Doubt in and faking of faith, and the need for secular alternatives to religious communities

A reader, postthought, expressed curiosity regarding why so many Americans are religious despite their access to education. She also opined that many of the faithful are faking their faith. Here are some of my quick thoughts on these matters:

I think there are lots of reasons for belief in the US despite education. People receive religious belief and ritual indoctrination from a very young age, years before their ability for effective critical thought comes in. Once this early framework is set in place and has served for years as a framework for forming beliefs and understanding the world (e.g., in terms of right and wrong, what is meaningful and important, social connections, justice), it could understandably be very difficult to question the validity of these beliefs. Then on top of this there is often a lot of social pressure—in many places one risks ostracism by their family and/or community for leaving the faith. The fear of losing one’s grip on reality, meaning, and purpose, losing one’s grip on right and wrong, of having to entertain the notion that justice in this world is by no means assured, and on top of this, the fear of ostracism from one’s family and community could form the most powerful set of reasons for dogmatism. The person risks abandoning much of their most important “knowledge” and social support.

I figure that there probably are a decent proportion of believers that do have some doubt. However, I don’t think that most believers are living a charade. I think that most believers are genuinely committed to their beliefs, even though they have some underlying doubt—however deep down it may be.

But I do figure that there is also a sizeable minority of believers that are putting up a front. I imagine that at least 25% of high-ranking Democrat politicians are full out lying (I’m actually personally inclined to figure the number is far higher than this, but I’ll be conservative for the sake of argument). Roughly 16% of Americans *admit* to being atheists or agnostics according to recent polls. The numbers are known to increase with socioeconomic status. High-ranking politicians are among the highest status people on the planet, and have generally received top rank education.

Given the social pressures of religious communities and the fear of ostracism, I figure that there is probably a sizeable minority of fakers among the faithful. That they are all so afraid to “come out”—and quite understandably so—they generally do not know about each other. Since most members of religious communities and of North American society are genuinely faithful (and the doubtful ones generally keep their lips buttoned), social pressures at the level of the religious community and society as a whole make it socially risky to openly criticize religion.

I think that an important step toward making people more willing to question their faith is the provision of other options for community and the pursuit of happiness and meaning. I would like to eventually help build a community which embraces many of the positive aspects of religion (e.g. supportive community, teaching love and kindness, providing a social forum for the development of wisdom and wellbeing) but which does away with the dogmatism and replaces it with open-minded skepticism and curiosity and intellectual honesty. I would like to see many of the wise developments in buddhist philosophy and practice (but without the faith components), such as mindfulness meditation, teachings such as the danger of investing oneself in externals (e.g., beliefs, possessions, status, others), and so forth. I would also bring in the philosophical and scientific curiosity of the ancient Greeks and modern academia. And of course, there would be community building activities such as social events, charity work, group projects, support groups and so on.

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53 Responses to “Doubt in and faking of faith, and the need for secular alternatives to religious communities”
  1. postthought says:

    Thank you for the feedback. I am frightfully aware and in agreement that religion gets imposed on us at such a young age that we grow up not knowing any better or, better put, any different. It’s the argument I have with my husband every time the subject emerges. I don’t want my children to rely on what I believe to be false…I don’t want to impose any hatred either…I would rather my home be neutral and happy. I do have to tell you, however, that the numbers you gave me are a surprise. I would think that anyone who has taken a science class and has the capability to analyze the evidence put in front of them would be able to rationalize that maybe babies don’t come from trees, stars are not angels, doves are just birds, the sky is not heaven, and under us is the core of the earth and not hell. I was about 14…..;do you mean to tell me that such a small number of people came to the same conclusion? You’re probably right, but doesn’t that make a statement about how far we as humans have really gotten when we can send people to space and religion has to rearrange itself to explain every single scientific finding and disprove it without proof and people actually buy it? People ignore their own intellect and reasoning power to continue something that they themselves have to fight with themselves to believe. I know I sound a bit emotional, but it is what I really feel that is happening. and it does so happen that sometimes I do feel a bit like an outcast in my own home and neighborhood. I don’t engage in religious conversation with people of whom I suspect to be closed-minded (unless it is someone close) but that doesn’t mean that if asked I will say I’m catholic. I also don’t say I’m atheist…I’m just me and I don’t believe in god and I do believe the bible to be just a boring fictional book that mocks our intellect. I try my best to keep an open-mind and I listen to opposing thoughts and I am open to listen to what people try to shamefully pass off as proof but I find it pathetic. I am also going to post a new and personal article about this matter very soon, I haven’t finished it yet. Thanks again for your feedback.

  2. ronbrown says:

    Postthought:
    Here’s a post I think you’ll like: https://theframeproblem.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/finding-meaning-in-wonder-and-well-being-an-ex-fundamentalists-tale/
    It’s the story of an ex-fundamentalist’s finding meaning in wonder and wellbeing. What I think you’ll particularly like is the discussion on the personal and social dangers of internalizing one’s beliefs.

  3. Colin says:

    Some thoughts…

    Perhaps there isn’t really a causal relationship between higher levels of education and faith (I will speak for Classical Christianity only).

    Perhaps there are Christians who have good, rational reasons for what they believe, just as there are atheists who have good rational reasons for what they believe. (I agree that North American evangelicals are frightfully anti-intellectual…but that does not mean that there are not sound reasons for believing, just that evangelicals are intellectually lazy.)

    Perhaps faith is a process that often (but not always) begins in childhood with simplistic stories (like postthought’s description above), but doesn’t stay there, it grows and becomes more and more rooted in evidence.

    Perhaps there are honest, well-educated people who see the tremendous explanatory scope and power that the Christian worldview carries. And that these people also see that a naturalistic worldview has tremendous explanatory scope (it explains a lot of things) but it has very little explanatory power (it is inadequate for the task in that it can’t even get things started).

    Perhaps science and faith (properly understood) are not at odds with each other, but mutually complementary.

    Perhaps faith isn’t blind, but rather active trust based on evidence.

    Perhaps there are people on both sides who are too closely attached to their beliefs that they can’t be objective in their assessments of the evidence.

    Perhaps mockery is not an argument.

    Perhaps the truest sign of an open mind is that it can be changed…can yours? can mine? (says pot to kettle…)

  4. Colin says:

    Perhaps faith requires doubt.

  5. ronbrown says:

    Colin: and how telling it is that the same statements you made for Christianity could be made by believers in witchcraft, Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, and any other ridiculous belief system. Any belief system can appear to be compatible with rationality if you continue to disregard the arguments against it, the fact that it is wrong so often, act as if the relevants parts of the text are those that can be viewed as being consistent (or not inconsistent) with products of rationality.

    No, mockery is not an argument. Mockery is what I do when people continue to hold beliefs for which they cannot provide a rational argument and yet still demand respect for their indefensible beliefs.

    The open and rational mind is one that follows the evidence and can recognize an extraordinary story and realize that it calls for extraordinary evidence.

    And if there are Christians who had good reasons for their beliefs, well they’ve been awful quiet for a real long time.

