Friday, March 2, 2012

The Atheist Experience: how not to debate an atheist



This is an excerpt from last Sunday's Atheist Experience TV show, episode #750, with hosts Matt Dillahunty and Tracie Harris.

I've got to say that I thought this was hilarious. Their caller, Eric, seems arrogantly convinced that he's the best debater in the world. Yeah, listening to him will convince any atheist. He's not one of those callers, those children, whom Matt can dominate, right?

So he's not just eager for a debate, he's convinced that he will win. It won't be like most debates, where people leave with pretty much the same opinions they arrived with. Oh, no. In fact, he's going to want the audience to vote at the conclusion of it, since even atheists will be convinced by his eloquence.

Matt goes along with this, but asks him to give just a sample of his brilliance. So this theist confidently announces that he's going to list "seven premises that will prove the point. They're very quick. They're like brainless. I mean, they're so simple I believe you'll agree with every one of them."

Note that Tracie is smiling broadly throughout this exchange. I think she knows exactly what's going to happen. And sure enough, Eric's first point is that "something cannot come from nothing." Heh, heh.

Now, I don't know how familiar you are with Christian apologetics, but that's an extraordinarily common beginning to an extraordinarily common argument that supposedly "proves" the existence of God in a logical progression. You're supposed to agree with every step, as the theist leads you to his inevitable conclusion.

The problem is that, while it might seem persuasive to the uninformed, someone who's never really thought about such things before (and who probably wants to believe in a god in the first place), it's not actually logical. And that very first premise goes off the rails immediately.

The fact is, we don't know that something can't come from nothing. We've never seen anything come from nothing, true, but so what? We've never even seen "nothing." What is nothing? How would we know if we'd encountered it? What are even the characteristics of nothing?

We know a little bit about an infinitesimally small part of the universe. One thing we know for sure is that there's a lot we don't know. So we aren't even close to being able to make dogmatic statements like that. It might be true and it might not. We really can't say.

The really funny thing is that this is exactly how atheists - most of us, at least - think about gods. How could an informed theist, especially a debater, not understand that? Maybe a god or gods exist, maybe not. It's possible, depending on exactly how you define the term. But we don't have any good evidence backing up the god hypothesis.

If you're going to claim there's a god - and expect me to accept that claim - you're going to have to make your case. The fact that I don't believe your claim doesn't mean that I'm claiming there isn't a god. I'm just saying that you haven't made your case. You haven't provided any good reasons for me to accept that what you claim is actually true.

This is the same way. If you claim that something doesn't some from nothing, make your case. Demonstrate that your claim is true. It's not up to me to demonstrate that you're wrong. You may be wrong or you may be right. But you have to make your case before I need to take you seriously.

There's nothing unique about any of this. It's a common claim of theists, and the skeptic's objection is also very well known. It's just hilarious that this confident, even bombastic, debater doesn't understand that. Who has he been debating, anyway? And this is after comparing other callers to children? It's beyond funny, don't you think?

As Matt points out, this is the argument from ignorance. The caller is trying to claim that, because we don't know, then his claim must be true. That's false. If we don't know, we don't know. You can't make any other assumptions, just because we don't know something.

I loved Matt's final line: "And if we do do a debate, I demand that there be a vote tally." Heh, heh. You know, I really don't think he was intimidated by this supposedly great debater, do you?

17 comments:

Landis said...

I did not watch the video but I would like to put my two cents into this one based on what you wrote about it.

Some interesting things we have learned about our universe could point you in the direction of a supreme being, but I find that it is impossible to prove the existence of something that we are not equipped to understand.

Ruins older than 12000 years have been found (that's at the dawn of homo sapiens) that depict beings unlike their own. Some of the pillars in this particular ruin are 20ft tall and weigh 350 tons. Very hard to imagine early human beings created this as this the tools they may have possessed equated to carved stones.

