that you would see it raining right now. If you do not you would reasonably conclude it is not raining. Let’s move the claim back a day and say it was raining yesterday. Now if you go outside it would not be unreasonable for it to not be raining. There should be no expectation it is currently raining if we are trying to verify whether or not it rained yesterday. You might be able to look at the ground and see if it is wet to corroborate the claim it rained yesterday. Now let’s move the claim back a one thousand years. What possible evidence could we hope to find to verify it rained exactly one thousand years ago today? We would expect there is no evidence to support this, along with no real evidence to discount the claim.
    So when theists like to claim their god answers prayers and any number of things, we can reasonably expect some evidence (the absence of which counts against the claim).

    Lastly to the notion that “atheism does require justification in the same way that theism does”, this is incorrect. In this case atheism is the null hypothesis to the claim “there is a god”. This is the assumed or default position that there is no relationship between two measured phenomena or no association among groups. Without the claim “there is a god” there would be no need for atheism. There would be no position to hold or claim to defend.

    Reply
    • Terry Lewis says:

      Kyle,

      You complain that “personal” is “is an abstract and useless definition within the realm of science.” I would expect that most psychologists would disagree with you, but even if I’m wrong, perhaps that really doesn’t matter so much, as “personal” may be being used an a rather non-scientific way. It’s usage, as you describe it, means that God is a person, not a force or an idea. Surely you agree that this statement is meaningful. You are yourself, after all, a person, not a force or an idea.

      You also complain about the idea of God being “immensely powerful”. I think this definition may be beyond your definition of science; if you view science as the study of the natural universe, then it is ill-equipped to study anything outside that universe. As God is the creator of the universe (and thus the creator of all of the mass and energy IN the universe) he must necessarily a) be more powerful than that energy, and b) not require energy as we know it. Trying to measure God’s power in terms of our power is like trying to measure the height of the color blue. This is not an inconsistency, it is a category error.

      “[A]theism is the null hypothesis to the claim ‘there is a god’. ”

      I beg to differ. “Atheism” is the counter-claim, not the null claim. The word literally means “no God”, not “no belief”. The term “agnostic” means “no knowledge”, and would be closer to the null hypothesis: “I have no knowledge/make no claim about the existence of any god.”

      Reply
      • Kyle says:

        You failed to define what a person is. You gave two examples, your god and me. This is all the further you really got in the definition which is to say, nowhere. This is what I mean by straying into philosophy in the hopes to make a scientific point. Given that your next paragraph bestows on your person of god such qualities no other being that could be considered a “person” could ever dream of achieving. Creating the universe? More inconsistencies in your definition.

        “I think this definition may be beyond your definition of science; if you view science as the study of the natural universe, then it is ill-equipped to study anything outside that universe.”

        Unless you claim some other view of science that can explain anything outside the universe, all this statement does is agree with my assertion that apologists love to pull from scientific theories and notions only as far as it will give them a leg up. Saying your god is outside the natural universe means we have no natural and therefore scientific ways of studying, defining, and exploring this concept rendering it a moot point as far as science is concerned. Back to philosophy you must go.

        “As God is the creator of the universe (and thus the creator of all of the mass and energy IN the universe) he must necessarily a) be more powerful than that energy…”

        As TGM said, “You are extrapolating natural features into a realm you (presumably) claim is non-natural. I beg your pardon, sir.”

        “b) not require energy as we know it.”

        So let’s base an entire religion around something we admit we know nothing about?

        “Trying to measure God’s power in terms of our power is like trying to measure the height of the color blue. This is not an inconsistency, it is a category error.”

        No. It is a definition error on the part of the apologist. This was exactly my point. If you want to use scientific terms and claim a scientific basis for your evidence and conclusions, you must stay within its presumed definitions unless you clearly state where you are diverging. Again, pulling from science as far as it will help, then dropping it where it is no longer useful while maintaining the guise of scientific authority.

        As TGM points out, this is not a dictionary debate. Without a claim for the existence of anything, there can be no negation. For starters what could we deny the existence of for which we have no cogent definition?

        Reply
    • TGM says:

      “…if you view science as the study of the natural universe, then it is ill-equipped to study anything outside that universe.”

      By similar reasoning Terry, perhaps you could explain to me your justification for asserting that our philosophy can be applied to the ‘outside of the universe’. From this desk, I see you making philosophical inferences about the non-universe from facts inside the universe without the slightest justification. How did you conclude that causality, logic, or abstraction, for example, can even transcend the natural? Any discussion of the supernatural is stillborn and drawing theistic conclusions is non-rational.

      “As God is the creator of the universe (and thus the creator of all of the mass and energy IN the universe) he must necessarily a) be more powerful than that energy, and b) not require energy as we know it.”

      How in the world can you possibly know and assert this as true? You are extrapolating natural features into a realm you (presumably) claim is non-natural. I beg your pardon, sir.

      Reply
    • TGM says:

      ‘I beg to differ. “Atheism” is the counter-claim, not the null claim. The word literally means “no God”, not “no belief”.’

      I can also accept the plainer reading that a-theism is “without theism”. This leaves open several possible interpretations of what atheism is, including the null hypothesis. What’s the point of arguing over how one adopts an ambiguous label? Why must we have a dictionary debate? The claims matter, not the labels.

      ‘The term “agnostic” means “no knowledge”, and would be closer to the null hypothesis: “I have no knowledge/make no claim about the existence of any god.”’

      What kind of sleight of hand is this? ‘Have no knowledge’ is not interchangeable with ‘make no claim’. It’s demonstrably false that those are different. One can easily have no knowledge of a subject while making a claim about it. Theists, meet irony.

      Reply
      • France says:

        The definition of the word atheism is the lack of belief in god[s]. In practice it is the rejection of the assertion “god exists” – the claim has not met its burden of proof. That’s all there is to it.

        On the proposition “god exists” there can be there positions.

        1) god exists;
        2) god doesn’t exist;
        3) neither claim has met its burden of proof;

        Atheism is a rejection of position 1.

        A theists by definition is someone who holds position 1.
        An atheist by definition is someone who doesn’t hold position 1. They must hold position 2 or position 3.

