My Fondest Memories of God

by Luke Muehlhauser on February 16, 2011 in General Atheism

Redated from 08/31/2009.
Been there, done that.

Been there, done that!

Most people who leave religion behind probably do so largely for emotional reasons. Some former Christians, like John W. Loftus, have been admirably candid about this.

I consider myself lucky to have left almost entirely for epistemic reasons. As readers of my deconversion story will recall, all of my emotions, dreams, hopes, and relationships were pulling me toward Christianity. Only reason and evidence pulled me – kicking and screaming – toward atheism.

I was not a sad Christian. I was not abused by priests. I was not turned off by Christian hypocrisy (or at least, I didn’t blame God for it). I loved being a Christian, especially during the last few years before my deconversion. That was the high point of my Christian life. I had found an experience of Christianity I felt to be authentic, loving, and noble. And then it all fell apart when I started studying Jesus and the philosophy of religion.

When I’m speaking with a Christian, she often doesn’t believe me when I tell her that I had, as a Christian, the exact same kinds of experiences with “God” as she has had. She thinks that if I had really felt his presence, I could never deny the veracity of those experiences. Well, I did feel1 God’s presence, and I do deny the veracity of those experiences. Why? Because I have overcome The Ultimate Bias. I was able to recognize that my inner experiences, no matter how strong and convincing, are no better evidence for Jesus than the Hindu’s strong inner experiences are for Vishnu, or the Muslim’s for Allah.

My Christian life had its ups and downs, but for now let me recount two of the high points, when I felt God’s presence strongly and was transformed by it in positive ways.

Falling in love with God

divine_conspiracyI was at a low point near the end of my teen years. I didn’t feel close to God, and I often didn’t want to do what I knew he wanted me to do. My dad, a pastor, recommended I read The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard.

Chapter 9, “A Curriculum for Christlikeness,” slowly builds its way up to an answer to the question: How can a Christian experience the fullness and joy of life that God offers? This was the burning question at the core of my heart, and I could sense Willard was getting close to giving me the the answer. It was as if heaven was at the top of a short stairway, and I was climbing it, and nearly at the top.

My spiritual experience of reading that chapter is one of my most vivid memories.

There I was, sitting on my bed, legs folder under me, book in my lap, rocking back and forth with a big grin on my face. I was so excited I couldn’t hold still. I kept having to wipe my eyes because they filled with tears just knowing I was approaching the answer I wanted so badly.

Sometimes the spiritual power of the words washed over me with such intensity that I literally had to shut the book and hold still for 30 seconds with my eyes closed just to recover so that I could rip open the book again and continue. Other times I had to get up and walk around the house for a minute to calm down, just so I could run back to the book and read the next page.

And then it came. The answer. The way to experience the fullness and joy of life that God offers. That path to happiness and Christlikeness and communion with God.

Normally, being like Jesus is a daily struggle against our humanness. But Willard had found a way to live that fullness of Christian life with ease and joy. How? By falling head over heels in love with God. When you’re really in love with God, you do what he wants because you want to, because you’re so in love with him and his ways. When you really love someone, it is your pleasure to please them, and you hate to sadden them.

So how do you fall head over heels in love with God? Spiritual discipline. Training of the mind. You focus your thoughts on everything you love about God, everything he gives to you. You think about his goodness as much as possible – literally, every 30 seconds. You hum your favorite praise songs throughout the day.

plastic_bagI gave it a try, and it started to work. One moment in particular stands out. I was driving back home from work when I saw – directly in front of me, a curled leaf spinning beautifully in the air currents made by passing cars. It danced through the air and then shot up into the air as I drove right under it. It reminded me of my favorite scene from American Beauty, the one with the plastic bag dancing in the wind.

It hit me like a ton of feathers: this was God’s gift to me. Beauty – all throughout the world, every day – was a gift from God to me. On the drive home, I indulged in the beauty God had made for my pleasure. It was late autumn in Minnesota, and I’m particularly fond of naked trees. I thanked God for each and every one as I passed them on the highway.

I followed Willard’s advice, and over the next several months I fell in love with God. My parents noticed how much happier I had suddenly become – and also how much more helpful I was around the house! And my love for God never went away… until I found out He didn’t exist.

On my face before the Holy One

Things went so well over the next year that I started to feel like quite a success. The sin of pride was creeping in. God spoke to me2 about this with special force during a worship service at my church. I was still pretty shy at that time, but over the past year I had become more comfortable doing “charismatic” things during worship, such as raising my hands, and maybe even jumping up and down if I really felt the presence of God. But now I felt moved to do something that would not only glorify God, but would also push my mind away from pride and toward humility.

I decided that putting my body into a position of humility would probably help. Then I felt God calling me to kneel before the cross at the front of my church. But that would mean leaving my row and doing something unusual in front of 100 people – 100 people I knew, and would have to speak with sometime after. I stared at the cross for a good 10 minutes, asking God to help me move from my spot.

Finally, I just asked God for peace, and he gave it to me:3 My whole body relaxed. I took a deep breath, pushed my the anxiety out of my mind and instead focused on the goodness of God. I squeezed my way out of my row and walked up the center aisle. When I got to the front, I kneeled before the cross and lifted my hands.

But it wasn’t enough. I laid down on my face, arms outstretched before the cross, and worshiped my Savior.

There I was, lying face-down in front of 100 people like a fool. But I didn’t care. I just wanted to glorify God and humble myself. I praised God for all the beauty he gave me. I cried for joy the whole time. My whole body felt warm – almost like it was vibrating, but peacefully.

I don’t know how much time passed. I was only vaguely aware of the worship music. Maybe something like 15 minutes later I got up on my knees and looked around. Half the worship team had stopped playing and had also turned to kneel before the cross, arms raised in praise to God. A few other people had lined up before me, kneeling or prostrate before the cross. God was moving among us.

kneeling

Conclusion

A reader wrote me:

People want hard core evidence before they commit to things 9 times out of ten. As for believing in Jesus and God, you just have to experience it for yourself. And Live it. That’s the truth. If all we have is testimony and scriptures and we start to believe we will see great things happen in our lives.

I know. I did experience it for myself. I did live it. I did believe, and I saw great things happen in my life.

It just isn’t true, is all I’m saying.

  1. …what I strongly believed to be… []
  2. Or so I believed… []
  3. Again: so I believed… []

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{ 172 comments… read them below or add one }

Marco August 31, 2009 at 3:31 am

Once again I am deeply impressed with how you treat so many subjects on your blog. A very interesting and honest piece…. again.

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Taranu August 31, 2009 at 3:52 am

Beautiful!

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atimetorend August 31, 2009 at 3:56 am

Stunning post, I can feel my legs tremble as I imagine myself resisting a walk to the front of the auditorium during worship. I don’t like to think about experiences like that now, and authors like Willard make me so uncomfortable, raising the level of subjective experience beyond all reason. It seems an impossible task to communicate with those who still feel that way after you have made the decision as you have that it is just not real.

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josh August 31, 2009 at 5:23 am

I must admit that your post brought such incredibly powerful memories back that my eyes filled with tears. I miss the feelings of those days, but I also revel in the joys of experiencing the wonders of this world as it really is.

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Kip August 31, 2009 at 6:13 am

Ah, the memories.  Nice post, Luke.

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EvanT August 31, 2009 at 6:20 am

LOL… C’mon Luke. What Dallas Willard did in “The Divine Conspiracy” was merely reinvent the wheel. What he proposed is an age-long standard practice of the Orthodox monastic tradition called “incessant praying” and can be performed stylized by reciting the “Jesus Prayer” as in monasteries or simplified as you mention here. The goal is ending up reciting the prayer CONTINUOUSLY (and not just once every 30 secs). I can’t even begin to imagine what that would do to one’s neurochemistry….. buuuut…. you probably do.   :P

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lukeprog August 31, 2009 at 7:59 am

EvanT: C’mon Luke. What Dallas Willard did in “The Divine Conspiracy” was merely reinvent the wheel.

Oh indeed! But at the time, it was a revelation to me!

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mikespeir August 31, 2009 at 9:46 am

As a Christian I had experiences like that; but if you had told me of yours and that you then became an atheist, I would have called you a liar.  I remember telling the adult Sunday School class I taught for some years, “I’ve seen too much NOT to believe.”  Untrue.  All it takes is to open your eyes and see that one has to be taught to interpret these experiences this way.  It’s not the only possible interpretation and it’s not the best.

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Jeff H August 31, 2009 at 10:14 am

I was still pretty shy at that time, but over the past year I had become more comfortable doing “charismatic” things during worship, such as raising my hands, and maybe even jumping up and down if I really felt the presence of God.

Well…there’s your problem right there. How could you be a Christian when you do such devil-worshipping things? ;)
 
I left Pentecostalism a year or so before I left Christianity as a whole. I think that probably played a large role when trying to sort through emotional experiences. When researching speaking in tongues, I realized that the same phenomenon is found the world over. Same with other “charismatic” experiences. And that led me to the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, when a Muslim says that he can feel the presence of Allah, he feels something just as strongly as a Christian who feels the presence of God. When you make that comparison, there’s no way to base any faith on emotional experiences.

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Alden August 31, 2009 at 11:28 am

The thing is, it is true.

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Penneyworth August 31, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Very moving post. It comforts me for some reason to hear your story, especially as it seems so counter-intuitive to me. Growing up in baptist and pentacostal churches, I found so much of what I was taught to be horrific, and the people in the church (especially the other children) to be so hateful. I wanted more than anything for Christianity to be false, but fear and hard wiring from birth kept me believing it was just a fact. It seemed like a fact to me that decent people were being sent to burn in hell every minute, and that alone was enough to make this universe a horrific nightmare. Later, as a teenager, I also wanted that wonderful experience of feeling God’s presence, but never felt anything, no matter how sincerely I tried, even while bawling my eyes out with 10 crazy tounge-speaking people laying their hands all over me and trembling. All the arguments for the nonexistence of God made all the sense in the world, but the fear of being wrong (and burning in hell), and the hard core indoctrination were so strong. I guess it seems hard for me to imagine that popular guy in church, who seems so content with his god, who thrives in the social structure made up of people who believe similarly, to abandon his beliefs. I look around now and find great comfort in knowing that in spite of that ecstatic feeling of god that I saw so many people experience, those who do experience such psychological phenomena can also sensibly reject the literal existence of ancient, genocidal war gods with divine plans that include the ceaseless torture of billions of people.

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IntelligentDasein August 31, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Good post Luke. It really speaks volumes to me because I was raised Catholic and I loved the religion. I still have a deep affinity for Catholic theology, history, architecture, music, paintings, and ceremonies.
People think that we are atheists because we hate these things and we want to destroy them, which is bull shit. I am an atheist because I do not believe in God, it has nothing to do with hating anything.

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Haukur August 31, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Great post, I love hearing about your personal journey.
 
“I was able to recognize that my inner experiences, no matter how strong and convincing, are no better evidence for Jesus than the Hindu’s strong inner experiences are for Vishnu, or the Muslim’s for Allah.”
 
You should note that many believing Hindus would agree that the religious experiences of Christians and Muslims are real and positive experiences akin to their own religious experiences – not delusions or demon worship. It’s just that the Abrahamic guys typically don’t return the favor.

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Eric August 31, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Here’s Brian Leftow of Oxford on religious experience:

“And the thought that only considerations that would convince any neutral observer are rational bases for religious belief is surely wrong.  For religious experience is a sound basis for belief.  It is rational to be convinced by your own experience.  If it seems to you that God appears to you, or speaks to you, that is an excellent reason to think that God exists, as long as you know you weren’t drunk etc. at the time.  Prima facie, having God appear to you is as good a reason to believe in God as having a crested woodpecker appear to you is to believe in them.  But the one who hasn’t had this experience may legitimately be more skeptical.  He may wonder whether it could have been as you say, whether your environment and background beliefs led you to misinterpret something, etc.  You may legitimately not take these doubts seriously: you know what it was like.  He doesn’t, and so legitimately may.  Which makes the point that not all rational bases for belief are person-neutral.  People can rationally believe based on evidence others may rationally reject.”

It seems to me that while you can of course conclude that *your* previous experience wasn’t veridical, you can’t make the move from this premise to the conclusion that everyone else’s religious experiences aren’t veridical. At best, it seems to me that you can only claim to give others some grounds for being skeptical of their experiences. However, all mature religious traditions already teach this.

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mikespeir August 31, 2009 at 2:47 pm

“Prima facie, having God appear to you is as good a reason to believe in God as having a crested woodpecker appear to you is to believe in them.”
Only I suspect that persons of all religions and no religion at all would agree on the woodpecker.  Why is there so much disagreement about religious experiences?

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Lorkas August 31, 2009 at 3:28 pm

mikespeir: Only I suspect that persons of all religions and no religion at all would agree on the woodpecker. Why is there so much disagreement about religious experiences?

Because God doesn’t appear before people like woodpeckers do.
 
You’re right to point this out. I wonder whether the author thinks that seeing a chupacabras is a good reason to believe that chupacabras exist, or if seeing a mermaid is a good reason to believe that mermaids exist. You don’t have to be drunk to be mistaken about what you see.
 
It seems to me that God is much more aptly compared to these legendary beings than to a woodpecker, since different people who claim to have seen such things typically describe them differently.

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danielg August 31, 2009 at 4:06 pm

>> LUKE: I was able to recognize that my inner experiences, no matter how strong and convincing, are no better evidence for Jesus than the Hindu’s strong inner experiences are for Vishnu, or the Muslim’s for Allah.
While your interpretation of the experience may be entirely subjective, intellectually speaking the *intellectual* and *historical* support for these other religions, other things being equal, are NOT equal.
Historically, qualitatively, logically, and in other ways, Christianity is entirely superior to most of these other systems (I reserve the right to support Buddhism in some aspects ;).
And interestingly, just from a qualitative point of view, my reasoning tells me that not only does Christianity deal with personal guilt and existential loneliness more effectively and perhaps logically than these other systems, it creates human freedom and prosperity better than any other ideology.
In a sense, I would say that I took Pascal’s wager (which I defended in a series of posts, see Pascal’s Wager) and concluded that to abandon faith in Jesus is foolhardy since you can NOT disprove it, and an overwheliming the *secondary* information I have makes it more likely than even atheism.
As my series contends, you can not just CHOOSE to believe based on this type of evidence, but I do not think that you can actually say that you have a *better* intellectual argument against the reality of Jesus and God than for.
So when you say that you made a purely intellectual argument, I would say that, like Lofton, who really agreed that NO ONE makes such decisions for purely intellectual reasons, you could NOT have, except to end up making a similar decision of faith as the evangelical – based on absence of primary evidence, you took the secondary arguments and evidence as conclusive.
In the end, I think that perhaps both Christianity and atheism have good intellectual arguments, but neither entirely disproves the other, and in the end, it will come down to (1) an emotional decision, and (2) a decision based on the gift of faith which God gives to those he chooses.

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danielg August 31, 2009 at 4:07 pm

I wish your HTML editor was built in and i could go back and edit.

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IntelligentDasein August 31, 2009 at 5:33 pm

daniel:

I am not trying to sound like a jerk, but you have no business postinging “why scientists believe in evolution even though its wrong”. It is about the most pretentious things I have ever read. I could make an article “why Daniel G believes in God even though its wrong” and throw a bunch of pretentious labels on you even though I do not even know you.

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Eric August 31, 2009 at 6:47 pm

“Only I suspect that persons of all religions and no religion at all would agree on the woodpecker.  Why is there so much disagreement about religious experiences?”

I think that both the basic distinction between ‘seeing’ and ‘seeing-as,’ and some reflection on the concept of god, would help here.

Raw experience of X is one thing; the interpreted experience of X as such-and-such is something else. Here’s an example: What does a cat sound like? Is it ‘meow’? How about ‘ron’? Maybe ‘schnurr’? Or perhaps ‘niago’? Now, if we merely examine these words, it seems that it can’t be the case that all are correct: they contain different letters, different numbers of syllables, etc. However, when you realize that the first is how we hear cats in America, while sounds that follow are from France, Germany and Japan, you see that it is the case that these very different instances of onomatopoeia in fact refer to the same sound. Hence, we have many real world analogs in which what is seen or heard or experienced gives rise to sundry  interpretations with respect to how it is seen or heard or experienced.

If you take this distinction and apply it not to the concrete sound a cat makes but to the human experience of god or the supernatural — which is, of course, given its ineffable nature as the ground of being, much more liable to be interpreted through the lens of culture than is the sound of a cat —  is it any surprise that ‘experience-as’ differs from culture to culture? And isn’t it the case that as you pare away the cultural artifacts of numinous experiences that you come, much more frequently than not, to a remarkably similar core of experience that is shared cross-culturally?

