God, And Other Improbabilities

I have often criticized Atheists who hold the difficult position that God does not exist even though I think that belief is accurate to the label (See: Who Did You Say You Were Again?).  I take notice in my reading that many — if not most — professional Atheist philosophers won’t take this position precisely because it is so difficult to defend.  Instead they adopt the more defendable position that it’s highly improbable that God exists.  Today I began to think this too is inadequate to take a secure atheist position.  Rejecting God because His existence is improbable shouldn’t afford the Atheist the confidence it seems to.

The overreaching reason, I think, is a relatively simple one: highly improbable things and events happen, and they aren’t insignificant.

Life coming to be from inanimate matter; that life — for the sake of argument — evolving to bring such an expansive complex array of biological diversity; and some of that life developing self-awareness with the degree of intelligence we possess is, in my opinion, mind-bogglingly improbable — bordering on impossible.  I have heard it speculated by credentialed evolutionary biologists that given another go at it, the bio-diversity would likely be drastically different from the way we now experience it.

The existence of and fine-tuning of the universe are both highly improbable, especially since it came into existence from nothing. The Leibnizian question of why is there something rather than nothing serves to bring to light the fact that a highly contingent universe with contingent laws of nature and physics which permit intelligent life are themselves extremely improbable, but here we are.

I don’t think it helps matters to posit an eternal universe or a multi-verse after a fashion either.  In fact, if one is to reject God on the basis of improbability, an eternal universe or eternal regress of multi-verses undermines the basis for rejection.  Improbability is only a liability in the short-term.  It has been said that given an infinite amount of time, what could happen, eventually will happen, i.e., Shakespeare via chimpanzee operated typewriters.  Unless of course you are privy to and have reason to believe the universe has built into its fabric God prohibiting parameters, but this needs to be argued for not merely supposed.

Skeptics at this point may be chomping at the bit to accuse me of making a God-of-the-gaps argument: that because this is all improbable therefore God.  However, this isn’t an argument for God’s existence, I’m not making that case here.  I simply don’t think it’s adequate to deny the existence of God based on it being improbable since many highly improbable events happen both significant and trivial.

I am more inclined to think someone rejecting the existence of God — a decision which bears eternal consequences — would need more than ‘probably’ to make this decision.  Most Atheists insist a negative cannot be proven.  But when it comes to whether God exists, I think it’s possible, it just requires a little more effort.  One could potentially prove God doesn’t exist by showing He cannot exist.  In other words create an argument demonstrating that it is impossible for God to exist.  Granted, this is an arduous task, but should be the goal given the possible ramifications of relying on ‘probably’.

Comments

  1. Great post, as usual, John.
    I love it when I hear Naturalists begin to postulate a “multiverse” theory. It seems to me that there is FAR more evidence that God exists than there is that some other universe exists!

    The other argument against God that I find amusing is the argument that religion is so prevalent as an evolutionary byproduct. Religious thinking offered some sort of survival advantage and therefore it exists today – even though it is false. Therefore our innate sense to believe in a God cannot be trusted. This line of reasoning is just hilarious to me because the obvious response is, then why isn’t your atheistic beliefs also simply an evolutionary byproduct that also cannot be trusted? If this line of reasoning is correct, then we have no basis for really trusting ANY of our logical faculties. Determining any truth, therefore, is essentially impossible.

  2. Interesting article here to address the main issues within this post.

    It concludes:

    “I have argued that there is no coherent way to use God as an explanation for the existence of complexity since, among other things, God himself is presumably complex. Similarly, God cannot even be used to explain existence since God, when used as an explanation, presumably exists himself. … Finally, I pointed out the most common misuse of probability calculations by theists in their attempts to prove the existence of God and/or attack the plausibility of evolution—namely, that of ignoring the fact that natural selection is not about the appearance of random, spontaneous complexity in one event, but about non-random cumulative selection, which occurs over many, many tries.”

    Also, regarding

    I am more inclined to think someone rejecting the existence of God — a decision which bears eternal consequences — would need more than ‘probably’ to make this decision.

    Pascal’s wager, anyone?

    • Z

      I think you might have one of two (or both) problems: Either your reading comprehension is off. Or you only skimmed and assumed what this was about.

        This is not an argument for the existence of God

      . At All. I am criticizing Atheists who would dismiss the existence of God based on His improbability. Whether it’s because of the problem of evil, or belief that evolution can explain things, or that you believe the universe could spontaniously exist. I am also not offering Pascals wager. I am saying that rejecting God based on probabilities rather than more concrete certainties shouldn’t be comfortingly sufficient for you given the significance of whether God exists. You should base your rejections on something more than ‘probably’.

      Is this more clear, do you want me to delete your comments so you can respond to what I wrote instead of what you think I wrote, or just leave it?

  3. oops, the embedded link didn’t work correctly.

    Try http://www.freethoughtdebater.org/2011/12/30/complexity-probability-and-god/

  4. Correct. Claims about god (existence, miracles, afterlife, etc) range in their improbability from logically impossible to disproven facts to an undetermined level.

    The default position is that there is no higher power (or a multiverse or climate change or a crack in the Washington Monument). The burden of proof is on believers to provide sufficient evidence to justify the claims about the gods they believe in and the associated tenets of their dogma. The nebulous deistic creator god you call “improbable” in your post bares no resemblance to your personal, authoritarian, and active Christian god. You’re doing a bait-and-switch argument to say that some higher power created the universe, therefore Christianity. That’s ludicrous.

    When you argue that some nebulous deistic creator force is at least minimally probable, you are light years away from proving or even suggesting the existence of a god who is active in the world in any way, has specific preferences for how homo sapiens carry out their lives, or who will mete out punishment for noncompliance. And even those claims would still be different than justifying a Christian faith or anything specific like whether or not homosexuality is permitted. The more specific you get about which god you’re talking about, like one that will torture nonbelievers forever after their physical death, then you start to get into a realm where your god can be definitively disproven. There’s a whole separate discussion of whether a certain god is or is not worthy of our worship.

    But again, ‘it’s improbable’ is no proof against anything. What an atheist is saying is that you’ve failed to make your case. Again I say that atheism is a lack of belief, not a rejection of any possibility of whether or not a certain god exists. That discussion requires you to be specific about the anti-gay, anti-choice, hellfire god you hypothesize. I may stand unconvinced to various degrees, but I need not prove a negative. It’s for you to prove the positive. And you get to say that you stand unconvinced about evolution, or the multiverse (which is by no means proven), or the Higgs Boson (also strongly indicated but still provisional). Those who propose those “science” ideas have the burden of proof for their claims that those things exist/occur.