        It’s really that simple.

        Reply
    • Sean in MT says:

      “Electrical current falls into this with no temporal, spatial, or mass component.” Didn’t Einstein show that matter and energy are interchangeable? How then, did something (the universe) get created out of nothing (no time, space, matter or engergy)?

      Reply
      • Kyle says:

        “How then, did something (the universe) get created out of nothing (no time, space, matter or engergy)?”

        That is a great question that I will leave to the people who have spent decades going to school for and studying and experimenting on that exact question. To suggest that theologians have somehow answered this question with their level of scientific education and through their understanding of all the evidence to date is nothing short of arrogant. To shoehorn in their god as the answer is unequivocally a god of the gaps fallacy and a vain attempt to remain relevant in a society that is largely forgetting them.

        Reply
        • Louie says:

          I agree that society that is forgetting. Watch how society is crumbling and becoming less healthy, more destructive and more self centered. If atheism were true then evolution would be true, and we’d be getting better and so would nature, but that is not what I see.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “If atheism were true then evolution would be true, and we’d be getting better and so would nature”

            That’s not what evolution predicts at all.

            “Watch how society is crumbling and becoming less healthy, more destructive and more self centered”

            By what metric?

  3. Terry Lewis says:

    Kyle:

    Let’s go back a bit: You said, “Firstly, apologists love to pull scientific theories and notions out when it helps them, then switch to their philosophical arguments when the usefulness of science ends. We need to establish which subject we are to stay in.”

    Are you saying that there is no overlap between science and philosophy? That when we do science, we cannot use philosophy?

    Your own objection, first of all, admits that there is a limit to the usefulness of science. If you claim that you meant that only as it relates to apologetics, then please scientifically prove the validity of your objection.

    Beyond this limit, we are forced to move to philosopy to interpret the findings of science. This is true for the atheist as well as the theist. The study of cosmology is a science, but the science only goes so far. It cannot see back even to the earliest fractions of a second of the universe’s existence. By your objection, Hawking, Krauss, et. al. have no business speculating about the origins of the universe.

    Secondly, I would think that I wouldn’t have to define “personal” when conversing with an intelligent adult (no offense intended… just an honest statment of fact). But if you want a definition for how “personal” is used here, I’d go with this one: personal (adj) 7. pertaining to or characteristic of a person or self-conscious being (From dictionary.com). When I consider scientific evidence that time, space, energy and matter are not eternal but had a beginning, it seems obvious to me that all of these had to have been caused by something that does not require any of the four. You cannot explain the existence of the natural universe by appealing to anything that did not exist when the universe came into existence. Call this philosophy if you like, but if you deny it, then your ability to do science goes out the window.

    TGM, while it is apparent that inference to a logically-impossible cause is invalid, that does not invalidate inference to a feature of our universe that we see that is not ruled out by science. Our universe is a highly complex system. Anything we can design is, of necessity, less complex because that complex object becomes a part of our universe. We know that complex objects such as the space shuttle, iPhones, etc. are the product of a mind… the result of a designer. We also have good reason to believe that the mind is not the brain and that immaterial objects exist. So by inferring to an immaterial mind that does not depend on the type of energy found in our universe, I am not inferring to something that is unfamiliar, but rather to a known cause of order and design; one that you and I make every time we open the mailbox and receive a letter, or when we read posts on this forum. I assume there is an intelligent cause behind these posts, and they are far less complex than our universe.

    Kyle said, “Saying your god is outside the natural universe means we have no natural and therefore scientific ways of studying, defining, and exploring this concept rendering it a moot point as far as science is concerned. Back to philosophy you must go.”

    For the study of God Himself, I agree with you. God is not a frog that you can dissect, nor a chemical you can analyze. That doesn’t mean that scientific results cannot point toward the existence of God. While studying the Model T Ford scientifically is not the scientific study of Henry Ford, scientific study of the Model T IMPLIES the existence of Henry Ford. Existence of that vehicle implies the existence of more than the internal combustion engine combined with the chassis, but also the existence of the mind who conceived putting it together in just that way. In the same way, the existence of, and order in the universe points beyond itself. You cannot fully explain the existence of the Model T without considering Ford. Why believe that one can fully explain the existence of our universe (when we well know that it cannot explain its own existence) without considering its creator?

    And why do you seem to consider scientific study and definitions to be the only valid source of knowledge? Can you prove your reason scientifically?

    Reply
    • Kyle says:

      Your definition of personal presumes a being. Furthermore a person requires material, space, and time. Consciousness requires the same. After all there are chemical and electrical processes involved. So does your definition need more pruning? This is one of the many points where trying to answer this question with philosophy breaks down when science is applied.

      On the notion of time being caused, how is that reconciled? Cause and effect necessitate a temporal relation. How can you have cause or effect without time?

      The model T only implies a creator because we know it was created. You can easily explain the model T because it is physically impossible for all those items to come together to make a car. You can show that in a number of ways. You cannot show that it is impossible for the universe to have come together the way it did without a creator. In fact we have lots of evidence as to how many parts of the universe come together through natural processes.

      When you are trying to present something as a valid scientific argument, then it seems obvious you would rely on scientific study. I’m getting you to define these terms as the basis of my argument is that your god is ill-defined as you present it. If I started arguing against Zeus, it wouldn’t do much as that does not fit your definition of god. So I am having you flesh out the finer details of your deity so that I am arguing against your actual definition and not some presumed one that is not an accurate representation of your beliefs.

      Reply
  4. Terry Lewis says:

    TGM:

    I said “As God is the creator of the universe (and thus the creator of all of the mass and energy IN the universe) he must necessarily a) be more powerful than that energy, and b) not require energy as we know it.”

    To which you responded, “How in the world can you possibly know and assert this as true? You are extrapolating natural features into a realm you (presumably) claim is non-natural. I beg your pardon, sir.”

    I never used the term “non-natural”. I said (and the science supports this) that time, space, matter and energy came into being. As their existence does not seem to be the default state of reality, I actually consider the existence of our universe to be the non-natural state! There was a point at which none of these existed, then they came into being. Regardless, the absence of these four features of our universe does not negate the existence of their creator. Rather, they provide evidence for just such a creator. Now it’s obvious that while the creation is dependent on the creator, the creator is not dependent on the creation. Henry Ford would have existed even if the Model T had never been created; but their would never have been a Model T without Ford.