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drj August 31, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Eric: If you take this distinction and apply it not to the concrete sound a cat makes but to the human experience of god or the supernatural — which is, of course, given its ineffable nature as the ground of being, much more liable to be interpreted through the lens of culture than is the sound of a cat — is it any surprise that ‘experience-as’ differs from culture to culture? And isn’t it the case that as you pare away the cultural artifacts of numinous experiences that you come, much more frequently than not, to a remarkably similar core of experience that is shared cross-culturally?

 
 
We can also find a very similar core of experience across all cultures with myths of ghosts, hauntings, and spirits.  I think most would concur that their imitation of the sound a cat makes, is little more than a poor approximation of reality, not some kind of genuine truth.
 
And sure, we do find quite a cross cultural shared core of experience when it comes to religious ritual or transcendent experiences… and naturalistic evolutionary explanations do explain them quite well.
 

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lukeprog August 31, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I have less respect for Brian Leftow, now.

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danielg August 31, 2009 at 10:28 pm

IntelligentDasein:

IntelligentDasein: you have no business postinging “why scientists believe in evolution even though its wrong”.

Of course i have the right to make such statements, and to present my arguments as to why I think they are true.  And I was once a scientist myself (I’m in computing now).  I’m sorry you were offended, but perhaps the shoe fit?

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mikespeir September 1, 2009 at 2:26 am

Eric,
I’m not sure exactly what you’re trying to advocate here, but it could not be a kind of compulsory belief system, inasmuch as you seem to admit that we have different perceptions of the “numinous.”  It would be unjust to hold us accountable for genuine misperceptions.
If you played the sound of a cat to anyone with experience with cats, regardless, the culture, they would be able to identify the creature that makes the sound.  They could pick it out of a lineup.  This really isn’t so of religious experiences.  Even if it can be argued that they all spring from the same “creature,” our differing understandings of that creature is manifestly not as agreed-upon as our understanding of the cat.
And yet, as drj points out, while there can be common mystic experiences, there’s no need to inject anything “numinous” into the mix to account for them.
Further (and I’m not suggesting this applies to your position), what if someone, somewhere, for reasons of mental inability or otherwise, refused to or could not accede to either the existence or the identity of our woodpecker?  What punishment should he have to suffer for not seeing the obvious?  An eternity in a lake of fire?  Maybe just an eternity being separated from God?  Okay, if that’s extreme, how about life imprisonment?  Still too harsh?  Let’s make it a year of hard labor.  No?  A day?  A hard slap on the face?  Actually, I doubt any of us would consider any of those consequences appropriate even for someone who wouldn’t acknowledge something so obvious as a woodpecker.  And yet, how much more agreed-upon is the existence of the woodpecker than is the existence of God?  How much less doubtable?
 
 

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IntelligentDasein September 1, 2009 at 6:35 am

danielg: Of course i have the right to make such statements, and to present my arguments as to why I think they are true.  And I was once a scientist myself (I’m in computing now).  I’m sorry you were offended, but perhaps the shoe fit?

of course no have the legal right to, but that does not mean you know what you are talking about. You left out the most obvious reason biologists believe in evolution: it is real.

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John September 1, 2009 at 6:56 am

Again, I hope more people see this. It’s fantastic. Theists (and I am one) don’t seem to respect the personal experiences atheists have, only their own.
 

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Reginald Selkirk September 1, 2009 at 8:42 am

danielg: (Christianity) creates human freedom and prosperity better than any other ideology.

You betcha. Here’s Paul encouraging “human freedom”:

Ephesians 6:5-9: “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.”
 
As for all the prosperous people made by Christianity, it’s too bad they won’t be able to fit through the eye of the needle.
 

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barameanscreate September 1, 2009 at 1:05 pm

I found this Atheist Maze in an obscure book by an obscure author. I would give his name but it would only distract you from the task at hand (that is, you would Google it, etc.) The task at hand is to find your way out of the maze. It is my challenge to you. Please feel free to send it everywhere around the internet to solicit help. Atheists everywhere probably need to be aware of it anyway. I will be checking back here to find out your progress. In the meantime, I am going to other sites to pass it around. Good luck! Here it is:
 
The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God. One can never have enough knowledge to be certain there is no God. To say there is no God is to say one knows everything. If there is anything outside one’s sphere of knowledge, that something could include God. A person would have to be everywhere – inside and outside the universe – all at one time (omnipresent) to be sure there is no God. For if there is anywhere he cannot be, God could be there. No atheist can claim total knowledge; therefore, atheism is self-refuting, because knowing everything and being everywhere is to be like God.

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Jazzy September 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Fantastic post,Luke.
Though I somewhat disagree with that:
“Most people who leave religion behind probably do so largely for emotional reasons”

As I see most people ENTER religion for emotional reasons.And I think that those,who LEAVE religion do it mostly because they find that reality doesn’t go in accordance with their religions.
What interesting observation I made from forums/articles.
Where christians preach their religion they mostly don’t bother theirselves with hard evidence for their religion,but try to demonstrate how bleak and depressing atheistic reality.Which(at least in my eyes) doesn’t add any scores to religion – reality is what it is,whether we like it or not.It just proves again that religion is based solely on fear.And it DOES add scores to atheists – people who are able to accept/face cold/bleak reality with honesty and courage deserve all respect,in my opinion

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Jeff H September 1, 2009 at 1:32 pm

barameanscreate: Here it is:   The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God. One can never have enough knowledge to be certain there is no God. To say there is no God is to say one knows everything. If there is anything outside one’s sphere of knowledge, that something could include God. A person would have to be everywhere – inside and outside the universe – all at one time (omnipresent) to be sure there is no God. For if there is anywhere he cannot be, God could be there. No atheist can claim total knowledge; therefore, atheism is self-refuting, because knowing everything and being everywhere is to be like God.

Most atheists would not say that they are 100% sure that there is no God. They simply say that there is no evidence of God. Were we to explore some far-away dark corner of the universe and find him hiding, we’d have to change our minds. But until that happens, a) there is no reason to believe he exists, and b) he is essentially irrelevant anyway. So atheists do not (generally) claim to know that God doesn’t exist; they just don’t believe in him since they do not see any evidence for him.
 
So where’s this maze you were talking about? The one you gave wasn’t all that difficult to “find my way out of.”

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Jake de Backer September 1, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Barameanscreate,
 
This contention, or as you would like to introduce it, “maze”, is one which has been addressed by several philosophers in the past century.  Most famously by Bertrand Russell with his illusive tea-pot.  So how about you maze your way around a Barnes & Noble and pick up some of his literature and modernize your “argument” (and I’m using that term loosely) with some relevant material.
 
I have a neat trick for you.  Re-read your entire passage replacing the fictional term, “God”, with “Tea pot”, or “Flying Spaghetti Monster”, or “Flatula – The Cosmic King of Fart Bubbles”.  With the exception of the last “God” concluding your paragraph, in which you assert that we could never be like Him (agreed, as we’re real, and well..), the entire passage reads wonderfully with my upgraded version.
 
Ok then,
J. de Backer

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lukeprog September 1, 2009 at 6:08 pm

barameanscreate,

Are there any pink unicorns? No? Can you prove it? Your disbelief in pink unicorns is self-refuting, sir…

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barameanscreate September 1, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Christian philosophy did not know enough to properly confront Russell in his day. A ‘teapot’ is not an object one places faith in. None of your list works because none deserves to be termed “an object of faith”. God is the obvious choice for the puzzle. His ‘omni-’ attributes (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence) qualifies him as the lone candidate to receive the human act of faith. The puzzle stands as is, and you have not exited the maze.

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tinyfrog September 1, 2009 at 7:34 pm

“Most people who leave religion behind probably do so largely for emotional reasons. Some former Christians, like John W. Loftus, have been admirably candid about this.  I consider myself lucky to have left almost entirely for epistemic reasons.”
Funny.  I remember reading a while ago about a study of religious belief (I think by Shermer, but I’m not certain).  When asked why people believe in religion, and why other people believe in religion, he found that most people attributed thin reasons to why *other people* believed (fear, emotional comfort, etc), but then turned around and claimed intellectual arguments were the reasons *they* believed in religion.  I couldn’t help but think how much your post resembles Shermer’s findings.  Not that I’m saying that your wrong in citing intellectual reasons for your reason for unbelief, just that you’re probably discounting other people’s atheism by assuming other people do it for emotional reasons.

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tinyfrog September 1, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Here’s the study I mentioned in my comment, by the way:
One of the most interesting results to come out of this study was that the intellectually based reasons for belief of “good design” and “experience of God,” which were in first and second place in the first question of “Why do you believe in God?”, dropped to sixth and third place for the second question of “Why do you think other people believe in God?” Taking their place as the two most common reasons other people believe in God were the emotionally based categories of “comforting” and “raised to believe.”
Why? One possible answer to this question is what psychologists call “biases in attributions.”…
http://skeptically.org/againstreligion/id6.html

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drj September 1, 2009 at 8:09 pm

 

barameanscreate: Christian philosophy did not know enough to properly confront Russell in his day. A ‘teapot’ is not an object one places faith in. None of your list works because none deserves to be termed “an object of faith”. God is the obvious choice for the puzzle. His ‘omni-’ attributes (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence) qualifies him as the lone candidate to receive the human act of faith. The puzzle stands as is, and you have not exited the maze.

 
 
I disagree.  After much reasoned thought and reflection… I have come to the conclusion that the Flying Spaghetti Monster must be omni-capable, and thereby alone deserves human faith.  I’m glad we settled this important matter!
 

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Jake de Backer September 1, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Barameanscreate,

“The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God. One can never have enough knowledge to be certain there is no God. To say there is no God is to say one knows everything. If there is anything outside one’s sphere of knowledge, that something could include God. A person would have to be everywhere – inside and outside the universe – all at one time (omnipresent) to be sure there is no God. For if there is anywhere he cannot be, God could be there. No atheist can claim total knowledge; therefore, atheism is self-refuting, because knowing everything and being everywhere is to be like God.”

I must confess a certain despair over what intellectual gymnastics theists in general, and Christians in particular, accord their faith. That it’s so clearly and shamelessly invented to accommodate pre-existing beliefs is not only stultifying, it’s extremely disconcerting. I will be spending a few lines now on this forums’ newest “attack” –if you can call throwing straws at a stone wall an attack—on the intellectual integrity of the foundation of atheism.

“The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God.”

Wrong.  You have entered the realm of probability reasoning wherein we make daily assessments concerning the potentiality or likelihood of certain claims or outcomes being actualized in reality. To say “atheist’s can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God”, is to betray a sizeable ignorance on your part of atheism in the first place as most atheists, and for that matter agnostics, will volunteer candidly a profound lack of the requisite knowledge to “exclude” God as a possibility. There are several methods by which an atheist can intelligently discern whether or not their conspicuous lack of belief is warranted.

One is to show that God or a pantheon of gods could not possibly exist due to logical inconsistencies in the characteristics of said beings. These are conceptual arguments and are based on the abstract consideration of what is claimed to comprise this entity’s defining characteristics. The germane argument of note concerning atheism is the incompatible-properties argument, i.e. a round-square or married-bachelor. These “objects” must remain exclusively in the sphere of conversation as they literally could not exist in reality. Another method employed to discern the existence or properties of something is to make an honest and sincere attempt to survey the areas where if this being existed, we should likely find some semblance of his existence. Even if we weren’t to find the thing itself, we should at least encounter “things” which could be admitted as corroborative evidence of its existence somewhere. Let me further this commentary with comments by Austin Dacey (in his debate with William Lane-Craig the video of which is available in the debate post, this specific quote can be found in the outset of pt. 4):

“I’m not suggesting that you can literally look and see whether God is there. What I have in mind can be seen in the following example: Imagine it’s your birthday and your roommate has promised to bake you a birthday cake while you’re away at class. You arrive home expecting to find you’re roommate among mixing bowls, egg-shells, and a sweet smell in the air. But suppose you find none of this. Suppose what you do find is an unopened box of cake-mix on the table and a dozen eggs in the refrigerator. That is, you fail to find a number of things that you would expect to find had the cake been baked. And you find a number of things that you would not expect to find had the cake been baked. Well, even before looking in the oven, you can reasonably conclude on the basis of this evidence, that your cake isn’t there.”

The point I am taken pangs to emphasize is that, you’re right about not having “enough knowledge to exclude the possibility” of God’s existence, but I’m right about the fact that, and I mean this in the most scholarly way I can phrase it; It doesn’t fucking matter. None of our knowledge is to the degree of certitude which you are demanding atheists have to deny the likelihood of your God. The only difference is, we apply our scrutinizing standards evenly across the board to all claims and probabilities and you exercise characteristic hypocrisy by having no standards of evidence for the admittance of this being (since you most likely admitted Him as real before considering evidence in the first place) while simultaneously demanding an unreasonable amount to argue against it (since even if it was produced you most likely wouldn’t accept it). I could be wrong in my assumptions about your personal epistemology. It’s certainly possible, although, not “probable.”

“One can never have enough knowledge to be certain there is no God.”

This is correct, although for reasons elucidated above, entirely irrelevant.

“If there is anything outside one’s sphere of knowledge, that something could include God.”

He may be outside, but given his Omni-presence, would he not also definitionally have to be “inside” it as well?

“A person would have to be everywhere – inside and outside the universe – all at one time (omnipresent) to be sure there is no God.”

Again, Teapot. And please elaborate on “outside the universe” because everywhere would necessitate a where for it to be consistent. Spatiality is found in the universe, which is not a place which one can simply depart for another; it is the collection of all that is. And yes, again, your unreasonable standards would need to be met to “be sure there is no God”, but not to logically operate under the valid assumption that there is no God.

“For if there is anywhere he cannot be, God could be there.”

If it was your intention to make God appear to be a child hiding in the cracks and crevices of an old playground, you are doing a commendable job.

“No atheist can claim total knowledge; therefore, atheism is self-refuting,”

Replace atheist with literally any group of any people on the planet, re-read the sentence with the newly inserted group and stand back to bask in the glorious incompetence emanating from it.

On to your second post.

“Christian philosophy did not know enough to properly confront Russell in his day. A ‘teapot’ is not an object one places faith in. None of your list works because none deserves to be termed “an object of faith”. God is the obvious choice for the puzzle. His ‘omni-’ attributes (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence) qualifies him as the lone candidate to receive the human act of faith. The puzzle stands as is, and you have not exited the maze.”

“Christian philosophy did not know enough to properly confront Russell in his day.”

Special pleading anyone? Am I missing something or did Christian’s not have nineteen hundred years to prepare for the arguments of one atheist philosopher? I know for the most part you were busy roasting them but was there not time “enough to properly confront Russell” in those 19 centuries? And you didn’t “know enough” to confront him “in his day”? I haven’t seen anyone confront him in “our” day. At least not with regard to the topic in discussion.

You assert that “a teapot is not something one places faith in”.  The issue is not placing faith “in”, it’s placing faith “in the existence of”. And yes, just like a God, we could place “faith” in an orbiting tea pot. Your arbitrary preference notwithstanding, there is nothing logically contradictory in placing faith in the teapot and ditto for God. That make’s it neither a good idea, nor a smart one.

“None of your list works because none deserves to be termed “an object of faith”.”

Who decides what “deserves to be termed an object of faith”? Is there evidence for this decision? I would like to officially cast my vote to join the committee which arbitrates what “deserves to be termed ‘an object of faith’.” Assuming I get in, I would like to declare my nominations of objects worthy of faith and praise: Pepperoni Pizza, Gibson Guitars, Hemingway Novels and Vagina’s. Suggestions of what objects should be nominated for next years re-election campaign are welcomed.

On a concluding and decidedly less contentious note; what in the hell does your name mean?

An object worthy of faith,
J. de Backer

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Jake de Backer September 1, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Luke, help..

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lukeprog September 2, 2009 at 12:43 am

I think it’s “bara means create”, referring to the Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:1.

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mikespeir September 2, 2009 at 4:20 am

I’m convinced that ultimately life-altering changes like conversion (or deconversion) are emotional.  I don’t find any motive in rationality.  All motive is emotional.  Now, emotion might motivate us to employ reason, but it’s still emotion that is the motivator.
 
Furthermore, it takes one emotion to break us free of another.  I had a very strong emotional attachment to the Christian faith.  I can look back and see that there was a long period of increasing doubts about it.  But those doubts alone would never have taken me away from my faith.  I was too strongly emotionally bound to it.  Traumatic events (loss of a marriage, loss of a job) jogged me to the point where I was able to stand outside my faith just long enough to take a critical look at it.  Then it didn’t seem so warm and fuzzy anymore.  Only then were my long-term doubts able to come into ascendancy.   My beliefs had to lose their emotional hold on me before that could happen.

