Monday, February 12, 2007

Another Interesting Atheist vs. Christian Exchange...

Recently, I had another discussion, with another Christian, on a popular religion-oriented message board. It revolved around my recent essay, “The Heartache of Loss,” and my contention within it that religion, while a source of comfort for believers, is not actually true. I do not have verbatim quotes from the Christian with whom I was debating because I had posted my original essay on an atheists-only board at the forum; shortly after my final response, which is published here, the moderators deleted all the Christian’s posts because of that rule violation. However, before sharing my response, I will convey the Christian’s arguments as fairly and accurately as possible.

We had a few very brief exchanges during which period the Christian basically was feeling me out, and getting a sense of the degree to which I reject his faith. When I said something along the lines of, “I know religion is not real,” he posted the following arguments:



1. The type of prayer I describe in “The Heartache of Loss” is not legitimate, but rather a straw man description given by one who does not understand religion. He said he knows nobody who prays the way I describe in that piece.

2. There is evidence for the existence of God—and rational evidence, at that. He argued that one might choose to reject that evidence but, since evidence does exist, it is much more appropriate to embrace agnosticism. Indeed, he flatly said being an atheist is logically impossible since one cannot prove God’s non-existence.

3. Deism is a better choice for atheists. He asked why I do not embrace deist views.



What follows is my rebuttal to the above-articulated arguments:

Well, even though I did not mean to start any type of atheist vs. theist debate with this post, since I deliberately posted it in the atheist-only forum, I will be happy to respond to this quickly.

I used to be a Roman Catholic, so I have some familiarity with Christianity and prayer. I know many people who pray in order that God makes their lives better in some way. Individuals pray for the health of family and friends, success and prosperity at work, the safe return of children trapped in Iraq and, indeed, the healing of sick loved ones. In particular, people pray when they feel powerless otherwise. I know this because my Christian family members have been praying quite a bit since my grandfather got his terminal prognosis. They say, "It's in God's hands now" and pray for some sort of divine assistance. They are Christians, and that is exactly what many are doing.

I am an atheist about God in the same way I am an atheist about invisible garden banshees. I see no good hard evidence and, thus, I presume non-existence. I need be agnostic about God only if I also need be agnostic about invisible garden banshees or white-haired closet goblins. I do not mean to be demeaning in any way, but I simply base my beliefs on the hard evidence at hand. I do not care about holy texts because there are 10,000 distinct religions in this world right now and they all have their own special texts, each equally as reliable as every other (because each contains extraordinary claims which, most of the time, lack extraordinary corroborative hard evidence). I also find the concept of “God” useless since there are infinitely various God characters, with infinitely various skill sets, demanding infinitely various behaviors, promising infinitely various things. Why worship Yahweh and not Thor? Why worship Yahweh and not Enlil (Ellil)? Why worship Yahweh and not Hargazorn? [Hargazorn is a Scandinavian-region deity yet to be discovered by man.]

Deism still involves a God—and a creative God, at that. I see no need for such a God to explain anything on our planet or in our solar system, galaxy, galaxy cluster or universe. I comprehensively reject the divine, including an afterlife. Moreover, I believe Dr. Richard Dawkins' "infinite regress" argument obliterates the very notion of a designer God that constructed/planned/designed our universe.

Texts will not budge me; there are 10,000 others competing for my allegiance (along with innumerable ancient, forgotten mystical texts). Neither will "gaps" arguments; no knowledge gap, in the history of humankind, ever has been filled with the supernatural or the divine. I would need positive, hard evidence for the existence of a God. Then, of course, we would need to narrow that God down from infinitely many and infinitively various to just one.

22 Comments:

Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

"God" is the sound people make when they have stopped thinking.

7:30 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

One of the criticisms of belief in a Deist god is that, yeah, if you believe a God created the universe but does not involved itself in our affairs, then what is the point of worshipping it? It's like in junior high when you had a crush on a really pretty girl in your English class but she barely knew you existed. It is all really just a waste of time, isn't it?

Whenever a theist throws at me that the universe is too complext to have just happened, that there must have been an intelligent designer, my stock response is that, if the universe was designed, it does not even remotely prove that the God you worship really exists and is that designer.

Bill Maher used a term on Joe Scarborough's show on MSNBC last month that I liked. Scarborough asked Maher if he believed there is a God, and Maher said "I would call myself an apatheist. I don't care if there is a god."

That is exactly how I think about the possibility of there being some entity that created the universe that we would call God. Any entity that powerful and complex probably thinks about us as much as we think about amoebae. Such a being likely could care less what we think of it nor would it require our living in fear of it.