    Let’s use what you would call a natural example; If build a dam to generate electrical power, then I didn’t use any power from the dam to build it… how could I when the dam didn’t exist? I clearly had to use another power source. And I am more powerful than the dam itself. Why? Because if I wish, I can build 100 more dams just like the first. And while I can exist without the dam, the dam could not exist without me. (True, someone else could build A dam, but it wouldn’t be THAT dam.)

    You further object, “Have no knowledge’ is not interchangeable with ‘make no claim’.”

    Agreed. Which is exactly why I said “would be closer”. I never claimed that they were interchangable. I simply said that it was closer to the null hypothesis.

    You said, “Why must we have a dictionary debate? The claims matter, not the labels.”

    I agree… but it’s the atheists in this discussion who insist that they make no claims. (See Andy Ryan‘s post above.) The theist recognizes that both sides have a burden of proof and defend their claims daily on this site. As do some atheists. Andy’s position, in my opinion, is a cop-out.

    Consider this: “I’m not saying that Andy Ryan does not exist, but I don’t believe he does. Perhaps someone at CrossExamined is using that ID to spur the conversation. So I’m an AAndyist. But I don’t have to prove that he doesn’t exist, because I’m not making a claim about reality, I’m just saying what I believe.”

    No serious atheist on this site would allow me to get away with such shoddy argumentation. Yet this seems to be exactly analogous to Andy’s claim. “It’s up to you guys to demonstrate evidence that Andy is a real person; I don’t have any responsibility to demonstrate that he’s not, because I simply reject your claims that he is.”

    How would you show that I’m wrong? Oh… you can’t. Because my only claim is about what I believe, and you can’t see inside my mind! So while you’re arguing that Andy does in fact exist in the real world, I’m arguing that I simply don’t believe it.

    But would you not agree that in my disbelief, I am actually making a claim about reality? It’s simply bizzare for me to believe that Andy doesn’t exist, but not to claim that Andy doesn’t exist in reality! Talk about sleight-of-hand!

    “What’s the point of arguing over how one adopts an ambiguous label?”

    Precisely because this label is not ambiguous. The term “theism” makes a specific claim about reality, namely, that God exists. To claim “atheism” is to deny the claim of the theist. Per Greek grammar, the a- prefix negates that term… to wit: God does NOT exist.

    If “atheism” simply means “lack of belief”, then “theism” would simply indicate belief, not any claim about the universe itself. If this is true, then the theist has no more burden of proof than the atheist.

    “A-gnostic”, literally “without knowledge” (the equivalent term in Latin is “ignorant”) is a claim to have no knowledge of whether or not God exists. If you want to claim that you are not making a claim about the universe, but about your own lack of belief, then “agnostic” is the better word. Then you can more legitimately deny any burden of proof.

    Reply
  5. Terry Lewis says:

    Kyle:

    Please forgive the length… I wanted to address all of your questions, and I’ve tried to be brief, but a question can be a simple sentence. Answers are rarely that short.

    You said, Your definition of personal presumes a being.

    You know how many persons who aren’t beings? I don’t get this objection. At first I thought you were asserting that a person must be physical, but that would make your “Furthermore” quite redundant:

    Furthermore a person requires material, space, and time.

    What is your evidence for this?

    It would be fair of you to turn my question around and ask me, “You know how many persons who do not require matter, space, and time?” So I’ll go ahead and explain my answer.

    If, as scientific evidence indicates, the universe came into existence, it must have had a cause. It is at least plausible that the cause had to choose to create, and choice requires a person. I’d further argue that the complexity of the universe strongly suggests personhood.

    But whatever created matter, space, time, and energy, obviously cannot be dependent on any of these. ANY explanation of the existence of material reality cannot BE material reality; that’s simply begging the question. That’s why Krauss’s explanation of a “quantum vacuum” doesn’t work… he’s using physical reality to explain the origin of physical reality.

    This isn’t an appeal to what we do not know, but what we DO know. I’m not saying that I don’t know, therefore God did it. I’m saying that scientific evidence indicates that the universe came into existence. It did not exist to cause itself, therefore something caused it to come into existence. This something cannot be of this universe. And anything that can choose to bring our complex universe into existence must be spaceless, powerful, personal, intelligent, and timeless. These attributes align with the historical description of God. While they does not prove God’s existence, it is strong supporting evidence for the Cosmological argument for God.

    I could make similar inferences about the creator of the Model T: its creator had to be personal, intelligent, did NOT drive to and from work in a Model T (was not dependent on his creation, especially for his existence), and WAS NOT a Model T or made of a Model T (was not his creation, or made of his creation).

    If you think my conclusions are invalid, please explain your alternative view.

    Consciousness requires the same. After all there are chemical and electrical processes involved.

    Brain activity requires chemical and electrical processes. What is your evidence that consciousness requires the same?

    You might be inclined to drop to a materialistic/physicalistic position and claim that material reality is the only reality, and non-physical entities do not exist… but that’s a philosophical move, not a scientific move. I’m happy to go there… but you’ve seemed reticent to wax philosophical….

    This is one of the many points where trying to answer this question with philosophy breaks down when science is applied.

    I disagree. I find that materialism/physicalism leaves far greater questions unanswered than theism. We’re discussing the origin of time, space, matter, and energy (the universe). Science assumes the existence of these; therefore it cannot speak to their origin. You are left with either philosophy, or revelation, and I wouldn’t argue from revelation at this point in our conversation… nor do I need to.

    On the notion of time being caused, how is that reconciled? Cause and effect necessitate a temporal relation. How can you have cause or effect without time?

    Time, as an integral part of our physical universe (“spacetime”) may be related to physical change. If so, then the first moment of time would be simultaneous with the coming into existence of the first subatomic particle(s).

    Secondly, standard cosmology does not require the non-existence of a time-like analog (super-time, if you will); only the non-existence of time as we know it. Although I don’t believe it, I cannot rule out the possibility of such a “super-time” that preexisted our own physical reality.

