Thursday, May 24, 2007

Christianity vs. Wagerism Part II: The Gift of Reason

I have laid out the origins of Wagerism, which is not a religion it’s just my own personal way of looking at the world based on the observations from the time I’ve been able to enjoy here. I fully admit that I’m making this up as I go along. I hope I’ve established how this differs from the origins of Christianity which was made up by a whole bunch of people over thousands of years, translated multiple times, and claims to be divinely inspired but with any skeptical inspection appears to be made up too. My writing is not inspired by the Holy Spirit because I have cheerfully committed the unforgivable sin and deny the Holy Ghost.

I would like to address the way I make my decisions. There is an economic concept called utility that varies from person to person. I try to maximize my personal utility while not taking away utility available to the world or my family, friends, co-workers, etc. My perfect day, utility wise, may not look like your perfect day. That’s OK so long as your perfect day, utility wise, doesn’t interfere with my utility. Still with me? Maximizing utility and making good decisions™ is difficult. A lot of thought goes into the bigger decisions and there is a huge burden to being wrong.

For every big decision; I have to really think of how much utility I would get from other options (opportunity costs), how my decision is going to affect other people, the opportunities that this decision will create, etc. Being in charge of your own life may be empowering, but it’s also exhausting!

Hypothetically, what if I got a great job opportunity in Chicago? I’d have to really think about it because it would have a huge impact on my wife and her family. Before even bringing it up with her, I’d have to make sure it was something that would benefit our family and would be good for both of us.

If I decided this is something I really wanted and the opportunity was so good that it would have to be at least considered, I would bring it up to my wife. My wife may disagree with me. Her concept of maximizing utility may be way out of line with mine in this case. This decision to move or not could be the most significant decision that we will face for years. All other decisions will be a result of this decision. The pressure!

I write a lot about the need to rely on oneself, but sometimes it really helps to talk to someone. I might call up The Kiwi to chat over a pitcher of Mac and Jack’s. I would not ask The Kiwi to make my decision for me, but he could certainly help me understand my wife’s reluctance and also understand how difficult the decision may be for me as a married guy. Even after one or more pitchers were consumed, I doubt any resolution would come from my conversation with The Kiwi, but undoubtedly some good would come of it. My understanding of the decision that I will need to make will be expanded and I will have a different viewpoint on the pros and cons of the decision.

During the decision making timeframe, my wife may also contact The Kiwi. The Kiwi is her friend too. They may eat lunch together and discuss the decision. The Kiwi may help her to understand my position.

After we both talked to The Kiwi independently, I may reference something The Kiwi said. My wife may then be startled and say, “Really? Because when I talked to The Kiwi, he said the exact opposite.” If our decision was going to be heavily influenced by advice provided by the neutral Kiwi, we could suspend our conversation and consult him together. All we would have to do is provide an offering of a case of Redhook and The Kiwi would gladly talk to us both and help us analyze this decision.

That’s how difficult decision making that affects the family looks under Wagerism. Wagerists may find themselves in a position where consulting trusted advisors becomes necessary to help broaden the perspective of a decision. That’s what making good decisions™ is all about. As much as I am a rugged individualist, consulting with other people on important decisions can be incredibly useful.

What if, I wasn’t a Wagerist? What if instead, I had an invisible friend that I like to talk to and I named this invisible friend Jesus? I bet I could talk to my invisible friend Jesus and get some pretty good advice. Jesus’s advice would probably side with me, since he is, after all, my invisible friend. It would be hard for Jesus to be neutral or to understand my wife’s side of the argument.

What if my wife also had an invisible friend and she named her invisible friend Jesus? What if my wife talked to her Jesus about our decision? In all likelihood, her Jesus would give her a different answer than my Jesus. Too bad our Jesuses can’t come to us in the physical world and listen to us together. Basing our decision off of the advice provided by our invisible friends named Jesus is not a good way to go about making decisions.

Sometimes, invisible friends named Jesus provide good advice. President Bush’s invisible friend named Jesus told him to stop drinking. That’s good!

Sometimes, invisible friends named Jesus provide bad advice. President Bush’s invisible friend named Jesus told him to invade Iraq. That’s bad!

When it comes to the Gift of Reason, Wagerists realize the importance of their decisions and try as hard as possible to make good decisions™ that will provide the most benefit to the world around them, their families, and finally themselves. On really difficult decisions, sometimes Wagerists may find that they need to talk to their friends and family to help understand all aspects of the decisions they may need to make. Finally, Wagerists feel that consulting invisible friends does not help in the decision making process and instead provides a disingenuous rationalization for doing what they wanted to do in the first place.

84 comments:

zilch said...

Sounds like a pretty "utilitarian" philosophy, AW. A couple of questions come to mind, however:

If you have a trademark on good decisions™, does that mean I have to pay you royalties to make good decisions™ myself?

Jesus telling Bush to invade Iraq was bad, I'll agree. But while Jesus telling Bush to stop drinking might well have been good for Bush, it might have been better for many of the rest of us, especially lots of Iraqis, if Jesus hadn't told him to stop. Why? Because if Bush had kept drinking he might well not have been elected President, and whoever would have been elected might well not have decided to invade Iraq.

So from the Wagerist point of view, the utility of Bush not drinking is pretty complicated. Like lots of other utilitarian decisions.

MasterJediDan said...

You can go on and on about "how bad a president bush is", and you can all whine all you want. Quit whining, this happens to every president who has carried out a war. What's really funny though is that the approval rating for congress (whose majority is Democrats) is actually lower than the approval rating for Bush.

http://www.galluppoll.com/content/?ci=27589

Atheistwager said...

@zilch
Feel free to make good decisions (tm) without paying royalties. If you say, "I base my life on making good decisions (tm)." then please send me a dollar.

robustyoungsoul said...

@MJD

You are using Congress as a straw man in this context.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

robustyoungsoul said...

@MJD

I neglected to mention that you are also using an Appeal to Tradition.

Apologies for the double comment.

Atheistwager said...

@MJD
You are missing the point completely. Like President Bush, don't like President Bush - I don't care. I also don't care whether you think invading Iraq was a good idea or not.

The point of bringing Mr. Bush into this point was to demonstrate how the current President of the United States has a relationship with an invisible friend who tells him to do things. Mr. Bush's decisions are guided by the input provided by his invisible friend. Knowing how much influence the decisions our current president makes effects just about everyone on the planet, are you comfortable with this decision making process???

MasterJediDan said...

@ RobustYoungSoul

Quit making excuses and own up to the facts.

@ Atheistwager

My comment was directed at Zilch, not really your post. Yes, I know, you're "freaked out" that Bush is talking to an "invisible person" who is telling him to invade Iraq. The greatest presidents of nation were Christians. Presidents such as Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson were Christians who are considered among the greatest presidents ever. What if in 30 years it is discovered that the Iraqi's did have WMD's and they simply did a very good job of hiding them (or taking them out of Iraq)? Only the future will tell.

Atheistwager said...

@MJD
Your lack of knowledge of history is quite disturbing. Jefferson, for starters, was a deist. Deists were about as close as one could be to being an atheist without being tarred and feathered 200 years ago. Mr. Jefferson went so far as to edit the Bible taking out EVERY piece of the supernatural. While he believed that Jesus was a great philosopher, he did not believe that Jesus was the savior or that he was born of a virgin. Do a tiny bit of research and you will see that I'm right. Start at Google or Wikipedia.