Or to put it this way, it is absolutely laughable that such a vast and complex entity would insist that a confederation of semi-nomadic tribes in the Middle East should have to sacrifice lambs to it.

11:04 PM EDT  
Anonymous Brendon said...

"Such a being likely could care less what we think of it nor would it require our living in fear of it."

How can you assume you know what "such a being" thinks of you? If we have been made by God, don't you think would be a reason why we can contemplate his existence. I think an apathetic God would probably have made us totally blind to him.
The sacrificing of animals was basically a test of obedience...

12:06 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

I don't know Brandon, and neither do you for that matter.

And why would a creator entity require our worship and obedience?

9:12 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two problems with deists that make it difficult to get through to them:
- they have many people telling them what to believe, and yet persuading them that it is "their choice".
- they do not understand the freedom and happiness that can come from a life without god, because they assume that atheists have no emotional support structure (like a congregation).
I personally find it offensive *not* that people find it necessary to believe in a fictional being (that is simply embarassing), but that they feel it is necessary to tell us what to believe. Yes, there are many who claim they don't do that, but it's quite difficult not to when you are indirectly trained to do so (even without thinking about it).

3:59 PM EDT  
Blogger nullifidian said...

2. There is evidence for the existence of God—and rational evidence, at that. He argued that one might choose to reject that evidence but, since evidence does exist, it is much more appropriate to embrace agnosticism. Indeed, he flatly said being an atheist is logically impossible since one cannot prove God’s non-existence.

How can there possibly be "evidence" (and what on earth is "rational evidence"?), yet claim that agnosticism is the appropriate position? This is severely flawed thinking.

5:52 AM EDT  
Anonymous JStaller said...

If you really do call yourself a Nihilist (aka the Jolly Nihilist) you have no business believing anything whatsoever--you can't even believe in your belief against God.

Sounds (reads) like you're thinking of "God" as the "God" commonly portrayed in popular religious and/or secular culture. But what if God was real in a deeper sense than the TV evangelist calling on JEEEEEEES-US?

God, if God exists, is not an old man in the clouds or an infinitely powerful man in a distant heaven. While those ideas are traditional, they have never claimed rational basis in fact--they are one particular religions way of thinking about what it percieves as divine.

Blowing off the idea of God, and also the idea of immortality, blows off virtually every major branch of philosophy known to man, and stands at the height of 21st century arrogance, as though we here have figured something out that 95% of human beings in all of history have missed.

As for sacrificing animals... the idea was that they were making up for some kind of debt, that they had done something against this God and were somehow atoning for it with a symbolic death. Like they were "balancing" the debt, trying to fulfill some sense of justice.

And the fact that we can perceive or conceive "justice" should point us beyond simple biology.

1:33 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to provide a Buddhist perspective. As a Buddhist, I also wish to encourage all to pursue whatever path to peace, understanding, wisdom and happiness that truly works for them. This may or may not involve a god.

Buddhism is not theistic. The Buddha insisted repeatedly that he was no more than human. However, his teachings offer an alternative to the false dichotomy offered by the debate on this page. The false dichotomy is that one must choose between an anything-goes atheism in which happiness, wisdom, etc. are largely a matter of luck… and a no-questions-asked theism that gives orders that must be blindly obeyed for some imagined reward in the future.

If life is just getting by, paying the bills, using enough pain killers to soften the suffering, and buying a nice coffin at the end- well that is a pretty dry existence. To have the same life, but with a fervent hope for a realm of reward after death to make up for all of the suffering - that’s pretty sad, too.

The Buddha based his teachings on four central truths- 1) there is suffering,2) suffering has a cause, 3) by addressing the causes suffering can be ended, and 4)the path to ending suffering is through ethical conduct, paying deep attention, and developing wisdom. These kinds of ideas (Buddhist or otherwise), since they apply to THIS life, are available to deists and adeists alike. They do not presuppose whether or not one believes in a God. I find much agreement in this regard with my Christian, Jewish, adeist, Hindu, Humanist and Ethical Society friends.

We all want happiness. However, some adeists have no real plan…and it should be pretty obvious that accumulating belongings does not do the trick. Many Christians certainly know that just saying that one believes in God doesn’t do it, either. Happiness is not about what we have now or what we think we will have in the future; it is about how we relate to the present, moment after moment after moment. Happiness and peace are phenomena of the present, not of a remembered past or a future that almost never turns out like we think it will. The present is the only tense that is not just a thought - the only tense where anything actually happens.