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barameanscreate September 2, 2009 at 8:43 am

Response to: J de Backer
You: You have entered the realm of probability reasoning wherein we make daily assessments concerning the potentiality or likelihood of certain claims or outcomes being actualized in reality.
Me: Here, you attempt to turn ‘possibility’ into a claim of ‘probability’ and ‘likelihood’. That claim was not posed in the riddle. This faulty device will exclude half of your discussion.
You: The point I am taken pangs to emphasize is that, you’re right about not having “enough knowledge to exclude the possibility” of God’s existence, but I’m right about the fact that, and I mean this in the most scholarly way I can phrase it; It doesn’t fucking matter.
Me: You got the first part of the sentence correct, but missed the second. The possibility that God exists is tantamount to the overthrow of your atheism. Therefore, your conclusion is anything but ‘scholarly’. In fact, the possibility of God’s existence matters so much that your very identity hangs in the balance.
You: None of our knowledge is to the degree of certitude which you are demanding atheists have to deny the likelihood of your God.
Me: Here, you stray again into ‘likelihood’.
You: “One can never have enough knowledge to be certain there is no God.” This is correct, although for reasons elucidated above, entirely irrelevant.
Me: On the contrary, I argued that your ‘elucidations’ are irrelevant.
You: “If there is anything outside one’s sphere of knowledge, that something could include God.” He may be outside, but given his Omni-presence, would he not also definitionally have to be “inside” it as well?
Me: Now you are playing the game. You are feeling along the walls of the maze, beginning to move about, and searching for a possible exit. God’s omni-dimensional characters (omni-presence, knowledge, power) work in tandem to accomplish his Godlike supremacy over all reality. Exercising both his omnipresence and omnipotence, his presence could be everywhere (‘inside’ and ‘outside’), though still imponderable to you.
You: And please elaborate on “outside the universe” because everywhere would necessitate a where for it to be consistent. Spatiality is found in the universe, which is not a place which one can simply depart for another; it is the collection of all that is.
Me: I’m sure the original author inserted ‘outside the universe’ in his argument so that none of us would lose sight of the character and nature of whom we deal, namely, God. For that reason, and so we don’t end up relegating or constraining him in any manner, spatially or otherwise, the wording should stand.
You: And yes, again, your unreasonable standards would need to be met to “be sure there is no God”, but not to logically operate under the valid assumption that there is no God.
Me: First, the standards offered are not ‘unreasonable’ given his prestigious character and omni-attributes. Second, the idea that the assumption of the non-existence of God is ‘valid’ or ‘logical’ is non-sustainable given the discussion at hand.
You: If it was your intention to make God appear to be a child hiding in the cracks and crevices of an old playground, you are doing a commendable job.
Me: Your caricature is inappropriate. Only on one count are you correct – he does hide himself.
You: “No atheist can claim total knowledge; therefore, atheism is self-refuting,” Replace atheist with literally any group of any people on the planet, re-read the sentence with the newly inserted group and stand back to bask in the glorious incompetence emanating from it.
Me: Your challenge is a distraction. No other group but a-theism denies the possible consummate source of knowledge, namely, God. Therefore, run to its logical conclusion, atheism implodes. You are still in the maze.
You: Am I missing something or did Christian’s not have nineteen hundred years to prepare for the arguments of one atheist philosopher?
Me: More distractions. No substance.
You: You assert that “a teapot is not something one places faith in”.  The issue is not placing faith “in”, it’s placing faith “in the existence of”. And yes, just like a God, we could place “faith” in an orbiting tea pot. Your arbitrary preference notwithstanding, there is nothing logically contradictory in placing faith in the teapot and ditto for God. That make’s it neither a good idea, nor a smart one.
Me: Now you are taking a stab at the game again, but failing. If you are going to claim even a modicum of relevance in your discussion of transcendent ideas, then faith must be reserved for he whom is all-knowing, wise, pervasive, powerful, merciful, just, and dreadful. Otherwise, we have no discussion, no contention, no war. We all go home. Your conclusion (with your emphasis), “That make’s it neither a good idea, nor a smart one,” is thus, frivolous and rejected.
You: Who decides what “deserves to be termed an object of faith”?
Me: You made that decision when you made the overweening claim about the impossibility of God’s existence. You marked out the boundaries of the game in play – boundaries which have since hedged you in. You have not exited the maze.

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tinyfrog September 2, 2009 at 8:53 am

“I’m convinced that ultimately life-altering changes like conversion (or deconversion) are emotional.”

I’m not convinced of that.  In many cases, people just give up trying to shoe-horn the world into a theistic frame.  The idea that ‘god doesn’t exist’ or ‘god doesn’t care enough to intervene’ made far more sense in explaining the world than some kind of Christian, prayer-answering, believe-in-jesus-and-be-saved type of a God (which leads to all kinds of problems like why do sincerely deluded people exist, e.g. Muslims, Hindus, etc; and why didn’t God give Christianity to Native Americans before the 15th century).
Sure, maybe someone who is totally in love with Christianity is going to have a hard time leaving it or examining their beliefs, but being honest, unemotional about ‘where the chips fall’, and wanting to find the truth are all that are necessary to reason your way out of religion.  You certainly don’t need any emotional reason why you don’t want to believe in God.

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Justin Martyr September 2, 2009 at 9:38 am

tinyfrog: The idea that ‘god doesn’t exist’ or ‘god doesn’t care enough to intervene’ made far more sense in explaining the world than some kind of Christian, prayer-answering, believe-in-jesus-and-be-saved type of a God (which leads to all kinds of problems like why do sincerely deluded people exist, e.g. Muslims, Hindus, etc; and why didn’t God give Christianity to Native Americans before the 15th century).

 
Sincerely deluded people exist in all worldviews. Atheists don’t believe in the religious experiences of Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists. In fact, the Unitarians are on the strongest ground here. The rest of us need an explanation for why billions of people have false beliefs. That can be done on both atheism and Christianity.

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mikespeir September 2, 2009 at 10:47 am

tinyfrog: In many cases, people just give up trying to shoe-horn the world into a theistic frame.

While true, I think you’ve missed that there’s a reason they give up.  That reason is emotional.  It’s too superficial to suggest that the world doesn’t turn out as they expect and thus they deconvert.  Why is it important that their view of things comport with reality?
 
“You certainly don’t need any emotional reason why you don’t want to believe in God.”
 
I can agree, provided you never believed.  But if you did believe, you form an emotional attachment to that belief.  Something has to break you free of that emotional attachment.  What is that something?  What is it that drives someone to favor rationality over superstition?

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Jeff H September 2, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Not trying to draw undue attention to myself, but “barameanscreate”, you have skipped over my previous post. Was this intentional, or did you just miss it?
 
As far as I see it, you’re creating a straw man. You’re saying that atheists claim that “there is no possibility that God exists,” when the large majority of us make no such claim. We simply don’t believe in things that we see no evidence for. As others have mentioned, there are other objects/beings that we do not believe in as well. Leprechauns, unicorns, Russel’s teapot, etc. Until you get the basics of our position correct, don’t try to show us how we’re wrong. Your “maze” is simply non-existent under this definition of atheism. We don’t need to know for certain that God does not exist. I would contend that we should remain “agnostic” about things that we see no evidence for. If you’d like to argue that, you are free to do so.

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mikespeir September 2, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Jeff H: We simply don’t believe in things that we see no evidence for.

Let me add my voice to the call for a forthright dealing with this point.

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barameanscreate September 2, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Jeff H:
Most atheists would not say that they are 100% sure that there is no God. They simply say that there is no evidence of God. Were we to explore some far-away dark corner of the universe and find him hiding, we’d have to change our minds. But until that happens, a) there is no reason to believe he exists, and b) he is essentially irrelevant anyway. So atheists do not (generally) claim to know that God doesn’t exist; they just don’t believe in him since they do not see any evidence for him.

So where’s this maze you were talking about? The one you gave wasn’t all that difficult to “find my way out of.”
 
My response:
I overlooked your post because you live in a wispy land of fables. To be short, you are self-deceived. Your state is almost impossible to intrude because you imagine that given your acknowledgement of the possibility of God’s existence, you are insulated from any reasonable attack. By now, you have heard me argue that any atheist within the maze must give place to the possibility of God’s existence. But you have already done that and feel smug, hence your pretentious, “So where’s this maze you were talking about?” The truth is, you are either in the maze or out. To deny God’s existence is to be in the maze; to accept his existence is to be free. Because of the nature of who you are and the nature of who he is, you are not afforded the luxury of a middle ground wherein his mere ‘possibility’ is acknowledged. Just as the atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God, so you would have to be vacated of knowledge entirely in order to assert the impossibility of God’s existence; in which case, you would not exist, so God would not exist to you. Therefore, the nature of who you are, a creature of reason and knowledge (though but a modicum), eliminates the impossibility that God exists. Unfortunately for your seemingly aloof position, the reasoning does not stop there, for now you are at the mercy of the nature of who he is. You see, his existence is not subject to the measure which you are able to afford him. Though you afford him but a ‘possibility’, he must take all. After all, what part of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence does a ‘possibility’ comprise if it is not all? The conclusion is, though you insist on self-delusion, God exists fully to you. To disagree with this is to be back in the maze.

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J. K. Jones September 3, 2009 at 4:17 am

I’m curious, what do you think of this passage?

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”

Hebrews 6:4-6, NIV

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mikespeir September 3, 2009 at 4:46 am

What do you make of it, J.K.Jones?

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Reginald Selkirk September 3, 2009 at 7:01 am

barameanscreate: I overlooked your post because you live in a wispy land of fables.

Project much?
 

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Taranu September 3, 2009 at 7:20 am

@barameanscreate:
“If you are going to claim even a modicum of relevance in your discussion of transcendent ideas, then faith must be reserved for he whom is all-knowing, wise, pervasive, powerful, merciful, just, and dreadful.”


“Just as the atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God, so you would have to be vacated of knowledge entirely in order to assert the impossibility of God’s existence; in which case, you would not exist, so God would not exist to you.”
 
“Though you afford him but a ‘possibility’, he must take all. After all, what part of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence does a ‘possibility’ comprise if it is not all?”
 
Could you elaborate  bit on these three quotes, I don’t really understand what you are saying?
I also have some other questions:
1. Isn’t your maze a way of shifting the burden of proof on the atheist’s shoulders, I mean shouldn’t you first provide arguments for God’s existence or you consider Him to be a basic belief like Plantinga in Warranted Christian belief?
2. Isn’t your maze based on a logical fallacy, basically saying that atheists cannot disprove the existence of God therefore He exists?
3. And finally, if it’s not too much to ask, I would really like to know the source of this maze. Could you provide the “obscure book by an obscure author” in which you found it or is it actually made by you?

Thanks.

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barameanscreate September 3, 2009 at 1:13 pm

To Taranu:
You (about my words):
“If you are going to claim even a modicum of relevance in your discussion of transcendent ideas, then faith must be reserved for he whom is all-knowing, wise, pervasive, powerful, merciful, just, and dreadful.”


Me:
God is the subject of our investigation. He is all the things I have listed above and more. Simply put, I intend to stay on subject. If you and the others insist on ascribing deific attributes to ‘teapots’ and ‘unicorns’, I must move on to higher intelligence and leave you to your own devices.

You (about my words):
“Just as the atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God, so you would have to be vacated of knowledge entirely in order to assert the impossibility of God’s existence; in which case, you would not exist, so God would not exist to you.”
 
Me:
To those who do not exist, God does not exist. To those who exist and think, i.e., possess reason and knowledge, the impossibility of God is not an option.

You (about my words):
“Though you afford him but a ‘possibility’, he must take all. After all, what part of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence does a ‘possibility’ comprise if it is not all?”
Me:
Since our subject matter here is the divine, we will assign him his due in our discussion. To do otherwise would constitute fraud. That criminal act would include 1) taking what rightfully belongs to him and his nature and using it for personal gain, and/or 2) diminishing his nature in some respect in order to malign his divine character or abilities. The concept of eternity in the human heart does not come into being incrementally. It is simply there. Infinity is not parceled out amongst recipients and diminished in value. The divine is no different. When you come into a conscious state, though you concede the merest ‘possibility’ of God’s existence, because of the nature of who he is, he necessarily comes into full being to you.
 
You:
I also have some other questions:
1. Isn’t your maze a way of shifting the burden of proof on the atheist’s shoulders, I mean shouldn’t you first provide arguments for God’s existence or you consider Him to be a basic belief like Plantinga in Warranted Christian belief?
2. Isn’t your maze based on a logical fallacy, basically saying that atheists cannot disprove the existence of God therefore He exists?
 
Me:
The opening line of the maze identifies two mutually exclusive concepts in our reality: atheism and God. It does not indicate to us which came first, only that both cannot co-exist. When the atheist enters the maze (or at least wakes up to the reality that he is already in it), both concepts go on trial. The only true logical fallacy would be to somehow phrase an opening sentence which denied the reality contained in the last three sentences I just wrote.

You:
3. And finally, if it’s not too much to ask, I would really like to know the source of this maze. Could you provide the “obscure book by an obscure author” in which you found it or is it actually made by you?
 
Me:
I would have no qualms about telling you if I had constructed the maze. I can declare of a certainty I did not. Any more information than that would only distract from the task at hand.

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Jeff H September 3, 2009 at 4:31 pm

barameanscreate: When you come into a conscious state, though you concede the merest ‘possibility’ of God’s existence, because of the nature of who he is, he necessarily comes into full being to you.  

I’m still not sure that this is clear. What does “coming into full being” even mean? Are you saying that if God is even a possibility, then therefore he is a necessity? Because that’s ridiculous. There are many possible beings and objects that could logically exist, but don’t (that we know of, anyway). Whether said being is omnipotent, omnipresent, etc. makes no difference. The mere possibility of something is not enough for its actual existence, nor does it in any way affect the probability that it exists. This is true of people, little rocks, big rocks, animals, planets, unicorns, God, and more.

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barameanscreate September 3, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Jeff H:
Emotional statements not based on sound reasoning do not free you from the maze. Examples in your response are:

Because that’s ridiculous.
Whether said being is omnipotent, omnipresent, etc. makes no difference.

Being ignorant, feigning ignorance, making me repeat myself, or not concentrating on what you are reading does not free you from the maze.

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Anthony September 3, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Barameanscreate, you showed up at Nick’s AIG-Busted site as rspeir “exposding” the same maze, you were roundly refuted, then bailed because you didn’t get the “intellectual” response that you wanted. You are now doing the same thing here and I’m sure you leave here as well because no one is taking your puzzle seriously.
Where are you going next?

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drj September 3, 2009 at 7:23 pm

I  can declare of a certainty I did not. Any more information than that would only distract from the task at hand.

 
I don’t understand how it would be a distraction to list a source that was requested, for no other reason than to help understand the points you are trying to make.   This is all a little bizarre.

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Taranu September 3, 2009 at 10:56 pm

@barameanscreate
1. Perhaps Jeff H didn’t express himself clearly enough. To claim that just because God is a possibility therefore He is a necessity is to commit the non sequitur logical fallacy.
2. Your reluctance to present us with the source of your argument prevents us to better understand the maze and it also impedes us to identify any academic source that deals with it, if there is one.
3. “God is the subject of our investigation. He is all the things I have listed above and more.” When people talk about God they use different definitions. What is your definition and what arguments do you make to support it. So far I have seen several attributes you ascribed to Him, but as long as you don’t provide arguments for them they are statements in vain.
 

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mikespeir September 4, 2009 at 2:55 am

Anthony: rspeir

rspeir?  Makes me suspicious.  I’m mspeir and, well, know an rspeir.  Hmm.

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barameanscreate September 4, 2009 at 4:52 am

Hi Mike,

It’s not my fault I found you here.

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barameanscreate September 4, 2009 at 5:31 am

To Taranu:
 
I will state it as simply as I know how:
1. The maze forces the non-believer to concede the ‘possibility’ of God.
2. The mere ‘possibility’ of God stands in direct contradiction to his divine nature.
3. The existence of God must be conceded.

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Taranu September 4, 2009 at 7:59 am

@barameanscreate
a) You’re going to have to be more explicit about 2. because I don’t see how this resolves the non-sequitur fallacy I mentioned earlier.
b) You did not address the second and third points from my previous post.
c) Since you presented your maze on this blog and the dialog began, you made a lot of statements that are not supported by arguments. This way you won’t persuade anybody to take your challenge seriously.  If this dialog is to continue you should formulate the maze in a logical manner. Premises, what evidence or reasons you have to support them and a conclusion that follows logically from those premises.
 
I don’t see how the dialog can continue as long as you keep things so ambiguous.