  5. Z,
    The primary basis for belief is not complexity. It’s our existence at all. Scientists (like myself) went to great lengths recently to prove the existence of the Higg’s Boson. Interestingly, try as they might, no one has been able to ever MAKE a single Higg’s Boson. Try making something out of nothing. It just doesn’t seem to work.

    The fact that there is SOMETHING here (rather than nothing) leaves us with only two possibilities:
    1) The universe created itself. God *is* the universe.
    2) The universe was created by something else. God is OUTSIDE the universe.

    Both statements are incomprehensible and full of self-contradictions. But one is true, and one is false. I’ll wager on choice #2. Pascal wasn’t such a fool in my opinion.

  6. Tumeyn,

    You have set up a false dichotomy.

    There just simply isn’t enough information available to us at this time to establish the origins of the universe, period.

    We can guess, but the certainty that theism exhibits is arrogant and never proves a thing.

  7. z,
    Are you suggesting that there are other possibilities beyond those two? Those two possibilities have nothing at-all to do with science. Those are logical outcomes. Science changes over time. Logic does not. If you think that there is a 3rd possibility, I’d like to hear it.

  8. So your whole post was building the argument against the argument of improbability used to reject your god?

    Jeesh John – here we go again. You love setting up straw-man arguments and wait for people to respond, and then get upset when you don’t get the response you’re looking for.

    Might I simply suggest that you simply make a statement regarding what you believe to be true and start there? That way no one has to try to defend someone else’s argument.

    …and to all those bloggers that “like” this, please feel free to comment.

    • Um, Z,

      Theres no strawman if people make the argument. It’s actually quite popular to say given our world, scientific discoveries, the problem of evil, etc. it is highly improbable God exists. I’m not sure what the controversy is on this.

      My post questions the reasonability of rejecting God because He is believed to be improbable. You don’t have to defend anyone’s argument. If you don’t think God’s existence is improbable I don’t see why you think you need to defend it.

      I believe it to be true that rejecting God because you think it is probable he doesn’t exist is unreasonable. How’s that?

  9. Tumeyn,

    Sure, there could be more possibilities, but that’s the point – You, I, and everyone else don’t have enough information available to us at this point to be able to conclude anything with 100% certainty about the nature of the universe in order to make any statement regarding its origins. We can guess – that’s all.

    Both of your statements make conclusions without evidence.

  10. z,
    I didn’t ask you IF there were other possibilities – I asked you WHAT those other possibilities are. Put up or shut up, as they used to say.

    I completely agree that we cannot conclude much about the nature of the universe with 100% certainty. But there are a few statements that I’ll make with 100% certainty:
    1) The universe exists.
    2) Either the universe was created by God or it produced itself spontaneously.

    Please let me know if you disagree with either of those statements.

  11. John,
    Ooooooh – I get it.

    Well, if someone wants to make an argument for not believing in a deity because of probability, so be it.

    The problem with trying to defend this argument from either side is the amount of sheer speculation and personal incredulity. It all boils down to feeling that the odds are just too great to think any other way and both sides are left think that the other is nuts.

  12. Tumeyn,

    1. True
    2. Not enough available information to make this statement.

    For example, this universe could have been an offspring of two parent universes. This universe could be the imagination of an entity in another dimension. The universe has always existed and is simply expanding and contracting on a scale we cannot observe. See, there are all kinds of alternatives just as valid as saying a god created it.

    If you’re going to insist that you believe a god is responsible for creating the universe we know, please tell me where you think god originated.

    • Heres an example of you making statement based on only unsubstantiated speculation. There is no evidence supporting a multiverse, only theoretical experimentation. Every bit of evidence points toward a finite flat expanding universe which began from a single point. So based on what we do know, and not speculation, was the universe broght into existence by an agent, or did it pop into existence by itself?

    • What you’re doing is relying on a science of the gaps.

  13. Z,
    Thanks for bringing up those other possibilities. However, they really aren’t possibilities at all.
    1) Offspring of two parent universes? Could you explain? If anything, it is just pushing the question back. Who made the two parent universes? Did they spring into being spontaneously or were they made by something?
    2) Universe could be the imagination of an entity? Isn’t this just the same as saying that the universe does not exist? Are you suggesting that we might just be illusory figures in some cosmic computer game?
    3) Universe has always existed: This is just a another way of saying that the universe *IS* God.

    So, I come back to the same point: Either God is outside the universe or God *IS* the universe.

    So, now to your second question. Who created God? It’s a good one at first glance. We live in a cause-and-effect world. If the universe needs to have a cause, then God must have a cause too, right?
    Well, have a look at the big-bang. One thing that is pretty interesting about it is that at the “moment” of the big bang, time itself began to exist. Cause-and-effect is a temporal phenomenon: in other words, it relies on time. In the absence of time, cause-and-effect is meaningless. Therefore, once again, we have to postulate that either the universe brought itself into existence or we have to postulate that this “God” (whoever he/she is) must exist outside of time. If it exists outside of time, it has no need of being created.

    It’s a chicken-or-the-egg argument. Belief in an uncreated (eternal) God is preposterous and illogical. But belief in a universe that brought itself into existence from nothing is even more preposterous and illogical.

    • Let’s all just sit back and look at an Atheist use the stretches of his imagination in order to avoid God.

      • z, tumeyn, and JB, with respect what options there are related to creation of the universe, I’m sure we can all speculate. Universes bumping into one another, spontaneous appearance from nothingness, creation by Krishna, Hindu, unnamed and dead creator deity, creation by Jehovah of the Charismatics, creation by Jehovah of the United Church of Christ, creation by Allah, creation by Flegleblox higher dimensional child being creating universes for his 8th-grade science experiment… who knows. Those are all wild speculations.

        Whether any of these speculations has any more or less likelihood is a separate discussion. But “spontaneous appearance” or “my God did it” are neither all the options nor 50-50 in terms of likelihood.

  14. The atheists don’t have one single logic prove for their denial .They are the storm but they don’t know soon it will fade away. Excellent post. Jalal Michael

  15. Just to skip to the chase…

    Well, have a look at the big-bang. One thing that is pretty interesting about it is that at the “moment” of the big bang, time itself began to exist. Cause-and-effect is a temporal phenomenon: in other words, it relies on time. In the absence of time, cause-and-effect is meaningless. Therefore, once again, we have to postulate that either the universe brought itself into existence or we have to postulate that this “God” (whoever he/she is) must exist outside of time. If it exists outside of time, it has no need of being created.