  6. Colin says:

    You are right Ron, there are sincere adherents in all faith systems and most of those faith systems are incompatible with each other and many are incompatible with how the world really is.

    But the fact that these faith systems are incompatible with each other does not mean that they are ALL false. If they are incompatible with how the world really is, like Hinduism (your cow was not your grandmother…), then yes, they are false.

    If a faith system is compatible with how the world really is, then it is not irrational to believe.

    So the question is whether or not Christianity (properly understood) is compatible with reality.

    I know that you think you have done a good job of showing Christianity to be false, but you have only attacked straw men that don’t even resemble Classical Christianity.

    How did you come to the conclusion that an extraordinary story requires extraordinary evidence?

    Abiogenesis is certainly extraordinary, yet you accept that without any evidence (other than ‘It must have happened that way, because there is no other way’) or any possible mechanism.

    A self-existent universe is extraordinary, yet you (seem to…correct me if I am wrong) accept that despite the evidence to the contrary.

    Christianity, when it is properly understood is certainly defensible.

    At least that is the way I see it.

    Cheers,
    Colin

  7. ronbrown says:

    Colin:

    for the Nth time: I do not claim to know how the universe got here, if it is eternal or not. I make no claims to knowledge because I am rational and honest about the evidence I have.

    As for extraordinary evidence for an extraordinary story: well basically I figure that it is reasonable that if I am to believe a particular story that claims to explain the origin of everything, what happens after death, and morality, then I would like some good evidence for it. Not cherry picked scripture, not arguments from authority or ignorance, not any of the weak forms of “evidence” used for Christianity or other religions.

    Next, how exactly is adam and eve, 6 day creation, virgin birth, rising from the dead, the trinity, an all-knowing all-powerful God existing outside of space and time, the idea that a cow seeing a striped figure will give it striped offspring, and the like at all compatible with reality and reason?

    I have attacked a straw man because that’s what Christianity is: straw. It is weak to the core because it is based on nothing but arguments from ignorance, trust to authority, selective ignorance of Biblical content that contrasts with reality, cherry-picking of Biblical passages that can be read to coincide with actual happenings, and personal experience (where the personal experiences cited are also cited by members of other religions, meditators and drug users).

  8. postthought says:

    Colin:

    I wonder what you would think of a man that still believes and preaches that the world is flat. I am in no way trying to mock you, but merely to point out how I, and only I, see and think about people who still believe in Adam and Eve…and many of the claims that every religious group keep fighting for. You’re perspective on cows as viewed by Hinduism is on the right track….so why can you rationalize about the absurdity of others and not look inside yourself, dissect your beliefs and honestly tell me that it makes any sense? I know it probably makes sense to you, but Things can make sense to an individual any way he or she wants….I can tell myself that the coffee cup that I am holding is really a cat and I can teach my three-year-old this and he can believe it too….but the matter of the fact is that it is a coffee cup and nothing more. You can believe what ever you want, but I believe that belief and fact are antonymous. You can learn facts and know facts but you cannot believe facts. You can only believe belief….and that is a vicious circle of a concept. Belief is the lack of fact.

  9. Colin says:

    Ron,
    The scientific evidence on the fact of the beginning of the universe is well established. The universe began to exist at some point in the past. Based on our best evidence, that event was sometime around 12-14 billion years ago.

    Perhaps this little piece of science is rather uncomfortable for an atheist, so you choose to ignore it.

    For the sake of discussion I will grant you your extraordinary evidence requirement. Do you apply it consistently?

    What extraordinary evidence do you have for abiogenesis?

    Claiming ignorance on the question of whether or not the universe is eternal is extraordinary, what extraordinary evidence do you have to justify your belief?

    postthought:

    I disagree with your assertion that belief and fact are antonymous.

    Granted, belief requires a degree of uncertainty, but beliefs can be properly justified by facts. My belief in God is partially justified by the fact that the universe began to exist sometime in the finite past.

    I agree with you about how we can rationalize pretty much anything. That is why it is important to get the facts straight.

    Have you dissected your beliefs and asked if they make sense? As I asked Ron, does abiogenesis make sense? Does an eternal universe make sense? (an eternal universe is the atheists only option aside from a universe that created itself.)

    Both of you are shackled by your presuppositions.

    Miracles (the virgin birth, creation, etc) don’t make sense if God doesn’t exist, but if he does, then they become sensible.

    Abiogenesis doesn’t make sense whether God exists or not…as an idea it is patently absurd and worthy of ridicule.

  10. postthought says:

    Colin:

    I just want to make something very clear before we continue this very interesting conversation. I do not consider myself to be an atheist nor am I religious, nor do I want to impose my ideas on you. I just want to understand what keeps so many people believing something that is so outdated….If you want to understand more about me, read my last post.

    I am very new to the concept of atheism and the arguments that I have been making are just mine and do not come from anywhere else. I agree with many aspects of atheism but I don’t represent them, I represent myself. So with that said, I will say this: I am not sure exactly how this world began…no one really knows for a fact…it is all theory…but theories are supported by at least some surrounding facts….something that religion has failed to do….in my opinion religion has many holes in their story of creation and many inaccuracies. I know that there are many scientists with wild ideas that they want to prove but that’s irrelevant to me. Even if Darwin’s theory someday is disproved to the point of non-existence (which it might…who knows? we used to think we were the center of the universe) It still won’t make me believe that god created it. I’m just using the process of elimination on this one….there is far too much evidence against it.

  11. ronbrown says:

    Colin:

    A beginning to the universe doesn’t make me uncomfortable in the slightest. I didn’t talk about it because I do not know much about that area of physics. A beginning to the universe does no more for Christianity than it does for any of an infinite range of other potential God or non-God (i.e., nonsentient) explanations. So your statement to postthought that your belief is partially justified by the scientific fact is true to an infinitesemal degree (that is, its truth value is so close to zero that it might as well be zero).

    Evidence for abiogenesis:

    Here is partial evidence:
    1) genetic continuity among species that follows a backward pattern of complex to simple;
    2) knowledge that nonliving matter (including complex carbon-based molecules) pre-existed living matter

    I’m aware that this is incomplete evidence and if you want me to take a stand, fine, I’ll say that I’ll plead agnosticism. I’ve heard some biologists speak of this issue before. The answer to this question will depend on how biological life is defined—what is the minimal constituency of life (is it self-replicating carbon-based systems?). When I plead agnosticism, however, I will lean in the direction of abiogenesis if that’s what most biologists are going with. And this is not because I am simply bowing to their authority, but because I know how science works. Because scientists are highly critical of each other’s work, and because there is a lot of pressure from outside of science to doubt evolution (read: creationists), if the grand majority of scientists are saying that the best explanation we have thus far for the emergence of life is that it emerged from inorganic manner in a nondirected fashion, then I’ll give my ascent to that, though also maintaining fallibilism.