Molly said...

@MGD

Washington wasn't a Christian either. Historian Paul F. Boller who wrote a book about Washington, said in his book "There is no mention of Jesus Christ anywhere in his extensive correspondence." Lincoln also wasn't a Christian.

I agree with Wager, before you post next time, Google it and make sure you're accurate.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Atheistwager

Ok, maybe Jefferson wasn't completely a Christian, but the Declaration of Independence certainly has Christian values.

@ Molly

George Washington wasn't a Christian. Yeah, right. Just because some random historian decides to come along and say that "George Washington wasn't a Christian" doesn't mean a thing to me. He and a lot of our founding fathers were Christians. Our country was founded on Christian values. The president is sworn in by taking the oath of office while they have their hand on the Bible. Every U.S. coin out there says "IN GOD WE TRUST". In the pledge of allegiance it's "one nation under God". And to tell me that Lincoln wasn't a Christian? That's a bunch of BS. My first job was spent proofreading a newspaper from 1861 to 1864 (every single page of every weekly issue). Here's the site: http://www.sonofthesouth.net . Everything Abraham Lincoln did showed that he was a Christian. BTW, I usually don't put too much faith in Wikipedia because anyone can edit it, but I still do my research.

Wil said...
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Wil said...

@MJD
"Our country was founded on Christian values."
Those being?

"Everything Abraham Lincoln did showed that he was a Christian."
Examples?

Miracle said...

@MJD

stop.. please, while you are only a little behind. As a fellow follower I urge you, because this isn't an argument that you will win.

@aw
I really do like your philosophy on life, but the idea of reason is not exclusive to atheists. As a follower of Jesus, I need to discern if what I am hearing is something that goes with Jesus' philosophy or something that I made up with my imaginery friend Jesus. Whether it is over drinks with a good friend, in an argument with my wife, or silently in prayer, I need to reason out the best choice.

Bush listened to Jesus when he stopped drinking, because he was able to discern his situation and what Jesus would teach.
Bush listened to his imaginery friend Jesus when he invaded Iraq because he did not discern his thoughts with what Jesus would teach.

good point about the imaginery Jesus.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Wil

Christian values, such as the right to life, freedom, a fair trial, the freedom of speech, and the FIRST Amendment: no law shall be made concerning religion.

Abraham Lincoln showed his faith in many ways. He often prayed for the nation, read his Bible, and referred to the God of the Bible in many of his speeches. He also used Christian morals to guide his presidency, which certainly wasn't easy considering that the nation was split in two.

Wil said...

"Christian values, such as the right to life, freedom, a fair trial, the freedom of speech, and the FIRST Amendment: no law shall be made concerning religion."

It's probably best you don't consider them "Christian values/morals" anymore. They're humane morals shared by many people of different cultures, races, religions, and individuality. These morals pre-exist Christianity, and thus are not Christian in origin. It's like saying Canadian values/morals.

zilch said...

@ mjd- so pointing out bad decisions made by Bush, that have led to great loss of life and an increase in world terrorism, is "whining"?

Do you remember the Vietnam War? I doubt it. I do- fifty thousand Americans, and an unknown number in the millions of Vietnamese, died in that piece of colossal stupidity. Was it also "whining" to protest the Vietnam War?

Of course, the war in Iraq is quite a different situation than in Vietnam. But it's just as stupid, and potentially more dangerous. The US, bogged down in a guerilla war in Iraq, now doesn't have the military resources, or the diplomatic influence, to do much about the keg of dynamite they've helped ignite in the Middle East. Iran is especially worrying, what with their imminent ability to deploy real (as opposed to imaginary) WMDs.

As far as America being guided by Christian values goes, others here have answered well. Whether former Presidents were Christians or not is impossible to say: what exactly is the line between a Deist and a Christian? Are Mormons Christians? Episcopalians?

Lincoln was a very complex person, and for every quote you can find that makes him sound like a Christian, you can find another where he sounds more like a freethinker. As Lucas E. Morel writes, "Lincoln's perplexing piety comprised a fiercely independent admixture of Enlightenment rationalism and Calvinist fatalism." His favorite reading, by all accounts, was Shakespeare- he loved Macbeth, and his secretary John Hay recorded in his diary that he fell asleep in the Soldier's Home while listening to Lincoln recite Shakespeare. By the way, a curious coincidence: Lincoln and Darwin were born on the same day, February 12, 1809.

You say:

"Christian values, such as the right to life, freedom, a fair trial, the freedom of speech, and the FIRST Amendment: no law shall be made concerning religion."

As wil said, these values are found in other religions and philosophies as well. I'd also be curious where you find these values spelled out in the Bible. For instance, slavery was condoned in the Good Book- what do you mean by "freedom"? And I find it particularly ironic that you should mention the First Amendment, since those Americans most active in eroding the separation of Church and State are Christians, for instance in the attempts to get Creationism into science classes in public schools.

kitty said...

It's interesting to me - I'm not an american so I've never learnt any "American History" but as I understand it the founding fathers went to America to escape religious persecution in the UK.

So America was having freedom of (and freedom from!) religion when over here... not so much.

But today, there seems to be all this argument over whether or not America is, was a "christian nation". The evidence seems to point to "no" but as with evolution there are plenty of people who will try and twist it the other way (incidentally, here is your transitional species). Over here it's more like, we know we were a christian nation, and the people running the joint were christians - as was pretty much everyone. But we're moving away from that much more rapidly.

But the Bush-Blair combo? Embarrassment for all of us. They both took popularity and anihilated it though, so at least it will soon be over!

And MGD I think you're maybe missing the point about the WMD. There was a conflict between the US (and later the UK) and some section of the muslim faith. The way to show that Islam and the rest of the world can co-exist is probably not by declaring war on another country (than produced the suicide bombers).

robustyoungsoul said...

@MJD

I'm not trying to insult you or anything, I'm all for a healthy dialog. I'm just pointing out logical fallacies in your argument.

For a discussion to have any value, folks need to be able to recognize these things, yourself included. That's all.

To review, you made 2 arguments.

1) Every president who has carried out a war gets called a bad president.

2) The approval rating for congress is lower than the president.

In your first argument, you are using what as known as "Appeal to Tradition", or perhaps more accurately "Appeal to Common Practice." In other words:

- X is a common action.
- Therefore X must be justifiable, reasonable, etc.

Much like you'll hear some folks say that Nixon didn't do anything any other president did (he just got caught), it doesn't mean that it is okay to wiretap the offices of an opposing political party.

Keep in mind I'm not saying Nixon was a good or bad president, merely that the notion of "everybody does it therefore it's okay" is a logical fallacy.

On to argument two, this is the type of argument you utilized in a previous comment regarding Islam in an attempt to defend Christianity.

Straw man fallacy, in short:

- Person A has position X.
- Person B presents position Y.
- Person B attacks position Y.
- Therefore X is false/invalid.

In other words, pointing out that Congressional approval ratings are low does not prove anything about the president.

I hope this doesn't come across as obnoxious, just trying to point out the flaw in your reasoning on those points only.

MasterJediDan said...