    The major problem with your explanation is that you define the moment when “time begins”, then say it was created by a god who exists outside time. You are now simply creating an environment for which you have no evidence to support in order to avoid having to explain things further. That, to turn John’s phrase, is stretching your imagination to create god.

    It’s a chicken-or-the-egg argument. Belief in an uncreated (eternal) God is preposterous and illogical. But belief in a universe that brought itself into existence from nothing is even more preposterous and illogical.

    Now that really doesn’t make any sense at all. Is your god eternal or not? What does eternity mean if no time exists?

    Just more obfuscation…

  16. Jason,
    You are pushing the conversation to an area where you obviously are much more comfortable. The question at hand is atheism vrs theism. My logical faculties tell me that if there is a God, then I should darn-well try to discover what the nature of this Being is. Once you are at that point, we can have the discussion over which religion is most grounded in historical fact. I believe it is Christianity, but others have obviously come to different conclusions. The point, however, is that *IF* there is a God, then he/she is worth pursuing with all your might.

    Z,
    I was using the term eternal to mean outside of time. I don’t know another word that would have this meaning. Transcendent perhaps?

    Again, I’ll make this point to both Jason and Z:
    Belief in an uncreated God is preposterous and illogical. Belief in a universe that brought itself into existence from nothing is preposterous and illogical. Those are the only two possibilities. However, the difference is this: My preposterous and illogical belief actually gives meaning, purpose, and hope to my life. I suspect that you can make no such claim of your atheism.

  17. Tumeyn,

    The transcendental argument is another discussion entirely.

    I appreciate your openness and if believing in it gives you purpose, meaning and hope then I’m happy for you. Plenty of people on this planet are quite content believing some crazy things.

    Two things though –
    1. After reaching a conclusion by faith, please don’t claim to have used logic and reason to get there.
    2. Please don’t think that it is not possible to have purpose, meaning and hope without that belief.

  18. Z, for your two points:
    1) This was clearly a final “slap in the face” from you. If you read any of my statements, you’ll see that I’m claiming to have JUST AS MUCH logic for my beliefs as you do for yours. You have faith that the universe came from nothing. I have faith that the universe came from God. Both are impossible to conceive. But one is true and one is false.
    2) I agree. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I’m sure that atheists certainly have purpose, meaning, and hope. My only point is that your purpose, meaning, and hope does not come from your atheism. It must come from somewhere else since Nature cares nothing about our pleasure or purpose. Is that accurate?

  19. Tumeyn,

    With all due respect, you have no idea what you’re taking about.

    I never said anything about the origins of the universe other than we just don’t know and that anyone who claims to know is just speculating.

    You claim the universe came from god, then when I asked where god came from, you gave god some characteristic that suited your argument that you could have no possible knowledge about. Then you have the balls to say you reached that conclusion using logic.

    As for the second point, I apologize if you took that personally. I’ve just heard that implication by theists too many times.

  20. Z, you always seem to fall back on the idea that “we just don’t know and anyone who claims to know is just speculating”. That’s fine for you. But most people on this Earth sometimes wonder “who am I and why am I here?” Maybe that thought never crosses your mind. But in order to answer that question, you HAVE to choose an answer to where the universe came from. Was it meant to be? Or was it an accident? Am I here on purpose? Or am I here by an accident of evolution? That question is at the heart of this debate. It seems that you choose to just throw your hands in the air and say “we just don’t know and anyone who claims to know is just speculating”. Fine. But most people aren’t really content with that answer.

    Two well-respected scientists: Richard Dawkins speculates in one way. Francis Collins speculates in another. I respect both of their opinions. You, however, have the gall to say that you do not speculate. That’s just silly. I suspect that deep down you must sincerely care about this topic, otherwise you wouldn’t be commenting on this blog.

  21. Tumeyn said, “My logical faculties tell me that if there is a God, then I should darn-well try to discover what the nature of this Being is. The point, however, is that *IF* there is a God, then he/she is worth pursuing with all your might.”

    Exactly. You have skipped over the “if” part. I’m focusing on the “if” part. And for me, it’s a hypothesis that has been run through to its logical conclusion, which is that there erally isn’t enough evidence presented from the proponents of the hypothesis to warrant further study.
    The Higgs Boson for example isn’t something people went looking for just because Higgs said it existed. He saw the real and very observable phenomenon of gravity and hypothesized a particle that would give a consistent and useful explanation of why things have mass. People see the sum total of matter in the universe and compare that to its rate of expansion (to make a long story short) and dark matter has been hypothesized based on this quality but never seen. Physicists are searching around to see if such a thing exists.
    So it’s not that no one wants to look for some type of god, it’s just that it’s been done and it’s being done, kind of, half-heartedly, because so many philosophers and scientists (Newton for example) have tried in so many ways to verify claims of the Bible or Qu’ran or some prophet and it just doesn’t work out. God had his day in court and never showed.

    “My preposterous and illogical belief actually gives meaning, purpose, and hope to my life. I suspect that you can make no such claim of your atheism.”

    With the quote above, you’re just being discriminatory. Nontheists do in fact value and have meaning in our lives. If you’d like to educate yourself out of your ignorance, then you can read any of the following links regarding the meaning from a naturalistic perspective:
    http://theatheistsway.com/ and http://ericmaisel.com/noimetics-2/
    http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/forward.htm
    http://www.americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_III

    You’ll find plenty in there about hope as well. However, the opposite of hope is that we need not see a tyrannical force punishing us every time a natural disaster or personal tragedy happens. That in itself is liberating and gives hope that we can be successful without external interference.

  22. Jason, you write:
    “The Higgs Boson for example isn’t something people went looking for just because Higgs said it existed. He saw the real and very observable phenomenon of gravity and hypothesized a particle that would give a consistent and useful explanation of why things have mass. People see the sum total of matter in the universe and compare that to its rate of expansion (to make a long story short) and dark matter has been hypothesized based on this quality but never seen.”

    Those are great examples and they are near and dear to my heart – I’m a chemist. I actually think about God in a very similar way. I can’t see God. But I look around at my world and inside myself and I ask “what theory makes the most sense of what I observe?”