    In response to your claim that abiogenesis doesn’t make sense and is absurd to the point of ridicule, let me point out that this is even more so the case for your God. At least abiogenesis has lots of impartially, rationally and honestly collected (actual) partial evidence. Furthermore, what is more absurd: believing that the most reasonable explanation we currently have is undirected abiogenesis, based on the evidence we have from genetics, the age of the earth, the nature of organic and inorganic matter, etc.; or that life was created by an omnipotent omniscient being that lives outside of space and time, which is associated with a book that has all sorts of inconsistencies, fallacies, was written many years after the supposed “prophet” was said to have been last seen, has been edited, and has numerous cultural competitors (e.g., the Koran, Hindu scripture, etc.) which many people believe in with similarly little evidence. However improbable, nonsensical, absurd or worthy of ridicule you think that non-directed abiogenesis is, if you were honest you’d acknowledge that your theism is orders of magnitude higher on all of these categories.

    My ignorance regarding whether or not the universe is eternal needs no evidence as it was based on ignorance. I admitted that I don’t know. If I said to you that I don’t know what the follow of the American currency is, would you ask me for my evidence as to how I don’t know?

    This is a big thing here. You continually act as if I am holding a particular knowledge position regarding the nature of reality. I’m not. I give my ascent to what the scientific community says is the most reasonable theories we have so far, but I acknowledge readily that all of these ideas could be wrong. The only stance I take is that when someone claims to have absolute knowledge or in your case faith with doubt (though I doubt you have any meaningful doubt), unless they can provide strong evidence for their case I will deem them as being irrational and perhaps delusional in the given domain of discussion. And I do not reserve this simply for issues of religion. I’ll happily apply it elsewhere.

  12. Colin says:

    postthought,

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I agree with you about the beginning of the universe. We can’t know with absolute certainty, but we can follow the evidence that we do have.

    a significant problem with an atheistic worldview is that it cannot account for the evidence that we have that points to an absolute beginning of the universe.

    I know that the likelihood of convincing someone of my view is pretty slim. That being said, I have a very difficult time standing by while people brush theism aside for very poor reasons.

    A proper understanding of Christianity does not fall to the superficial criticisms championed on this blog.

  13. ronbrown says:

    Colin:

    You are ridiculous. You were given so many opportunities to put up good arguments—to the point where I had to put a stop to it because I was wasting waaaaaay too much time on you; same with Mark, the knowledgeable ex-Christian who wrote me privately to tell me that he can’t be bothered to waste his time on you either. So don’t act like the criticisms given here are superficial. If the criticisms given are superficial, it’s because the arguments that you and other Christians have given are extremely weak.

    Next, atheistic worldviews have absolutely no problem regarding the beginning of the universe. We don’t need to prove anything. As an agnostic atheist, I don’t need to give anyone an explanation for anything. All I need to do is show that your explanations are weak. As an agnostic atheist, every bit of science could be disconfirmed tomorrow and I would be completely unaffected. Evolution, Big Bang, the whole shah-bang could all be wrong and that would not mean anything for theism because theism would still be an evidentially vacuous set of stories.

  14. postthought says:

    Here we have a classic example of how not to argue a point. This is not war guys….you both have the right to your perspectives and should both make your points without personal disqualification. There is no need for Atheist bashing or Christian bashing.

    Ron:
    I agree with your take on the validity of the bible and that there is no need to prove that scientists are right in order to disprove creationism. I don’t see how involving your knowledgeable ex-Christian has any relevance to your point, however.

    Calling each other absurd is not a valid point.

    I don’t want to offend either of you…..I am enjoying this discussion and the fact that we can all keep an open mind….and speak freely about a very touchy subject. We don’t have to make the other one agree…but merely state our case and listen to the other’s.

  15. ronbrown says:

    Postthought: I think that your way of viewing this is being influenced by the culture we live in which treats religious belief as special. If Colin believed that martians living below the surface of Stockholm were the authors and controllers of human cognition, or that cupid is the author and controller of love, you would probably not be responding as you just have.

  16. postthought says:

    Well, I disagree. My view is not more influenced by my surroundings than your view is by yours.

    I just don’t think that there is a need for insult from your side or Colin’s in an educated conversation, argument, or debate.

    I think that insulting the point that is being made is one thing and that is fine….because neither you nor I agree with his point…but insulting the person making the point is completely different.

    In any case I don’t think either of you should be treated as special…and I responded as I have exactly because of this…..

    You seem to be very intelligent and to know more about atheism than me but maybe you’re taking this all too personal…

    I apologize if you were offended by my comment.

  17. ronbrown says:

    PT:

    I wasn’t at all offended by your comment.

    The reason I referred to Colin as having acted ridiculous is because quite simply he was being ridiculous. I’ll explain. He claimed that I like to create strawmen of Christianity and not look at the “good” arguments for Christianity. About a month or so back he, Mark and I were having a very similar discussion in which Mark and I addressed the points that *he* made. If he feels that my representation of Christianity is a strawman, then his views are probably made out of a fair amount of straw given that many of the arguments I have addressed are his own. After many many hours spent on this discussion both Mark and I eventually came to the point where we felt we were wasting way too much of our time on this. Depending on this discussion goes, I may choose to once again limit my participation in it because I quite frankly have far better things to do. I will however put up links to the previous discussions so you can read through how they went.

    Whether you observe a discussion here or in the links I put up, you’ll notice that all of Colin’s arguments will fall into one or more of the following categories:
    1) arguments from ignorance: “I don’t know how this could have happened”, “or this just couldn’t have happened by itself, therefore God did it”. e.g., argument from design.
    2) arguments from authority/consensus: e.g., X number of ppl for X number of years believed it so it must be a pretty good idea;
    3) arguments from cherry-picked scripture: He will point to a subset of Biblical passages that seem to jive well with known reality and call it prophecy (even though, to my knowledge the prophecy wasn’t meant to be fortune-telling, but more so about warning what would happen if something else happened). He will skip by the rest of the scripture that either bears no resemblance to reality or is contradicted by it. And he will explain away the parts the Bible clearly got wrong as having been meant to be allegorical.
    4) arguments from personal experience. These fall flat because people of all religions have them and they cannot all be correct. Secular meditators and LSD and mushroom users have them.
    5) arguments from scriptural integrity: he may argue that since the Bible has been relatively well-preserved over time compared to other written works, that it is probably true. I didn’t know that a message is probably true just because people hold onto it for a long time. What if given the rapidly rising Islamic fundamentalist population eventually the world comes to be controlled by Islamic fundamentalists and one of the first acts of these leaders is to destroy all Christian texts. Once the Koran’s age surpasses that of the Bible will it all of a sudden become true of virtue of time-span of scriptural integrity?

    I might have left out a category. We’ll see.

  18. postthought says:

    I’m glad.

    I am not convinced with any of his arguments either or any religious argument for that matter. But it is a hard task to prove the existence of a deity that is simply a figment of the imagination. Christians have a harder time arguing these points…all they have is the numbers to support them and antiquity.

    Still, I’m no preacher of atheism and am not up to the task of converting anyone. I do hope that one day all this won’t make a difference….and think that gradually, the humans of this world will start to discard some of the nonsense.