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barameanscreate September 4, 2009 at 9:06 am

To Taranu:
All has been addressed, but no-one is concentrating when they read, as is evidenced by the responses I get. Therefore, I am resolved to address one issue at a time and that, in the simplest manner possible. With that said, here is the single issue this go-around: your claim that my post constitutes a ‘non-sequitur’ fallacy. All of this will require that I repeat myself:
1. “Just as the atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God, so you would have to be vacated of knowledge entirely in order to assert the impossibility of God’s existence; in which case, you would not exist, so God would not exist to you.”
…it follows then…
2. “To those who exist and think, i.e., possess reason and knowledge, the impossibility of God is not an option.”
…therefore…
3. “The maze forces the non-believer to concede the ‘possibility’ of God.”
…and…
4. “Since our subject matter here is the divine, we will assign him his due in our discussion. To do otherwise would constitute fraud. That criminal act would include 1) taking what rightfully belongs to him and his nature and using it for personal gain, and/or 2) diminishing his nature in some respect in order to malign his divine character or abilities.”
…and since…
5. “The concept of eternity in the human heart does not come into being incrementally. It is simply there. Infinity is not parceled out amongst recipients and diminished in value.
…it follows then…
6. “The divine is no different.”
…therefore…
7. “The mere ‘possibility’ of God stands in direct contradiction to his divine nature.”
…it follows then…
8. “When you come into a conscious state, though you concede the merest ‘possibility’ of God’s existence, because of the nature of who he is, he necessarily comes into full being to you.” “After all, what part of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence does a ‘possibility’ comprise if it is not all?”
…it follows then…
9. “The existence of God must be conceded.”

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Jeff H September 4, 2009 at 9:24 am

Bara, simply repeating yourself does not help at all. Several of us are attempting to actually take this seriously (despite the fact that I consider you a borderline troll), but if you are unwilling to at least answer our questions directly, then there cannot be any further discussion.
 
I agree with Taranu – point #2 (or point #7 on your most recent list) is the one I take issue with. It seems to me that you are asserting some sort of Anselm-esque ontological argument. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying something like, “Since God is the greatest being one can conceive, it would be greater for him to actually exist then simply possibly exist. Therefore, God exists.” Is this what you are saying?
 
If so, then I suggest you read up on some critiques of St. Anselm’s argument, because there have been plenty of them – and they can phrase it much better than I can.

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barameanscreate September 4, 2009 at 11:12 am

Jeff H:
Is this what you are saying?
 
Me:
No. And I have not studied Anselm. Again, we will narrow our thoughts to one issue.
 
You:
If I understand you correctly, you’re saying something like, “Since God is the greatest being one can conceive…”
 
Me:
You’ve started out wrong. In fact, there are two conceptualizations forced on us. As I stated yesterday:
“The opening line of the maze identifies two mutually exclusive concepts in our reality: atheism and God. It does not indicate to us which came first, only that both cannot co-exist. When the atheist enters the maze (or at least wakes up to the reality that he is already in it), both concepts go on trial.”
The two concepts must be starkly antithetical and maximally spaced or else we have no contest. Their differences must be so overwhelmingly conspicuous and their mutual antipathy so monstrous as to lock them in a perennial war at a harrowing level. Each must swear no rest until the other is utterly vanquished, plundered, burned, and the whole of the cosmos swept clean of their memory. Can you see then how ludicrous it is to replace ‘God’ with ‘teapots’ or ‘unicorns?’ In that case, we all go home. As I posted here two days ago:
“If you are going to claim even a modicum of relevance in your discussion of transcendent ideas, then faith must be reserved for he who is all-knowing, wise, pervasive, powerful, merciful, just, and dreadful. Otherwise, we have no discussion, no contention, no war. We all go home.”

That is the single issue before us at this stage of the argument. I will leave it there for you to decide what you want to do.

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mikespeir September 4, 2009 at 11:14 am

1. The maze forces the non-believer to concede the ‘possibility’ of God.
 
It doesn’t take the maze to get an atheist to concede the possibility (in a strictly propositional sense) of God.  So why introduce it?
 
2. The mere ‘possibility’ of God stands in direct contradiction to his divine nature.
 
So, let me get this straight.  We concede that God is a possibility; therefore, we’re contradicting God’s divine nature in so doing?  I don’ t see how that follows.  Maybe what you mean to say is that God can’t be a mere possibility, because if he were, that would contradict his divine nature?   But there are at last a couple of problems with that.  First, why are you struggling so hard to get us to accept the “possibility” of God if  “possibility” in that sense militates against your conclusion?  Second, how can we allow this premiss to be introduced without first effectively acceding to your conclusion; namely, that there is any such thing as a divine nature?  Why should we let you get away with begging the question?  Anyway, I sure don’t see how it leads to
 
3. The existence of God must be conceded
 
Like Jeff, I suspect you’re aiming at something like the ontological argument.  But if so, you’re off the mark here.  You’re not formulating your argument right.  Your formulation leads off into space somewhere, not where you want it to go.

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Jeff H September 4, 2009 at 12:52 pm

barameanscreate: Jeff H: Is this what you are saying?   Me: No. And I have not studied Anselm. Again, we will narrow our thoughts to one issue.

Alright fine, but then you’re still going to have to explain what you mean by this: “The mere ‘possibility’ of God stands in direct contradiction to his divine nature.” I don’t know what you mean by this (and I don’t think I’m alone in this), so how can we respond you if we don’t know what you mean? Please stop copying and pasting what you’ve already written and explain using different words.

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barameanscreate September 4, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Mike:
So, let me get this straight.  We concede that God is a possibility; therefore, we’re contradicting God’s divine nature in so doing?  I don’t see how that follows.
 
Me:
You’re trying to make something ‘follow’ too soon. My point #2 is axiomatic, so can only be weakened by your insertion of ‘therefore’ in the middle of the thought. The axiom can be stated in two ways:
- The mere ‘possibility’ of God stands in direct contradiction to his divine nature.
- God’s divine nature stands in direct contradiction to his mere ‘possibility’.
In any event, you are the first poster to begin to understand, as evidenced by your construction: “God can’t be a mere possibility, because if he were, that would contradict his divine nature.”
And I already dealt with the issue of ‘begging the question’ yesterday and in my last post. Did you miss it?
 
 

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mikespeir September 4, 2009 at 3:04 pm

barameanscreate: My point #2 is axiomatic

barameanscreate: And I already dealt with the issue of ‘begging the question’ yesterday and in my last post. Did you miss it?

Not only did I miss it yesterday, I’m missing when I look for it now.  But no matter.

Saying “The mere ‘possibility’ of God stands in direct contradiction to his divine nature” is to presuppose that divine nature.  “Divine” is by definition the quality of deity.  Thus, to ask us to accept that there is a divine nature is as much as ask us to accept, without examination, that the deity exists.  (Didn’t you say this was supposed to be axiomatic?)

Now, what you could be trying to say is something like this: “Saying the God I believe in is possible but not actual would contradict the actuality of the divine nature of my God.”  That’s true, but what does it accomplish for you?  Nothing.  Of course there would be a contradiction.  If I were to grant that there’s such a thing as a divine nature in actuality but then say that the purported existence of some kind of god is nothing but an unproven “possibility,” of course I would be contradicting myself.  (I’d need some help from professionals, too.)  But you’ve got to do more than just get us to accept the “possibility” of deity, which we have no problem doing.  If you want us to accept your “axiom,” you’ve got to demonstrate that there’s such a thing as a “divine nature.”  We do not find it axiomatic.  If you fail to do that, if you just insist we buy into the actuality of this divine nature, you are, in fact, begging the question, even if you don’t see it.  You can’t just assert a divine nature into existence.  You can’t just assert that there is a divine nature and follow with, “Ergo, God exists!”  Because, when distilled to its essence, all we’re really left with is, “God exists; therefore, God exists.”  But if those on my side of the aisle thought God existed, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.  Demonstrate to us that that first “God exists” is true.

So the question is this:  “Why should I believe in this divine nature?”

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mikespeir September 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm

barameanscreate: The two concepts must be starkly antithetical and maximally spaced or else we have no contest. Their differences must be so overwhelmingly conspicuous and their mutual antipathy so monstrous as to lock them in a perennial war at a harrowing level. Each must swear no rest until the other is utterly vanquished, plundered, burned, and the whole of the cosmos swept clean of their memory. Can you see then how ludicrous it is to replace ‘God’ with ‘teapots’ or ‘unicorns?’ In that case, we all go home. As I posted here two days ago: “If you are going to claim even a modicum of relevance in your discussion of transcendent ideas, then faith must be reserved for he who is all-knowing, wise, pervasive, powerful, merciful, just, and dreadful. Otherwise, we have no discussion, no contention, no war. We all go home.” That is the single issue before us at this stage of the argument. I will leave it there for you to decide what you want to do.

That’s all very altisonant and even somewhat poetic, but hardly relevant.  I understand that you would prefer that conceptions of orbiting teapots not keep company with conceptions of your God.  I also realize that to you the question of the existence of God is whole orders of magnitude more important to you than whether orbiting teapots exist.  And it is to us as well.  If you were to come here insisting there was such a teapot, I doubt anybody would bother debating you.  But the issue isn’t importance.  Importance has no bearing on existence. You can, like Kristina in “Kristina Fran Devemala,” look into the heavens with tears streaming down your face and exclaim, “You have to be there, you HAVE to!’  But, in fact, God doesn’t have to be there.  Granted, it’s important to you that he be there, but bear in mind that 2500 years ago it was just as important to the average Greek that Zeus exist.  But he doesn’t.

The truth is, the proposition that there’s an orbiting teapot stands on equal ground with the one that there’s a God.  Neither can be seen nor touched nor heard nor tasted nor smelled.  In short, there’s no ordinary way to prove–or disprove–the existence of either.  It may be that the issue of the existence of God is more important to us, but that by itself doesn’t argue that he’s any more likely.  So it really isn’t ludicrous “to replace ‘God’ with ‘teapots’ or ‘unicorns.”  Because we have no evidence for the existence of any of them, anybody who wants us to believe in any of them will have to produce powerful evidence to convince us.

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barameanscreate September 4, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Mike, a mountain of words which builds a lopsided structure can only mean that you have laid the foundation wrong. Since you have insisted on settling the issue of ‘question begging’, we obviously must clear that matter up; hence to the bottom of the argument. Here is the opening line of the puzzle:
The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God.
You are handed two personalities, the atheist and God.
Which one of those two begs the question?

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mikespeir September 4, 2009 at 5:19 pm

barameanscreate: The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God. You are handed two personalities, the atheist and God. Which one of those two begs the question?

I wasn’t referring to that when I pointed out the question begging.  I told you what I was referring to.  Your premiss #2 begs the question of God’s existence.  You accept without examination that there’s a divine nature.  Why?  You assert it to be axiomatic.  Why?
 
But now that you bring them up, we seem to go round in circles here.  What atheist here is excluding the possibility of God?  If none, why do you bring it up?  Are you purposely ignoring what we’ve said?  We’re not insisting there’s no God.  We’re simply seeing no evidence that there is.  There’s nothing about that that’s hard to understand.  Maybe there is a God who hides himself.  Who knows?  But if he’s determined to hide himself from us, he can’t very well complain when we don’t believe in him, now can he?

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barameanscreate September 5, 2009 at 6:43 am

Mike, all your questions should be answered and challenges met when the fundamental question I asked is answered. This is not a diversionary tactic to avoid addressing my ‘axiomatic assertion’, because even that open issue should begin to close once we take care of first matters. I just do not see how we can possibly move on unless my question is answered – a requirement I would impose even if I were on your side!
Can you – or anybody – please answer the question posed.
We are given: The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God.
Of the two entities we are ‘dealt’, the atheist and God, which one begs the question?
 
(There actually is a correct answer when taken to its logical conclusion. I am not saying you will like the answer, but once found, we will be able to move on.)

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mikespeir September 5, 2009 at 7:07 am

barameanscreate: Of the two entities we are ‘dealt’, the atheist and God, which one begs the question?

You know, I’m trying.  I really am.  But this question makes absolutely no sense to me.  How can either an atheist or God “beg the question?”  Begging the question is a logical fallacy wherewith someone simply asserts what needs to be proven.  Rephrase, please.

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barameanscreate September 5, 2009 at 8:45 am

1. The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God.
2. The atheist and the possibility of God exist.
3. The atheist exists because of a belief system.
4. The atheist’s belief system is contravened by the possibility of God.
5. The atheist’s belief system is overthrown.
6. The atheist does not exist.
7. The ‘atheist’ in the premise ‘begs the question’.

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mikespeir September 5, 2009 at 9:15 am

barameanscreate:
1. The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God.

True

2. The atheist and the possibility of God exist.

Uh-huh.

3. The atheist exists because of a belief system.

Huh?  What belief system?  Are you suggesting atheism is a belief system?  It is not.  It’s merely an opinion about the existence of deity.  Theism is also an opinion about the existence of deity.  The theist says, “I believe in deity.”  The atheist says, “I don’t believe in deity.”  (Note that the atheist isn’t necessarily saying, “I believe there is no deity,” only that he lacks a belief that there is.  Most atheists describe themselves this way.)

You sound like those who would make atheism out to be a religion.  That’s ridiculous.  Atheism is the antithesis of theism.  If atheism is a religion, then so is theism.  Do you share the same religion as Muslims, most Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews, etc.?  If you’re going to call atheism a religion, you’re going to have to admit you’re a member of the same religion that every other theist belongs to.

4. The atheist’s belief system is contravened by the possibility of God.

Again, there is no atheist “belief system.”  And –for the last time I hope–atheism doesn’t deny the possibility of deity.  Consequently, there is no conflict between atheism and the possibility of God.

5. The atheist’s belief system is overthrown.

There’s nothing to overthrow.  Now, if you can prove the existence of God, you’ll convert atheists to theists.  You don’t seem to be trying to do that.

6. The atheist does not exist.

Then why did you say he does in #2?  Of course, by now it’s been exposed that your syllogism fails anyway.

7. The ‘atheist’ in the premise ‘begs the question’.

The atheist in which premise?  How does this atheist beg any question?

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barameanscreate September 5, 2009 at 10:25 am

Me:
3. The atheist exists because of a belief system.
 
You:
Huh?  What belief system?  Are you suggesting atheism is a belief system?  It is not.  It’s merely an opinion about the existence of deity.
 
Me:
You are playing semantics (I even think your ‘fellows’ would agree) and attempting to derail a good discussion (for what motive, I don’t know). So, we will do it your way and note the outcome.
 
PREMISE: The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God.
…therefore…
The atheist and the possibility of God exist.
…however, since…
The atheist exists as one “merely [with] an opinion about the existence of deity.”
…and since…
The atheist’s opinion is contravened by the possibility of God.
…then…
The atheist’s opinion is overthrown.
…and since…
The atheist’s very identity is based on a falsified opinion.
…then…
The atheist does not really exist at all.
…concluding that…
The ‘atheist’ in the PREMISE (above) ‘begs the question’.
 
 

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mikespeir September 5, 2009 at 12:13 pm

barameanscreate: The atheist exists as one “merely [with] an opinion about the existence of deity.” …and since… The atheist’s opinion is contravened by the possibility of God.

You know, this is getting silly.  I’m sorry you can’t see it, but it’s true.
 
However, I’ll give you a chance to justify the above.  How is it that the atheist’s opinion is “contravened” by the possibility of the existence of God, since I’ve told you time and again that the atheist has no problem entertaining the possibility of the existence of God?  (Just like we’re willing to entertain the possibility of any number of other things we don’t believe in.  Is there nothing you don’t believe in but are willing to entertain as a possibility?  Aliens from outer space?  I don’t know… the historicity of Robin Hood or King Arthur?  Use your imagination.)
 
Furthermore, how is the atheist’s opinion overthrown simply because of the propositional possibility of the existence of God?  How could that possibility falsify anything except a claim that God could not even possibly exist, something I–yet again–do not claim?  The atheist’s opinion can only be overthrown by an outright demonstration of the actuality of the existence of God.  Can you demonstrate that?  If so, why haven’t you done it?  Pull that off, and I can guarantee you everybody will forget William Lane Craig and Kalam in a heartbeat.  You’ll become the greatest Christian apologist of all time.  In the meantime, though, I plan to keep breathing.
 
Now it’s clear what you’re up to here.  This is just a convoluted way of asserting the old canard that there’s no such thing as an atheist.  And in the final analysis that’s all you’re doing–asserting.  You certainly haven’t demonstrated that there isn’t.
 
I know it would be comforting for you to believe that everybody, in fact, “just knows.”  But it isn’t true.  You have to have Calvin’s sensus divinitus instilled into you through early training.  (Usually early.)  Furthermore, many of us who once felt we had that sense no longer do.  Why?  Because it had to be conditioned in and it can be conditioned out.  There doesn’t seem to be any real numinous “something” to keep it going.  Now, it is true, as Pascal asserts, that we all have a chasm within us that yearns to be filled, but that chasm isn’t God-shaped.  It’s security-shaped.  We’re all looking for ultimate security.  But I’m in danger of jumping the tracks here.

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Jeff H September 5, 2009 at 12:20 pm

barameanscreate: PREMISE: The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God. …therefore… The atheist and the possibility of God exist. …however, since… The atheist exists as one “merely [with] an opinion about the existence of deity.” …and since… The atheist’s opinion is contravened by the possibility of God. …then… The atheist’s opinion is overthrown. …and since… The atheist’s very identity is based on a falsified opinion. …then… The atheist does not really exist at all. …concluding that… The ‘atheist’ in the PREMISE (above) ‘begs the question’.