    To me, the answer is clear. Here’s a few of those observations that, to me, appear to point towards a God. There are certainly other (non-theistic) explanations for these observations, but I find that Theism (and Christianity in particular) does a great job at collectively explaining them. That’s why I believe it. It’s really no different to me than when I postulate a theory in my chemistry lab.
    1) The universal moral laws that appear to be written on our being (selflessness, honesty, commitment, love for mankind)
    2) Our love of art, music, and beauty.
    3) Our incredible creativity – creativity that goes WAY beyond just giving a survival advantage. The Higg’s Boson is a great example of this.
    4) Our innate desire to connect with God. (you may not feel this, but the vast majority of mankind throughout known history can relate)
    5) The incredible way our universe is rational and understandable. There’s no particular evolutionary reason that we should even be able to comprehend our universe.
    6) The fact that the universe had a beginning.
    7) The “information” that is contained in living beings (DNA). Information, in all other aspects of life, conveys intelligence.

    I could go on, but you get the point. Each of these facts can be explained away, for sure. But, to me, theism (and Christianity in particular) does the best job at explaining the reasons for these phenomenon. Faith in God is not irrational at all. It’s quite rational.

  23. tumeyn, In all of those cases, “God did it” hypotheses by theologians have been brushed aside in favor of more consistent and useful explanations posited by science. You may stand unconvinced of the array of explanations presented by evolution in general and evolutionary psychology in particular for esoteric phenomena such as ethics, aesthetics, creativity, and the search for meaning and answers (or whatever you really mean by ‘search for god’). Calling the beginning of the universe unlikely is an anthropological fallacy. The idea that our universe is rational and understandable is a very hopeful statement. It also forgets the 4 Billion years it took us to understand the part we understand, contradicts the ‘we don’t know anything’ arguments of most creationists, and contradicts the impossible to understand miracles most creationists claim defy the laws of our rational universe.

    All you’re really saying is “that’s unlikely, therefore god did it” or “I reject science therefore god did it.” I can’t even call it a god of the gaps since those aren’t gaps. They’re perfectly well explained, and you’re just whacking yourself in the head with the Bible until you forget the real world.

  24. Tumeyn,

    It seems you have a strong emotional investment in your beliefs and I honestly think that you prefer to make your observations with a considerable amount of conformational bias. In layman’s terms, you see what you want to see.

    Sure, all of us at one point or another have wondered about the grand scheme of things and how things came to be, but it does us no good to reach a conclusion without evidence and then make all observations conveniently fit that conclusion.

    As a scientist, you should know this.

  25. Z, of course I have a strong emotional investment! Who doesn’t have a strong emotional investment in this? I could just as easily postulate the same about you: You seem to have a strong emotional investment that there is not a God – perhaps so that you can live your life as you see fit and don’t have to answer to anyone else. Or perhaps so that you don’t have to face the consequences of your actions or beliefs. You have an INCREDIBLY strong emotional motivation to believe that the Christian faith, in particular, is wrong because if it is correct you may have to face eternal punishment. You see, it works both ways. That emotion card is very weak and doesn’t help argue either way.

    I’m glad you have wondered from time-to-time about the grand scheme of things. And I certainly agree that it is no good reaching a conclusion without evidence. Fortunately, my faith DOES rest on sound evidence.

  26. Jason, you write:
    ” In all of those cases, “God did it” hypotheses by theologians have been brushed aside in favor of more consistent and useful explanations posited by science. ”

    Actually, I largely agree with you here. I hate the “God-in-the-gaps” fallacy and I’m glad you agree that I wasn’t positing something like it. All those points I made *do* have naturalistic explanations that may likely be true. But that’s not my point at all. I’m asking: Do all those observations (taken together) point us in any particular direction in terms of the question we are asking? I say yes. Let me give an analogy:
    Look at an automobile. We understand the laws of combustion that run the engine. We understand the laws of motion that govern the acceleration, braking, and steering. Does that understanding make Henry Ford irrelevant? Of course not!

    As I said, I’m a chemist. I certainly believe in evolution. I see the evidence for it on a weekly basis as I look at various biomolecules and DNA sequences. The big bang is a beautiful picture of the creation of our universe. Do those things make my belief in God irrelevant? No! In fact, my appreciation for the amazing complexities involved in the firing of a SINGLE NEURON in our brain makes me absolutely amazed at the genius of a system where 100 BILLION neurons are arranged in a marvelous way that makes us capable of contemplating the existence of the very Being that created matter from nothing!
    (I will say, abiogenesis is looking highly improbable – I haven’t seen a shred of evidence for it. But that is certainly not proof for God.)

  27. Well, Tumeyn, at least you’re strong enough to admit the emotional influence and how it influences your perspective. You then tried to project the same sentiment for me – sorry, I don’t.

    I certainly understand the consequences for my actions, thank you. To imply that I will experience eternal punishment for not believing Christianity is nothing more than an attempt at emotional blackmail. Again, I’m not emotionally influenced in the matter.

    I engage in these conversations because I enjoy trying to understand why people believe what they do.

    You seem like a pretty smart guy, Nathan, but your conclusions are not reached through evidence, just feelings. Your faith has yet to produce anything more than visceral reactions to what you perceive. (The very definition of faith is believing something without evidence , BTW) You seem to look at everything and say “Look at this – there must be a god!”

  28. Z,
    1) I’m not trying to use emotional blackmail. I’m simply showing that pulling out the “emotion card” (or “wishful thinking” card) can be used both ways. It is certainly NOT an argument against belief in God. We all have motivations for our beliefs. To imply that I have emotional reasons for my beliefs but that somehow you are an impartial judge of things is silly and really somewhat disingenuous.
    2) You always seem to come back to this fairy tail definition of faith. I looked up “faith” on both Dictionary.com and in Websters. Your definition of faith simply doesn’t exist. Here’s what Webster has:
    a) allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty
    b) fidelity to one’s promises
    c) belief and trust in and loyalty to God (or) belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
    d) firm belief in something for which there is no proof (or) complete trust

    Definition d) comes closest to what yours. But note the distinct difference: Webster says that there is no PROOF. I agree. There is (and likely never will be) scientific proof of God. Just like there is (and never will be) scientific evidence that my wife loves me. But there is most certainly EVIDENCE of God — just like there is plenty of evidence that my wife loves me.

    Be careful with definitions. You are positing a definition of faith that virtually no one except for atheists agree with. Feel free to keep using your definition of faith. But it really has nothing to do with the faith I have.

  29. tumeyn said (abbreviated) – “All those points I made *do* have naturalistic explanations that may likely be true. But that’s not my point at all. … I certainly believe in evolution. ”
    I think we’re in agreement then. That you believe in some god is not particularly of concern so long as you 1) don’t reject proven science and 2) don’t reject further study.
    “abiogenesis is looking highly improbable”
    This concerns me a bit. It sounds like rejecting further study. Your ‘god did it’ hypothesis for abiogensis might be different from the prevailing avenue of abiogenisis study related to RNA World and protein/metabolism studies, but as long as you keep searching, then that’s what’s important.
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/originoflife.html#RNAworld

  30. Tumeyn,

    At the heart of the Christian faith is the veiled threat of eternal punishment for not believing. It’s a fear- based belief, plain and simple.