    Regardless, the standard cosmological model indicates that time is not, in fact, eternal. That there was a point at which time did not exist. I don’t pretend to fully comprehend that… but it remains the best explanation of the evidence. Additionally, it’s harder to explain philosophically how time could have always existed, so the scientific evidence is supported by the philosophical evidence. (Or vice-versa, if you’d rather.)

    The model T only implies a creator because we know it was created.

    I think this is demonstrably false. I rarely argue from Paley’s Watch, but I do think that someone completely unfamiliar with any technology developed in the past 500 years could easily deduce that a watch found near their village meant that a stranger had passed through the area. We have little trouble discerning primitive tools in archeological digs, and they show far less evidence of design than an automobile. What’s more, I’m going to be looking around for another person if I see six rocks on the beach stacked on top of each other largest to smallest, with each centered on the one below! You have some work to do to convince me of this assertion.

    You can easily explain the model T because it is physically impossible for all those items to come together [without a creator/designer] to make a car. You can show that in a number of ways.

    I think you accidentally left out a required phrase (that I supplied in brackets), but I’ll assume I understand what you meant. So, can you share a few of those ways?

    You cannot show that it is impossible for the universe to have come together the way it did without a creator. In fact we have lots of evidence as to how many parts of the universe come together through natural processes.

    Just a sec here… you mixed arguments. You probably should have said have said, “without a designer”. While I think even that claim is highly debatable, it’s a bit more defensible than the claim that the universe could come into existence without a creator. So… given that I’ll grant at least the defensibility of the modified claim, would you also endorse the claim, “You cannot show that it is impossible for the universe to have come into existence without a creator”?

    And if you’re wrong… if there is one single example of something in nature that cannot be explained without appeal to a creator/designer, will you agree that this is evidence for God?

    When you are trying to present something as a valid scientific argument, then it seems obvious you would rely on scientific study.

    Prove that you should do this scientifically.

    Not that I’m denying what you say. Rather, I’m pointing out that this is a philosophical, not a scientific position. If you ignore science’s philosophical foundations (which are not scientific), then you cannot do science (which is MY point).

    I’m getting you to define these terms as the basis of my argument is that your god is ill-defined as you present it. If I started arguing against Zeus, it wouldn’t do much as that does not fit your definition of god.

    I appreciate this… thank you. I get really tired of arguing against misconceptions.

    So I am having you flesh out the finer details of your deity so that I am arguing against your actual definition and not some presumed one that is not an accurate representation of your beliefs.

    Think about your word choice here… you’re getting clarification (according to this) not to find evidence and see where it leads, but to develop an argument against me. That’s practically a form of confirmation bias.

    I’m open to evidence that shows that there is no deity. Are you open to evidence for God’s existence, or are you just looking to bolster your own presumption of atheism?

    TRUTH is the more important goal; in fact, it’s the most valuable thing in the universe. I’m not here to win arguments; I’m here to discuss some very complex subjects with intelligent people (and most people I find here, both Christian and Atheist, are very intelligent) in an effort to discover truth.

    I hope that’s why you’re here as well.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Reply
    • TGM says:

      Terry, your essay has exposed flaws in how you think about existence. This is not to say that you are necessarily wrong in your conclusions, only that your conclusions are unjustified from the evidence at hand and your line of reasoning. You simply make too many leaps of logic, appeals to intuition and maintain a reliance on thinking that has been demonstrated to be suspect.

      Here’s the thing… the universe is really WEIRD. And when we discuss things at the boundary conditions of physics, they are even weirder still. We can’t even describe some of them mathematically without the equations exploding. And we don’t know how exploding math translates to real world effects. Singularities are the best example of this. It seems that existence itself might be one big boundary condition that we don’t quite know how to model. Drawing conclusions is premature. The best approach is to withhold judgement until we can learn more.

      These are some of a few statements you made that I feel wholly unsupportable, with commentary…

      ‘If […] the universe came into existence, it must have had a cause.’
      This is an appeal to a classic notion of causality, something to be wary of during an ancient era where our modern experience of reality might not apply. It also makes some assumptions about the nature of the universe preceding the Planck Epoch. We cannot speak confidently about this period. We suppose some sort of singularity to the initial universe but lack warrant to discuss its nature. I don’t know what happened then. What information can you possess that I cannot?

      ‘It is at least plausible that the cause had to choose to create…’
      How did you come to this conclusion? Imaginability does not equate to plausibility. For my money, the ‘creation must be a choice’ position is the weakest assertion in the whole cosmological argument. You’ve magically conjured up a ’cause’ to the universe, then without knowing anything about it, you suggest it has the property of decision-making.

      ‘I’d further argue that the complexity of the universe strongly suggests personhood.’
      This is also unjustified. Emergent systems of all sorts create complexity – and do so without a managing intelligence. Besides… what are you measuring complexity against? You have one universe to observe. It looks complex, therefore it is? Maybe the universe is actually quite simple, but our minds are unsuited to comprehend it.

      ‘I’m saying that scientific evidence indicates that the universe came into existence.’
      Are you sure? The whole idea of existence loses meaning when there is no time. We might just as well say there was always a universe, but time had not yet begun.

      ‘And anything that can choose to bring our complex universe into existence must be spaceless, powerful, personal, intelligent, and timeless.’
      Since we’re playing this game, I feel free to wonder what makes those properties that of a god. All it does is identify an entity with those properties. I mean… if we’re going to speculate about things that are not of this universe, I might grant your being all of those properties and still watch it fall far short of anything divine. Perhaps that being exists in a realm with laws that we cannot comprehend, yet which preclude all possibility of ‘god’. And this super reality operates like some Hindu version of eternally recycled existence. It is at least plausible, wouldn’t you say?

      ‘Prove that you should do this scientifically.’
      And I’ll stop here. Because this is what you intended to do with this comment, right? Contrary to what you might think the ‘road runner tactic’ intends, it really functions as a cheap rhetorical device that ends conversations.

      I genuinely applaud the effort of theists, philosophers, and scientists to bring rationality to brain-twisting subjects. But there comes a time where ‘I don’t know’ has to suffice. In this case, that time comes before we assume a creator on insufficient evidence.