  19. Colin says:

    Ron,

    I think you are being a little disingenuous in your assessment of my arguments.

    I mentioned the argument from design in passing but never expanded upon it.

    As far as your other points (2-5), I have never made an argument from consensus; it is perfectly legitimate to call the parts of the Bible that are allegorical ‘allegorical’, this is not ‘cherry-picking’; I have never used my personal experience to try to convince you; while I have mentioned some good reasons to believe that the bible is reliable, my argument there had nothing to do with its antiquity.

    The argument that I have expanded upon is the cosmological argument…

    1. Everything that began to exist has a cause for its existence.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence.

    You did not show that either premise is false or that the conclusion does not follow, you seemed to accept the premises and the conclusion but dismissed them out of hand with what amounted to “I don’t like the conclusion, so I will ignore it.” (I am trying to present your views as you stated them, if I fall short, please correct me.)

    It certainly seems that you are willing to follow evidence only if you like that evidence or its conclusion.

    You say… “As an agnostic atheist, I don’t need to give anyone an explanation for anything. All I need to do is show that your explanations are weak.”

    Of course an atheist has to account for the beginning of the universe…the universe began, but according to the atheist’s view, there is no cause for it to begin…extraordinary claims like this need extraordinary evidence…don’t they? (Obviously you do not explicitly affirm the beginning of the universe, but the evidence is there and your view leaves you with no other option in regards to the evidence.)

    Neither you nor Mark posted any reasons to doubt the validity of the cosmological argument itself. So if it stands, then we have taken a huge step away from metaphysical naturalism and towards a transcendent cause for the universe. I know that the cosmological argument in the form above does not ‘prove Christianity’, at best it gets us to deism. Okham’s razor takes care of polytheism as we have no need to multiply causes beyond what is necessary.

    The lack of a sufficient reason for the existence of the universe and the absolute vaccum of evidence or mechanism for abiogenesis are fatal to an atheistic worldview.

    That is why I find your statement that I have not provided any reasons for my belief to be disingenuous. You have not responded to *my* arguments, you have responded to your mischaracterization of my arguments…straw men; add to that your unwillingness to address problems that are fatal to your view (you refuse to account for the beginning of the universe, and your evidence for abiogenesis doesn’t even meet your own standard of ‘extraordinary evidence for an extraordinary claim’, it doesn’t even meet ordinary standards of evidence)…all of a sudden your bluster is shown for what it is.

  20. audaciousman says:

    Atheists, like myself, come upon facts such as the universe having a beginning and think, “hmm, that’s interesting, I wonder how that worked?” Christians, like I used to be, come upon facts such as the universe having a beginning and think, “There being no other explanation given for this as yet, I’m free to say God did it and must encourage the cessation of all investigation beyond that conclusion!”

    The basic difference is that Atheists are honest enough to use the phrase “I don’t know” frequently while Christians, and other theists, lack this quality and must take every opportunity to pretend to have found a reason for their belief. Every other use for the God idea, health issues, origins of humanity, pre-gravity-theory ideas of cosmology, etc., has been replaced by some documented natural process and leaves less and less need for the God idea. Eventually the God idea will die of it’s own uselessness. No worries.

  21. Colin says:

    Audacious…

    Your assertion that Christianity is a science stopper is a red herring. It is easily falsifiable.

    Many of the founders of science itself (Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, Pascal) were all Christian theists.

    Some of the philosophical presuppositions foundational to the study of science include these: the existence of an objectively real world, the comprehensibility of that world, the reliability of sense perception and human rationality, the orderliness and uniformity of nature, and the validity of mathematics and logic. These are all guaranteed by Christian theism and are illegitimately borrowed by naturalism.

    In the words of physicist Paul Davies…
    “science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview”

    And philosopher Alvin Plantinga…
    “Modern science was conceived, and born, and flourished in the matrix of Christian theism. Only liberal doses of self-deception and double-think, I believe, will permit it to flourish in the context of Darwinian naturalism.”

    Other than that, it would be very easy to do a review of scientists at Christian universities to find out how many of them stop at ‘God did it. End of story.’

    Perhaps you already have some examples…

  22. ronbrown says:

    Colin:

    Your argument from the beginning of the universe is so weak it’s like you’re trying to make a weak argument. Wow, the universe had a beginning. So what? That beginning could have been caused by any of an infinite range of causes. The cause could have been nonconscious. I’m not saying it was physical—perhaps there is some 3rd category outside of physical and conscious that humans aren’t aware of. And if the cause was an intelligent cause, it could have been by an infinite number of other intelligences other than the one you subscribe to.

    So no, I didn’t just dismiss your argument out of hand, or because I didn’t like the conclusion. The argument is just garbage for its purposes. It does nothing to argue for your point. The fact that it impresses you is mindboggling.

    Next, for all we know *this* universe had a beginning but it was the creation or offshoot of another parallel universe that was infinite. Has this possibility been discredited? I’m not saying that I believe this to have happened—again, I make no claims as to what actually happened—I’m just saying that for all we know it just might’ve been.

    “Of course an atheist has to account for the beginning of the universe…the universe began, but according to the atheist’s view, there is no cause for it to begin…extraordinary claims like this need extraordinary evidence…don’t they?”

    Um, no, the atheist doesn’t. This reflects, I think, a flaw in the thinking of many religious people: that we have to take a stand on things. When there isn’t sufficient evidence for what happened or how something happened, the rational position is one of agnosticism. I have no idea how this universe started, or if it’s the only universe, so why should I have to take a stance?

    “Neither you nor Mark posted any reasons to doubt the validity of the cosmological argument itself.”—Um, I’m pretty sure I made the exact same points there as I have here. It’s a pretty straight-forward argument that the necessity of a cause does nothing to point toward Christianity at all—there’s no way I would have left that out of my response to you.

    Next, as I have said for abiogenesis: what is more improbable, life coming from nonlife when nonliving matter already contained many complex carbon structures, or a superhero God who is capable of creating all of this just being there?

    I don’t strawman your arguments. And I haven’t avoided them either. I have addressed your cosmological argument before. You’re simply lying or forgetful in saying that I haven’t. And I just replied to abiogenesis a few posts ago. I don’t need to strawman your arguments because your arguments are already made of straw.

  23. postthought says:

    Ron, if I wasn’t married….lol

    You say what I’m thinking….but make it sound so much better….very witty! I wish more people would use their brains the way you display the use of your own.

    Christians and/or religious groups will never win this arguement. We’ll just keep going in circles until they eventually drop out little by little…..pretty much as audaciousman stated.