    I don’t mean to sound condescending, but let me try to spell it out for you. The reasons to explore our existence and the world we live in may be emotionally motivated, but emotions are not part of the scientific method used to examine it. If we don’t something, we don’t know it. Science is humble in this regard.

    Religion, on the other hand, makes bold claims and conclusions and then relies of faith to believe it. Quibble about definitions all you want – faith is a firm belief in something for which you have no proof. There you go.

    You see the world around you as well as the universe as say to yourself, “Wow, just look at all this evidence!” when that’s just not the case. You have yet to present anything that supports the claim of a deity, let alone the deity found in Christianity.

    What I find fascinating is the ego of man. After all, science has shown the vastness of the universe and infinitesimal role we play in it over billions of years, yet there are those who really think that all of this has been around for less than 10,000 years and we’re the pinnacle of creation.

    (for an interesting read, check out http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Fine-tuning_argument)

    …and then to top it all off, as John’s post points out last week, there’s really no hope to discuss any of it because virtually all of the believers who chimed in say there’s no way they’re wrong.

  31. Jason, thanks for the link. I’ve heard of most of those theories. Interestingly, the RNA world hypothesis is falling out of favor. See this link:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-simpler-origin-for-life

    A reading of this article and the sheer number of theories postulated in your link make it clear that no one has any clue how life could have formed spontaneously. The origin of chirality and the origin of “information” are the two biggest conceptual problems, but there are a host of other problems such as how any sort of primitive cell could have had a membrane since the earliest cellular machinery almost certainly had to be associated with DNA (or RNA) replication.

    I certainly don’t deny that abiogensis is POSSIBLE. I’m glad to have people researching it. But a belief in abiogenesis at this point in history is based upon absolutely no evidence. (similar to the criticism that you give me!)

    Moreover, it is interesting to me that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. But the crust was molten until about 4 billion years ago. The first prokaryotic cells seem to have emerged at about 3.5 billion years ago. Estimates suggest that even the simplest cells require a set of ~250 distinct genes to support cell division. Therefore, you must postulate that in a 500 million year period, you went from non-life to life (more or less) as we know it (on a molecular level).
    I’ve heard it said that the difference in complexity between a single cell and an elephant is dwarfed by comparison to the difference in complexity between a “primordial soup” an a single living cell. If you study biology for quite a few years (like I have), I think you’ll agree.
    Does this mean it is impossible? Of course not. But, in my opinion, the amazing complexity of a single cell emerging in such a short geologic time period is (yet another) signpost that points to a designer.

  32. Life is too fantastically complex therefore I must postulate an infinitely complex god. There, I fixed it.
    The proper response to complexity is to postulate a simpler explanation, like RNA instead of DNA or cooperative molecules instead of RNA. If nothing else, it’s to postulate something and study it with science, not to punt and go with the ‘god did it’ answer.
    This isn’t a ‘belief’ in abiogenesis. This is a search for answers. The only people who object to abiogensis answers are those who are holding white-knuckled onto aphysogenesis answers (answers from the supernatural rather than physical world).
    You accepted evolution even though it refutes the Adam and Eve story. You accepted Big Bang cosmology even though it refutes the creation story. Hopefully when, not if, scientists create not just synthetic life (already done) but when they catalyze life out of non-living materials, then you can accept that as well, and celebrate. In the meantime, you can say god made the first molecule but it’s not a hypothesis. It’s just an article of faith.
    But if you want to be skeptical about RNA World or cooperative molecule origins of life, then good for you. Skeptics promote the scientific process and help us not to fool ourselves.

  33. Jason, you make an interesting statement.
    You write “Hopefully when, not if, scientists create not just synthetic life (already done) and when they catalyze life out of non-living materials, then you can accept that as well, and celebrate. In the meantime, you can say god made the first molecule but it’s not a hypothesis. It’s just an article of faith.”

    I absolutely will celebrate if humans are ever able to make a living, reproducing entity out of non-living material. Until then, you are meerly speculating. It’s interesting how much faith you place in naturalism. As I said, there is not a shred of hard evidence for abiogenesis. (you even seem to agree) Yet, you are absolutely confident that it happened. Why? Because it fits your worldview. You, my friend, are not an open-minded scientist what-so-ever. Your worldview would absolutely collapse if abiogensis were not true. That’s why you have to believe it.

    I think you’ll see the absurdity of your statement if I just replace a couple of words. Would you find this statement acceptable if it came from me or John?

    “Hopefully when, not if, JESUS RETURNS, then you can accept that as well, and celebrate. In the meantime, you can say NATURE made the first molecule but it’s not a hypothesis. It’s just an article of faith.”

    Your statement and my statement are equally valid. No?

  34. Tumeyn,

    Why do you insist on trying to equate science and religion?

    You point the finger at science for speculating and that’s fine, but remember, it’s the religious community that touts their speculations not as speculations, but as fact.

    It all comes back to the willingness to admit you might be wrong, which theists refuse to acknowledge.

    You accuse Jason of not being open-minded. Really? Are you just asking him to accept the possibility that your god is responsible for everything?

    As for me, I’d be willing to admit there might be a god at play here just as soon as you sincerely admit that there might not be one at all.

  35. Z,
    I’ve already admitted that there might not be a God. Remember the discussion from a few days ago?

    We believe all sorts of things that may or may not be true. I have two kids. I’ve never taken a paternity test – so I can’t tell you with absolute certainty that they really are my kids. But I certainly believe it to be so.

  36. Yes, but the point is that we can use science to confirm that with absolute certainty.

    I’m just pointing out where you’re trying to put science and religion on equal ground where they are clearly not.

  37. “Hopefully when, not if, JESUS RETURNS, then you can accept that as well, and celebrate. In the meantime, you can say NATURE made the first molecule but it’s not a hypothesis. It’s just an article of faith.”