So, I have an idea. It is based on the fact that every single human being lives with physical and mental pain, as well as the realization that, someday, all we have gathered will be lost, and we and everyone we know will die. Let’s give each other a break. Maybe stop attacking each other. Maybe we can even start supporting each other in our shared humanity. If you think about it, it is the only thing that really makes sense.

Peace,
Rick

9:25 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With ability of understanding some could have taken up religion as embraced with both arms not only in faith but career...in time WHOM KNOWS Cardinal then Pope ...*but what would it profit one gaining world yet in process losing one's soul..point be when christ around some at stage not only listened but heard, digested.... In truth the true christians if one should care look at it in finer detail.. yet christ not call self christian simply an ordiary person the only difference be opening of heart as brain to the power of creation,in turn became vehicle for such power furthering human,understanding... Parables spoken for those ready as open hearted able to understand. Developing brain varies all shown compassion,understanding as being practible at individual stage,not mocked,ridiculed,praised,admired. Explained as humanity being ready hence,Moses,little understanding as then with jesus.. parables... Knowledge growing be clearer.. NOTHING INTENTIONALLY WITHELD... ***********************************Over time for western nations much spiritual teaching centered around *jesus as *christian *catholic, account that western nations have wrote as re-wrote history to own pleasing over hundreds of years... ********************************** Power of creation having blessed many with wisdom as understanding whose writings words never heard as brought to light,such lose part responsable for continued stuggle. <<<<<<<<>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>

6:17 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THE JOLLY NIHILIST:I would need positive,and hard evidence for the existence of God.Then,of course, we would need to narrow that God from infinitely many and infinitively various to just one.)BE NOT SO U ARE THE POSITIVE PROOF OF GOD.NARROWED DOWN TO THE FINITE THUS PROCLAMATION GOD IN HUMANITY AS INFINITE TO FINITE WELD AS ONE.

10:42 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The writer of this article told of how he/she(?) was once a Roman Catholic and from that knew what prayer was and how it was used. As a true Christian may I suggest that their impressions of prayer were/are misguided. Prayer is, in essence a conversation with God. A conversation requires two active participants; not a single person popping up a request for a new car or house for Christmas, as was suggested. God wants to be able to talk with us and converse with us as communication is integral in any relationship, and for any relationship to work. A random "Hi God, It's me again. I noticed my unpleasant colleague Debbie is still here. Could you kindly do something about it? Cheers," doesn't do. Ask anyone in a healthy marriage and they will tell you that a key part of their relationship is communication. So the Jolly Nihilist must have been somewhat unclear as to what Prayer really was.

Which leads me also to believe that perhaps they were a little unclear as to what Christianity truly is. Once again, being a Christian doesn't simply mean praying when your grandma suddenly contracts a disease, reading the free Bible left in motel cabinets every now and then when your sleeping pills cannot be found, or even attending church on Christmas, Easter and the odd Baptism or Christening. In fact attending Church every Sunday, saying the Lords prayer and reading the bible every day don't make someone a Christian. These are requirements of being a Christian to help further your relationship with God and develop in your Christian walk. Just like learning or playing an instrument requires practice, so does being a follower of Christ.

A true Christian isn't defined by the prayers they can remember, or the Hail Mary's they have done. What simply defines a Christian is their relationship with God. A true Christian loves God above all else, and is every day seeking to do His will. Knows Christ's purpose for His life and is making every possible effort to follow Him. Real Followers of Christ make their decisions based upon what god calls or has asked them to do, and have made their own conscious decision to follow Him. So being a Christian cannot be achieved simply because you grew up in a Catholic home, or your grandparents are Anglican.

A true Christian makes mistakes, screws up, loses the plot every now and then, but what differs them is that they humble themselves before god and seek His forgiveness. They understand only Christ has the power to forgive and for the sins to be forgotten. They know that they can never be good enough. That, as themselves; they are horribly inadequate and will simply never make it.

Yet God sent His only son, his precious child to die so that we could be. Anyone with children should be able to appreciate what a startlingly huge sacrifice this would be. Aetheist, Deist, Christian or no. Surrendering your Childs life for the sake of humanity would be such a horrible decision. Yet never-the-less it was made, and because of that we are made clean. Christs conscious decision to die for us, bridged the gap between us and God, and his blood flowing for us washed our sins away. Most people, including many Chriatians, don't fully understand nor appreciate Christs sacrifice. Yet a true follower of Christs attempts to. and does this by giving their life to Him.

Being a Christian is never easy and all will, at some point, face persecution, but the prospect of an eternity with Him is so powerful that they persevere anyway because they know that He is greater than all else. They rely on Him and in turn He pulls them through.

To sum it all up: God has given them a purpose they otherwise would not have had, and they have accepted it. their lives become His and they seek to follow Him through their conduct and practices, in return He does amazing things through them.