@ RobustYoungSoul

Thank you for clearing that up. :)

@ Everyone else

I agree with Kitty, England was a Christian nation. So was America. But we're at the point that we can no longer say that about either country.

America may become a Christian nation again in the future though, because of one small fact: abortion. The liberals are killing themselves off. The very thing that liberals fight for is destroying them, it's sad. Just something to think about.

Warren said...

@MJD

"America may become a Christian nation again in the future though, because of one small fact: abortion. The liberals are killing themselves off. The very thing that liberals fight for is destroying them, it's sad. Just something to think about."

This is hands down one of the most ignorant things I've ever read. It seems to me that you're suggesting that every liberal woman in America aborts every pregnancy she has. It is just blatantly ignorant. And even though I'm replying to it seriously do you have to bring up abortion in every single comment thread, it's really never been the topic of AW's posts and yet it always comes out.

Also in regards to the "In God We Trust" on our money and "One Nation Under God" in the pledge of allegiance, In God we trust was added to our money in 1957 and the pledge was altered to include under god in 1954. Neither of these moves was made to make us a more Christian nation but rather to make it clear that we were separated from those godless communists who we hated and feared so vehemently st the time.

Lastly I don't know if you've ever read the Treaty of Tripoli but seeing as it was approved by one of our founding fathers it might shed some light on your "Christian Nation theory" check out article 11. http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/treaty_tripoli.html

Ilja said...

@ MJD

Why is it so important to you to live in a Christian-dominated country? To clear that up, a Christian is somebody who would answer 'yes' to all of the following questions:

• Do you believe in the holy ghost?
• Do you believe that the world was created by god in a week?
• Do you take every single letter in the bible for absolute truth?
• Do you believe in Jesus of Nazareth and every word written about him in the bible (walking on water, crucifixion + resurrection, never having sexual encounters with a woman until the age of 33, and afterwards anyway)?

That makes a Christian, nothing more, some of these point are in fact redundant. The so-called 'Christian values' are, as already has been stated, common-place morals, ethics, that the Christian religion cannot take credit for because they existed before it (they wouldn't be able to patent them due to them existing in prior art). You don't need to be a Christian to be a kind person, while being a Christian doesn't say anything about your human qualities. For example, Hitler was a Christian.

Isn't it enough to live among people who treat each other kindly and politely, regardless of their beliefs as long as they don't try to force their beliefs onto anyone else? That's actually something that i can only recall Christians doing: Spreading their beliefs like a cancer all over the world. I've never been asked about why not become a Muslim or a Buddhist, but Christian propaganda is all over the place… Can't you just sit still, praise the lord among your fellow sheep and let the others live their lives as they see fit?

Molly said...

@ MGD

First of all, if you were a bit more educated, you would know that Paul Boller is a famous historian who was also a professor of history at Texas Christian University. He wasn't a "random historian." Again, I implore you. Before you post, Google what you're going to say.

Some else already hit on the "In God We Trust" and "One Nation Under God" issue. Neither of those had anything to do with Christianity, they were merely an anti-communist tool.

Further, simply a belief in God doesn't mean that one is a Christian.

Wil said...

@MJD
"America may become a Christian nation again in the future though, because of one small fact: abortion. The liberals are killing themselves off. The very thing that liberals fight for is destroying them, it's sad. Just something to think about."

Wow. I wasn't going to do this, but reading your post again, it's a must...

Bible student said...

@ Ilja

With all due respect, since we treat others kindly and politely, I submit the following.

According to the Bible a Christian is a person who patterns his life after Christ’s example.

(1 Peter 2:21) In fact, to this [course] YOU were called, because even Christ suffered for YOU, leaving YOU a model for YOU to follow his steps closely.

A disciple,

(Acts 11:26b) It thus came about that for a whole year they gathered together with them in the congregation and taught quite a crowd, and it was first in Antioch that the disciples were by divine providence called Christians.

who believes that Christ is “God’s Son,”

(Luke 1:35) In answer the angel said to her (Mary): “Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God’s Son.

and that only through him can one gain God’s favor and eternal life.

(John 14:6) Jesus said to him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

(Ephesians 1:7) By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of [our] trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness.

Every single letter in the bible is absolute truth. God didn’t waste words.

I find it interesting that you call what I do “spreading their beliefs like a cancer” in view of what I heard from a 10 year old girl earlier today. She was overheard helping a schoolmate from a dysfunctional (my word, not hers) family, from the scriptures. It seems the principal didn’t share her beliefs and forbid her to try that again.

What his beliefs are don’t bother me, as long as he doesn't try to force them onto anyone else.

One of the last things that Jesus is recorded saying is at the end of the book of Matthew, And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded YOU. And, look! I am with YOU all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

It’s a command.


My Muslim customer and I have had lengthy conversation. He inviting me to become Muslim and vise versa. Muslim conversion is nothing new. Spike Lee documented it in Malcolm X, which depicts prison conversions.

I hope that clears up your misconceptions.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Wil

That was real funny...what was the point, if I may ask?

@ Warren

I didn't say that every liberal woman has an abortion. I simply said that this is something I have noticed that is going on. Most conservative families (Christian or not) have large families, they usually don't have abortion. I just put it out there as something to think about, not blatantly state that every liberal does it.

Wil said...

@MJD

It was a reference to the term "pig-headed" or otherwise ignorant. It's probably best that the opinions of some politicians not be brought up considering the controversy around them. Bringing me to this gem regarding your modern politics/abortion statement.

john said...

@MJD - you stated;

"America may become a Christian nation again in the future though, because of one small fact: abortion. The liberals are killing themselves off. The very thing that liberals fight for is destroying them"

Really?? -- that is how you see it??

So your plan is to just out birth the other religions an philosophy's.. An with brainwashing your offspring not to think for themselves you will become the major religion on the planet.

Is this your plan?? This makes sense to you??

I agree this is how religions have gained power in the past.. But you think that since liberals are for pro choice, that you will just birth them out of existence?? Have 10 kids, brainwash them to believe as you do.. Within a few generations it will be a Christian nation again??

This is really your worldview?? This is actually how your brain works?? This is really how you see it?? Really??

Well then, I stand by my previous comment about blocking IP's then..

To be frankly honest -- WTF do you have to offer this discussion?? Come on!! Think for 2 seconds!! That is has got to one the most, I would lean towards the term asinine - but will agree with "pigheaded", since it has already already been nicely placed -- with visuals even ;)

There seem to be quite a few inteligent people posting comments to wagers witty an insightful take on the world.. But IMHO, your nonsense only distracts from what might otherwise be a useful exchange of info an ideas -- to just people bashing your nonsense!!

I won't even bother touching your BS about Washington, Jefferson and Abe.. Since they have already been well addressed.

Shouldn't you be in bible study or something.. Don't you have some bible group you can hang out with? And share your visions and how jesus has changed your life stories with..

I would expect that most people reading a clearly atheist blog really have no desire what so ever to read your constant drivel!

So why exactly do you feel the need to spout your gibberish here??

What do you expect to accomplish?? Do you think that telling people that since the xian's will out birth them! This should somehow change their worldview, an that they should now accept your god..

What he must be true! -- since his followers produce more offspring.

I really an truely feel sorry for you.. if this is how you see it.

kitty said...