    For the first part of the statement – I will accept Jesus if he returns, assuming suitably dire evidence. I certainly wouldn’t celebrate the physical manifestation of an insecure and powerful tyrant, demanding worship and meting out torture to those who fail to bow down. But I would at least accept the reality and hopefully have the courage to stand up for liberty and justice rather than lifelong structured adoration. If I wanted heaven, I can always get it in North Korea. I wouldn’t deny the facts though.
    That nature made the first molecule isn’t strictly a hypothesis, but RNA World and cooperative molecules are short-forms of actual hypotheses. They are built on scientific principles, consistent with existing scientific concepts, and testable where they expand the boundaries of our knowledge. I will agree that when, not if, we create life from non-life, either by RNA means or by cooperative molecules or some other method, then even that doesn’t prove that that method was the original method. It would prove one mode of abiogenesis. The real origin might have been anything, but it would at least show the possibility and likely create lots of new avenues of future research and new technology. Exciting…
    Not to worry though. Given that creationists like to say nonsense like ‘light was created on the way to earth’ and ‘fossils were placed in their ancient strata at creation’ to give the appearance of an old earth, then it will be child’s play to deny proven abiogenesis.
    But in reality, God will become even tinier, and one day disappear entirely from daily life and into scholarly studies of mythology and literature.

  38. Jason writes “But in reality, God will become even tinier, and one day disappear entirely from daily life and into scholarly studies of mythology and literature.”

    Perhaps so. But I strongly suspect that this will NOT be due advances in science. It will be due to hypocritical “Christians” who preach messages of intolerance and the “prosperity gospel”. Growth in scientific knowledge in our country has had little effect on religious adherence. In fact, the graphs in the link below actually suggest an inverse relationship: The increased scientific knowledge of 1900-2000 is correlated with increased religious adherence. (religious adherence roughly doubled between 1870 and 2000) This gives me some measure of hope – but I certainly share your pessimism (optimism, in your case) about the future of faith in the western world.

    http://madeinamericathebook.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/a-christian-america-what-history-shows/

  39. I think it’s just the opposite, Tumeyn

    Advances in education (especially science) will continue to expose religion as the superstitious belief it really is. Here’s a study showing the strong negative connection between religious attendance and education.

    http://www.economics.harvard.edu/pub/hier/2001/HIER1913.pdf

    Here’s a gallup poll showing an increasing number of people identifying with no religious identity, so I’m not really sure how accurate your reference is.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/128276/increasing-number-no-religious-identity.aspx

    You seem to be under the impression that faith is a virtue. It’s not, at least regarding religious belief.

  40. This has been an interesting discussion and Tumeyn has been doing a fine job staying consistent with his position and his defense/explanation of it. I really can’t say the same for his opponents.

    Take Z, for example. He accuses Tumeyn of comparing science and religion. I haven’t seen that as being the case, but that Z wishes it to be so. The issue is more a theist vs atheist issue, not a theist vs science issue (or religion vs science). He can correct me if I am assuming too much, but it seems to me that Tumeyn does not find science and religion to be at odds with each other. What is at odds are interpretations of both by atheists and theists. Both sides look at data and from it come to conclusions based on that data.

    The trouble is that from the atheist refuses to acknowledge anything that suggest a god, God or an intelligent designer of the universe. They want to believe that science suggests otherwise, but never really get to how that is so. To contradict Scripture with scientific data requires a good understanding of what was intended by the passages one wishes to contradict. Then, one needs to show how science proves the passages to be false claims. This is difficult when the issue deals with the miraculous and if the miraculous cannot be measured by scientific devices or the laws of physics, it is counted as evidence against the theistic position.

    To put it another way, to the atheist, everything must be dealt with on their terms alone. Never do they admit they might be wrong when it comes to understanding what the scientific data means. Because the data is gathered by scientific means, it must be taken as absolute and absolutely interpreted only as a naturalistic explanation for the issue at hand.

    But there are other problems as well. The point regarding meaning, for instance. Tumeyn speaks to the theistic position as holding the source of meaning, while the atheists apply meaning of their own. Without God (or religion/belief in a higher power), there is no real meaning to anything. All just is. Period. We must then create meaning. This is not what Tumeyn believes, if I am reading him correctly, and I don’t either. Meaning to/of life exists without us, just as morality does. The Christian faith provides/describes the source of both. They are constant. The atheist provides his own and it changes with his mood.

    There is also the issue of the two possibilities Tumeyn presented. Both Jason and Z insist there are others, but only if one chooses to change the subject. Perhaps it is in the way Tumeyn articulated the two.

    1. God (or some Intelligent Designer) created all things.

    or

    2. All things came into existence spontaneously.

    Based on the very science upon which the atheist puts all his faith, those really are the only two possibilities. Our current knowledge, as John said early on, is all we have to go by. Both atheists here listed variations of these two or added a possibility for which our known data does not support in the least.

    Finally, I have not seen a point at which Tumeyn attempted any “God did it” explanation for a tough to explain issue. That is to say, where Jason prefers to believe that science will fill in our gaps, Tumeyn has not used God to fill them in anything I’ve read here. As to what gaps atheists believe science has filled, this is merely the atheists way of saying the same thing they accuse the theists of doing. Science can only tell us how creation works. It hasn’t done one thing to say who created it or how it came to be. Yet, the atheist takes those scientific explanations and uses them to as proof of no God. That isn’t possible and it isn’t probable that they will ever be able to.

  41. You said,

    I am more inclined to think someone rejecting the existence of God — a decision which bears eternal consequences — would need more than ‘probably’ to make this decision.

    I think that when someone says our beliefs about their god will result in eternal consequences it is very reasonable to reject their outcries with very little “probably”. A chuckle seems appropriate to me.

    • Weather claim of eternal punishment seems harsh or outrageous has no bearing on whether it is true. My doctor telling me I will die of a heart attack if I don’t choose the right diet cannot be dismissed because I don’t like that advice. What matters is if it’s true or not.

      I think dismissal because of ‘probably’ terribly naive.

  42. If someone claims our planet will be destroyed today, it has a little bearing on how I will weigh it vs. someone who argues that our planet world will end in 100 million years instead of 5 billions years. The first I wold dismiss with a chuckle and I may be curious with the later. Is the probability of truth of either of them different? I think so. I may be wrong, but my chuckle depends on my expectations of that probability.

    If a doctor tells you vaccines will cause your child to become autistic, you are welcome to chuckle, even though they may be correct. We have to draw the chuckle line somewhere or we’d be crippled with having to take serious all those screaming truth and demanding action of us.

    I think dismissal because of probability is common-sense pragmatism, even if the dismissal may be wrong.

  43. “Weather [sic] claim of eternal punishment seems harsh or outrageous has no bearing on whether it is true. My doctor telling me I will die of a heart attack if I don’t choose the right diet cannot be dismissed because I don’t like that advice. What matters is if it’s true or not.”