1. Please explain how the “atheist’s opinion is contravened by the possibility of God”. If the atheist’s opinion is that God is possible (but not likely), then how is this opinion contravened by saying that he is possible?
 
2. Saying that “the atheist’s very identity is based on a falsified opinion” is a little ridiculous. I have many opinions about many things – finding out that I am wrong about one thing does not mean that my identity goes out the window. It just means I’m wrong. This premise, then, should simply say, “The atheist is wrong.” That’s a very different statement, and then it throws the next premise out the window. I don’t know how losing one’s identity makes you cease to exist entirely, but I suppose in some sort of abstract way that would be the case. However, if the atheist’s opinion is merely incorrect, then he still exists – he just exists with a wrong opinion.
 
3. Finally, please learn what “begging the question” really means. The atheist is not begging the question by being wrong. That’s just being wrong. Begging the question refers to assuming something to be true, and then using that assumption as proof that it is true. It’s a form of circular reasoning. Unless you can demonstrate more clearly how the atheist is doing this, I don’t think you are using this term correctly.

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Walter September 5, 2009 at 12:40 pm

I accept the ‘possibility’ of a creator god. What I do not accept is the assertion that this ‘possible’ creator god is the trinitarian, tri-omnimax Yahweh, Jesus, Holy Spirit.

Even if bara’s argument is successful- which it is not- then we would still have a long way to go towards proving that this ‘possible’ god is even relevant. At best, it would lead me to a vague deism.

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barameanscreate September 5, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Mike:
since I’ve told you time and again that the atheist has no problem entertaining the possibility of the existence of God?
Jeff H:
If the atheist’s opinion is that God is possible (but not likely), then how is this opinion contravened by saying that he is possible?
Me:
Things I thought were already taken care of but obviously were not:
From four days ago when I began posting, I knew the difference between atheism and agnostic atheism. Maybe you don’t? The puzzle is confronting the atheist. For that reason, it confines the atheist to the realm of the impossible.
The maze forces the atheist to concede the possibility of God. Some of you here are atheists, and I have argued with you. I recognize that others are agnostic atheists.
The conclusion reached thus far is that the notion of atheism is premised on a false idea, opinion, belief. The ‘atheist’, then, is a misguided or confused or self-deluded individual who holds to the false premise of atheism.
 

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mikespeir September 5, 2009 at 4:25 pm

barameanscreate: I knew the difference between atheism and agnostic atheism.

That’s a hotly debated issue in the unbelieving community right now.  You would be incorrect to assume there’s any hard-and-fast agreement on what “agnostic” or an “atheist” or any related term means.  Myself, I see “atheist” as the direct opposite of “theist.”  As I said above, the theist is one who believes in deity.  By default, then, an a-theist is someone who does not believe in deity.  That would include “agnostics” who don’t believe in deity, either.
 
Now, I would personally agree with you that “hard atheism” is a little difficult to support.  (On the other hand, read some of what they have to say and you might come away not so sure.  They can make a pretty good case.)  And it isn’t even that easy.  I allow for the possibility of some sort of deity, but I consider the God of the Bible–as represented in the Bible–awfully, awfully unlikely.  So I’m kind-of a soft atheist when it comes to some more believable conceptions of deity, but pretty darn close to to a hard atheist when it comes to the God of the Bible.  To me, he either doesn’t exist or has been grossly misrepresented by both the Bible and Christians.
 
But that’s as far as I’m going on that issue here.  I’m not here to debate terminology.  I will say this, though: mighty few people who call themselves atheists will refuse to allow the possibility of some conception of god or gods, at least for argument’s sake.  To assume otherwise is to argue against a straw man.

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barameanscreate September 5, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Well, I am ready to move on in the argument. Over the next day or two, I hope to show that though you give God but a ‘possibility’, you in fact have conceded his existence. Again, my first appeal will be to the Atheist Maze and its stunning claim:
“For if there is anywhere [the atheist] cannot be, God could be there.”
You may want to stay tuned.
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mikespeir September 5, 2009 at 5:14 pm

barameanscreate: “For if there is anywhere [the atheist] cannot be, God could be there.”

I was hoping this was about over.
 
If you believe in an immanent God, then there’s no place he wouldn’t be, right?  Therefore, if he’s missing from any place, he’s missing from all places, right?  Either that or he’s not the being you believe he is.
 
Furthermore, you’ll have to do better than “God could be there.”  You’ll have to show that he is there.
 
And, please, wrap this up in a hurry.  Lay out your whole argument.  Don’t string us along.  This thread had gone on too long as it is.

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barameanscreate September 5, 2009 at 6:48 pm

You don’t have to wait for me. I just gave the answer away. If there are any in your group who have taken Calculus and studied cosmology, they are probably hiding in a corner right now, because they know exactly where I am going. They know that ‘in the limit of infinity, a mathematical possibility becomes reality.’ Ask them.
GOD EXISTS
 
 

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Taranu September 5, 2009 at 11:31 pm

@barameanscreate:
1. Is a mathematical possibility the same as a real possibility?
2. What is this infinity you are talking about?

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Walter September 6, 2009 at 3:35 am

Barameanscreate says…

Lame.
I guess this means that there is a mathematical possibility that Odin or Zeus exists as well?

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mikespeir September 6, 2009 at 3:51 am

barameanscreate: They know that ‘in the limit of infinity, a mathematical possibility becomes reality.’ Ask them. GOD EXISTS

All right.  Unless you can come up with something a whole lot better than that, I think I’m done with this thread.

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mikespeir September 6, 2009 at 5:13 am

Go up a couple of threads to “Do Not Underestimate William Lane Craig” and read the discussion about the difference between mathematical and metaphysical possibilities.  It’s enlightening.  Notice that even WLC is quoted as making the distinction and suggests that mathematical possibilities do not imply possibilities in the real world.

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Jeff H September 6, 2009 at 5:56 am

LOL. Wow, that’s ridiculous. So you’re saying, essentially, that given enough distinct “places” in the universe, God has to be hiding in one of them? So this whole universe is one gigantic shell game, in other words?
 
This is absolutely ridiculous. Even if we grant your argument to you, what does that actually end up proving? What the hell does it matter if your God is somewhere, hiding behind the next nebula? Even if such a God existed, why the hell would I want to worship such a being? Why would I want to give my undying respect and admiration to a God who willfully hides himself behind stupid mathematical concepts like the one you’re peddling about? And if such a God were to punish people for not believing in him, even though he intentionally hides himself, then I would gladly take the punishment. Such a God would be a malicious, evil, cruel God who delights in torture. It’s like playing hide and seek with a child, and then sneaking up and beating him to death because he failed to find you. On the other hand, if said God does not punish those who don’t believe in him, then why should I even care if he exists or not?
 
So go ahead and try to hide your God in the vast infinity of space. It makes absolutely no difference to me. If he’s out there, fine. I still will continue not to believe in him unless I see evidence of him – just like if there are leprechauns out there, I won’t believe in them either unless I see evidence of them.

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barameanscreate September 6, 2009 at 6:42 am

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Everybody find your name below and my responses to you.
 
Taranu:
Is a mathematical possibility the same as a real possibility?
 
Me:
No, you’re confused about mathematics. If you purchase a lottery ticket, there is a slight mathematical possibility you will win. However, if the game is played an infinite number of times, you will win. So, let me rephrase your question properly, then supply an answer:
 
Is a mathematical possibility the same as reality?
Yes, in the limit of infinity.
 
You:
What is this infinity you are talking about?
 
Me:
The universe.
 
Walter:
I guess this means that there is a mathematical possibility that Odin or Zeus exists as well?
 
Me:
The discussion centers around a transcendent, immutable, omniscient, -present, -potent being called God. ‘Odin’ and ‘Zeus’ may only be conceptual outcroppings of the subject at hand.
 
Mike:
Unless you can come up with something a whole lot better than that, I think I’m done with this thread.
 
Me:
There is actually something better, but you renounced that several years ago. Thus, I am always reduced to science, mathematics, empirical evidence, and philosophy in these discussions.
 
Mike:
Notice that even WLC is quoted as making the distinction and suggests that mathematical possibilities do not imply possibilities in the real world.
 
Me:
I did not find it. If you are able, please jot down the sentence and send it along. Of course, anything Craig says is of importance to me, though his ideas through your filter will always be suspect.
 
Jeff H:
So you’re saying, essentially, that given enough distinct “places” in the universe, God has to be hiding in one of them?
 
Me:
It is refreshing to see that you are finally starting to catch on.
 
You:
If he’s out there, fine. I still will continue not to believe in him unless I see evidence of him.
 
Me:
I just supplied you evidence, but you would not listen. I will let you in on a little secret of mine: I esteem mathematics way, way above your private or public rantings. Three levels of Calculus and Analytic Geometry granted me an enormously enlarged and scientific view of the universe. If you would listen and be taught, it would probably do the same for you.

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lukeprog September 6, 2009 at 6:55 am

barameanscreate,

It sounds like you are gesturing at the modal ontological argument?

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mikespeir September 6, 2009 at 7:12 am

barameanscreate: I did not find it. If you are able, please jot down the sentence and send it along. Of course, anything Craig says is of importance to me, though his ideas through your filter will always be suspect.

Do a search for the terms and you’ll find it.  Now, how about when Craig says there’s no such thing as an actual infinite?  And how about what I said earlier, that an immanent being who is anywhere must be everywhere?

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mikespeir September 6, 2009 at 9:25 am

barameanscreate: ‘Odin’ and ‘Zeus’ may only be conceptual outcroppings of the subject at hand.

Exactly, what do you mean by that?
 
What is a mathematical possibility, and why do you think God is one?  When I conceded the propositional possibility of deity, I wasn’t talking about math.
 
Supposing, for argument’s sake, that a mathematical possibility must be a reality, what is it that draws the line at “omni”?
 
Why is it that this omni you call God is called into existence by his mere mathematical possibility but Zeus or Odin are not?
 
Does the orbiting teapot become a reality because it, too, is a mathematical possibility?
 
If not, why not?
 
(I’ve put these questions on separate lines because I want you to be sure not to miss any of them.)
 
Show me why I should see your assertion that “God” is a reality by virtue of his “mathematical possibility” but the others are not as anything but special pleading.

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barameanscreate September 6, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Mike, Just a note to say I looked over all your questions from the last two posts and do not want to give any the short shrift. I really believe that each of the questions has a reasonable answer and that you may be mildly interested in them. Comments may be squeezed in over the next day due to the holiday and family, but I do enjoy the challenge and would like the chance to take a stab at them. But here is the gist of where I will be going:
We all, as thinking, rational beings, have ‘woken up’ in a certain world of realities and conceptualizations. We must deal philosophically with some of what we have been handed, but first we will have to build a list of (for lack of better labels) ‘reasonable players’ on the stage of our evaluation. History has handed us a lot of our conceptualizations (science has handed us some theories, but we may not have to even bring those up in a discussion such as this). Tradition may be a contributor as well. It will be extremely important what criterion(ia) we use to establish who we can/must or cannot/must not allow as serious subjects of our consideration. For instance, the concept of God or gods and their natures handed to us from millennia of human history may so overshadow concepts such as ‘teapots’ and ‘unicorns’ that we may be forced to rule out the latter as trivial and less-than-real contenders for our scrutiny. This will tend to narrow our search for truth and also ease the burden before us as we begin our investigation.
More later.

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mikespeir September 6, 2009 at 2:24 pm

barameanscreate: Comments may be squeezed in over the next day due to the holiday and family, but I do enjoy the challenge and would like the chance to take a stab at them.

That’s fine.  I need to be doing other things, too.  And BTW, give my best to the family. (Wish I could figure out how to do some formatting here.  I don’t want this paragraph indented, doggone it!)

Tradition may be a contributor as well. It will be extremely important what criterion(ia) we use to establish who we can/must or cannot/must not allow as serious subjects of our consideration. For instance, the concept of God or gods and their natures handed to us from millennia of human history may so overshadow concepts such as ‘teapots’ and ‘unicorns’ that we may be forced to rule out the latter as trivial and less-than-real contenders for our scrutiny. This will tend to narrow our search for truth and also ease the burden before us as we begin our investigation. More later.

That’s what I thought, and that’s why addressed this very thing in a post above.  I do not accept that we should weight candidates for truth in favor of  “that’s what we’ve always believed.”  What we’ve always believed has so very often proved wrong throughout history.  Thus, I do not accept that this should narrow our search for truth.  All that should rule in or rule out candidates for truth are repeatable empirical observation and rigorously applied reason.
 
But, anyway, have a great weekend.  Maybe we’ll continue this later.

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barameanscreate September 6, 2009 at 4:31 pm

To: Everyone
Wait. I’m here. Let’s skip the history lesson. I think I can end this in one post. If you would like to call all your friends, please tell me when you are ready.

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mikespeir September 6, 2009 at 4:39 pm

barameanscreate: Wait. I’m here. Let’s skip the history lesson. I think I can end this in one post. If you would like to call all your friends, please tell me when you are ready.

If you’ve got a debate ending comment, go ahead and post it.  It’s about bedtime for me.  (I’m up at 4 AM)  I’ll see it sometime in the morning.

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barameanscreate September 6, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Ok, we will wait till a fresh day. I don’t think you will want to miss this and I certainly will want to deliver it in the best possible manner.

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Walter September 6, 2009 at 4:57 pm

To: Everyone
Wait. I’m here. Let’s skip the history lesson. I think I can end this in one post. If you would like to call all your friends, please tell me when you are ready.

Bring it!

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Jeff H September 6, 2009 at 6:23 pm

“They know that ‘in the limit of infinity, a mathematical possibility becomes reality.’”
 
To go back to what you said a little earlier…essentially what you are saying is that in an infinite universe, anything that is possible does in fact exist. So, in other words, somewhere out in outer space somewhere, there is a giant chocolate-covered banana with green and yellow sprinkles – but no blue ones. However, there is also a giant chocolate-covered banana with green, yellow and blue sprinkles. And so on, and so forth. Anything that I can imagine is somewhere out there, just waiting to be found. Must make for a lot of space debris.
 
Anyway, I know you don’t want to concern yourself with irrelevant things such as teapots and bananas, but I think it brings up an important point. Bananas don’t appear out of nowhere. Not even chocolate-covered ones. They must be grown in an environment that supports life. After that, perhaps they can find their way out into space, but we must keep in mind that the majority of space is inhospitable to life. Therefore, the possibility of said banana being out there is greatly reduced, and limited to only a finite number of places. One of those places is Earth. There may be bananas elsewhere out there, but the point is that it doesn’t matter how many non-banana-producing places there are. There can be an infinite number of those. But the number of banana-producing places is distinctly finite.
 
To bring this back to the topic at hand, this brings up several important points about God:
a) We have no idea what points in space would be capable of holding a timeless, all-powerful omnipotent being. A spiritual being necessarily does not even exist in space – so the idea that there are an infinite amount of points in space that could hold God is wrong. (At least for this concept of God. If you’d like to argue for a solely material God, be my guest, but I don’t think this is what you’re aiming for.)
b) If we have no way to determine the possibilities of God inside space, we must then look outside the universe to find God. Unfortunately, we have no idea whether it is possible for anything to exist outside of the universe. We have absolutely no knowledge about anything outside the universe – we don’t even know if there is an outside. Therefore, there is no way to argue that said outside is “infinite”. There is also no way to judge whether it is possible for any being of any kind to exist outside of space and time. Looking at it this way, the only reasonable stance is to be firmly agnostic.
 
So unfortunately, I don’t think invoking the properties of infinity is going to help you much. Perhaps I don’t stand a chance against your three levels of calculus and geometry, and I don’t even want to get near your “enormously enlarged and scientific view of the universe” (whatever the hell that means), but that’s my reply. I look forward, however, to your debate-ending comment. (Somehow I highly doubt that it will end this debate, though. Maybe that’s just my skepticism kicking in.)

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Taranu September 6, 2009 at 9:54 pm

@barameanscreate:
“Me: What is this infinity you are talking about?”
“You: The universe.”
 
This reminds me of a talk Richard Dawkins gave at TED. He said that in an infinite Universe you will eventually encounter a frog turning into a prince, but the thing is that he should have pointed out that the transformation must be purely natural because no matter how vast the physical world is, it will never include something supernatural (above and beyond itself) unless that something comes from outside the natural plain. In other words in order for God to necessarily exist there must be a supernatural plain which itself must be infinite. We have no knowledge of such a plain.

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Taranu September 6, 2009 at 11:58 pm

@barameanscreate:
You probably know this, but anyway I would like to point out that you cannot use the same reasoning about the supernatural plain as you did with the physical world. We know the physical world exists and I think we can both agree on the presupposition that it stretches to infinity. But we don’t know if a supernatural world exists nor do we know or agree on a presupposition that it is infinite. It is possible that such a world exists but until proven it remains hypothetical. The leap from possible to necessary cannot be made in this situation because you no longer have infinity at your disposal.
 