@MGD

Please don't suggest that "we agree". We don't. England was a christian nation - it is firmly my understanding that America is merely becoming - the addition of text to banknotes and the words "under god" to the pledge of allegiance are relatively recent things.

On the abortion thing - let me just say how little respect for a boy's opinion on that I have. It is easy to be judgmental when it is never going to be your problem. I asked a whole load of questions to you regarding abortion on a previous post - none of which you answered. Now you try and take this cheap shot - because that's what it is - cheap. You'll try and undermine one of the fundamental tenets of sexual equality and for what? A ridiculous premise on the basis of no evidence - the bible itself is probably a more reliable source than that crap. The rate of atheism is rising far more rapidly than the population. The evidence suggests, It's not the birth rate - it's education.

MasterJediDan said...

@ John

I'm a teenager: bear with me. Blocking IP's doesn't really work though, because I can 1. change my IP address and use a static address or 2. take my laptop somewhere else. I'm just trying to see what your worldview is and how much sense it makes. I'm still a long way from having as much knowledge as all of you.

Miracle said...

@ilja

I disagree with your take on Christians.

I don't know if their is a separate being named, "Holy spirit/ghost", but I favor the Holy Spirit which can also be translated Holy breath/wind is God's invisible movement inside this world.

I don't believe in a 7 day creation, but it shouldn't be a crux of any Christian's faith.

I don't take every letter in the Bible as absolute truth. There are inconsistencies, mistranslates, lost texts, errors and I'd be a fool to believe every letter is absolute. Those who do believe this way have a unending logical argument to explain it all. If you can't explain your position in a minute then it just becomes an excuse.

I believe in Jesus of Nazareth. I think we all have too. There really isn't any denying his actual existence. About all the miracles, it would be impossible for me to say if they all were exactly true, misintepreted, turned into lore, from uneducated sources or whatever else. It is simply a mystery and thats ok with me.

The only reason that I call myself a Christian is the same reason the 1st century followers were labelled Christians by outside sources - because they followed the teachings and way of Jesus.

zilch said...
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zilch said...
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Ilja said...

@ Miracle

By that definition, you could call me Christian as well, as i also think the bible is folklore (with miracles as ancient “special effects” to lend its word more supernatural weight, but from the modern perspective, they hurt bible’s credibility a lot), but agree with Jesus’ teachings as far as interactions among humans go. If Jesus from Nazareth was just a mortal human (and i see no reason to believe otherwise) with humanistic ideas way ahead of his time (advices like the one not to beat one’s slaves harder than necessary is still slavery and cruelty from today’s perspective, but it was a step forward from what was practiced at that time), then to make them acceptable by the population, they would have to be adapted to what was common then. In order to do this, it would be wise not to challenge their beliefs, but give them a different perspective, i.e. from “an eye for an eye” to “turn the other cheek”, while leaving the supernatural framework (creation, afterlife, etc.) intact. Even now, with solid evidence against the biblical version of creation (4,5 billions of years vs. ~6000; all life stating from one origin and slowly developing to what there is now, with humans being just another animals species like any other, only with superior cognitive abilities), there are still people bashing science, and setting up an ethic based on reciprocity and common sense with no need for a god would have earned anybody who’d try a violent death in an instant.

But to make somebody follow a set of laws you need to support them with some authority. In the AT, there was god who “personally” dictated the commandments and questioning them would be heresy and denial of god, followed by mob justice. But how do you want to make people follow the teachings of a human if his authority would have to stand against god? A good strategy would be to make him comparable with god by declaring him god’s son. This alone would make many people of that time think twice about his words. And i believe that the early Christians, the evangelists did just that. They wrapped his life into the prophecies found in the AT because they have been waiting for a messiah to bring a change, and here was a man with ground-breaking ideas that would make a change. But, as e.g. Gandhi has also shown many centuries later, god is not a requirement for non-violent coexistence.

And that’s my point. Why believe in some imaginary deity that has never shown itself, if the laws of physics and biology (not yet known at that time) explain much of what’s going on the the universe without the need of god? And if somebody still chooses to believe in god, then they should at least realize, that this doesn’t make them right and everybody else wrong. All they have to support their beliefs is a book, with a long history but no divine qualities: it doesn’t glow in the dark, it’s not fire-proof, it doesn’t read itself aloud when you open it. You can choose to take it for literal truth or not. I do not because my way of thinking leaves no room for blind faith in anything, if it cannot stand the test of rationality. Most of the bible doesn’t to me.

If i were to slap a label on my ethical views, humanism would probably make the race.

Btw, here’s a commentary by Jon Carrol, which fits well into this topic. A nice read.

@ Bible student

“I find it interesting that you call what I do “spreading their beliefs like a cancer” in view of what I heard from a 10 year old girl earlier today. She was overheard helping a schoolmate from a dysfunctional (my word, not hers) family, from the scriptures. It seems the principal didn’t share her beliefs and forbid her to try that again.

What his beliefs are don’t bother me, as long as he doesn't try to force them onto anyone else.”


He’s not forcing his beliefs onto anyone else, but preventing the girl from forcing her beliefs onto her schoolmate. I know, it sounds exaggerated, we are talking about children, who are innocent and for the lack of better judgement and experience accept as truth everything told them by their parents and pass it on to their pals with no ulterior motives. But the principal has to fulfill certain duties, because the law says so, in particular to make sure that in the school the separation of state and religion is upheld. Yes, that’s debatable, they could have gone somewhere else etc.…

But your key mistake is that stopping somebody from doing something does not equal forcing the opposite onto him. It’s not only either “1” or “-1”, there is also “0”. That’s the straw man thing again.

zilch said...
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zilch said...

Sorry for all the blue, everyone. I don't know why that happens- the html is correct and it shows up correctly in the preview. The blog I linked to, by the way, is called "Atheism Sucks!"

Ilja said...

@ zilch

Just a random idea: did you enclose the URL in quotes? Please post the tag as you would enter it, with a space after both opening "<", to make blogger not recognize the tag, like this:

< a href="http://site.com">the site< /a>

zilch said...

@ john- of course, this is AW's blog, so he sets the sandbox rules. My feeling about mjd is that he's throwing a bit of sand around to see what happens. But don't we all do that sometimes? I don't like blogs where people are banned, unless they are simply a pain in the ass and nothing else. An example: Atheism Sucks!, which has the most juvenile in-your-face atheist bashing I've found so far. But although they can dish it out, they can't take it, and my critical posts there simply got deleted. So I deleted the rest of my posts and left. Actually, that blog is so repellent that it almost seems like a parody run by an atheist to make Christians look bad. Not that there aren't equally distasteful atheist sites.

Of course, it's hard to draw the line, but I would cut mjd some slack, especially seeing as he's seeking, and has admitted that he's young and still learning. Just my humble opinion. With luck, maybe we can all learn something here.

@ miracle- again, this might not be the best place to discuss this, but I'll just mention that many historians do deny the actual existence of Jesus- there is no contemporary documentation of Him, and no non-Scriptural documents mention Him until centuries after His death. I myself am agnostic about His existence- too little evidence one way or the other.

Whether Jesus existed or not, however, is not especially important to me. His teachings contain some great lessons, unforgettable stories, and some perplexing and downright strange stuff too. Just like all religious teachings.