      Reply
    • Kyle says:

      To your first point, they were essentially the same argument. As your definition used two terms, I explored both.

      As for my evidence, it is in the definition. We’ll just save time and lump this into one. Whether a personal “being” or a “person”, the definition requires material, space, and time. If this wasn’t the case, you wouldn’t feel the need to qualify your god with the timeless, spaceless, and immaterial descriptions on top of the “being”.

      “If, as scientific evidence indicates, the universe came into existence, it must have had a cause” – what is your definition of cause? I can’t think of any definition, at least not a cogent one for scientific use, that does not involve time. This goes back to my objection of your god being timeless, as it being the cause of anything presumes the existence of time. You mention this “super-time”, should I presume then that your god is not “super-timeless”? If that is a thing that existed “prior” to the uncaused cause, where did that come from? Insert infinite regress.

      ” It is at least plausible that the cause had to choose to create, and choice requires a person” – So now it is only possible that a choice was involved? For there to be a choice to do something, there must also be an option to not do it. Can you offer any evidence that the universe could possibly not have existed? What if your god had chosen not to create the universe?

      “I’d further argue that the complexity of the universe strongly suggests personhood.” What does a simple universe look like? What are some of its properties? Can you show that we are not living in the simplest universe?

      “But whatever created matter, space, time, and energy, obviously cannot be dependent on any of these.” – No direct arguments there. That is well out of my depth. I’d argue if you haven’t studied that area extensively (like Krauss), you would be as well.

      ” I’m saying that scientific evidence indicates that the universe came into existence.” – ok

      “It did not exist to cause itself, therefore something caused it to come into existence.” – Back to defining cause

      “This something cannot be of this universe” – granting a “cause” I can’t directly argue this. See my response above about depth.

      “And anything that can choose…” – There being a choice has not been fleshed out.

      “…to bring our complex universe into existence must be spaceless, powerful, personal, intelligent, and timeless.” -Where did intelligent come from? I’ll forgive missing immaterial. Powerful still needs a cogent definition. And my above issues with timeless are still present.

      “What is your evidence that consciousness requires the same?” – The definition of consciousness implies brain function which can be measured and quantified. These measurements require spatial, temporal, and massive units.

      “We’re discussing the origin of time, space, matter, and energy (the universe). Science assumes the existence of these; therefore it cannot speak to their origin” – It only assumes the existence of those within the realms it is known to exist. When investigating the origin of the universe, all bets are off. What science doesn’t assume is any god.

      “On the notion of time being caused, how is that reconciled? Cause and effect necessitate a temporal relation. How can you have cause or effect without time?” – See above. Also, time as we know it not existing at some point does not imply a god. It just means time didn’t exist.

      “I think this is demonstrably false” Then demonstrate it.

      “We have little trouble discerning primitive tools in archeological digs, and they show far less evidence of design than an automobile.” Because tools have, and I hesitate to use the term, evolved over time. They have been continually made better. So we can trace back the origins of tools. We know what tasks they were trying to accomplish and can hypothesize what a tool would look like. We can do this because we know these things have creators. These things don’t naturally occur like this. Stones, while they exist naturally don’t exist with six stacked on top of each other.

      “I think you accidentally left out a required phrase (that I supplied in brackets), but I’ll assume I understand what you meant. So, can you share a few of those ways?” I did. It sounded right in my head, but that doesn’t transfer to print so easily. The metals used are treated and shaped in ways that it is impossible to happen in nature.

      “You probably should have said have said, “without a designer”” Are you saying a creator and designer are different in this respect? That needs a bit more clarification.

      “would you also endorse the claim, “You cannot show that it is impossible for the universe to have come into existence without a creator”?” – Seeing as I’m still hashing out your definition of creator, I’d say we need to wait on that.

      “if there is one single example of something in nature that cannot be explained without appeal to a creator/designer, will you agree that this is evidence for God?” The god you believe in? Absolutely not. You can try to poke around in science to come up with your proof, but that doesn’t take away the fact that in the end you believe in, at least in part, the biblical god. That is an atrocious and vile deity… unless we ignore the bad bits as metaphor.

      “If you ignore science’s philosophical foundations (which are not scientific), then you cannot do science (which is MY point).” – All this shows is that philosophy is used as a basis for science. That doesn’t say you can make philosophical arguments as if they were scientific which is what you, and the general notion of apologetics, have been doing.

      ” …you’re getting clarification (according to this) not to find evidence and see where it leads, but to develop an argument against me.” – I’m seeking clarification on your definitions so I don’t argue to you that Zeus doesn’t exist. If someone else wanted to believe in Zeus I would have them do the same and argue that route. If that opens up evidence of some deity, then so be it. Until then, as I feel I haven’t been shown anything convincing, I shall continue to argue as though no gods exist.

      “Are you open to evidence for God’s existence, or are you just looking to bolster your own presumption of atheism?” Absolutely I’m open. I just highly doubt it exists.

      Reply
      • Erik says:

        This is by no means an exhaustive reply to your points- one of your responses just caught my attention.

        “The god you believe in? Absolutely not. You can try to poke around in science to come up with your proof, but that doesn’t take away the fact that in the end you believe in, at least in part, the biblical god. That is an atrocious and vile deity… unless we ignore the bad bits as metaphor.”

        If there is no God, then by what means do you condemn the biblical portrayal of God as “atrocious and vile”? It seems here that you are making an appeal to an absolute moral law, but how would this exist in a materialistic universe? Conversely, if the universe is not materialistic, why does the moral law exist?

        If you respond that morality is not absolute, then why should one see the actions of God in the Bible as immoral rather than simply moral (or not immoral) relative to the culture at the time?

        Reply
        • Kyle says:

          I’m a firm believer that morals are dictated by society and what is best for it. The problem comes in just how fluid and dynamic societies can be. It’s the reason many conservative Christians are raising their pitchforks in recent years to take up arms against the gravest of sins from homosexuals. A few decades ago and it would be against blacks. Christians are like a subset within the larger society. Once racism became immoral as the broader society evolved, Christians had to change or risk being ostracized. As we can see the tide of moral change is upon us again and soon we will relegate the homophobic tendencies to the pages of history books where we point out all the things we used to do wrong. The same way we despise other malevolent rulers who rose to power, we can despise and condemn the biblical god for the atrocities he committed.