    True… except for two things. First, it serves to disprove the Christian God, and second, it serves to argue against worshiping the Christian God.
    The first is the logical contradiction that argues against the existence of your god.
    1) The Christian God is just (which is to say ALWAYS just by virtue of divine perfection)
    2) The Christian God is unjust because he metes out infinite punishment (hell) for finite failures (sin, or arguably not failure at all, eg, lack of faith)
    3) A thing cannot be both just and unjust, and therefore the Christian God does not exist.

    The second is an extension of point 2 above, and shows the Christian God, even if he and his hell exist, would be a brutal and unjust tyrant, not a loving god worthy of worship, but that’s for the believers to work out.
    1) The Christian God is worthy of worship
    2) The Christian God is unjust …
    3) A being that is unjust is unworthy of worship
    4) Therefore, even if the Christian God exists, he should be treated as a tyrant to be resisted if possible or bowed down to only by virtue of his great power, not his great virtue.

  44. @ Jason,

    “True… except for two things. First, it serves to disprove the Christian God, and second, it serves to argue against worshiping the Christian God.”

    First, it does not serve to disprove God in any way. But what your strained set of points proves is that you simply don’t like the terms the Christian God has set. It is akin to a child who does not like his father’s rules, and therefor insists the father is unjust or unfair and thus is not worthy of obedience or respect. Indeed, all lawbreakers regard the punishments for their transgressions as unfair and/or unjust. Even those who break laws of logic or reason assume that attitude to one degree or another. That is, if it is unreasonable to assume that people will approve of bad behavior, the perpetrator of that bad behavior will perceive the people as unjust or unfair for their staunch refusal to tolerate the bad behavior.

    Your second point assumes you have the authority to dictate to a supreme creator what defines a finite failure. YOU don’t like the consequences of that failure, of which coincidentally you are guilty, and thus find it unjust to suffer according to the established consequences for that failure. You then posit that one cannot be both just and unjust.

    Yet the punishment is inversely proportional to the reward. By your definitions, the infinite reward is no more just for the finite good behavior. But that is justice, as both the infinite rewards and punishments are both known in advance, clearly stated and without excuse to those who must decide how to live their lives. Your notion of justice is skewed to believe that there should be one, but not the other.

    So, rather than God being unjust, the truth is that you do not like His sense of justice because of what it requires of YOU, and therefor, like the petulant child or the unrepentant lawbreaker, you refuse to worship He who established what constitutes acceptable behavior.

    Believers have had this issue worked out for quite some time. Live well in obedience to the established laws, be they His or our own, and the results are positive. Live opposed to law and suffer the consequences. This is the essence of justice. And because this understanding of justice is acknowledged in our own civil laws, as well as in the proper upbringing of our children, it is logical to assume that God would be the author of this concept and as such you have no argument here for the improbability of His existence.

  45. @ Sabio,

    Your comments do address the point of the post. You might indeed laugh at the thought that one would regard something as probable. That’s not the point at all. The point is whether or not it IS probable given all that is known. Looking at your example, if someone said the world will end today, on what does he base this and given his evidence, does it make the prediction probable? Probability is not based on pragmatism, but on evidence to support the proposition.

  46. M’art
    “all lawbreakers regard the punishments for their transgressions as unfair and/or unjust.”
    Not true. Many lawbreakers understand the consequences and uncertainty of their actions. Many (I think all true) Christians recognize and accept the sinful nature of man and take full responsibility when they break their God’s laws.
    What you are doing is replacing your perception of what your god wants with your perception of your god’s absolute infallibility. What you are not doing is adequately refuting the information and arguments presented before you – not liking god is a crime against god’s pride and nothing else. Blasphemy, in truth, is a victimless crime, but even if god did exist, he would be expected to be ‘big’ enough to handle a bit of disrespect without unleashing hellfire and damnation, literally. Even I can overlook some unruly kids or insubordinate employees. I never claimed to be perfect.
    Believers do have this worked out: Flock and mewl with the other sheep according to the dictates of the clergy who are herding you.

    ps. You can trash that Christian nation propaganda too. Our laws directly defy the first commandment (freedom of religion), the second commandment (Blasphemy), the other second commandment (idolatry), the third commandment (sabbath), and civil laws has no reference to the fourth commandment (honoring parents), the 6th commandment (adultery), and the ninth and tenth Catholic commandments (coveting). What you might be thinking of are lying, cheating, and stealing (just 3 of10), which are hardly complicated concepts of morality. Those were thought up long before the first tribesman started a religion based on the nation of Israel.

  47. Jason,

    Understanding a consequence and believing one is justifiably subject to it are two different things. How many lawbreakers willingly, eagerly and knowingly break the law and when convicted of having done so agree that their punishment is justified? Very few if any, as most who break laws have already justified in breaking the law. Thus, if they are justified in breaking a law, it would be unjust to exact punishment upon them. Are you aware of anyone who, upon conviction, insist on the most severe punishment dictated by law, or the least severe? It certainly isn’t commonplace.

    Most Christians understand their OWN sinful natures and accept Christ as their Savior Who has already suffered the consequences of THEIR sinful behaviors, should their resolve weaken and they give in to temptations.

    I don’t understand this statement:

    “What you are doing is replacing your perception of what your god wants with your perception of your god’s absolute infallibility.”

    What God wants is made crystal clear in Scripture. What God is (infallible) is also quite clear. There is no reason for me to conflate or confuse the two as I am quite clear on the distinction.

    From there you go on to make some poor assumptions. First, as regards the crack about God’s “pride”, you must first consider that we are here because of Him. He brought us into existence and did so in order that we worship Him by choice, recognizing that He IS the reason for our existence and thus is worthy of that devotion. Accept Him or don’t, it’s your choice. But you can’t then blame Him for the consequences of choosing poorly, especially in light of how much available info there is regarding those consequences.

    Next, you presume that you have any right to have any expectations at all regarding the behavior of a supreme creator of all things. In other words, where do you get off? This is just a bit more than simple disrespect. That is manifested in every sinful act. But what you’re talking about is far worse. Your kid breaks a rule of your house and that’s just the nature of kids, as succumbing to temptation is the nature of all mankind. But if your kid rejects you as a father, pretending you don’t exist (or that he has no father, least of all, you), he’s done far worse than simply not taking out the garbage. You’ve become nothing to him. I doubt you would not cast him out of your garden of Eden should he regard himself as more than you in your own home(creation).

    Sidebar: At least you’re right about not claiming to be perfect. But God is. You just don’t think He’s perfect according to your own tastes.