@ ilja- nice comment: that pretty well summarizes my position too. The only thing I would add is that it's quite possible that the early Christians were not thinking of a "strategy" when they claimed Jesus was (the son of) God, but that they really believed it. There are all kinds of motivations that come into play when religions are codified, and although there is certainly a good bit of political strategy involved, it's not all there is, nor is it always conscious. Religions are, after all, evolved entities, just as organisms are; what sticks around is what works to propagate the pattern. And the units that make up the pattern can be completely oblivious to how it works, and it can still work nevertheless.

zilch said...

Thanks ilja- that did it. I'd be curious why my url without quotes worked in the preview, though.

zilch said...

P.S. I'm a big fan of Jon Carroll too.

Miracle said...

@ilja

What Jesus did and who Jesus is really is a mystery for us. His ethical teaching were way beyond his time. Then again, he also taught about theological and faith issues. Centuries of distance, difference in cultural linguistics, incorrect understandings of his metaphors, and the pure complexity of his teaching on faith makes it extremely difficult to grasp. Yet, we can't deny the theological side of his ministry.

I think we all [atheists and faithful] need to realize that our way is not flawless and without controversial ideas. I cannot logically prove to you that there is a God just as much you cannot logically prove to me that there isn't one.


@zilch
I heard recently that we have more proof of Jesus' existance that of Caesars Here is a wikipedia article discussing the issue
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus#Jesus_as_myth
Josephus was an ancient historian who wrote on the events taking place in Roman occupied Israel. This collection which contained information about Jesus' crucifixion was written within decades of his death. There are Roman execution records and a few other 1st century documents which talk about him. There are a few scholars who do deny his existence but they aren't even taken serious by most atheist researchers.

I understand if someone does not follow Jesus' teachings, but I cannot take serious anyone whom does not really believe that he existed after all. It is like saying, we never really landed on the moon.

Miracle said...

@ilja

You really made me think about something. I wonder whether someone could be a Christian [in the follower of Jesus' teaching idea] and a different philosophy/faith. i.e. Christian and Buddhist, Christian and Jedi :). I'm not talking universalism because they are different.

zilch said...

@ miracle- of course, we could argue about the historicity of Jesus til the cows come home. And we wouldn't be any more certain of it in the end than the cows are.

I don't know if anyone has taken a poll of scholars, but the Testamonium Flavianum, that part of Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews that mentions Jesus, is widely considered to be inauthentic.

I'm unaware of any Roman reports on Jesus from the first century CE. By the second century, there are some, but they are only reporting secondhand, and Christianity was well under way by then, telling stories about their main man.

For Caesar, there's oodles of documentation from his lifetime, including portraits on coins and vases. I must say, I don't see why people bother to make this ridiculous claim about Jesus being better documented than Caesar. True, by a couple of centuries after their deaths, there were probably more documents with Jesus' name in them than Caesar's, but that doesn't prove anything except that Christianity is an evangelizing religion, and Caesarianity isn't.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Zilch

I don't think a whole religion could have been formed from making up some guy. Besides, we didn't just discover him now. If the people of the first century formed a whole religion from him, then I'm pretty sure he existed. And besides, people had to know about him in order to believe the teachings of the apostles.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Atheistwager

I've been looking around some, and neither you nor the people who did the RRS challenge have committed the unforgivable sin. They took the verse out of context. The unforgivable sin is to attribute the actions of God to satan. Remember, in Mark the Pharisees were saying that Jesus had a demon in him, and that he was using the demon to heal people, cast out demons, etc. So basically they were saying that He was using satan's power to do His miracles, and thus attributing God's actions unto satan. Of course, to commit the unforgivable sin, you'd have to believe in Jesus, satan, and God, meaning that an atheist couldn't really do it...

Bible student said...

echo MasterJD

The other thing is that you have been quite hospitable to those teaching Bible truth. Even arguing against blocking our IP Addresses.

Thanks!

The bunk about an immortal soul, that you are able to able to pass around, is also laughable.

zilch said...

@ mjd- you might be right: perhaps Jesus did exist. As I said, it's hard to say, given the skimpy evidence. But simply because a religion got started doesn't mean that the central figure of its scriptures, god or human, ever necessarily existed.

About the unforgivable sin: a friend of mine in college, who had been raised Jewish but converted to Christianity, talked to God all the time, and argued with Him. She called Him the Devil once, and was then convinced that she had committed the unforgivable sin.

She moved away and I lost touch with her, so I don't know what came of it. Must be pretty depressing to believe that.

kitty said...

@MGD

It's curious how much less suspicious you are of claims made by the religious as opposed to respected scientific theories... if science now has a higher turnover than religion that's a pretty recent development.


@Zilch

I agree - my understanding is that there probably was some radical names Jesus but that doesn't mean he was what christians claim he was. No-one disputed the existence of the Japenese but whether they were in fact descended from the Sun god (or whether the sun god existed) is up for debate. I don't think this is any different!


@Miracle

That is a very loose definition of christian, but still - I'm probably disqualified after playing "shoot, shag or marry" with my friends and saying decisively "shoot jesus" when he was on my list. But you might be interested in Atheists for Jesus which might make one of the world's most prominent atheist a christian by that definition. Hmm...!

zilch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zilch said...

Thanks for the link, kitty. Dawkins seems to be mellowing from his "take no prisoners" atheism, which is most welcome. His books on evolution are great, but I was always a bit put off by his uncompromising "you're with us or you're against us" stance vis-a-vis believers. We're all human, and fundamentalist atheism doesn't soften any hearts. I'd gladly wear an "Atheists for Jesus" T-shirt if I could find one.

@ mjd- I see you've been visiting Atheism Sucks!. There are much nicer Christians out there, as you probably know- one of my personal favorites is .

Miracle said...

@kitty

Maybe the definition is supposed to be simple: follow a teacher - Jesus as best as possible. I don't think it should boil down to a list of beliefs that one must agree upon before they can be a Christian. It just makes it into a club.
The book that changed my view about this - Out of the question.. into the mystery. by Len Sweet.

@zilch
Atheist for Jesus t-shirt.. interesting concept. Want to partner up? :)

kitty said...

@Miracle

I think it's nice that you group more people into "christianity" - I've heard many "christians" say of other (well, it seemed to me) "christians", "oh they're not real/true christians" - it seems that to them "christians" are only those people who agree with them, which seems a bit... bitchy to me.

I tend to see someone as a "christian" if they beleive in Jesus and that there was something special (w.r.t. god) about him, which is maybe slightly less loose than yours but still pretty all encompasing. As an atheist however, whatever I think about it is pretty irrelevent.

I don't mean to offend but I'm curious - you're so well, reasonable, that you seem to be a little agnostic even? Are you not 100% sure... or just not as hell bent on converting the heretics as certain other people? ;-)

Wil said...

In high school (catholic) I was taught that for someone to be a christian, they must believe that Jesus was fully human and fully divine and that he sacrificed himself for humanity's sins.

I have found many skeptics of those who proclaim themselves christian. Dawkins outlines a 7 levels stretching between fundamentalist religiousness(1)->neutral agnostic(4)->fullblown atheism(7). Generally I think more the more educated religious people are, the more towards agnosticism they lie, though it may not be only so far as a (2) or a (3) on the scale as opposed to the (1). A great example being those who are Jewish - some are quite orthodox and practice their faith fundamentally, whereas others may simply believe, but are not so extreme in that belief - cannot read hebrew, don't have a bar mitsvah, etc.