          Reply
          • Scott says:

            @Kyle
            >> I’m a firm believer that morals are dictated by society and what is best for it. The problem comes in just how fluid and dynamic societies can be

            So you think morals are relative based on what is best for society. This is simply majority rule. By this logic, eventually the majority will make the minority suffer. It is only a matter of time. There is a reason why the founders of America created a representative democracy.

            >>It’s the reason many conservative Christians are raising their pitchforks in recent years to take up arms against the gravest of sins from homosexuals.

            Why the need for strident rhetoric (“raising their pitchforks”)? Typically this is because of a poor argument, but in this case there isn’t even an argument. I’m guessing your argument is that Christians are wrong in their belief and they need to “convert” to the current morals dictated by society? Is that what you’re saying? You’re saying that Christians are intolerant?

            >>A few decades ago and it would be against blacks. Christians are like a subset within the larger society.

            What? Do you have any evidence that Christians were/are against blacks? Or do you have any Bible verse that shows Christ supporting racism? Now, are there some Christians that are racists? Absolutely. So what? This only shows that there are people claiming to be Christian that clearly aren’t following Christ. There are atheists that are racists too. So what?

            >>Once racism became immoral as the broader society evolved, Christians had to change or risk being ostracized.

            Christians would say that racism was ALWAYS immoral. Does that mean that all people that claimed to be Christians practiced “love your neighbor as yourself”? Of course not. Just like people that didn’t believe in God practiced racism (or still do).

            Christians are being ostracized because they don’t change with the societal views of morals. It is because they believe there is an objective moral standard that causes the issue in the first place. It is society that’s changing. You could also argue that this isn’t the case and society is actually more like ancient Rome.

            >>As we can see the tide of moral change is upon us again and soon we will relegate the homophobic tendencies to the pages of history books where we point out all the things we used to do wrong.

            This implies progress. If society is fluid and dynamic as you already claimed, what is society moving towards? In other words, if everything is relative, how in the world do you measure progress? When the majority thinks killing ‘undesirables’ will help society, i hope that doesn’t end up on the pages of history books.

            >>The same way we despise other malevolent rulers who rose to power, we can despise and condemn the biblical god for the atrocities he committed.

            How can you despise other malevolent rulers? Their society simply has different morals than your society. And since the people in power dictate for society, how can you despise that? Are your morals greater than theirs? Based on what? All you’ve said is that the winner writes the history books. Sad.

            What are these alleged atrocities from God and was He justified?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “So you think morals are relative based on what is best for society. This is simply majority rule. By this logic, eventually the majority will make the minority suffer. It is only a matter of time.”

            That doesn’t follow at all, Scott. Arguably (and I’d say self-evidently) what is best for society is protecting minorities. Do you not think we all benefit from living in a representative democracy?

            “Why the need for strident rhetoric (“raising their pitchforks”)?”

            Many African countries have laws that still imprison people for being gay. Some even have the death penalty simply for failing to report OTHER people you know to be gay. You can say “Those are African countries”, but just yesterday I saw Frank, who runs this site, tweeting a link to an article by US Conservative Christian Michael Brown where he said how terrible it was that Hillary Clinton’s favourable stance on gays had offended those very African countries. He gave a link to which African Leaders were offended, and they included leaders who had introduced the death penalty for being gay and for failing to report gay people.

            So it seems clear that Brown approves of those laws, and apparently Frank does too. I’d be delighted to hear Frank and Brown clarify that they do NOT approve of those laws, but if so, what was the relevance of saying that the architects of those laws disagree with Hillary Clinton’s stance on gays? I mean, presumably they disagree with anyone who doesn’t want gays to be killed, so the only relevance I can see in quoting their disapproval is if you think we should all be ashamed that such African leaders disapproved of Clinton’s stance.

            So sure, ‘pitchforks’ seems about right.

            “Or do you have any Bible verse that shows Christ supporting racism?”

            I see no Bible verses where Christ says bakers should make cakes for gay weddings, but here we all are debating whether refusing to do so is Christlike or not. It should be noted however, that the Bible was the main justification for decades of US slavery, notwithstanding that it was ultimately also the justification for abolishing it. Bishops and other scripture experts wrote papers at the time passionately and sincerely pleading that the Bible CLEARLY and OBVIOUSLY defended slavery. Abolitionism was contemptuously referred to as an ‘atheistic philosophy’.

          • Kyle says:

            “By this logic, eventually the majority will make the minority suffer.” – As Andy pointed out, there is a societal benefit to protect the minorities. You wouldn’t want to persecute minority classes only to find yourself on the losing side of that bargain some day now would you?

            ” Do you have any evidence that Christians were/are against blacks?” –

            https://thinkprogress.org/when-religious-liberty-was-used-to-justify-racism-instead-of-homophobia-67bc973c4042#.cgnsdmquf

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-giberson-phd/the-biblical-roots-of-racism_b_7649390.html

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_views_on_slavery#United_States

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Falwell#Civil_rights

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan#Moral_threats

            http://rosemnolenblackhistorylibrary.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Colored-not-Welcome.jpg

            Just a sampling of racism supported by Christianity.

            “Christians would say that racism was ALWAYS immoral” – See above. No they don’t.

            “Christians are being ostracized because they don’t change with the societal views of morals.” – That’s because they think they have some god on their side. If it were some nameless pagan god they’d be labeled delusional. Because it is the Christian god, suddenly it’s all part of religion.

            .
            “How can you despise other malevolent rulers?” – Simple. Because they are bad with respect to the society that I live in. Hitler had a big following, but attempting genocide is bad. He felt Jews were inferior and should be exterminated. Those that believed similarly would be included in this “society”. If you asked them, they would have claimed the moral high ground. Even allowing such an atrocious thought does not justify genocide. Back to the point of protecting minorities being a benefit to society. Seeing as racism is not a benefit to society, they fell.