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mikespeir September 7, 2009 at 7:42 am

barameanscreate: Ok, we will wait till a fresh day. I don’t think you will want to miss this and I certainly will want to deliver it in the best possible manner.

Why don’t you just go ahead and lay it out for us to look at at our leisure.  We’re not all going to be here at the same time, anyway.

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barameanscreate September 7, 2009 at 8:03 am

I laid out the reasoning that if the mathematical ‘possibility of God’ exists, then in the limit of infinity (our universe system), he must exist in reality. The challenge was given to establish the mathematical ‘possibility of God’.
 
We are given:
The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God.
In this premise, we were dealt two terms, ‘the atheist’ and ‘the possibility of God’ – terms which we found, in fact, not to be mutually exclusive (contrary to my explication two days ago). The conclusion was that ‘the atheist’ is probably nothing more than an individual whose identity is predicated on a false assumption.
Nonetheless, ‘the atheist’ still exists as an individual, and thus, an entity which we are able to discern through our natural senses. Therefore, ‘the atheist’ is a tangible term in our premise, and, as such, can rightly hold a mathematical value.
Now, we turn our attention to the second term in the premise, ‘the possibility of God’, one which may seem at first to exist only as a conceptual term (as opposed to a tangible one). However, we recall that the two terms in our premise did not serve to mutually exclude each other. In fact, ‘the possibility of God’ was actually seen to exclude ‘the atheist’, a tangible term! Such an event will more than infer that ‘the possibility of God’ is a term which, in itself, possesses an intrinsic tangible nature. Thus, it cannot be denied the ability to itself hold a mathematical value.
Conclusion:
In the limit of an infinite cosmic system, the mathematical ‘possibility of God’ becomes reality.
God exists.

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mikespeir September 7, 2009 at 8:41 am

barameanscreat:

Obviously, we’re all just a bunch of evil atheists whose understanding has been twisted by the Devil.  So, here’s what you need to do.   Take your argument, just the way you’ve presented it to us, look up William Lane Craig or some other major Christian philosopher whom you respect (I have no idea where to find one), and submit your work to him–again, just the way you’ve given it to us.   Good luck.  Let us know how it turns out.

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Walter September 7, 2009 at 10:11 am

We are given:
The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God.
In this premise, we were dealt two terms, ‘the atheist’ and ‘the possibility of God’ – terms which we found, in fact, not to be mutually exclusive (contrary to my explication two days ago). The conclusion was that ‘the atheist’ is probably nothing more than an individual whose identity is predicated on a false assumption.
Nonetheless, ‘the atheist’ still exists as an individual, and thus, an entity which we are able to discern through our natural senses. Therefore, ‘the atheist’ is a tangible term in our premise, and, as such, can rightly hold a mathematical value.
Now, we turn our attention to the second term in the premise, ‘the possibility of God’, one which may seem at first to exist only as a conceptual term (as opposed to a tangible one). However, we recall that the two terms in our premise did not serve to mutually exclude each other. In fact, ‘the possibility of God’ was actually seen to exclude ‘the atheist’, a tangible term! Such an event will more than infer that ‘the possibility of God’ is a term which, in itself, possesses an intrinsic tangible nature. Thus, it cannot be denied the ability to itself hold a mathematical value.
Conclusion:
In the limit of an infinite cosmic system, the mathematical ‘possibility of God’ becomes reality.
God exists.

Well sign me up at the nearest mosque! Praise Allah! I cannot believe that I never seen such incontrovertible proof of Allah before :-o

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Taranu September 7, 2009 at 9:13 pm

@barameanscreate:
“In fact, <the possibility of God> was actually seen to exclude <the atheist>, a tangible term! Such an event will more than infer that <the possibility of God> is a term which, in itself, possesses an intrinsic tangible nature. Thus, it cannot be denied the ability to itself hold a mathematical value.”
In order for God to actually exist in the Universe the mathematical value you ascribe Him has to be shown to correspond to the real world. But in order for this to happen you must postulate the existence of a supernatural infinite realm, the natural world will never include such a possibility as God is above and beyond it. We have no knowledge or evidence for such a place. Please, read my last two posts.
 
 

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Simeon September 8, 2009 at 4:44 am

Well, that Barrel Crate guy sure learned you atheists with his pompous nineteenth-century lingo and all. I done been converted. Not sure where the nearest panentheist church is though.

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Mark November 30, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Oh Luke, this is horrible. Man no wonder you abandoned Christianity. I had no idea. This speaks volumes about what happened to you. The way you dumped all your hopes and dreams into a book your father gave you? And then to think the prescription the author gave to cure your disbelief was more dangerous than the disease itself.

“Fall in love with God”??

Dude. I am SHOCKED your father gave you this book to read.

To “fall in love with God” is to fall in love with His beauty reflected in HUMANITY, with His providence, with His GRACE and MERCY–not with HIM as though he were a matinee idol. God is not in books, not in songs, not in leaves springing up from he ground. He is LIGHT and is in EVERYTHING that is GOOD in the world.

“I was able to recognize that my inner experiences, no matter how strong and convincing, are no better evidence for Jesus than the Hindu’s strong inner experiences are for Vishnu, or the Muslim’s for Allah.

It is so obvious to me now how your faith was lost. You were turned INWARD. You were seeking evidence of a God in a heart who was not even mature enough to comprehend him.

I am very sorry to hear about all this. It seems tome you were led astray. I’d be lying if I said anything else about it. :(

Sorry Luke

Hope you come back home, brother.

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Mark November 30, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Also what is with that image where you put “been there done that” ? You did that? What is that anyway? That is not Christianity as I know it. That is something more like the Dopamine experience.

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Mark November 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm

God is not some matinee idol who needs YOUR friendship and love Luke. To fall in love with God is to fall in love with TRUTH. If you want to get close to God, get close to one of His works. Love someone selflessly. You’ll know God when you know love Luke.

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eheffa November 30, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Mark,

All your tripe is little more than a recycled version of the “No True Scotsman” argument.

Sorry to disappoint you but the god of Christianity is not the God of Truth. If such a god existed he would be unequivocal, accurate & forthright in his proclamations. The Bible with all of its contradictions and plain out & out fabrications is good evidence for the non-existence of the Christian god of Truth. Look closely & all you can see is pious bullshit.

-evan

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hoy December 4, 2009 at 6:38 pm

eheffa: The Bible with all of its contradictions and plain out & out fabrications is good evidence for the non-existence of the Christian god of Truth.

eheffa, would you please list (or provide a link to) these contradictions?

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eheffa December 20, 2009 at 11:37 am

hoy:
eheffa, would you please list (or provide a link to) these contradictions?  

How about here for starters. It wouldn’t take much effort to research this topic & discover for yourself what Lee Strobel & his ilk do their very best to deny…

http://www.reasonproject.org/bibleContra_big.pdf

There’s plenty more out there. “The Bible is God’s word” is an fairly easily refutable assertion.

-evan

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Courtney McKeough March 10, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I feel sorry for you. It sounds like disappointment has led you astray. I am not down playing anything you may have been through. I know life can seem like hell. I have lived through some pretty hellish experiences. Not one of them has drawn me away from the Lord. Nothing can separate me from His love. God never said life would be easy but He did say He would be with you in the storm. I am not trying to change your mind my friend but I would like to remind you of the choice you do have. You will die one day and you will either go to heaven or hell. Where you go depends on whether you choose Jesus to be your Lord and Savior. Eternity is a very long time to spend somewhere especially in hell. You can say “well I just don’t believe that”. Whether you believe in Jesus or not does determine His existence or what He did for you. He exists whether you believe in Him or not. Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. I would be a shame if you found that out after you died. Then it will be to late and your eternity would have already been chosen. Hell is not a fun place. It is eternal torment and eternal torture. Do you really want to spend eternity there? Again you could say, “well I don’t believe in hell”. Whether you believe it or not does not determine does not determine it’s existence. God loves you and sent His Son to die for you. To save you from eternal damnation. Just a thought. If you are considering thoughts.

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lukeprog March 10, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Courtney,

Or, maybe arguments led me away from Christianity…

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Jo Han January 21, 2011 at 2:54 am

remember there are always a lot of religion around the world, but you must find the TRUTH . ., also that a lot of religions walk in the spiritual realm but not every spirit is right.Demons can speak in tongues too. You want truth.,but you wont embrace truth. Jesus is real there’s always the battle of right and wrong, good and bad,,light and darkness. -something in between–is just simply the subject that don’t exist. Take your side.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, BUT TEST THE SPIRITS, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” (1 John 4:1-4)

“For Satan himself transforms himself into an ANGEL OF LIGHT. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)

You believe that the wind exist, because you can breath.
Believe in God, because He’s the reason you live.

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Jo Han January 21, 2011 at 3:00 am

I mean” BREATHE”
hahaha LOL- I’m so SiXteEn.
“God Bless”

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JustAGuy February 16, 2011 at 6:10 am

The universe it not infinite. Cosmologists have actually measured the universe. It’s very big and expanding at a rapid rate, but this does not mean that it is infinite. There is a finite amount of space in the universe.

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Mike Gantt February 16, 2011 at 6:19 am

Luke, your story is poignant and your candor refreshing. However, the story seemed to be missing its most important element…so I went in search of it through the links you gave. In your prior blog, part of the answer begins to emerge when you describe your encounter with “historical Jesus” scholars including Ehrman, Theissen, and Wright. What’s still missing to me – if it’s somewhere in all the links, I could not find it – is whether or not, and to what degree, you might have availed yourself of the work of scholars who differered from the aforementioned group on the historicity of Jesus specifically and the Bible in general. And, if you did, what made, say, Ehrman’s characterization of the historicity of Jesus seem more accurate to you that that of whatever opposing scholar you considered.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 16, 2011 at 6:31 am

Mike Gantt,

I’m sure I’ll drop hints here and there, but that would take an entire book of its own, one which I am not motivated to write.

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Felipe Ramos February 16, 2011 at 7:10 am

Wow… Your deconverse story is my one of the few stories I have. This article I do really enjoy to read it… You make me so thinking in many ways ! I ALWAYS DO RESPECT you because your integrity. Frankly, I respect you more than many preachers.
You said “all of my emotions, dreams, hopes, and relationships were pulling me toward Christianity. Only reason and evidence pulled me – kicking and screaming – toward atheism”. I feel opposite. All of my emotion, dreams, hopes, and relationship were pulling me toward Atheism. Only reason and spiritual evidence, I make up the new word, (miracles, prophecy, demon deliver, healing, more) pulled me toward christianity. I know I mention the reason is puzzle to you, because evolution, metaphysical religion, the flaw of holy bible, the problem of suffering and evil like as example as slap to the face of Jesus Christ. So, they are still my little struggle about Jesus Christ like mystery. I am stay faith in him despite the spiritual evidence cannot access the science and technology.
Last time you and I met at restaurant. I feel it is not enough for me. I want to relationship with you sometime. I wish I live in Southern California and is hearing. You and I can chat more and be good buddy. Unfortuantely, I m Deaf and live in Maryland. Keep in touch, friend
I am going to post this article in my facebook for you.

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Mike Gantt February 16, 2011 at 7:26 am

Mike Gantt,I’m sure I’ll drop hints here and there, but that would take an entire book of its own, one which I am not motivated to write.  (Quote)

I can’t imagine why my question would require a book-length answer. In any case, I guess I’ll have to live in that darkness since I may not be around long enough or often enough to catch all the “hints” you might drop throughout your prodigious output.

I will add only this: I was curious about your thought processes because while you say it was reason that led you away from faith, it was reason that led me to faith. That irony intrigued me.

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Zeb February 16, 2011 at 7:39 am

Luke, have found the same kinds of peak experiences and abiding goodness you describe here since becoming an atheist? Also, you’ve spoken about spending time in Mark Van Steenwyk’s community prior to your deconversion. As an atheist have you found ways to motivate, cultivate, and pursue that kind of radical love/peace and justice lifestyle? I ask because I expect I would lose the practical option of these two things (the experiences and the lifestyle) if I became an atheist, and I’d like to know whether you find them to be just as available (or even as deisrable) as an atheist.

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Bill Snedden February 16, 2011 at 8:12 am

Tiresome troll is tiresome…

Luke – good post. Do you see any connection between this and your post on Scientists? Specifically to see how a practicing scientist might also be a believing Christian due to personal experiences?

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Luke Muehlhauser February 16, 2011 at 8:23 am

Zeb,

Yes, I have wonderful experiences as an atheist. I’m also more consistently fulfilled as an atheist, though I suspect that has more to do with age and skill than it does with God-belief or lack thereof.

As for radical love and peace, I still advocate those in certain ways (especially peace), but I think my own forte is in other areas.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 16, 2011 at 8:24 am

Bill,

Sure. Personal experiences and intuitions are (by default, at least) more persuasive to us than systematic, replicated evidence.

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Adamoriens February 16, 2011 at 9:41 am

Hello barameanscreate.

To Taranu:
 
I will state it as simply as I know how:
1. The maze forces the non-believer to concede the ‘possibility’ of God.
2. The mere ‘possibility’ of God stands in direct contradiction to his divine nature.
3. The existence of God must be conceded.
  

Premise 2 seems to suffer from the same problem that Anselm’s ontological argument did. Existence is not itself an attribute of an object, and since we can only describe objects by referring to their attributes, it follows that we cannot describe an existent God as “greater” or more “divine” than a non-existent God. What we mean by “existence” is a correspondence between a concept and its instantiation in the real world. The mere possibility of a correspondence is not enough to establish that the concept is instantiated in the real world.

I laid out the reasoning that if the mathematical ‘possibility of God’ exists, then in the limit of infinity (our universe system), he must exist in reality. The challenge was given to establish the mathematical ‘possibility of God’.
 
We are given:
The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God.
In this premise, we were dealt two terms, ‘the atheist’ and ‘the possibility of God’ – terms which we found, in fact, not to be mutually exclusive (contrary to my explication two days ago). The conclusion was that ‘the atheist’ is probably nothing more than an individual whose identity is predicated on a false assumption.
Nonetheless, ‘the atheist’ still exists as an individual, and thus, an entity which we are able to discern through our natural senses. Therefore, ‘the atheist’ is a tangible term in our premise, and, as such, can rightly hold a mathematical value.
Now, we turn our attention to the second term in the premise, ‘the possibility of God’, one which may seem at first to exist only as a conceptual term (as opposed to a tangible one). However, we recall that the two terms in our premise did not serve to mutually exclude each other. In fact, ‘the possibility of God’ was actually seen to exclude ‘the atheist’, a tangible term! Such an event will more than infer that ‘the possibility of God’ is a term which, in itself, possesses an intrinsic tangible nature. Thus, it cannot be denied the ability to itself hold a mathematical value.
Conclusion:
In the limit of an infinite cosmic system, the mathematical ‘possibility of God’ becomes reality.
God exists.
  

I’ll grant for the sake of argument that existence can be described as an attribute of an object. But if the existence of God can be represented by a mathematical value, then the non-existence of God can also be represented by a mathematical value. If in the limit of an infinite cosmic system all mathematical possibilities are instantiated, it follows that the non-existence of God is also instantiated. Is this not problematic?

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Jacopo February 16, 2011 at 9:50 am

Luke, whatever else you might do, moving away from these kind of experiences and this kind of spurious ‘inner certainty’, simply because you care about what is true, will always rate as an exceptional achievement. I respect it very much.

The most effective critics of religion are those who remember, and who continue to remember, what it feels like from the inside. That by itself is something that even the most well-educated skeptics who were never religious, cannot learn. Your openness makes this knowledge worth all the more. Keep it up!

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Luke Muehlhauser February 16, 2011 at 10:32 am

Jacopo,

I keep trying to believe my inside experience has some value. But mostly I just feel woefully behind. I had to catch up on science and rationality very, very quickly. I try not to imagine where I would be now had I discovered, say, Feynman and so on at age 12 rather than 20.

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Steven R. February 16, 2011 at 10:40 am

Kinda glad to see this reposted since, all of those weird comments aside *ahem*barameanscreate*ahem* that deviate from the purpose of this post, it’s an interesting story, and quite useful in exposing the flaws behind “once you feel it, you never turn back!”

So, since it’s kinda on topic, my own deconversion actually involved similar religious experiences (I can’t say it was the only factor, but still something that made my religion seem even less credible). I remember I was beginning to become quite skeptical of Christianity when I was invited to a Youth Group. My mother more or less pressured me to go and so, rather than just sit with my arms crossed, I decided to give it a try. I got on and praised Jesus and whatnot. Everytime, our preacher would say “There is a godly revolution that is coming. Soon, next week, God will show his power in our city!” I started believing it. But then I began to notice, it was always the same speech, the same passion from everyone else and the might of God revealing itself? Nope. That “godly revolution” never came.