Ilja said...

@ Miracle

“I think we all [atheists and faithful] need to realize that our way is not flawless and without controversial ideas. I cannot logically prove to you that there is a God just as much you cannot logically prove to me that there isn't one.”

That’s a nice statement. Beliefs are a matter of personal choice and free will, everybody is free to make up his own mind. This is why aggressive evangelists are so tiresome, when they think non-believers need help to find their way to the one true religion™…

But i would say that there’s a subtle difference between choosing to believe in a possibly non-existent god and not believing in him. We are born without knowledge about god, and it is natural to remain that way unless something happens to change one’s mind, which is usually the influence of society, people talking about god, and perhaps sooner or later we (most of us) take god for granted. Just like children believe in Santa Clause until their parents tell them the truth, only with god this never happens, because parents aren’t sure themselves or think god exists. In short, we are all naturally born atheists and may later become believers.

I think there is no god because Occam’s Razor tells me that this is the solution with the least unrealistic assumptions to be made, therefore it’s the most probable.

“I wonder whether someone could be a Christian [in the follower of Jesus' teaching idea] and a different philosophy/faith. i.e. Christian and Buddhist, Christian and Jedi :).”

I don’t think so. Both Buddhism (i’m only sure about Zen) and Jedi philosophy are all about learning to use your own potential, and the only way to achieve something is hard work that no one else can do for you. A Christian relies on god’s “assistance”, and you have achieved your goal in life once you’ve accepted Jesus teachings, i.e. you don’t need to “train” day by day in order to improve your understanding of your mind or how to use the force. A Christian+Buddhist would have to do the Buddhist work plus the Christian routine (pray, read the bible) that doesn’t help him achieve his Buddhist goals, and that would not be a wise thing to do, as his advance towards enlightenment would be slowed down.

All three have one thing in common though, which they also share with other ethical schools – humility. This is where the “turn the other cheek” type of Christianity differs from the “an eye for an eye, kill the infidels” type, which is a great plus of the former.

zilch said...

My experience with Christians is that most of them seem to have a clear idea about what makes a Christian, and most of them are sure their idea is right. But as we see, there are many different ideas about what makes a Christian. Of course, the same goes for all religions.

As ilja points out, theism and atheism are not symmetrical opposites: theists make the positive claim that there is a god who has certain attributes, while atheists simply do not believe in any such god.

This is why the claim frequently made by believers that atheism is also a religion is false: as they say, if atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby. Or, if atheism is a religion, then "off" is a television channel.

Miracle said...

@kitty

I've heard it said that one's understanding of God is based closely with their relationship with their dad. I can kind of see it. My biological father died before the age of two and my step-dad was abusive and later a druggie. I do have a hard time feeling the father-like qualities of God, but it doesn't mean that I haven't experienced nor believe in it. It really has only been in the past two years when I have had my own two sons that I really know what being a father truly is.
To answer your question though :), I'm very much driven to getting people to worship God and follow Jesus, I just don't think modern tactics really work. The afterlife is not my main concern so I am willing to converse about the here and now part. With all the sales pitches, Jesus truly has been misadvertized and that is sad. Through the years, I really have been transformed by his message and I am greatly concerned that so many people will never experience it because of some stupid fluffy shit. I have an agenda on here just as much as MJD or Bible Student.

I'm not agnostic but I do have some qualities as I'm sure we all do(should). There is so much that we don't know and it is crazy to come up with theories/beliefs/theologies based on some single bible verse or archaelogical evidence. Theists and atheists really need to re-examine some of their underlying beliefs/evidences and come to the conclusion - we just don't know {if you're atheist insert the word 'yet'). All of the mystery is really inspiring.


@ilja
I understand where you are going with your points, but I think you have made some conclusions that you can't back up for people in general. You say that before society, family, friends informs us with God, it is natural to not believe in God because of lack of evidential support. First, it really depends on how that individual interprets things as evidence or lack of evidence of God. Secondly, I cannot really remember (as I'm sure most can't) before I was influenced by others so there is no way you can say one way is natural or not. It is your personal opinion that the natural way is atheist, but we don't know if its true or not.

With the Razor argument, it is flawed again mainly because of interpretation and lack of evidence. On what grounds can you say God is reasonable/not reasonable? It is my opinion that it is much more reasonable there is something that has always been there than to say in the beginning there was nothing. Really, it is almost circular because that nothing will become the something that was always there which makes God. Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked. The razor theory might be good, but its not perfect. Look at American Idol. Taylor Hicks [my favorite] beat out the stunning Katherine McPhee for the title. If the theory is wrong about something simple then what could it say about bigger issues like God.

Good points about the buddhism :).

MasterJediDan said...

@ Miracle & Ilja

I think you can logically prove a supreme being's existence...please correct me if I'm wrong. According to evolution, the universe either "just was", or it expanded out of something else, etc. According to Christianity, the universe was formed by God. First, scientists have no explanation for the universe's existence. As we have seen, you can't create something from nothing, and something never just appears from nothing, so the universe would have had to be made by a higher authority. Now, God could have been created by another god, who could have been created by another god. The list can go on and on, but eventually there's going to be someone who didn't have a beginning, someone who is all-powerful, omnipotent. You may say that it's impossible for someone to not have a beginning, but numbers have no beginning or end ... and you can grasp that concept.

Molly said...

@ MGD

I find it amusing that you can't believe the universe was just here all along, but you can believe that either god or some mega-god was.

Also, if you can't create something out of nothing, where did this mega-god thing come from?

zilch said...

@ mjd: molly said it- postulating a god (or two, or however many) is no explanation for the origin of something from nothing, because then you still have to explain where the god came from. We simply don't know how the Universe started, or if it did start (there are speculations about quantum fluctuations in nothing producing something, but they remain speculations). Ex nihilo nihil fit, the saying goes: nothing comes from nothing. But in the case of the "something" that Everything (the Universe plus any gods there might be) is, the saying is either

a) wrong, or
b) there was always something, or
c) time itself started at some point, so there was no "before" the origin.

In any case, using a god to explain the creation of the Universe simply complicates the picture without explaining anything. Of course, the standard theist reply is that God is somehow above or beyond the logic that applies to mere matter: He is outside of time, or is the Uncaused Cause, or some such magic.

But this is handwaving and not explaining. It's the mother of all "God of the Gaps" arguments: whenever we don't know the answer, we invoke magic in the form of a Being who is not trammeled by such petty strictures as logic or evidence. That might satisfy some folks, but it doesn't qualify as a proof of the existence of god.

Ilja said...

@ Miracle

I think that if it would be natural to believe in the Christian god, then there would not be so many different religions in the world, or at least they should be all monotheist, but they aren’t. There is an innate curiosity in all of us, that makes us want to know the answers about the world, how it was created, and where we as a species come from. And many of these questions can be answered with an almighty being, or an entire pantheon, just fine. And although such an answer does quench the curiosity, it’s not necessarily correct. It is possible that a child in the modern world would only get the modern answers (to those questions) that were not available centuries ago, and it would never even get the idea of god.