            “What are these alleged atrocities from God and was He justified?” – http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=682

          • Scott says:

            @Andy
            >>That doesn’t follow at all, Scott. Arguably (and I’d say self-evidently) what is best for society is protecting minorities. Do you not think we all benefit from living in a representative democracy?
            How is protecting minorities best for a society? All you have said is it is self evident. Why should the 99% take care of the 1%? You take the traditional views of the US based on Christian values and use that to say it is self-evident. This is especially ironic when in the same response you mention African countries that go against your very statement.

            >>So sure, ‘pitchforks’ seems about right.
            So you like painting a picture of Christians running around with pitchforks and you back it up with conjecture? You really believe that Mr Turek believes in putting homosexuals in prison or putting them to death? You tell a just so story without any proof. That is an opinion, not an argument with evidence.

            >>I see no Bible verses where Christ says bakers should make cakes for gay weddings
            You avoid the question to add this? You’re absolutely right. There is no Bible verse that says this. And?

            >>that the Bible was the main justification for decades of US slavery
            This patently false. Economics was ALWAYS the main justification for US slavery. Did some people use Bible quotes to justify it? Certainly. But to say the Bible was the main justification is disingenuous.

            >>Bishops and other scripture experts wrote papers at the time passionately and sincerely pleading that the Bible CLEARLY and OBVIOUSLY defended slavery
            So? All this says is that people that had personal motivations for continued slavery tried to use the Bible to defend it. Just the same as you and Kyle using the Bible to try and show God in the OT as morally corrupt. Does that mean it is right?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “You take the traditional views of the US based on Christian values”

            Who says those are Christian values? The original constitution allowed slavery. How was that protecting minorities. And Kyle already answered your question: “You wouldn’t want to persecute minority classes only to find yourself on the losing side of that bargain some day now would you?”

            Look up the ‘veil of ignorance’ – if you were going to live in a society but didn’t know in advance what position you would have in it, which would you prefer: One in which one portion is enslaved by another, or one in which minorities are protected? I’d guess you’d prefer to be in the latter, if you didn’t know in advance whether you would be a minority or not. If not, try living as someone’s slave for a few weeks then come back to me and say whether protecting minorities is better or not!

            “You tell a just so story without any proof”

            Feel free to look up the Brown articles that I referenced. They’re quite easy to find. Or look up the laws in African nations such as Uganda. The imprisonment of gays in such countries is made with reference to the Bible.

            “All this says is that people that had personal motivations for continued slavery tried to use the Bible to defend it. ”

            If you can assert that then we can also say that those who used the Bible to OPPOSE slavery did so due to personal motivations, and not because of religious belief. Same argument. You’re basically saying that Christians with morals you disagree with can’t actually do so for religious reasons, they must have other reasons, whereas your own opposition to, say, gay marriage is sincere and religiously motivated. This is special pleading, Scott.

            Ironically, as I already pointed out, abolitionism was dismissed as being an ‘atheist philosophy’, just like Natasha on the other thread automatically assumed that anyone who is pro-gay marriage must be an atheist. Nothing changes, eh?!

          • Scott says:

            @Kyle
            >>As Andy pointed out, there is a societal benefit to protect the minorities. You wouldn’t want to persecute minority classes only to find yourself on the losing side of that bargain some day now would you?
            Actually, Andy didn’t point out any societal benefits. All he said was self evident. And your question is not an argument either. It appears you believe it is a question of self interest, not morals.

            >>Just a sampling of racism supported by Christianity.
            Again, as I said in my original post, you have people claiming to be Christians speaking out for slavery. And, as all the links you post testify, it was social and economic reasons that had those “Christians” speaking in favor of slavery. Why were the pastors in the North against and the pastors in the South for? So yes, Christians would say that slavery has always been immoral.

            >>That’s because they think they have some god on their side. If it were some nameless pagan god they’d be labeled delusional. Because it is the Christian god, suddenly it’s all part of religion.
            So when society suddenly thinks that all Muslims are bad because they believe in Jihad, is it OK to condemn them? If you are only dependent on society for your moral values, then why are your views better than any other society’s? This is the whole idea of an objective moral law. And, yes, Christians believe this comes from God. You should read “The Abolition of Man” by CS Lewis.

            >>Because they are bad with respect to the society that I live in.
            So? Islamic countries think the US is bad because our country interferes in their affairs and support Israel. And you think they are bad because they are anti gay. You cannot both be right. This is the contradiction in your world view.

            >>http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=682
            Then you should read “Is God a Moral Monster”.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Scott: “And your question is not an argument either. It appears you believe it is a question of self interest, not morals.”

            No, it is YOU who made that argument that what is best for society is to make minorities suffer: “So you think morals are relative based on what is best for society. This is simply majority rule. By this logic, eventually the majority will make the minority suffer. It is only a matter of time.”

            …We simply said that it is false to say that making minorities suffer benefits society overall. The Nazis persecuted the Jews and so lost Einstein, who then effectively gave the other side the technology to make the atom bomb.

            If you’re still convinced that making minorities suffer benefits society, look up the poem “First they came …”

            It begins: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist.”

            It ends: “Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

            “You have people claiming to be Christians speaking out for slavery”

            Scott, you’re playing ‘No true Scotsman’. People who disagree with your moral views ‘Aren’t true Christians’. Less than fifty years ago Christians were fervently arguing against interracial marriage in Virginia. If this trend continues, in 2066 Christians will be saying that the people who were against gay marriage ‘weren’t real Christians’.

            “So yes, Christians would say that slavery has always been immoral.”

            And in 50 years time we’ll be hearing ‘Christians would say that opposing gay marriage has always been immoral’. In fact many Christians already make that argument. Don’t tell me though, Scott, they aren’t ‘real Christians’, just like 200 years ago the abolitionists ‘weren’t real Christians’ according to other Christians.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Scott: ” Why were the pastors in the North against and the pastors in the South for?”

            You think you’ll find no divisions in moral ideas from pastors along geographic lines now? Pastors in the Bible Belt have, in general, very different ideas to those in, say New York or San Francisco.

            Scott: “You should read…”

            Have you read the response, “Is God a moral compromiser”?