6:06 AM EDT  
Blogger Harry said...

a life is a life....even a lambs life is precious. a god who demands sacrifices can just go f*** himself.. god used to appear alll the time b4 in the bible and sets things right but when we need him just as much now he somehow disappears. how come little kids die of malnutrition still if god could have done something about it...dont give some shit abt evil comes from man and whadeva..if god could have done something but didnt just proves that he's not worth worshipping at all and doesnt give a s**t ab us

10:12 PM EST  
Blogger meliken said...

Well, this whole thing strikes me as very interesting and of course, volatile. Here's my question to Christians: why do you care what some guy on the internet believes and blogs about?
I was raised Southern Baptist, which is just about as 'churchy' as you can get, in a church where the people we 'led to Jesus' were kept as little marks in our Bible's like notches on a gun barrel or bedpost. In this sense, it becomes less about a personal faith and more about desperately needing validation, prestige among the 'brethren', and for everyone who is against your faith to come around to your way of thinking.
I'm not saying I'm not a Christian, on the contrary- but I have to say- I hate what Christianity has become and deeply protest the criticism and judgment implied by most Christian based thinking. I don't know what I believe right now. I have a lot of the same questions posted here and haven't come up with a lot of answers.
But I absolutely refuse to debate my religion or faith with another individual simply because I don't care what they believe and have no need for them to agree with me, either- it's one's inherent right to choose for themselves what they believe and not my job to change that or force my belief system on others.
I think it's part of growing up and realizing that if we are following a system of theology that we don't fully understand and support intellectually, then we either need to do a bit more research to balance our faith with fact- or we need to find a system of belief that rings truer for us.

3:27 PM EDT  
Blogger jahbabylon said...

anonymous,are you drunk?

6:55 PM EST  
Blogger cellborne said...

If there is only One Creator, there should be only one religion. The paradox of believing in One God, yet having so many different religions confirms that religions are manufactured by men, some with calculated objective to control and enslave the needy credulous (examples are plenty). God is energy, the supreme balance and acumen, residing wherever energy resides (including in us) but, because we had to find a name for all creation including evolution – we called it God. Do not separate evolution from Creation. It is a misconception. Evolution is nothing else but creation in progress. A humble opinion – do not get offended, please. Cheers!

4:32 AM EDT  
Blogger Andrea said...

But the Bible is the only religious text that has NOt been disproven, and has been tried to have been disproven.

1:17 AM EDT  
Blogger Tara said...

Don't you just love people who just their faith by pointing to a religious text (in this case the bible) and saying, "Well of course it's true, it says so in here."
When the truth is that you need multiple sources to prove something; not just writing support a text from the same place. It's an irrational cyclic way of thinking.

The case against god could be summed up in this quote from Emma Goldman;
-The philosophy of Atheism represents a concept of life without any metaphysical Beyond or Divine Regulator. It is the concept of an actual, real world with its liberating, expanding and beautifying possibilities, as against an unreal world, which, with its spirits, oracles, and mean contentment has kept humanity in helpless degradation.-

1:26 AM EDT  
OpenID collapsethelight said...

It is a human urge to seek answers...a primitive itch one cannot scratch until 2 + 2 is proven four. The pride of man is the crux of the argument. "Faith" is trust without tangible proof. How vulnerable must a Christian feel to trust something they cannot even see? It is IN that trust God fulfills. I do not pray for success at work, or sick family...I pray for strength and wisdom in instances just like this. When I come across individuals who believe they are too intelligent to drink the Christian punch. That we are all slaves to our own crippling fear of the afterlife that we grasp ahold of a false prophet. Did you ever stop to think You were the one being weeded out? That God KNEW this would happen?? That humans would become so advanced they felt they no longer needed him??

I ask you: WHY ARE WE HERE THEN? WHERE DO WE GO WHEN WE DIE? Your argument of "well, nowhere" makes less sense than having a divine and incomprehendible reason to be on this earth. Go look at the history of Egypt. Of Israel. Of Arabia. Jesus of Nazareth, do you even know where Nazareth is? It's on a map. So is Galilee. Bethlehem. Medina.God used to reign his wrath down on the people in devastating fashion. This is documented. Plagues happened. Massive drought happened. Death happened. Seemingly out of nowhere. After he sent his Son to die for our sins..he saw how his own flesh and blood could suffer, could cry out, and even question him. Jesus even askes "God, why have you forsaken me?" In seeing this, God pulled back on the wrath...putting it in reserve for a time to come. The Devil walks this earth, in all forms..surely you believe horrible people go to hell. If you didn't, you wouldn't follow laws or obey police officers or want justice for the family of a murdered loved one. The fear of preserving your own life shows you believe your life is worth something.