Another, even better, example of ruins like these can be found in South America known as Puma Punku. Though these ruins are mysteriously demolished the architecture is still astounding. Some of the carved blocks weigh 400 tons and are made of a rock that can only be cut by diamond edged tools. The blocks fit perfectly together and are cut in manners that would be impossible to do with early tools. The cuts are exactly straight (you can shine a laser pointer through), equidepth, and have holes drilled in these lines all the same distance from each other and the same depth... and we thought the pyramids were miraculous. To add to this, all of the stones are from a quarry miles upon miles away.

Pyramids and ruins (which are constructed in eerily similiar fashions during eerily similar timeframes) can be found all over the world placed in positions according to the stars and planets. These ruins show the scale of how far all 9 planets are when humans only recognized Pluto as a planet in 1930.

Genetically speaking, scientists cannot find any way that humans developed the complex genes that control the growth and development of anything related to speech. Looking at older skulls and fossilized remains there seems to be a 'jump' where all of a sudden our brains took major leaps forward.

Religions all over the world have developed with many of the same stories and themes throughout and we are beginning to find factual basis within some of these stories. Yes, many stories are far-fetched and served only to educate people on morals. But, it seems that some stories hold a lot more truth than previously thought and maybe the reason for all differences in religion come from thousands of years of 'playing telephone' in hundreds of languages. Not to mention stories being changed, added, and removed to all religions.

As Steve Jobs put it (not exact quote) "religions across the world are different doors to the same house." I believe that humans are incapable of truly disseminating what God has told them, or even how to describe what they have seen... but every religion has tried to be right and therefore this causes disagreement. Cultures, intelligence, everything affects how we describe something; so everyone has some truth behind what they have said, but no one is spot on. There is undoubtedly a supreme being.

WCG said...

OK, you've given me a lot to talk about, Landis, but I'll try to make this as brief as I can.

First, I understand that it's difficult to watch every video clip, especially since this one is nearly 20 minutes long. Normally, in my comments, I assume that my readers have watched them, and I urge you to do so, but yes, I understand the constraints of time.

Second, I'm not asking for proof. I never ask for proof, since I don't think we can actually prove anything, not in the real world. I'm an agnostic in that sense, not just about gods, but about everything.

So what I ask for is not proof, but evidence. Now, you talk about mysterious ancient ruins, and I used to love that kind of stuff when I was a kid. Unfortunately, as I grew older, I learned that what I'd read was not always the truth. At the very least, it was cherry-picked to fit a particular narrative.

In fact, there's nothing mysterious about the Pyramids and other ancient monuments. People can do incredible things with very simple tools, lots of manpower, and plenty of time. That's been demonstrated over and over again. And when it comes to the Pyramids, we have abundant evidence of their workforce and their tools.

But the fact is, I could give you all that, and it still wouldn't be evidence for a god. Even if it were just as mysterious as you say, that wouldn't help your argument in the slightest, because there are many possible answers, all of them at least as plausible as postulating supernatural help (aliens, time-traveling humans, ESP, a genie in a magic lamp, etc.).

Similarly, I could grant your arguments about genetics without getting you any closer to demonstrating that a god exists. Of course, if your arguments were true, you'd probably find that evolutionary biologists were more religious than ordinary people, rather than far, far less.

That's always the problem when you claim scientific backing for your religious beliefs. If those claims were actually true, no one would be more aware of that than the scientists who specialize in that particular field. So I recommend that you come back to this point after evolutionary biologists turn to religion en masse.

Regarding common themes and stories worldwide, do I have to point out that we're all human? Of course you can find similarities in stories and myths, especially when you cherry-pick them. And that's not even considering that stories travel even better than trade goods do. Frankly, it would be shocking if that weren't the case.

Landis, note that these are all very, very vague claims. You haven't actually shown me evidence of anything, let alone that there's "undoubtedly a supreme being." I'm sure you believe that, but you were probably taught to believe it from infancy. It's really hard to break away from that kind of conditioning.

Next time, instead of picking such a wide variety of rather vague claims, why not just pick one, your very best argument for a god. That way, you can give detailed evidence. After all, one example of good evidence is better than a mountain of bad evidence.

Anonymous said...