My skeptic senses already tingled, I began to realize it was no different than saying the end of the world is coming next week or like the Manson family, believing Helter Skelter would come. What made this belief in God revealing himself to a whole city any different? And then there was the speech he gave to make us confess our sins. “Some of us don’t know if we’re going to heaven or hell tonight”. Rather than comfort me, because it was repeated every week, it seemed more like an onslought of guilt and then purging that guilt and fear than any spiritual revelation. So, not only was the evidence beginning to point away from God, but now, even the spiritual aspects were beginning to show themselves suspect.

——
@ barameanscreate, even though his comment is pretty old now:
1. The atheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of God.
2. The atheist and the possibility of God exist.
3. The atheist exists because of a belief system.
4. The atheist’s belief system is contravened by the possibility of God.
5. The atheist’s belief system is overthrown.
6. The atheist does not exist.
7. The ‘atheist’ in the premise ‘begs the question’
—-

Can’t we say the same damn thing about the monotheist? The monotheist can never know enough to exclude the possibility of other gods or a being greater than God and there we go. Of course, I’m also tempted to say “WTF is this shit” and leave it at that. This sort of logic…my….

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Dustin February 16, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Great read Luke!

I was not reading your blog when this was originally posted in 2009 so I am glad you brought it back.

Keep up the good work.

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Jacopo February 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Ah, but you must remember Luke, that we have an inbuilt bias towards comparing ourselves to situations that are better than the ones we are in, rather than the (normally) larger number of situations that are worse than our own.

Also, I think the consciousness of being ‘behind’ has some great value in so far as it makes your efforts all the more concerted now. And ultimately, you have to take the attitude that if you will the ends – the developed rationalism and naturalism you currently espouse – you have to will the means that got you there. It might seem intuitive that being exposed early to Feynman (et alia) would put you on the path to Luke the Rationalist++, but it’s not necessarily so.

The very attitude and character which is amenable to scepticism is also sceptical of its own abilities. Ultimately, that’s probably a better attitude to have, as it helps you avoid hubris.

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LifeTrekker63 February 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Jacopo,I keep trying to believe my inside experience has some value. But mostly I just feel woefully behind. I had to catch up on science and rationality very, very quickly. I try not to imagine where I would be now had I discovered, say, Feynman and so on at age 12 rather than 20.  

Luke, I find that I am a bit jealous. At least you figured it out by 20. It took me until the age of 47 to finally come to the point of really questioning Christianity. Talk about having some catching up to do!

Even though it took me a while, I am glad that I finally allowed myself to turn the spotlight of skepticism on my own faith like I had on the faith of others in the past. I took the red pill and woke up in the real world. I am elated! It was a scary ride for a while, but I realized that intellectual honesty and truth were more important to me than living a comfortable lie.

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Jacopo February 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm

LifeTrekker63, can I just say: kudos!

That must have been so hard. There are no shortage of ways in which Christians can continue to placate themselves, even their intelligence (in apologetics, &c.)

I always find myself inspired every time I read about people de-converting. It says something positive for the human mind that some people, against everything, come to believe in things simply and honestly because they care about what is true, not what they’d like to be true, or what they’re capable of rationalizing to themselves.

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Bojidar February 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm

barameanscreate,
You seem to have a poor definition of atheism. Atheism is the “belief” that there is no deity or deities. This is not to be confused with the proposition that one “knows” there are no deities, just believes it. We all generally believe something…even when you do not know for certain. If I were being unrealistically specific in my speech, I would call myself an “agnostic atheist”. Agnostic is the position that the existence of god cannot be known, while atheism is a statement about my belief (or lack there of) . Note that this definition of agnostic is also compatible with theism as well.

The only way to test competing theories is to assess the evidence for and against each one. We should base our beliefs on the position with most evidence and then change our beliefs as more evidence presents itself.

Here is hambydammit responding to a person who makes the same claim you do:
THEIST: “It seems to me that in order to claim with certainty that there is no God you would have to have knowledge of the totality of the universe – seen and unseen – and I don’t think any of you guys are ready to make that claim. You have not observed an overarching creative force, a God … yet.”
HAMBYDAMMIT: “There’s a special squad of atheists you may not have heard of. There are seven of them. They wear helmets and ride the short bus to school. And they’re the ONLY atheists who claim to know with 100% certainty that there’s no god. Because they’re retarded. And they don’t know any better.
So stop with this ridiculous caricature of the rest of us.”

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Ex Hypothesi February 16, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Boji:
“We should base our beliefs on the position with most evidence and then change our beliefs as more evidence presents itself.”

What about that belief? What’s your evidence for it?

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Keith J. February 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Loftus commented recently on the strong emotional component of the modern Christianity of today. http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/02/sigh-how-can-reason-fight-emotion-like.html I personally wasn’t quite so emotional when I was a Christian but I certainly “felt” the “holy spirit” from time to time.

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Garren February 16, 2011 at 6:55 pm

@Ex Hypothesi
‘(quoting Bojidar): “We should base our beliefs on the position with most evidence and then change our beliefs as more evidence presents itself.”

What about that belief? What’s your evidence for it?’

Oh neat. This is a case where I can apply an idea I just encountered and blogged about this week. It comes from Adam Elga’s paper “How to disagree about how to disagree” (also found in the anthology Disagreement from OUP).

Elga uses the analogy of a Consumer Reports magazine which hypothetically reviews other magazines of its own kind. Would it strike you as strange or unfair for Consumer Reports to always give itself top marks for accuracy of product ratings? Maybe at first, but consider what would happen if Consumer Reports recommends Super Smart Toaster as the best toaster and Citizen Shopper as the best consumer guide magazine…and Citizen Shopper recommends Hyper Toastinator as the best toaster. Now Consumer Reports is incoherently recommending two products as better than the other.

According to Elga:

“Just as a consumer ratings magazine tells one how to shop, an inductive method tells one how to respond to various courses of experience. [...and later...] In order to be consistent, a fundamental policy, rule or method must be dogmatic with respect to its own correctness.”

So what Elga is suggesting is that fundamental rules of inference need not be judged by themselves and that this isn’t as ad hoc as it may first appear.

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DaVead February 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm

The next stage is realizing the that the kind of “true” that Christianity isn’t doesn’t exist either. Then, instead of truth, seek the meaning of your being, and experience the divine without the dogma.

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Bruce February 16, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Luke,

I liked how you ended your post.

I know. I did experience it for myself. I did live it. I did believe, and I saw great things happen in my life. It just isn’t true, is all I’m saying.

When people try to discount my past experience (i.e. you never were saved, a christian, etc) I remind them I was there when it happened. :)

Appreciate your blog.

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MarkD February 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I always find these discussions fascinating because I was never religious. In my early household, beliefs were characterized with care and neutrality (“they believe this” while “those people believe that”). I chose non-belief because God belief seemed as implausible as Santa belief, and gave up Bermuda Triangle belief for the same reasons.

Amazingly, though, many conflicts in my life have revolved around Christians who are hostile about my non-belief as others have mentioned in their own upbringings. These conflicts emerged from mob mentalities, from hypersensitivity, from shock at discovering there were actual counterarguments to what they felt was a largely emotional commitment, and often due to an apparently sincere belief that I was possessed or being manipulated by Satan.

The same emotional commitment that motivated Luke seems to often motivate a less favorable collection of social interactions as well.

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Mike February 17, 2011 at 1:57 am

Excellently written. I was just part of an enjoyable, related discussion at the Dawkins site: here. I presented a similar experience in my own comments (beginning with #14) although in a much more quick-and-dirty style. Thanks for yor site!

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cl February 17, 2011 at 9:15 am

Good post Luke–as far as the evocative nature of the writing and your ability to resonate with others is concerned. However, I must say, stories like these–and Loftus’– make me very, very happy that emotion didn’t seem to play a significant part in my acceptance of the gospel. In fact, I thought–and still think–that the more emotional strains of believers are weird, perhaps even a tad cultish. Despite the strong adjective “cultish,” I don’t mean that in a denigrating fashion, either. Neither do I imply that I’m a complete robot. I’m just saying that I accepted the gospel because it made sense, not because it felt good.

So, I guess what I’m getting at is, I wonder how your deconversion would have went if you were not an emotional believer, or, if you would have even deconverted at all? No offense, but the emotional, feeling, experience-based believers strike me as the “one who builds their house on straw.” Further, that you were such an emotional believer–and that just a few years ago–means you ought to be extremely careful to avoid the same mistakes with atheism. While you may scoff, myself and others have alluded to some things that seem to be in line with merely “trading one form of faith for another,” if you will.

Oh, one other note, per our previous discussions on the precision of language:

It just isn’t true, is all I’m saying.

You mean, you just don’t believe it’s true anymore. That’s all you should be saying.

One final note: I won’t be responding to anyone else but Luke on this thread, so, to the haters… you might want to decide A) if it’s even worth it, and B) what it speaks of one who would denigrate a person knowing they won’t bother to defend themselves.

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Felipe Ramos February 17, 2011 at 10:22 am

To Cl :
My english written is not wonderful as my primary language, American Sign Language. Obviously, I m Deaf. I read your comments. I do not think Luke Muehlhauser was emotional believer. I do think Luke reject Christianity for epistemic reasons.
I am pentecostal ! I am still faith in Jesus Christ. I do not think I am build my house on straw. Luke and I did discuss once before in person. His argument did not convince me YET, and his smart is better two times than mine. I know Jesus Christ is real because my personal experience, my trusted friend’s personal experience, etc. Obviously, it is ultimate bias like as same as Apostle Paul in the book of Acts. I do think Luke choose the intellectual over the little absurb christianity. I ASSURE Luke know what he is talking.
To me, Im feel confident, Luke will convert to christianity if christian have to pass the extraordinary evidence test. It can be other way, Jesus Christ revelate himself to him directly few times and talk with him. It will change his world.

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Colin February 17, 2011 at 11:28 am

The thing is, it is true.  

BOOM! What now, bitches? Can’t argue with THAT logic!

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Colin February 17, 2011 at 11:34 am

I love when Christians throw Scripture at former believers as if they’re telling them something they don’t know. I was a Biblical Studies major at Biola University, for Christ’s sake, and people STILL do that to me!

It sounded like you were saying you’re 16 from your second post, so I’ll give you a pass this time. The inane tripe I was speaking about religion at that age is incredibly embarrassing now. Hopefully you’ll have a similar growing experience, and sooner than Luke or I.

remember there are always a lot of religion around the world, but you must find the TRUTH . ., also that a lot of religions walk in the spiritual realm but not every spirit is right.Demons can speak in tongues too. You want truth.,but you wont embrace truth. Jesus is real there’s always the battle of right and wrong, good and bad,,light and darkness. -something in between–is just simply the subject that don’t exist. Take your side.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, BUT TEST THE SPIRITS, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” (1 John 4:1-4)“For Satan himself transforms himself into an ANGEL OF LIGHT. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) You believe that the wind exist, because you can breath.
Believe in God, because He’s the reason you live.  

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Bruce February 17, 2011 at 11:54 am

I love when Christians throw Scripture at former believers as if they’re telling them something they don’t know. I was a Biblical Studies major at Biola University, for Christ’s sake, and people STILL do that to me!

I face the same problem. 50 years in the Christian Church, 25+ years in the pastorate and they still think they are going to quote a verse or present and argument I haven’t heard. I quote the Bible back…….Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecc 1:9) and that includes their tired, worn out arguments.

Bruce

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Reginald Selkirk February 17, 2011 at 1:13 pm

cl: One final note: I won’t be responding to anyone else but Luke on this thread

O frabjous day! Calooh! Callay!
Hopefully this policy of mercy can be extended to other threads as well.

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Felipe Ramos February 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm

To Colin:
I do know that Devil can speak in tongue. I was doubt about speak in tongue. Lucky, I was fulfill in Holy Spirit so I did speak in tongue.
Good luck with your study at BIOLA. I do miss Southern California. My family is still live in East Los Angeles.

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bossmanham February 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm

How many of these does this make now?

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bossmanham February 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Also, and I apologize for the double post, but for all the “sophistication” and “scholarly” stuff you provide here, it seems to me quite funny that your argument always falls to “Are there any pink unicorns? No? Can you prove it?”

If that is the reason you left the faith then it is something, but rational isn’t it.

And, as I’ve pointed out in the past to you, you’re disbelief of Christianity seems to be blatantly irrational, given that you yourself cite many personal experiences with God. So you had evidence, which makes the whole appeal to the supposed lack of evidence ridiculous.

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Steven R. February 17, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Seriously? These lame arguments for God remind me how I felt when I first researched Christian apologetics. I quite distinctly remember my “This is the best we can do!?”

Also, and I apologize for the double post, but for all the “sophistication” and “scholarly” stuff you provide here, it seems to me quite funny that your argument always falls to “Are there any pink unicorns? No? Can you prove it?”If that is the reason you left the faith then it is something, but rational isn’t it.

Sure it is. If arguments for the existence of God are no better than pink unicorns, it’s an idea in serious problems. And no, Luke does provide some interesting analysis that point out serious flaws with popular theistic arguments too.

And, as I’ve pointed out in the past to you, you’re disbelief of Christianity seems to be blatantly irrational, given that you yourself cite many personal experiences with God. So you had evidence, which makes the whole appeal to the supposed lack of evidence ridiculous.  

See…this is the stuff I’m talking about. They’re not actually experiences with God. They’re just the result of dealing with very strong emotions like guilt, inadequacy, redemption and compassion. Religions create strong emotional attachment by dealing with important topics to humans, hence why we grow so attached. But simply because you believe you’ve experienced something, when all the evidence points the other way, doesn’t justify belief in the thing you’ve “experienced”, especially when it’s untestable, unfalsifiable, and outright dubious.

I remember a conversation my friend had with a Mormon. He converted because God revealed himself to him and told him that Mormonism was the one true religion. It was awkward for him since his argument for becoming a Jehova’s Witness was the same, down to the “it felt so overwhelming it couldn’t be false!” tripe.

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bossmanham February 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Seriously? These lame arguments for God remind me how I felt when I first researched Christian apologetics. I quite distinctly remember my “This is the best we can do!?”

I’m sorry, where did I present an argument for the existence God?

Sure it is. If arguments for the existence of God are no better than pink unicorns, it’s an idea in serious problems. And no, Luke does provide some interesting analysis that point out serious flaws with popular theistic arguments too.

Heh. If you think so, then I welcome this kind of atheist rationality and sophistication.

See…this is the stuff I’m talking about. They’re not actually experiences with God.

And you know this…how? Can you prove it?

The point is that Luke did have warrant to believe in God, and lacked any defeaters. So his most favorite contention, which is the subtitle of this blog mind you, doesn’t even really apply to him.

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Louis February 18, 2011 at 2:11 am

I’m sorry, where did I present an argument for the existence God?
Heh. If you think so, then I welcome this kind of atheist rationality and sophistication.
And you know this…how? Can you prove it?The point is that Luke did have warrant to believe in God, and lacked any defeaters. So his most favorite contention, which is the subtitle of this blog mind you, doesn’t even really apply to him.  

Are you trolling? It’s already been explained to you numerous times why what Luke and people experience cannot be accepted as evidence on rational grounds. All Luke has warrant to believe in was that he was feeling something, the jump to that being god is not rational it’s wishful thinking.

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smiley February 18, 2011 at 5:09 am

I defy any Christian to read your story and still stick to the idiotic notion that all atheists disbelieve because of “bitterness towards God”.

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Chris W February 18, 2011 at 5:20 am

Have those who insist Luke’s experiences gave him ‘warrant’ ever been to a rock concert?

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Felipe Ramos February 18, 2011 at 7:37 am

To Steven R:
” I remember a conversation my friend had with a Mormon. He converted because God revealed himself to him and told him that Mormonism was the one true religion. It was awkward for him since his argument for becoming a Jehova’s Witness was the same, down to the “it felt so overwhelming it couldn’t be false!” tripe”

Oh really? God revealed himself to him and told him that Mormonism was the one true religion. Thank you for sharing to us… You make me thinking twice ! A mormon guy is still keep in touch with you?? Where he live?

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JustAGuy February 18, 2011 at 8:06 am

Since people often claim to have experiences with different conceptions of god that are mutually exclusive, it is much more reasonable to conclude that their experiences are based on something other than god. The human brain often plays tricks on us to meet our expectations. For instance, when I am waiting for friends to arrive to pick me up to go out somewhere, I will often think that I hear them pull up when they actually haven’t. My brain interpreting the noises I hear to meet my expectations.

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Zeb February 18, 2011 at 8:28 am

Since people often claim to have experiences with different conceptions of god that are mutually exclusive, it is much more reasonable to conclude that their experiences are based on something other than god.

Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to conclude that the mutually exclusive aspects are indeterminable? If many people claimed to see a dog in a certain situation, but disagreed about some of the characteristics or behaviors of the dog, I would conclude that there probably was a dog there, but that maybe it was hard to tell whether it was black or brown, or whether it growled or barked.