    Sidebar: Believers aren’t sheep of the clergy, but of Jesus’ flock. Big difference and what we do is based on what HE has taught, not what clergy wants (unless clergy wants that we follow Jesus’ teachings). In the meantime, you certainly are led by the nose according to the dictates of atheist thinking and naturalist interpretations of scientific data.

    Finally, you have a poor understanding of what makes this a Christian nation. Aside from the 80% or more who profess some level of belief in the Judeo-Christian religions, the founders devised a governmental system that aligns, not with Biblical law, but with Biblical principles of liberty or free will. Both Christianity and the USA allow for free will with our behavior bringing forth consequences. So you can trash that “we’re not a Christian nation” nonsense. Of course we are. It’s simply a case that fewer people want it to be.

  48. to paraphrase M’Art: “the founders devised a governmental system that aligns, not with Biblical law, but with Biblical principles of liberty or free will. Where do you get off? you presume that you have any right to have any expectations at all regarding the behavior of a supreme creator of all things.”
    In the US, we have liberty and free will. There are consequences for things that you are NOT free to do. In the Bible, you have free will so long as you use it only in accordance with what God wants. That’s neither free nor just. In the Bible, you’re expected to follow your master without question. I hope you can see how blind, unquestioning obedience is different than liberty and free will. It’s a good thing the US isn’t founded on Biblical principles.

    I like the idea of the father-son concept. I use it all the time. If my child claimed I didn’t exist to everyone he saw, stopping only occasionally to denounce me as a tyrant, I might be sad, but I wouldn’t punish him. He would either be a good and loving person or not. If he was perfectly nice to everyone except me, then I would lament the loss of my son and wonder if maybe I didn’t have some growing to do.The last thing I would do is beat him until he loved me. That’s ludicrous, and it’s exactly what the God of the Bible does (except that you are torture with no hope of redemption if you don’t repent soon enough).

  49. Jason,

    You have not made any distinction here. There are consequences for things that you are NOT free to do under civil law and under God. But you insist on pretending there is a difference in other than degrees. Even by your version, liberty and free will is limited in both areas.

    And in both cases, the comparison to the laws of our country and the comparison to the father-son relationship, there obviously are limits to the comparison and they are not precise. How can they be? They are only similar, not exact duplicates, so your rejection of my comparisons are based on an irrational demand that they MUST be exact to work.

    As to the father-son, it is the same with God. He is saddened by your rejection of Him, still loves you and would rather that you not perish. But justice requires it. If your son rejected you in the same way, you would indeed have a problem if it did not alter your living arrangements with him. You, like God, would welcome his return. But you would not welcome it on HIS terms or you would be a poor father indeed. The comparison is not in how the child lives, but in how the child relates to the father (the person to God). AND, the consequences of his (your) rejection is not a matter of being beaten until you come around. The consequences are the result of your never having done so. I, too, would not beat my child if the child continued to reject me. But the child would not be welcomed should the child insist on maintaining that lack of respect.

    We are given the choice of redemption, but it must come within the time we are allotted. This, too, matches the real world in that the child’s rejection must be addressed while both of you still live.

    Part of the problem here is the idea of hell, which is never truly fleshed out in Scripture. The main issue is eternal separation and there are those who maintain that this is the true punishment and not so much eternal hellfire. I don’t know. Jesus pretty much just says, “Take my word for it. Choose life.” But if we assume this is the case, then the father-son comparison works even better. Imagine rejecting your father. You live an otherwise exemplary life, but due to your rejection of your father, you are no longer permitted to enter his house. You are aware of what goes on inside and all those family and friends who still abide the rules of his house and accept his friendship and authority can be seen enjoying his hospitality. You must stay outside unable to join in never to experience what no other place can provide. While you live, you have the ability to come to your father and resolve your differences and then come to enjoy his love and welcome. If either of you die before that happens, you will never have the chance.

    This is how you must think of this relationship between us and God. If there is anyone being unreasonable, it is you, not Him. Justice does not allow for the unruly being treated as the abiding. Our life is what is finite. Our choices carry eternal consequences. The consequences are known up front. Choose.

  50. M’Art, Ok. So we’re getting somewhere. You reject the eternal torture concept of hell. That certainly makes your view of religion more humane/ethical than the hellfire and brimstone sort. And it’s certainly appropriate for those of us who would reject the teacher’s pet option anyway.
    Hitch’s arrival: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDaYR-VUL_k
    I still think it’s unfair to close the gates forever without any hope of redemption after death. Providing logic, science, other religions, myriad interpretations, and bad scripture to confuse the matter also doesn’t seem fair either. But I say “unfair” not “unjust.” It’s like the lottery. The odds are stacked against and you miss out on the upside but there’s really no downside. The lottery commission doesn’t boil you alive if your numbers are wrong. If some powerful being can provide special afterlife given certain conditions, then he can set random or challenging rules for the game.
    I’d rather live a good life than roll the dice for a very uncertain afterlife. But I’m glad we can agree that a god both powerful and good wouldn’t torture people forever.

  51. Marshall Art says:

    That depends on what for you constitutes torture. This came up in the debate over waterboarding. But I never rejected anything regarding what hell is like. I only suggested possibilities because we lack info. As I said, the most important thing is Jesus saying, “Choose life” and if He warns, I don’t need to know the details of what might be. More later. Gotta go.

  52. You’re letting an imaginary character you’ve never met do your thinking for you, including your moral thinking. That’s a problem. Try not to do any inquisitions or crusades.

  53. Marshall Art says:

    Well, Jason. I’ll take your comment in the spirit I’m hoping it was given and respond thusly: A greater concern and far more problematic is who is doing your thinking for you?

    But let’s have it: what about my moral thinking strikes you as askew? Keep in mind, BTW, that Jesus preaches a way of life. MY thinking determined that it was the best course for a number of reasons and is so regardless of how I might view Him, be He truly the Son of God, just a man or as you ignorantly suggest, an imaginary character (I use “ignorant” out of kindness as there are no credible scholars, theist or atheist, that would suggest Jesus was “imaginary”.) Christian teachings on living and morality, if adopted by more people, including atheists, would improve a host of issues that plague our culture.

    One more thing, how many people, scientists, teachers, whatever have influenced your way of thinking without ever having met them, since whether or not you’ve met them seems to matter to you? It’s hardly a new concept for one to be influenced by another no longer walking the earth. Do you need direct contact in order to understand their positions? Once again, I’d be more concerned with who does YOUR thinking for you if I was so unfortunate as to be you.

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