Day 1: Return From Spring Break... actually my first time on your blog from my computer as opposed to my phone, the world's getting crazy. Now to my real point, and thank you for your condolences regarding my daughter.

I know I rambled quite a bit on the other post (all of my post for that matter) but keep in mind that all have been from my phone and my time zone is three hours later than yours, I typically type when my newborn is waking up hungry and I am getting her back to sleep lol. I hope that my post at least spark a little bit of thought.

I have been trying to give a little bit of thought on how I could give you evidence of a God actually being around, or creating the universe, or whatever would float your metaphorical boat. Honestly, there is almost none. Believing a God does take some blind faith, but so does not believing a God or supreme being. There is no proof either way.

Though, I would like to know your definition on God, and a supreme being. Do the two diverge for you?

Now, I know this whole thing of how did something come from nothing already came up but I would like to go a little deeper. Looking at thermodynamics,energy and matter are always at the same level... it cannot change. Energy and matter is something that always stays the same, this is an interesting fact (or theory, I guess we do not know the beginning of time). But, if one was to believe in science, they must believe this. Physicists have been able to 'get a glimpse of the beginning of the universe' using particle accelerators. These particle accelerators take two electrons and send them speeding at each other, using very strong magnets, through tubes that gradually get smaller. At a point in time, these two electrons smash into each other and create a miniature 'big bang' (I saw this on the history channel). This has allowed physicists to study the big bang a little more closely and we are learning more and more everyday. Even with this information at hand, who, where, and how did even these two electrons come into existence? Maybe we are just some science experiment and some being way smarter than us is creating us as a science experiment (very crazy I know), but would that not suffice as a God anyhow? I find it very hard to believe that two electrons came out of nowhere and smashed into each other without some sort of outside help.

I agree, the pyramids are not that mysterious anymore and they were undoubtedly built by humans. Though, I am talking about Puma Punku, these ruins are much more mysterious. The date is argued back and forth, but using astronomical alignments the date is around 12000 BC (many pyramids are built in this fashion). The quarried rock comes from miles and miles away. Mainstream archaeologists believe that the ancients used trees to roll the huge rocks from point A to point B, but Puma Punku and the quarries are well above the tree line (hell the wheel was not even around at this point). Curiously, mountains around the area, and other parts of the world, are mysteriously cut flat... all the way across.

I will again go back to the tools available, they were very stone-age to say the least. The famous 'H' blocks of Puma Punku contain 'duck-tails' (we use this in crafting many things) 90 degree right angles and 80 faces. To get even more mysterious, the blocks were all cut in the exact same manner (I am unsure about how many they have uncovered).

At this point we are back to aliens, and super-advanced races. Though, would both of these categories not suffice many definitions of 'gods' or 'supreme beings'?

Anonymous said...

I went to a Catholic school and have been forced to take religious courses in college for electives (late class sign-up, but still I'm a Marketing and Supply Chain guy... come on). Though my college courses in college are much more open-minded and theoretical rather than "fact"-based. Throughout my high school years I was always a skeptic to the belief that the Bible was fact, and I still am. I believe the ancients lacked the knowledge we do now and could not describe certain things correctly, or at least in terms which make sense to us. Therefore the Bible (and other faith books) should serve as a moral compass and teaching tool, not a history book. Through all the cultures, languages, and time these books have gone through I think they have all been distorted and have lost something... just my thought though, I am kind of rambling now but let me know what you think about this post. Back to class work


<<>> This is Landis, it said my domain was not registered to post (@umail.iu.edu)

WCG said...

Welcome back, Landis. But don't you dare apologize for rambling! Have you seen the way I write? :)

I just meant that it's hard to reply to a scatter-shot of reasons to believe in God, and all I really need is just one good reason. So why not just pick your best, at least to start with?

Re. "no proof either way," that not believing in a god also takes "blind faith," that's just not true. You see, I'm not claiming to have proof that there isn't a god, just that no believer has convinced me that there is.

For example, I could claim that werewolves exist. But if you didn't believe me, it wouldn't be your responsibility to prove that they don't. I'm the one who made the claim, so it would be up to me to provide the evidence backing it up. If I couldn't do that, it would be perfectly reasonable for you to disbelieve my claim.