And when the time comes for Christ to come again, which it surely will, all the wrath God has saved for that day will fall upon the heads of non-believers. He will be enraged that you mocked him, that you ignored him, that you denied him. You say you need answers. God asks specifically not to test him because you will not like what you find out.

You think Christians are weak for clinging on to a false God. I say YOU are weak for not giving up your own pride and taking a leap of faith. Hubris is the fall of man. Every great empire has self destructed in a miserable display of greed and pride. That isn't a sign to you? The Catholic church was riddled with corruption and greed, resulting in the splintering off of genuine believers.. it led to the fall of England as a world power, and of France, and of Italy and of Greece. Greece went belly up when it went against Christianity and attempted to keep mythology. HISTORY SHOWS YOU IF YOU OPEN YOUR EYES.

So I say to you, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. I pity those who are on the wrong side of God's wrath. And what if we are wrong you ask?? hat if God is a crock? Then we have the same fate you have already written for yourselves. We can go no worse than rotting away in the dirt just like you.

10:55 AM EDT  
Blogger richieglover56 said...

ok...your right that all religions have a doctrine, but the doctrine of these religions are able to be proven logically wrong. Christianity on the other hand cannot be proven logically wrong. The bible is inspired by god and written by humans, so the lesson learned in the bible such as "God created the universe" is revelation from GOD, but the story, such as genisis, is made by man, therefor the story should not be literally interpreted. you ask for LOGICAL proof for gods existence, but it seems more that you want SCIENTIFIC proof for gods existence which is impossible because the scientific method was made by MAN to solve MATERIAL problems. So lets think logically. Stephen Hawkins said that time was created at the beginning of the universe, some 13.7 billion years ago, therefor proving that the universe and space had to be created. Now remember were talking about the universe, which is a materialistic thing, so logic would tell you that something created has a creator, that creator being GOD. you may say "what created god then??" well if time was created during the creation of the universe, then the creator of the universe (GOD) would have been before time existed making him/her/it divine and uncomprehendable to our ability to think. Inertia is all around us...something cant be moved without something moving it...first movement=GOD. where does emotion come from? there is no scientific reason for the existence of love, sadness, anger...yet we all acknowledge it...some may say that there are contradictions in the bible, but if understanding the origional text, then you realize that there is no contradictions. for example...atheists love to rip up the king james version of the bible...why?? well because it was written in the elizabethian time and some translations were wrong...for example "thou shall not kill" atheists say it sais not to kill but god ordered for the fall of cities and entire populations...well in the king james version it sais though shall not kill, but origional text actually is supposed to translate to "do not kill without just cause" the bible states scientific universal facts such as the wind moves in circular patterns, there are vallies underneith ocean water, the univese will eventually decay, and air has weight...all of these werent observable in the time the bible was written...yet it took 100s of years after being written in the bible to prove these things scientifically...but hey the herdsmen in that time must of been meterologists...no its revelation...see i wasnt always a christian...i was born into catholicism which is a bust(no offense catholics) then i decided there was no god when i was 12...and then logic, reasoning, and faith led me to be a non denominational christian today...you cant say there is no god just because you dont logically look at things...im mean yeah if you actually say that i a women was made from a rib and a man lived in the belly of a whale then of course your gonna say its not logical...if anyone wants to discuss with me, hit me up at richieglover56@yahoo.com and if your wondering more about faith and science, they can go together, go to godandscience.com the creator of the website is a former atheist and is now a christian and is way smarter than me in science so go check it out because a good mind shouldnt be wasted.

11:57 PM EST  
Blogger ian muir said...

Do you believe in unicorns? If not why not start a anti-unicorn website aswell and an anti-pigs can't fly website aswell. The evidence is obviously there for Intelligent design but you refuse to believe and it gives you some sort of purpose or exitement to try and disprove God. But something in you is burning up and thats the reason why you start websites like these. I suppose you believe in evolution aswell?

9:20 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

We do not have a global problem of people foolishly believing in unicorns or in porcine flying, nor do such hypothetical believers wish to impose their moral opinions and societal order on those who, quite sensibly, reject their framework.

It is improper to refer to "believing in" evolution. Rather, one should say "accepting" it, as one accepts any other fact.

9:05 PM EDT  
Blogger ian muir said...

Evolution is faith not fact, not missing links have been found thats why they are called missing links. Evolution a fairytale for adults. In another 20years you will be laughed at!!!

3:31 AM EDT  

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