  24. Colin says:

    There is more to the cosmological argument that directly addresses your criticisms…

    4. If the universe has a cause of its existence, then
    an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists,
    who sans creation is beginningless, changeless,
    immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously
    powerful and intelligent.
    4.1 Argument that the cause of the universe is a
    personal Creator:
    4.11 The universe was brought into being either
    by a mechanically operating set of necessary and
    sufficient conditions or by a personal, free agent.
    4.12 The universe could not have been brought into
    being by a mechanically operating set of necessary
    and sufficient conditions.
    4.13 Therefore, the universe was brought into being
    by a personal, free agent.
    4.2 Argument that the Creator sans creation
    is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial,
    timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and
    intelligent:
    4.21 The Creator is uncaused.
    4.211 An infinite temporal regress of causes cannot
    exist. (2.13, 2.23)
    4.22 The Creator is beginningless.
    4.221 Whatever is uncaused does not begin to
    exist. (1)
    4.23 The Creator is changeless.
    4.231 An infinite temporal regress of changes
    cannot exist. (2.13, 2.23)
    4.24 The Creator is immaterial.
    4.241 Whatever is material involves change on
    the atomic and molecular levels, but the Creator
    is changeless. (4.23)
    4.25 The Creator is timeless.
    4.251 In the complete absence of change, time does
    not exist, and the Creator is changeless. (4.23)
    4.26 The Creator is spaceless.
    4.261 Whatever is immaterial and timeless cannot
    be spatial, and the Creator is immaterial and
    timeless (4.24, 4.25)
    4.27 The Creator is enormously powerful.
    4.271 He brought the universe into being out of
    nothing. (3)
    4.28 The Creator is enormously intelligent.
    4.281 The initial conditions of the universe
    involve incomprehensible fine-tuning that points
    to intelligent design.

    5. Therefore, an uncaused, personal Creator of the
    universe exists, who sans creation is “beginningless,”
    changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and
    enormously powerful and intelligent.

    The arguments above get us far closer to theism than the initial three propositions and they eliminate your points that the cause could be any number of things including your imaginary ‘3rd category.’

    As I said before, Okhams Razor dispatches your ‘infinite number of intelligences’ as we don’t need to posit more causes than necessary, one is enough.

    “Parallel universes”…there is a difference between science and science fiction. We could not possibly detect such a thing, so why would anyone consider it as a possibility?

    Abiogenesis with its lack of any mechanism is far more improbable than the God hypothesis.

    The case for Christianity does not stand or fall on only the cosmological argument…it is a cumulative case based on many different lines of reasoning.

    Perhaps, you aren’t interested in reading about them…if so, I will drop the matter.

    Regards,
    Colin

  25. ronbrown says:

    I’ll get to this most recent response soon. But in the mean time, if anyone else would like to get started on the desconstruction it would be appreciated.

  26. ronbrown says:

    Let me open by saying that the argument has gotten no stronger. I’ll go through it here with my replies in parentheses.

    4. If the universe has a cause of its existence, then
    an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists,
    who sans creation is beginningless, changeless,
    immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously
    powerful and intelligent.
    (There is no reason to reject out of hand that our universe didn’t emerge from another universe which has different properties than ours—perhaps IT is infinite. Again, I’m not saying that this is what happened, but there is no reason to simply reject it or act as if the God theory is better than it)
    4.1 Argument that the cause of the universe is a
    personal Creator:
    4.11 The universe was brought into being either
    by a mechanically operating set of necessary and
    sufficient conditions or by a personal, free agent.
    (Why is this? You’ve given no reason to disqualify a non-physical and non-agentive cause that humans simply haven’t conceived of)
    4.12 The universe could not have been brought into
    being by a mechanically operating set of necessary
    and sufficient conditions.
    4.13 Therefore, the universe was brought into being
    by a personal, free agent.
    (False because of my objections above)
    4.2 Argument that the Creator sans creation
    is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial,
    timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and
    intelligent:
    4.21 The Creator is uncaused. (The creator need not be intelligent/sentient; there could be a 3rd category of cause that humans don’t know of for all we know; further, for all we know the creator of our universe was caused within another pre-existing universe that has different properties than ours—perhaps allowing it to be infinite; we can’t disqualify this possibility)
    4.211 An infinite temporal regress of causes cannot
    exist. (2.13, 2.23) (Oh, but you can simply say that God is not an infinite regress argument because you simply declare that God is causeless and outside of time? Where was your evidence for this again?)
    4.22 The Creator is beginningless. (See my argument against it being uncaused; and recall my point that it needn’t be sentient/intelligent)
    4.221 Whatever is uncaused does not begin to
    exist. (1)
    4.23 The Creator is changeless. (Irrelevant; but why not?)
    4.231 An infinite temporal regress of changes
    cannot exist. (2.13, 2.23) (Again, but God can exist without explanation just because you declare without evidence God to be infinite?)
    4.24 The Creator is immaterial. (maybe it’s a 3rd category entity outside of matter and mind, kind of like how there is life, nonlife, and viruses which have qualities of both but don’t fit neatly into either)
    4.241 Whatever is material involves change on
    the atomic and molecular levels, but the Creator
    is changeless. (4.23) (no evidence for changelessness)
    4.25 The Creator is timeless. (no evidence for this)
    4.251 In the complete absence of change, time does
    not exist, and the Creator is changeless. (4.23) (addressed)
    4.26 The Creator is spaceless. (addressed–no evidence for creator)
    4.261 Whatever is immaterial and timeless cannot
    be spatial, and the Creator is immaterial and
    timeless (4.24, 4.25) (addressed)
    4.27 The Creator is enormously powerful. (evidence?)
    4.271 He brought the universe into being out of
    nothing. (3) (evidence? So a pre-existing mother universe that gave rise to this one cannot exist infinitely but your God can?)
    4.28 The Creator is enormously intelligent. (addressed–where’s the evidence for the creator? Why need the creator be minded rather than of a third category?)
    4.281 The initial conditions of the universe
    involve incomprehensible fine-tuning that points
    to intelligent design. (This is *beyond* ridiculous and you should know better than to bring up this empty argument. Maybe the universe isn’t perfect for us. Maybe we’re suitable for it because, umm, we evolved in it! If the universe were different, maybe we wouldn’t exist but an analogous form of life adapted to it would. Or maybe there would be nothing analogous to our version of life in it. Of the known universe, only the tiniest fraction of it sustains life, to our knowledge. 99% of known species have gone extinct. There have been a number of collosal natural disasters that have wiped out huge proportions of the earth’s life. For all we know there are countless other galaxies with no life in them. Ditto for parallel universes if they existed (again, I’m not saying they do, but I see no reason to disqualify the mere possibility)

    5. Therefore, an uncaused, personal Creator of the
    universe exists, who sans creation is “beginningless,”
    changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and
    enormously powerful and intelligent. (ADDRESSED)

    The arguments above get us far closer to theism than the initial three propositions and they eliminate your points that the cause could be any number of things including your imaginary ‘3rd category.’ (The arguments were weak beyond words and they do nothing for theism, let alone your particular corner of theism; and they do not eliminate my “imaginary ‘3rd category’ any more than they bolster your imaginary God.