Or, here's another example I'll shamelessly borrow from Tracie Harris of the Atheist Experience: If you claimed that there are an even number of blades of grass in my lawn, I wouldn't believe you. After all, how could you possibly know that?

Would you then say, "OK, then, prove to me that there's an odd number of grass blades in your lawn"? Of course not. I wasn't claiming that there were an odd number. I wasn't claiming anything in particular about the number of grass blades in my lawn. I just didn't believe your claim, because you didn't back it up with sufficient evidence. That's different than making a claim myself.

Likewise, I'm not going to define God, because I'm not making the claim. I've heard believers say that "God is love," and I certainly believe in love. But I doubt if that's what you mean by the term. No, if you believe in a god, then it's your place to say what you mean by that, not mine.

Indeed, that might be a good start in any discussion. If you claim that there is a God, how do you define "God"?

Re. the Big Bang, I don't know what caused it, if it had a cause at all, and neither do you. Was it caused by two electrons smashing together? I don't know. (I must say, I don't see why a god would be required for something that simple.)

But I don't know of anyone who actually claims that, while lots of people claim that God did it. Well, if you expect me to believe that, I'm going to need some evidence.

Note that I don't really need evidence to say, "I don't know," do I? I'm not claiming that a god of some type can't possibly exist (although, certainly, some of the characteristics typically ascribed to the Christian God seem mutually contradictory), but only that no one who claims that a god does exist has convinced me of that.

And note that this isn't agnosticism, but atheism. I don't believe in a god. That makes me an atheist. I'm not claiming that a god can't possibly exist, especially since it might depend on what you mean by "god," but only that I don't think that any believer has made his case.

I'm going to skip Puma Punku, Landis, since I don't know anything about it. And it hardly seems pertinent to this debate anyway, unless you're claiming that only a god could build structures like that.

(I'll reply to the second part of your comment separately.)

WCG said...

OK, Landis, you don't believe that the Bible is fact, and I certainly agree with you about that. But do you still consider yourself a Christian? If so, why?

This is the reason why I don't define "God," because everyone seems to believe something different. Most Christians don't believe that the Bible is entirely true, but which parts they believe and which they don't varies remarkably.

And the fact that you believe the Bible is a "moral compass and teaching tool," well,... have you read the Bible? It's not that there aren't some moral things in it, but that it's mixed with a whole lot of immoral stuff, too.

By and large, my morality - and yours, too, I'm sure - is far and away better than what's in the Bible. And as a "teaching tool," I guess I have to ask, "Teaching what?"

As you point out, it's not a history book. And it's certainly not a science book. It's not a morality tale, or not any kind of morality fit for 21st Century human beings. So what exactly is it supposed to teach?

PS. I should admit that I haven't actually read the Bible, not all of it. I tried, when I was younger. A couple of times. But I don't think I ever made it past Genesis. I was just too bored.

I've read excerpts, of course, and the Gospels. But I haven't read the whole thing. And I've never taken a class in religion. (I did go to Sunday School as a kid, I think. And I used to read a lot about ancient Greek and Roman mythology.)

Anonymous said...

Wow, just had an in-depth reply and it deleted itself... start over.

We'll start off with the werewolf. I disagree, myself believing or not believing werewolves would require some degree of blind-faith, no matter what evidence existed or didn't exist. But this is more true in the case of mythical (unless you DO believe in werewolves) creatures. There is a lack of evidence supporting and disproving the existence of werewolves, so either way you swing it requires some blind-faith.

If you were God would you be flying around earth, leaving evidence, making everyone believers and granting everyone's wishes? I know I wouldn't. Earth could be like a gigantic soap opera for God and those who prove themselves 'worthy' end up in heaven. When you live for eternity, you have to have something entertaining.