Occam’s Razor reasoning goes like this: I see an uprooted tree and want to find out the cause. One possibility would be a heavy storm, you know they happen and tend to uproot trees sometimes. Another one would be that an alien spaceship has landed there and hit the tree, but there are no marks on the ground because it used anti-gravity suspension instead of a solid landing gear, and it left before someone have noticed it. Occam’s Razor tells, that the second version is less probable because it has to make heavier assumptions (the existence of an alien race capable of building spaceships, anti-gravity tech, etc., all impossible to prove), while the first explanation only uses established facts that can be confirmed by observation. However, the Razor doesn’t rule out the spaceship hypothesis, it just states that it is less probable or preferable. God is less probable because no one has seen him, but modern understanding of the cosmos can give answers to the fundamental questions based on elemental particles, forces etc. that everyone can examine for themselves.


@ MJD

Evolution has nothing to do with the origins of the universe, you are talking about cosmology and astrophysics here. Evolution is about biology, life on Earth, which has started, to our best knowledge, after the universe has already existed for about 9 billions of years. You should have used the word “science” in that context.

Logically proving something doesn’t make it real. Just as you can logically prove the above spaceship and why it has left no marks on the ground. Or that we are living in the Matrix (a short version here). But there is no empirical proof of god, and that is what matters. Not even for Jesus’ existence, and we are talking about only 2000 years here. Sorry, but if you “don't think a whole religion could have been formed from making up some guy”, that doesn’t mean very much without proof. There are other religions that were presumably formed by making up gods, since (as i assume) no one has ever seen Thor or Zeus or Shiva in person, so why not Christianity?

Bible student said...

@ zilch

The sky has looked blue for many years. There is a reason for this. Whether I believe it or not, the sky still looks blue. It looked blue to my grandfather’s grandfather, who didn’t have a good explanation available, as to why. He did not deny that the sky looked blue, he knew what blue meant, the same color as blue jays. Not knowing why these things were, did not allow him to deny that they were.

As a child, I was taught that God has existed forever. There may be an explanation for this, I don‘t know yet, but I‘m still young. Since he is a spirit, I’m not sure that I will ever understand what makes him tick. This does not allow me to deny his existence, in view of the other evidence I have.

@ Ilja

I have read the eyewitness account of someone who has seen God (John 1:18). Not only a brief glimpse, but together for billions of years. They were so close, that a good lawyer made the case that my witness’ personal trait reflect the image of God, as a mirror would (Hebrews 1:3).

We’ve had this conversation before. If it were science, the suffix would be -ology. It’s a belief system. Believe it or not. What matters is how long you will be around to explain your ideas.

Ilja said...

@ BS

The sky is blue because whenever i look up (during a day with no clouds), i see – it’s blue. Where do i have to look to see god?

“This does not allow me to deny his existence, in view of the other evidence I have.”

What evidence?

I’ve read eye-witness accounts of pink elephants flying all over the place, and grey aliens taking over the world. Hallucinations, you say? But John has written down the absolute truth, you say? Hmm, yeah, if i have your and his word on that, then i suppose he’s right…

Sorry if this sounds rude, but without any substantial arguments your are as convincing as a child who believes in Superman. Except the child doesn’t claim that Superman has created the world.

Miracle said...

@molly
a universe where the universe is the original just was is pantheism which Hinduism falls into. The universe has become God.


@ilja
Thanks for explaining the razor theory. I still think denying God's existence is still flawed because it is the more probable. They both need some logical leapfrogging. Then again, I can respect your decision because your interpretation of the evidences says it is this way just as mine says it is the other.

You said if it was natural to believe in the Christian [Jewish and Islam included] God then there wouldn't be so many others. If this is true it doesn't mean atheism is the natural way. The abundance of religions could actually be evidence to say that the natural way is towards God. I still hold that we cannot determine the natural way though. It is a subjective and untestable idea.
I don't think believing in God is a cop-out either. It doesn't provide everything we desire to know in an easy to digest form. There are still so many who's, what's, where's and how's that will come and be present after I have died. One can make God a cop-out, but the same person can make nature one also.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Molly & Zilch

Yes, I know, "where did that god come from?" He could have come from another god, who could have come from another god, who could have come from another god, etc., etc. The list could go on and on. But at some point the list is going to end, resulting in a being who is infinite - never beginning or ending. As I said before, just think of our number system - it's the same characteristic of infinite.


And for the existence of Jesus: as time goes on, it becomes infinitely easier to deny the fact that someone existed. Even Shakespeare's existence is refuted by some people, and look at all the evidence for him. And he's only been gone for about 500 years. It doesn't really come as a surprise that after 2000 years, there isn't much in the way of "evidence" for Jesus. And besides, you allow that the founders for every other religion exist ... why not Jesus?

Ilja said...

@ MJD

Because we are not talking about just another human here, but supposedly the son of god, the supposed creator of the world. If god exists and everything took place as described in Genesis, then we are dealing with a massive force capable of absolutely everything. Do you realize the entire extent of this? I mean, God the Almighty, doesn’t this sound at least awe-inspiring?

If he exists, then why are we having this debate at all? It should be enough to just go out and wait a while, and sooner or later you should see some amazing proof of his omnipotence that would remove all doubt. So, any example you can think of? Me neither.

Molly said...

@MGD
First, why is it easier for you to believe that some mega-god being has infinitely existed than it is for you to believe either the universe has infinitely existed OR that science isn't advanced enough to give us an explanation yet?

Secondly, who said that Jesus never existed? Not me. Stop trying to refocus the argument simply because you can't answer any of our questions.

zilch said...

@ mjd- you say

"But at some point the list is going to end, resulting in a being who is infinite - never beginning or ending."

Or you don't start a list of gods in the first place: just start with the physical universe. You still don't know how it got here, but you don't have to postulate infinite omnipotent beings whose existence you can't explain either. That's what Occam's Razor is all about, as ilja said: the simplest explanation that covers all the facts is to be preferred.

Christianity certainly had founders: those who wrote the Bible were some of them. That says nothing one way or the other about the historicity of Jesus, however.

And if you're still in doubt about the possibility of a religion forming around a figure who quite likely doesn't exist, read about the cargo cults and John Frum.

Bible student said...

@ Ilja

Thank You for proving the Bible correct again. Christians were warned “But a physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know [them], because they are examined spiritually.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) Paul realized that his message was not for everyone. Just an invitation.

Did you notice that I’ve answered your request on the “Christian Origins” page? Your welcome. Again you demand proof, but my efforts seem fruitless. Folks who don't mind Bible truth are more my speed.

Wil said...

@ilja+miracle

I have found that it is human nature to be curious, and to want to know the answers. In our more primitive times (perhaps even modern), that curiosity probably led to theism of both mono and polytheism to explain. For example in many polytheistic cultures such as the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, there are gods for different attributes such as Geb and Nut being the Egyptian gods personifying earth and water respectively. The monotheistic Abrahamic religion probably just saw it in a different way. Why have multiple gods attributing to little things when there could be an all powerful god, more powerful than all other gods. This god created everything.

Those were people's explanations for their questions - god(s) did it. In modern times, and even throughout history for that matter, we have developed a better need for understanding where the explanation of a god doesn't suffice. We want to know how things work, not just where they came from. Ultimately, in some cases this will result in the disbelief of deities.