    As I said before, Okhams Razor dispatches your ‘infinite number of intelligences’ as we don’t need to posit more causes than necessary, one is enough. (This is ridiculous. How is the proposal of one God with an infinite number of amazing attributes more parsimonious or probable than proposing an infinite number of gods with one amazing attribute each? You’re still invoking just as many assumptions—i.e., that there is a supernatural explanation for an infinite range of phenomena)

    “Parallel universes”…there is a difference between science and science fiction. We could not possibly detect such a thing, so why would anyone consider it as a possibility?
    (“The Christian God”… there is a difference between science and science fiction. We could not possibly detect such a thing, so why would anyone consider it as a possibility?)

    Abiogenesis with its lack of any mechanism is far more improbable than the God hypothesis. (What was the God mechanism again? Oh yeah, you just declared that he doesn’t need one. Yeah, that’s a strong position to hold…)

    Now that I have completely torn down your cherished “good” argument for Christianity, please don’t accuse me of strawmaning Christianity.

  27. Colin says:

    Good try Ron.

    You have already conceded the first three propositions as being true. #1 is obvious, #2 is confirmed by both scientific evidence and philosophical evidence and #3 follows directly from the first two.

    The remaining propositions follow directly from #3.

    Your responses to # 4, #4.11, #4.13, #4.21, #4.24, #4.271, and #4.28 are ALL positing some sort of imaginary cause or parallel universe…based on airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky ‘what ifs’. Most of your remaining comments are based on your imaginary causes and so have no basis in fact. (I can see it already…you will come back with “god is imaginary” or something like it…but I have provided positive evidence for his existence.)

    Read it for yourself, you are the one getting down on theists for positing things on what *you think* is no evidence, and now you do the very same thing by positing imaginary universes. Get a-hold of yourself. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not this silliness.

    It has obviously passed you by that the cosmological argument is *positive evidence* for a creator. You clearly have no problem with the first three propositions. The remainder of the propositions follow directly from #3. You seem to think that they are stand-alone arguments that need to be justified on their own. They are not, the evidence is supplied by the preceding propositions.

    You claim that I have no evidence that God escapes the ‘infinite regress’, when in fact the conclusion that God is uncaused *follows from* the argument and is not assumed by it…I do have positive evidence that God is uncaused.

    You have not torn down anything. You have done the equivalent of positing imaginary fairies deep beneath Stockholm that control human cognition.

  28. ronbrown says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAH
    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Oh Colin. It’s been nice talking to you. You are as dense as a brick. Good luck to you.

  29. ronbrown says:

    To other readers:

    Colin is clearly too dense and indoctrinated to see how ridiculous he is being.

    If anyone else wants to explain to him how his cosmological argument has just been destroyed go for it, but I can’t be bothered trying to push against the brick wall any further.

  30. Mark says:

    Hi Colin,

    Sorry to jump in the middle here, and I admit I haven’t read the whole thread…

    Can you explain to me, because I haven’t been able to follow how you draw the conclusion that if the universe had a cause it must have been a single uncaused personal creator? Why not multiple creators? [ie. do you also say that all the angels/demons/Satan/Jesus/Archangels/etc of your religion were created at time = 0 of the big bang?]

    Also, I’m struggling with understanding how the universe requires a creator, yet the infinitely more complex creator does not require a creator. Are you saying because the creator was uncaused and the universe was caused? How do you know the universe was caused?

    If you are familiar with cosmology, then you will know that the big bang does not mean the cause of the universe nor necessarily the beginning of the universe. Have you read the book ‘The Fabric of the Cosmos’ by Brian Greene?

    Cheers,
    Mark

  31. Colin says:

    Mark,

    A single creator is all that is necessary. Why /not/ a single creator?

    The universe has a cause because it has a beginning, about 15 bil years ago. The beginning of the universe is well established in scientific and philosophical literature.

    The cause of the universe necessarily existed without the universe (otherwise could not have caused it). Something that exists without the universe (all of space, time and matter) must necessarily be immaterial (matter does not exist without the universe), timeless (time does not exist without the universe) and uncaused (an infinite regress of cause and effect cannot exist).

    If the universe began to exist without cause, why don’t we expect to see all sorts of things beginning to exist without cause? Would you be surprised if a horse just began to exist in your living room totally uncaused?

    It is nonsense to talk about things beginning to exist without cause.

    The argument is really quite simple to understand…’ex nihilo nihil fit’…from nothing, nothing comes.

  32. Mark says:

    Hi Colin,

    If I understand you correctly, you are stating that a complex God doesn’t require a cause, and a simpler universe does because matter requires a cause, and God does not require a cause but is the first cause.

    But why couldn’t the universe have existed forever in whatever number of many forms it could have taken? (We just don’t yet know yet what that form was before the rapid expansion of the big bang.) Let’s take a look…

    Where you are incorrect is that matter does not require a cause. Modern physics has shown that some things are uncaused. According to quantum mechanics, subatomic particles like electrons, photons, and positrons come into and go out of existence randomly (but in accord with the Heisenberg uncertainty principles). Quantum electrodynamics reveals that an electron, positron, and photon occasionally emerge spontaneously in a perfect vacuum. A particle produced by a vacuum fluctuation has no cause.

    Do a search in Google for any of these terms: ‘vacuum fluctuations’, ‘zero point energy’, ‘quantum fluctuation’, ‘vacuum energy’. At the most basic level of understanding, I highly recommend you at least read ‘Fabric of the Cosmos’ by Brian Greene, or even at least chapter 7 of the famous ‘A Brief History of Time’ by Stephen Hawking.

    So, it turns out that matter can be uncaused.

    Furthermore, there is no found stipulation in science that states that in a ‘causal chain’ can not be infinite. In other words, having infinite causes is completely possible under many scenarios, both backwards into history, and forwards into time – the universe could continue to exist forever and continue to have infinite causes.

    Here is an infinite causal chain asna example… the formula f(x) = x + 1, where f(x) and x are elements of the set of integers. In this example, f(x) and x have no beginning and no end, yet f(x) is caused by x.

    It seems to me that you are assuming that the universe must have a cause to prove that the universe has a cause. Perhaps the universe itself is an uncaused event like the known uncaused particles, and maybe it exists as part of some larger multiverse. There are may other plausable and scientific explainations for our universe. Here is another… a collapsing star forms a black hole, within which it is compressed to a very dense state. The universe began in a similarly very dense state from which it expands. Is it possible that these are one and the same dense state? That is, is it possible that what is beyond the horizon of a black hole is the beginning of another universe? It is well supported that as you enter a black hole, there is an event horizon which is passed beyond which, from the relativity of the object passing the event horizon, time ceases to exist (again, similar to postulations about the event t=0 for the big bang).

    Colin, I will remind you that I am an ex-Christian. I carried the same appologetics that you carry until I honestly started to look into all of this. Even if you continue your Christian belief (I fully expect it), the Christian appologetics around a first cause (first proposed by the great Roman Catholic philosopher, Thomas Aquinas in the 11th century!), or more modern forms such as ‘the big bang argument’ are not valid as the most plausible or only possible in the face of modern science.