Pertaining to the grass example, I am sure that at one point within one minute of your statement (depending on the size of your yard and the weather), that it was true. I would also pull one blade of grass simply to spite you. :)

My definition of God, way more than love. Love is simply an emotion. The God I believe is more of a grand creator and final judge. I do not believe that he is omnipotent, omnipresent, etc. Though he has been there since the beginning of time. He created the universe and put all that we know into motion, though it was not perfect (or maybe it is and what happens leads to something bigger). Chaos and order co-exist, people prosper and people suffer. God did not know every little event that was going to transpire but He knew how He was going to 'test' people. Evil influences us to do bad, but the ability to resist that is in all of us. This is the true test, the reason for free will.

The Big Bang. The smashing together of two electrons would be the easy part given an infinite amount of time, my question is where did those come from? We can skip this question though, I know neither of us were around for the Big Bang.

Go ahead and skip Puma Punku, I just wanted to hear anything interesting you had to say about it haha. That place really interests me.

I do call myself a Christian, but that is simply to appease family and friends. I do not feel like explaining my true beliefs everytime someone asks me. I'll get to that in my next response below.

(btw it deleted the first time because my gmail acct still will not work, not sure whats going on)

Anonymous said...

Alright, I believe in a universal God. This God is the God of all religions. S/He (if we can even attribute that) has been described by people throughout history. But, people lack the brain capacity to actually do this and with God not participating in world affairs anymore (I believe some of the great prophets of many religions had actually attained some form of enlightenment or contact with God) He has lost some ground.

When people try to describe something they really can't understand, it gets messed up. Especially when it takes 100 years to write the story down then this story gets puts through millions of hands, mindsets, cultures, languages, organizations etc. I think I may have said this before, but try playing telephone in this manner.

Maybe this is the reason God quit trying to communicate with the Earth, everytime he did it created a new religion and along with it new wars. He kept trying until He realized there was no way to effectively reach humans without causing problems.

Right now, I am on the edge of if I should believe that Jesus was actually the Son of God (He was one of the last effective prophets) or if he was simply a prophet trying to teach love and his disciples created unsaid words to gain something... maybe revenge. Besides that, Jesus' teaching were the basis for the New Testament which brings me to my next point.

The Old Testament came from God who did not understand that Humans could only feed off of fear for so long, He returned with Jesus who taught love. But as with every other prophet this ended up causing more divide.

In most cases, religions can be seen as getting less and less restrictive throughout the years. This was God learning.

Now, I do agree that the Old Testament is rife with poor morals. But I do believe that the Old Testament can be used to instill a level of respect for God in young children (the old 'he's always watching you' thing really helped me be a better person. When taught with the New Testament it can also teach love, respect, honesty, etc. I know this has also helped me develop into a good person. When little kids ask 'why should I be good?' or 'why shouldn't I hit johnny?' or 'why should sex wait?' (until marriage in that time frame, young kids DO NOT understand real love... I know this first hand) one of the only answers that truly resounds with kids is that 'God is watching you' or 'God said it wasn't right.'

Back to why I consider myself a Christian... all of this is just too damn much for most people to understand. My family, friends, etc... I try and talk to them but they just don't get it. I don't believe in the explicit Christian God who damns all other religions to Hell, or unbaptized people, or people who never had a chance to even come to a religion. I do not think that God is that evil. The underlying tone of almost every religion is to be a good person. The Bible, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc... have all been used to control societies and the stories within have been changed to reflect personal desires. This is why I do not believe in the Bible, it has been handled by too many people. Its scary when the Catholic church is one of the most powerful and wealthy organizations in the world, or when theres these multibillion dollar churches and pastors who make millions when there are much greater needs in the world. Especially when it has been stated in the Bible that Churches and God should not be used to make money (this is one of things that was kept in by someone smart but everyone ignores it now).

Finally, Greek and Roman mythology. Yes, God can be seen in these stories too. But, once again humans failed in the decription. Though, it is interesting to note that the rise and fall of Rome closely follows the power/human characteristics given to the gods. As the Roman society became more powerful, the gods became more human and less powerful until the eventual collapse of Rome.

My fingers are getting tired...

Anonymous said...