          • Kyle says:

            >>It appears you believe it is a question of self interest, not morals.

            I believe morals evolved from the individuals self interest. It benefits the individual to form a society. It benefits the society to protect all members including minorities and the weak. We see this in animals all the time.

            >>Again, as I said in my original post, you have people claiming to be Christians speaking out for slavery. And, as all the links you post testify, it was social and economic reasons that had those “Christians” speaking in favor of slavery

            Social reasons you say? It’s almost as if you agree with my premise.

            Claiming to be Christians? Much like you do? What makes you a true Scotsman and they are not?

            >>So when society suddenly thinks that all Muslims are bad because they believe in Jihad, is it OK to condemn them?

            I don’t quite follow so I will answer the two ways I interpret this question.
            1. Society wrongly assumes all Muslims are bad because a few believe in Jihad and therefore is it OK to condemn the entirety of the religion? – No. Generalizing an entire religion for the actions of a few would be wrong. Just like I wouldn’t want to be judged for some of the more foul beliefs of those that could be associated with my society.
            2. Because some Muslims believe in Jihad is it OK to condemn those that do? Absolutely. Consider the veil of ignorance Andy mentioned before. I do not want to be killed for what I believe in. Therefore I feel it would be wrong to kill others for what they believe in regardless of whether they believe the same way I do. Lift the veil of ignorance and it is easy to say that those who believe in Jihad are wrong.

            >>If you are only dependent on society for your moral values, then why are your views better than any other society’s?
            Because it is the society in which I am in. The same reason Nazis thought their views were better than other societies. The same reason the lion hunts the gazelle but not other lions. Who are we to say the lion is wrong or the gazelle is wrong? But the lion will continue to hunt, because that is their “society”, and the gazelle will defend itself because it wants to survive.

            >>You cannot both be right. This is the contradiction in your world view.
            So? I’m not claiming we are both right. I’m claiming I am right. Just like Muslims and their Christian anti gay counterparts claim they are right about that. Nowhere in my expounding on my worldview did I imply all societies had to be in agreement with each other.

  6. barry says:

    I would think that simple common sense says the denier has no burden of proof until the affirming party provides evidence in support of something that qualifies as a coherent concept. “God” is not a coherent concept, by simple reason that you busy yourself more with justifying why god is an exception to every rule of language and common sense thinking, than with showing that langauge can accurately describe him. Might it be that the reason human language isn’t sufficient, is for the same reason human language is never sufficient for certain concepts (i.e., they are in fact, gibberish)?

    You claim he can see, but has no eyes. He hears without ears. He has thoughts, but no brain. You claim he “acts”, but then you violate language by insisting that the temporal or chronological progression of events necessary to justify using verbs in language, does not occur where god lives. You claim he exists, but is not made of matter (energy is not a rebuttal, energy is not an invisible opposite of matter, it is nothing but matter in motion).

    You’ll say he is invisible, which is fine for the moment, but then you say I cannot bump into god, god’s invisibility means i cannot make physical contact with him. So when you say God is invisible, you require more exceptions than are required int he case of things that truly are invisible and yet exist, such as air.

    In the bible god speaks giving the appearance he is a single person, the you come along and exploit Genesis 1:26 and insist what looks like a single divine person talking, is actually a trio of persons. you call God the father a person distinct from Jesus the son, yet you insist the Father and the divine nature of Jesus have exactly the same thoughts, when normal rules of language require that to be a separate person, you have to have your own unique thoughts not shared by other persons. Then you’ll try to reply that the trinity of “persons” are not “persons” the way language is normally used to designate “persons”. You say God is spirit, but then you define spirit only in negative terms, and if you say spirit is life-force, the question then becomes why you give it that definition when the only conformed life-force that we have common ground on, is physical life force possessed by all living humans.

    Apostle Paul ran around insisting he had seen the resurrected Jesus, but then he used a Greek word optasia to describe his Damascus-road encounter (Acts 26:19), that he uses to describe such an esoteric state that leaves him unable, 14 years afterward, to tell whether the experience occurred in or out of his body, and using language that makes it appear he is distinguish one of his selves from another one of his selves ((2nd Corinthians 12:1-4).

    The cherry on top? Your arguments are constantly tinged with incoherent concepts, such as “outside the universe” and “the beginning of time itself”, and you assert that language saying God has departed from us is consistent with other language such as god’s omnipresence.

    One place to start solving the language problem would be a humble and simple acceptance of Genesis 19:24 and what it would have signified to the minds of its original illiterate addressees, in which the fireballs that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah originated with God himself up in heaven, inevitably requiring that the biblical author did not believe heaven was in a different dimension than earth, only that heaven was physically “up there”. Yeah, that might open Pandora’s Box given how simplistic that view is, but unfortunately, as a Christian, your highest priority is not coming up with ways to plausibly reconcile the bible with modern Christian philosophy, but making sure you have correctly interpreted the biblical data that supposedly underlies your philosophy. The bible can hardly perform its function of correcting you and keeping you on the right path (2nd Timothy 3:16) if your rules of hermeneutics end up allowing you to plausibly skirt the likely intended original meaning.

    You will claim your god is omni this and omni that, but there are plenty of Christian liberal theologians and scholars who say the bible god is less than perfect, makes mistakes, and changes his mind contrary to standard conservative doctrine, meaning we cannot even even get a straight answer about God’s basics from the bible which you say is properly the starting point. And if you followed your beliefs out consistently, you’d fail this coherency test, since the bible happily admits that knowledge does not begin with positing a coherent concept, it begins with the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:7. We could rightly accuse all apologists of being so desperate to prove things that they violate the very basis the bible says knowledge must have. If your bible is correct, you cannot expect us to get knowledge of the Lord until we first start fearing him, in which case the bible does its fair share of increasing the problem of the incoherence of Christian thought. You reject the “you must believe before you can see” theory for every other religion, so the chances are greatest that such philosophy is also faulty in respect to Christianity.

    My opinion is that you must first demonstrate that the Christian or biblical sense of ‘god’ qualifies as a coherent concept, before we have the least bit of moral obligation to regard the whole business as anything more than delusion/fantasy.

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