    Instead of quoting a philosopher of antiquity (Parmenides of 5 century BC), why not look to what modern scientists are saying? (http://www.braungardt.com/Physics/Vacuum%20Fluctuation.htm)

    Cheers,
    Mark

  33. Matt says:

    Many of the founders of science itself (Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, Pascal) were all Christian theists.

    It should be pointed out that their beliefs were more a result of the times they lived in. History is full of examples of the persecution faced by people who decided that belief in a supernatural deity, especially one that was the official faith of their home nation, was a load of bunk.

  34. Colin says:

    Thanks Mark,

    I’ll look into it.

    Regards,
    Colin

  35. Colin says:

    Mark,

    A couple of comments before I address your arguments…

    -you made a comment about God being infinitely more complex than the universe. It seems to me that an unembodied mind would actually be very simple compared to the universe. A mind has no physical parts and its properties like rationality, self-consciousness and will are essential to it.

    -it is worth noting that positing an alternate explanation to an hypothesis does nothing to show that the hypothesis or argument itself is false.

    In response to your two arguments…

    1. Matter can be uncaused.

    Comments about quantum physics…

    -QP is a highly speculative branch of science.
    -the mathematical ‘core’ of QP can be interpreted in multiple, equally valid ways. One (or more) interpretation is indeterministic, one (or more) interpretation is deterministic. This means that it is possible to explain quantum events like the one you describe as being caused.
    -using QP as evidence against a creator is possibly over-stating the case that can be made.

    Aside from those comments…if QP is shown to be completely indeterministic and quantum events are totally uncaused, you haven’t really shown anything with respect to the origin of the universe.

    Quantum events, like the one you describe happen within the context of the ‘quantum vacuum’. Most people would understand ‘vacuum’ to mean something similar to ‘nothing’, but that is not the case as the quantum vacuum has very definite properties, which means that the vacuum is very much ‘something’. So you end up not having ‘creation’ ex nihilo at all.

    Without the universe, there is ‘nothing’. No properties. No energy. No free lunch.

    It seems that quantum mechanics are inadequate for the job of creating ex nihilo.

    2. f(x)=x+1…an infinite causal chain.

    While it is true that the formula above represents a linear relationship that extends infinitely positively and negatively, I think that the key is to understand that if you were to try to solve the equation with every integer, you would never run out of integers, there would always be x+1 (Interestingly enough, that is the formula for determining how many bicycles a person needs where ‘x’=the number of bicycles a person currently has…)

    The fact that you would never reach infinity means that this formula represents a potential infinite, not an actual infinite. For the universe to be eternal, there would have to exist an actually infinite number of causal relationships in the infinite past. This leads to some problems.

    Eg. If you were to start counting down from infinity an infinite time in the past so that you end at zero right now, why would you have not ended last week because even last week, you would have had an infinite amount of time to accomplish your task? Why wouldn’t you have ended last year or a million years ago?

    Would not the mathematical proscriptions against dividing by zero or calculating ‘infinity minus infinity’ be considered a stipulation in science that a causal chain can not be infinite?

    It is true that you cannot reach infinity through successive addition (or subtraction). An infinite regress of cause and effect is an attempt to reach infinity through successive addition.

    Is God the ‘ultimate infinite regress’? No. God is *necessarily* uncaused. This is not an arbitrary assertion to get around the regress. This is established by the success of the first three steps of the cosmological argument.

    If the universe were really infinite in the past, the law of entropy requires that we would have reached heat death or maximum entropy by now. In fact, we would have reached heat death an infinite time in the past. This is clearly not the case.

    So, while your examples may very well be true and justified, it seems that they are inadequate for dismissing a creator.

    Thanks for the reading and the recommended books. I have wanted to read ‘A Brief History of Time’ for a while now…maybe it’s time.

  36. Mark says:

    Colin,

    I guess since you believe your God is the first cause then you believe EVERYTHING will come to an end and God will be the last cause – I draw this assumption since you believe that there can’t be infinite history. If you can believe in infinite future, I don’t see how you find it so hard to understand the concept of infinite history.

    Also, although portions of QP are speculative (fyi – it’s called “theoretical physics” if you every decide to actual go learn something and not just pull some snipets off a few websites), much of QP is still well established. It’s the reason billions are spent on massive particle accelerators and research – this is not pseudoscience.

    Either way, it seems you’ve found your answer. As for me, it doesn’t wash… and your loving God will be sending me to an eternity in hell for nothing more than just not buying into his ‘love me or burn’ attitude based on how vague He is – and the best system your supposed perfect God could come up with is a system which produces the likes of the Nazi’s and a world where many little children are abused and raped every second – while your supposed God just sits there.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  37. ronbrown says:

    Apparently Mark sees that it is pointless to discuss with Colin as well. While I’m not going to go into it because it is a complete waste of time, for the record Colin: your latest arguments continue to be overwhelmingly unsatisfying and that you can be even minimally impressed by them is absolutely baffling. You are incapable of seeing your unreason even when it is put right under your nose. Perhaps you should go read all the arguments we’ve had thus far and substitute “Christian God” for “Flying Spaghetti Monster” or “Zeus”. Maybe then you’ll see how flat your arguments fall. Oh wait, no that won’t work because those are just fairy tales—and somehow your God is special…

  38. Colin says:

    Mark,

    For what its worth…

    An infinite past would be an actually infinite set of events…that is still growing. This leads to mathematical and logical problems.

    An infinite future is not an actually infinite set of events, it is progressing towards that, but will never get there. There is nothing wrong with this mathematically or logically.

    I didn’t intend to imply that theoretical physics is pseudo-science. That is not my view. My comment is simply that it is speculative.

    While I think that your stated views on God, justice and the problem of evil can be answered, they are your views and you appear to have made up your mind.
    —-
    Ron,

    Despite your incredulity (which is just a baffling to me), I remain convinced that the most plausible explanation for the existence of the universe is a “super-intellect” who has “monkeyed with the physics” (to paraphrase Sir Fredrick Hoyle).

    That you so freely substitute FSM or Zeus does nothing to diminish my argument. In fact it seems to confirm that the cosmological argument (at least the first three propositions) leads directly to a cause for the universe, and also that ID is blind to the nature of the designer…something that Dembski has been insisting on for years…

    Here is something that I think we can agree on: the attributes of the designer cannot be established by ID alone and religious interpretations of ID should not be taught in public science classrooms.

  39. ronbrown says:

    Oh God… And you actually value Dembski’s statement…

    I love how it never occurs to you that your “super-intellect” explanation explains absolutely nothing because all it does is repackage all of the big questions (how did the universe get here? how is it the way it is? is there an objective morality? what happens after we die?) into God, and then stops asking the questions and pretends that it answered them.

    Your cosmo argument is pathetic. All it does is say that there was a cause. Wow. Congratulations. It does nothing to say what the cause was, not even whether it was an intelligent cause. It does nothing to specify Christianity. Your belief in Christianity is completely undeserving of any dignity. You have every right to believe it, but the belief is just pathetic. You might as well just believe with all of your heart that we are the creation of an infinitely old space cowboy named Jeb.