PS My comment on not believing the Bible to be explicit fact is trending in the Catholic religion. I do not consider myself Catholic unless you use it in the Universal sense, but like I said, I did attend a Catholic high school and middle school and learned much about and participated in the religion... I grew up Christian... simply means different rituals, beliefs, etc. My family believes the Bible to be explicit fact, along with the religion I grew up in. I do not hide this belief, and many have good discussions with me, but others believe I am 'lost.' Anyhow, back to the first sentence, Catholics believe that the Bible is there to serve as stories meant to teach or exemplify greater lessons. The Bible is something to study and learn from while forming your own opinions (PS did you know the Catholic Church recognized the potential of extraterrestrial life?). Now, this is not something you tell to little kids, kind of like Santa Claus or how bad it actually sucks to be responsible, but it there for the adults.

Landis said...

(Gotta add one more thing and I'll let you reply... it's been killing me)

I believe your definitions of atheist vs agnostic are mixed up. Atheist deny the possibility of gods entirely. Agnostics just don't have enough evidence to swing one way or the other. This is a little weird though because both an atheist and a theist could consider themselves agnostic.

WCG said...

Wow, Landis! You really think that not believing in werewolves requires blind faith? Really? Well, that doesn't matter, anyway, because you missed my point.

It's not about two people, one claiming that werewolves do exist and one claiming that they don't. It's about one person claiming, without evidence, that werewolves exist, and the other person not accepting that claim.

It doesn't require "blind faith" to reject a claim because of a lack of evidence. That doesn't mean you're claiming the opposite, necessarily, only that he hasn't made his case. (That was the whole point about the blades of grass, too.)

And let me get to this atheist vs agnostic stuff right now. These are labels, and different people define them differently. I define agnosticism as the position that we can't know for sure. But by that definition, I'm an agnostic about everything in the real world.

After all, this could be just a Matrix-style virtual world, with nothing as it seems. I don't believe that, because there's no evidence backing it up, but I can't rule it out completely. (There are other possibilities, too, that I can't completely rule out, though there's no evidence to indicate that they're true.)

An atheist, on the other hand, is just someone who doesn't believe in a god. I don't believe religious claims - any I've heard, so far - for the same reason I don't believe in werewolves or that there's an even number of grass blades in my yard - because I haven't seen any evidence backing up those claims.

No, atheists do not deny the possibility of gods altogether (and certainly, there's a 50/50 chance of an even number of grass blades in my lawn). We just reject the claims of theists - in my case, because of a lack of supporting evidence.

So I consider myself both an atheist and an agnostic. To my mind, agnosticism doesn't add anything of value, since it's self-evident, so I usually use the term "atheist."

But those are just labels. Since I'm defining myself, I get to define the label I'm using (within reason, of course). Likewise, you get to define what you mean by "God."

OK, let's see. You've told me a lot about "God," but you haven't told me how you know all this stuff. Most people disagree with you - no matter what you believe, it's a minority position in the world, and if you don't believe in an omniscient, omnipotent god, you're clearly in a minority even among Christians - so how do you know this stuff?

How do you know what God does and doesn't know, does and doesn't want? How do you know what he did and didn't do? How do you even know that your god exists at all? You've told me what you believe, but not why you can believe it.

How can you possibly know all that? Do you have any evidence to back it up? If not, why do you believe it? If not, why would I believe you?

WCG said...

OK, Landis, you've told me what you believe (and note that the Catholic Church would have burned you alive for expressing such thoughts in the Middle Ages). But what you haven't told me is why you believe it.

You seem to have a lot of detailed knowledge about God. But how do you know all this? Where's your evidence? (I would ask you how you know that Jesus existed at all, but since you don't claim that he was a god, that really doesn't matter.)

The reason I don't believe you is because you haven't shown me any evidence. And although I've heard a lot of different religious claims over the years, none of them were backed up with evidence. So why should I pick one of them to believe, myself? In particular, why should I accept your claims about "God"?

Next, if you think that "God is always watching you" teaches morals to young children, why not just use Santa Claus? Santa Claus does exactly the same thing, right? So why do you need God?