I suppose my point is that we are naturally atheistic just like all the other animals out there, but are naturally theistic due to our early explanations and our not knowing any better. Teach a chimp to speak a language and you can teach him religion.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Ilja

Perhaps the fact that everything on this earth fits together so perfectly?

Molly said...

@MGD

What fits together so perfectly? We have cancer, hurricanes, earthquakes, and Down Syndrome. None of those things were caused by humans making bad choices either. Either your god was a-ok with tornadoes and tsunamis and Tay-Sachs or the world really doesn't fit together all that well.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Molly

Yes, there is the bad, which, of course, is explained in the Bible, because man sinned death entered the world. But if we were the result of randomness, wouldn't we see a lot more human disorders, diseases, etc.?

Bible student said...

@ Molly

I think it’s you’re god that is OK with all the trouble. This way our God gets blamed.

kitty said...

@Miracle

Well I don't think you're an embarrassment to christianity or the human race... so you must be hiding it well ;-)

I'm not sure about the "god and your father" thing however, I know people who are close to their parents and close to "god", and people who aren't close to their parents but also reject religion. It's like women apparently "marry their father and become their mother" - maybe some do, but not necessarily (more that don't? I wonder).


@MGD

You're latest offering of arguments seem like the age old argument that goes "it it necessary that god exists, there fore he does". I don't understand how that is an argument or "proof" at all - and all I have to say to it is prove your base case, damnit.

If you read up on the current scientific theories about the beginning of the universe they're kinda mind blowing. But even though we don't know for sure yet - and may never - scientists who have spent their entire lives trying to work it out have not yet given up and invoked your "god of the gaps". What makes you think you know better? Knowledge? Proof? Evidence? Or desire - maybe because this world is too scary to you to go it alone.

You need to work out why it is you're arguing for this answer, and seemingly unwilling to critically evaluate the claims you make. If you think you can't do it without "god" - well, that's real sad. But it doesn't make you right.

Bible student said...

@ MasterJD

Their argument is nothing new 3000 years ago the Psalmist wrote under inspiration, The wicked one according to his superciliousness makes no search; All his ideas are: “There is no God.” (Psalm 10:4)

God is quite familiar with those who turn their back on Him. He called his own people Israel stiff-necked, and almost finished them off (Exodus 32:9,10).

Satan told Eve that she would be fine without God and you can check the news tonight for the results. Don’t watch with hope in man, even surrounded by this cast of great thinkers, the best they can do is blame, and call you sad.

Hang in there!

Miracle said...

@MJD

You say that the world fits together perfectly, then when someone mentions natural disaster and biological problems you practically say "duh, its our own fault". Either agree that it doesn't fit together perfectly or not.

@Biblestudent
I think these people on this forum are closer to God than alot of my Christian friends. They are at least searching for the origins at all cost. They are willing to ask the questions that others are afraid.
Israel was stiff-necked because of their own choosing in Exodus. They had it all handed to them on a silver platter, but was selfish and ungrateful. They worshipped other gods because they didn't want to wait any more for Moses. I do not think anyone on this blog is an atheist because they are bored with God. They are doing quite possibly what Israel should've been when Moses left - Questioning and searching. You and MJD really are seeing the landscape wrong. They are in one sense (sorry atheists for this) praying and yet you are throwing missiles at them..

@everyone else
Sorry for the Christian discussion :).

Wil said...

@miracle

Interesting that you'd say that. I take it as a compliment, though I still do not belief :)

zilch said...

@ mjd: you say

"But if we were the result of randomness, wouldn't we see a lot more human disorders, diseases, etc.?"

1) Life is not the result of randomness- you don't get the extreme amounts of order necessary for working organisms purely by chance. One aspect of evolution is random: the mutations of DNA that create different phenotypes (body forms). But what follows is anything but chance: natural selection ensures that, on the average, the forms better suited to survive will live to reproduce.

Please, before you say anything more about evolution being "random", take the time to inform yourself a bit. There's lots of information about evolution out there. Good place to start: TalkOrigins.

2) How much disease, disorder, and evil is "normal"? What's your point of comparison? Is there any reason to believe that there is an "appropriate" amount of "bad" stuff for an atheistic worldview, and a different proportion for a Christian worldview? Not unless you believe that, because you dislike pain and evil, someone must have done something bad so that we deserve to suffer. That's one of the hooks that religion offers us. The other big hook is a place to escape pain and evil. Whether the authors of the Bible thought this out, and cleverly made up these features, or simply saw what worked to motivate people and saw it as the Word of God, there's no knowing. Perhaps it was some of both.

@ bible student- you say

"Their argument is nothing new 3000 years ago the Psalmist wrote under inspiration, The wicked one according to his superciliousness makes no search; All his ideas are: “There is no God.”

In other words, those who do not believe in my religion are wicked, supercilious, and make no search. Not really an argument, just name-calling. This is also a common feature of most religions, and can readily be understood as another self-defense feature of a memeplex, which helps it to survive in the ideosphere. "Believe in me, or you're evil and will go to Hell".

zilch said...

One more point: the Biblical hook, which says "believe in me and spread my Word or you will go to Hell", is of course imbedded in a complex system of rules and stories which make it more convincing.

The bare-bones version of such a hook by itself is a chain mail: "Send this letter on to ten people. Don't break this chain, or you will end up like Fred Doofus, who laughed at me and the next day was creamed by a falling piano".

Naturally, the Bible deserves, and gets, more consideration than a chain mail. But the survival value, the fitness in the ideosphere, of the two hooks, should they happen to fall on fertile ground, is obviously similar.

zilch said...

Btw- for anyone who's interested, I've found an Atheists for Jesus t-shirt, available at Cafe Press. In a clever twist, it says "Atheists for Jesus" on the front, and "Jesus for Atheists" on the back. Wear one and start a conversation! I'm getting me one next time I'm in the States.

Miracle said...

haha

I'm going to buy one to wear to church next sunday.

Bible student said...

@ zilch

It might seem like name calling at first glance, deliberate or not, consider this.

The phrase “according to his superciliousness” is source of the alienation from God. By comparison, wicked. The hook really is "believe in me and spread my Word and you will live forever.”

2 Peter 3:9 says, “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with YOU because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”

We aren’t instructed to make “Rice Christians,” but those that are aware of the deep spiritual things that only a humble attitude will allow. We do want to be God’s servants.

@ All

I’m sorry for the “missiles.”

zilch said...

"The hook really is "believe in me and spread my Word and you will live forever.”"

That's the other prong of the hook, bible student. But that doesn't make the hook real.

@ miracle- I'd like to hear what people in your church say about the "atheists for Jesus" t-shirt. I hope you don't get stoned for being a witch or an idolater.

Miracle said...

@Zilch

I don't think I would wear it just out of respect at my local methodist church. The average attender probably wouldn't see the satire in it. I don't want any of them to have a heart attack :).

On the other hand, another faith community that I am part of would think it is hilarious. The Misfit Church would make it their slogan.

zilch said...

I wouldn't wear one to the local Catholic church here in Vienna either. But I'm sure it would have been cool in the church I used to attend in Berkeley, the University Lutheran Chapel. Gus the minister would have gotten a laugh out of it.