  40. Colin says:

    Dude, relax…

    I will copy it from my previous post and highlight it so that you can’t miss it again…

    “the cosmological argument (at least the first three propositions) leads directly to a CAUSE for the universe, and also that ID is BLIND to the nature of the designer.”

    And then you call my argument pathetic because you agree with me??!!

    The case for Christianity is *cumulative*. It does not depend on one line of reasoning.

  41. ronbrown says:

    Wow. A cause. Yep, that’s a “good” argument for Christianity. And I highly doubt that you can present a cumulative argument for Christianity. You’ve had over a month to do it and you’ve given nothing but easily rebutted garbage.

  42. Colin says:

    Why do you call it ‘easily rebutted garbage’ when you agree with the conclusion established; that the universe has a cause??

    You are obviously not interested in hearing a case for Christianity that differs from your caricature of it. I won’t waste my time.

    For those who are interested, I suggest you check out http://www.reasonablefaith.org the website of William Lane Craig, or Alvin Plantinga, or http://www.apologetics.com, or for a more accessible site, http://www.str,org.

  43. Mark says:

    Colin,

    I’ve been very interested in the case for Christianity. But the case for the Christian god does nothing but try to ‘start’ with the conclusion that God exists, and then fit the data into that. Science and scientists that look at the data objectively don’t find God, nor is God mentioned ANYWHERE in any modern physics, etc etc. Regardless, I hope you do end up reading books by Greene, or check some of the writings of Feynman – it’s all excellent work and very fun to think about.

    On the topic of justice, evil, etc, I’m aware of the appologetics, but Colin, please, when you consider it, do not start with the conclusion that you have to fit answers that point to God. Instead, ask yourself, what makes more sense… a universe without God which explains everything you see around you, or a universe with a God that requires appologetics that twist and play with ideas and words to try to fit God into reality.

    Take care.
    Mark

  44. ronbrown says:

    Colin:

    You are a fullfledged moron. That I agree with the cause argument says NOTHING for your case for Christianity. Nothing. It says no more for Christianity than it does for the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    And if I have caricatured your religion in our prolonged discussion it is as much YOUR fault as it is mine, because I have been working with what little you give me. I have invited you time and time again to present a good argument, and the best you have mustered is the cosmological argument which accomplishes NOTHING.

  45. doubtingthomas426 says:

    Hello, I’ve recently received a rather disturbing comment on my site from a Christian (whiteman0o0) on the issue of whether or not we are all born sinners. He stated that, yes, we are all born sinners. I argued that I believed babies and children are innocent and can’t and shouldn’t be judged based on the ‘sins’ of a couple of naïve children in the Garden of Eden. I brought up the tragic, unexpected death of a baby in its crib from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and asked if this baby should burn in eternal hellfire because it never had the opportunity to accept Jesus as his personal savior or ask for forgiveness for his ‘sins’? Whiteman0o0 responded, saying, yes, babies and children can go to hell because (and here is where it gets crazy) God doesn’t judge them for their ACTUAL lives but for the lives they WOULD HAVE lived had they not died. In other words, God creates an alternate timeline where the baby/child didn’t die and sees if they would have become a Christian or not, what sins they would have committed, etc. and sends them to heaven or hell accordingly. I don’t know if anyone else is as put off by this scenario as I was but I am pleading and urging anyone who does find it disturbing, or even those who agree with it, to please visit the page where the comment appears. You can find it here:

    http://doubtingthomas426.wordpress.com/2007/12/16/if-the-statement-is-true-your-religion-is-vile/

    Please read the comments (you can ignore the original post), particularly mine (DoubtingThomas426) and whiteman0o0’s and leave a comment addressing this issue. I truly appreciate it.

    Thank you and I apologize for taking up space on this page with my plea.

    DoubtingThomas

    http://doubtingthomas426.wordpress.com/

  46. Stoobs says:

    It’s worth noting that technically, religious faith IS listed as a mental illness – open your DSM4, and look up schizotypal personality disorder (my spelling may be off on that one.) Sounds like religious belief to me. Psychologists, however, are justifiably reluctant to diagnose problem, since (A) personality disorders are not treatable in any case, and (B) the backlash against anyone who did so would be huge and professionally damaging.

  47. ronbrown says:

    Stoobs:

    I actually wrote a post on the DSM-IV, religion and delusion. In its definition of delusion it makes a specific exception for religious belief.

    https://theframeproblem.wordpress.com/2007/12/23/is-the-american-psychiatric-association-pandering-to-religious-sensibilities-can-religious-belief-be-described-as-delusional/

  48. TIM says:

    @stoobs
    that made me laugh…mental illness…yeah, i bet that is true. many people mostly religious leaders are so obsessed with the bible. they cloud people minds with faith, oh my, waiting a lifetime for some miracles and yet it will never happen anyway, at least you had faith, they will say (what an excuse).

    I would like to share with you guys this story, as i am just like postthought, i found my way out of confusion…lolz

    anyway, there was this pathetic religious dude whom i had a discussion regarding faith, blessings and hope…what if i won the lotto? is that a blessing from your God? and he answered without a blink YES! i said to him, NO! i won because i placed a bet haha. i really don’t know why these people are so clouded by the teachings of the church who has done nothing but to deliberately confuse people just to get their money…o well..just my two cents.

  49. John says:

    Mentally Ill?

    This is how absurd atheism speak has become. Mentally Ill is defined against what is normal. If 1% of all humans that ever lived cant see that something cant come out of nothing in the spacetime universe—then who is the victim of abnormal reasoning?

    Out of those 99%…all were stupid? Are you that bad at math too? Atheists cling to science because they have to constantly re-enforce they are not going to be judged for they’re mockery and unbelief. They Must gather in these forums as to surround themselves with what their itching ears need to hear.

    About the christian pretenders..I do agree. History is littered with those who used Christianity as a weapon. God knows who are his. All who are God;s will come to him upon hearing the Word and the rest are left with just enough doubt to call it all BS.
    This is the best of all possible worlds in which humans have freewill. More revelation would certainly cause coercion –not love for God–only fear. So God gives just enough so those who are for him will Pray to him about Christ and supernaturally receive the truth. The rest have plenty of doubt to fulfill their true wish–that there is No authority over them..they are their own gods.
    In this sense the doors to hell are locked from the inside as people willfully and freely receive their wish for independence . Its so sad–as Pardon is as close as tonight on your knees. Oh how pride and arrogance prevents that.

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  1. […] Posted by Ken on January 31, 2008 Ron Brown at The Frame Problem has an interesting post Doubt in and faking of faith, and the need for secular alternatives to religious communities. […]

  2. […] argument for theism line by line January 30, 2008 — ronbrown In the comment section of Doubt in and faking of faith, and the need for secular alternatives to religious communities a reader named Colin has accused me of having strawmaned Christianity and of neglecting arguments […]

  3. […] is the first part of the segment, which I presented in an earlier post. In the comment section of Doubt in and faking of faith, and the need for secular alternatives to religious communities a reader named Colin has accused me of having strawmaned Christianity and of neglecting arguments […]



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