Personally, I'd rather teach children why morality and ethics are right, rather than just teach them to fear punishment if they're caught. (And note that one of the worst things you can do in the Bible is to use your reasoning abilities and doubt that God exists in the first place. In that respect, I'm the most immoral person in the world.)

Besides, are you really telling me that the best reason you can give for not hitting people is because "God said so"? If your children are that young, then just tell them that it's wrong. (After all, when they get older, and read the Bible for themselves, they'll discover how you lied to them, won't they? Of course, those are the parts of the Bible you think - without any evidence, of course - got "messed up," huh?)

Landis, it seems to me that you've come a long way from your Christian upbringing, but you haven't come nearly far enough, not yet. It's nice that you don't believe in Hell and that you're tolerant of other religions. You've abandoned a lot of the nasty stuff in the Bible (like most Christians, actually).

But you need to ask yourself why you believe any of it. How do you know you've identified what's true and what's false in the Bible? Where's your evidence?

Yes, the creation myths in Genesis aren't true. Not only have we learned enough science to know that, the two stories actually contradict themselves, at least to some extent. But why do you believe anything that's in the Bible? Where is your evidence that any of it is true?

Some of it might indeed be based on true stories, but without evidence, how do you tell which ones?

As I noted earlier, you have some remarkably detailed knowledge about your god, but you haven't given me any indication of how you know all that. Why should I believe you, and not someone else who believes differently? Why do you believe it? Why do you think you're right? Where is your supporting evidence?

WCG said...

[Damn, I need to stop being so long-winded! This is the part that wouldn't fit in my previous reply.]

This is why I'm an atheist. No believer has any evidence to back up what he believes, not that I've seen. And religious beliefs are hugely varied. You might not be a typical Christian, but your beliefs would still be vastly different if only you'd been raised Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist.

I suspect that you simply believe what you want to believe. Sure, it's based on what you were taught as a child, but you've modified that to make it fit more with what you'd really like to believe. You've abandoned those things you don't want to believe, and kept the rest of it, even though neither is backed up by any evidence.

That's typical, so that's what I suspect. If I'm wrong, then show me why. Tell me what evidence backs up your beliefs about "God." How do you know so much about him? If someone else claimed different things about their god, would you believe them? Wouldn't you want to know how they knew what they claimed to be true?

That's why I'm an atheist. So far, no one has even come close to demonstrating that his claims are more than wishful-thinking. You've told me what you believe. Now tell me why you believe it.

Landis said...

I hadn't seen this section of your reply yet, I am at work right now and still have plenty of work to do on my projects but I hope I can revisit this soon. My other reply may have touched some of these bases.

WCG said...

Note to my other readers: This conversation continues in the comments here (not that you can't continue to reply to this thread, of course).

Yeah, that's assuming you haven't had more than enough already, huh? :)

Anonymous said...

A "universal god of all religions" cannot exist, as there are religious models of gods that are mutually exclusive. For example, the Christian god, Jesus, claimed he was the sole means of getting to god. Clearly this is in direct contradiction to other religions that teach there are other ways and means to access god. If this god, Jesus, and this "sole savior" model are a "god" to some people, that god is mutually exclusive to all other gods. There is no logical way to say it is "included" in a universal model of god, because it is a god that cannot exist along with any other, different models.

WCG said...

I understand what you're saying, Anonymous (note to other readers that this is a different "Anonymous" than the commenter above, which is why I would urge you to leave a name, even when you're posting anonymously).

But you can get to a "universal god of all religions" if you don't believe any specific religion entirely, if you think that they're all wrong, in part. And since people can believe almost anything and still consider themselves "Christian," I've had plenty of Christians tell me something like this.

Heck, I know a Christian who believes in reincarnation! If you don't require evidence, or logical consistency, you can believe almost anything.

So, yes, you're right that different religious models are mutually exclusive. But not all. Many people are too knowledgeable to believe everything in the Bible, but unwilling to abandon altogether what they've been taught all their life. So they imagine whatever feels good to them.

Incidentally, regarding that "universal god of all religions" idea, you might be interested in this book review.