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LifeTrekker63 February 18, 2011 at 8:37 am

Since people often claim to have experiences with different conceptions of god that are mutually exclusive, it is much more reasonable to conclude that their experiences are based on something other than god.The human brain often plays tricks on us to meet our expectations.For instance, when I am waiting for friends to arrive to pick me up to go out somewhere, I will often think that I hear them pull up when they actually haven’t.My brain interpreting the noises I hear to meet my expectations.  

I would recommend the book “Don’t Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking” by Thomas Kida as a good introduction to this subject.

The 6 errors the author lists are:
1) We prefer stories to statistics
2) We seek to confirm
3) We rarely appreciate the roll of chance and coincidence in life
4) We can misperceive our world
5) We oversimplify
6) We have faulty memories

There is ample empirical evidence that shows that we, just by the very fact that we are human, make lots of mistakes in our thinking. Most of these mistakes are the result of shortcuts our brain makes in processing data that gave our ancestors an evolutionary survival advantage in the past, but can now cause us problems in our modern world. Even generally rational and intelligent people are susceptible to these same mistakes. These errors in thinking are something that we all have to remain constantly diligent to avoid.

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Steven R. February 18, 2011 at 8:58 am

Bossmanham:

I’m sorry, where did I present an argument for the existence God?

A few sentences later:

The point is that Luke did have warrant to believe in God, and lacked any defeaters. So his most favorite contention, which is the subtitle of this blog mind you, doesn’t even really apply to him.  

I dunno, but that seems like an argument from divine revelation to me. Granted, it’s a very weak argument to the point of it being laughably bad, but it is still an argument for God, and apparently one that you believe provides enough justification to warrant belief in God (lolz at the allusion to the rock band).

Felipe Ramos:

Oh really?God revealed himself to him and told him that Mormonism was the one true religion. Thank you for sharing to us… You make me thinking twice ! A mormon guy is still keep in touch with you??Where he live?  

Why the hell are you asking where he lives? I’m sorry but this just came off as…rude and creepy.

The point however, is that people do convert to different faiths or denominations based on “divine revelation” to God. Go talk to an avid Mormon. You’re bound to find one where God revealed himself and told them it was the one true religion. I find your response of incredulity quite hilarious since I take it that you believe it’s impossible because God told you your current religion/denomination is correct. Of course, this just makes this sort of divine revelation outright dubious.

@ Zeb:

No, that doesn’t work. That’s because we’re dealing with a Personal Agent that is posited to be consistent, infallible, etc. Why is such a being incapable of revealing itself without indeterminate aspects, especially when in Christianity, He has supposed to have revealed himself conclusively? The analogy doesn’t quite hold up, and I hope you begin to see why.

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Felipe Ramos February 18, 2011 at 9:59 am

To Steven R,
LOL… you are right that God revelate something to me. Also, I think you was misunderstand. If he live close to my home where I live in MD, I hope I will bring an Sign Language interpreter and hang out with him for chat. I will pay him a meal for chat. That all.. obviously, you are majority thinking !
For avid mormon, some people convert to mormon for many reasons: family, meet a beautiful, mormon woman, friend, etc. It is not different to christian. I like to meet people who have a experience that God revelate himself to them in their religion. You name one that is easily for me to find THAN I have to search a Deaf, devout mormon. Deaf is minority and not easily find. It is very difficult to find a Deaf, Devout mormon, and have a experience that God revelate himself to him. I prefer to use sign language than write the paper.
I dont think I will take a hilarious that other religions have miracles, visions, etc. I see it can ..also, I do believe Devil is exist. I can tell that you will think me as double standard and dogma.

PS- I m sorry that my english written is poor. My primary language is American Sign Language.

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Steven R. February 18, 2011 at 10:47 am

To Steven R,LOL… you are right that God revelate something to me. Also, I think you was misunderstand. If he live close to my home where I live in MD, I hope I will bring an Sign Language interpreter and hang out with him for chat. I will pay him a meal for chat. That all.. obviously, you are majority thinking !For avid mormon, some people convert to mormon for many reasons: family, meet a beautiful, mormon woman, friend, etc. It is not different to christian. I like to meet people who have a experience that God revelate himself to them in their religion. You name one that is easily for me to find THAN I have to search a Deaf, devout mormon. Deaf is minority and not easily find. It is very difficult to find a Deaf, Devout mormon, and have a experience that God revelate himself to him. I prefer to use sign language than write the paper.I dont think I will take a hilarious that other religions have miracles, visions, etc. I see it can ..also, I do believe Devil is exist. I can tell that you will think me as double standard and dogma. PS- I m sorry that my english written is poor. My primary language is American Sign Language.  (Quote)

Alright, it just seemed as if you were asking the questions out of derision and it’s just awkward to ask someone you don’t know where a friends of theirs lives (for the record, I never met the Mormon, I just found that my friend, previously a Jehova’s Witness, had come to doubt the veracity of his faith after discussing divine revelation).

When I said avid, I meant someone who professed to know the Mormon faith via revelations to God, not merely for the convinience of marriage. I should note that Mormon.org does have a feature that lets you chat with “Mormon missionaries” and that some actually do make the same claims about God telling them that Mormonism is the right religion, so you shouldn’t have too much of a hard time finding people who make this claim. The consequences of such claims, of course, leave the believer in a pretty nasty position, as you can see in my responses to bossmanham and Zeb.

BTW, yes, I do consider it a double standard to say that God’s reveleation to you is more valid than His supposed revelation to another person.

On an endnote, I understand about your “poor English” so don’t worry about that.

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JustAGuy February 18, 2011 at 11:19 am

@Steven R.

BTW, yes, I do consider it a double standard to say that God’s reveleation to you is more valid than His supposed revelation to another person.

His argument for this is that he believes the Devil is behind those other revelations. It’s a bad argument, but it seems like that’s his argument.

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Mike February 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm

@bossmanham

And you know this…how? Can you prove it?

We can prove it was god:

In 2006, the United States government funded a randomized and double-blinded study by Johns Hopkins University, which studied the spiritual effects of psilocybin mushrooms. The study involved 36 college-educated adults who had never tried psilocybin nor had a history of drug use, and had religious or spiritual interests; the average age of the participants was 46 years. The participants were closely observed for eight-hour intervals in a laboratory while under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms. One-third of the participants reported that the experience was the single most spiritually significant moment of their lives and more than two-thirds reported it was among the top five most spiritually significant experiences.

1. Only that which we call ‘god’ can provide transcendent revelation to material beings.

2. In my experiment, I provided transcendent revelation to you (and can do it again, at will).

3. Therefore, I am god.

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Felipe Ramos February 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm

To Steven R,
-”Allright, it just seemed as if you were asking the questions out of derision and it’s just awkward to ask someone you don’t know where a friends of theirs lives ”
Oh, I do not think it is awkward to ask a stranger. The stranger can say No. Although, I learn a new thing about the hearing manner.

“for the record, I never met the Mormon, I just found that my friend, previously a Jehova’s Witness, had come to doubt the veracity of his faith after discussing divine revelation”
Oh, Thank you for clarity. Obviously, I was misunderstood.

“The consequences of such claims, of course, leave the believer in a pretty nasty position”
I accept that.

To JustAGuy
“His argument for this is that he believes the Devil is behind those other revelations. It’s a bad argument, but it seems like that’s his argument”

You re right. I do understand the big picture of metaphysical. I do acknowledge that my argument is bad. Imagine you have the special gift that you can see the invisible demon, angel, God, etc. You can see the devil is behind those other revelations and devil want to pull the people away from God. People do not see the invisible, so you will know that your argument will bad. Anyway, I do not think devil is behind the other revelations in non-christian religion. Also, I do think devil do use christian people in some way even all denominational. I know my belief is little fuzzy to you. I do believe devil and God is exist, that all I say. There are much life ahead in my life. I will learn many things. I always like my mind open. So, good luck to your future and my future.

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Steven R. February 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm

ToJustAGuy and to a lesser extent Felipe:

To JustAGuy“His argument for this is that he believes the Devil is behind those other revelations. It’s a bad argument, but it seems like that’s his argument” You re right. I do understand the big picture of metaphysical. I do acknowledge that my argument is bad.Imagine you have the special gift that you can see the invisible demon, angel, God, etc. You can see the devil is behind those other revelations and devil want to pull the people away from God.People do not see the invisible, so you will know that your argument will bad.Anyway,I do not think devil is behind the other revelations in non-christian religion.Also, I do think devil do use christian people in some way even all denominational.I know my belief is little fuzzy to you. I do believe devil and God is exist, that all I say.There are much life ahead in my life.I will learn many things. I always like my mind open.So, good luck to your future and my future.  

This is precisely why I called it a double-standard. Even with the devil added in, how do you know you yourself aren’t being tricked by the Devil? Obviously if the Devil is capable to convincingly mimic divine revelation, then why wouldn’t you be susceptible to it yourself?

To use Felipe’s analogy: it’s as if everyone claimed the same. A Mormon says he sees the Devil in other revelations, the Seventh Day Adventist makes the same claim, etc. Then, of course, the natural implication of these claims is that other religious interpretations are Satanic in origin…yeah…

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Felipe Ramos February 18, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Sorry .. it is long essay but I have to respond your question.

To Steven R,
All right, I prefer you and I are go ahead to use open discussion than go see who is best debater. I am not interesting to be the better debater. I know the debater is meaningless. You ask me few questions.

First, I believe God lead people to meet Jesus Christ. God can lead non Christian, religious, people to lead to meet Jesus Christ. For example, God (Allah is same mean God) can speak to the Muslim people, who is humble and good heart. God is still lead them to meet Jesus Christ later, so they can make for themselves. If they reject Jesus Christ, it is bummer for them. Fact, I know someone. He is my good friend. He is ignorant about Christian and religion. He told me that he have seen angel even chat with them many times since he is baby. He does believe in God. Strangely, he does not believe Devil is exist. So, Gabriel do believe the good angel and bad angel. I ask him how we can go to the heaven? He said we have to do something right, honestly, and excellent integrity. It remind me the value as Jesus Christ’s teaching. He and I keep in touch each other barely. It is not easily to reach him because he is busy and teach at Gallaudet University. I hope God lead me to tell him about Jesus Christ someday.
For mimic divine revelation, Devil can mimic divine revelation to any religions and secular. I think people should to check the divine book then see it is reliability, historical, pretty accuracy, trust. Some religions believe all religion is good and no truth. Some religions believe they are truth. I notice most Atheist people are not familiar the religions, even Christian people too. I think Christian people are worser than Atheist people. I dunno how much you familiar with religions. I am go ahead to explain the three religions: Buddism, Muslim, and Mormon. For Buddism, I do not know if they have any sacred book. I do familiar with the teaching of Buddhism. The bad people will become ants and ugly animal when they died. The good people will become beautiful or good animal when they died. The good animal died, then soul return to the people for chance. It is cycle forever. One way to break the cycle for going to the heaven: Meditate and get high, which is powerful and stronger than drugs. My older friend told me about it and read many buddism books. It means you do not have to be buddism. You can Atheist and get high via meditate that meaning you can go to the heaven. Lucky, I did got high once via meditate (shrug-shoulder). It is already my passport (lol). So, I do not attract the eastern religion, which believe the cycle THAN hell. Now, for Muslim, I reject Koran book. I dunno if Muslim is a religion of peace or a religion of war. Muslim confuse me. I do not care if Koran book is a religion of peace or a religion of war. I reject Koran book because Koran book claim that Jesus Christ did not died on the cross. But, many many scholars do believe Jesus is exist and died on the cross. There are source outside the Holy Bible do say Jesus Christ died on cross like Roman Tactius, Josephus, few. I suspect Prophet Mohammad is ignorant about the secular historian. Anyway, some scholars reject the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ. For example, Bart Ehrman do believe Jesus Christ is exist but reject the resurrection. So, for mormon, they claim that Mormon book is consistent New Testament and Old Testament. Mormon book is infallible and inerrancy in Mormon’s sight because Joseph Smith is translate the latin language (I m not sure it is latin) of sacred book into the English language. How Joseph Smith can read latin language? Use sacred eyesglasses. Anyway, mormon book is conflict to New Testament and Old Testament.
I believe Holy Bible is historical, reliablitiy, pretty accuracy, trust. Although, I do not believe Holy Bible is Inerrancy and Infallible. No question, it is little flaw because the author of each book is very human. For New Testament, disciple of Jesus Christ saw the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and change their life dynamic. They mostly are marty for Jesus Christ. Also, there are church father like 100 AD to 300 AD. I give you one example: They ONE COMMON are teaching LOVE people and love your enemies.
Why Jesus Christ is important? Maybe Devil fool me for acting Jesus Christ? I did not think so. My few, trustful friends saw a preacher, name Jimmy Schwyhart, heal Deaf, lady who is wheelchair for walking ! Jimmy pray and command her to walk via the name of Jesus Christ. It is pretty same like the book of Acts. My other, older, woman told me that she command the devil out of person via the name of Jesus Christ. It is same way what Apostle use in the book of Acts. I have more stories, but it is enough to respond your question. Also, I saw devil for myself. Maybe I was delusion, but I was highly doubt.
For your information, I do not think many Christian will go to the heaven. Did it make you feel better? ( WINK :P) I think there are few go to heaven.

For your information, I want to start for devil’s advocate. Luke Muehlhauser suggest me few books about Muslim Exocism. Luke told me “Anyway, I don’t particularly RECOMMEND any of those readings, but it should give you a start if you want to read more”. I will read it later.

What do you think ?

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psychadelicfuse81 February 19, 2011 at 5:31 am

Cl Oh, one other note, per our previous discussions on the precision of language:

Lukeprog It just isn’t true, is all I’m saying.

Cl You mean, you just don’t believe it’s true anymore. That’s all you should be saying.

Cl One final note: I won’t be responding to anyone else but Luke on this thread, so, to the haters… you might want to decide A) if it’s even worth it, and B) what it speaks of one who would denigrate a person knowing they won’t bother to defend themselves.

Cl, I would like you to please re-examine the following statement, if you would be such a champ:

you might want to decide A) if it’s even worth it, and B) what it speaks of one who would denigrate a person knowing they won’t bother to defend themselves.

Denigrate (v): Charge falsely or with malicious intent; attack the good name and reputation of someone.

Surely someone on here almost never bothers to read your polemical crypto-diatribes? I can think of at least two people.

Do the words pot, kettle and black ring any bells? They ought to. They really ought to.

Respond or not, I know you will have read this and that you have the means to reply.

Addendum: Do not get the idea that I think everything you do is long winded cantankerous raving and ranting; it isn’t. However, your writing can be of an overtly alarmist and hysterical nature. I am not going to shy away from that. When I read your material, I get the overall impression that you are looking for conflict. Sometimes even creating conflict where none exists (case in point: censuring Luke for banning Neil C. Reinhardt). Dan Dennet’s Principle of Charity is something I recommend you look into.

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bossmanham February 22, 2011 at 11:50 am

Louis,

Are you trolling? It’s already been explained to you numerous times why what Luke and people experience cannot be accepted as evidence on rational grounds. All Luke has warrant to believe in was that he was feeling something, the jump to that being god is not rational it’s wishful thinking.

Trolling is a pretty ambiguous term, and in each context it can probably be defined differently by different people. If challenging someone on whether they had rational justification to accept a belief or give one up is “trolling” then I guess I am. If bringing up philosophical questions about someone’s position on something is trolling, then I think we should all troll.

Chris W,

Have those who insist Luke’s experiences gave him ‘warrant’ ever been to a rock concert?

Yeah I have been to a rock concert. You know how I know that? I personally experienced it. *GASP!* Unless you can give me an argument to think that being at a rock concert => having no rational justification to accept what you experience there.

LifeTrekker,

There is ample empirical evidence that shows that we, just by the very fact that we are human, make lots of mistakes in our thinking.

Just because there is evidence that humans get things wrong (big shocker there) doesn’t mean there’s evidence that we get everything wrong. You need to examine the specific case to see if you have. Unless you’re cherry picking religion as alway unjustified…which I’d like to see a non-question begging argument for.

Steven R,

I dunno, but that seems like an argument from divine revelation to me. Granted, it’s a very weak argument to the point of it being laughably bad, but it is still an argument for God, and apparently one that you believe provides enough justification to warrant belief in God (lolz at the allusion to the rock band).

Um, no it wasn’t an argument for the existence of God, it was an argument against Luke’s rational justifiaction for being an atheist. So…got that one wrong eh?

The point however, is that people do convert to different faiths or denominations based on “divine revelation” to God. Go talk to an avid Mormon. You’re bound to find one where God revealed himself and told them it was the one true religion. I find your response of incredulity quite hilarious since I take it that you believe it’s impossible because God told you your current religion/denomination is correct. Of course, this just makes this sort of divine revelation outright dubious.

Which is all irrelevant to whether Luke is rationally justified in what he believes. Just because others get things mixed up and wrong doesn’t mean Luke did, or that if he did had rational justification to take his current position.

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Joseph April 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Looks as though you exhausted every avenue of approach and forgot you are still a physical being. If at one point you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior you’ll come around, and when you do I suggest not being so hard on yourself.

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